The Universal Notebook: Civil war in the Ungovernable States of America

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In his essay “Truth and Lie in an Extra-moral Sense,” philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche must have foreseen the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign when he wrote that “man has an invincible inclination to allow himself to be deceived and is, as it were, enchanted with happiness when the rhapsodist tells him epic fables as if they were true, or when the actor in the theater acts more royally than any real king.”

With six weeks left until the election, I’m not sure I can take much more of these theatrics.

I am angry all the time that a man like Donald Trump has to be taken seriously as a potential president of the United States, angrier still that the Republican Party has placed him on that stage and that a significant number of Americans seem to want the police state he promises.

This election has become a contest between the rational and the irrational, between an eminently qualified woman and a totally unqualified man. But no matter who wins (and I believe it will be Hillary Clinton), the USA may have become the Ungovernable States of America. If you cannot compromise, you cannot govern in a democracy. And that is the legacy of Fox News, conservative talk radio, the tea party, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Heritage Foundation and the Koch Brothers. No comprise. Total obstruction.

Reasonable people can agree to disagree, but what do you do when there are no reasonable people to disagree with? There are no legitimate differences of opinion between Trump and Clinton supporters. There are no policy differences. Trump has no policies. The sides simply hate one another, Trump calling Clinton the devil, Clinton calling Trump supporters deplorable. It’s like the unwinnable war on terror, a battle between good and evil, the only question being who is good and who is evil.

So maybe it’s time to make the division in this country between the left and right, progressive and conservative, official. Maybe what we need is a new American Civil War, not a bloody battle but a civil divorce, a legal partitioning of the country into Blue States and Red States.

Let those states where Trump wins be ruled by Trump. Let those states where Clinton wins be ruled by Clinton.

In the 30 or so Red States in the South, West and Midwest, Trump and his followers can repeal the Affordable Care Act and all forms of welfare; make abortion illegal; build walls along all their borders (if they can figure out how to pay for them without paying taxes); ban Muslims and Mexicans; and mandate gun ownership, school prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance and standing for the national anthem.

In the 20 or so Blue States along the coasts and around the Great Lakes, Clinton and her supporters can institute universal single-payer health insurance that covers contraception and abortion; expand social welfare; raise the minimum wage; and require gun owners to pass gun safety courses, register their firearms and carry gun owner’s insurance against accidents and criminal misuse just as we do with car owners.

Unfortunately, this would mean that some of us are either going to have to move or live under a leader we despise. (In Maine, we’ve had plenty of practice).

Divorce would also mean that those high-minded innocents who will not vote, or who will vote for Green and Libertarian candidates, will have to live with the emptiness of their gesture. The perfect is the enemy of the good. You refuse, you lose.

Of course, Nietzsche, whose ideas about supermen and noble races were perverted by his sister to support Nazi racism and nationalism, not only foresaw Trump, but suggested that historical moments such as this, when a presidential candidate can speculate about the assassination of his rival without consequence, may be inevitable and short-lived.

So maybe we won’t need a divorce after all.

In “The Genealogy of Morals,” Nietzsche wrote “One cannot fail to see at the bottom of all these noble races the beast of prey, the splendid blond beast prowling about avidly in search of spoil and victory; this hidden core needs to erupt from time to time, the animal has to get out again and go back to the wilderness.”

Let’s just hope the splendid blond beast goes back to the wilderness without the spoils of victory.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

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