Last week we learned again just how divided we are as a country. The phrase in the preamble of the constitution, “to form a more perfect union,” seems to have lost its very meaning. It has become not just red states and blue states but a far more divisive hyper-partisanship dynamic in the United States. In a recent poll of Republican voters, 38 percent believed it was better that Russia interfered with our election if that’s what it took to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. The explosive news that Vladimir Putin and Russia were indeed trying to alter our 2016 presidential election becomes just another skirmish between the right and the left. Wasn’t national security an American issue that brought all of us together no matter what state we lived in? The United States of America by its very name was to be distinct from our neighbors across the Atlantic.
In Europe, one of the ways separate countries united was around the European Union and the euro. Europe wouldn’t just be an array of various countries but a collection of nation states in a union with common goals. When Brexit happened in June, that notion became more unrealistic. Britain voted to leave and the union and not participate in the economic treaties it had benefited from in the past. A wave of populism, immigrants pouring into Europe, and nationalism were cited as reasons for why this was happening.
At the same time, Donald Trump brought a right-wing populism in his campaign for the presidency. Embracing anti-immigration rhetoric, Trump struck a chord with people who wished to cling to a past of American exceptionalism. That past did not include immigrants, globalism, and most of all multiculture inclusion. We had already formed our union over 200 years ago and fought a civil war to keep it. In America, unlike Europe, we are already a conglomeration of states. Now that thought appears assailable as partisanship continues at the expense of our national interest in certain states. Moreover, citizens are finding that civil rights can vary from state to state.
In North Carolina, after a contentious election between incumbent Republican Pat McCrory and the newly elected democrat Roy Cooper, partisanship began reaching for new heights. A predominantly Republican state legislature went one week ago into a late-night session. They did that to pass laws limiting the governor-elect’s powers. McCrory subsequently signed those bills into law.
While Republican state politicians in North Carolina were holding late-night sessions away from public scrutiny, here in California, Governor Jerry Brown continued to shine a spotlight on the issue of our time, climate change. In press briefings and speeches, Brown has made it clear that California will continue to focus on reducing emissions of carbon in the atmosphere. In addition, should the Trump administration try and undermine his efforts, Brown said, “Whatever Washington thinks they’re doing, California is the future.” The governor further stated California leads the way in vehicle emissions restrictions and renewable energy. He concluded, “If Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellites.”
Two states 2,600 miles apart in distance and countless miles apart in what they find is in the best interest of their state and their country. And in the coming years, issues like a woman’s right to choose, increases in the minimum wage, gun safety, and accessible and affordable health care could be handled very differently by each state in the union. The focus of state governors and state legislatures could be so divergent, one would think these states did not actually belong to the same country.
In the coming years, our collective conscious as Americans will be tested. Depending on the state, cooperation with the federal government on national concerns could look poles apart. Even more important will be the perception of the people who live in those states. How will they view other states in different parts of the country? Earlier this month President-elect Donald Trump (without proof), responding to the fact that he lost the popular vote by almost three million votes, said there were millions in California who voted illegally. Will people in the southern part of America believe then that California is an outlier? There is a troubling trend of states continuing to find less in common with each other or have animosity with fellow states over policy.
Our country has been since its inception a nation made up of states and not states who wish to act disjointed when the entire country truly needs them now to maintain a more perfect union.