Few would say that a National Divorce – the separating of the nation into two – would be an easy endeavour. The prospect is attractive to those who envision no end to the cultural divisions that have crescendoed into a furious battle for the soul of the nation and its institutions over the last 10 years. However attractive a quick, clean divorce might be, it would undoubtedly be fraught with challenges, not least because nobody would agree on how to divide the country.
Splitting one of the world’s most powerful nations in two because of a culture war incited by a minority of the people who live in it makes little sense, and we do know that the people behind this push are very much a minority.
It’s wrong, for instance, to assume that the Democrats are the party of “woke.” Polls repeatedly show the party is divided on the direction it should take – and even when those polls show support for the politics of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Squad, it remains that many Democrats are frightened to express their opinions in precisely the same way that Trump supporters were frightened to tell the pollsters how they planned to vote in 2016 and 2020.
A CATO national survey in July 2020 revealed how staunch liberals stand out as the only group who feel as though they can openly share their political opinions, with 58% saying that they feel confident to share their thoughts. Centrist liberals, however, feel differently. 52% said that they have to self-censor what they believe, as did some 64% of moderates.
So when a Hill-Harris X poll found this year that 49% of Democrats identified as “woke,” I’d say there’s probably more to it. Just how many Democrats are willing to respond to these polls honestly? And what about the data from the same poll showing the number of those identifying as “woke” dropping significantly with age?
At most, half-of-half-of-the country is woke. Realistically, it is much less than that. The average Democrat is not firebombing courthouses in Portland, nor supporting it if they even know about it.
This presents questions and challenges for Democrats and Republicans, who must now look inwards to solve this problem rather than exacerbating the conflict.
Why would we divide a nation over a war incited by a small fraction of the population?
And why is the conservative commentariat discussing permanent Republican rule, rather than taking steps to establish good faith political opposition instead?
It is deeply hypocritical for conservatives to complain about Democratic power grabs while at the same time musing how to use a possible Congressional majority in 2022 to establish permanent governance with or without a National Divorce.
Just talking about permanent governance shows us we’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere. Not only is a National Divorce unnecessary, but the fact that we are entertaining it is symptomatic of a problem that we, conservatives and liberals, need to address. In my experience, young people with a deep desire to be a part of a community drive cultural trends, and how they see the world has a huge impact on what we expect of the future.
To avoid a National Divorce, we must embrace a National Renewal of Vows – and it can start with our young people.
It is no secret that I am a former far-right activist. I grew up in a working-class former mining town in northern England and became active in white nationalist politics around the time of the 2008 crash. I was a teenager enraged by the politicians’ refusal to talk about issues like immigration and didn’t have a moderate outlet to express that anger. I also found kinship and community among other young, white men who felt personally victimized by ultra-progressives. I have written about this extensively, including in my most recent book Monster Of Their Own Making, and it is this experience that gives me a different perspective on the kind of radical politics driving the National Divorce idea.
To initiate a National Renewal of Vows, we may start by addressing the identity issues that drive mostly young people into radical left-and-right politics in the first place. The powerful urge to join vocal campaign groups and smear opponents as evil and unhinged, in my opinion, is typically caused by one of two things – legitimate grievances with the political system or a desire to be part of a community that cares about you.
I have seen young men find comfort and a sense of belonging in white nationalist organizations when life at home was tough. Whether it’s poverty, family problems, or a lack of direction in life, extreme politics instantly gives a person a purpose. This is just as true for radical progressives.
Solving this problem isn’t easy. It requires a total transformation of the culture our children engage with. We must empower our young people not to think in terms of their differences, but the things that bind them together. Not to teach them to be ashamed of their past or possessed by their victimhood, but to want to build from the foundations our ancestors gave us.
So how do we get there?
It starts with conservatives reaching across the aisle and encouraging moderate liberals to stand up for their own beliefs and values.
When we reclaim politics from radicals, we stand a greater chance of uniting our children around common values and ideas.
Conservative pundits must stop seeking short-term profit and fame from this tiresome ideological war and work instead to encourage fair and good faith opposition – not permanent governance. There are liberals who want this too, from Tulsi Gabbard and Senator Joe Manchin to the millions of Democrats too afraid to express their true opinions.
Moderate liberals must also realise that they have more power to stop this war than conservatives do. By standing up and saying, “No, you will not speak for us,” they can very swiftly reclaim not just their party but their ideological soul.
Permanent governance should not be the goal of any Republican or Democrat, nor should a National Divorce with two nations ruled by unopposed ideologues.
Good faith opposition is central to good governance. It sets an example for our young people who decide the future of this nation and can be the foundation of a National Renewal of Vows.