by Henry Oliner
The framers of the constitution screwed up out of the gate when they discounted the idea of political parties. The Constitution was a miracle of compromises, navigating between their deep study of the wisdom of the ages and the self interest of numerous factions addressing the problems of their day. Our founders were brilliant and flawed. So is the document they birthed.
When you have achieved a goal through compromise you gave up something to get something. The North accepted slavery to get a union. The South gave up a degree of sovereignty to retain or at least postpone the eventual end of their sacred institution.
But after they got their precious union the sacrifice rose in prominence. The union now available for all was no longer available as a trading tool. Once union was achieved the slavery issue began to fester until it erupted. Only then was the matter truly settled.
The Federalist and Republicans of Adams and Jefferson were as divided as the Democrats and Republicans are today; each thought the other an existential threat to the good of the union.
Madison thought factions would offset factions, and that a large geography would lessen the threat of concentrated tyranny. What threatens us is not the division of factions but the myth of unity, even within a single party. Unity does not rise, it is forced. The will of the people is what their demagogue tells them it is.
If I wanted to conquer the Democrats I would divide them. They did it to themselves with identity politics. Their biggest advantage was unity and they squandered it. Like the resource curse in economics, their solid retention of the coasts, the media and the media centers, and the solid blue urban areas allowed them to retain power while neglecting the majority of the territory.
Bill Clinton won roughly half of the 3115 counties in both of his elections. No Democrat has won over a thousand counties since George W Bush. The erosion worsened in 2010. Obama won in 2012 with the fewest counties ever, 689 of 3115, only 22%. But he won the counties with the big electoral votes and a popular majority.
This fragility was ignored as long as they won, but if the Democrats lost only a small contingency they would lose power. Hillary lost enough of the rust belt to lose the election even with a popular vote victory. The Republicans are equally fragile, but I think they are aware of it. The Trump trade war is payoff to the rust belt that put him in office.
We are unhappy because we expect the central government to solve problems they are poorly designed to serve. The founders did not trust a distant ruler. New York is within 300 miles of being halfway between London and Los Angeles.
But distance matters little today. New York and Los Angeles are politically similar. Our gulf today is not measured in miles, but in culture and ideas. While our government is more centralized our culture is more fragmented, both geographically and ideologically.
Voters care little about ideology, and thus so do their representatives. They will avoid the hard choices to remain in office. Our greatest problem, the deficit and out of control entitlements is addressed by no one. The first one to mention it is demagogued out of office. The helpless voter is rationally ignorant, too busy with their family and career to invest time and money in the political spiral.
We joined with our strange bedfellows to prevent the greater evil and hope the best for our lesser evil. With the greater evil neutralized we can now focus on the faults of the winner.
Rage and passion are great short-term motivators, but poor means to solve problems. The more we politicize everything the unhappier we will be with the result.