Diane Francis: Could COVID-19 mean the end of the American union?

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In 2004, a new satirical drawing of the map of Canada and the United States surfaced after George W. Bush’s short victory in the US presidential election. The Canadian provinces, as well as the American states that voted for the Democratic presidential candidate, were colored blue and cheekily labeled as “the United States of Canada”. The other states, republican or red, were nicknamed “the land of Jesus” because of their social conservatism and their religiosity.

What is remarkable today is that this map still holds and, in fact, the gap it has highlighted has widened. This is the fault line of the American cultural wars. The majority of people living in the Blue States, including the Canadian provinces, support social policies such as universal health care, pro-choice, tougher gun laws, the end of capital punishment, legalization of marijuana, gay rights and respect for the role of the state and its institutions in managing civil society.

What widened the differences was COVID19, an agnostic disease that was politicized and led the Blue States to formally join forces, through three regional coalitions designed to adopt more aggressive and aggressive public health policies and initiatives based on science than those of the Red States. These new coalitions include all of the 2004 blue states – the three Pacific states, the Great Lakes states, six central Atlantic states around New York – plus a handful of neighboring states.

A map shows how different states voted in the last four presidential elections.


Mahagaja / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Today, the “two Americas” are more incompatible and, in political terms, irreconcilable. This led to the unprecedented declaration of independence of the blue state coalitions against the efforts of the federal pandemic, to access equipment, initiate research, test, monitor and plan strategies. to safely reopen their savings. As they leave the Washington border, it is important to note that these states are the financial foundation of the United States and that their growing alienation poses an existential threat to a united country.

Unsurprisingly, California led the way. With twice the economic output of Canada, the Golden State is just behind Germany in terms of the size of its economy and could be an independent country if it wished. California’s representation in Washington has been aggressive and, led by powerful House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her caucus, has successfully helped Democrats take the lead in the House of Representatives and remove President Donald Trump from office.

California Governor Gavin Newsom led the nation with his state’s COVID-19 response. California was the first to lock down its economy and has performed best among states with congested urban areas and massive volumes of international travel from infected areas around the world. He also stood up to Trump over Washington’s initial dysfunctional efforts to fight the virus and was the first to join forces with his neighboring states, Oregon and Washington. Soon, the other blue states of 2004 also joined forces. Their mission, as outlined by Newsom, was to manage the response to the pandemic based on “science, facts, public health and a spirit of collaboration”.

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks at a press conference in Sacramento, California on April 14.


Rich Pedroncelli / AP / Bloomberg

The underlying national threat is that Blue America is the richest, most populous, and most democratic part of the United States, but it is underrepresented and governed by a Republican President and Senate, due to ‘years of excessive gerandering and a completely undemocratic electoral college. voting system. Democrats won the 2016 election by three million votes, but less than a few hundred thousand votes in three states gave Trump victory.

The current and unprecedented surge of powerful blue states has angered Trump, claiming that “the federal government has absolute power. As for whether I will use this power, we will see. This is incorrect, because under the tenth amendment to the US Constitution, states have broad powers, including in matters of public health and safety.

The next attack came from Republican Senate majority chief Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who dismissed calls for increased financial aid to states to help bear the burden of public health costs. He suggested they should just file for bankruptcy and, to further underscore his contempt, his office sent out a press release under the heading, “Stop the Blue State Bailouts.”

President Donald Trump meets with industry leaders to discuss the response to the COVID-19 pandemic at the White House in Washington, D.C., April 27, 2020.


Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reacted immediately and called McConnell’s statement irresponsible: “You are not bailing out New York. New York bail you out. Each year, we invest more money in the federal pot than any other state, and Kentucky is the third largest state in terms of withdrawing money from the federal pot. Give me back my money. “

Worse, the Republicans have armed the national treasury by distributing huge bailouts to large corporations that provide political donations, as well as punishing small businesses in the blue states in favor of those in the red states. For example, according to Bloomberg News, as of April 17, 56% of small business relief requests had been approved in South Carolina, 58% in Texas, 66% in Utah, 69% in Kentucky, 79% in Kansas and 82% in Nebraska. In comparison, only 44.6% of Washington State applications were approved, 40.1% from New York, 38.4% from California and 30.4% from Washington, D.C.

Trump has also started cultural wars with his Twitter messages urging his supporters to “liberate” the locked states, particularly Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia, which are ruled by Democratic governors. Demonstrations, in defiance of public health orders and full of “Trump 2020” posters and Confederate flags, followed. The most recent salvo came from Attorney General William Barr, who is examining whether blockages in general, as well as those that specifically close churches and gun stores, violate the rights of the United States’ first amendment.

People participate in a demonstration for “Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine” at the Michigan State Capitol on April 15.


JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP

The disconnect is so vast that it is not surprising that the Governor of Newsom sometimes refers to his state as a “nation state.” It is a threat that must be taken seriously. Not only can California go it alone, but with Oregon and Washington State, it could form a country with the world’s fourth largest economy. Likewise, the 29 million people who are increasingly alienated from New York represent an economy the size of Canada’s.

This growing divide concerns not only politics, but also ideology. Since President Ronald Reagan’s famous line in 1981 – “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem “- opposition and delegitimization of public services have increased. Libertarians, revelers and Trump Republicans talk of dismantling the so-called “deep state”, as well as programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and social security. They even have their own cable news network, Fox News, to spread the word. Now they have politicized a pandemic. Trump initially called him a “democratic hoax” and dragged his feet, which likely cost many lives. Then he exploited the issue to promote himself on television and insult the Democrats, calling them snakes and whiners.

Regional disparities have always characterized the United States, but the two Americas are becoming increasingly irreconcilable and deprived of their rights. In addition to the 15 states that have formed health care coalitions, seven other states fall into the blue state category: three in New England, as well as Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Virginia, which have voted Democrat in three of the last four presidential elections. elections. If included in a revised map, blue America is richer and larger than the rest of the country. Together, they generate more taxes for federal coffers than the rest of the country and get little respect from their federal government.

Either it changes, or the regime changes, or the country will. As COVID-19 continues to collapse globally, and if nothing eases or cures the culture shock south of the border, the single greatest victim of the disease could become the United States.

National Post

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