What "Soleri" called the Cold Civil War is underway. The game of shutdown/default chicken, with grave consequences for America's economy and standing in the world, is only the latest manifestation. Although the worst was avoided, it is only a temporary truce. Republican House members representing about 18 percent of the population, were able to hold 100 percent of the nation hostage.
There is talk in places such as Texas of secession, and in Arizona and other states of nullification, choosing which federal laws to follow, hearkening back to the crises the preceded the Civil War. But these and the fetish about the debt and deficit, as well as the size of government, are carried out with high hypocrisy.
The reality is that almost all states of the New Confederacy — the old South, plus parts of the Great Plains and intermountain West — are net takers. In other words, they receive more federal money than they pay in taxes. For example, Arizona, whose entire Republican delegation voted against the compromise to reopen the federal government, received $1.60 for every dollar paid. In South Carolina, the cradle of secession, the ratio is $2.13 to $1.
Between 24 percent and 26 percent of the households in metro Phoenix receive Social Security benefits. In Tucson, the rate is between 29 percent and 38 percent. Both have high percentages of families on food stamps (and many of these are working). The "Sun Corridor" also has some of the highest use of veterans benefits.
And remember, Arizona and especially Phoenix wouldn't even exist as a modern, populous place without massive federal expenditures: To pacify the Apache, bring water through the Newlands Act and the Central Arizona Project, establish major flood control systems and subsidize first agriculture and then a huge influx of suburban population growth.
Even red-state tea partiers who are happy to let the "47 percent" starve in the streets want their trillions in military and "homeland security" spending, agriculture payments and subsidies to the fossil fuel industries. Their representatives vote against disaster aid for blue areas while demanding it for themselves.
Although Texas is virtually alone among the red states as a net giver, this comes in large measure from decades of high-quality federal investment in infrastructure and university research. Plus, it is a petroleum superpower, still.
The billionaires who bankroll the tea party and Republican extremism in general are all sucking at the teet of the taxpayer, whether by getting subsidies for fossil fuels or gambling in a financialized economy. Companies such as Wal-Mart, a huge GOP backer, depend on state and federal government to provide health care and food stamps for their low-wage workers.
The old white people protesting against Obamacare all depend on Medicare, a single-payer government program with much more efficiency and lower administrative costs than private insurance companies. Remember "keep your government hands off my Medicare"?
So there is no coherence to their position. Not even an honest debate.
In the first Civil War, it was brother against brother (in my family, this was literally true). Secession had consequences. The battle lines in the Cold Civil War are more complicated.
For example, they run between metropolitan areas and more far-flung suburbs, exurbia and rural America. Take Seattle and some other parts of the Puget Sound region out of Washington state and it would be Idaho — solid red. In Arizona, central Phoenix runs blue, but not enough to return a two-party system to the state.
Blue metros in the main produce the economy from which the tea partiers benefit, yet they despise these urban centers and seek to undermine them at every opportunity.
With national Democrats asleep in 2010, Republicans captured state legislatures and redistricted to perpetuate red rule in the New Confederacy. GOP congressional districts became more white. Constituents, afraid of a changing country, brainwashed by Fox "News" and talk radio, don't understand that their enemies are the plutocrats. Instead, it's the blacks and Hispanics and especially the Kenyan Islamic socialist who is an illegitimate president.
So of course there will be no "soul searching" after this temporary defeat, no "battle for the Republican Party." This is it. What you see and hear (so loudly) is what you get. It is a party of nihilism, ignorance, bigotry and short-term looting. Nor will it go the way of the Whigs. It will, however, take the country down — slowly, or suddenly.
The white-right rabble is too ignorant to realize that they could not even have their Ayn Rand fantasies if the country didn't have a large and economically vital federal government. Their puppetmasters, the authors of "one dollar, one vote," are in the game for the short-haul and profiting handsomely.
With a huge standing military and militarized law enforcement, it is tempting to think that the nation-state is secure from any 1861-like breakup. I'm not so sure. Let the rot continue for awhile and see. The number of Bolsheviks in Tsarist Russia were only around 25,000 in a nation of 160 million. Yet Lenin was able to persuade and terrorize enough army units to revolt against the state. The Reds were met in combat by other units, the Whites.
By the way, am I the only one who thinks there's a creepy resemblance between Ted Cruz and Joe McCarthy?
Yes, some of these arguments go back to the founding of the republic. And the paranoid style of American politics, exemplified by Tailgunner Joe, is deep. But the breakdown in governance has reached a level not seen since the eve of the first Civil War. So is the tea party conviction that everyone else is trying to "change their way of life." When Lincoln said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
One other thing to remember: Portions of the armed forces are heavily populated by right-wingers and fundamentalist Christians, right up into the officer ranks. This is yet another way the military is alienated from the mainstream of civilian life in much of the country, especially in diverse blue zones. Think that doesn't carry the potential for dangerous consequences? Just wait until the next shock from the criminal class on Wall Street or attack on Das Homeland.
This is why I think we need a new amendment that allows for peaceful secession. It might result in a redrawing of state lines. West Virginia, after all, was once a few counties of the Old Dominion. I say: Let them go in peace. Let them see what their world looks like without the tyranny of federal dollars.
The alternatives look increasingly dangerous.