Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene caused a stir recently, when she called for a national divorce — a proposal that would see the US split up along red and blue state lines! The degree of polarisation in the US has reached such alarming levels that figures on both the Left and the Right have entertained the idea of some type of national dissolution. There is very likely no democracy in the world more politically divided, or politically dysfunctional, than the US today. The Capitol Hill riot, where the incumbent president and his supporters refused to accept the electoral result and decided to attack the very institute that represented their democracy has confirmed the growing wound at the heart of American politics. America’s domestic political polarisation has reached a point where officials believe a military coup could take place if the 2024 electoral result does not go the way of Donald Trump’s supporters. Until now the discord within the US has not reached a point where its impacted America’s global position, but this may not be far off.
When White Americans Become a Minority
The US was created through the genocide of the indigenous people of North America who were already present on the North America continent aswell as the continuation of slavery, something the Europeans brought to the continent. It was an extremely slow process by the US to address the inequalities and structural nature of racism against Africans who were brought to the US as subhuman.
It took nearly a century after the end of the civil war for the 1964 Civil Rights Act to get passed. But in the past few decades America has been addressing it’s legacy of slavery from anti-discrimination laws to bringing Black Americans towards a more even footing, which eventually paved the way for the US to elect its first Black president. But the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement shows there is still a long way to go.
All this ‘special attention’ to blacks has seen a backlash by another segment of the US populace. Many white, rural Americans see their position in the US as under threat. When the US Census Bureau published its results in 2021 and for the first time—the nation’s white population declined across the previous decade. This has only added to the fears of “white replacement” stoked by Donald Trump and many of his followers. America’s white population has now fallen to below 60% of the nation’s total population and is continuing to decline and within around two decades white America’s may very well be a minority. This demographic trend has resulted in the rise of populists in the US, chief amongst them is Donald Trump. Given the structural way racism has been woven into the America’s fabric combined with years of neglecting the problem, race relations have contributed mightily to the current state of US polarisation.
When the US was on the path to becoming a global power its domestic economy played a central role in creating immense wealth. The American dream – any person who wanted to become rich, could do so in the US if they worked hard as this nation would provide the opportunities. But wealth inequality has always been a problem in the US and as the US economy grew, so has inequality.
Global free trade after WW2, globalisation in the 1990s and rise of automation has seen US manufacturing shift abroad leaving the average US worker without much opportunity. The safety net for US worker is much lower relative to Europe and this has been devastating for many white Americans in traditional rust belt regions. The Rise of China has also seen many industries shift to the far East and this further decimated many communities who feel they have bene left behind economically.
It was here when Donald Trump entered the republican nomination race that this segment of the US public finally got someone who recognised their plight. In his campaign for the 2016 Republican nomination for president, Trump listened to such people at a time when no one else did. He recognised the desperation of the White working class over the deteriorating industrial economy and to encourage their tendency to racialised that desperation and to blame outsiders.
For many white, rural Americans, the economy has left them behind and doesn’t even cater for them. For the nation that was sold the American dream, for many white Americans it’s a nightmare and that’s why they turned to a populist leader as no other leaders listened to them.
For many white, rural Americans, the economy has left them behind and doesn’t even cater for them. For the nation that was sold the American dream, for many white Americans it’s a nightmare
In his first speech as president-elect, Joe Biden made clear his intention to bridge the deep and bitter divisions in American society. He pledged to look beyond red and blue and to discard the harsh rhetoric that characterises America’s political debates. It was always going to be a difficult struggle as Americans have rarely been as polarised as they are today.
But with the large wealth inequality in US, politics has come to be captured by an extremely small segment of the public, from Wall Street to large corporations and a few billionaires. The fact that a presidential run requires billions in campaign donations, money has captured the US political system. This is why many in American have long felt the political system doesn’t represent them. This is the prime reason why many working class, White Americans still support Donald Trump as all the other politicians are more interested in serving special interest groups or the 1%.
The fact that a presidential run requires billions in campaign donations, money has captured the US political system. This is why many in American have long felt the political system doesn’t represent them
For Americans, politics was about either supporting the republicans that supported big business and conservative elements of the population. Or it was the democrats that represented minorities and the working class. But as these party’s failed to look after their supporters and turned more and more to winning elections and representing the 1%, many turned to the right and unorthodox politicians. They also turned to more and more hard-line positions and now identify themselves well beyond the traditional two party system.
For politicians to win their seats they will need to cater for such such sentiments and this is leading to many politicians to take extreme positions. Donald Trump in his presidential campaign back in 2016 described Mexicans as ‘drug dealers, criminals and rapists.’ In comments about Texas’s independence movement, senator Ted Cruz remarked: “Texas should secede from the US if Democrats fundamentally destroy the country,” he added Texas should “take NASA, the military and the country’s oil supply along with it.” It is in this context the Georgia Congresswoman talks about a national divorce.
A National Divorce?
Whilst American politics is becoming more and more polarised and many around the world watch in shock at government shutdowns and the numerous rounds needed to appoint a house speaker the dissolution of the United States faces many obstacles.
The first of these is much of the polarisation we witness today is based upon local, ideological, demographic as well as economic related issues, not upon state-by-state divisions. Currently politicians use the divisions in American society for their own political ends there has been no elite buy-in to this idea though. This is because the status quo in the US see’s the establishment already controlling the economic system, political infrastructure, federal law enforcement, the courts, the mainstream media, the schools, the universities and the federal purse. Without elite support secessionists for the moment are really just an assortment of podcasters and loud mouths.
As fractious as American politics is in all likelihood it will take an enormous economic reversal or the US’s fall from great power status to see the country start to divide
If such secessionists could capture a State, then the State could snub federal power more directly, but that has its own risks. States are far more dependent today on federal funding than in the past. Roads, schools, police, and scores of other essential services depend on federal funding. A state governor would jeopardize all that by threatening to secede from the federal government. He would also forsake a great deal of business. Most Republican governors focus primarily on attracting more business investment to their state, not ensuring businesses flee the state. It would be a lot to expect a Republican governor to surrender federal aid and business development to secede. Whilst having a sitting member of Congress such as Congresswomen Greene push for such secession, it shows that the idea is not as fringe as many believed.
As fractious as American politics is in all likelihood it will take an enormous economic reversal or the US’s fall from great power status to see the country start to divide. Many Americans believe the US is far too involved in the world and prefer isolation. It’s a small minority that see the US being engaged in the world in great power competition as they directly benefit from it. So, US global power decline on its own will necessarily see the decline of the nation. For the moment domestic polarisation has not impacted America’s global position but the global powers future is not looking very strong in the short to medium term.
 3 retired generals: The military must prepare now for a 2024 insurrection, 17 December 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/12/17/eaton-taguba-anderson-generals-military/
 ‘Drug dealers, criminals, rapists’: What Trump thinks of Mexicans, BBC, 31 August 2016, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-us-canada-37230916
 Ted Cruz says Texas should secede and “take the military” if Democrats “destroy the country,” salon.com, 9 November 2021, https://www.salon.com/2021/11/09/ted-cruz-says-texas-should-secede-and-take-the-military-if-democrats-destroy-the-country/