All states are not created equal, as this summer's performances in Congress and other political platforms show anew. Some states are pretty great; some are just plain trouble. Take the following three, for example:
South Carolina has been a plague on the house of the Republic since the start. Fiercely protective of slavery even as a colony, it was the first state to secede from the Union. Apparently when you go down there, men still wax proudly about the firing on Fort Sumter, the final catalyst for the Civil War. And then there was the earlier beating in the Capitol: A South Carolina congressman back in those divided days caned Charles Sumner, the leading abolitionist senator from Massachusetts. In the 20th century, South Carolina sent arch-segregationist Strom Thurmond to Washington decade after decade to represent the Palmetto State. Right now, the state has given us two outspoken Republican senators--Lindsay Graham and freshman Jim DeMint. Graham just denounced immigrants who come to this country, as he delicately put it, "to drop a child." That degradation of political discourse shocked even the jaded in the politerati--but outrage is nothing new to defiant South Carolina, the last to surrender, flying that Confederate flag even to this day. Call me a damn Yankee, but South Carolina is always on the wrong side of history.
You can keep Arizona, too. Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, brought the Grand Canyon state to a pretty pass by preparing to enforce harsh new immigration laws, parts of which were just struck down as unconstitutional by a judge. This is the hottest summer anyone can remember in that desert--and I don't mean the soaring temperatures. The way Brewer proposes to pursue and question people suspected of being illegal immigrants is pretty much un-American--and another sad outcome of how we as a populace have lost our bearings since September 11, 2001. (More on that to come in future posts.) The two Arizona senators, Republicans Jon Kyl and John McCain, are also part of the problem in Washington. Kyl, the minority whip, is aggressively obstructionist and persuades or coerces others not to give a glimmer of daylight to anyone or anything favored by President Obama. His opposition to confirming Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court is the latest case in point. As for McCain, he has changed his stance on so many issues that he is not the man he used to be in 2000. The once cheerful maverick is now running hard just to win re-election--just to be senator--but it's not clear what for anymore. [See who donated the most to McCain's campaign.]
Texas, once its own country, should have stayed that way. To a visitor, it feels like another country--with very much its own culture, as if one needs a passport to cross its borders. Even if you're just changing planes in massive DFW airport, you know you're in Texas from the talk, dress, and swagger. Everything is big in Texas, an unhappy hybrid of Southern and Western culture. Yet they are a happy (if bellicose) breed amongst themselves, so much so that Republican Gov. Rick Perry actually talked about "dissolving" or leaving the Union. Wouldn't that be great? After the vale of tears Texas took the nation through, with the gift of George W. Bush, the Texas state of mind is best kept within its borders far from the nation's capital. At the least: no more gifts, please. Nor has Florida lived down the disservice of the 2000 elections deadlock.
Jonathan Swift, the master of satire, is no longer with us--so let me make a modest proposal: that the states that seceded--let them be gone! That means South Carolina, Texas, and even Florida as a bonus, along with the Deep South states that send recalcitrant Republican representatives to Washington with no intention of doing the nation's business. They are there to block, taunt, and undermine a president, a man from Illinois making social progress. This time, let's let them go without a fight. Oh, and we'll keep Virginia, more reconstructed than the rest, and give them Arizona.