A Foreigner’s Primer to the Coming U.S. Political Civil War

Explaining U.S. political splits to foreigners.

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Daniel Gallington is the senior policy and program adviser at the George C. Marshall Institute in Arlington, Va. He served in senior national security policy positions in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Department of Justice, and as bipartisan general counsel for the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

In a piece here last week, I explored the premise of foreign observers of the U.S. political process wondering whether we have – really – turned left in our national politics, primarily because of our last two presidential elections.

The conclusion was that – since Ronald Reagan – Republicans (or the various factions thereof) have brought most of their political misfortunes on themselves. However, and despite that, America, perhaps ironically, remains viewed by most foreigners as, politically, a center-right country, primarily because of the virtually unlimited economic opportunity here – especially when compared to the high taxes and political corruption in rest of the world.

I also concluded that whether the Republicans could "recover" as a national party – and, for example, elect a presidential candidate – depended primarily on how they managed the "tea party effect," the often divisive social and libertarian issues that seemed to attach themselves, one way or another, to the Republican Party over the years. Finally, I observed that our so-called "mainstream" national media and academia had moved so far to the left that they have lost most all objectivity, becoming both advocates and an integral/dependable part of Democratic Party politics.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Democratic Party.]

However, there is another clearly observable trend in our domestic politics – and a particularly unsettling one: It is elected federal and appointed government advocating and showing clear preferences for "blue" (Democratic) states over "red" (Republican) states – most visibly in the latest gun control debate. And, with Democrats potentially beginning a very long occupancy of the White House (for example, if Hillary Clinton serve two terms, beginning in 2016), blue state favoritism and preference will soon become the rule. Their goal is simple: To minimize the Republican/conservative state influences while maximizing those of the Democrat/liberal states.

Here's how it seems to be working: National Democratic political ideology and legislative policies, whether having any hope of becoming law or not (because of the "red" House of Representatives) are being rapidly and aggressively implemented in blue states. Then, a "consensus" favoring these Democratic policies can also be "reported" by the predominately liberal national media. This increases the substantive differences and political friction between the red and blue states; and also creates de facto political borders between states that begin to look – more and more and especially to foreigners – like borders between countries.

Sound familiar? It's an application of classic Democratic big city "neighborhood" activism and organization being practiced and managed on a national scale by national Democratic political operatives (just as Chicago rules all of Illinois and New York City rules New York state, etc.). We can see almost daily evidence of this at work by the public and political attention given – by the president and his high level appointees – to blue states over red ones.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

Whether the practice is simply classic Democratic urban political organization techniques or not, it seeks to further divide America along sharp political lines – in a manner not unlike what happened before the Civil War, or again at the peak of the civil rights unrest in the 1950s and '60s. Ironically perhaps, many history buffs will recall that Democrats were mostly on the "wrong side" of those historical and extremely divisive issues.

No doubt historians can and will identify more historical similarities than I have here, but the "big picture" is not encouraging at all for America's longer term future. If we've learned anything, it's that embedded "political dynasties" in our country most often turn corrupt – regardless of party – given enough time. Our political history is riddled with examples.

In the category of emotional political issues, the federal government's powers over the states with regard to the Second Amendment has all the potential to be as shrill as it can possibly get, and we can see advocates of both sides of the issue hard at work in key states.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Should Balancing the Federal Budget Be a Top Policy Priority?]

What are the potential boiling points? When/if the federal government is perceived to disproportionately enforce unpopular laws, executive orders, regulations and policies in red states, whether about guns or any other emotional issue – for example environmental and natural resource standards and practices.

Are there other potential examples? There may be, especially in the administration of federal laws that either directly or indirectly enforces real or perceived liberal social policies.

And for sure, experts in social policy analysis will be looking to the financial and policy effects of the implementation of Obamacare to find any evidence of blue state favoritism – most especially, evidence of red states having to finance or subsidize it – expensive blue state social programs, as in so-called "cost-shifting."

[See a collection of political cartoons on health care.]

So, are we in for a rocky political road as the liberal Democrats begin a potentially long occupancy of the White House? As our moms used to say, "we'll see."

However, we can certainly depend on Democrats to use their tried and true big city organizational techniques to solidify their urban majorities and minimize geographical political opposition.

Meantime, can Republicans get themselves organized and be effective in dealing with these kinds of tactics? Probably not – at least not any better than they are able to speak coherently on the many contemporary social issues that continue to divide the GOP.

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