Trump Derangement Syndrome rages on, the latest symptoms flaring equally based on causes both legitimate and ridiculous.
A key characteristic of the syndrome is its ability to evoke the same outrage over the president retweeting a harmless (and let’s admit it, funny) meme as threatening to destroy an entire nation. The breathless apoplexy over absolutely everything Trump-related, down to the shoes his wife wears while traveling, has desensitized Trump’s supporters to behavior even they should be concerned about.
It is true Trump has inspired new levels of hostility — even for politics — but Americans have been hating the president for this entire century, which is no longer in its infancy.
Bush may not have been “literally Hitler,” but he was Hitler nonetheless to the Democrats, just as Obama was “literally Mao” to conservatives.
But the proud American tradition of hurling invectives at the president isn’t nearly as ominous as the trend towards violence. Both the right and the left have mobilized armed groups, not just carrying signs but ready for violence. In fact, violent resistance is the far-left Antifa’s stated raison d’etre.
It isn’t that the three men who have held the office since 2001 are monsters.
Anyone who paid attention when Bush, Obama, or even Trump was caught in a quiet moment “off the record” would have to admit that they seem like reasonably likable people. That’s the rub. Government makes nice people do terrible things, things even they themselves would have considered barbarous before taking office.
Unfortunately, most Americans do not bat an eye at the worst offenses committed by the presidency, namely the killing of millions in undeclared wars of choice with nations who have never attacked the United States.
But Americans on both the right and the left are increasingly feeling the effects of ceding power over domestic affairs to Washington and the executive branch in particular.
The stakes of presidential elections are much higher now that Washington doesn’t just regulate interstate commerce, but regulates the minute details of how businesses are run, how crops are grown, what local public schools teach and even what signs they put on their restrooms.
Contrary to the president’s words to the United Nations, the United States has never been a nation-state, despite Washington’s best efforts to make it one. No honest person can argue Savannah, GA; New York, NY; Minneapolis, MN; and San Francisco, CA are part of a homogenous culture. They aren’t even remotely similar to each other. These are only a few of the many diverse cultures within the United States who all have their own worldview and their own way of doing things.
Most will accept newcomers from other regions moving to their communities, but being ruled by people in a distant city who don’t share their values is a completely different matter.
And that sword cuts both ways. If you’re a “cosmopolitan” New Yorker, you’d probably consider Midwestern evangelical Christians making rules governing the minutiae of how you run your life or your town just as tyrannical as many devoutly Christian communities are presently finding Washington’s secular edicts.
Secession movements are gaining momentum all over the world for precisely the same reason American politics are becoming more vitriolic. At the time of this writing, the Spanish national government just raided the offices of the Catalonian local government in an attempt to disrupt an impending referendum on Catalonia’s secession from Spain.
Scotland came close to seceding from the United Kingdom in 2014 and its legislators have voted for a new referendum on independence this past March, while the UK itself is in the process of leaving the European Union.
Suggesting American secession movements will ever gain this type of support may seem like crazy talk, but so did nullification when I spoke at a Nullification Now! rally back in 2010. Seven years later, it’s reality.
Federal marijuana laws have been nullified in almost two dozen states.
Is it really that hard to imagine Californians taking the next logical step in the seventh year of a Trump Administration, given their level of rage after just seven months? Ask the same question about Texas, given an equally divisive Democratic presidency.
If that sounds scary, it shouldn’t. Would the lives of Americans in New York, Georgia or Utah really change substantially if California were no longer being governed by Washington? No.
And to avoid leaving a familiar canard unaddressed, California or any other seceded state or region could just as easily join the other American states in defending against a foreign aggressor foolish enough to try to invade the country — as the original, independent American states joined together to defeat Great Britain, even though no central power compelled them to do so. That’s assuming any nuclear power can ever invade another.
No Solution Is Perfect
This is not to say secession or even decentralization is a panacea. Sometimes, localities want to break away so their governments can become more tyrannical. Vermont wants to be socialist. California likely does, too.
Some regions may want less separation between church and state or less open laws about marriage. But faced with absolute rule by a single city over 330 million people, Americans might do well to live and let live and learn. At worst, one could vote with one’s feet in a more decentralized America without having to leave the continent or learn a new language.
One thing is certain. The political currents in this union are gathering force and they are headed somewhere, just as they are all over the world. But while Catalonia, Scotland, Venice, and Tibet have no other choice but secession, the United States of America do.
The Constitution as written already provides for local control over most political matters with a very limited central authority for defense and a few other functions.
And while “get back to the Constitution” as a positive solution is at this point the subject of well-justified ridicule, it very well may be a realistic outcome of whatever conflagration lies ahead.
Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.