We’ve had close presidential elections before, but this one is emblematic of dangerous, unbridgeable and growing gaps among the American people. Some of this can be seen by examining a map showing U.S. counties won by George W. Bush and those won by Al Gore.
In general, the densely populated counties along the East and West Coasts, Midwestern counties mostly along the Mississippi River and a smattering of counties in the Southwest were won by Mr. Gore. But if the election were to be decided by who won the greatest number of the nation’s 3,142 counties, Mr. Bush would have bested Gore by at least 2,500 counties.
While who won how many counties is irrelevant to the presidential selection process, it says something about the degree of national polarization. What are the characteristics of counties won by Mr. Bush vs. those won by Mr. Gore? The values, politics and religion of the counties in the Southern, Western and rural sections of the country won by Mr. Bush are not like those in the mostly coastal, highly populated counties won by Mr. Gore. The Bush counties are: more conservative and respectful of traditional values, pro-life, and more religious, and they have less social pathology such as high crime, illegitimacy and deviancy. Counties won by Mr. Gore tend to be just the opposite.
By no means do Americans who voted for Mr. Bush enthusiastically and unequivocally support the values expressed in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, but they are not nearly as parasitic, interventionist and contemptuous of the principles of liberty as Gore supporters.
The constitutional provisions created by the Framers to protect us against the interventionist and parasitic classes have long been under siege and are severely weakened. The Bill of Rights, election of senators by state legislators and other protections against mob rule have been weakened or eliminated. Limitations on the power of the central government, through the enumerated powers and separation-of-power doctrines, have also been severely compromised. Constitutional protections against parasitic plunder, through its prohibition against direct taxation (no income tax), have been abolished.
Thomas Jefferson gave voice to our most important protection in his first Inaugural Address in 1801, saying, “If there be any among us who wish to dissolve the Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed, as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”
The right of secession was taken for granted in the founding of our country, and it wasn’t only a Southern idea. Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts was George Washington’s chief of staff, his secretary of war and secretary of state, and later a Massachusetts congressman and senator. In 1803, Pickering wrote, “The principles of our Revolution [of 1776] point to the remedy a separation for the people of the East cannot reconcile their habits, views and interests with those of the South and West.”
Irreconcilability faces us today. There is one group of Americans who does not wish to bother anyone but wishes to be left alone. Another group of Americans wants to plunder and control the lives of others. This latter group of Americans shows no sign of letting up, much less retreating. A return to rule of law and constitutional government or separation are the only peaceful solutions. Separation and independence don’t require that liberty-loving Americans overthrow the federal government any more than it required George Washington to overthrow England or his successor secessionist, Jefferson Davis, to overthrow Washington, D.C.
So here’s my question: Should we Americans continue to forcibly impose our wills and values on one another, or should we part company and be friends?
Walter Williams is a nationally syndicated columnist.