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The Republican Party has been through some pretty wild transformations in recent decades, from the so-called fiscal conservatives who engineered the explosive deficits of the 1980s, to the “family values” culture warriors of the ‘90s, to the pro-coup MAGA crowd. But nothing compares to the GOP’s most recent — and grisliest — manifestation. Not content with operating as America’s all-conspiracies-all-the-time party, some Republicans have begun embracing the oldest fringe fantasy of them all: secession.
As recently as November, Sen. Ted Cruz told an audience that if Democrats “destroy the country” then Texas — and, presumably, other red states — should “take NASA, take the military, take the oil” and secede. Meanwhile, the GOP’s own Madame Defarge, Marjorie Taylor Greene (Q-GA), has been bleating loudly and long about “national divorce” – which, of course, is simpleton code for secession.
Now, we can all agree that Ted Cruz is, as Lincoln Project founder Steve Schmidt once phrased it, a “historically despicable” creature. And MTG is … something. But leaving aside the right-wing wet dream of a second American civil war — because make no mistake; that’s exactly what they’re hankering for — let’s take Cruz, Greene, and their fellow secessionists at their word and picture what it might look like if their traitorous dream became reality.
In short, a mass red state secession would be a boon — for blue states.
For one thing, despite continually gobbling up billions of dollars from taxpayers in deep blue places like New York, California, and Massachusetts, many “self-reliant” (translation: desperately needy) red states routinely trail blue states in every significant quality-of-life category — life expectancy, education, income — while outpacing blue states in rates of violent crime, divorce, teen pregnancy, obesity, infant mortality, and so on.
Let’s look at some of those stats, with an eye toward gauging how blue and red states might compare after the dust settles.
Take, for example, a key measure of the value states placed on children’s (and, often by extension, women’s) lives: infant mortality. According to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics website, of the 10 American states with the highest rates of infant mortality, seven (Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, et al) are reliably, proudly red. One or two are on the bubble. Only one, Delaware, is blue.
To be fair, America’s place in the global infant-mortality standings is a disgrace. Among developed countries, only infants in Chile, Turkey, and Mexico fare worse than American babies. But if we take our red states out of the equation, a blue America could likely leapfrog at least some of the other countries — Slovakia, Poland, Latvia — currently doing a better job at keeping babies alive than we are.
How about life expectancy? All 10 of the states with the lowest life expectancy are red. All 10 of the states with the highest life expectancy are blue (CDC).
Gun violence? Again, according to the CDC, the 10 states with the highest rates of “firearms mortality” (deaths per 100,000 residents) are red. Every one of them. Of the safest states when it comes to the risk of dying by gun violence, nine of the 10 are blue. Iowa is the lone red state.
Obesity? Of the 15 states with the highest rates of adult obesity, 14 are red. The blue outlier? Delaware, yet again. (What’s up, Delaware? You all right over there?) People suffering from obesity are also at greater risk of developing conditions like heart disease, diabetes, various cancers, and sleep disorders, so let’s just go ahead and say that most red states are probably less healthy, generally speaking, than blue states.
And according to CNBC, we also find – again, with some caveats – that blue states are generally better at delivering education than red states. For instance, of the 10 “least educated” states in 2018, eight were red. All of the 10 “most educated” were blue.
In so many of the classic quality-of-life measurements, from rates of divorce and teen pregnancy to income levels and more, blue states routinely fare better — often far better — than Red states. The data is out there. Check for yourself.
But it’s also true that even if Cruz, Greene, and the rest of the modern Confederates won’t admit it, the logistics of mass secession in a nation as complex and interconnected as the US make the chances of such plans ever coming to fruition pretty much nonexistent. And that’s a good thing.
The American experiment — the most audacious, optimistic, inspiring (as well as confounding, confusing, and frustrating) political and cultural gamble in human history — is predicated on pluralism. On difference. On debate, conflict, and compromise. No real American wants to see all of that thrown away because we’re going through an autocracy-curious rough patch.
Is it pleasant to sometimes imagine what a healthier, wealthier, more voter-rights-friendly, less frantically ammosexual nation — a United Blue America – might look like? Sure it is. But, partisan rhetoric aside, we would miss you, Texas. And Kansas. And Louisiana. And even you, Kentucky.
Come on. Bring it in. Let’s hug it out. Short of slugging it out, or worse, it’s the only option we have.