The division and vitriol expended between the Democrat and the Republican supporters in the USA has been growing over the last thirty years. I look at news and social media and see evidence that the rift is growing larger, culminating in the very heated exchanges both before and after the last election. Each side argues that the other side will destroy the nation. Moderate voices are no longer even heard. I will not comment on the merits of any of the political points of view, merely point out how it was not supposed to be like this.
Which party controls Washington has a major impact on the direction of the nation. In 2000, the White House was decided by 537 voters in Florida. In 2016 and 2020, the Presidential selection was made by a small percentage of voters in a few swing states while the House and Senate were very closely split. A few Representatives or a single Senate seat can change the whole direction of the country, which is why some people are so vehement about the whole political process.
The Founding Fathers would have been both astounded and dismayed to see what their country has become. Back in 1789, they had thrown off the yoke of a large oppressive empire and dedicated themselves to the liberty of their citizens. They knew the thirteen new states were not homogenous but were each unique in their own ways. They were also concerned that they not replace one large unresponsive overarching government with another one. With these objectives in mind, they formed a republic that severely restricted the power of their new federal government and retained most of the sovereignty for their member states.
Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution specifies a series of finite powers that the new federal government would be allowed to exercise. There were also a couple of other items such as powers of impeachment granted to the Congress. The only way this was supposed to be changed was via an included amending process. Then they went further and added the first ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, which described certain rights that the people had and which the new federal government (and only the federal government) could not violate. It was a broad list, including other unspecified rights in the 9th Amendment and the 10th stating all powers not specifically granted to the federal government would be retained by the states and the people. This was the basis of what Ben Franklin described as the republic, if you can keep it.
Once the thirteen states ratified the Constitution and Bill of Rights, things should have been good. Each state would exercise sovereign control over what went on within its boundaries while Washington would be responsible to national defense, foreign affairs, regulating business between the states and a few other limited subjects. On this basis, the impact of the elected federal Executive and Legislative Branches could not have a great impact on the character and values of each state.
So how did this patchwork of largely autonomous sovereign states turn into the current situation where 537 individuals, some elected by the slimmest of margins, control virtually every aspect of American life? How is it that the very limited entity created 230 years ago is now responsible for energy, agriculture, drug control, social programs, education, labor, national parks, health, housing and much more?
First, there was the unpleasantness between 1861 and 1865 when the President decided that the Union was more important than the Constitutional rights of the states. Then a few things were legitimately changed by amending the Constitution through the approved process, including how Senators are elected and the levying of Income taxes. But most changes have involved reinterpretation of the original intent of the Constitution by the United States Supreme Court. Two of the clauses that have been broadened beyond all recognition are Interstate Commerce and General Welfare. Plus, around 100 years ago, the politicians and courts decided that the 14th Amendment (in place for 50 years at that time) allowed that the Bill of Rights could be applied to state and lower governments. But not all the BOR. They would (and still do) cherry pick sections to apply from time to time as the biases of the justices and the wishes of the politicians require. To this day, some sections have still not been incorporated.
These revisions to the primary law of the land have resulted in the rights of the states being substantially reduced. Other than the state criminal codes (although even they are now in conflict with federal laws regarding things such as marihuana use) and elections, most of the rights guaranteed for the states by the 10th Amendment have been eroded by nine unelected and unaccountable individuals in black robes.
If the intent of the Constitution had been followed without corruption, the US would be composed of a patchwork of states, each state following the wishes and values of its own citizens. Each state would be limited to its own Constitution and courts as decided by its own citizens. People would then be free to live in the state of their choosing, And which party controlled Washington would not be nearly as important as it is today.
But, you say, we are all American. We should all have the same values. Look at the Civil Rights Act. Look at environmental control. Look at labour laws. Look at all the good we have done collectively. But here's the scoop. You don't all have the same values and ideals. You have a system that tries to switch the whole country back and forth ever two, four and six years. As a result, your evenly split populace fights amongst itself, weakening the nation from within. For those who say that the changes in the United States' from what it was designed to be are good, I ask (as Doctor Phil would say) "How's that working for you".