Maher on political division and national divorce

March 18, 2023 • 1:45 pm

Reader Divy called my attention to this bit from Bill Maher’s latest show, saying, “Great message.  I LOLED at Jesusippii.”

Maher goes on about the divisions within both Democrats and Republicans—divisions that would make it impossible to have coherent new “countries” that secede within the United States. His message: regardless of our messy and fractious country.

“We could just stick with the one [America]—the one where everybody gets to disagree on everything except for one thing: you have to want to stay in the marriage. You can’t call yourself a patriot of the United States and not be for the ‘united’ part.”

Sadly, this message will fall on deaf ears.

15 thoughts on “Maher on political division and national divorce

  1. Maher (re: TFG DJT): “Big talk from a guy that can’t even shut-up his girlfriends.” 9.99 * 10^99 points for nailing it!

  2. Nice bit by Maher, though one should hope that none of this need be explained to thinking Americans.

  3. The blue and the red are in a terrible marriage, contempt and hatred are overflowing, and a reconciliation between the parties seems more and more unlikely. Just today the NYT posted an article about conservative residents of eastern Oregon agitating for secession from the western part of the state with the east possibly becoming part of conservative Idaho. Yet, even in this relatively “easy” case many practicalities would make this eventuality becoming reality very difficult. On a national scale, a thousand questions would have to be answered before the divorce could become effectuated. In contrast to 1861 where there was a natural division between slave and non-slave states (although even then there was no monolithic agreement among the residents of the states in regard to slavery), today the distribution of red and blue people in the states is very marbled, thus making separation next to impossible.

    Among the thousands of questions that would need to be answered before separation could take place, here are few outstanding ones:

    1. Why assume that separation would take place on a state-by-state basis? Maybe the demand would be for separation would be on a county-by-county basis. If so, who would decide this? Would, for example, northern Illinois be content being a blue island in a vast red sea?

    2. Who are the individuals be chosen to negotiate the separation? Would there have to be such people elected by statewide elections or by some other means?

    3. How would the economic and monetary systems be divided between the two nations?

    4. How would the military (including nuclear weapons) be divided among the nations?

    5. Who would write the new constitutions for the two countries?

    6. Would passports be necessary for people to travel between red and blue areas?

    7. Even if the greatest political miracle of all time took place and agreement on separation was reached, how would the new countries treat and accommodate the tens of millions of people that would desire to migrate to the country of their ideological liking?

    Thus, as much as millions of blue and red people would like it nothing better to be free of their detestable neighbors, this cannot happen peacefully or probably at all. This means that the love free marriage will continue until one of the partners no longer exists. It means that short of national reconciliation, each partner will try to crush and gain dominance over the other. This is why the future is so ominous.

    1. Aside from all these issues, the idea of separation ignores the historic areas of conflict like access to the Pacific and who controls the Mississippi. The whole idea is ridiculous.

    2. Your questions about the internal political process of divorce are well taken. What I think would still-birth a divorce would be the impact on sovereign credit-worthiness. The nation’s creditors would want to know who is standing behind the trillions in U.S. treasury debt held by foreigners. If the answer was, “We haven’t figured that out yet and it will probably involve factional gunfire”, the value of the U.S. dollar would evaporate and you would not be able to borrow, import anything, or attract investment. It’s one thing for a state to work out a way to peaceably secede—there is no current lawful mechanism as I understand it—but the dissolution of the republic itself is simply impossible because its constituent parts would run out of money in days. You would have to sell all your land and physical assets individually to China to keep the lights on.

      Normally I say that cooler heads will prevail because apathy and inertia can be a bulwark against folly. Decades of low voter participation could remind demagogues that most people don’t give a shit about their fever dreams.

      A good test of voter apathy will be whether it prevents or enables San Francisco’s insane reparations scheme. If it passes, then any damn fool thing can happen and I eat my hopeful words. If it doesn’t pass, shattered dreams of avarice—Lucy and the football if Charlie Brown was packing heat—could start a race war. Every black person is going to look at every white and Asian person and say, “That guy screwed me out of 600,000 bucks” (the estimated cost per non-black family to pay the reparations that the city is proposing.). Like Nellie Bowles I confess a certain morbid fascination with seeing it happen, to my shame in admitting it.

    1. Sometimes you have to walk away from a loveless, or abusive marriage. Though I have no idea what the solution could be. All I know is the red and the blue hate each other and can’t find any common ground any more. 🙁

  4. Maher’s line is a version of what Renan says in his famous essay “Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?” which many readers will know. Here’s my own translation of the key passage:

    “A nation is therefore a great solidarity, constituted by the feeling of sacrifices that have been made and that people are disposed to make again. It presupposes a past; yet it can be summarized in the present by a tangible fact: assent, the clearly expressed desire to continue to live in common. The existence of a nation is (excuse this metaphor) a daily referendum, just as the existence of an individual is a perpetual affirmation of life. Oh! I know, that’s less metaphysical than divine right, less brutal than some claimed historical right. In the context of the ideas I’m presenting to you, no nation and no king has the right to say to a province: “You belong to me, I’m taking you.” For us, a province is its inhabitants; if anyone has the right to be consulted in this affair, it’s the inhabitant. A nation never has a real interest in forcing the annexation or retention of a country. The will of nations is, finally, the sole legitimate criterion, the one we must always come back to.”

  5. Bit of fact-checking needed in Maher’s introduction — Northern Ireland doesn’t have a majority Catholic population, but a majority Protestant one (of course these are notional identities in religious terms; the relevant factor in terms of allegiance is mostly political). That’s the whole problem. If it had been majority Catholic, Edward Carson wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on in 1912 and Northern Ireland would have been part of the Dominion, then the Republic, of Ireland since the 1920s (as most of the UK establishment wished at the time).

      1. Thanks Jeremy — looking a little further I see that this tipping point was reached sometime between the 2011 and 2021 censuses (as a side note, I would have thought the combination of this change with the evident disaster of Brexit would have made unification with Ireland far more likely, yet apparently that option is still struggling to get a majority). But Maher was clearly talking about the period of the Troubles — the late 60s to the late 90s — a time when the unionist/protestant majority in NI was significant and practically baked in.

  6. Interesting. One one hand, those Scandinavian “paradise” countries have a tiny population (less than NYC) and limited geographic and cultural diversity compared with the US; consensus is easier in such settings.

    What the US is attempting to do is much, much harder and made even harder when social conditions reward us for disparaging “the other” and punish us for seeing that they might have a valid point from time to time; this website does a GREAT job of doing that, which is one of the reasons I am a frequent reader.

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