Published in the Martinsburg Journal, July 16, 2017

It’s just like the 60’s: the 1860’s

The most significant effort to influence an American election by a foreign

country, the Confederate States of America, was at the Battle of Antietam in

September 1862. According to a National Park Service plaque there, one

of General Lee’s goals was to “influence the fall mid-term elections.” That

time, it wasn’t through hacking of computerized voter rolls and private

emails or unleashing internet trolls and bots; it was by literally hacking each

other to death with cannon balls, muskets and bayonets.


Today's political climate is somewhat reminiscent of the 1860’s, when

decades of gridlock prevented Congress from passing legislation to resolve

the issue of the “Peculiar Institution.” Now, states like California and Texas

are threatening succession, again, and talk of resistance and rebellion is

heard from all sides of the opinion fields.


And for what? Look at the Confederacy. They were basically a knock-off of

the Union right down to their currency system, laws (except for that slavery

thing) and government structure. They borrowed all of it, plus a huge debt,

and within four years had managed to gridlock their own selves into inertia,

just like the country they’d left.


The Constitution is still not clear if it is legal for a state to secede, but the

Happy to See You Go list would certainly include the former slave states of

Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, South

Carolina and Missouri, all of which take more from the Federal Government

than they pay back in taxes. Those are some of the states that waged a war

that took 618,222 lives, destroyed their own infrastructure, and where the

Rebel Flag still flies. They are, to quote Business Insider magazine,

“Welfare Queen states…. a net drain on our economy.”


A recent article by Patrick Buchanan coyly questioned if we are ‘nearing’

another civil war. That could be seen as a subtle prompting that we should

start one. But we’re not finished with the last one, by a long shot. One

thing we can count on is that the war of words over why we fought, or will

fight, would never end. We’re still arguing over the cause of the first

American Civil War. What would we call this one? The War of Democratic

Aggression? The War Between the Parties? The War for Republican

Independence, defending the Rights’ Rights? Instead of the Blue and the

Grey, it would be the Blue and the Red taking opposite sides of the

battlefield.


It’s hard to imagine that our overweight and highly-invested-in-Wall-Street

citizens would have the incentive to engage in hand-to-hand conflict with

each other, even though we are the most heavily side-armed population in

the world. For everyone but the extremely angry with nothing to lose, it

would be risking the stability that we now have for uncertainty and certain

loss.


If we framed a second attempt to divide this country more like an amicable

divorce based on irreconcilable differences, we could just go our separate

ways. The 50 states, without the alleged government over-reach and jobkilling

regulations, would have the autonomy that the Founding Fathers

might have intended in the first place.


Then all we would need to do would be to divvy up that $20 trillion-dollar

debt we owe before we head out the door. And just like in 1860, politicians

will insist that the basis of our conflict is simply over who gets to control the

commerce and the economy.


But 157 years later, I suspect it’s race---not money---that divides us still.

Historic marker at Antietam Battlefield
Historic marker at Antietam Battlefield