I’m not sure how serious I am about this post, because the question is so big and so ridiculous. And at the same time, at least in the abstract, this deserves to be asked:
How long can the United States as a functioning state continue? Are we about to see a sudden collapse?
In a two-party system with a very highly polarized population that almost universally despise (despite the protestations of self-sanity on both sides) each other, one party has refused to concede the legitimacy of the state for at least a decade already. And they have just won an election on a platform that explicitly grants legitimacy to the nation alone while effectively rejecting the state as it is currently constituted.
The opposition party has erupted into protests in the streets and the consensus is that the results of the election must not be legitimized. There must be four years of protest, the electoral college should vote against historical norms and then immediately be abolished, current leaders must not accept the new leadership, and the new government will “never be my government.” I am seeing talk all over the online sphere wondering what would happen if they simply refused to relinquish power on moral grounds.
Who, exactly, is the state’s constituency right now? What, exactly, is preserving it apart from sheer inertia and bulk?
For at least eight years, the Democratic side has been the state’s constituency. Examining the history of the last few cycles, we’d have expected the roles to flip if Republicans won—suddenly the Democratic side would refuse to accept the legitimacy of the state and suddenly the Republican side would embrace it. Only this time, the Republican side ran a new and unexpected kind of candidate—one who denies the legitimacy of the state entirely, and submits that it is the nation alone that is legitimate.
We are heading into a period in which the state will not have a legitimizing constituency, only populations on both sides that deny its legitimacy.
Call me crazy, but it seems very much as if there is very little holding the “United States of America” up. If there is a collapse, the name won’t go away—both sides are likely to engage in warfare to own the brand if the nation were to fragment somehow, all claiming to be the “real” United States government—but it won’t any longer be the same United States of America.
It is worrying. I’d suggest that liberals dial it back a little, unless there really is a desire to wind the state down. Because that is the platform that the other side ran on. If the left jumps in with both feet, too, to argue that the state should be wound down in favor of something new, then who, exactly, is working to preserve it?
Exactly no-one. And under those kinds of circumstances, change can move very swiftly, as it did for the Soviet Union.