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The Truth About America's Second Civil War

Robert B. Reich, Tribune Content Agency on

The Supreme Court’s upcoming decision to reverse Roe v. Wade (an early draft of which was leaked Monday, May 2) doesn’t ban abortions; it leaves the issue to the states. As a result, it will put another large brick in the growing wall separating Blue and Red America.

Some say we’re on the verge of a civil war, but that’s not right. It won’t be a formal secession (we tried that once), but a kind of benign separation analogous to unhappily married people who don’t want to go through the trauma of a formal divorce. We are already quietly splitting into two Americas — one largely urban, racially and ethnically diverse, and young; the other largely rural or exurban, white, and older — each running according to different laws and with different sources of revenue.

The split is accelerating. Red ZIP codes are getting redder and blue ZIP codes, bluer. Of the nation's total 3,143 counties, the number of super landslide counties — where a presidential candidate won at least 80% of the vote — jumped from 6% in 2004 to 22% in 2020.

Surveys show Americans find it increasingly important to live around people who share their political values. Animosity toward those in the opposing party is higher than at any time in living memory, as 42% of registered voters believe Americans in the other party are “downright evil.” Almost 40% would be upset at the prospect of their child marrying someone from the opposite party. Even before the 2020 election, when asked if violence would be justified if the other party won the election, 18.3% of Democrats and 13.8% of Republicans responded in the affirmative.

Americans are fleeing to places where political views match their own

America is growing more geographically polarized — red ZIP codes are getting redder and blue ZIP codes are becom...

 

While Red states make it nearly impossible to get abortions, they’re making it easier than ever to buy guns — even easier to carry concealed guns without a permit. They’re suppressing votes. (In Florida and Texas, teams of “election police” have been created to crack down on the rare crime of voter fraud, another fallout from Trump’s Big Lie.) They’re banning the teaching of America’s history of racism. They’re requiring transgender students to use bathrooms and join sports teams that reflect their gender at birth. They’re making it harder to protest; more difficult to qualify for unemployment benefits or other forms of public assistance; and almost impossible to form labor unions. And they’re passing “bounty” laws — enforced not by governments, which can be sued in federal court, but by rewards to private citizens for filing lawsuits — on issues ranging from classroom speech to abortions to vaccinations.

Blue states are moving in the opposite direction. Several, including Colorado and Vermont, are codifying a right to abortion. Some are helping cover abortion expenses for out-of-staters. When Idaho proposed a ban on abortions that empowers relatives to sue anyone who helps terminate a pregnancy after six weeks, nearby Oregon approved $15 million to help cover the abortion expenses of patients from other states. Maryland and Washington have expanded access and legal protections to out-of-state abortion patients. One package of pending California bills would expand access to California abortions and protect abortion providers from out-of-state legal action.

After the governor of Texas ordered state agencies to investigate parents for child abuse if they provide certain medical treatments to their transgender children, California lawmakers proposed making the state a refuge for transgender youths and their families. Another California proposal would thwart enforcement of out-of-state court judgments removing children from the custody of parents who get them gender-affirming health services. California is also about to enforce a ban on ghost guns and assault weapons with a California version of Texas’ recent six-week ban on abortion, featuring $10,000 bounties to encourage lawsuits from private citizens against anyone who sells, distributes or manufactures those types of firearms.

The new separation extends even to government revenue. A little-noticed trend is toward a growing share of total government taxing and spending occurring in the states — thereby making Blue states (which are overall wealthier than Red states) more financially autonomous.

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