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Abolish the Federal Government and Realign the Nation Based on Football
A compelling argument based on legitimate political science for "national divorce"
This article was originally published on Medium on January 20th, 2019. As talk of “national divorce” ramps up, it seemed reasonable to migrate HWFO’s analysis to Substack.
Let’s presume for a moment, that the only way to avert a violent civil war resulting from the downward spiral of the ongoing culture wars, is to carve the country up into smaller mini countries with a mutual defense pact. Let’s pretend a grand semi-violent state secession event occurs, originating with #Texit or #Calexit, which triggers nationwide insurgent violence of the Blue or Red flavor. People start dying, so shit gets real. Let’s presume saner heads prevail, and a Second Constitutional Convention, treaty, or other political artifact produces a “Multi State Solution” to this purely hypothetical second civil war.
This is just a thought experiment.
Starting the experiment here, let’s opine on how that might play. And then let’s talk about football.
(Side Note #1: Many folks in Georgia I’ve spoken to enjoy cheering on the #Exit trends, but nobody down here’s going to start throwing around #GAexit, because the last time we did that a bunch of Yankees burned Atlanta to the ground and made abstract creative sculpture with our railroad steel. Resurgens.)
Collin Woodard is our best starting resource. He wrote a book called “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Countries in North America.” Here’s his map:
I might hastily and sloppily summarize his thesis thusly. Different regions of the country abide by vastly different value structures, purely because of who landed where on boats, and from which regions those boats sailed, for whatever reasons. Each landing zone carried with it a specific bundle of genes and indoctrinations that spread westward as those colonies did what colonies do, that being colonizing, carrying those genes and indoctrinations with it. And he thinks you can identify where the regions exist today, by running voting patterns through a Geographic Information System (GIS) software package, which would then spit out the map above.
I believe him. This is a good thesis.
American History Retold by Colin, as interpreted by Alec MacGillis at The Washington Post:
In Woodard’s retelling, the country was unified in spite of itself. The Revolutionary War was a true insurgency only in Yankeedom; meanwhile, New Netherland became a Loyalist refuge, the pacifist-minded Midlanders lay low, the Deep Southern planters calculated how best to preserve (and expand) their slave economy, the Tidewater split into two camps, and the Borderlanders wrestled over whom they hated more — the British or the coastal elites oppressing them.
The new Constitution hardly sealed things tight. The Borderlanders waged the Whiskey Rebellion and made an aborted attempt to create their own state of Franklin, while Yankeedom grew so alarmed over the shift in power to the Tidewater that it nearly demanded a renegotiation of the Constitution in 1814.
The Civil War also started in Yankeedom, with its moralizing abolitionists. It was only thanks to a late shift by Midlander voters that Abraham Lincoln was elected. It was only after the secessionists fired on Fort Sumter that New Netherland, the Midlands and Borderlanders rallied to Yankeedom’s side. And the war that saved the union only exacerbated some divides — for one thing, Reconstruction broadened the Yankee-Borderlander split.
“Since 1877, the driving force in American politics hasn’t primarily been a class struggle or tension between agrarian and commercial interests, or even between competing partisan ideologies, although each has played a role,” Woodard writes. “Ultimately, the determinative political struggle has been a clash between shifting coalitions of ethnoregional nations, one invariably headed by the Deep South, the other by Yankeedom.”
Colin himself did what I consider to be one of the most clear and explanatory analyses of the 2016 election, when he applied his theories to county by county voting patterns, here:
He even included some pretty awesome maps:
I don’t talk about “voting” much, or at all, for someone who supposedly blogs about politics, because I really dislike politics. I only present the above article as supporting evidence for Colin’s overall thesis. As I said, I believe him.
Let’s return to our thought experiment. Some grand state secession event, accompanied by what I hope isn’t too much violence, leads to a renegotiation of terms in the structure of the country. This renegotiation of terms happens on a state by state level, and some smart person in the room has enough sense to realize that each of these states would be happier with a “federal” government that was more regional, so it could better address regional values. This leads us to reorganizational framework item 1:
1) Do away with the federal government. We build multiple regional governments that do everything the current federal government does today, other than defense. Each regional government is going to sign a mutual non-aggression pact, and tithe to a combined army that will be explicitly limited to dealing with foreign threats.
That hits the negotiating table. Every state is so sick of every other state’s bullshit, except for maybe their neighbors, that this is a very nice feature on which to build. But as soon as it hits the table, the politics begin, and everyone starts scheming with their buddies. Who are their buddies? Very likely, the states which share similar core values. This leads us to reorganizational framework item 2:
2) The states band up via normal psychological principles, creating groups based on a blend of shared value sets and geographical convenience.
Geography is important when you’re drawing boundary lines on a map, which means we won’t get an exact replication of Colin’s eleven nations. Some of them are thin in spots, and they don’t really track all that great with the state boundaries in certain areas. Some of the boundary states are going to have some tough conversations when they pick teams. I expect the result would look a little bit like this:
The country in our hypothetical thought experiment carves itself into four regions. We have New Dixie, The Yankee Union, Communist Pacifica, and Cowboy Country, occasionally derogatorily referred to as “Greater Texas.” Woodard’s Left Coast becomes the power element in Communist Pacifica. Yankeedom also becomes a power player as they scoop up the rust belt elements of Woodard’s Midlands. Woodard’s Greater Appalachia, being settled by the Scots, is stuck in their oh so common historical trap of being carved up and beholden to stronger political players in the form of either New Dixie or Cowboy Country. Cowboy Country itself becomes an interesting dynamic, leveraging geography and shared lifestyle to internalize the value sets from Woodard’s El Norte, Greater Appalachia, the Midlands, and the Far West. The New Dixie dynamic doesn’t change much from what we generally understand now to be “Southern State Dynamics.”
Critiquing this projection:
Holy shit I moved the Mason Dixon Line. Yeah, well, I didn’t move it much, and I admit I don’t have a great read on Maryland. I imagine they’re going to blend in with the Pennsylvania Quakers here, and the Tidewater is probably going to get carved up anyway, so Maryland goes Yankee. I might be wrong about Arizona and Nevada. Minnesota is a bit of a tossup, because sometimes they like Garrison Keillor, and sometimes Jesse Ventura. Very unique state. If you’re ever there, try and catch the Brainerd — Bemidji high school hockey game. It’s a hoot.
Virginia will go through some great pains during this thought experiment because there are quite a lot of folks in northeast Virginia and throughout the Virginia tidewater who are, shall we say, federally minded. Because Army, Navy, etc. They build big grey boats in Norfolk, with guns on them. The CIA lives in Virginia. But let’s pretend they’re cool with whatever because of framework item (1) above, and they break traditionally.
Once the great #EXIT is complete, we have four geographical regions which are knitted together with much better shared social dynamics, both in terms of shared genes and shared societal indoctrinations, where less friction can occur that might provoke another one of these horrible civil wars. Because remember, we are postulating a grand bargain from a second civil war. That’s literally why you’re still reading this article.
And holy fucking shit I just drew the geographical boundaries from four of the Power Five college football conferences.
That can’t be a coincidence, can it?
Ready for some Football?
The only football teams in the PAC-12 who don’t fit into Communist Pacifica are Colorado and Utah, which were both extremely new additions to the conference. The only football teams in the Big Ten (or B1G because branding) that don’t fit into the Yankee Union are Iowa and Nebraska, both of which have either been eyeing the Big 12, or used to be there. The only team in the Big 12 which doesn’t fit in Cowboy Country is West Virginia, which was also added recently, and also probably shares a curiously similar value set because Greater Appalachia. The only teams in the SEC that don’t fit the New Dixie map are Missouri and Texas A&M, which were also both recent additions from the Big 12, which is where they show in our post-civil-war map.
Before the great Conference Expansion Debacle of 20XX, which happened basically due to media revenue power dynamics, four of the five “Power Five Conferences” which control the BCS, and the political machinations regarding the college football national championship, all fit squarely within these regional boundaries. As of today, only 14% of the P5 (less the ACC) miss the target, and arguably 0% miss the target pre-shuffle.
(Side note #2: Hello ACC fans, you’ve just been triggered. I get it, because I’m an ACC fan. But if you’re an ACC fan, you already know that the ACC bailed on any kind of regional or geographical cohesion during the great Conference Expansion Debacle of 20XX, so the ACC really doesn’t apply here. We ACC folks in the wake of the Second Civil War are just going to have to renegotiate divisions into North/South along more Woodardian lines. Probably throw Miami into the Yankee division, since it’s full of New York transplants anyway. Prior to expansion, we were all Dixie except for Maryland, but they bailed for the Big Ten. I wonder if this analysis gives us an inkling as to why.)
0% pre-shuffle? How on earth is that possible? Seems like a curious artifact.
Or, on deeper reflection, maybe not.
College football is weird. It’s intensely tribal, and the tribes are intensely regional. Because “college,” the tribes are intensely focused on an academic approach to values, but that approach varies widely because state academic institutions cater to the value indoctrinations of the local population, across the long term. And if we believe the Woodard analysis (I do) then that means those colleges reflect the values of the region, ergo the values of the people who settled that region, ergo the values of Woodard’s eleven tribes. Maybe it’s not a curious artifact after all.
Maybe it’s obvious. Maybe the solution was there all along.
And then, once we’re all done with this hot culture war and violent revolution and stacking piles of dead bodies and such, we can maybe move to resolving our disagreements on the gridiron.
I think that might be saner. Hypothetically speaking.
It would be a lot more fun to watch.