I think that when a population gap grows to a certain point where there is no common understanding, eventually they cannot remain in a united country. This is how empires have ended. The differences become unresolvable, the country ungovernable, the national government is either shifting incoherently or lacks legitimacy consistently in one region.
We are not talking about some misunderstandings we are speaking about a lack of acceptance of any fact or source in support of the other – by definition.
The United States is now in such a crisis. It is not like previous ones. The US, and many countries, has huge differences in terms of desired directions for their country. These have long been open to discussion and negotiation. There have been lies and ongoing duplicity. This crisis is different and one that, prior to Trump, had not reached this point previously.
The issue is agreement on enough stated facts to have any productive engagement at all. It is no longer even an advantage that they speak the same language since they cannot agree on any narrative of fact. There are no commonly accepted sources of facts either so there is no future source of a theoretical compromise. They no longer fight over a story going to the media but which media is legitimate – in absolute terms. The US now has two unreconcilable universes of facts and sets of sources of facts. There is no basis for conversation.
One reality has to rule the other for the US to be a single country, but each has no hope of ever winning over the other through logic or persuasion. Both look at power by the other as a coup based on falsehoods. There is no purpose in an election campaign since nothing the other says can be meaningful.
Are things as bad as I say? If so I will argue that this is the start of the end time for the US. There is no way out of it. Unless the US can find a way back to some common agreements about the present, it cannot have a semblance of democracy to consider directions for the future. We can argue about the fairness and the function of their democracy but it is based on a consensus among enough people that it is viable in order for it to continue.
In fact, this collapse of a common narrative is unprecedented anywhere in the world although it is starting in other places at the same time.
It is certainly possible to govern a country where there is this wide disagreement on facts, but the way to do so is brute power. The two sides, where there are competing universes of facts and sources, cannot be represented in elections. One has to suppress the other. This approach to reality requires dictatorship or separation.
It is possible that the red states and the blue states could co-exist as separate countries but they cannot exist in the same country where they compete in elections without any sources of accepted information. There must be a meeting place of common fact upon which differing opinions are based.
I am not raising alarm over an issue of trust. This is further than that. This is the consequence of all negative news being defined as fake news. It is not fake because it is not true as truth has no longer any meaning, it is fake because there is a decision not to believe anything that as negative. This is more akin to the religious wars of the past than any democratic disagreement you may find.
If a substantial number of US citizens subscribe to this approach to what is real and unreal, they will make the continuity of the US as a single country with differing opinions competing in elections unsustainable.
So, the question is, how far are we from that? I think not very far. What is the exact point of no return? I think I can point to it. The point of no return is when the US has an election that the loser cannot recognize as legitimate – in any way. The last election was not questioned by the Democrats in terms of result, although they questioned the fairness.
What if Trump wins a new term? Will the Democrats accept that as a legitimate democratic expression? I doubt it. They will see the propaganda and the lies of a four-year presidency, they will question the changes that Trump wants to bring to the electoral process. They may not accept the result.
What if Trump loses? His followers (armed to the teeth and hard to control, even if Trump wanted to control them), will not accept a loss. They have been trained for the last year to see everything negative as fake and every stated fact as a conspiracy. A win by the Democrats, no matter how convincing in numbers will be a coup of the deep state.
At present the winner is governing (in a fashion) and the loser is imagining governing after the next election. But if that election cannot produce a result that the other is willing to accept, you will have reached the point where the US as an enterprise is no longer viable.