The solution will be an experiment - US states as 'laboratories of democracy'

For a good while, like many politically naive people, I thought Trump himself was the issue. In retrospect, that would have been an almost charming situation, downright easy to undo compared to what I now believe is the reality - the utter corruption of the Republican Party; corruption to the point of subverting the American democratic process, and thus by implication, subverting American democracy itself. Today’s Republicans have amply demonstrated that their overarching goal is fundamentally at odds with such a process and system: they seek to seize unfettered control of the US’s social and political decision-making, and retain it everlastingly. It is a goal that would seem to be precisely the opposite of what the Founders intended.

I will not provide cites but am thinking of things such as weaponized-gerrymandering, federal judge stacking, but most especially, what’s gone on in North Carolina, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Sadly (to this Canadian), I believe it’s a fait accompli. Accompli at least for several generations. And, of course, it’s not become this way only in the US but in many places around the Globe where ‘liberal democracy’ had once taken some hold (although, for their own reasons, these non-US excursions into ‘illiberal democracy’ may be more likely to have a shorter lifespan than the one that seems to be unfolding in the US).

For those in the US who still treasure above all other political beliefs what I’ll call the 'basic tenets of a liberal democracy’ - those that stem from the fundamental conviction that all citizens are equal - the only course of action may be to relocate (if not retreat) to to a state where such beliefs still hold and are likely to continue to hold for decades. An admittedly odious prescription for anyone sick in a red state.

The point remains though, that individual US states (i.e. each state’s citizens) have considerable latitude in how they structure and support their societies (recognizing of course that such latitude does not and cannot extend to all aspects of society, e.g. various aspects of ‘gun rights’, foreign policy, trade, etc.,).

I only read recently of how US Supreme Court Justice Lewis Brandeis characterized the American states as “laboratories of democracy”. Indeed, it is in the states that the vital spirit of American democracy - the vision that earlier generations held and that held earlier generations together - must now incubate and renew. There is a certain irony, a comfort perhaps, in realizing how, in the end, ‘states rights’ was the issue, after all. But irony and comfort aside, I see no other solution to the current US social civil war.

(Until about eight weeks ago, I had been away from the Board for pretty much the whole of the Trump presidency (and the campaign). So, I may well have missed earlier discussion of, what seems to me, to be the pressing issue of the day - the future conception and implementation of American democracy. Apologies in advance, then, to those whose earlier thoughts I have missed (and also to those who would have had me frame things as an explicit debate).

So USA democracy - the code for the government - is buggy and flawed. The founding fathers were wise but they could not have possibly anticipated the issues we now have. Unfortunately, the way the code is written, our democracy is basically impossible to patch. It requires such an overwhelming majority to agree it can’t be done.

So the flaws are here to stay. The state-wise formulation has a number of problems with it. One big one is that it creates situations where individual states cannot really act on their own as planned. One well know example is healthcare.

See, with national “single-payer” healthcare, since the federal government would then control about 98% of all health spending, healthcare providers would have to accept whatever price the government decides to pay. If the government offers less than the price of materials and space and a price per labor less than the wage a healthcare provider could get in another industry (like flipping burgers), yeah, they could say no, but any price above that, and they have to accept it.

However, if a state (Vermont) tries to offer single payer, the problem is that all the doctors and hospitals can just follow their wallets and leave that state unless the state pays exorbitant rates. Also, people sick with expensive illnesses can choose to move to that state and bankrupt the system.

This is just 1 of many examples where the “laboratories of democracy” idea fails to actually work. Many of these problems can only be addressed at the national level or they will never be fixed at all.

Anyways, this nation will continue to limp along despite the problems. It has been the unquestioned most powerful country in the world, in military, economics, and technology, since the 1940s. I think these problems may lead to a period of decline but can’t really predict that with confidence. China has caught up most of the way, and the EU is closer to parity than it used to be, but neither power is at parity just yet.

What’s needed is a painful experience shared by the masses, a moment of collective consciousness in which we realize that our pro-slavery Constitution is obsolete and must be trashed and replaced with a new one that promotes true freedom and equality.

I think SamuelA has it. Some things, like single-payer, only work nationally and are disastrous on a state level. But if America gets redder and bluer, then it would eventually become two different Americas.

Decentralized federalism became weakened by the rise of a broadly mobile population and modern communications and transportation. It is one thing to say Virginia will do things their way, Vermont will do it theirs, Wyoming will do their thing and California will do something else, when your populations, and more importantly, your holders of capital, are mostly stable on the land or around the industry centers and have hard-to-pull deep roots. But in the age of the TV networks, Interstate Highways, cheap airfares, employer flight, and the Internet and robotic markets, you lose that.

One of the effects of the arrival of that age was the “nationalization” of local politics. Exposed to a national media reach, political influencers began to find it easier to get a rise out of their base over how in some other part of the nation, things were being done differently. Politicians who at one time could run on what was the best policy for Weekamucca County and exert leadership of conscience on “outside” issues became forced to take positions on an issue or another that mostly affects people somewhere else, based on what the partisan brain trusts came up with… because the strategists were using it as a “wedge”. And now the officials are tied in to an ideologically rigid platform that leaves them little or no wiggle room.
Now, that there may be times where you *have *to make the locals catch up with history is sometimes inevitable. One large part of the US society, twice at a neat 100 year interval, had to have “their way of life” declared wrong (because it WAS wrong) and be compelled to change it or else – once by force of arms, once by court orders and legislation on which the rest of the country overwhelmed them. Sometimes a nation’s gotta do what a nation’s gotta do.
But back to the OP, even if we maintain the Laboratories of Democracy model, there is a worrying aspect of going the “island state” way: the system is designed so that if the liberals self-segregate into the coasts and the big cities, that by itself *magnifies *the relative advantage of the reactionaries. Empty Wyoming has as many Senators as California. Gerrymandering means your state can have voted 60% for one party but still elect 3 out of 5 Congressmen *for the other *because half of those voters are crammed into just two of the districts…

…and if you were able to assure me that the people who moved to Liberalstan would be allowed to live and let live, that would be one thing. But you know the other side will just refuse to let them off so easy, even if just by undercutting them on beneficial regulations or economic policies.

But don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

There’s lotsa stuff states can do (or tolerate) that have little or nothing to do with the federal government, especially with respect to ‘social issues’. Legalization of marijuana, same-sex marriage, gambling, prostitution, certain immigration issues apparently, . . .

Maybe being a model for a ‘better’ democracy will become another action they might take.

Here is my opinion. I’m from Indiana, which is a very red state. I’ve also spent time in California, which is a very blue state.

I never felt less free in Indiana than I did in California despite the massive political differences. I don’t think my freedom really is restricted in Indiana other than maybe laws regarding marijuana (which isn’t really that important to me anyway).

Also when people discuss how electing more democrats will somehow cause massive movements towards progress, I like to point out how that isn’t true in california. California has a democratic governor, and democrats control 3/4 of the seats in the state senate and state assembly.

Nonetheless, California has the same problems democrats claim they want to solve. Their health care is brutal and overpriced. Their level of income inequality is insanely high. The poor are struggling. Workers have few rights at work. Unions barely exist (having said that, Californias rate of 15% is much better than the 5% rate seen in the south).

Maybe those issues need to be addressed on the federal level, but on the state level I haven’t seem progress on them.

On the state level, a state may legalize marijuana and we are all supposed to act like it is some amazing advance. Meh, the reason MJ legalization got passed is because it doesn’t offend the rich and powerful. Wake me up when a state passes single payer health care or the employee free choice act. Or they reduce their gini coefficient down to european levels.

This is true. Its also more or less true of taxation or unions. If California pushed for a 30% unionization rate and extremely high progressive taxes, companies and individuals will just move to another state.

But this is also true on a national level. A company can move if the nation itself becomes too expensive to do business in, and they do it all the time. So I don’t know if nationalization is necessarily a solution to the issue.

And again on the subject of unions, some southern states have a 4% union rate, while Hawaii is at nearly 20%. So there is that.

On the subject of health care, California has a bigger GDP and population than virtually every other nation with UHC. The only others bigger than California are Germany, the UK, France and Japan. There are dozens and dozens of other nations that have created UHC systems with far fewer people and economic clout than California. California has more people and more wealth than either Canada or Australia, yet those 2 nations built a UHC system.

Also, I’m under the impression that a lot of people who have expensive medical problems are already covered by federal health plans. Programs like medicare and medicaid cover a lot of the 5%. Health care costs in the US follow a power law distribution, and about 5% of patients make up 60% of medical spending (about 100k a year each in medical spending) but since they are on federal programs, i don’t know if there is incentive for them all to move to a place like California.

You’re both buying into a false dichotomy: that UHC can only be done by the federal government, or by the states.

I’m continually bemused in the health care debates on these boards by this US tendency. The phrase “single payer” seems to be taken to mean that it must be a federal program, as in SamuelA’s post.

That’s not how single payer works in Canada and the UK. In Canada, there are 13 single-payers: the 10 provinces and the three territories. In the UK, there are four single-payers in the National Health Service, in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The role of the federal/central government in both Canada and the UK is to set out the general guidelines for the system and to provide funding. Actual health care delivery is the responsibility of the provincial/devolved governors, which also provide funding

It’s that mixture of general central regulation and local implementation that makes the systems work in both countries.

The US invented modern federalism. I don’t understand why both proponents and opponents of UHC and single-payer in the US see federalism as an obstacle to UHC, rather than a potential strength.

What you miss with your analysis is that nevertheless all 13 provinces do this. When we talk about “single payer”, we are talking about 1 state not just acting on their own, because a single U.S. state is not powerful enough or large enough to unilaterally do this in a coupled system.

That’s exactly my point. That it’s a mistake to talk about it was “either - or” states or federal gouvernement. What makes it work in Canada is cooperation between the federal government and the provinces. Provinces likely couldn’t do it on their own. But the federal money makes it possible for all provinces and territories to have single-payer, without the federal government being in charge of health care delivery.

Molly Ivins used to regularly refer to Texas (where she lived and about which she wrote) as “Our National Laboratory for Bad Government.”

There is the prospect that Trump could be a circuit breaker.
Which would be a pretty cheap get out of jail card, given how little of his agenda has actually been achieved.

However the number of Trump supporters who have turned away from the fold seems to be negligible so at this stage the medicine is proving to be insufficiently bitter, particularly since it’s only the libs and elites who seem to have swallowed it.

So the instigation is going to need to be something far worse than POTUS XLV.

Makes you thing just how riled up people must have been previously when they took the revolution/succession path.

There’s a problem with your argument. Since we first started tracking internal migration in 1948, 2017 showed record low geographic migration in the US. Technology may enable moving around more often but we aren’t actually doing it. We’re moving less today than when the baby boom generation was being born. Technology does influence information and some of the nationalization of politics. It hasn’t prevented a general decline in mobility.

How about conquest by a power with a pre-2001 attitude towards liberal democracy?

We’ll annex you all after Trump’s done razing your system of government to the ground. How would you like to be a resident of the Southwest Territories without having to move house?

Well, ultimately, this is what would do it. If we accept the reality that the USA is deeply flawed because while democracy is better than nothing, the USA’s version of it has 250 year old unpatched bugs. And the codebase is locked except when an overwhelming majority of the populace agree to change it, and for reasons that are partly due to government policy caused by our faulty code, at least 40% of the population lives in a world of delusions fed by false information.

But it’s still the most powerful nation and it has the largest economy and a very large tech sector. So it might take hundreds of years to collapse to the point that another peer nation could take over.

I have often been a fan of states experimenting with various things. It allows for pilot projects without impacting the entire country. A good example is Massachusetts, which was the de facto pilot for the ACA. They implemented it, and it went well, so that became the basis of Obamacare. Also, states are different in many ways, and need some flexibility on various items. What is necessary in California might be very different from South Carolina, for instance, on the water & forestry control front. New York is a high regulatory state, whereas Texas is not.

However, states don’t always do the right thing. They can be incredibly regressive, such as in the voting rights arena in North Carolina. Very often, big government - which Libertarians fear - has to come rescue the individual from small government - a regressive state. An example is the Feds coming to oppose Southern States in their Jim Crow laws. Also, I was personally disappointed when my state, Georgia, didn’t accept the Medicaid expansion. States don’t always do the right thing.

Back to your original point about the problem being the Republican Party moreso than Trump, I agree. Trump is a symptom of the problem. He’s the symptom, the really bad symptom, that the underlying problem produced. And right now, the Republican Party at all levels - national, state & local - seems to be marching in lockstep in a really bad direction. What this country needs right now is for the Democrats to win as many elections as they can at all levels.

I would like to gently push back on your view about people moving out of Red States. My state is backward in some ways. But overall, it’s a good place. There are good people here of all political persuasions. I’d like for the Dems to regain some political power. But even under Republican control, Georgia is not hell on earth. I hope more Dems move into Georgia and help us wrestle control back from the Pubs. I do understand that in some situations, it’s better to move than to stay and fight. I get that, and some of that will happen.

Aren’t you a straight, white male? Do you think you’d feel less free in Indiana if you were a gay teen and the governor was pushing for gay conversion therapy? Do you think you’d feel less free as an accidentally pregnant woman in a state with just one abortion clinic?

Any power likely and capable of conquering a nation like the USA by force sure isn’t going to be liberal democratic.