Robert Reich: Who Needs A Civil War? America Is Already Splitting – OpEd


If you want to understand the American political economy today, you need only look at what’s happening in the growing number of “trifecta” states — states where the same party controls the governorships and both chambers of state legislatures.

We don’t need a civil war. We’re already separating into two nations. 

As Americans segregate geographically by education and political values, the number of trifectas has been increasing. Democrats now have 17 — the most they’ve had since 1994 — while Republicans have 22, about the same number they’ve had since 2011.

These Democratic and Republican trifectas are moving in opposite directions at an astounding pace —Democratic trifectas rapidly becoming more progressive and inclusive; Republican, more regressive and reactionary. 

The new Democratic trifecta of Minnesota has just enacted paid family leave, paid sick leave for all, a minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers, sector-wide collective bargaining in key industries, and the outlawing of “captive audience” meetings (where managers compel employees to attend anti-union rants). It has enacted a law strengthening women’s right to an abortion. And it’s joined an interstate compact to override the Electoral College.

Other Democratic trifectas are doing much the same, including laws to shield their residents against lawsuits related to providing abortions or gender-affirming care to people from states where they are prohibited. Many are raising their minimum wages to $15 an hour. California continues to lead the way on responding to the climate crisis. 

A few weeks ago, Washington state became the 10th state in the nation to ban assault rifles and handguns. Colorado has enacted a longer waiting period for firearm sales and increased the minimum age to purchase a gun. Maryland will soon prohibit gun owners from bringing guns to schools and other sensitive locations.


Republican trifectas are moving as quickly as they can in the other direction. They’re making it next to impossible to have abortions and far easier to obtain guns. They’re banning books that discuss gender identity or sexual orientation, prohibiting gender-affirming care for young people even when parents approve, enacting prison terms for librarians whose shelves hold banned books, preventing teachers from discussing the nation’s history of racism — but allowing (if not requiring) the posting of the Ten Commandments and the teaching of religion.

They’re simultaneously making it more difficult for likely Democrats to vote — engaging in some of the most elaborate gerrymanders in the nation’s history and stripping from cities (almost all solidly Democratic) various home-rule rights. A bill in Texas even allows the state to declare elections invalid in Harris County, home to reliably Democratic Houston.


We’re splitting into two nations. 

But are we really? When it comes to issues that affect people directly, it turns out that voters in Republican trifectas are not all that different from anyone else — as evidenced by their support for initiatives and referenda that preserve the right to an abortion, raise the minimum wage, expand Medicaid, and make it easier to form unions. (More than 70 percent of the public, including about half of self-declared Republicans, have favorable views of unions.)

So how have Republicans gained and kept power in the red trifectas? Suppressing Democratic votes and demagoguing culture-war issues. They’ve been telling voters that their real enemies are cultural elites, rather than economic ones; and that their problems arise from the cultural norms of the oligarchy instead of from the oligarchy’s power. 

Wrong, of course. But the only way voters in these states will learn the truth is if progressives and Democrats — at both state and national levels — tell them the truth and offer them a clear alternative to the BS they’re getting from the GOP. 


If you’re from a state with a Republican trifecta, what have you experienced?

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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