"Breaking up is like knocking over a Coke machine. You can't do it one push. You gotta rock it back and forth a few times and then it goes over." - Jerry Seinfeld, 1997
While no one knows exactly how the most disputed American election ever will resolve, everyone knows one thing: the outcome will leave half the country outraged. People are so anxious about our political instability that the nation's biggest retailer stopped selling guns before Election Day.
Our division on a visceral, tribalistic level is very recent. In 2004, Bush and Kerry each presented himself as the commander-in-chief best suited to win the war on terror. The 2000 election didn't become interesting until Election Day because Gore and Bush were so ideologically similar. In 1996, both Clinton and Dole wanted America to thrive in our post-Cold War victory.
But since then, irrefutable, irreconcilable divisions have emerged that we need to acknowledge, divisions made worse by how the fate of the entire country hangs on what tiny portions of the electorate decides.
Everyone except for the media markets in those swing states grumble about their outsized influence, but they're just the tip of the electoral iceberg. Since 1992, the number of counties considered competitive has been on a steady decline, according to Pew Research, while the number of counties where one party holds an overwhelming advantage has skyrocketed. In 1996, 1,100 of America's approximately 3,100 counties were won with single-digit margins, according to NBC News, but by 2016 the number of such counties was just 310 - 10 percent of the country.
About 80 percent of races in the House of Representative are decided on party lines, according to the respected Cook Report
None of this math adds up to a unified country.
The two parties have always had competing visions for the same goal: make America the strongest, most prosperous it can be. But that's not the case anymore ... and it's all the Democrats' fault. No, this isn't the biased perspective of one lone Republican operative, this is the scientific finding of the Pew Research Center that compared two identical surveys in 1994 and 2017.
And 2017 was before the mind-boggling, now mainstream acceptance among Democrats of insane ideas like defunding law enforcement, total open borders, crippling our energy sector, Marxism, and transgender surgeries on 8 year olds. The New York Times is literally preaching we should "give up on the Constitution."
How do you compromise with a party that is threatening a scorched-earth policy toward every American institution while they don't have power?
Scholar Neil Howe predicted the political unrest of 2020 way back in the '90s, and now he's predicting a decade with a secession crisis at home and war with China abroad. One hopes the latter can be avoided, but Beijing is drooling at the idea of an America with a witless Joe Biden "in charge" and Bernie Sanders acolytes calling the shots from behind. But the former - peaceful balkanization rather than prolonged political strife - is becoming a more reasonable solution by the day.
We've been rocking the Coke machine back and forth for the last 20 years. Maybe it's time to finally push it over.
Jared Whitley is a longtime DC and Utah politico, having worked for Sen. Hatch, President Bush, and others. He is principal at Whitley Political Media, LLC.