Over at his blog The Resurgent, Erick Erickson has published an essay titled Let’s Consider Secession. He doesn’t specify who “us” is. Neither does he acknowledge the disaster that unfolded last time someone had this idea. This document is not a plan or even a call to make a plan to secede. It seems like Erickson’s main goal is to be provocative. His first paragraph supports this hypothesis:
This past week has made me realize the situation in this country is unlikely to get better. We have 320 million people who hate each other and the left shows no signs of toning down rhetoric after last week’s mass assassination attempt. If anything, too many of them regret there were no deaths.
Sounds measured to me. I agree that even one person regretting no one died in last week’s shooting at a Republican baseball practice would be too many, but show me the person who said that.1 This claim prepares us for Erickson’s subsequent arguments that Nazism was a leftist ideology, Margaret Sanger was the “patron saint of dead kids,” and that progressives are saying Steve Scalise deserved it. He tops this outrage sundae with the big red cherry that “the political left is becoming the American ISIS.”
It’s true the DSA has taken control of several cities, and Bernie Sanders did behead that reporter. Still, it feels like Erickson is indulging in hyperbole here. It’s almost as though he built his career on inflammatory statements that thrill his fans, provoke his critics and just barely wink at the possibility it’s all an act, some species of political kayfabe.
Yet one detects a note of genuine sadness. Erickson argues that the present system is unjust, particularly in the areas of gay marriage and abortion, but that’s not his reason we should dissolve the Union. It’s that we all hate each other. He starts by literally saying that—“We have 320 million people who hate each other,” he writes, apparently counting babies—and, 700 words later, winds up here:
I am no longer an optimist about the future of this country. This past week has shown there is no incentive for the better angels of ourselves to rise. Both sides are out for blood. The only way to calm the situation is for us to part ways.
He fits in a lot of crazy bluster along the way, repeatedly referring to abortion as “killing kids” and claiming that Saul Alinsky dedicated his book to Satan, but it’s not the romp that a gratuitous call for secession ought to be. It’s more like an exasperated sigh. Erick Erickson is sad, and not in the objective way, like you want. He’s sad as the subject of his own experience as a person who is starting to feel like American democracy has broken down. In this way, is he completely different from the rest of us?
Maybe we should never pay attention to anything Erickson says or does. He is not a serious thinker. Although he has become well known, I’m not sure we can say he is influential. But we can say that he is a bomb-thrower, a purveyor of outrageous claims and terrible accusations. If he thinks politics have gotten out of hand…well, I don’t know that it’s serious. I’m certain I disagree with his historical claims and his bizarro “both sides do it” take wherein Republicans are becoming as bad as the real source of incivility in American politics, the Democrats. None of that makes any goddamn sense at all. But as I reject him out of hand, I am pained by just a sliver of agreement. I guess I am sad and worried, too.