These Disunited States

Spurred by the Supreme Court, a Nation Divides Along a Red-Blue Axis

On abortion, climate change, guns and much more, two Americas — one liberal, one conservative — are moving in opposite directions.

The Supreme Court’s decisions have accelerated a division of the nation along policy and ideological lines.
The Supreme Court’s decisions have accelerated a division of the nation along policy and ideological lines.Credit…Shuran Huang for The New York Times
Jonathan Weisman

By Jonathan Weisman

July 2, 2022Updated 9:36 a.m. ET

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Pressed by Supreme Court decisions diminishing rights that liberals hold dear and expanding those cherished by conservatives, the United States appears to be drifting apart into separate nations, with diametrically opposed social, environmental and health policies.

Call these the Disunited States.

The most immediate breaking point is on abortion, as about half the country will soon limit or ban the procedure while the other half expands or reinforces access to reproductive rights. But the ideological fault lines extend far beyond that one topic, to climate change, gun control and L.G.B.T.Q. and voting rights.

On each of those issues, the country’s Northeast and West Coast are moving in the opposite direction from its midsection and Southeast — with a few exceptions, like the islands of liberalism in Illinois and Colorado, and New Hampshire’s streak of conservatism.

Even where public opinion is more mixed, like in Ohio, Wisconsin, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas, the Republican grip on state legislatures has ensured that policies in those states conform with those of the reddest states in the union, rather than strike a middle ground.

The tearing at the seams has been accelerated by the six-vote conservative majority in the Supreme Court, which has embraced a muscular states-rights federalism. In the past 10 days the court has erased the constitutional right to an abortionnarrowed the federal government’s ability to regulate climate-warming pollution and blocked liberal states and cities from barring most of their citizens from carrying concealed gunsoutside of their homes.

“They’ve produced this Balkanized house divided, and we’re only beginning to see how bad that will be,” said David Blight, a Yale historian who specializes in the era of American history that led to the Civil War.

Nettie Hunt and her daughter Nickie on the steps of the Supreme Court after the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.
Nettie Hunt and her daughter Nickie on the steps of the Supreme Court after the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.Credit…Corbis

Historians have struggled to find a parallel moment, raising the 19th-century fracturing over slavery; the clashes between the executive branch and the Supreme Court in the New Deal era of the 1930s; the fierce battles over civil rights during Reconstruction and in the 1950s and early 1960s; and the rise of armed, violent groups like the Weather Underground in the late ’60s.

For some people, the divides have grown so deep and so personal that they have felt compelled to pick up and move from one America to the other.

Many conservatives have taken to social media to express thanks over leaving high-tax, highly regulated blue states for red states with smaller government and, now, laws prohibiting abortion.

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