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What Have We Done To Our Kids? Scotus Hears Challenge to Federal Vaccine Mandates; The Lessons of January 6; Is America Heading To Civil War Or Secession. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired January 08, 2022 - 09:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: The COVID kids are not all right. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. And I'm worried about COVID kids.

That's my label for those coming of age in the midst of a pandemic. They're bearing the brunt of COVID even though most infected children are at much less risk of becoming severely ill. It's a tough time to be young and on the verge of a personal and professional launch. Rises in depression, anxiety and suicide attempts all facing today's youth, accelerated by the impact of remote learning.

Kids are back in school in New York City and in D.C. where students were required to produce a negative test result. But this week in Chicago, the third largest school district in the country, the teachers' union voted to refused to show up for in-person work, upending school altogether and these kids' lives.

Tuesday, the second day back from winter break, Chicago public schools reported 422 new cases among students. While that's reportedly the highest in the school year, the district has more than 340,000 students. This translates to roughly 0.1 percent of the student body. That shouldn't bring everything to a halt. Thousands of other schools around the country have delayed a return to in-person learning. Cities including Atlanta, Milwaukee, Cleveland and Detroit have switched to online learning or postponed reopening.

What happened to the funding that was supposed to alleviate all of this? $130 billion of coronavirus relief funds were earmarked for ventilation in schools and social distancing in classrooms. And $10 billion more was set aside for testing in schools.

So, what have we done to our kids? As this "New York Times" headline puts it, no way to grow up. For the past two years, Americans have accepted more harm to children in exchange for less harm to adults. Included in statistics cited by its author, David Leonhardt, "Among third through eighth graders, math and reading levels were all lower than normal this fall, according to NWEA, a research group. The shortfalls were largest for Black and Hispanic students, as well as students in schools with high poverty rates."

On top of that, the nonacademic aspects of school, lunch period, extracurriculars, sports, assemblies, plays, trips, they have all been curtailed or eliminated. I'm worried about kids being educated remotely and losing out on a whole host of social dynamics. What you can't get in the remote world are the life lessons, the human interaction, the forging of relationships.

And then there are the slightly older members of what Dr. Jean Twenge calls iGen. The ones who graduated from high school or college without the pomp and circumstance of a traditional commencement ceremony. The ones that have missed out on social interactions that I mentioned and benefited from. Riding the yellow school bus, jockeying for certain lunch tables in the cafeteria, playing afterschool sports.

Many are now beginning their first jobs but without the close contact and mentorship of a colleague or onsite supervision of a boss. They too are missing out. Losing the nuance that no Zoom or e-mail or text can provide.

Having participated in countless online meetings in the past two years, I know I'm a different person when things are being recorded. More stilted, less natural, and yes, sometimes, that's a good thing but it's not a fair reflection of a real back and forth. They're deprived of on-the-job collaborative efforts not to mention the camaraderie of social time with co-workers.

When I first began practicing law, I learned more from watching colleagues try cases than I did from sitting in lecture halls for three years in law school. Work habits are not being fully formed remotely. Somebody needs to tell today's new hires what it means to be on the clock. That bro and dude are inappropriate ways to communicate with a superior. And sometimes, you just have to say, yes, suck it up and get the job done.

These elementary students in Chicago who missed this past week of school. The high school and college students who have missed social and sports and academy milestones. And the new hires who are not picking up normal work practices while remote in their living rooms, they are all COVID kids. And they are not all right. And anytime that society is contemplating a response to COVID, their needs need to be prioritized.

Joining me now is Keri Rodrigues, co-founder and president of the National Parents Union.

Keri, nice to see you here.


So, you're a former union organizer who then became a parenting activist. You have a presence in all 50 states. React to what I just said.

KERI RODRIGUES, CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, NATIONAL PARENTS UNION: Oh, I think you said it beautifully, Michael. And frankly, you know unfortunately, what we're looking at right now is no end in sight, because we have been in chaos for the past 20 months. And I was actually looking back on our notes last night, it was back in December of 2020 and where we were talking to the Biden transition team, asking, calling, crying for help. Saying we need contingency plans. Our kids are not all right. And 86 percent of American families have told us in our national polling that mental health concerns and the crises we see unfolding in our living rooms, that is number one to us. And I don't know how much longer this can continue.

SMERCONISH: With regard to schools reopening and obviously with Chicago top of mind. The red states, the blue states, they seem to have different responses and I would argue neither of them is getting it just right. What do you see?

RODRIGUES: Well, the problem is a lack of leadership, coming from the federal government. Again, as you mentioned beautifully, $130 million -- billion dollars, excuse me, has been sent down to the states to literally deal with this situation, COVID-19 mitigation strategies. Making sure that we have testing, making sure that we have the technology needed. So, if the worst-case scenario happened, we'd be ready and prepared.

But one of the most important lessons that we have learned over the last 20 months is that we must keep our schools open. They are essential. They are not nice to have. They are must-have. And as you've said before, we're going to lose an entire generation of kids if we do not hold this line.

SMERCONISH: It may be a gross simplification, but from my standpoint, I look at red states that open without regard for testing. I look at blue states that shut down without regard for mental health. And somewhere in between, as is usually the case, at least the way that I look at the world is the truth and the way that they ought to be approaching it.

RODRIGUES: Well, the problem is, Michael, we're just being told to figure it out and we're asking educators who are not epidemiologists to make these calls. They're not qualified to do so.

So, you're right. In red states, you have folks who are saying, well go back into the classroom, we'll figure this out if people get COVID. That's not safe. That's not going to keep classrooms open because you're going to see catastrophic numbers and you're going to have to shut classrooms down when half of the kids have COVID. It doesn't make sense not to have a test the Monday morning when you come back from a winter break to make sure you know who has COVID and who doesn't. I mean, that's just commonsense.


RODRIGUES: But then in the blue states, you got older problem where it does make sense that we're going to shut down all schools for two or three weeks again, as if you had no idea that we were having winter break. Every kid in America should have been going home, the Friday of winter break, with a COVID rapid test, a couple of them. So that we knew when we were going back to school on Monday morning, you take your test, you're negative, you're good to go on the school bus. That's just commonsense.

It's as if we had no idea that winter break was going to happen and that we were going to have a COVID surge. You know I'm not an epidemiologist, I'm a mom of five little boys and I had a pretty good idea that we were going to have a COVID surge whether or not we got a variant or not because we've learned some lessons about how this pandemic works.

SMERCONISH: Mine are older than yours. We have four. Three of them are boys. Our daughter is launched, married and a mom of her own. But from my perspective, what concerns me are not only those still in school, but those who are on the verge of or should have launched by now. And they, too, are getting screwed in this process because in the last two years, they haven't been given the benefit of those things that I articulated at the outset. You get the final word. Go ahead.

RODRIGUES: Well, I've got to tell you, Michael. Last night, I was talking to a family in North Philadelphia. And we've got a father with master's degree. We got a mom who is educated, has COVID, cannot work right now. He's trying to drive Uber. They have kindergarten kids. They've got college kids. Whole giant family.

And the dad just said something's got to give. I don't have enough left in me to search for logins, to try to get these kindergartners on WiFi. I have a daughter who is really struggling because she's socially isolated. Like when does this got to - when is this going to give?

We're expected to hold up the American economy, still show up to work, still make sure we show up to run our hospitals. At the same time, we've got decisions being made in the American education system in a vacuum saying well, just take two days off. That's not how the American society works. That's not how our families work. And we need to be seen because our families are in crisis right now, our children are in crisis. And unfortunately, it doesn't seem to me like we're using even the resources -- we have $130 billion in funding wisely, to make sure that we're navigating the situation so that we're going to be OK at the end of this pandemic. We've got to start this.


SMERCONISH: Keri Rodrigues, thank you so much. I really appreciate your having been here.

RODRIGUES: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @smerconish. Go to my Facebook page. Some of you even posting comments on YouTube. And I will read some responses throughout the course of the program.

What do we have?

The kids of 1918 fought and won World War II. Every generation has their issue, these will make it, too.

Jim Simpson, I have no doubt that in the long term, they will make it. But it's going to take years to get there for a whole variety of factors. As Scott Galloway often says to me, remember, this pandemic is an accelerant. They were already trends, that we're in progress and what it's doing is not necessarily changing trajectory but speeding things up. And one final thought on this issue.

I should have said this to Keri, that which we're describing, the problem for -- I'll describe it as just youth -- American youth, my focus. But this probably applies around the globe. Whomever harnesses this concern is going to have a winning hand in the midterm elections. As we start speculating about you know who is going to control the House of Representatives, et cetera, et cetera. It's going to be whomever among these candidates from either party addresses the concern of parents on the issues that I just set forth.

All right, up ahead. The Supreme Court heard arguments Friday, yesterday, to block the Biden administration's COVID vaccine mandates that were supposed to begin on Monday. Ohio's attorney general, the lead of the 27 states who signed on to that complaint is here to discuss.

And the day before the anniversary of January 6th, an administrator in a Pennsylvania school district urged teachers not to, quote, "wade into discussions of the capitol riot," citing, quote, "the current polarization and strong emotions."

Well, I've got a question. What should school kids be taught about January 6th?

Plus, if Texas were a country, it would have the 10th largest GDP in the world. California would be number five. Given the fraught political climate might be states and others some days secede to become their own splinter nations. I want to know what you think. I love today's survey question at Go there and answer this question. Fifty years from now, will the U.S. map be the same as it is today?



SMERCONISH: In four hours an oral argument on Friday, the Supreme Court heard two cases about federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The court seems ready to allow one from the Department of Health and Human Services requiring the vaccine for workers and health care providers that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs, but it seems poised to reject the other.

That would be President Biden's vaccine or test mandate for large employers. The policy pertaining to businesses of more than 100 employees was issued November 5th. And the administration had hoped to implement it this coming Monday. The measure would affect 84 million workers and the government says that it would lead to millions more getting vaccinated and fewer hospitalizations.

The administration says the policy falls under the legal authority of OSHA. That's the Occupational Safety and Health Administration which can take temporary emergency steps to protect employees who are, quote, "exposed to grave danger from exposure to substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or from new hazards."

Justice Elena Kagan asked this.


ELENA KAGAN, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Why isn't this necessary to abate a grave risk? This is a pandemic in which nearly a million people have died, it is by far the greatest public health danger that this country has faced in the last century. And this is the policy that is most geared to stopping all this.


SMERCONISH: Chief Justice John Roberts weighed in and asked the following.


JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Why wouldn't OSHA have the authority to do the best approach possible to address what -- I guess you would agree is a special workplace problem?


SMERCONISH: But Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Amy Coney Barrett suggested that the rule was too broad.

Barrett asked whether a quote, "more targeted regulation aimed at industries with a higher risk of transmission, would be more likely to pass legal muster."

Thomas suggested that younger unvaccinated workers should not be subject to the same rules as older workers.

And Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh questioned whether a federal agency could issue such a sweeping regulation without the clear authorization of Congress.

Joining me now to discuss is Republican Attorney General Dave Yost of Ohio. His state leading a group of 27 states challenging OSHA's vaccination rule. I should say we also invited attorneys from the Justice Department. They did not respond.

Mr. AG, thank you so much for being here.

So, as I mentioned, OSHA has the authority to issue emergency rules for workplace safety, so long as workers are exposed to grave danger. Isn't that what we have here?

DAVE YOST, OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, OSHA has only used this power a few times. It's regularly been struck down. Furthermore, COVID is not a -- simply a workplace danger. It's everywhere. And OSHA is designed to address workplace dangers. This is a different kind of thing, given the fact that it's going to impact two-thirds of the American workforce have significant disruptions in individual lives, and in the economy.


This falls under what we call the major questions doctrine which means you can't go out and do rulemaking, unless Congress has explicitly said, yes, go do this very, very large thing.

SMERCONISH: So, in paying attention to the arguments as I tried to do yesterday, I wondered how much of this is really about the law and how much of this is red state/blue state ideological difference? I mean, not lost on me is the fact that you're the leader, Ohio, the leader of the 27 states that were opposing this, but all Republican. I can imagine members of the public watching this whole debate unfold and think, my God, is everything partisan? Shouldn't this be a matter of legal interpretation? You'd say what to them?

YOST: I'd say it is matter of legal interpretation. Because the law and the Constitution requires separation of powers. Think about last summer when this was first talked about. Chief of staff -- White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain famously said this was the ultimate workaround, the OSHA rule. What does that mean, work around, what's the direct object to that sentence?

They're working around Congress, because Congress is not prepared - our elected representatives to wade in here and require this vaccine mandate. Look, OSHA put some -- regulation says, OK, this is a dangerous work site. You have to wear a hard hat. You get to take the hard hat off after you go home from work. As Justice Alito said yesterday during arguments, you don't get to take that vaccine off.

SMERCONISH: I get the impression, though, that if a mandate had come from the democratically control House, the democratically controlled Senate, plus one and the White House, putting aside for a moment, any filibuster issue, that you and your Republican attorneys general cohorts would nevertheless have been on the opposite side of the fence. Am I wrong? I mean, it if really had come from Congress, if it had come from the states because I get the legal nuance, wouldn't you still be finding some other legal justification to oppose it?

YOST: And I know you're a lawyer and you do get the legal nuance. But the fact of the matter is the growth of the administrative state and the abdication of Congress as ruled by Congress and the use of patient by the president is something that's gone on over both Republican and Democratic administrations. Those that actually believe in constitutional rule of law, ought to be appalled whether we're talking about this vaccine mandate or in the last administration, for example, the heavy-handed attempt to interfere with sanctuary cities.

Now, I'm not for sanctuary cities. I think it's a poor policy choice. But it's a policy choice that belongs to those communities. We need to dial back the executive overreach, the imperial presidency, because it's strangling our democracy and our representative republic.

SMERCONISH: The Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, in her argument, said this is the biggest threat to employees in OSHA's history. I understand your point that it transcends the workplace, but a lot of the human interaction that is spreading the virus does come from being in close proximity to others, including your co-workers. You'd say what to that?

YOST: I would say this is an old argument. It's an argument that - has been raised multiple times throughout our history. It was raised in wartime by Harry Truman when he tried to take over the steel metals, and the Supreme Court and Youngstown Sheet and Tube, as you well know that case, said, no, the emergency doesn't give you the right to do that.

Look, if an emergency or a crisis is sufficient to ignore the Constitution and the statutory authority that Congress grants the executive branch, pretty soon we will have a permanent crisis and no Constitution and no rule of law.

SMERCONISH: Elections -- here's something we can agree on. Elections have consequences. And, you know, the fact of the matter is that the former president of the United States had three picks on the Supreme Court. And that's probably the way this thing is going to break, at least with regard to one of the two issues that they were addressing yesterday.

Mr. Attorney General, thank you so much for being here, I appreciate it.

YOST: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying via social media. What has come in, Catherine?

From the world of Twitter. Pass on your - pass on your communist mandate.

Is that - is that your activity (ph) -


It's communism now? It's communism to say that OSHA has regulatory responsibility for what goes on in the workplace and therefore if OSHA approves of a mandate that says you got to be vaccinated or test. That is somehow communism?

Let me tell you something. Erwin Chemerinsky is the dean of UC Berkeley. He's a brilliant guy. He's a really smart guy. He was on my radio show yesterday. And I buy into what he said.

He said it's a pretty straightforward matter of statutory interpretation. In his opinion, OSHA has the power to do what the Biden administration is seeking to do, but it's all political. I mean, I appreciate the attorney general coming on the program and I respect him. But I can't overlook the fact that 27 attorneys generals who all lined up against it are all from red states. And that the argument, you know you didn't have to have to attuned of an ear yesterday to listen to the argument and see that it's going to come out probably 6- 3. Roberts, he's not even going to play the Anthony Kennedy role. And who appointed those six and who appointed those three? I mean, how frustrating it has to be for non-lawyers from the outside looking in. We really don't have a handle on the process. And see that it's almost like it's a vote in Congress. That's really what I'm trying to say. It's almost like it's a vote in Congress. Predetermined by party registration. That is not the way any of this is supposed to function.

Up ahead. Concerned about the fraught politics around the anniversary of January 6th. Wait until you hear this story.

A school district administration in my backyard sent out an e-mail, warning teachers not to weigh into discussions of the Capitol riots with students. How should we teach school kids about the events of January 6th?

And with America hopelessly divided. There had been some worries about a new civil war. But in other possibility, how about red or blue states simply seceding from the union.

I'll talk to a guest who has done extensive research on both possibilities and I want to remind you to answer today's provocative survey question at

Fifty years from now, will the U.S. map be the same as today?



SMERCONISH: What should school children be taught about January 6th? Should the topic be avoided? Can it be?

This week marked the first anniversary of the attack on the Capitol and what you heard about it definitely depends on where you live and what media sources you patronize. There's a controversy around this hot button topic in my backyard of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, first reported by local NPR station WHYY.

The day before the anniversary Keith Veverka, an administrator in charge of social studies in Pennridge School District, sent an email to social studies teachers and school principals. He directed them not to -- quote -- "wade" into discussions about the event due to the current polarization and strong emotions. And that if students ask about January 6th, teachers should -- quote -- "simply state that the investigation is ongoing and as historians we must wait until there is some distance from the event for us to accurately interpret it." He asked teachers to stick to business as usual.

In an email chain response, an assistant superintendent said the original message was intended to remind teachers that -- quote -- "Not enough time has passed to be able to design clear lessons on all of the outcomes," and that Veverka felt that most teachers weren't prepared to teach on the topic.

And as WHYY reports that president of the Pennridge School Board Joan Cullen is a vocal Trump supporter who attended the D.C. rally. While there's no evidence that she did anything illegal while there she has been a controversial local figure. When we reached out to the school district it released a statement that reads in part -- quote -- "As we approach the anniversary of January 6th, teachers expressed concerns because of the heightened emotions surrounding the storming of our U.S. Capitol. We suggested that, if asked, staff could discuss the role that time plays in forming historical perspectives and views. Pennridge teachers remain able to address any topic of current events in a constructive and appropriate manner. At no time did we issue a directive that teachers could not teach about January 6th. We have always trusted our teachers to do what is best for our students, and we have no interest in stifling them."

Joining me now is Albert Broussard, a professor and historian at Texas A&M University who's a long-time author of textbooks for middle and high schoolers. Dr. Broussard, thank you so much for being here.

I'm going to just offer this opinion that I believe that the statement issued to we here at CNN yesterday, totally belied by the email that was sent out that I just put on the screen. I don't know if you want a piece of that.

I also want to note that for 25 years you've been writing textbooks. You're the real deal. McGraw Hill is your publisher. What do you make of this controversy?

ALBERT BROUSSARD, PROFESSOR, TEXAS A&M University/Textbook Author: I think they're both right and wrong because it does indeed take perspective before the events of January 6th came into play. But we have a very similar piece of legislation, actually codified legislation in Texas, which does not allow teachers to teach certain, what we call in academia, difficult dialogues.

I think there's clearly going to be, let me just say, a high probability between red states and blue states on how the events of January 6th are going to be taught, but I think more importantly interpreted.


And I don't think also you can really separate the events of January 6th from the Trump presidency, and I think that herein really lies the problem. And so even with the use of words was this a protest, for example? Was this insurrection? Is this domestic terrorism as Christopher Wray of the FBI said? Was this a coup attempt? These I think are all real important terms to discuss when we talk about January 6th.

SMERCONISH: So, maybe I'm naive, but isn't there a way that just very factually, based on the chronology of what transpired a year ago? I mean, what if -- I'll ask it this way. What if McGraw Hill says to you, Dr. Broussard, go ahead and write something up for January 6 that goes in a textbook next year, could you do it?

BROUSSARD: Not only could we do it, we have done it. That is to say, we're going to have a revision of both the middle school and the high school textbook coming out, I believe, in 2023 We decided -- I should say the editors decided to cover this event and so absolutely. Factually we're going to cover that. The problem is going to be and how it indeed is going to be interpreted.

Let me also say that most textbooks if they're lucky are going to devote one full page if not less than that to this particular episode. But it has also changed the way I think media, particularly at the college level, perhaps not at the high school level, already teach this. I had told my students at Texas A&M, "I will never teach this period in American history, that is to say, the first peaceful transfer of power in the United States the same way. Because for the first time in American history we did not have a peaceful transfer of power. This is really a ruptured departure in American history."

SMERCONISH: Is there anything else, top of mind, an example of where history is taught differently in red versus blue states?

BROUSSARD: Well, I'm going back to that wonderful article that Dana Goldstein of "The New York Times" wrote -- published in January 2020 where she looked particularly at two of the largest states, Texas and California, and she saw major differences in the way that those two states, one blue state, California, one red state, Texas, each a whole host of subjects from slavery to the Civil War, to the Harlem Renaissance, to Native Americans, the use of language, the interpretation, how the Second Amendment even is interpreted in both states. So I could say dozens and dozens of examples.

I can also cite the 1619 Project which is, you know, is quite controversial. It has become sort of the boogeyman, the sort of constructive myth-making that so many state legislatures are use -- using today to pass legislation, including my home state of Texas to not teach particular subjects dealing with slavery or subjects that they deemed to be too controversial.

SMERCONISH: And if it were me who had charge of the curriculum, I would absolutely be teaching what Nikole Hannah-Jones has presented. And guess what? I would also be introducing what George Will in a syndicated column wrote about that within the last two or three weeks. Dr. Broussard, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate --

BROUSSARD: Thank you, Michael. I appreciate you as well.

SMERCONISH: Appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.

BROUSSARD: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Checking in on your tweets and Facebook comments. What do we have, Catherine?

This is a joke, right? There's nothing to teach. A bunch of people in costumes were allowed into the capital. End of this lesson.

Holy crap. Really, Landis? Is that what you're teaching your kids? It's not what I'm teaching mine. Mine are too old. They don't need to be taught. Still to come, America's political divisions are running so deep and hostile. Could it actually turn into another civil war? My next guest warns it's not as hypothetical as you might think.

And I want to remind you to go to my Web site at and answer this week's survey question. I'm not talking about climate change. I'm not talking about what might happen to, you know, beach erosion and coastal communities -- no, I'm talking politics. Fifty years from now, will the U.S. map be the same as today? Go vote.



SMERCONISH: Is America headed towards civil war as many fear? Or at least a division into two countries, one red, one blue?

In September, the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia asked voters if the situation in America makes them favor blue or red states seceding from the union to form their own separate country. Forty-one percent of Biden voters, 52 percent of Trump voters at least somewhat agree.

If you think this is far-fetched know this. Since 1945 the number of nations in the world has tripled, many of them the result of secession. There are currently about 60 secessionist movements worldwide. Which leads me to this week's survey question at, 50 years from now, will the U.S. map be the same as today?

My next guest has researched the topic, written a book of speculative nonfiction about it, "The Next Civil War: Dispatches from the American Future." Stephen Marche joins me now. Stephen, you write that the United States is once again headed for civil war. You say January 6th wasn't a wake-up call, but a rallying cry, and that we've never faced an institutional crisis quite like this. You then say the choice is basic, reinvention or fall?


So, is secession the likely outcome?

STEPHEN MARCHE, AUTHOR, "THE NEXT CIVIL WAR": Well, I mean, the United States is a textbook case of a country headed for civil war. You know, a recent study show -- a recent poll showed that only 20 percent of Americans have faith in their electoral system. And another poll showed that about 33 percent of them think violence against the government can be justified.

So, in those kind of conditions where the threat of violence is so real and getting and growing like, you know, threats against members of Congress increased 107 percent last year, separation becomes a real option. And secession becomes something that I think, you know, the right has been talking about for years but it's probably time for the left to think about as well. SMERCONISH: Well, I know that relatively to Oregon and Idaho, there's a portion of Oregon that says, hey, we'll go join Idaho. I made reference at the outset to talking about Texas and California. In fact, we'll put up what you wrote on the screen. I'll just cover the highlight that if Texas were a country it would have a GDP that is tenth in the world, slightly ahead of Canada. California even larger. They recently passed Britain to become the fifth largest economy.

Didn't Ted Cruz also say that Texas could take NASA, the military and the oil? To which my response is to say, OK, you can have NASA and the oil and so forth, but you also need to take a piece of the debt, right? How would we whack up the debt?

MARCHE: Well, Ted Cruz does not really know what he's talk about. I mean, there are many Texas separates who do know what they're talking about. But negotiations around separation are incredibly complex. And the constitution of the United States which basically makes any discussion of secession moot, there's just no -- there's just no way to do it constitutionally makes it much harder.

And of course, you know, all of this has to go through the U.N. You know, there's this whole idea that like Texas is going to, you know, lift their rifles and say, don't mess with Texas but, you know, that's all well and good until no one will land their plane in your airports and you can't exchange currency with other countries.

So, yes, it's a hugely elaborate bureaucratic process that requires actually a lot of good will. And that's why, I think, talking about it now before violence gets really out of hand is probably sensible because there might be a way to negotiate it, you know, while there's still good feelings. While there's relatively not a lot of --

SMERCONISH: Look. I've read the book. I appreciate the book. But like we're just spit balling here, this is kind of a barroom conversation. We don't really think this is going to come to pass, do we?

MARCHE: Well, I don't know. I mean, I think with the violence -- when violence becomes the main way that politics happen and when your -- when you no longer feel you're living in a democracy, when you -- when you -- the legitimacy of your institutions are really suspect, and when the divisions become so marked -- I mean, just listening to your show, you know, somebody calling you a communist for a basic act of administration. Not even agreement on whether January 6th was bad. Not even that level of agreement. You know, maybe when marriages get to this point, you sit the kids down and you say, you know, it's sad, but it's over.

SMERCONISH: OK. What is Stephen Marche's answer to my survey question? You prompted, you put this thought in my ahead. Fifty years from now -- you know, I won't be here to see it, God willing you will be. Fifty years from now, will the U.S. map be the same as today?

Put climate change out of your head. That's not what I'm talking about. You know what I'm talking about. What's your answer?

MARCHE: I don't think it can be the same. Like I think it will change in the next 50 years.

I mean, I try to stay pretty close in the book to what I actually know, like the actual plans about the civil war, like the best available models. Like -- you know, I talked to 200 different researchers and I like to stay close to what they say because it's so easy to get caught up in exaggeration. But you know -- so I don't know what it will look like 50 years from now, but it won't be the same. It will either be multiple countries or, you know, maybe it will have new states, but it will -- it won't be the same.

SMERCONISH: All right. We are soon to find out what the CNN audience thinks and whether they agree with Stephen Marche. Thank you so much. I appreciate your willingness to come on and talk about the next civil war.

MARCHE: My pleasure, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets, Facebook, YouTube comments, and the final result of the first survey question of the year for us on this program. Go to and tell me, 50 years from now, will the U.S. map be the same as it is today?



SMERCONISH: OK, time to see how you responded to the survey question of the week at Fifty years from now, will the U.S. map be the same as it is today?

Survey says, no. Fifty -- pretty close though and with a healthy number of votes, 16,389. I think I'm in the no category but not as a doomsayer.

I went to the Philadelphia of Museum of Art recently. There's a Jasper Johns exhibition. I stood in front of the iconic flag. There are only 48 stars on that flag. Think about it, Hawaii, Alaska.

Time for one social media, I think. What do we have, Catherine?

Will the map of United States change? In other words, is hyper- partisanship tearing apart the fabric of our nation and democracy? Pretty much the same question.

Yes. Well, Joe, that is what I'm asking. I'm asking whether the hyper partisanship that's tearing apart the nation, that's undeniable, will progress to such a point that some states choose to go their own way.


Or -- or, because I referenced Idaho and Oregon, some portion of states choose to go their own way. It just gets very complicated when you talk seriously about secession. I'm trying to say it deliberately, so I don't mix it up with my favorite TV show. I mean, you've got issues pertaining to national defense. You've got issues pertaining to currency. Scalia once said that it was illegal. You've got some states like, how would we decide? Look at Florida. Who gets Brady and who gets Gisele? I don't know.

I'll see you next week.