Swish . . . creak—chunk. Swish . . . creak—chunk. At the top of the press stroke the lubricated brass shell rises into the top of the press frame where it is engaged by the sizing die, screwed down and secured by the locking nut. On the downstroke it catches momentarily in the die before the expanding ball does its work and the shell pulls free with a wrenching sound, the force straining my arm and the 3/8-inch bolts securing the press to the table. Swish . . . creak—chunk. On the table behind the press are a couple of wooden trays drilled with 50 hole,s, ten rows of five each. The nearest tray is already nearly filled with decapped and resized .270 cartridges waiting to be primed and charged. No more American wax to spend a snowy Wyoming morning than listening to Rush Limbaugh while handloading ammunition. “Is it legal?” a lady friend from Manchester, England, asked when I showed her my workbench. Well yes, it is—for now anyway, despite last year’s presidential election, which was not just the worst thing to happen to the country since the Civil War, but amounts in fact to a second civil war, this one fought ignobly in the courts rather than on the field of battle.

From the vantage point of America Deserta, the vast red continent stretching between two thin blue littorals, the 2000 election looms larger than the electoral equivalent of the Titanic disaster, which produced a more sweeping reform of maritime administrative and procedural law than had ever occurred before or has since. The famous USA Today map starkly portrayed a nation comprising two majorities, geographically segregated from one other and having far less in common between them politically, philosophically, metaphysically, culturally, and racially speaking than the United and Confederate States of America shared. For the historical moment, these majorities stand evenly poised in influence and numbers: the Old America in a Mexican standoff with the New. One step beyond that moment—it is now plain to both sides—and it will no longer make any difference that (as Ralph Raico observed) you can drive across America by almost any route without passing through a single county that had given its vote to Vice President Gore. One step off the balance, and the Old America will be tied down like Gulliver by the New, partly in accordance with the Democrats’ Golden Rule (he who makes the rules gets the gold). And the votes. And the Western public lands. And plenty of other things, including the guns, of course.

Establishment commentators have chosen to interpret the closeness of the vote as a sign that the American people really aren’t that far apart on the larger public issues. So far as I can tell, the truth is exactly opposite. George Bush and Al Gore, in spite of their Tweedledum and Tweedledee campaigns, stood—or at least, they came to stand—for the Old and the New America respectively, which explains the impressive voter turnout in certain areas as voters ran to the polls (or were driven there by mortuary limousines, etc.) to enlist as foot soldiers in the army of their choice. A reason, in fact, why so little of substance was debated during the fall campaign is that so little needed to be made explicit by either candidate: The voters knew instinctively what each of these men stood for in the broad ideological sense, where their sympathies lay, and whether they represented, not Democrat or Republican, but Friend or Enemy. As a result, last year’s presidential election, beneath a veneer of civility, in reality was an emotionally charged battle—as I inferred from the obvious reluctance of people in the university town of Laramie to bring up the subject in public. When driven back (explicitly or implicitly) upon fundamental assumptions, politics becomes essentially a religious debate, it finds itself subject to the rules that, respecting religion, have governed polite society almost since the end of the Christian consensus.

Election 2000 will come to be recognized in a variety of ways as a watershed event. The first is its stunning demonstration that we really are—to an extent that John Dos Passos couldn’t have imagined—two countries. The fundamental differentiation is between the New America and the Old. The Old America is the relaxed America, more or less comfortable and at peace with itself while prepared to make a few improvements and to add a few conveniences to its abundantly convenienced life. It is content to worship the Christian God, follow in the traditional folkways, observe the old forms, encounter the same faces on the street every day, and maintain the existing social and political structures, as well as the existing population. As far as government at every level goes, the Old America finally wants to be left alone by it—after rendering to Caesar what is due him—and get on with living its life on the terms it has been dealt, which it finds mostly satisfactory and for which it is happy to give thanks. It doesn’t want to make itself over, or the world, and it believes that its fate—like the world’s—is intimately in God’s hands. The mobilized America, on the other hand, has no place for God in its thinking and believes man’s fate is of his own making. Assured that life finds meaning and significance in the public, not the personal, sphere, it treats every aspect of human experience as political and relegates everything political to the authority of the central state. Convinced that man is perfectible in this world rather than the next, and that perfectibility is a necessary function of time, it envisions a glorious future whose realization is the highest moral imperative. In the mobilized society nothing is taken for granted, nothing assured, nothing sacred, or even safe. Instead, everything existing is suspect, everything provisionary, nothing of absolute value, nothing secure, and nothing unchanging, except change. On behalf of change, society is endlessly exhorted and closely regimented where opinion and personal behavior are concerned. No one is content with himself or with other people; no one satisfied with life—his own or his neighbor’s or the nation’s. People wish to be left alone solely to pursue their vices, some of which are encouraged by the regime; otherwise, they feel pleased and fulfilled only when inserting themselves into other people’s lives. Unlike relaxed Americans, mobilized ones are not willing to live and let live. The Old America would deny the New America abortion, gay marriage, and certain other demands fundamentally at odds with natural law and traditional morality. The New America would deny the Old anything it finds incompatible with the progressive agenda du jour: tobacco, alcohol, fast food, red meat, keeping caged birds, hunting, rodeos, sport shooting, prayer at football games, hate speech, free speech, freedom of association, four-wheel-drive trucks, guns. Cheyenne, Wyoming, can tolerate the existence of New York City and Los Angeles, but L.A. and New York can’t abide knowing that, out there on the steppes and in the mountains of the Great American Desert, the other America is leading an existence that fits its own particular circumstances, customs, and preferences.

It would be helpful if the two Americas, Old and New, were arranged on the map as conveniently as the Union and Confederacy once were. As things stand, the Old America cannot part company territorially with the New. (Even if that were possible, it would surely he viewed by Washington as another rogue nation needing to be converted—by force if necessary—to the principles of global democratic secularism.) This means the Old America has to confront the threat head on, though all signs point to what is likely, in the end, to be a losing fight, since the New America, as represented by the Democratic Party, holds most of the cards. One of the most striking phenomena displayed during the late election is how in the mind of the New America, the media, and even the Republican Party itself, the Democrats are regarded—and deferred to—as America’s premier political party, not one of two equally privileged majoritarian factions. Again and again as the political drama in Florida unfolded, the Democrats’ aggressive behavior and rhetoric, as well as the deference shown to the party by the media and certain of the courts, demonstrated the extent to which the Democratic Party perceives itself, and is widely perceived by the country at large, as the organizational embodiment of a national conscience. Two years ago the Republicans, aware of their peculiar disadvantage, allowed themselves to be intimidated in the impeachment proceedings; in Florida they recovered their nerve as their outrage increased and fought back—to the amazed indignation of their opponents, the Clintonized Democracy, the Republicans discovered, is run by highly dangerous people, people entirely capable of attempting to pull off what Bill Kristol—of all people!—has described as a coup. (Pat Caddell, Jimmy Carter’s pollster, actually declared that his party had been taken over by gangsters.)

Equally plain to the Republicans, once the smoke of battle has cleared, must be the imminent danger of a coming one-party system in the United States. Through the welfare state. Third World immigration, an expedited citizenship process, and plain old demagoguery, the Democrats for the past 35 years have been practicing commercial voter farming on a grand scale. Little by little, election by election, these cultivated voters have paid off for them, until by 2000 they were crucial in the attempt to put a national Democratic ticket over the top; the final proof of their puissance would be their ability to keep it there. Several political observers, including Samuel Francis, have noted the extent to which the popular vote in this election divided clearly along racial lines. Immigration is not an issue defined exclusively by race, but race certainly is a component of it. Another potential result of 2000 may be that the mainstream of the Republican Party, and perhaps even its neoconservative wing, may be ready to reassess the dangers immigration poses to the American two-parti’ system. By now, die neocons have pretty well succeeded in their goal of diluting the European majority in America to the point where, in decades to come, it is likely to find itself reduced to simply one among several minority groups. Is it possible they will take appropriate satisfaction from their accomplishment—and do an about-face on immigration in order to forfend a thousand-year Democratic Reich? If immigration continues unchecked, in 2004 there will be another six to ten million immigrants in the United States, all of them ready and willing to vote to put and to keep the Democratic Party in power. And if the GOP, still in control of Congress, fights to hold destructive Democratic legislation at bay, it will be accused of gridlock and tossed out by the Soccer Moms, the Million Mom Marchers, Handgun Control, Inc., the Sierra Club, and all the other usual suspects, and replaced by right-thinking thugs in the Democratic mob.

For years I’ve described the Republicans as being no more than the complementary shell of the American political walnut. To some extent they are that, but times are changing, and may change some more. For one thing, if the Republicans had their eyes shut before to the true nature, aim, and tactics of their opponents, they have had them opened wide now. Another is the collapse—for now, at least, and probably in the foreseeable future—of the third-party strategy. Pat Buchanan, it is safe to say, will never reach for the presidency again, while Ralph Nader, despite the ballyhoo the media generated on his behalf, has about as much mileage left in him, politically speaking, as a 1960 Corvair. Secure in the knowledge that Wyoming was as likely to go into the Gore column as palm trees are to sprout in the Wind River Mountains, I voted for Buchanan—and immediately regretted it when he announced that his 3,000 Palm Beach votes must have been intended for Al Gore. It’s an awful thing to say, but in the circumstances we were probably lucky to have had George W. Bush to vote for in the 2000 election. Worse, I believe we will be lucky to have him — or someone half as palatable as he—to choose in 2004. Unless, of course, the Republican Party takes the events of 2000 to heart and generates enough fire in its belly to reorganize as the Democracy’s true opposition. It’s the only vehicle, in the short run, for holding disaster at bay (for the longer one, the hour may already be too late), and it needs reeducation, encouragement, inspiration. What, after all, does it stand to lose? The Hispanic vote, maybe? Don’t make Arnold Forres, and the 65 percent of the Hispanic voting bloc that punched chads for Gore, laugh.

Swish . . . nudge . . . swish. The seater the operates swiftly, smoothly, almost silently, seating one 140-grain Spitzer Boattail bullet in every primed and charged cartridge, row after row of pretty pointed missiles three quarters of an inch long. Yes, it’s legal; Wyoming is absolutely still Wyoming; and the U.S. of A., as of last hour’s news broadcast, is still keeping up the fight to remain America.