We are a nation and people at war with itself. Politically, this war plays out over issues of electoral irregularities, progressive dictates, and the questioning of COVID lockdowns. Yet this division is more than a political divide; it represents a fundamental shift in the character of our people or, rather, our splitting into two separate peoples with two fundamentally different characters. Worse, only one of these characters is capable of self-government in a free, constitutional republic.

Without for a moment denying the factual basis of complaints made by conservatives and other traditional Americans about the handling of COVID and elections, I propose we set aside resentment against unequal treatment. Instead, we should focus on a deeper problem stemming from America’s “blue-red” division.

Progressives feel justified punishing supposedly disloyal Americans who try to defend electoral integrity, personal responsibility, and institutions such as the family. Progressives believe that these traditions are not suited to the new order they’ve built over the last several generations.

This order began with progressive public policies promising safety, prosperity, and justice if we would empower “experts” to tell us how to live our lives. A new, bureaucratic, elitist culture spread through our political, cultural, and educational institutions, accelerating with the New Deal, and especially President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs. Public and elite private schools especially have indoctrinated two generations of children in an ideology that condemns our society as irredeemably racist, sexist, and homophobic. Its petty commissars have replaced independence and public service with fear and loathing as our necessary virtues, rendering roughly half our people unfit for and even hostile to our inherited constitutional order.

Depending on where we live and how we’ve been raised, we’re either dominated by a tradition centered on family, faith, and freedom or we’re dominated by the abstract ideals of the administrative state. The first is a constitutional order of limited, decentralized, separated powers that protect the more fundamental institutions of local life. The second centers on “diversity, inclusion, and equity” implemented by a centralized government that protects people against disease with lockdowns, crime (and “domestic terrorism”) with a surveillance state, poverty with a welfare state, and against all kinds of dangers to life, limb, and self-esteem through a seamless web of administrative agencies and rules.

The first idea, of constitutional order, rests on an independent and even unruly people left to lead their own lives capably and decently within their families, churches, and local associations. The second idea, of progressive order, rests instead on a people trained to trust and depend on technocrats to determine who goes to what school, holds what job, wears how many masks, and says what on social media—all so we can be kept safe and “equal.”

Outside the urban and coastal “blue” zones, most Americans still go to church. They love and fear a God who loves them but hates sin. They get married and work hard to stay that way, give their all to supporting and spending time with their families, value integrity over advancement, and participate in their communities.

The other half of America—mostly in the blue zones—no longer lives or values such a life. If they go to church, it is to commune with a god who tells them to be true to themselves and bring more social justice to the world. They value comfort and status, but see manual labor as a burden. They may marry and even have children, but their lives focus on self-improvement and supporting currently-approved opinions on race, gender, climate change, and public safety.

Blue America includes many decent people. But they have no real attachment to America’s constitutional order, even denying that it has a right to exist. A “living constitution” is what they want—laws they and their experts can reshape to suit their goals of the moment. For two generations they have told us our constitutional order is keeping us from a brighter future. What they failed to tell us is that rejecting it means rejecting the rule of law, free government, and who we are as persons and a nation.

No system of law can long survive the unlimited power of a government and cultural elite that can lock us down, make a mockery of our elections, take away our right to bear arms, socialize medicine, and otherwise control our lives while “canceling” those who speak against them.

No people can remain free and self-governing once progressives have transformed who they are through massive immigration—mainly of unskilled laborers dependent on government support—or the return of no-work welfare. Extreme public health policies, which displace millions from their independent livelihoods, along with struggle sessions against racial “privilege” in school and on social media further the transformation. All of these will remake the character of Americans who have not already accepted subservience to technocratic elites.

Those who oppose this program are likely to be publicly shamed and shunned. This goes beyond “cancel culture,” and its ultimate form is secession. From The New Republic’s 2017 article, “It’s Time for a Bluexit,” to political activist Amy Suskind’s recently proposed map splitting our nation between “the United States of Canada” and “Jesusland,” to The Nation’s article this year, “The Case for Blue-State Secession,” progressives have been imitating Confederate fire-eaters in their determination to rid themselves of troublesome traditional Americans.

We must take these people at their word. A house this divided cannot long stand.

We have three diverging paths before us: 1) restore traditional values and, with them, America’s constitutional order; 2) accept continued political dominance by a new culture, a new, unconstitutional order, and a new, unfree people; or 3) split these United States into two separate political entities, with some remaining political ties, such that each culture and people can go its separate way in peace.

The first option is what we should work toward, the second is catastrophic, the last is unfortunate and, one hopes, unnecessary. But we cannot save our way of life if we do not make clear that ordered liberty is, in fact, more important than remaining under one government if that means surrendering who we are.

We must make it clear that at a certain point radical assaults on the rights of Americans, their churches, communities, and states may delegitimize the regime in Washington and spawn genuine (nonviolent) resistance. States like Texas and Montana have sued the Biden administration over high-handed presidential decrees like the one halting construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The Dakotas are considering laws that would prevent the application of unconstitutional executive orders within their states. Such actions must continue and multiply if we are to have any chance of saving our constitutional republic.

It is time for states and citizens to make clear that even the most patriotic of Americans will choose their way of life over cultural death within the confines of a regime that has made a mockery of our constitutional order.