Jeffersonian replies to his critics

On April 7, the proposal by “Jeffersonian” to divide the United States into two countries set off a profound and wide-ranging discussion. Jeffersonian now answers his critics. As I said about his initial essay, while it is original and thought-provoking, there are serious questions about it that he has replied to only superficially. For example, he has essentially no answer to the question of what happens to America’s military capability and responsibilities if the U.S. is divided into two countries. The discussion, however, is essential and unavoidable, and I thank Jeffersonian for his contribution.

Jeffersonian writes:

I was pleased to see that my proposal engendered so much interest. Many responders presented thoughtful objections to the proposal. Below are my replies to some of the common objections.

(1) Perhaps the most common objection is that the Blues (or “liberals” if you wish) are too fanatic, too convinced that their programs are the only fair ones, and too authoritarian to permit us to split off.

Certainly, many of their leaders seem this way, and many of their spokesmen. But Nancy Pelosi, although a leader of the liberal Democrats, is certainly not typical of Democratic voters. The great majority of those who voted for Obama are neither totalitarian nor fanatic. Many of them just wanted to prove they were not “racists.” Others are just soft-hearted and like the idea of everyone receiving low cost health insurance. For the most part, they are not would-be Lenins or Stalins, and in general are quite willing to live and let live.

(2) A second view is that the Blues feel they must retain control of our territory for economic reasons, since it contains most of their food supply. In addition, they must exploit us in order to remain economically viable. (A related objection is that we are not economically viable without them.)

Well, yes, they do need the food that is produced in the Red counties. But that food will be readily available to them through peaceful trade (which is how they obtain it now). So will the mineral resources they obtain from us now through voluntary trade (and all the products we now receive from them.)

(3) Another worry is that we will be military weaker than we are now. Perhaps, but our military forces are so strong now that if we divide in two the Red and Blue countries will still be the two most powerful countries in the world.

(4) Another fear was that even if we divide peacefully, foreign countries will combine with the Blue country to crush us economically. However:

(a) It is hard to think of countries such as France ignoring their own immediate economic interests and concentrating on harming us.

(b) Even if they did so, they could not succeed. The Red country includes over 2.5 million square miles of territory, large amounts of agricultural land producing large amounts of food, and abundant mineral resources. Most countries will be eager to sell us their industrial products. (Furthermore, own industrial output—even without the Blue areas—is one of the largest in the world.)

(c) Also consider this: If years of embargoes and boycotts, could not crush little Israel (area: about 10,000 square miles, and without any mineral resources), then economic warfare is certainly not going to destroy us.

(5) Another fear is that we might be outbred by the Blues (even within our own Red country) thus making our political independence useless. However,

(a) Most of the “Blue” voters will start in the Blue country. Within the Red country, we will start out with an advantage of 3:1 or more.

(b) Many Blues now living in the Red areas are likely to move to the Blue country during the transition period.

(c) Within the Red country there will surely be a strong majority in favor of deporting any illegal aliens and opposed to granting amnesties.

(d) Would-be immigrants from third-world countries will prefer the Blue country as their destination, since it will have more generous welfare benefits.

(6) There were some suggestions that instead of seceding we would be better off trying to amend our present constitution (say by changing the clause regarding interstate commerce, or by going back to the Articles of Confederation).

The fatal problem with that approach is that it be so easily thwarted by Blues opposed to it. To take effect, a constitutional amendment must be ratified by at least three-quarters of the states (that is, by at least 38 states). If 13 states fail to ratify, the amendment fails. To prevent an amendment they dislike, the Blues would not have to suppress a rebellion, make arrests, levy fines, or even obtain court orders . They don’t have to do anything at all, mere inaction would be sufficient.

(7) Another suggestion is that it would be better if only entire states seceded and formed the new country. Two problems with that approach are:

(a) The Red country would thereby forfeit over 50 percent of its territory.

(b) Many of the Red states include a number of people who ideologically are Blues. These would often comprise 30-45 percent of the population, making it very difficult to enact the programs we favor.

(8) It was suggested that the attempt to secede will result in unacceptable levels of bloodshed. But it is far from clear that will be the case.

(a) That argument could have been made in 1776; however, less than 4000 Americans died in the Revolutionary War.

(b) Two decades ago, the government of the Soviet Union (which had a long history of brutality) permitted Lithuania to peaceably secede.

(c) Not many years ago, Czechoslovakia permitted Slovakia to secede without any resort to war; and in 1905 the Swedish government permitted Norway to secede without any fighting.

(d) The fear of unacceptable bloodshed will dissuade many Blues from using force to suppress secession. Although they feel that the moral imperative of abolishing slavery justified the casualties incurred in 1861-1865, there is no similar moral imperative justifying such casualties today.

(9) There was a suggestion that if the Reds win a presidential election together with a majority in Congress, we will have no need to secede. The problem with that reasoning is that electoral majorities are transient. (Lyndon Johnson’s crushing victory in 1964 was followed by a Republican victory four years later; and Nixon’s 49-state sweep in 1972 was followed by Carter’s victory in 1976.)

However, regardless of short-term swings, the demographics ensure that in the long run the Blues will win. Even if the Red’s do a better job of convincing swing voters of the correctness of their policies, in the (not so) long run we will be swamped by immigration and differential birth rates.

- end of initial entry -

Robert B. writes from Minnesota:

States within states as he envisions are not practicable and will not work. Secession must proceed on a regional or at least statewide basis. A viable state must be contiguous.

If we are to do this, then the time has certainly come for people to began moving to states most likely to secede or “fall away” from the Federal hegemony. States I would suggest are those that are or have filed suit over health care. Also those considering laws or amendments to their state constitutions that seek to uphold the 10th Amendment.

There has been and continues to be a great demographic and economic shift underway in this country already—look at the states with the lowest levels of state taxes, unemployment and welfare giveaways.

Sioux Falls SD is not such a bad place—it does have a booming economy by way of former Minnesota businesses relocating there. They even have a passable symphony orchestra. The Black Hills are beautiful.

Likely, the old Southern states that seceded in 1860-61 will be amongst those that leave first. The Western states of the Dakotahs, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho are up there as well.

Our ancestors understood this—that there was no changing the European countries they derived from, so they came here, developed a new and independent way of life and fought to preserve it when the time came. We can do the same, but the time has now come to do so—either that or leave altogether and move to New Zealand.

John M. writes:

I find this discussion interesting, and I like a lot of Jeffersonian’s reasoning. However, I’m uneasy with dividing the country based on “Reds” and “Blues”. I fear a country consisting of “Reds” such as your average GOP hacks and Tea Partiers who insist that race is irrelevant. I fear any conservative movement that isn’t explicitly pro-white. However, a “Red” country may very well be de facto white nationalism; especially since conservatives are overwhelmingly white. Maybe the Reds will decide to restrict immigration and make citizenship based on blood rather than soil. That way, an American white nation is established without having to use the label white nationalist. I suppose it depends on how many “Reds” truly favor legal immigration. I think having little welfare policies will also serve as a deterrent.

As for the military issue, I think more military people would likely join the “Red” partition, and the “Red” country would probably consist of an armed society, making a Blue invasion unwise. ;)

In terms of foreign relations, I think we’ll have a good chance of making friends with Russia. And with Russian friendship, we can probably get along with the Chinese. The EU would probably hate us, but they are becoming increasingly irrelevant anyway. We could probably maintain strong ties with Japan. India is apparently really furious with Obama, so there’s a possibility for that. And of course, we can probably count on continuing friendship with Israel, especially since Bibi no doubts appreciates all the flowers he received from sympathetic “Red” Americans. Now all of this will only be true if the neocons take control of the Red country. Either we make them all persona non-grata, or repel them by rejecting immigration and soil-based citizenship. I don’t think the neocons would find such a country attractive; they’d have better luck with their Wilsonian dreams by influencing the Blue country.

LA replies:

You write:

I fear a country consisting of “Reds” such as your average GOP hacks and Tea Partiers who insist that race is irrelevant. I fear any conservative movement that isn’t explicitly pro-white. However, a “Red” country may very well be de facto white nationalism; especially since conservatives are overwhelmingly white. However, a “Red” country may very well be de facto white nationalism; especially since conservatives are overwhelmingly white.

I’m glad you brought this problem up. Right now, the reason we are talking about secession is the threat and reality of tyrannical state power. Mainstream conservatives would be on our side when it comes to that issue—not on secession necessarily (we ourselves are divided on that), but on the need for a total rejection by conservatives of the statist leftist agenda, whatever form that rejection takes, secessionism in some form being among the possibilities. But mainstream conservatives, in addition to being resistant to coming under the power of leftist tyranny, are also race blind and anti-“racist,” that is, against whites ever indicating the anti-whiteness of liberalism, against whites ever indicating the anti-whiteness of many nonwhites, and against whites ever indicating the threat to the continuation of our way of life caused by the increasing non-whiteness of our population, including, most relevantly, the way nonwhites drive the country in the direction of leftist statism. However, as you point out, a possible cure to that problem may be that a “red” nation, if it came to that, may turn out to be de facto pro-European-America, in the following ways:

(a) the “reds” are, as you said, virtually all white;

(b) they are, I would add, constantly attacked as racists even when they’re not remotely thinking about race, as with Obamacare; and

(c) given the fact that they are attacked as racist, it follows that if they began more significant and radical political acts against leftist statism, such as constitutional changes, greater assertions of states rights, even secession, they would be attacked much more as racists, and in the act of resisting and reacting against that charge, they will de facto become more race conscious, even without embracing an explicit racial point of view, and so become better able to defend themselves against the left.

That’s a more hopeful way of seeing this problem. Unfortunately, there’s a less hopeful way of seeing it. Let’s start with the fact that whites never directly challenge the liberal orthodoxy on race and the anti-white double standard. The most they do is ask endless variations of the rhetorical question, “What if a white man had said that a white male would be a better judge than a Latina?”, or, “What would they [the liberals] say if a Republican committed a mass murder of GIs?” They are unable to go beyond the impotent rhetorical question about the liberal double standard to a conceptual critique of the liberal double standard, because that would require identifying the liberal anti-white agenda as such, which in turn would require defending whites from that agenda, which, as race-blind conservatives, they will not do, as the very thought disgusts them. (For more on this, see the entry, “Going beyond the ‘what if’ question on Sonia So-So-Minor.”)

Consider the photo essay by Tea Partier, blogger, and photographer El Marco on the Tea Party Express. El Marco is outraged at the charge of racism brought against the Tea Partiers, as he should be. But how does he respond? He points out how untrue and ridiculous the charge is, he emphasizes the role of blacks such as Lloyd Marcus in the movement, he talks about a white Texas couple who adopted two babies from Africa, and he shows lots of photographs of blacks playing a prominent role at Tea Party rallies. Thus his response to the racism charge is not to attack liberals for using that vicious charge as a tyrannical weapon to silence conservatives and drive them out of politics (a counter-attack on liberals that would put the liberals on the defensive for once instead of leaving conservatives on the defensive). No, his response is to embrace race-blindness, non-discrimination, and racial diversity as the very essence of the Tea Party movement. Instead of condemning the liberal premise that in order to be morally legitimate in our society you must conspicuously prove your non-discriminatory attitudes, he embraces that premise. And I suspect that El Marco’s response is probably in sync with a majority of Tea Partiers.

It is therefore a reasonable prediction that race-blind, mainstream conservatives who are part of any constitutionalist or even secessionist movement will go over the top in proving their non-racism—with their own equivalent of mass bi-racial Promise Keepers rallies with black and white men holding hands and pledging their mutual devotion, diversity dog-and-pony show GOP conventions, celebrations of whites adopting black children, the elevation of blacks as their leaders, and, finally, continued support for mass nonwhite legal immigration.

In a nutshell, the more “right-wing” they become, the more they will feel compelled to demonstrate their adherence to liberal correctness on race. Such a movement will in vital respects remain under the power of liberalism, instead of breaking with it.

LA continues:

And of course this conspicuous display of racial virtue will do the white conservatives no good at all, any more than Jews tirelessly pointing out how many good things Jews have done for humanity lessens anti-Semitism. Just as anti-Semites don’t hate Jews because they haven’t done enough for humanity, but because they are Jews, liberals and many nonwhites do not hate white conservatives because they are insufficiently racially virtuous, but because they are white conservatives.

LA continues:

My above argument points to the possibility that even though conservatives of various stripes share the same resistance to the Obama revolution, they may split over such issues as immigration and the preservation of a Euro majority culture, which in turn suggests that unified “red” action against “bluish” tyranny may be difficult or impossible to achieve. But we don’t know that’s true. This discussion is about to looking at Jeffersonian’s proposal from every angle and thinking of the difficulties that may arise. The race issue is important, but I don’t think we should get hung up with it at this point. We should remain focused on the problem that has sparked this discussion: the determination of the Democrats to bring us under their power, and our determination not to be brought under their power; and what we can do about that.

The Obama revolution is the most leftist event in American history, and thus it may spark the most conservative event in American history. Let us not prevent that conservative event from developing by getting hung up with possible obstacles that may not even occur, or that may be of secondary importance even if they did.

LA continues:

As for where the neocons would come down in a red-blue split, that’s a heck of an interesting question, too large for me to get my head around at the moment. My short answer would be: I don’t think that any neocon would ever positively take an immigration restrictionist position. The best we can ever expect from some neocons would be that, abashed by the ruinously mistaken positions on immigration that they’ve pushed in the past, but not willing to admit that they’ve been wrong, they will go silent on the issue and let other people take the lead and not get in their way.

Rick Darby writes:

Many of Jeffersonian’s ideas are good, and he deserves thanks for sparking the discussion. We need to be talking about a two-nation solution.

But Jeffersonian himself notes a nagging problem that any strategy must deal with:

Many of the Red states include a number of people who ideologically are Blues. These would often comprise 30-45 percent of the population, making it very difficult to enact the programs we favor.

Exactly. Even the “reddest” of the red states (for one whose memories go back to the Cold War, it feels bizarre to think of my allies as “Reds”) include large cities, one or two big college towns, or both that are dyed deeply blue.

Jeffersonian proposes that we subdivide even states. How thin can we slice, though? Probably many cities even have red and blue neighborhoods.

To be acceptable to most people, if a separation were to be acceptable at all, the new political divisions would have to have some connection with old jurisdictions. We cannot go back to city states, or red counties surrounding blue cities. The state level seems like the least common denominator.

One other thing: a lot of people seem to have already written off the states with large Hispanic populations. Maybe California is a lost cause and Blue America is welcome to it. But I for one am not ready to surrender Arizona and New Mexico. They are God’s country! And despite the in-migration of California refugees and ex-New Yorkers, they still number among their residents plenty of conservative patriots. I’m sure Texans, including those of Mexican background whose families have been there for generations, would feel the same about their state.

LA replies:

I’m uncertain as to what you’re saying. You seem to be saying no to all the possible jurisdictional levels.

Alan M. writes:

A few thoughts:

1. Matthew 26:11—The poor you will always have with you but you will not always have me.

Poverty and leftism have the same spiritual source and no matter how we divide our nation, we will have to recognize that we will start with some “Blues” and every generation will bring those who tend that way. Any plan for separation that doesn’t include traditional education in everything from selling the idea to implementing and sustaining it will fail. Even then, we will have those with us who will be against our beliefs. The gnostic rebellion is part of our fallen condition and no matter how much we do, we will always have them with us. We will have to protect the key institutions that, in our luxury, we failed to protect this last time.

2. Many counties in California that would be contiguous to “Red” states could conceivably vote to be part of the “Reds” given the opportunity.

3. Quebec looks like it might be facing its own separation issue again though this time the Canadians might just let them go.

This battle has been fought over 40 years by a culturally unified, dedicated group in Canada and they never gave up. As the price for staying originally they basically took over the federal bureaucracy and their price has risen regularly. The issue has been relatively quiet for the last few years but these people are patient and playing for the long term. Unfortunately, the comparison breaks down as this group looks to France as their big brother and wants to be loved by Europeans more than by their fellow Canadians.

Ferg writes:

Back in the early to mid 1980s there were movements afoot in several Western and mid-Western states to divide or split the existing state into two or more new states. This was done with the idea of separating rural and metro areas into different states. The rural areas were at the front of this movement and wanted to stop paying a disproportional share of the bills of city crime and welfare. Among states I remember with these movements were California, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Oregon, and I think some of the old South. In California their were people who wanted to split north/south, others who wanted to split east/West, and still others (including me) who wanted to do both and end up with four states out of the one.

Resurrecting this idea might solve several of the problems raised in these discussions, including that of race. Most of the rural areas outside the old South are heavily white if you don’t count non citizen migrant workers. This would maintain the federal system as it is now but with many more senators and presidential electors from red areas. Also each new state would have to have at least one House of Representatives member, and I think the House needs to be increased in size anyway. Once started I think many more movements would spring up in other states where there has not been one before. Perhaps as many as twenty new states might appear. This would mean forty new senators, at least twenty new Congressmen, and at least sixty new electors. Each new state would have the opportunity to write a new constitution that could be very strong on state and individual rights. They could also include stringent voting requirements and the laws to give them teeth. And strong laws against illegal alien residency.

Just one more thought to add to the mix and brain storm.

James P. writes:

Rick Darby writes,

“Maybe California is a lost cause and Blue America is welcome to it. But I for one am not ready to surrender Arizona and New Mexico. They are God’s country!”

I lived in California at different times in the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s. I am not used to thinking of California as a lost cause that is better written off. I am used to thinking of California as God’s Country and a Paradise on Earth! In my adult lifetime, not so very long ago I might add, California was 65 percent white non-Hispanic, a bastion of conservatism and pro-defense Cold Warriors, and a reliably large set of Republican electoral votes in presidential elections. If liberals can turn California into a hell-hole, they can do the same to any state we now regard as “safe.” All they need are those 100 million immigrants and they can turn the Red heartland Blue in a few short years. If the supposedly conservative government of the Red states that secede are stupid enough to keep their borders open—which they may well do—then the new Red country would soon be overwhelmed.

I am philosophically opposed to seceding and thus conceding defeat in the Blue states. Just as the defeatist policy of containment in the Cold War did not contest Soviet control of their empire in Eastern Europe, and allowed them free reign to contest control of Western Europe, a divided America would give liberalism uncontested control of the Blue country while permitting them to contest control of the Red country. Only when Reagan took the fight into the Soviet empire itself were the Soviets defeated; only if we take the fight into the Blue states can liberalism be defeated.

In sum, secession is an immensely difficult political project to implement, and if we’re going to take on an immensely difficult project, why not one that solves all our problems everywhere (defeating liberalism) rather than running away from them and hoping they don’t follow us (secession)?

LA replies:

This has always been my position, until the passage of Obamacare. Now I feel it’s necessary to go beyond and at least question my previous position and consider other possibilities; but philosophically and emotionally I prefer James’s. But I also say, there may come a point when we have no choice but to secede.

April 13

Andrew E. writes:

Jeffersonian writes:

“(d) Would-be immigrants from third-world countries will prefer the Blue country as their destination, since it will have more generous welfare benefits.”

How about they would prefer the Blue country because the Red country will not allow them to immigrate on the basis of wanting to maintain Red America as a Anglo-European-derived Christian nation? Am I allowed to suggest that? Probably not, unfortunately, given the ideological predispositions of most “Red Staters”. I want to get interested and excited about proposals such as Jeffersonian’s, I really do.

April 13

Rick Darby writes:

You write:

“I’m uncertain as to what you’re saying. You seem to be saying no to all the possible jurisdictional levels.”

No, I was acknowledging that the distribution of “red” and “blue” doesn’t fall into neat geographical divisions, the biggest problem any plan for secession will have to solve. I also said, “To be acceptable to most people, if a separation were to be acceptable at all, the new political divisions would have to have some connection with old jurisdictions … The state level seems like the least common denominator.” I meant to imply that, for want of anything better, the new distribution of sovereignty would probably need to be on a state-by-state basis, each state choosing to join one confederation or the other.

For those states where the population is more or less evenly divided in its loyalty, a political solution will have to be found. It could get messy, but so is the present order. We may have to take the chance that intra-state consensus, plus migration, will be more feasible than a perpetual national red-blue Cold War.

To James P.:

I’m generally fond of California, lived there for 10 years, and would love to see it transformed to something like it used to be. But this discussion is about a separation of the present country into “Red America” and “Blue America,” acknowledging that there are two fundamentally different value sets currently operating and the gears don’t mesh. So we’re talking about how the separation could happen with the least amount of pain on all sides.

I respect those, like you, who are “philosophically opposed to seceding and thus conceding defeat in the Blue states” and who want to defeat liberalism throughout the country. But with the situation as it is, we need to consider the possibility that liberalism cannot realistically be defeated in the true blue regions.

April 14, 1:00 a.m.

D. from Seattle writes:

Rick Darby wrote: “I respect those, like you, who are “philosophically opposed to seceding and thus conceding defeat in the Blue states” and who want to defeat liberalism throughout the country. But with the situation as it is, we need to consider the possibility that liberalism cannot realistically be defeated in the true blue regions.”

I don’t think the situation is that bleak. I believe that the conservatives simply need not to lose in order to win. If one believes that liberalism is based on false premises and therefore unworkable in the long run, and if the conservatives don’t have the power to win outright against the liberalism, they simply need to contain it until it falls apart on its own, just like the Soviet Union fell apart, and like the European Union may well fall apart one day. In other words, you don’t need to defeat liberalism so long as you can contain it in a separate country/political entity; since liberalism is self-defeating, you just need to give it time to come to its logical conclusion while keeping it from spreading further.

Notice I’m not saying this is the only thing that should be done: I am saying this is the minimum thing that can be done even if you can’t fight liberalism heads-on, so long as you can contain it in a separate entity to keep it from spreading further.

Also notice that I’m not using the “new” definitions for Red and Blue; for anyone with a memory longer than about a decade, Red always meant left/liberal, and I find the new definition completely confusing. This being a traditionalist site, we should use traditional meanings, or at least use the non-ambiguous terms “liberal” and “conservative.”

LA replies:

First, your idea that the minimum we need is to contain liberalism is a very helpful addition to this discussion.

On “red” and “blue,” I plead guilty to have fallen into the same usage as everyone else in the political world. Somehow a single electoral map in a single newspaper in November 2000 made such an impression that everyone immediately began calling Republican majority counties and states “red,” and Democratic majority counties and states “blue.” Also, Jeffersonian’s essay was directly inspired by that map, because of the way it showed the red spread over most of the country geographically, while the blue was confined to smaller, but more densely populated, urban and coastal areas. I understand your concern, I’m not sure if I can give up the by-now familiar use of “red” and “blue.” I will think about it.

D. in Seattle replies:
You don’t have to give up the new Red/Blue coding and usage—I was just trying to say that I can’t get myself to use what to me is an upside-down designation. OK, I did make a comment about the traditionalist site etc, but that was an appeal, not a requirement.

Re my comment on containment of liberalism, I think the reason I see things optimistically, and some other commenters sound alarmist/defeatist (“there will be another civil war,” “we’ve already lost California,” etc), is that I try to keep a long-term perspective on things, which is not really an American “thing.” Americans are more short-term oriented than probably any other civilized society, and definitely much more short-term than civilizations the further east you go. It’s as if Americans are playing tic-tac-toe and Russians and Chinese are playing chess. Here hardly anything matters beyond the next election, while other societies think in terms of centuries.

Dave T. writes:

I am sending this e-mail as a comment to the ongoing discussion that is happening on your blog concerning Jeffersonian’s plan to divide the United States.

In response to the concerns raised by John M, if one takes the view that the post-war conservative movement is an attempt either to maintain or to revive those traditional social structures and classical liberal principles associated with the American people and the country they founded, then it stands to reason that before these same people are willing to pursue a secessionist movement they will have to undergo significant ideological change; if for no other reason than the fact that the act of secession is deeply inconsistent with the project of post-war American conservatism. I would claim that the act of secession, in whatever form it takes, would have to be more than just a physical act of separation; it would also entail that an all-encompassing spiritual break from the United States has occurred in the hearts of those wishing to secede. Fleshing out the details of the spiritual consequences (of secession) alone would probably take more than a few essays.

To wit, it is highly unlikely that conservatives would go through the agonizing political (and spiritual) struggle of secession just so that they can resume the race-blind liberal politics that they practiced in these last days of America.

LA replies:

I think these secessionist concerns are about a lot more than wanting race-blind policies. They are principally about the fact that the left which now controls the American government wants to control us in ways which are totally unprecedented in American history, and which we conservatives—not as a theoretical matter, but as an immediately experienced sense that this is totally unacceptable—will not accept. And then some kind of break with the existing order will occur, whatever form that break may take.

LA writes:

As a part of this discussion, but in its own entry, see “How the conservative states can reassert their independence by a series of logical steps,” by Robert B. from Minnesota.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 12, 2010 12:43 PM | Send

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