Are we on the verge of a new Civil War?

 

In an obvious sense, the root cause of our political crisis is Donald Trump. This crude and delusional man is despoiling some of our most treasured national assets, not least of all our standing in the world.

But there are deeper forces at work in this crisis: divisions among our people that are becoming almost tribal; the degradation of our political culture by the coarsening of public discourse; and deep structural flaws in our democratic process, for the fact cannot be evaded: Trump lost the popular vote. A majority of American voters did not want this situation to occur. And they do not want the corrosive policies that Trump and his minions are currently forcing upon them. Small wonder that people around the world are asking each other what could possibly have gone so very wrong with America. Small wonder that many of us are asking the very same question. This series will attempt to put our plight in historical perspective.

There is something about the behavior of Donald Trump in the White House that is almost hallucinatory. What is to be done about a president who seems impervious to normal standards of decency, who makes name-calling and ranting our new normal, and who gravitates toward extremists? There is a crude Beastiality in this that challenges the courage and imagination of ordinary people.

As to the people who voted for Trump, one can only wonder if they will ever come out of denial. How can they possibly enjoy a situation that makes us the laughing stock of the world? It is almost as if Trump’s supporters belong to a different nation altogether.

A white supremacist fights with counter-protesters

Serious friction between the two nations

One of the most demoralizing things about America today is the feeling that we are separating into “two nations,” two estranged populations who regard one another with a hatred that defies conciliation.

There are plenty of divisions in our polity that will never vanish completely, divisions we have lived with for years. Not the least of them is the perfectly normal division that results from our two-party system. But there was something quite different in 2016 as the “blue state” Americans and “red state” Americans assailed one another. There was something very different as, according to many accounts, the candidacy of Trump led to family break-ups and divorces. There was something about the election of 2016 that cut like a knife.

It transcended other sorts usual of divisions, even those of ideology and religion.

For instance, one of the stunning facts about the last election was the way that so many Christian evangelicals voted for a candidate who demonstrated scorn for some of their values. Of course, the phenomenon of “holding one’s nose” and voting for the lesser of two evils is not unusual. But if the content of much of the on-line support for Donald Trump is to be taken seriously, something more indicative was happening. “Lock her up,” was the chant at the Trump rallies as Hillary Clinton was vilified for the mistake of using the wrong email server. “A basket of deplorables,” was Clinton’s characterization of 50% of Trump’s supporters. Granted, there were issues at stake: Clinton did make admitted mistakes that had legal implications, and some of Trump’s supporters, such as the “alt-right” neo-Nazis, must indeed be held by all decent people to be deplorable.

But this was not an election in which such issues could be argued out on rational grounds. Abetted by the out-of-control technologies of social media, analysis for a great many people was impossible, unnecessary, and an afterthought. What seemed to matter above all else was the rush of immediate gratification, the rush of expressing one’s hatred for the likes of . . . them.

The radical right has brought to this point.

One of the most important causes of our deep division is the rise of the radical right. Once before, in the McCarthy era, this group became very powerful — until their power was reduced by the moderate and popular policies of Dwight D. Eisenhower. After the candidacy of Barry Goldwater crashed and burned in 1964, the Republicans reassembled as a party containing a considerable amount of ideological diversity.

Something comparable happened at the other end of the spectrum, in the days when the radical left surged forward in the late 1960s under the banner of groups like the S.D.S., the Weathermen, and the “Symbionese Liberation Army.” But the New Left never controlled the Democratic Party as the radical right had taken brief but unmistakable control of the Republican Party in 1964.

In any case, the surges of extremism on the right and left were short-lived. Both parties by the 1970s encompassed a spectrum of voters and leaders who ran the gamut from “conservative” to “moderate” to “liberal.” And within each one of those ideological labels could be found a welter of people who agreed with one another on some things while disagreeing on others. But this situation has changed.

The Democratic Party by the time of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had stabilized as a force for moderation with a slightly leftward tilt. But beginning with the Reagan presidency, Republicans lurched insistently rightward to the point where the party was veritably transformed within one generation by the radical right. Republicans today who believe in compromise and consensus — the values of Dwight D. Eisenhower, surely — no longer recognize their party. When one recalls the Republican liberals of the 1960s — Jacob Javits, Nelson Rockefeller, John Lindsay — it is impossible to find their counterparts now. Liberals and moderates have been driven out of the party or else reduced to a state of powerlessness as the shrill and fanatical forces of the right have taken over. Trump’s most powerful rival for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 was Ted Cruz. The days when the Republicans could nominate people like John McCain and Mitt Romney appear to be — at least temporarily — over.

Putting aside for a moment the policy agenda of the radical right, there is one thing about these people that is terribly clear: they are haters. Their agenda is to dominate, to persecute, to revel in others’ degradation. They smile when they hear that undocumented immigrants who have married, had children, and started businesses here in America are being deported. They like to hear such things, it makes them happy. There is an insensate cruelty in the radical right, a cruelty that poisons their minds. These people are looking for victims, especially those who are helpless.

 

Take no prisoners and bring everything crashing down

They “take no prisoners.” They will never give ground or say “enough.” They seek not only to defeat liberalism but to destroy a fabric of enlightened compromises that Republican moderates have built.

And so it was that in 2013, Steve Bannon, now a key adviser to Trump, said he wanted “to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today’s establishment.” So the Trump administration undercuts federal efforts that command overwhelming support. Agencies such as the EPA and NIH are under attack. Meanwhile, in states where they now possess both the legislature and the governorship, Republicans are planning to ram through some of the most extreme parts of the radical right’s agenda, to try to ban abortions with no exceptions whatsoever — even in cases of incest or rape — and to protect the “right” of psychotics to obtain deadly weapons whenever they feel the itch to kill.

And at the national level, they continue a slow but incessant campaign to undercut Social Security and Medicare in hopes of privatizing one or both of those systems sometime in the future.

In short, the radical right has been tearing this nation apart, and they have no intention of stopping. The Republican Party has been taken over by people who would if they could, force America’s majority — the majority who voted for Hillary Clinton — into a way of life they find abhorrent.

But let’s be fair. One has to acknowledge that some of Trump’s supporters, especially Christian evangelicals, feel as if they have been subjected to the treatment just described: they believe that they have been forced to go along with a way of life that they reject. Indeed, people on both sides of this culture war believe that their opposite numbers are people who “don’t understand what America is all about.”

If this isn’t a formula for civil war, what is? Granted, the opposite sides in our first civil war were aligned geographically by states. And with all due respect to the importance of the “blue state/red state division,” a struggle for control is going on right now in a great many states, and the outcome cannot be predicted.

We are in serious trouble.

Excerpted From:  America in Crisis Richard Striner, a professor of history at Washington College

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “Are we on the verge of a new Civil War?

  1. Donald Trump needs to take care of America and leave other countries alone to deal with their own works of life. We are not these foreign countries Babysitters. Yes, we can continue doing world Trade on goods without interfering with how they run their own countries. We need to make America Great Again by starting with the people for the people of America. Trump is just a ticking time bomb waiting to go off on anyone and everyone he can just to get his way (just saying) and America will pay dearly for his Mistakes. He Trump is a spoiled rich kid who always wants his way or he is not happy. Does anyone know that he took his last dollar and gambled in Las Vegas won big and from there became He invested it in different things and that is how he became rich? Also, he did the show Apprentice and got a lot of his money also off this show. Trump was not born rich from what I have read so far…. So I don’t know why he acts the way he does towards everyone else. His shit does Stink just like everyone else’s does (again Just Saying) but Trump still is no Better than Anyone Else and I would gladly like to tell him this in person, except it would more than likely Hurt his feelings and pissed him off and he would probably have me thrown in JAIL…

    Like

  2. Michelle Steele:

    Taking on your isolationist view of what Trump should be doing:

    This isn’t the same world as it was in the late 18th Century; we are far too inter-connected to our world to just go, “Let’s look after our own and to Hell with the rest.”

    Two world wars taught us how dangerous that notion was.

    Do we make mistakes in the Foreign Affairs department? You bet we do. Most of those mistakes had to do with putting American interests before regional or world interests. But there are plenty of successes that show we can (and do) have a positive effect on the world.

    In short, we can not afford to go back to isolationism and we dare not continue on an “America First” policy toward the the rest of the world. The consequences now are so much greater than they were in 1917 and 1941 (which were nasty enough).

    That Trump is as ignorant on this subject (as he is on so many other subjects) is one of the many reasons he scares the crap out of me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. trump likes to pick fights and get under poeples skin. He has a citizen army behind him that is uninterested in real ideas, just slogans and a hope for things to return to the early 19 hundreds. They want the jobs that are obsolete and fading fast. He won’t tell them the truth and it is dividing the country where conversation of differing views are few, except on CNN and each side steps on each other before a thought can be finished. It is a growing cultural sickness. Yes civil war is possible if we can’t say the truth and treat each other with civility.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The recent averted mass killing of Republican Congress critters at a baseball practice is indicative of extreme animosity among the people. Its root cause is government overreach.
    Government today is involved in compulsion and prohibition of just about everything in our daily activities. This condition was never meant to be. This country was created as a sea of liberty with little islands of government. This condition has been reversed and we now find ourselves in a sea of government with little islands of liberty. And those remaining islands continue to slip below the surface.
    Too many people are being forced to live someone else’s morality via illegitimate government dictate. This incites divisiveness and animosity, yet cancerous government continues to grow and liberty continues to shrink. What is needed is a return to constitutional government, which means a 90 percent rollback.
    The Constitution is still the supreme law of the land, but you wouldn’t know it based on the upside down Orwellian world we now find ourselves in. Left is right, up is down, constitutional mandates are declared unconstitutional and unconstitutional nonsense is declared “law.” If the general government acted within its scope of enumerated authorities no one would be trying to kill its members because they would, for the most part, be inconsequential. As a result of government largesse we find ourselves in extremely divisive times. It will get worse before it gets better.
    Where extreme social divisions exist, civil unrest and war are not far behind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Potts:

      The problem with your essay on Government and the Constitution is that you understand neither.

      You want everything your own way. So do I want everything my own way. We are both doomed to disappointment.

      The difference is I am willing to work with the system laid down by the founding fathers; you are not.

      Thus you and other Steve Bannon followers want to see the whole system burn.

      As to the recent shooting of Republicans… A Nutjob does not a political movement make. I don’t judge all Conservatives by the works of their Lunatic Fringe and it would be nice if you allowed Liberals the same courtesy.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. There are no countries (large) with little government bureaucracies. Everything that grows becomes more complex. You can’t run a battle ship without command structure, every one has a part to play and if you don’t play by the rules, it is off to the brig. If you don’t like the complex structure, you buy a sail boat and find a island to live on. As countries evolve the rules of the road have to evolve too. The conflicts are more complex, so the rules are too. In the eighteen hundreds, you could get drunk and shoot your gun up and down main street. What would it be like today if that still was ok? Get the point?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Pingback: The honest truths at root of our American conflict – Civil War part 2 – Tuluwat Examiner

  7. NRA members and supporters, police unions and the military on one side, versus the LGBT, safe spacers and ANTIFers on the other. I like the odds…..

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s