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Are We Headed Toward a Second Civil War?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Next to a nuclear strike, foreign invasion, or global pandemic, it’s hard to imagine something as bone-chillingly terrifying as a second hot Civil War. The first one was bad enough, what with the endless carnage and the deaths of over 620,000 soldiers in a time when the U.S. was sparsely populated and wartime technology was in its relative infancy, at least compared to today. Even if the military withheld its most destructive weapons, a modern hot civil war would be disastrous on a scale that’s barely imaginable.


It’s a prospect no sane person wants, even on the fringes of the right or the left. Yet, in today’s polarized age, most people now genuinely believe civil war to be a very real possibility. An October Georgetown Institute poll found that the average American believes we are “two-thirds of the way to the edge of a civil war,” while a solid majority believes that “political, racial, and class divisions are getting worse.”

From where I’m sitting, it sure seems that way, and it’s a topic that’s getting an increasing amount of coverage in the media from both conservative and liberal perspectives.

The Atlantic devoted its entire December issue to the topic of “How To Stop A Civil War.” Interestingly, it includes an article relating how marriage counseling techniques can help bring some sense of mutual understanding to people on both sides of the political spectrum. Because in truth, the kind of ‘contempt’ that research says ends marriages for good, the kind that left and right clearly have for each other these days, could very well end our nation.

In an article for The American Conservative titled, “Civil War Begins When The Constitutional Order Breaks Down,” Michael Vlahos writes of a “daily torrent of unfiltered evidence” that suggests that “our constitutional order is fissuring before our eyes.”

Leftist author Joseph Natoli, writing for CounterPunch about the “Looming Shadow of Civil War,” sardonically but accurately described how conservatives see the ideological opposition: “Liberals retain the old tax and spend/baby killing on demand profile, taking from working Americans and giving to lazy shirkers and on the way killing babies. The profile grows darker: gay marriage, gender choice, LGBTQ rights, amnesty to illegal aliens, open borders, confiscation of guns, cars, cattle, Jesus, Robert E. Lee and white privilege. The ‘extreme Left’ and Progressives have a thinner profile: Communists.”


The left, then, according to Natoli, sees Trump supporters as being motivated by “ignorance and stupidity at the top of the list, followed by racist, bigoted, misogynist and homophobic. In brief, if you voted for Trump, you were a troglodyte with a gun.”

Now, which of those characterizations appears more accurate and which are just a personal attack? Does the left not favor abortion, tax and spend, gun confiscation, and open borders? Don’t they, for example, incessantly yammer on about the ridiculous, nonexistent concept of “white privilege?" The only thing slightly offensive to some might be the “Communist” label, but many on the more extreme left likely only publicly eschew that label for fear of turning people off.

Trump supporters, of course, don’t cotton to the idea of being labeled as “racist, bigoted, misogynist and homophobic,” not to mention "ignorant" and "stupid," by condescending, virtue signaling leftists full of their own self-defined "morality." Yet, at least for now, we are all in the same boat, as HBO host Bill Maher pointed out in a somewhat-joking, mostly-serious “Real Time with Bill Maher” segment on Friday night. To Maher, the “single shining truth about democracy” is “sharing the country with assholes you can’t stand” in the same way families don’t typically choose their Thanksgiving dinner guests. (Sure, we all know who he’s talking about when it comes to “assholes,” but that doesn’t negate the overall point).


“You don’t get to choose the guests, because those freaks are your family,” Maher joked. “Think about that the next time you think you can own someone politically. Think about how you can see politics so differently from people who share your very blood.” The HBO host lamented the desire, on both sides, to “own” the opposition - a tactic that never actually changes minds - before grimly observing that, while a second civil war may sound “impossible,” it is actually “is not.” 

Then the comedian, like Natoli, juxtaposed how both sides see each other: “We all talk about Trump as an existential threat, but his side sees Democratic control of government the exact same way. And when both sides believe the other guy taking over means the end of the world, yes, you can have a civil war.”

“We are going to have to learn to live with each other or there will be blood,” Maher soberingly concluded. 

Is he right? It’s a bit lengthy, but I highly recommend read this article titled “How America Ends.” In it, Atlantic senior editor Yoni Appelbaum acknowledges both the demographic plight faced by the political majority in America – something “no rich and stable democracy has ever experienced” – along with the fact that democracy is imperiled when one or the other side feels hopeless at the prospects for future electoral victory. A 2020 Trump defeat, writes Appelbaum, would “only deepen the despair that fueled his rise, confirming his supporters’ fear that the demographic tide has turned against them.”


“When a group that has traditionally exercised power comes to believe that its eclipse is inevitable, and that the destruction of all it holds dear will follow, it will fight to preserve what it has—whatever the cost,” he continued. Appelbaum’s ‘solution,’ as it were, is for the rise of a center-right party that embraces immigrants and minorities in the same way the Democratic Party expanded its tent in the 30’s.

The article truthfully lays out the landscape in a way that few liberal publications have acknowledged, but the ‘solution’ it offers is simply more of the same. Can America survive when its elites are, against the will of a majority of Americans, importing millions of immigrants from cultures that have little to nothing whatsoever in common with that of the current citizenry? To Maher’s analogy, we may not “choose” our family any more than we “choose” our country-mates, but imagine the tension at Thanksgiving if said “family” included different members every year brought in at random with absolutely nothing culturally in common with the original members. At what point does the concept of assimilation, something that predictably isn’t mentioned in the article but has always been the key to a stable country, become impossible? Still, just turn some into right-of-center conservatives, Appelbaum smugly advises, and all will be well.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for recruiting minorities of any stripe into the conservative tent. Hispanics and African Americans who are courageous enough to outwardly support President Trump, despite the pushback they get from their own communities, have my unending respect and gratitude. However, when has ANY conservative leaning party been able to recruit even Hispanics, the group with which they have arguably forged the greatest inroads, at a level that could equal electoral victory in a Hispanic-dominated state? Even George W. Bush, for all his pandering, only managed to win 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004. Most political analysts concede that even Texas will go blue by 2024, if not sooner. What chance will Republicans have on a national scale then?


Thus, the apocalyptic concerns of Michael Anton mentioned in the Atlantic article, laid out in his seminal 2016 essay “The Flight 93 Election,” are even more concerning now than ever. And contrary to Appelbaum’s contention, it is in fact Trump and his supporters who are trying to save America from collapse by curbing immigration to manageable levels. Because as daunting as the prospect of a civil war may be, many conservatives would choose that and all that goes with it – if some form of extreme federalism or non-violent secession doesn’t work – any day of the week over the even more disturbing prospect of being dominated by the political left for the foreseeable future.

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