America is on the cusp of a second Civil War, and it promises to be every bit as divisive, bloody, and destructive as the first one. Historians, military types, and sociologists will all tell you that the underpinnings of a second armed conflict between Americans are there, there just hasn’t yet been a catalyst to fire those first shots. And a Trump presidency or a Clinton presidency could be that very catalyst.
And come November 9, 2016, either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will have been elected president of the United States (barring an unexpected and miraculous last-minute showing by Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, or Evan McMullin). Does that mean that November 9, 2016, will be the effective beginning of Civil War 2?
An Ideologically Divided America
Looking back to our first Civil War, it’s easy to see that the belligerents were clearly and unfailingly on one side or the other of a single divisive issue: slavery (or, more specifically, the expansion of slavery, states’ rights, and similar ancillary issues, but let’s not quibble over historical nuance). You either supported the preservation of the Union, or you supported the notion of states’ rights — including their right to allow human beings to enslave other human beings.
The America of 2016 lacks a single divisive issue like slavery. Instead, the internal conflict is more nuanced. But when looking at the multitude of divisive issues in the country today — abortion, immigration, police accountability — what emerges is a wedge between two groups of Americans. On the one side of the wedge are the Americans who want to see America moving toward a more inclusive society, where people of all races and creeds have equal rights; where police who commit crimes are held accountable for their actions; where women are free to make decisions about their own reproductive health. On the other side are Americans who believe the America they knew and loved is disappearing, and want it back. They dream of an American where babies aren’t legally killed in the womb; where police get the respect and deference they deserve, and aren’t vilified when they kill someone (because clearly the person they killed had it coming); where only English-speaking, Christian, white people hold positions of power in commerce and government.
A Marginalized Majority
Huffington Post writer Dr. Susan K. Smith notes that there has been one group of Americans who have lost the most from Progressivism, and who stand to lose the most in the event of a Clinton presidency — and stand to gain the most from a Trump presidency. It’s the group that, until two generations ago, ruled this country unquestionably. The group that, though still (barely) the majority demographic group in the U.S., is fast becoming an all-but-irrelevant minority (or at least, they believe they are). Smith calls that group “Angry White Men.”
“It is angry white men who are behind Trump in the biggest numbers. It is angry white men who no longer have the manufacturing or construction or mining jobs they used to have so they could make a decent living… They are tired of being ‘politically correct’… They want ‘their country back.’ They want to ‘make America great again.'”
And they’re armed. And they’re not above resorting to violence; just look at the litany of incidents of violence at Trump rallies. Note that those on the receiving end have mostly been minorities. Fortunately, the violence has been limited to the punching and kicking and shoving variety — but if Trump loses (or even worse, if he wins), is it not a safe bet that that violence is going to escalate?
The Breakdown Of Civility
For a variety of reasons, after the first Civil War — or at least, after Reconstruction — Americans generally began rejecting the idea of killing each other over ideological differences. Instead, we’ve taken out our frustrations at the ballot box. Sure, there have been dust-ups — unions have been violently put down, and there was that whole Civil Rights thing — but, in the main, we’ve refrained from taking up arms against each other. Killing your own countrymen to advance ideological and political goals has generally been seen as something that only happens in, well, in places caught up in civil war.
By the way, do you remember this?
What you’re looking at is what happens when an American takes his weapon (in this case a rented truck filled with explosive) and uses it against other Americans under the guise of political ideology. And Timothy McVeigh wasn’t the only one: a year later, anti-gay and anti-abortion terrorist Eric Robert Rudolph killed two people and injured over 100 at the Olympic Park in Atlanta. Then in 2012, white supremacist Michael Page shot and killed six people at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. Then in 2015 white supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston.
The recent history of escalating domestic terrorism over the past 20 years, particularly by white supremacists and far-right ideologues, ought to give serious pause to anyone who believes, as I do, that Donald Trump has given a sense of legitimacy, if not empowerment, to racists, homophobes, Islamophobes, and so on.
The Allegiances Of The Military/Police Infrastructure
Officially, the U.S. military is absolutely, positively not allowed to be involved in internal disputes within the United States, nor is it supposed to act in a law-enforcement capacity. Colonel David Couvillon, speaking to Cracked, made it clear that military members — officers in particular — are repeatedly indoctrinated with the idea, from the time they sign their enlistment paperwork, that they are NOT to act as law enforcers. The principle is called posse comitatus.
“It’s ingrained… you’re not the brownshirts, you’re not the Gestapo, you’re not the kempe thai, or any of the other strong-armed people… [in] the military, um, the posse comitatus rules are golden. They adhere to those consistently.”
That’s great, right? At least the U.S. military won’t turn on its own people!
Um, remember this?
That picture wasn’t taken in Mosul or Aleppo or Caracas. It was taken in suburban St. Louis. Those police officers, many of them ex-military themselves, are using military urban warfare tactics, complete with surplus military hardware, on American citizens. But for the grace of God was the carnage in Ferguson limited to a few injuries, and no deaths. Had a single trigger-happy cop lost his composure, or had a protester devised a bomb and thrown it at the police, what was once a riot could have turned into a battle.
You see, in a way it doesn’t matter that the U.S. military is officially supposed to stay out of domestic problems, because the U.S. police institution is, in many ways, itself an occupying military force. And not for nothing: guess which candidate is overwhelmingly supported by the police unions and sheriff’s associations across the country? HINT: It’s not Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, or Jill Stein.
Also, as for the military itself, consider this: while the military is officially accountable to the commander-in-chief (that is, the president), regardless of who he or she is, how is that going to shake out when the very matter of who is the president is itself in dispute?
Which brings me to my next point…
Disputed Elections and Competing Governments
So it’s November 9, 2016, and Hillary Clinton has been declared the winner of the 2016 presidential election. Do you think Donald Trump is going to take that lying down? If so, I have some oceanfront property in Iowa I’d like to talk to you about. Trump has already said that he’ll accept the results of the election… if he wins. When pressed for clarification, he said he’d keep us in suspense.
It could just be more bluster from a bloviating buffoon whose entire candidacy is built around hyperbole. But I doubt it.
So here we have a situation where, if Trump loses, he’s going to “dispute” the election in some unspecified way. He has an armed, marginalized populace on his side, and a militarized police force supporting him. In essence, the pieces are in position for Trump to declare himself president, set up his own “government,” and tell anyone who thinks otherwise to take it up with whatever Trump-supporting militia or police force happens to be nearby.
And if Trump wins, we’ll have groups — immigrants, Muslims, gays, free-thinkers, those who believe in the Constitution — so marginalized that some may feel they have no choice but to fight back. How do you think Donald Trump will respond to an armed resistance? Will he sit down with his opponents, try to compromise, and reach a peaceful solution to avoid bloodshed? Again, let’s take a look at that oceanfront property in Iowa I wanted to talk about.
In other words, whether Trump wins or Hillary wins, America will lose.
I don’t know how it all will end, but it won’t end well.
Can Civil War 2 Be Avoided?
From where I sit, Civil War 2 is all but inevitable. We, as a nation, are too angry, too divided, and too hostile toward each other to turn back now, and it is only a matter of time. It would take something of a miracle to put the horse back in the barn, so to speak.
If Hillary wins, the first thing she needs to do — as in, as soon as she takes her hand off the bible — is take on a conciliatory tone. Reach out to Trump supporters, and to Republicans in the House and Senate, and try to forge a spirit of cooperation, understanding, and progress. With any luck, the American people will find within themselves the same decency, the same sense of right and wrong, and the same belief that we don’t fight amongst ourselves. That has governed out political process for the past 150 years.
If Trump wins — forget it.
[Featured Image by Brad Sauter/Shutterstock]