By Doug Coleman
THE NEW CIVIL WAR – IS IT ON?
Traditionally, Americans have gone to the polls, voted, and lived with the results whether they liked them or not. An exception was 1860, where Lincoln prevailed with a plurality of just 39.8% of the vote (even Trump got 47.5%). Lincoln’s name was not even on the ballot in ten of the eleven states which would secede. In Virginia, where he was on the ballot, he got about 1% of the vote. He lost Missouri too. States started seceding before he could even be inaugurated.
Another exception was last year. Within days, the Left Coast was talking secession. An Oregonian secessionist gave the rationale as “Oregonian values are no longer the values held by the rest of the United States.” In California, leaders of the legislature issued a press release immediately after the election stating: “Today we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land, because yesterday Americans expressed their views on a pluralistic and democratic society that are clearly inconsistent with the values of the people of California.” Note the mindset evident in these statements – it is “us versus Americans,” suggesting that these folks have already seceded in their minds and no longer consider themselves our countrymen. This bodes ill for reconciliation.
Even without actually seceding, many cities ruled by Democrats are dusting off nullification along the lines of South Carolina during Andrew Jackson’s presidency. The policy of the new administration is to enforce immigration laws, yet many jurisdictions have chosen to defy the law in maintaining “sanctuary cities” Similarly, the president pulled the US out of the Paris climate accord; some Democrat cities state they will stay in on their own. Who are the Neo-Confederates now?
What is different is that the a large portion of the country has made clear that it will not accept the results of the last election, but will resist the elected administration in every way possible. Former Vice presidential candidate and Virginia senator Tim Kaine has called for massive resistance on every level, including “a fight in the streets.” Former attorney general Loretta Lynch called for marching in the streets, acknowledging there might be blood and death.
And there has been marching and rioting and blood. The most disturbing thing is that much of this violence appears to be organized by the “Antifa” movement (short for anti-fascists). It is apparent that these people do not know what a fascist is, forgetting that the actual fascists under Hitler and Mussolini were socialists allied with big business – kind of like Bernie and Hillary. In an Orwellian twist, these Antifas assault their political opponents at rallies and shut down speakers at universities – just like the real fascists did in the 1930s. Having defined their political opponents as Nazis or fascists, all things are possible and the ends justify the means. Moreover, one of their main tenants is that there is no debate with fascism – once civil discourse is out the window, what is left?
And people are getting hurt. A California university professor used a bike lock to crack heads at a Trump rally in April. Allison Stanger, a professor at Middlebury College, ended up in a neck brace after students shut down a talk by Charles Murray on grounds he was “a racist.” In February, masked and hooded leftists broke windows and set fires, forcing the cancellation of a talk by Milo Yiannopoulous out of concern for his safety; a young woman supporter was pepper-sprayed by a lefty while giving an interview. Our differences will not be resolved through debate, as these Antifas are no fans of tolerance and free speech.
The point of propaganda is to dehumanize the enemy. Last month, a radicalized Bernie supporter with a hit-list of Republican lawmakers took the resistance to a new level, wounding five on a baseball field here in Alexandria. This is what happens when one’s opponents are demonized – there is no sin in hunting Nazis like groundhogs. Unless both sides step back and take a breath, we can expect more of this.
The reaction is predictable. Bikers for Trump provided security during the campaign when Trump supporters were getting beat up as the police looked on. Now security is being provided by groups like the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, and Proud Boys. The Proud Boys have their own “fight club,” known as the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights, which shows up at conservative rallies looking to get into it with Antifas. In June, members of the Proud Boys showed up to disrupt the Shakespeare production of Julius Caesar, featuring a Trump lookalike being stabbed to death. One can argue over the poor taste of the play, but it is nonetheless disturbing that the militant right is also moving toward stifling political speech. These coalescing groups begin to look like the kernels of militia which formed before the last civil war in anticipation of that struggle. The militias which arose out of the Patriot Movement are still out there and they are expecting a civil war
The final nail in the coffin is that Washington establishment itself is determined to resist the new administration at every turn through leaks and investigations. It appears that a decision has already been made to remove Trump through impeachment, details to be supplied later. While some partisans may get a kick out of this, many other citizens will see a coup. If so, elections cease to matter and a government which has not worked well for a long time ceases to be representative (and legitimate) at all.
If reconciliation is impossible and elections cease to matter, where do we go from here? Oregon and California’s idea to secede is not crazy – let the states who want to be socialist form a socialist nation or two. Otherwise, if the rhetoric and violence continue to escalate, we risk becoming a police state which ceases to resemble traditional America. What can’t go on forever won’t – someone has to win. Unfortunately, our options seem limited to divorce, civil war or endless incivility. Having our elected officials gunned down at baseball practice does not work for me. If “the resistance” continues to escalate, then it may be time to take a hard look at an amicable divorce. It’s becoming cultural and cultures demand their own safe spaces, sometimes known as “nations.”
Doug Coleman is an attorney and amateur historian in Alexandria; comments and corrections are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publishers Note: The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views that we take here at the Old Town Crier.