Recently, I wrote about the rise of white supremacist terrorism. As horrifying as that concept is, please note that violence is just a means to an end for America’s racists.
Sure, many homicidal bigots enjoy bashing in a Black person’s head or shooting a Latino for sheer enjoyment. But most of them are not content to sucker-punch an Asian person and leave it at that. They want more.
And that more consists of civil war.
Yes, I know that the idea of internecine armed conflict was laughable during, say, the Obama administration. Well, those halcyon days—which were only mildly halcyon, by the way—might as well have been centuries ago, because here in the post-Trump world, a full-fledged civil war is a distinct possibility.
Now, to be clear, a second American civil war would not look like the 1860s version, which featured dueling governments, uniformed armies, and generals with wacky facial hair.
No, instead of strategic maneuvers on battlefields, we would get “violent confrontations between local citizens and federal officers, or between contentious groups of citizens.” It would be massive bloodshed, like the first civil war, “but this time in every state.”
Of course, a second civil war is not certain, but a lot of us are worried about the possibility.
About half of all Americans believe that “there will be a civil war in the United States in [their] lifetime,” and that the nation will “cease to be a democracy” soon. Furthermore, about a quarter of Americans believe that at least one state will secede, with 17 percent actively rooting for their state to “leave the U.S. and become an independent country.” Similarly, a fifth of Americans favors eventually becoming “two countries—one consisting of blue states run by Democrats and one consisting of red states run by Republicans.”
By the way, if you think it’s fed-up Californians clamoring to start a hippie empire who are most eager for independence, you’re wrong. It is “red-state Donald Trump voters who are now more likely to say they’d be personally better off than worse off if their state seceded.” This “striking rejection of national unity” is strongest among Trump supporters, who also believe that blue states have more death, discrimination, economic problems, and disfunction.
Of course, in reality, it is red states that are “falling behind blue states on a broad range of economic and social outcomes, including economic productivity, family income, life expectancy, and “deaths of despair” from the opioid crisis and alcoholism.”
To look at just a few specifics, in blue states, gross domestic product per person and median household income is 25 percent higher, education spending is 50 percent higher, child poverty is 20 percent lower, gun deaths are 50 percent lower, and life expectancy is nearly three years greater. Furthermore, “blue states are benefiting more as the nation transitions into a high-productivity, 21st-century information economy.”
But if Trump voters want to keep insisting that life is better in Mississippi than Vermont, we can’t stop them.
In any case, the growing economic, cultural, and political divide between red and blue states has provoked a lack of faith in our ability to keep the country together.
About two-thirds of Americans say “the federal government is not working well,” and our confidence “in almost every institution has dropped” to its lowest point in at least 40 years. Experts believe that “as distrust increases, people are more likely to act in disruptive or even violent ways, like with the January 6 insurrection.”
So, yeah, more seditious riots are on the way.
All these dark omens have caused political scientists to state that America “has fallen below its traditional peers on key democratic indicators, including elections, freedom from improper political influence, and equal treatment of minority groups.” Basically, we are becoming more like Hungary and less like Finland, which thrills conservatives but is horrific for the rest of us.
With the country’s foundations getting wobbly, “the democratic principles of pluralism, equality, and accountability—as well as basic stewardship and public service—have been lost, endangering the rights and well-being of all residents.”
As a result, Americans are becoming more pessimistic by the day—maybe by the minute. More citizens now say the country’s best days are behind us than ahead of us. And almost half believe the next generation will be worse off than we are, a percentage that has more than doubled in the last two years.
This dire outlook has caused a rise in what political scientists call “anocracy,” which is a political status between democracy and fascism—and that is not a good place to be.
You see, full democracies and established autocracies “almost never have civil wars.” It’s when governments are teetering between democracy and authoritarianism that “all of the instability and violence” erupts. When “there’s a sense that these governments are not that legitimate” or strong, nations enter a state of anocracy, which is “highly predictive” of civil war.
Now, there is a second variable that is also highly indicative of open conflict, but I’ll leave you guessing what it is… until next week’s article.
Featured image: The Confederate battle flag is displayed on the side of a barn next to a sign that reads “THE SOUTH WILL RISE AGAIN” (sniggie/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)