All of us—me in particular and America in general—have been talking a lot about civil war lately. To describe the frayed state of our nation, we’ve even learned a fancy new word, anocracy, which signifies a floundering country that is teetering between democracy and authoritarianism. The word’s appearance is the first indicator that a civil war may be coming.
And what is the second indicator?
Well, that would be “whether populations in these partial democracies began to organize politically, not around ideology—so not based on whether you’re a liberal or a conservative—but where the parties themselves are based almost exclusively around ethnic, religious or racial identity.”
So the fact that the Republican Party has become the white-grievance party is more than just disturbing. It is a possible harbinger of war.
You see, decades ago, the GOP dismissed any idea of expanding its base beyond pissed-off white people. This helped them win elections and had no downside, as long as whites remained a solid majority of the population.
But you cannot delay, deny or prevent demographic change, and conservatives soon realized they needed to be more accepting of ethnic minorities to win future elections. They were rather open about their shortcomings with minorities, and political experts just assumed Republicans would phase out their overt bigotry.
But then came Trump and, with him, talk of Mexican rapists and Muslim bans and shithole countries. The result was that instead of backing off, Republicans doubled down on racism, which caused political scientists to ask, “That’s a losing strategy in a democracy, so why would they do that?”
These intellectuals answered their own question by exclaiming, “Oh my gosh, the only way this is a winning strategy is if you weaken the institutions” and get rid of pesky democracy altogether.
And that’s where we are right now. The January 6 rioters included Holocaust deniers, “the alt-right, white nationalists and straight-up racists” whose attack on the government “could have been the spark that started a new civil war.” It’s not liberals who said this. It is former members of right-wing militias who insist that the attack “was going to be an armed revolution.”
That’s about as clear as it gets. But Republicans are not repulsed by such statements. In fact, about 40 percent of Republicans say violence is justifiable to achieve political goals. These are the motherfuckers who would be the first to fire on Fort Sumter.
And speaking of the Confederacy, the fact that so many Americans loudly venerated losers who fought for slavery should have always been worrisome. But no, we just put up monuments to bloodthirsty traitors and thought it was normal. That was probably the first sign that America was not a-okay.
In any case, while the Republican Party has inexplicably made inroads with ethnic minorities, it remains overwhelmingly white. And a significant percentage of them are white supremacists. The GOP has become their safe space in a world where Black men become president and Asians move in next door and people walk down the street speaking Spanish like they own the damn place.
The racist contingent of the GOP “may accept shoddy schools, poor hospitals and neglected infrastructure, but there is one thing they will not tolerate: losing status in a place they believe is theirs.”
To maintain their power, “they are preparing for war.”
While this conclusion is alarming, it should not be shocking. After all, the GOP has been promoting violence for over 50 years. Republicans gleefully boast about shooting their political enemies. They nominate domestic abusers for high office. Yeah, they are big fans of violence.
Oh, and they causally mention orchestrating coups d’état in foreign countries. So why not here?
After “a decades-long effort by the Republican Party to sow distrust in a wide range of government institutions,” conservatives have undermined the very idea of democracy. They have made it clear that “once in power, their responsibility is only to their own demographic or partisan base.” And that base is scared, angry white people. This is an unstable force, because “in the 21st century, the most dangerous factions are once-dominant groups facing decline.”
So is there any hope for the future?
Well, experts believe that “if the Republican Party decides it’s no longer going to be an ethnic faction that’s trying to exclude everybody else, then our risk of civil war will disappear.”
Of course, if cats decide to talk, our risk of getting our eyes scratched out would also disappear. The odds are about the same.
The truth is that “our political dysfunction means … that as time passes, fewer treatments become available to us, even though the disease is becoming terminal.”
In today’s political climate, Republicans refer to homicidal traitors as patriots, and militia groups talk openly of armed insurrection. But so far, “no key political figures who tried to overturn an American election have faced real accountability, [and] the president who orchestrated the greatest threat to our democracy in modern times is free to run for reelection, and may well return to office.”
Despite all the glaring evidence and screaming Cassandras, we somehow believe America is immune to the threat of violent upheaval.
And perhaps this is the most idiotic aspect of American culture. In a lengthy list of contenders for most loathsome quality, maybe it’s the belief that we are special—that we are the exceptions to thousands of years of humanity and that we are exempt from all the petty hatreds and grand-scale abhorrence that have marked the entirety of civilization. We believe that the signs don’t apply to us, and that God will preserve this nation because, after all, we’re motherfucking Americans.
And that attitude may be our national epitaph someday. Upon a giant tombstone will be engraved the words: “Damn, I guess America wasn’t so exceptional after all.”
Featured image by Nomad Photography/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0