Being a Republican in Congress is a lot easier than being a Democrat. That’s because there are very few things that Republicans have or want to do. Most Democrats have full plates in front of them as they want to reform our society so that government provides a strong and secure safety net for all of us, particularly those most at risk. If we reach a point of gridlock, of stalemate, it is the right that wins, because if nothing happens, that is exactly what they want.
In the wake of the January 6, 2021 insurrection and other rebellious acts from the right, there is increasing talk of a new American civil war. What shape it might take is open to all kinds of interpretation. It certainly would not be like America’s first civil war, or even a feared possible upcoming war between Russia and Ukraine.
That does not mean there would not be violence. The January 6 insurrection resulted in the deaths of five individuals and the injuring of hundreds. The Right certainly does not hesitate to use threats of violence against those with whom they merely disagree.
For example, Fox News anchor Jesse Watters recently told a group of conservatives to “ambush” Dr. Anthony Fauci with questions and “go in for kill shot.” Fox News has not reprimanded Watters; in fact, they have not said a word about his using their platform to threaten to kill someone. Fox did the same things with correspondent Lara Logan who compared Fauci to the Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele (also included in the clip below).
As we approach the end of 2021, the Washington Post reports “Inside the nonstop pressure campaign by Trump allies to get election officials to revisit the 2020 vote.” The Big Lie continues more than thirteen months after the 2020 safe, secure and democratic elections.
The fallout has spread from the six states where Trump sought to overturn the outcome in 2020 to deep-red places such as Idaho, where officials recently hand-recounted ballots in three counties to refute claims of vote-flipping, and Oklahoma, where state officials commissioned an investigation to counter allegations that voting machines were hacked.
The important point in the article is that the Trumpsters are continuing their efforts to intimidate Republican-controlled state legislatures to undo the past and change the future so that free and fair elections become something of the past.
A “civil war” could include numerous other acts of aggression by the right including the intimidation of teachers, vigilante forces, Congressional action to not raise the debt limit and not fund necessary programs that are the framework of our social and economic safety net.
COVID has already played a key role in dividing the nation and threatens to do so for some time to come. Samuel Goldman in The Week suggests:
I’m not the first to compare the way of thinking about the pandemic still dominant in official statements to the military disasters of the last two decades. My colleague Noah Millman and the journalist Daniel McCarthy have both noted parallels between the interminable conflicts that followed 9/11 and the “war” on COVID. “Like the old Afghan government,” Millman wrote, “those in charge of public health have little practical ability to shape events. But they speak as if they are sovereign and in control.”
It is hard to imagine what aggressive actions those on the Left may take. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, extremists far to the left of the Democratic Party engaged in bombing attacks on both public and private buildings. But there was very little coordinated about that and as it became apparent that the bombings were counter-productive, the bombings essentially ended.
Regrettably, there is very little that the Right needs to do now to win a “civil war.” The current stalemate allows those on the Right to generally get their way.
Progressive legislation will not pass. The right to safe and legal abortions will be ended in most states when Roe v. Wade is overturned, elections will be rigged to favor far-right Republicans, COVID and other infectious diseases will continue to run rampant, gun-control measures will not be passed, climate change legislation will stall and those who do not agree with those on the Right will live in fear of violence.
The only real way that progressives and others can prevent an escalated “civil war” is by winning big in elections and having protections against Republican electoral manipulation. This means that the U.S. Senate is going to have to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in order to maximize the chances of free and fair elections. Additionally, Democrats are going to have to figure out a way to elevate the popularity of Joe Biden and improve their chances of winning 2022 Congressional races. Perhaps a backlash to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade would help, but that seems unlikely.
The stakes are truly high for progressives; we need to do all that we legally and non-violently can do.