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Is the US really heading for a second civil war? | US politics

yBiden has spent a year hoping that America can get back to normal. But last Thursday, on the first anniversary of the murderous uprising in the US Capitol, the president finally realized the full scale of the current threat to American democracy.

“At this moment, we must decide,” Biden said at Statuary Hall, where rioters rallied a year ago. “What kind of a nation will we be? Will we be a nation that accepts political violence as a rule?”

It’s a question many in America and abroad are asking now. In a deeply divided society, where even a national tragedy like January 6th only kept people further apart, there is a fear that that day was just the beginning of a wave of turmoil, conflict and domestic terror.

A large number of recent opinion polls have shown that a large minority of Americans are comfortable with the idea of ​​violence against the government. Even talk of a second American Civil War has moved from marginal fiction to the media mainstream.

Is there a civil war coming? It was the explicit title of an article in The New Yorker this week. Are we really facing a second civil war? A column headline floated in the New York Times on Friday. Three retired American generals wrote a recent column in the Washington Post warning that another attempted coup “could lead to civil war.”

The mere fact that such concepts have entered the public sphere shows that the once unthinkable has become thinkable, though some might argue that it remains highly improbable.

Anxiety is fueling hatred in Washington, where Biden’s desire for a bipartisan partnership has been shattered by the radical Republican opposition. The president’s remarks Thursday – “I will not allow anyone to put a dagger at the throat of our democracy” – appear to acknowledge that there can be no business as usual when one of America’s major parties embraces authoritarian rule.

History looms as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at Statuary Hall address the threat to American democracy. Photo: Rex/Shutterstock

To illustrate the point, almost no Republicans attended the festivities as the party seeks to rewrite history, recasting the mob who tried to overturn Trump’s election defeat as martyrs fighting for democracy. Tucker Carlson, the most watched host on conservative Fox News, declined to play any clips of Biden’s speech, arguing that January 6, 2021 “hardly counts as a footnote” because “not really much happened that day.”

With the Trump cult in the Republican Party more dominant than ever, and far-right groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys at the rally, some see the threat to democracy as greater now than it was a year ago. Among those sounding the alarm was Barbara Walter, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, and author of a new book, How To Start Civil Wars: And How To Stop It.

Walter previously served on the Task Force on Political Instability, an advisory committee to the CIA, which had a model for predicting political violence in countries all over the world — with the exception of the United States itself. But with the rise of racist demagoguery under Trump, Walter, who has studied civil wars for 30 years, recognized the telltale signs on her doorstep.

The first was the emergence of a government that was neither fully democratic nor wholly autocratic – an “anocratic” state. The other is a landscape turning to identity politics where parties are no longer organized around a specific ideology or politics but on racial, ethnic or religious lines.

Walter told the Observer: “By the 2020 election, 90% of the Republican Party is white. On the task force, if we’re going to see that in another multi-ethnic, multi-religious country based on a two-party system, that’s what we would call the super-faction, the super-faction Especially dangerous.”

Nor do the most bleakest of pessimists anticipate a rerun of the Civil War of 1861-65 with a Blue Army and a Red Army engaged in pitched battles. Walter continued, “It would look more like Northern Ireland and what Britain experienced, where it was more like a rebellion.” “It’s probably more decentralized than Northern Ireland because we have such a big country and there are a lot of militias all over the country.”

** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - FILE ** This graphic by Alfred R.  Wade Lieutenant Van Welt of the Union Army defending his battery at the Battle of Chickamauga near Chattanooga, Tennessee, in September 1863, during the American Civil War.  The Confederacy forced the Union forces to withdraw.  (AP Photo/FILE)
And not even the most bleakest of pessimists anticipate a rerun of the Civil War of 1861-65 with a Blue Army and a Red Army engaged in pitched battles. Photo: AP

They will resort to unorthodox tactics, particularly terrorism, and perhaps even a little guerrilla warfare, targeting federal buildings, synagogues, and places with large crowds. The strategy would be to scare and scare the American public into believing that the federal government is unable to take care of them.”

The 2020 plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan, may be a sign of things to come. Walter suggests that opposition figures, moderate Republicans, and judges deemed unsympathetic may all become potential targets for assassination.

“I can also imagine situations where militias, along with law enforcement in those areas, would form small white ethnic groups in areas where this would be possible because of the way power is being divided here in the United States. It certainly wouldn’t look like The Civil War of the 1860s”.

Walter notes that most people tend to assume that civil wars are the work of the poor or the downtrodden. not like that. In the case of America, it is a backlash from the white majority destined to become a minority by approximately 2045, an eclipse symbolized by the election of Barack Obama in 2008.

The academic explained: “The groups that tend to start civil wars are the groups that were politically dominant in the past but are in decline. They have lost their political power or they have lost their political power and they really believe that the country is entitled and justified to use force to regain control because the system is no longer It works for them.”

One year after the January 6 uprising, the atmosphere on Capitol Hill remains toxic amid a breakdown of civility, trust and common standards. Several Republican members of Congress received threatening letters, including death threats, after the vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill opposed by Trump.

Members of an armed group, including Michael John Knoll and William Grant Knoll, right, accused of involvement in a plot to kidnap the Michigan governor, stand inside the Capitol building in Lansing in April 2020.
Members of an armed group, including Michael John Knoll and William Grant Knoll, right, accused of involvement in a plot to kidnap the Michigan governor, stand inside the Capitol building in Lansing in April 2020. Photo: Seth Herald/Reuters

Two Republicans on the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, are facing calls to be removed from their party. Democrat Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a Somali-born Muslim, has suffered from Islamophobia abuse.

However, Trump supporters argue that they are the ones fighting to save democracy. Last year, Congressman Madison Cawthorne of North Carolina said, “If our election systems continue to rig and robbery continues, it will lead to one place and this is bloodshed.”

Last month, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia, who deplored the January 6 treatment of defendants imprisoned for their role in the attack, called for a “national divorce” between the blue and red states. Democrat Robin Gallego responded forcefully: “There is no ‘national divorce.’ Whether you’re with civil war or not. Just say it if you want civil war and you’re officially declared a traitor.”

There is also the possibility that Trump will run for president again in 2024. Republican-led states impose voting restriction laws aimed at party favor while Trump loyalists seek to take charge of election management. A contested race in the White House could lead to an incendiary cocktail.

“I don’t like being alarmed, but the country is moving more and more toward violence, not away from it,” said James Howdon, director of the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention at Virginia Tech. “Another disputed election could have disastrous consequences.”

Although most Americans grew up taking its stable democracy for granted, this is also a society in which violence is the rule, not the exception, from the genocide of Native Americans to slavery, from the Civil War to four presidential assassinations, and from gun violence that kills 40 thousand people die annually in a military-industrial complex that kills millions abroad.

“America is not unfamiliar with violence,” said Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota. “It is a very violent society and what we are talking about is giving violence a clear political agenda. This is kind of a terrifying new trend in America.”

While he does not currently expect political violence to become endemic, Jacobs agrees that any such break-up would also likely be similar to the problems of Northern Ireland.

Belfast, 1976. Experts say civil strife in the United States is likely to resemble those of Northern Ireland.
Belfast, 1976. Experts say civil strife in the United States is likely to resemble those of Northern Ireland. Photo: Alain Le Garcimer, Problem Archives / Alami

“We will see these sporadic and sporadic terrorist attacks,” he added. “The Northern Ireland model is frankly the most feared model because it doesn’t take a huge number of people to do it, and there are now highly motivated and well-armed groups out there. The question is, has the FBI infiltrated them enough to be able to wipe them out before they launch a campaign of terror? “

“Of course, in America it is not useful in the proliferation of guns. Anyone can have a gun and you have easy access to explosives. All this gives rise to the precarious situation in which we now find ourselves.”

However, nothing is inevitable.

Biden also used his speech to praise the 2020 election as the biggest demonstration of democracy in US history with more than 150 million people registered to vote despite the pandemic. Trump’s illusory challenges to the outcome have been brushed off by a still robust judicial system and scrutinized by civil society and a vibrant media.

In a reality check, Josh Kurtzer, a professor of political science at Harvard University, chirp: “I know a lot of Civil War scholars, and … few of them believe that the United States is on the brink of civil war.”

However, the assumption “it can’t happen here” is as old as the policy itself. Walter interviewed several survivors about the lead-up to the Civil Wars. “What everyone said, whether they were in Baghdad or Sarajevo or Kiev, was that we weren’t expecting that,” she recalls. “Indeed, we were not prepared to accept any mistake until we heard machine gun fire in the hillside. By that time, it was too late.”

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