The Next Civil War
As many in our nation struggle over what to do with the relic monuments of America’s Civil War, others fear that we are on the brink of the next.
There are the ridiculous. Roger Stone, former Nixon dirty trickster and long-time political advisor to President Trump stated last week: “…Try to impeach him, just try it,” Stone continued. “You will have a spasm of violence in this country, and insurrection, like you’ve never seen.”
Pamela Geller, an anti-Muslim columnist for Breitbart uses the works of Ayn Rand to back her prediction of insurrection. She sees the “left” as advocating a breakdown of institutions (including the Presidency), leading to the vision of Rand:
“Politically, mass civil disobedience is appropriate only as a prelude to civil war—as the declaration of a total break with a country’s political institutions.”
And then there are the more serious. The National Rifle Association has put out videos calling for a “counter-resistance” and threatening “elites.” “We’re coming for you…”
“The times are burning and the media elites have been caught holding the match,” NRA spokeswoman and radio host Dana Loesch says in one video aired on NRATV, the gun lobby’s web video site, as it shows footage of people fighting police, breaking storefront glass and burning the American flag.”
And the violence of Charlottesville by the white supremacists and in Berkeley by the antifas demonstrates that for some violence is more than just threats.
If, as the “resistance” hopes, we are moving into a time of open investigation and the beginning of the end of the Trump administration, what should we expect?
Looking back at the Nixon era, Roger Stone believes that there was a “vast conspiracy” to unfairly end his Presidency. That is a re-writing of history. It was in fact the leadership of the Republican party that convinced Nixon that it was time for him to resign or face impeachment and removal. While, as Stone embodies, there were true believers in Nixon, a large proportion of the country (over 75%) had lost confidence in him.
It was a different time. Today we are faced with even greater divisions in America. It is greater than the “blue and red” seen in electoral results. There is a clear division in “culture” as seen in the details of the Trump election. It isn’t the overall numbers, it is the overwhelming percentages Trump was able to gain in rural America, versus the less dramatic but still dominating numbers that Clinton got in the cities.
Trump has definitely tapped into an American reality: there are a substantial number of Americans who feel left behind by the social changes of the last decades. They look to solutions much like ones that appealed to Americans in the past. From World War II: the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, all Japanese are bad, put Americans of Japanese descent in relocation camps. That sad view is reflected in the anti-Islamic views of today: terrorists claiming to follow Islam caused 9/11 and other acts, therefore all Muslims are bad, and lets ban them.
In the same way, Trump has tied illegal immigration and globalization to the failure of the US economy to provide “great paying” jobs. Just as the coal miners in West Virginia didn’t want to hear Hillary Clinton tell them that mining jobs were gone for good, some Americans are looking for easy answers to go back to the “good old days.” And while most Americans wouldn’t do the jobs done by illegal immigrants, they accept that excuse rather than face the changed climate (both economically and literally.)
Some Americans are armed and prepared to fight by the NRA, threatened by new social mores which include open acceptance of the LBGTQ, told that they CAN go back to the days of great factory jobs and big paychecks, and allowed to disregard all the information they get to the contrary as “fake news.” And they are made afraid: afraid of the vision provided by Trump of “the urban area” where people are constantly shot on the street and other crime and violence are so rampant that “it’s worse than Afghanistan.” It plays to the white supremacist ideology still lurking under the table of American life.
Trump has pandered to the worst “angels” of America, and in doing so has found a strong vein of support. That’s why it is so important for the process of removing Trump to be not only beyond reproach, but clearly define his illegality and illegitimacy. It cannot be just a list of “obstruction of justice” charges: Trump’s followers already believe that the entire “establishment” is arrayed against him and that his obstruction would be justified. And it cannot be just firing Comey or pressuring Sessions: Trump followers believe that people who work for the President SHOULD ALWAYS obey the President.
And while the case showing that Trump was a criminal financier and developer might be compelling to those who already don’t like him; to his base there is acceptance that this is “Wall Street” behavior. We’ve seen it in all of the movies. It’s how they all act, Democrats and Republicans, when Goldman Sachs and politics come together. It’s probably illegal, but it’s not the impeachable issue.
No, the case against Trump has to prove that Trump cooperated with another country, Russia, in order to win the Presidency. It needs to show that in fact Russia has had Trump “by the balls” for years; that he is NOT the powerful leader they are looking for, but simply a controlled man fidgeting to avoid “the squeeze.”
In short, Trump needs to be proven weak and manipulated. Months ago I wrote an essay about Trump’s view of manliness. Part of Trump’s allure is that he is the worldly, manly billionaire who can fix things ( and, who has “big hands”.) If the “resistance” can demonstrate that Trump is not that man but as a “gig0lo” used by the Russian kleptocracy, then even those who have swallowed his bile will not rebel. They will grouse, and a few will scream, but they will turn their back on him. If not: then there will be a percentage of Americans (20%?) who will always believe that their ideals and beliefs were ignored. They may or may not be violent, but they will always be there.
Whatever you think of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, he did do one last thing for the UNITED STATES. As he contemplated surrendering his army at Appomattox, some of his junior officers proposed to dissolve the army, to slip away into the mountains and reconstitute as a guerilla force. Some of his generals in the West, notably Morgan and Mosby were already using these tactics. Lee absolutely refused, recognizing that the war he was fighting was to gain legitimacy, not for never-ending violence and illegitimacy. The next day he surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant, and spared our nation a protracted guerilla war.
In the same way, we need to make sure that the removal of Donald Trump from the Presidency doesn’t just meet the standards of the “resistance.” We must be able to convince all but the most crazed that he is an illegitimate President who represents the interests of the Russian kleptocracy, not American citizens. That is the rationale needed so that ALL Americans accept the conclusion.