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Suggestions there might be a second US Civil War are far-fetched, even for them

Donald Forbes
January 11, 2022

Following the first anniversary of the riots in Washington, suggestions that divisions in the US could lead to a new civil war are simply delusional, no matter how worried people may be, writes Donald Forbes.

US Democrats laid on a festival of political theatre for the anniversary of the storming of the Capitol on January 6 last year by President Trump's supporters, pumping up their message that what happened was an insurrection threatening democracy.

A Greek chorus of pundits in the liberal media is chanting dirges about the risk of civil war between the Blue (Democrat) and Red (Republican) Americas. "January 6 is not in the past. It is every day," intoned the New York Times which has become the bible of progressive orthodoxy. While not denying the shocking symbolism of a riot at the legislative heart of America – Vice President Kamala Harris compared it to Pearl Harbour and 9/11 – conservative pundits were not intimidated, mocking Democrats for promoting "coup porn".

Videos of the event make the charge of insurrection look laughably overdone. Leaderless protestors milled aimlessly after getting into the building. Many arrestees are still in jail awaiting trial by prosecutors who seem to be in no hurry despite the importance of what happened.

The civil war meme has developed legs enough for some to wonder whether the danger of conflict really exists for ordinary Americans outside the politico-media bubble and what it would look like.

Americans are certainly no happier under Joe Biden than they were under Trump. A solid majority tell pollsters the country is on the wrong track. Is that enough to make it jump the rails into a second civil war?

Enough has happened since Trump's election in 2016 to worsen the divide between Reds and Blues. Under Trump, the Russian collusion that Democrats used to try to destroy Trump; two sham presidential impeachments; distrust in the electoral system and the former President's claim that he was robbed of re-election in 2022. Under Biden, the failure of his legislative programme and his humiliation over Afghanistan, and his collapse in the polls which threatens Democrats with the loss of their congressional majority next November.

The hapless Biden has failed to "whip" Covid as he promised. Instead, it's whipping him. Inflation is back at 1980s levels. Race and a cult of white guilt vis-a-vis blacks and other minorities are roiling work places and the education system. Illegal immigration across the southern border is at record levels. Conservatives claim they are being censored by liberal-controlled Big Tech which accuses them of spreading misinformation.

This looks like a unique palette of crippling pathologies. But civil war?

The death toll in the mid-19th century civil war, when the US had a population of 32 million, was between 600,000 and a million. The Northern states won largely because they outnumbered the confederate South by two to one. Race relations in the south are still under heavy surveillance by the Federal Government 160 years later. The losers of civil wars pay a permanent price.

The first civil war was fought between two distinct geographical foes. The modern US, which divides equally between left and right in numbers, is constituted very differently. Some of the 50 states always vote solidly Red and others always Blue. Others, the swing states which usually decide presidential elections, change allegiance according to the circumstances at the time.

Statistics from US pollster John Zogby last year found that 46 per cent thought a civil war likely against 43 per cent who thought it unlikely. Despite this apparently ominous poll – taken while no actual threat of war exists – it's not evident how a civil war would be geographically or demographically possible.

Liberals states are mostly clustered on the coasts with the Republicans found in what liberals sneeringly call flyover country between glamorous New York and tech-driven California where liberals have a national platform based on Hollywood.

Political scientist Michael Lind believes it is misleading to look only at the alignment of states on a red and blue map. Within states that look solidly red are heavily populated cities and university towns that vote blue. Since the differences between the two political parties grow with every election, conflict could potentially exist within states – and be confined there – as much as between them.

New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg evoked the possibility of guerrilla movements emerging but the United States has easily coped with these in the past.

More violence like that seen in the summer of 2020 is almost certainly the option most Americans would do their utmost to avoid. At the moment, half a dozen counties in Oregon – whose capital Portland is Antifa territory – are trying to build a movement to secede and join conservative Idaho. They won't succeed for the moment but it's peaceful.

What is more likely is that a movement of population, which began before the Covid crisis made blue states less liveable – will continue to grow as an increasing number of people decide they want to escape political majorities they cannot overturn.


Donald is a retired journalist who wrote for the Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, and Reuters. He was a chief correspondent in Poland, Hungary and Yugoslavia. Donald now regularly writes for The Conservative Woman.

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