Fascists Would Win a New US Civil War
SNA (Tokyo) — Since the 1990s, US society has been drawing into two broad camps, which for simplicity’s sake we will call the Reds and the Blues. This year, the polarization between them has reached a new level of passion and intensity. If this polarization descends entirely into a civil war—and the November 2020 elections could very well be a trigger for such a scenario—history suggests that the initial victory would be decisively in favor of the Red fascists.
As is often pointed out, the Reds and Blues now live within self-contained media bubbles. They have not only opposite opinions about many of the key political issues of the day, but even a stunningly different appreciation of basic facts.
The Reds gather around the Republican Party and tend to be more rural, conservative, older, and white. The Blues are less committed to their supposed standard-bearer, the Democratic Party, but tend to be more urban, liberal/progressive, younger, and diverse in ethnicity.
It’s become increasingly clear that the escalating rightwing radicalism of the Reds has undermined the norms by which US politics has functioned for centuries.
Since around the time of the contested Bush-Gore election of 2000, a full-scale clash has been avoided largely because Democratic Party leaders have repeatedly backed down in an attempt to preserve the norms of democratic society. However, for their part, the Reds have pushed the limits further and further with reckless disregard for their impact upon the institutions of government. Indeed, the Reds have come ever closer to throwing out the old rulebooks of democracy altogether, since this form of government necessitates that those who lose an election still accept the legitimacy of the administration to which they have lost.
The Donald Trump presidency has obviously widened these divisions much further. His tendency to pander to the Red base and to effectively stop being the president for all Americans, as previous presidents had done, has eroded norms at a much faster rate.
And yet, even Trump has so far hesitated to embrace full-scale fascism. He’s gone up to the line with his rhetoric many times, but then pulled back. His economic policies remain captured by a neoliberalism that is poorly suited to his own political interests (though of course he hasn’t quite figured that out yet). Matters haven’t gotten entirely out of hand only because Trump never possessed the same intellectual grasp of Trumpism as does, for example, his former adviser Steve Bannon.
But the year 2020 nevertheless could provide all the necessary catalysts to bring about the temporary demise of US democracy.
First, there was was the coronavirus that has hit the United States harder than any country in the world, with more than two million confirmed cases and over 110,000 deaths, so far. Along with Covid-19 came the business shutdowns and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, throwing tens of millions out of work. On top of this combustable mix came the police murder of George Floyd, conducted brutally and shamelessly before the cameras of the world. And then there was Donald Trump’s response, once again making no effort to heal the nations’s wounds, but rather to pour oil on the fire with threatening law-and-order speeches and escalating the confrontation with protesters.
The Blue camp hasn’t exactly played a very constructive role either. The Democratic Party establishment came together—with former President Barack Obama playing the key behind-the-scenes role—to defeat a Bernie Sanders movement that could have united the party with the working class and the young into a more sensible progressive force.
For their part, the George Floyd protesters have embraced counterproductive slogans such as ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards), which only serves to accelerate polarization and makes the error of pushing all of those in uniform into the camp of the Reds, even if some of them might otherwise have been brought over. Guided by their own rage and self-righteousness, many of the Blue activists have lost sight of any viable political strategy.
The trigger for a full-scale clash could very well come in the November 2020 elections. Almost all evidence suggests that Donald Trump and his minions have few qualms about engaging in heavy-handed voter suppression, will do what they can to muddy the results of the voting, and will declare victory no matter what happens in the nation’s ballot booths.
With the coronavirus, unemployment and homelessness, voter registration tricks, computer manipulations, and communication breakdowns (like this year’s Democratic Party Iowa Caucuses fiasco), and led by a government with near zero commitment to the usual democratic rules of the game, it’s difficult to imagine that the November vote will be anything other than a national meltdown. The warning signs couldn’t be clearer.
What would happen then? The American public would split down the middle between those, backed by Fox News and the Red media, who would insist that Donald Trump was the winner, and the other half rejecting that interpretation. Even those entirely committed to the facts may end up being unsure who would have really won the election had it been conducted fairly.
As for the Democratic Party establishment, backed by the Wall Street interests, they would do what they always do—make bitter speeches and then meekly concede, just as they did at the time of Bush vs. Gore.
The Blue activists of the nation’s cities, however, many of them now unemployed, may prove willing to engage in a mass confrontation on the streets, larger and potentially more violent than those we are witnessing now over the George Floyd murder.
So who would win this direct clash between the Red fascists and the Blue revolutionaries? It would be a walkover: The Reds have the weapons, the training, the organization, and the willingness to kill that far outstrips anything that the Blue activists can muster. Slogans like ACAB would come back to haunt the Blues, who have pushed away even some of their potential allies in a fit of self-righteousness.
The big question, then, would be the disposition of the US military. How many of its key leaders would balk at firing on members of the US public and act to protect the long-established democratic norms? And how many are so hopped up on decades of the Rush Limbaugh and Fox News variety of political education that they would indeed be willing to see their fellow citizens as “the enemy”? The controversy this week surrounding the actions of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley was suggestive of the growing internal tensions within the US military.
Currently, too much of the American left seems too focused on virtue signaling and not enough on organizing and strategizing. Progressive political leaders like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may have effectively delivered a compelling vision for positive policy change, but their institutional power remains pathetically weak compared to those that they are challenging.
Until the left does its homework and builds coalitions that are wide enough and deep enough to prevail, any physical clash with the right is doomed to failure, and it will bring about an even worse reality than the one we now inhabit.
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