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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 09-Apr-17


Sunday 09-April-17

The second American Civil War

The first American Civil War ran between 1861 and 1865. The headline was slavery, but there were many other differences between the culture and practices of the northern and southern states. There was much polarization in society with bitter anger about opposing points of view. Fast forward to the 21st century. For the first time in a long time, there seems a possibility for another revolution. Really? Well, not very probable, but maybe. Consider the evidence...

In the days running up to the 2016 Presidential election, expecting defeat, Trump was talking about how it was all rigged. Even then, he was spreading paranoia and suspicion about the established order, and potentially building up to incitement of mass revolt. Yet he gained 59 million votes. Many of these would be traditional Republican voters, but many also lived outside of political concerns as they felt nobody represented their real needs.

Trump's language is generally inflammatory. He is quick to exaggeration and accusation. It seems almost comical and many eagerly scan the news in search of his latest faux pas. Yet his large and fanatically loyal following believe he is doing a great job despite unfounded attacks from the media and others. It seems odd that these followers, many of who are not well off, would follow a billionaire who lives in garish opulence. Yet the financial chasm seems irrelevant in comparison with the voice he has given to their anger. Many of them feel let down by previous administrations. Republicans appear not to have done much for them, while Democrats are seen as destroying jobs through environmental concern, shutting down big businesses through endless regulation. There is also a weariness with progressive political correctness and frustration about welfare for others.

Many expect Trump to resign or be impeached. Indeed betting companies are offering only poor odds on him completing his term in office. A triggering scenario would be such a departure from the White House, by whatever means. No matter the legitimacy of this, it would be seen by many of his supporters as the result of illegal establishment conspiracy. They will see it as evidence of the corrupt swamp, that Trump has tried to drain, fighting back and in danger of winning.

The question is: what could happen next?

In the civil war scenario, Trump cries foul, a likely response, and others take up his cry. This leads to demonstration and escalating outcry. Violence follows close behind, starting with scuffles at gatherings and escalating into organised attacks. Armed groups will go after key targets such as government offices. Media outlets are taken over to spread the news. Whole communities decide to secede from the nation, declaring their towns as independent and refusing to recognize federal or even state law. This could also happen at state level if enough people believed in the cause.

After the initial surprise, non-revolutionaries would likely continue in the assumption that this is just a bit of civil disorder that will blow over. Until, that is, evidence shows that it is not going to go away. At this point an outraged counter-revolution begins to appear, with ordinary citizens banding together to help suppress the revolution. Just as in ordinary politics, people increasingly and actively take sides. Only this time it is not just verbal conflict as weapons are increasingly deployed and the country polarizes.

A key question is what the military and the police would do. If they stay loyal to the establishment, then the revolution will most likely be quashed. If they stand aside, the revolution may quickly be won. It is also possible that they also fracture, with soldiers and even regiments taking sides. It is this question that would determine whether the revolution has any chance of success. Inaction by the military has been a pattern in revolutions around the world, from Russia to Egypt.

Both sides of course will claim legitimacy and just what is legitimate may not be clear. The deposed Trump (and his followers) would claim he is democratically elected and that proceedings against him are unlawful. The deposers would claim he is unfit to govern. This has been the basis for many other revolutions, too.

In the end, the chance of such events seem remote. But then so also did Trump winning the presidency this time last year.

No. Surely not?

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