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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/13/22

Some (relatively) Brief (believe it or not) Thoughts on the Prospects for Civil War and/or Secession

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"Either this country shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." S. Jonas, August, 2018

Civil War II won't look anything like this one.
Civil War II won't look anything like this one.
(Image by Wikipedia (, Author: Excel23)
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The question of whether or not the U.S. will descend into civil war is becoming all the rage these days. Recently, the New York Times columnist Michele Goldberg reviewed several recent discussions of the matter, at least two of book length. To quote from her column:

"Barbara F. Walter, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, has interviewed many people who've lived through civil wars, and she told me they all say they didn't see it coming. 'They're all surprised,' she said. 'Even when, to somebody who studies it, it's obvious years beforehand. . . ."

"Two books out this month warn that this country is closer to civil war than most Americans understand. In 'How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them,' Walter writes, 'I've seen how civil wars start, and I know the signs that people miss. And I can see those signs emerging here at a surprisingly fast rate.' The Canadian novelist and critic Stephen Marche is more stark in his book, 'The Next Civil War: Dispatches From the American Future.' 'The United States is coming to an end,' Marche writes. 'The question is how.' " [Note: I have not read the book, so I do not know whether Mr. Marche gets into "the practicalities.]

"In Toronto's Globe and Mail, Thomas Homer-Dixon, a scholar who studies violent conflict, recently urged the Canadian government to prepare for an American implosion. 'By 2025, American democracy could collapse, causing extreme domestic political instability, including widespread civil violence,' he wrote. 'By 2030, if not sooner, the country could be governed by a right-wing dictatorship.' . . . "

"[On the other hand], not all serious people [think this way]. The Harvard political scientist Josh Kertzer wrote on Twitter that he knows many civil war scholars, and 'very few of them think the United States is on the precipice of a civil war.' " [Of course, one should note that any contemporary U.S. civil war would be very different from The Civil war in so many ways, geographically, ideologically, militarily, so perhaps a Civil War scholar is not the vest to evaluate the present situation.]

I too have written about the prospects for civil war in the U.S., e.g., about a year ago in "The Coming Second Civil War." [In fact, I wrote about a second U.S. civil war in my 1996 book, "The 15% Solution" click here ] In that column I speculated on the possible causes for a second civil war, all of which in my mind (although I should think not in the minds of all the current Second Civil War-predictors) stem from the growing Republo-fascist political movement and its determination to permanently rig (that is, set up) the system of voting in this country so that that party will permanently control the Congress, the electoral vote system, and the Presidency. Other factors are the determination of the Trumpite wing of the Republican Party to permanently implant the "Stop-the-Steal" fiction as part of the center of Republican politics, just the way the Nazis permanently planted the "Stab-in-the-Back" lie in at the center of their politics. (In the just-referenced column, I pointed out that Trump had begun putting forth the "stop the steal" fiction during the 2016 campaign, which he thought he would lose). And of course, racism would become openly and forcefully at the center of their politics and programs.

It does appear that the Republo-fascists are well on their way to "winning" the Presidency in 2024, whether they actually win it or not in terms of what the real vote would be, by means well-known to most readers of columns on OpEdNews. And if that happens, whether it is Trump or some other would-be authoritarian like Ted Cruz, the nation would surely be headed for a fascist future. (For the definition of fascism that I use [and do note that many people who use the term don't bother to define it] please see the post-script at the end of the column.) And thus, the ground would be well set for a second civil war. Why? Well, the primary reason is that, according to current polling, only about 40% of the nation supports Trump and what he stands for (and what he stands for is certainly fascism, especially with himself in charge). But would that prevent it from happening? Not at all. The largest vote total the Nazis got in any free election (that is, before Jan. 30, 1933) was right around the figure just above: 37%.

However, leaving all of the political and ideological and racism-at-the-center-in-the-U.S. considerations aside, there are certain, shall we say, practical considerations which weigh against civil war, at least in the traditional senses, as in the U.S. of the 19th century, and Spain of the 20th century. Primary is that there would be no natural geographical separation of the two sides. For example, in terms of its governance, Texas is one of the most reactionary, and Republican-controlled, states in the nation. Yet Pres. Biden got about 46% of the vote in Texas. Other than in the smaller states of the mid- and upper-mid-west, that pattern held. So, there would be plenty of resistance on the ground to a truly Republo-fascist government coming in 2025, but as for organized, armed resistance at anywhere near the level needed to create real civil war, at least as it has been known in history, highly unlikely.

Of course, a critical factor would be which way the U.S. Armed Forces would go, as well as what would happen with the 50 State National Guards. In practical terms, then, a Second Civil War in the conventional, geographical sense becomes almost impossible to predict. But as is well know the Right is hugely armed and keeps becoming moreso every day, whereas neither the Center or the Left is. And by 2025, there may very well have come into existence a U.S. "Sturm Abteilung," a fascist private army, which I discussed in a recent column about Kyle Rittenhaus. In sum, what it is possible to predict is a harsh fascist crackdown on civil liberties, on any kind of organized protests, on particularly outspoken Democratic members of Congress and state governments, and so and so forth. What would it look like? That's easy: look at Nazi Germany before World War II, Spain until Franco died, Imperial Japan until they lost the war, and even, to a lesser extent, countries like Chile, Argentina, and Greece under right-wing dictatorships.

Turning briefly to the prospects of secession, in my view, should a Republo-fascist government take over in Washington, I think that that would be much more likely. And what would the issue which would tilt certain states over the edge likely be? Well, in my view, just like the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision which declared that even a former slave could not be a United States citizen which became a major ideological factor leading to the First Civil War, there is a Supreme Court decision which appears to be coming down the track that could have a similar national impact in our era, far beyond the particular matter of abortion rights. That of course would be the reversal of Roe v. Wade. For, as I have already noted elsewhere, "Should the Republo-fascists take the House and the Senate in 2022, or 2024, the first thing that McConnell, or a successor, will do is end the Filibuster. Then with 'Roe' (before which each state could set its own abortion policy) gone, the Republo-fascist Congress can pass a national law banning abortion everywhere."

About 75% of the U.S. population is in favor of some kind of abortion rights for pregnant women. States that are heavily Democratic, like New York (in which abortion became legal even before "Roe," in 1969), using abortion rights in particular and women's rights in general as the leading issues, could well move to secession. What would strengthen that development would be the impact of the Religious Authoritarianism which would underlie any Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Regardless of one's view on abortion per se, that such a decision would rip apart the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, establishing Religious Fundamentalism at the centre of U.S. law, would be a major consideration for many.

Many questions would of course, arise, beginning with would a Republo-fascist Federal government attempt to put the secessions (which would likely be numerous) down? (Which if that occurred could be alienly route to a Second Civil War.) But women, most of whom favor abortion rights, comprise more than half of the population and if course their support among men is very Signiant (given the 75% of the population in favor of abortion rights figure). The situation would obviously be very dicey, and analysis-projection does require a good deal more thought. One major issue would be that the seceding States would in some cases be geographically separated. How would/could that work? There are some guesses to be made on that one, but I did say that this one would be uncharacteristically short for me. And so, it is.


Addendum 1: "In fascism there is a single, all powerful executive branch of government, in service of a capitalist ruling class that controls for the most part the functions of production, distribution and exchange. There is no separation of powers [one of James Madison's signal contributions to the then-unique form of government established by the Constitution]. Thus, there are no de facto independent judicial or legislative branches, at any level. There is no independent media. There is a single national ideology, based on some combination of racism, misogyny, religious bigotry and authoritarianism, homophobia, and xenophobia. There is a state propaganda machine using the big and little lie techniques. There may be a full-blown dictatorship, a charismatic leader, engagement in foreign wars, and the use of the mob/private armies."

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a ├ éČ┼"Trusted Author,├ éČ Ł he is a Senior (more...)
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