The New Civil War


On September 14th, Californians will decide whether to recall Governor Newsom.  In a difficult period, this recall is another Republican effort to disrupt democracy, to blow up government.  It’s another manifestation of the new Civil War.

The latest 538 polls ( https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/california-recall-polls/) indicate that the recall will fail.  If this occurs, it will be due to the fact that Democrats mobilized and that they have been willing to spend millions of dollars defeating the recall.  If the recall fails, it will likely be the result of conservative radio commentator, Larry Elder, becoming the leading Republican recall choice.  Elder is a Trump acolyte.  If he were to “win” the recall contest, he’d be able to issue “executive orders.”  Elder has promised to issue an executive order banning all abortions in California; he also would outlaw mask mandates and other common-sense public health measures to fight the Coronavirus pandemic.

In a period where Californians are concerned about climate-change disaster (fire and drought), Covid-19, housing, and other issues, the Republican party wants to blow up government.  This summer, nihilism has become the dominant GOP theme.  In Red states, such as Texas, while the Republican governor has failed to protect citizens agains the pandemic, GOP operatives have taken draconian steps, such as banning abortion.

This has made a difficult period much worse.  The latest PBS News/Marist poll (https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/2-out-of-3-americans-believe-u-s-democracy-is-under-threat ) shows that two-thirds of respondents believe “democracy is under threat.”  As we might expect, the poll results are heavily influenced by Party affiliation: 87 percent of Republicans believe the country is NOT going in the right direction; while 87 percent of Democrats believe the country is going in the right direction.

What’s happening?  Why are Republicans so negative; so destructive?

There are three explanations, the politics of grievance, ideology, and greed.

Grievance: Donald Trump has had political success mobilizing the politics of resentment. At the core of this collective resentment is a sentiment shared by many Trump voters, the belief they have lost their shot at the American dream because others have played “the game” unfairly.  That is, Red voters believe they are economically and socially disadvantaged because some groups — such as women and “people of color”  — have received preferential treatment.  These Red voters have lost faith in the democratic process and, therefore, believe only “a strong leader” can save them.

Many Trump voters cling to the belief that Trump is the strong leader they have been waiting for.  Further, they believe he was cheated out of a win in 2020.  A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll (https://www.reuters.com/world/us/53-republicans-view-trump-true-us-president-reutersipsos-2021-05-24/) found: “A majority of Republicans still believe Donald Trump won the 2020 U.S. presidential election and blame his loss to Joe Biden on illegal voting…The May 17-19 national poll found that 53% of Republicans believe Trump, their party’s nominee, is the “true president” now, compared to 3% of Democrats and 25% of all Americans.”

Because of their suspicion of government, in general, and their belief they have been cheated, many Trump voters believe that the January 6h “Insurrection” was not the serious event portrayed by the media.  A recent NBC News poll (https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/meet-the-press/attitudes-jan-6-capitol-attack-settle-along-familiar-partisan-lines-n1277534 ) found that “Forty-six percent of adults say the attack has been exaggerated to discredit former President Trump and his supporters,”  This belief is held by 82 percent of Republicans.

Many Trump voters continue to be angry, to believe that they have been cheated, and lied to by the Federal Government.

Ideology: Although the level of Republican anger feels new, the underlying ideology is familiar. The first American Civil War was precipitated by a dispute regarding states’ rights and slavery,  The new Civil War involves a dispute about states’ rights and human rights.

Because of the widespread Republican belief that Trump “won” the 2020 election, the GOP leaders have asserted “states’ rights” in response.  For example, they have enacted draconian restrictions on voting rights.  As another example, Red states like Florida and Texas have defied Federal Public Health advice on vaccinations, masks, and social distancing. Finally, Red States are enacting new legislation restricting abortion rights.

Many observers described the Trump regime as “the new confederacy” because of its demonstrated preference for white men and its antagonism to women and “people of color.”  Many of us believe that Trump is a misogynist and a racist.  Predictably, Trump has responded to his 2020 election defeat by lashing out at women and people of color.  He’s despicable.  And his presence as the head of the Republican Party has caused many GOP partisans to adopt their own despicable stance.

Republicans seek to establish a confederacy where there is a weak central government and each state would establish their own definition of citizenship and the attendant rights. In this new confederacy, each state would establish their own environmental and business standards.

Greed:Of course, behind any political movement is money.  Donald Trump would not continue to be a political presence if he did not have the backing of wealthy donors. Trump’s funders include executives with conservative media organizations (such as “the Epoch Times” affiliated with the Falun Gong organization), fossil-fuel companies, real-estate developers, financial services companies, and others.

What do these donors want? The common thread that runs through these Trump loyalists is the desire for lower taxes and reduced government regulation.  They wholeheartedly get onboard the “blow up government” express because they resent taxation and government oversight of their business sector.  They can support notions such as viewing mask mandates as an infringement of individual freedom, because they espouse a libertarian philosophy that maximizes personal responsibility.  They see Trump as a “means” to their end game.  And this end game is, in effect, the establishment of a new confederacy.

Summary:  It’s not your imagination.  These are hard times.  Made more difficult by the Republican push to blow up democracy.  Tighten your seat belts, we’re flirting with civil war,