Is a second American Civil War now just inevitable?

Mar 20th, 2023 | By | Category: In Brief
Michael Seward, ‘On the Way to Nowhere, 2023, 20” x 30”.’

SPECIAL FROM CITIZEN X, BUCKHORN, ON. 19 MARCH 2023. Yesterday’s announcement by Donald Trump that he expects to be arrested shortly (this coming Tuesday, March 21?), especially as followed by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s feisty reaction in vigorous support of Trump (and then something similar from former Vice President Mike Pence), has got me thinking at last.

As genuinely crazy as it may be, some sort of second American Civil War may also just be inevitable. And soon enough in the 21st century?

Up to this point, though an ardent critic (and more) of Donald Trump as a political actor in the ongoing pageant of Democracy in America, I’ve finally been most impressed by the 74.2 million votes the former President Trump won in the 2020 US presidential election.

This was clearly not enough to prevail over President-elect Joe Biden’s 81.3 million votes. (As Mr. Trump did [and does?] deny quite shamelessly, and destructively.)

But while 51.3% of the American people who cared to vote did choose the winning Democrat Biden, no less than 46.8% still voted for the losing Republican Trump …

And no serious democracy — in the spirit of Alexis de Tocqueville’s legendary Democracy in America — is going to altogether ignore the opinions of 47% of an unusually active electorate.

But is Mr. Trump finally just making all this up : fake news, fake news ????

In the end, it appears that three different legal authorities — in New York, Georgia, and Washington, DC — are nonetheless thinking about charging the former president for at least some of his law-breaking activities (the easiest to convict him on it would seem, which are not always the same as his most offensive, if that kind of thing bothers you).

Summary of statewide results of the 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020 presidential elections by state : Dark red = Won by the Republicans in all four elections ; Light red = Won by the Republicans in three of the four elections ; Purple = Won by each party twice in the four elections ; Light blue = Won by the Democrats in three of the four elections ; Dark blue = Won by the Democrats in all four elections.

I am personally somewhat sceptical of Mr. Trump’s own claim that he is going to be arrested on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. One thing I like many others have learned to give him credit for is a certain strategic brilliance in playing the still quite important mass-media ingredient of Democracy in America today.

There certainly have been recent rumblings about various thought-to-be-developing legal cases against a former president of the United States on MSNBC and even CNN. (As I can testify all too well personally, and as whatever robot is collecting my TV viewing data already knows.)

With not much more than this to go on, but in pursuit of his somewhat flagging new campaign for president 2024, claiming that he’s about to be arrested could be just another brilliant way of making the news in the USA today all about Donald Trump … once again, the way we were … (And once again, it works!)

But what if he really is arrested … sometime soon enough ????

Nicolle Wallace, former staff person for Republican President George W. Bush and Republican presidential candidate John McCain, is one of the “radical leftists” on MSNBC today, keen to see Donald Trump held legally accountable for his crimes.

At the same time, I agree that some of the things I’ve seen on TV and online could also mean that someone thinks they do have a good enough legal case against Donald Trump on something at last, and plans to arrest him in the near enough future may be almost in place … Or not.

I remain somewhat sceptical about this narrow legal front of the wider struggle against the MAGA movement, as it were (and with its tentacles up here in Canada too). But just the little that’s happened on MSNBC and CNN so far (as filtered intermittently by CBC and CTV in We the North) has at least suddenly clarified how I feel about any serious court case against former President Trump that might get under way, in some foreseeable future.

I’m going to take a leaf from Kevin McCarthy and Mike Pence. When push comes to shove I have just as much right and reason to stand up for what I believe in as anyone else.

Even if the case against Donald Trump is imperfect, if some legal authority is going to charge him I am going to support this charge. The political history of the USA is full of many strange sights. But none have been stranger or more ultimately unsuitable (and much worse) than former President Trump.

But is USA today finally doomed to some sort of civil war anyway ????

Michael Seward, ‘On Reading L. Cohen, 2023, 24” x 36”.’

That is my opinion. But … you may well say … I am a Canadian. So what real business is it of mine? And my immediate reply would be that I have family in California (at the moment, well … ??) And grandchildren born in the USA …

After a little further thought I think I might add a quotation from George Brown (1818–1880), founder of the Globe part of what is now the Globe and Mail newspaper in Toronto, and one of the various hands involved in what Canada now calls its Constitution Act, 1867.

Marjorie Taylor Greene heckles President Joe Biden during his 2023 State of the Union address — just one more example of Trumpian bad manners and much worse attacking the American democratic political system today.

Brown’s words were finally about his Canadian support for the cause of Abraham Lincoln in what finally did become the American Civil War of 1861–65 : “We, too, are Americans. On us, as well as on them, lies the duty of preserving the honour of the continent. On us, as on them, rests the noble trust of shielding free institutions.”

I think I at least for the most part get what drives the US citizens who are so passionate about holding Donald Trump legally accountable for behaviour that can have no sensible future in any stable and workable Democracy in America of the future. If trying to do this on the left means some kind of civil war on the right … so be it (or as my own immediate younger generation might say, it is what it is).

If Marjorie Taylor Greene’s extreme right concept of a civil war is what’s on offer — two Americas of red states and blue states very loosely allied by common allegiance to the United States Marines and not much else (and with blue-state migrants to red states only allowed to vote after five years’ residence!) — the left ought to be able to do a lot better than that!

For Statistical and Historical Appendix click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below …


A. Trying to not ignore the 47%?

As Pew Research has reported, “Turnout soared in 2020 as nearly two-thirds of eligible US voters cast ballots for president.” As explained by Brookings : “Turnout in 2020 election spiked among both Democratic and Republican voting groups, new census data shows.”

Map based on last Senate election in each state as of 2022. Red = Republican ; Blue = Democrat.

And no serious democracy — in the spirit of Alexis de Tocqueville’s legendary Democracy in America — is going to altogether ignore the opinions of 47% of an unusually active electorate.

Democracy does mean that we agree the occupants of various public offices (for more or less set lengths of time) should be those who can win 50% + 1 of the vote in a popular election.

(And for convenience in this most general case just set aside, as one example, the logical enough Fair Vote Canada critique of the twisted results our particular “Westminster” parliamentary democratic electoral system can sometimes generate, from the standpoint of 50% + 1.)

But again, in any more or less stable, working democracy, a wise (temporary) occupant of an office won in an election with say (and take in this case the now much criticized Brexit referendum in the UK) 52% of the vote, will not altogether and/or always ignore the different views of the 48% who voted against the only narrowly victorious winner.

And, to someone like me, watching from the new old cottage country exurbs north of the Great Lakes, it does often enough seem that President Biden has made some effort to reach out to fellow Americans who did vote for former President Trump in 2020. From a Canadian standpoint eg it increasingly seems like the Biden administration is getting serious (and effective) about the kind of Buy America economic policy that the former president mostly just talked about.

B. Is “the left” (eg MSNBC) getting hard-nosed about Trump at last?

I have of course long been aware of a more realist critique of my have-respect-for-the-47% view. To start with, there is virtually no reciprocation from the other side (no parallel respect for the 51%, which seems to have at least stood its ground in the 2022 midterms).

Moreover, there is still slightly more than a third of the American people largely unengaged and not voting. Even or especially if the Republicans are fighting with fire as a last resort in their demographically declining destiny, the Democrats need to fight with fire back.

Now there is evidence that US Republican President Abraham Lincoln actually read and enjoyed the progressive Karl Marx, who wrote on Europe for the New York Tribune 1852–1861! Many Trumpian Republicans today just can’t face up to this ordinary news.

(On another note of realism, you do have to be careful about the demographics. See, eg, the recent surge of population to [cheaper housing in?] Texas and Florida, and away from California and New York. And note Elon Musk’s current enthusiasm for Austin, Texas.)

Most important of all, Donald Trump has broken the law (or something that ought to be law in some cases) on numerous occasions (and sometimes quite openly and in plain sight of anyone who has access to a TV set — even up here in the near northern wilderness!).

The fact that he has gone unpunished for his law-breaking can only weaken (as it has already weakened) public respect for the rule of law, above which no individual is supposed to be — and ultimately for Democracy in America at large in the 21st century.

And then there is Trump’s declaration late last year, urging that his failure to be acclaimed winner of the 2020 election constitutes a “Massive Fraud” which “allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.” As argued by no less an American conservative than Liz Cheney (daughter of the Dick Cheney who was, for a time in any case, George W. Bush’s brain trust as well as his consistent Vice President) : “No honest person can now deny that Trump is an enemy of the Constitution.”

For an exhaustive list of all the things Donald Trump has done for which he ought to be prosecuted in various courts of law I would just point to the impassioned observations of Maxine Waters, member of the US House of Representatives for southern Los Angeles and adjacent places since 1991, on MSNBC yesterday morning (or was it early afternoon, the day before yesterday?).

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