With the U.S. Election approaching, President Trump seems to be agitating his country into a frenzy of violence and hate crime, writes Dr Martin Hirst.
A COUPLE OF PRESIDENTS AGO, if you’d said that the United States could be facing a new Civil War at the end of 2020, you would have been laughed off the internet. Today, after nearly four years of Donald J. Trump in the White House, it is being seriously considered by serious people.
According to The Independent’s Washington bureau chief John T. Bennett, the ‘Second American Civil War’ (SACW) started in May as a rural-urban divide, with Trumpian rural voters on one side and Democrat-leaning urbanites on the other.
Bennett says it is a conflict fuelled by differing responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in which conservative (mostly Republican) states have backed Trump’s calls to open up the economy and Democrat-majority states have generally acted on public health advice. Armed white militia members began acting out in earnest at the end of April when they stormed into the Michigan State legislature demanding an end to the state’s coronavirus lockdown. Two weeks later, they were back protesting “stay-at-home” orders.
Right-wing, mostly White and heavily-armed, militia gangs have been on the move since the beginning of the year. In January, a mob gathered in Richmond, the state capital of Virginia, to protest against gun control measures. In one respect, this is nothing new. Large gatherings of armed White militia have been a feature of the Trump presidency, almost from the get-go, but their size, intensity and frequency have increased significantly this year.
This ramping up of gun-toting White extremists forming up to harass and intimidate people and politicians is definitely linked to the resurgence of Black Lives Matter in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor and countless other Black men and women at the hands of police officers.
In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a number of motorcades too, of good ol’ boys and Proud Boys and Christian Fascists, heavily armed in convoys of over-sized Tonka toy trucks. This new trend started in Portland, Oregon, in response to the civil unrest following George’s death. There’s also been similar militia action in Kenosha, Wisconsin and it turned deadly when Kyle Rittenhouse shot three BLM protesters, killing two and wounding another. Kenosha had erupted following the near-fatal shooting of another unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake.
Rittenhouse had travelled 40 kilometres from another state to participate with armed militias who were ostensibly “protecting” property from rioting and looting. After an altercation with one protester, Rittenhouse shot him several times. He then attempted to run away and when confronted, shot two more protesters. He then calmly walked between police lines – casually shouldering an assault rifle – and went home. He was arrested and charged with murder the next day.
So, the shooting has started, but so far, the casualty numbers are low. The question really is: “How much worse will it get?”
The short answer, it seems, is: “Much, much worse.”
The problem is that White militia violence is a genie that will only go back into the box reluctantly and probably only when sufficient force is applied. This problem is compounded by Donald J. Trump and you should not be surprised by that.
Given several opportunities to condemn what Kyle Rittenhouse did in Kenosha, Trump gave his tacit endorsement instead, implying that the 17-year-old shooter was acting in self-defence and that his motivation for being in Kenosha was honourable:
They’re protesting – when they turn on television, or read whatever they may be reading, and they see a city like Chicago… or a city like Portland, where the entire city is ablaze all the time, and the mayor says, ‘We don’t want any help from the federal government.’ When these people turn that on, and they see that, they say, ‘This is not our country. This is not our country.’
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is familiar. Remember “fine people on both sides” when a fascist drove into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer in Charlottesville three years ago? Trump cannot bring himself to condemn White supremacist violence, no matter what the circumstances.
In fact, since the 2020 Presidential Election season began, Trump has shifted his rhetoric more towards his angry and confused White base. He has spread ridiculous conspiracy theories about “Antifa” protestors being flown around the country and put up in luxury hotels to foment riots (presumably paid for by George Soros, or the Clinton Foundation). He has tweeted endless threats to mobilise the military to quell civil unrest and he has deployed shadowy Deep State goon squads to Portland and other Democrat-controlled cities to reclaim the streets.
Under these circumstances, in which Trump is openly encouraging violence against BLM protestors, it is hardly surprising that the militia is on the move. For many conservative backers of Trump, the SACW can’t come quickly enough. For example, a White supremacist and Christo-Fascist website called Church Militant is attempting to raise money on the back of Trump’s rhetoric.
The fund-raising slogan of this quasi-Catholic hate site?
‘Help us prepare for war. Donate today.’
According to storied Australian journalist CJ Werleman writing in the 1 June edition of The Byline Times, America is more divided today than it was during the height of the Vietnam conflict in the 1960s and even more than during the first Civil War in the 1860s. This is a parlous state of affairs and Trump’s rhetoric is pouring fuel into an already raging dumpster fire. Like The Independent’s Bennett, Werleman sees the division in America largely on rural-urban lines and ‘a contest for America’s soul between those who hold a university degree and those who don’t’.
I am not sure this is the right analysis, though sociologically speaking, it is correct. On its own, factoids like this don’t tell us very much. What America is facing in terms of a SACW scenario is an uprising of White nationalist terrorism. Or perhaps it would be better to say an upsurge in White nationalist terrorism because it has been a strong and visible undercurrent of American politics now for perhaps as long as 20 years; certainly, most mass-shootings of the past decade are White nationalist terror-related.
As the Presidential Election draws closer, concern has turned to thinking the almost unthinkable: “What happens if Trump loses and refuses to leave the White House?” Even the respected liberal news magazine The Nation is considering this question, asking in a recent issue: ‘Is Trump planning a Coup d’Etat?’ A bipartisan think tank called the Transition Integrity Project (TIP report is here) has wargamed this possibility and Trump himself has not ruled it out.
In fact, quite the opposite. Trump has repeatedly and loudly cast doubt on the 2020 Election result. He has falsely suggested that absentee and mail-in voting is fraudulent and that Democrats are planning their own ballot-stealing tricks.
He even took his blatant lies and baseless conspiracy theories to the Republican convention that endorsed his second tilt at the White House:
‘Addressing delegates in person at a party conference that has been dramatically scaled back by the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Trump accused Democrats of “using COVID to steal an election”.
“The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election,” he said. “We're going to win.”
If Trump does lose on 3 November (he currently trails Democrat candidate Joe Biden in most polls), the wargame scenario suggests he will use lawfare to stave off a final tally of the vote with wave after wave of civil challenges to results in various regions and cities. If Trump initiates this process, it could take weeks, if not months, to resolve.
During that time, the wargamers suggest, he will use all his executive powers to mobilise troops into the streets and it is under the cover of such a military umbrella that the militia may take matters into their own well-armed hands. There is enough fire-power available on the streets of America to make this a long and bloody conflict.
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