Alan Zendell, October 14, 2021
Make no mistake, our country is at war with itself. No one has deployed armed forces or launched missiles, but there have already been far too many casualties. The first was Heather Heyer, who was killed on August 12, 2017, a half year into the Trump administration, in Charlottesville, VA. Twenty years from now, historians will publish scholarly works analyzing the attacks on our democracy that were inspired by Trump and his acolytes. Would the Alt-right, neo-Nazi terrorization of the University of Virginia campus have occurred if Trump had disavowed racist terrorists like David Duke? Would right-wing hate groups have been energized to come out of their caves if Trump hadn’t spent the two years prior to Charlottesville teasing every racist and xenophobic trope?
The political divisiveness and disregard of science that determined our COVID policy and the unsubtle support of the antivax movement are responsible for the lion’s share of the 715,000 COVID deaths recorded in the United States. Adding the casualties from the steadily increasing incidents of hate-driven protests and counter-protests, culminating in the January 6th attack on the Capitol and Homeland Security’s warnings about the likelihood of future domestic terror attacks makes it clear that a second American Civil War has been underway since Donald Trump hijacked the Republican Party.
It’s not just Trump fueling the war. The would-be autocrat, whose primary skill as a politician and leader is pandering to anyone who’ll support him, created a multi-headed monster that is now beyond his control. Trump feeds on the threats of armed violence by many of his supporters so much, the right-wing mob now controls him. If you doubted that Trump would rather burn down the country than concede defeat, recall his rally in Iowa a few days ago. He shamelessly justified stoking the flames of rebellion, claiming that the alternative was letting Progressives destroy the country. Is that how America works now?
History proves that when a nation’s citizens bury their heads in the sand in the face of encroaching tyranny the outcome is always disastrous. The new Civil War did not sneak up on us overnight. People have been warning about it since Trump rode his escalator into the heart of our politics. It’s here now, and if we don’t wake up to it as a nation and fight back, we won’t recognize the United States ten years from now.
I have long advocated the formation of a strong, centrist party composed of people willing to commit themselves to the defense of democracy as the only way to break the partisan gridlock and defang Trump’s attacks on the Constitution. One of the most dangerous outcomes of the Trump revolution was the departure of most of the true Centrists in Congress. Those who didn’t abdicate their responsibility, desperate to restore their party’s integrity have acted to strengthen Centrists in limited ways. Michael Bloomberg invested heavily, supporting centrist candidates, and last week, Andrew Yang announced the formation of the Forward Party and changed his affiliation from Democrat to Independent.
Those are positive steps, but they’re not enough. Another group of prominent Republicans led by former New Jersey Governor Christy Todd Whitman, concluded that creating a third party is not the solution. Instead, they kicked off a campaign to restore the centrist wings of both the Democratic and Republican parties. Whitman’s op-ed in last Sunday’s New York Times argued that the best way to restore the integrity of the Congress and badly divided state legislatures is to convince voters to cross party lines. Whitman urges Republicans who want to take their party back to vote for centrist Democrats who oppose Trump Republicans. Likewise, she wants moderate Democrats to vote for centrist Republicans running against Progressive extremists. The alternative is to continue down a road that could destroy the constitutional republic we grew up in.
The latest ominous warning is the law Texas passed yesterday, which outlaws attempts to enforce a vaccine mandate by “any entity” in Texas. That’s far more than a fight against vaccines. It’s an outright attack on the federal government’s authority, specifically the federal supremacy clause of the Constitution, which is as significant as the Confederacy firing on Fort Sumter. We apparently haven’t progressed since the days of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Texas Governor Greg Abbott believes that the Supreme Court will now be driven by Trump’s three appointees, who will support his attempt to redefine states’ rights.
I think he’s wrong. If the right-wing justices who claim to be originalists and constitutionalists are true to their word, they will see Texas’ recent actions for what they are: a blatant attempt to re-fight the Civil War in the courts if they can’t succeed by winning over a majority of voters. I don’t know if Governor Whitman’s approach is the best one, but every American who believes extremism will destroy their country should support it.