Ever since January 6, 2021, when Trump supporters spurred on by the former president, invaded the U. S. Capitol building to prevent the Senate confirmation of the 2020 presidential election, many Americans have wondered if the United States could be on the verge of a second civil war. This concern has been heightened by continued unproven and false assertions that Donald Trump was robbed of a victory by devious operatives working on behalf of Joe Biden. Despite 60 court cases that failed to prove that fraud occurred, Trump and his supporters continue to push that false narrative, seemingly with the rationale that if one says something long and loud enough, people will begin to believe it’s true. And many Americans have done just that.
Likewise, Republican candidates for Congress have parroted Trump’s lies in the hopes that in so doing they will gain a majority in both Federal and state legislatures. All sorts of laws have been proposed, and in some cases passed, in state legislatures, which essentially allow Republican majorities to override the will of the voters if non-Republicans actually win elections. Voter laws, designed to make it more difficult for BIPOC and poor people to vote have been passed in states like Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Not only have such actions sought to undermine the standard democratic process in local, state and national elections, but they have done so with such impunity as to raise grave concerns for the health of the political system itself.
How Civil Wars Start
One such person who has taken time to study the consequences is Dr. Barbara Walter, author of the 2022 book How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them. Walter is a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego. In conjunction with other scholars around the world, she has been studying the factors and forces that cause countries to plunge into civil war. The sort of research she conducts is used by the CIA and other U.S. government entities to act proactively to prevent the debilitation and demise of governments around the world. For the most part, her research has focused on those “other countries,” but in How Civil Wars Start, her focus turns to the United States and its potential for devolving into civil war.
Based on her research in conjunction with researchers from around the world, Walter asserts “that one of best predictors of whether a country will experience a civil war is whether it is moving toward or away from democracy.” Using data on all the countries in the world compiled by the Polity Project at the Center for Systemic Peace, scholars assess how democratic a country is. In order to determine whether a country is moving toward or away from democracy, they rate national political systems on a 21-point scale from +10 to -10. A +6 to +10 rating indicates a country is a functioning democracy, where citizens have the capacity to choose their leaders and influence government policy. Countries with +10 ratings include Canada, Norway, and New Zealand. A -6 to -10 rating indicates that a nation operates as an autocracy, where citizens have no active role in choosing their leaders or influencing their policies. Countries with a -10 rating include Saudi Arabia, North Korea, and Bahrain.
Nations that fall between ratings of +5 to -5 are what Walter calls anocracies. Anocracies may have some semblance of democracy, such as elections, but in reality, citizens have a very limited impact on what their political leaders do, and how and what they legislate. For some time in this blog I have referred to our nation as more of a plutocracy — the rule of the wealthy— and an oligarchy — the rule of the few — rather than a true democracy. When polls repeatedly show that most Americans support some sort of regulation of how and who can use guns, and yet gun laws become increasingly lax, it raises questions as to who is actually making decisions? How influential are the National Rifle Association’s campaign contributions over the will of the public? Or when the Supreme Court can overturn a 50-year access to abortion, despite a wide majority of support for the right to choose, we have to ask why can a minority dictate to the majority on such a crucial issue, if we are a true democracy?
How Does the United States Rate?
Walter writes that until fairly recently, the United States received a rating of +10 as a fully functioning democracy. However, after January 6, 2021, the U.S. dropped to +8 and over the last year has fallen to a +5, and more recently to +3, thereby no longer being considered a democracy, but rather an anocracy. However, more concerning to Walter and her colleagues is that the U.S. has quickly dropped more and more into autocracy. What this rating decline indicates is an increasingly chaotic state where basic laws and principles historically practiced by our nation are now being called into question. One such practice is what is called “the peaceful transfer of power,” when a president currently in office peacefully relinquishes the seat of presidential power to a candidate who has defeated the incumbent in an election. Donald Trump not only refused to transfer power to Joe Biden, but he has also actively resisted it, planned an attempt at seizing power on January 6, and openly defied efforts to investigate his actions. Moreover, he and his Republican sycophants continue to promote “The Big Lie,“ the ludicrous and unsubstantiated claim that Trump actually won the election and was not defeated.
As we approach the midterm elections this fall and look to the 2024 Presidential election, the conditions for an attempted coup are emerging. Republican candidates are actively promoting the idea that if elected they will assume the power to overturn the voters’ wishes in elections. Militias, like the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, who orchestrated the January 6 attack, are becoming increasingly armed and organized for their next foray. Attacks by White nationalists, such as those made in Buffalo and El Paso on communities of color, are becoming more frequent. Attempts to limit sales and access to high-powered rifles such as AR-15s (whose only purpose is to kill other people), have been denied by the Supreme Court. The polarization of the electorate on issues such as abortion, LGBTQIA rights, same-sex marriage, gun violence prevention, use of police force on citizens and the like is increasing.
In assessing where the United States stands currently, Walter writes the following:
Where is the United States today? We are a factionalized anocracy that is quickly approaching the open insurgency stage, which means we are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe. The siege on the Capitol has made it impossible for the government to dismiss the threat that far-right groups pose to the United States and its democracy. January 6 was a major announcement by at least some groups —such as the Oath Keepers—that they are moving toward outright violence… In fact, the attack on the Capitol could well be the first of a series of organized attacks in an open insurgency stage. It targeted infrastructure. There were plans to assassinate certain politicians and attempts to coordinate activity [of various groups] …
We do not know whether the attack on the Capitol will be replicated or become part of a pattern. If it does, Americans will begin to feel unsafe, and unprotected by their government. They will question who is in charge.. . Some will take advantage of the chaos to gain through violence what they couldn’t gain through conventional methods…That’s when will know we have entered the open insurgency state.
Preparing to Resist
Right now, the January 6 special House Committee is bringing to light the intricate planning and cooperation that occurred between violent militia groups and the White House. Many of us have heard enough to believe that Trump and his minions need to be arrested and put on trial. For reasons that are not entirely clear, the committee and the Justice Department have yet to take that step. Perhaps they are concerned about the rebellion that might ensue if they do. But it seems clear that whether or not they take action, our nation is heading down a steep slope toward violent chaos. How we respond as citizens to these developments if and when they occur will be crucial. I don’t think we can depend on the structures and practices that have been in place for the past 200+ years to withstand the current onslaught. We must be willing to resist those who would seek to impose their racist and arrogant views on the rest of us. What that resistance will need to look like is a question all of us must ask ourselves.
Thank you Drick for your outstanding summary and assessment of what is going on in the US and where we could be headed. It certainly feels like a giant snow ball in motion down a steep slope that no one knows how to stop. Those insurrectionists, white nationalists, Proud Boys and Oath Keepers who claim to be Christians show no evidence of such claims. The Supreme Court that on one day made carrying concealed weapons in NYC legal, which will doubtless lead to a marked increase in deaths, in their next breath took away a woman’s right to have control over her own body, then defunding environmental protections for clean air and water are examples of hypocrisy that has become more and more common in the platforms of myriad politicians – primarily GOP.
We need the peacemakers that Jesus spoke of in His Beatitudes.
For some unknown reason I pulled up your blog. Drick, you are so boring. You say the same thing over and over again. You show very little if any intellectual curiosity.
I have some questions for you.
1.Why were the several thousand National Guard troops Trump requested because there was intelligence that there could be trouble on1/6 denied?
2.The Capital has a huge amount of video cameras. There are thousands of hours of video tape from that day that still hasn’t been released. Why Drick? What are they afraid of us seeing?
3. One of the main doors to the Capital are made of copper and weigh thousands of pounds and have magnetic locks. Who opened the doors Drick?
4. The BLM and antifa riots in DC were very dangerous. They absolutely wanted to storm the Capital. Why didn’t they? I had the rare fortune of meeting a federal law officer who was called in to help protect the Capital then. He said there was all kinds of security and fencing and locked doors and they kept out the rioters. Why the proper security then and not on 1/6?
5.Then you dare talk about the tyranny of a few. What the hell was the original Row v Wade decision. It was made by several unelected judges who thought they could pull up something that’s not in the Constitution and decide for all of us that abortion is legal. Talk about tyranny! It’s been contentious for 50 years in our country because we didn’t get to vote on it. Now we can.
And here’s the deal Drick. Because I and the majority of Americans including some Democrats believe the election had some serious irregularities and was probably stolen does not make us enemies of the state and a threat to democracy. All you have to do is look at Philly. Are you seriously going to tell me that hundreds of thousands of votes show up in the middle of the night all for Biden with and the Republican poll watchers are kicked out isn’t suspicious?
Happy Forth of July Drick. A celebration of one of the GREATEST documents ever in the history of the world. Signed by men in your City at great peril to themselves that paved the way for this wonderful country that we are so fortunate to live in. I believe ever single one of the signers publicly denounced slavery. England had abolished slavery in England, but would not abolish it the territories. One of the main reasons these men put their lives on the line was because they wanted to be free so they could abolish slavery. It was immediately abolished in many of the States and all the new territories, and eventually in the whole country.
I’m not sure from your writings that you know that?
Slavery is rampant still all over the world. My wife and I give thousands of dollars to a Christian organization that buys back Christian slaves taken by Muslims in Sudan. What do you do Drick other than call us Trump supporters racists.
And one last thing Drick. I believe as a Christian that we are made in the image of God. Isn’t that correct. If thats true then it starts when life is conceived doesn’t it. We are made in the image of God from the get go. I’ll never understand how someone like you who often talks about his faith can support killing human beings made in the image of God. Never
Steve Miller, how do you know Drick?
All your questions raised in this response about the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol Building have been answered by the House Special Committee on that day. According to 60 judges and several election officials, there was no widespread voter fraud. The doors to the Capitol were opened by those who had broken through the windows. Donald Trump coordinated with groups like the Oathkeepers and Proud Boys. Several lifelong Republicans and government officials in the Trump administration have testified to these facts. But I am guessing you have not paid attention to those proceedings because you aren’t concerned with clear evidence, just speculation fueled by loyalty to Trump. He never was intending to abide by the results of the 2020 election. So, crooning about July 4 when your favored candidate sought to undermine the Constitution, also passed in Philadelphia, rings hollow.
As for abortion, I share your belief in the human dignity of the fetus but my position on abortion is more nuanced than yours. I would always counsel someone against abortion. However, in my view, no woman should be forced to go through pregnancy when the means to prevent it are available, especially those women who are victims of rape and incest or have a life-threatening condition. Also, until pro-lifers like yourself care as much about the fate of children AFTER they are born, as they do before they are born, your words about human dignity are empty. The same leaders who passed anti-abortion laws, cut funds for food stamps, affordable housing, public education and other social services. Also, why are fathers not being held accountable in all the recent anti-abortion legislation? The last time I checked women don’t make babies by themselves.
The difficulty we have in these conversations is that we cannot agree with a common set of facts. You speak of Democrats who think the election was fraudulent. You speak of slavery in other places, but don’t acknowledge the social, political, economic, and personal aftereffects of slavery in our own country. While you may find my postings “boring,” they are constructed with reliable and validated research and not conspiracy theories. Dr. Barbra Walter is a renowned researcher whose work has been used at the highest levels of the U.S., government to assess the stability of governments around the world. However, when she turns those same skills on the U.S. government, you want to dismiss her insights.
Regarding your response to my questions you really didn’t answer me, which is par for the course. The J/6 committee is a total joke and illegal. There is no ranking member or ranking counsel on the committee. According to the rules of the house that makes the committee. Also, cross examination of the so called witnesses is not allowed. So I’ll ask you again, how do you account for the hundreds of thousands of votes, all for Biden, showing up in the middle of the night.
You didn’t answer me on why Trump’s request for the National guard was denied?
Drick, the reason we have trouble in these conversations is that you have no clue that your “facts” might be wrong. Which the often are.
So your view on abortion is more “ nuanced “, What a pompous arrogant statement. First, rape and incest represent less than one percent of the abortions in the US. Second, the Supreme Court did not restrict ones right to an abortion. Did you read the opinions. It sent the abortion issue back to states so we the people can vote on it. Period. Jeez, how can you not understand that.
And finally Drick, you and I didn’t write the rules regarding the sanctity of human life, our good Lord did.
Again, you keep saying the same thing. I hate Trump, gun control, free healthcare, white privilege, etc. BORING