Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Political Tensions in America: 1860 and 2018

Growing political divisions in our country worry me. I used to help students understand what lead Americans to kill each other by the thousands between 1861 and 1865, and now I see tensions building again. Could America be heading for another civil war? I sure hope not, but I can’t ignore what I’m seeing around me.

A left-wing sniper last year fired over 200 rounds at a group of Republican congressmen at a baseball practice just outside Washington DC and nearly killed one, crippling him for life. This year a congresswoman told her constituents to harass Trump cabinet members saying: “They won’t be able to go to a restaurant, they won’t be able to stop at a gas station, they’re not going to be able to shop at a department store. The people are going to turn on them. They’re going to protest. They’re absolutely going to harass them until they decide that they’re going to tell the president, ‘No, I can’t hang with you.’”

Radical, left-wing “Antifa” groups attack whomever they perceive as “fascist” with increasing frequency and define the term to include most Republicans and conservatives. Bloody street brawls are getting commonplace. Other radical left groups advocate assassinations on twitter and other social media. Radical, right-wing activists have shot abortion doctors. The New York Times reports: “At least 11 people have been killed in attacks on abortion clinics in the United States since 1993.” A woman was run over and killed by a “Unite The Right” activist in Charlottesville last year.

With all this in mind, I invited local Civil War historian William Marvel of Conway, NH to appear on my “Left and Right” show and get his opinion. He’s at work on his 18th book about that awful conflict and I opened by asking him if he sees parallels between the political divisions in 2018 and 1860.

“Well, in many ways I do,” he said. “There is certainly the same sort of polarization, fragmentation among the major parties, hostility for opposing viewpoints.” He related a discussion with a friend at the local dump after the 2016 election “about whether we are more divided now than we have been since the Civil War. My conclusion was that we are as divided now. Whether it will lead to the same thing, I doubt.”

“Oh good,” I said.

“But that’s only because divisions are among communities, not between communities. The geographic cohesiveness of the slave issue allowed for a regional contest… but certainly, the seeds of societal and governmental dissolution are there [now], through simple fragmentation and hostility toward government, depending on who’s in charge.”

I remembered sound bites preceding documentaries on the Civil War describing that conflict as father against son and brother against brother. Well, today’s divisions have affected my family,” I said. “We no longer discuss politics at family gatherings. It’s verboten now because it’s become so emotional it threatens relationships.”

Marvel said he’s had similar experiences. Though his immediate family has almost all passed on, “I’ve had… virtually altercations with friends with whom I used to be in political concert.” He said he used to be liberal and twice voted for Obama, but now people perceive him as conservative. He doesn’t see that he’s changed much though. “To me, it’s society. In moving much farther to the left, society has made me look more conservative.”

I then asked him to consider the Bolshevik Revolution/Russian civil war a century ago that didn’t have clear geographical delineations but was ideological with a left and right divide.

“Well, we have certainly a lot of mob violence now,” he said, “almost entirely on the left…” Referring to Congresswoman Maxine Waters incitement he said, “An economic uprising among urban masses is possible, but whether that would lead to bloodshed I don’t know because, well, New York certainly has strict gun laws and I don’t know if a revolution could succeed on six-round magazines.”

He then speculated on the possibility of armed conflict that might spark a civil war. “That might come from outside. Oftentimes, when individual nations are divided between themselves, neighbors or rivals will take advantage of that. That often creates an international conflict that foments an internal rebellion. But the emotional impetus for that certainly is there.”

Mention of emotion led to a discussion of the Justice Kavanaugh hearings in the Senate as a window on America’s ever-deepening political divide. “Although I don’t know… how I would feel about [Kavanaugh] as a Supreme Court Justice, it’s more important now that he be confirmed to discredit and disavow the process that’s been used to try to destroy him. That’s more important, I think, than whatever his rise to the Supreme Court might yield.”

I’ll post a link to the hour-long discussion with Bill Marvel here in the next day or two after it’s uploaded to Youtube.


Reality Check said...

In a recent address to right-wing evangelical leaders, President Trump warned that Democrats will resort to brute force if they win the midterm elections. “They will overturn everything we’ve done and they will do it violently,” said Trump, presenting his political opponents as an imminent threat to freedom of religion and speech.

This statement builds on a narrative that has gained power on Fox News and social media. It has been fed by conservative media outlets like Breitbart and organizations like the National Rifle Association, which has also publicly threatened journalists.

But the story that a wave of left-wing terrorism threatens America is wrong. The poster child for this false narrative is antifa, a small, weak organization that protests white supremacist aggression.

The real threat of violence comes from the right. The Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism reports that right-wingers and white supremacists were responsible for 74 percent of the murders committed by political extremists in the United States over the past decade. Only 2 percent were committed by left-wing radicals. Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, has calculated that “terrorists inspired by Nationalist and Right Wing ideology have killed about 10 times as many people as Left Wing terrorists since 1992.”

What’s more, white supremacists and their fellow travelers have strong connections to the establishment right and are far more organized than the antifa. They seek to provoke confrontation through armed marches onto college campuses and into the centers of liberal-leaning cities, like the confrontation in Charlottesville last summer.

These narratives about aggressive left-wing violence aren’t just distorted. They are dangerous, because they set the stage for replacing democratic institutions with authoritarian rule. Provoking street violence and blaming it on their opponents is exactly how totalitarian regimes have gained power in the past.


Ernie H said...

Riots and mob frenzy brought down the Russian Czar, brought Hitler to power and sent the Shah of Iran into exile. From my reading, I've heard the term, "useful idiots," to describe the people in the mobs that engaged in the riots. When the Communists took over, many of the rioters got a free vacation with no time limits in Siberia. The idea was that if you will riot for me, you will riot against me.

Another example is Benedict Arnold. He felt his abilities were not being recognized by the Continental Congress. His reasoning appears to have been that the British would appreciate him if he gave them West Point. They appreciated the gift, but assigned him to a backwater command. Their reasoning was that if his native land couldn't trust him, should they?

Nick Peace said...

Correct. There will be no civil war. There is no simple geographic divide. The political divide is within communities as well as often reflecting an urban/rural split.

What has been destroyed is the sense of a common good and compromise between people of differing views. Newt Gingrich is to blame for a lot of this political attitude in our generation. I don't think the language used nightly on FOX TV helps much either. And certainly HRC should be chastised for using the term "deplorables" as well.

But perhaps it's all just a strategy by the wealthy to keep us divided. Polls frequently show that the US public is to the left of even moderate Democrats...

Jay said...

I don’t think the real threat of violence comes from the right. Nor do I blame Gingrich or Fox News for any of it.
Political violence has almost always existed in this country. Each side tries to blame the other for inciting it.
My main concern is for what has happened in the last few years. Because a political party was almost 99% sure they were going to win the Presidency in 2016 but lost, we have been subjected to the most idiotic and insane BS I’ve witnesses in my lifetime. The insane physchobabble I hear from the left is ridiculous and disgusting. No matter what side you’re on or who you believe in, no sane person can think that these protests are righteous and good for America,
Years ago, in a better time, the party out of power called themselves “The Loyal Opposition”. No longer. If you are a liberal and are no longer in power you now feel that you can loot, burn, kill, destroy and ruin normal life for anyone you choose. No more Loyal Opposition. We lost so let’s destroy our way of life.
If anyone is to blame it is our education system and the main stream media.

Brian said...

Jay, can you give me some examples of some looting, burning, killing, and destroying that the liberals have done over the last few years? Not just some outlying rare case, but a bunch of incidents that would warrant yours, and Tom's, and the Right Wing Media's accusations? In other words, do you have anything to disprove the facts listed above that right-wingers and white supremacists were responsible for 74 percent of the murders committed by political extremists in the United States over the past decade, while only 2 percent were committed by left-wing radicals. And you can't claim that the liberals fight is not righteous, because what is right is subjective. I also see a blast at Tom's profession of education without one single fact or any evidence of any kind to back it up. Same with the media, who I would argue, like Nick, is more conservative than the general population.

Jay said...

Spartacus/Brian is BACK. I thought I sensed a disturbance in the force.
As far as examples of leftist violence goes, there are too many events to list. Anyone who pays attention to the news knows this. Perhaps you’d like to move to Portland or does your antifa chapter rules allow that?
What’s really scary is when a conservative is booked to speak at a College and the leftists come out and riot, burn and destroy and injure because they need their safe space and can’t hear an opposing opinion.
What ever happened to free speech?
Left wing violence is indeed on the rise. It’s not being helped by the rhetoric of the leftwing politicians. The media is no better.

Brian said...

"too many to list" is the cowards way of saying that they can't answer the question. I'll wait until you can provide a reason the conversation should continue....

Jay said...

Spartacus/Brian, What makes you think I’d want to continue a conversation with you?
This “coward” was addressing the thinking people on this blog.

Tom McLaughlin said...

Bill Marvel and I discussed the situation on campuses across America and leftists shouting down conservative speakers. It took over 400 police to make it safe enough for Ben Shapiro to speak at UCAL Berkeley. Leftist crazies destroyed property when previous speakers were scheduled there. There are indeed too many to list just considering campus violence alone.

CaptDMO said...

The term "useful idiots," has been given an upgrade.
NPC, or Non Player Character, from the world of video games has evolved.
Certain "social media" outlets are SO "offended", they've taken to vaporizing
accounts of folks referring to the meme.

Brian said...

Jay, I don't blame you for tapping out - the facts speak for themselves:

"right-wingers and white supremacists were responsible for 74 percent of the murders committed by political extremists in the United States over the past decade. Only 2 percent were committed by left-wing radicals"

Brian said...

Funny....after claims of countless incidents of "looting, burning, killing, and destroying", the example brought up to back this up is of protests from a year ago in which there was a few arrests and no major violence! Wow.


CaptDMO said...

For entertainment purposes only.
Trigger Warning:NOT-

Moms against
Handgun Control Inc.
The New Yorker

Jay said...

I noticed that amid all of these violent left wing protests CNN has decided that you can’t use the word “Mob”
If it looks like a mob, acts like a mob.....

Brian said...

I agree, they should embrace the word "mob". Look at the patriotic use of mobs in our countries history, starting with the Boston Tea Party and including mobs against slavery, fighting for Civil Rights, against the Vietnam War, etc.

Jay said...

Thank you for pointing that out. Spartacus/Brian, you make this too easy.

Brian said...

You're welcome. It is easy. Cool how we agree on some things.

Jay said...

The groovy patriotic mobs of today. Antifa, who say they're against racism yet practice it. Hitlers brown shirts. BLM. If you wear an All Lives Matter shirt to one of their friendly get togethers, that wouldn't be good for you. Kavanaugh protesters. Morons who chose to believe accusers who had zero evidence and thus rioted and threatened and destroyed property. I like the patriotic mobs who block traffic and bang on cars with sticks and baseball bats. I especially liked the big ole fat white guying Portland banging on a car with a stick and accusing the driver of being white. Apparently that's now a thing with leftists.
Democrat politicians like Hillary who say there will be no civility until she gets her power back. The Moron from Chicago who says we don't go high, we kick 'em. the other moron from California who wants mobs to 'get in their face', and they do. Conservatives being drummed out of restaurants by angry left wing socialist mobs. Conservatives being threatened and mailed packages containing white powder.
Yeah, these modern day liberal socialist democrat mobs are JUST LIKE the patriots.
Thanks again Spartacus/Brian, for helping me to prove my point.
These mobs today are not interested in justice. They don't know the history of our country. They are merely following hatred that is being spoon fed to them by their political leaders and the media. They are growing bolder and more violent every day. Antifa is threatening big stuff.
They are bullies in a pack. Alone they would be silent. Without the media and the democrats fueling their hatred they would be silent.
Contrast that with Tea Party and Trump Rallies. Usually the participants leave the area cleaner then what it was before the event. There is friendship and (Oh NO!!) Prayer. Our President sells out arenas every where he goes. No violence, unless left wingers are there and start it. And the liberals try.

Brian said...

If you think there were not violent protests from the Tea Party during the Obama years then you are kidding yourself, and no one else. And there is not violence at any rally a Democrat has either, unless right wingers start it.

Take off your blinders and admit the clear truth. There are examples of "mob violence" and dopey rhetoric coming from both sides for centuries, usually the side not in power at the time are more active. But history has shown where most of the violence comes from:


I'm sure there were lots of angry white men acting just like you now at the times of the Civil Rights mobs, and anti-slavery mobs further back. They thought the other side was not interested in justice, didn't know the proud history of slavery and the country, and were just acting because their leaders were telling them to. Some things never change.

Anonymous said...

Oh my!

CaptDMO said...

Crap. Above Mine

Brian said...

Oh my!


Jay said...

I read all of these articles posted in the last few posts.
Some guy from the ADL claims on NPR that 74% of violence is from the right. No facts or sources to back that up yet some people believe it and parrot it back.
The problem today is that for almost any “fact” or opinion or belief, you can find some internet page that seems to back it up. Even if the page rambles on and says nothing of note in 10,000 words, somewhere, someone will use that as a claim for their beliefs. It’s very hard for some people to use common sense when deciphering what’s happening around them. They may read an article that implies something, based on no facts whatsoever and believe that they are now correct in their assumptions.
Age old problem. Some people are just going to believe what they choose to believe. Everybody knows this. I’m not saying anything new here.
I have found over the years in talking with many many people that almost every one on the right is willing to consider new ideas and things that may run counter to their core beliefs. Left wingers, almost never. I’d say, with the same authority of the guy who mentioned percentages to the NPR reporter, that more then 74% of left wingers aren’t willing to be open minded.

Brian said...

This is like the Twilight Zone.

I agree 100% with this: "The problem today is that for almost any “fact” or opinion or belief, you can find some internet page that seems to back it up. It’s very hard for some people to use common sense when deciphering what’s happening around them. They may read an article that implies something, based on no facts whatsoever and believe that they are now correct in their assumptions."

And I have found over the years in talking with many many people that almost every one on the left is willing to consider new ideas and things that may run counter to their core beliefs. Right wingers, almost never.

It's like we are living in alternate universes. One that doesn't believe science (global warming) but prefers to have faith in non-provable myths like the bible, and the other that considers actual evidence and facts, not gut feelings and hunches.

Jay said...

Spartacus/Brian, you are indeed correct. Sometimes it IS like the Twilight Zone.
I was thinking, who was it that killed Abraham Lincoln? Oh, a left wing lunatic racist actor.
Who was it that killed John Kennedy? Oh, a left wing lunatic communist.
Who was it that shot Robert Kennedy? Another left wing radical.
Who tried to kill Gerald Ford? Oh, another left wing lunatic from the “Manson family”.
Who was it that tried to kill Ford again? Oh, another left wing political hack.
Just some examples of left wing love and tolerance. Yet right wingers are the violent ones.
And really S/B, you shouldn’t make assumptions about people that you don’t know.
Since you brought it up, not that it has a damn thing to do with this topic, I DO believe in climate change. I don’t believe that it is conclusive that it is man made. Scientists can’t seem to agree on this. Thousands of scientists have debunked the man made theory. You’ve probably not been made aware of this because you probably watch CNN all the time. Or am I making assumptions? You just sound like a CNN guy.
I DO believe in God and I DO have proof that God exists. Not that this either has anything to do with this topic.
And by the way, antifa is claiming that the war starts November 4. You gotta love the Looney left socialist radicals. Makes ya proud of our educational system, doesn’t it? Makes you proud of the media and the left wing politicians who are inciting this violence.

Brian said...

Pull yourself together man...what is all this rambling about events that happened decades ago? But if you are going to blather on, how did John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer strongly opposed to the abolition of slavery in the United States, become "left wing"? Even trying to cherry pick some examples in a desperate effort to show that "only lefties are the meanies" you fail so miserably?

Claiming that scientists can't agree on climate change shows your incredible ignorance, and that you shield yourself from what you don't want to know. Talking to denialists is like trying to rationalize with somebody who believes Hillary kept child sex slaves in some pizzeria, or in bigfoot, or that Sandy Hook was a hoax, or that the earth is flat, or that Donald Trump is an honest man with moral values, or that Kanye West is sane, or that they have proof of God, or the man landing was faked...

....and to top it all off you close by bringing up a debunked story about Antifa and November 4, 2017...LAST YEAR?!?


So I should trust your intake of news and what is and isn't real.

Have the last word this time, I know you'll need to vent. I'll go look elsewhere for an intelligent give and take....TTFN

Jay said...

I was just listening to some ELP and thinking what a great loss to the world of music losing Keith Emerson was. (Please Brian/Spartacus, or BS for short, don’t say Emerson was not a great musician)

I really do enjoy these little bouts of screaming and hollering from you Spartacus/Brian. Your vain attempt at feigning a vast intellectual mindset is humorous. You sound like so many many other closed minded propaganda swallowing right wing hating left wing socialists I’ve talked to.

I found this interesting from your last attempt:
“Claiming that scientists can't agree on climate change shows your incredible ignorance, and that you shield yourself from what you don't want to know.”

A question: wasn’t there a time when scientists thought the earth was flat and people who thought differently were persecuted? Wasn’t there a time when scientists thought the earth was the center of the universe? Wasn’t there a time when people said we could never break the sound barrier?
On that topic I would speculate that the great mind of Einstein may have been incorrect on one thing. I believe that someday, I have no idea when, Einstein will be proven wrong and we’ll find that the speed of light can be broken.

Proven science is only proven science until it is disproved, as is man made global warming.

Again, this seems to have nothing at all to do with the topic at hand. But then again, maybe it’s everything. Usually when leftists can’t argue a point they obfuscate. Which is what you seem to have done. And it’s another good reason why “discussions” don’t happen much anymore. It’s easier to change the subject then to argue your own point of view on its own merits.

Is it possible that today we are no more divided then we were say 100 years ago? Is it possible that it only seems so because of our new forms of communication? 100 years ago I couldn’t be communicating with everyone on this blog. None of the folks here would know who I was nor what my opinions were regarding the discussed topic.

Just a thought.

CaptDMO said...

And it just keeps on giving
Full dislosure: A partial list, JUST for THIS year!

FYA said...

all this arguing about who is inciting the most violence but only one side has said, its leader at that, that some nazis are "fine people" and this after a nazi murdered somebody

Jared J Bristol said...

Savage, "Liberalism is a mental disease." This goes out to Brian who proves time after time he is a viable poster-boy idiot for this fact.