When I proposed this idea to a friend over the phone, the response was swift, “it’s not exactly cold right now.” To which I replied, “Even the last cold war had its flashpoints like the Cuban Missile Crisis.” That was the end of that conversation. We are still living in the shadow of the events of January 6, 2021. Republicans in the Senate are getting cold feet about convicting Trump and confirming that he can never run for office again, which leaves him open for a 2024 run. Seth Abramson is convinced that if the Senate’s conviction does not go through then, everyone should presume we’ll be fighting Trump in 2024 for the levers of power.
I wrote a piece called the Battle of Kenosha where I posited that it was the location of the first shots fired in the new American civil war. I’ve often told friends that somehow in 2020 (and now beyond), we are reprising every nasty part of American history. We are repeating the Great Depression, the Spanish Flu, the Civil War, and Reconstruction all at once. It is difficult to live through so much history, all compressed down to a finite time period. The only hope that I can see is that much like how FDR and Abraham Lincoln solved their day’s crises, Biden will solve the crisis of his day. We are beset from within and without, and problems abound. No matter where you look, the US has major issues. There are old issues, new issues, and the often covered up fissures of old are on full display.
On the one hand, we have a group of people who are unhappy with the idea that they have to live in a pluralistic, multicultural democracy that includes power-sharing with more people than just them. On the other side, we have a group of people who are so passionate about this new pluralistic future that they are willing to deplatform, shun, and destroy anyone who disagrees with them. Was the abolitionist movement so strident in its hatred of America’s peculiar institution?
With battle lines drawn, we have seen conflict over the summer and now into 2021. There have been firefights of words, weapons, and burnings. Although the media likes to portray the BLM protests as far worse than they actually were, we did not need a sensationalist lens to see what happened on January 6. The soldiers posted their successes on Instagram. I have to wonder what the last civil war soldiers would have posted on Instagram or Twitter. “Got another bad blanket today. It’s cold, and the fire has gone out. #soldier #america #union. Posted from Gettysburg, PA.”
The reality is that this is the US in wartime. We are fighting the virus with one arm and ourselves with the other. The 74 million Trump voters have benefited from a system that enabled them to gain wealth on others’ backs and be empowered to expect society to work for them and only for them. These people are now faced with the reality that society should work for everyone who lives here, not just those whom they deem worthy of benefitting from society. A black, single mother in Chicago is not the type of person our society has decided to be successful. Poverty is not a cash flow problem; it is a moral failing deserving of no government help. The whole attitude from the average Trump voter has much more to do with their regressive economic and social ideas than it has to do at all with Trump as a man. This is why QAnon works. Democrats are not just people who want to do the unthinkable: give money to poor people, but they have to be made into monsters that eat babies and traffic, small children, for debauched sex games. The opposition has to be horrific because if they aren’t, then the people against have to face up to the real thing they are fighting against; helping real human people live better lives at the public expense and dealing with the fact that people of color can and should have political power in the country in which they live.
Conversely, the Republicans must be inhumane monsters who are sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and generally awful people to be avoided. Many people on the Left have created this monstrous Trump voter. As a step further, they are trying to disenfranchise anyone and everyone who does not subscribe to their specific opinions and their specific matters. This is no condition for reasoned, democratic, political discourse. Hence why we are at war with ourselves.
We do not have public health anymore. Over the past 40 years, every institution that actually made America great has been systematically destroyed. Now in 2021, it turns out we need every single one of those systems and the high taxes it took to pay for them. We need a robust social safety net, public health, hospitals with capacity beyond the insurance companies’ profit margins that own them, and we need well-funded schools. It has been the essential workers who have saved this country time and again. We need higher wages to compensate for the rising costs of living in this country. Indeed, many of the same economic complaints can be heard from both sides.
I do not know how this war will resolve itself. I don’t know how to bring both sides out of the cold and handle all these issues. I don’t know how to get Trump supporters to be ok with gay and trans people or a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. I don’t know how to get Democrats to accept guns in society or that some people will always choose not to live near people who do not look like them. But what I do know is that politics will not be boring for quite some time, and there are many more flashpoints to come as Americans drift further and further apart. These are two completely different world views. We have an opportunity to create a new future, but it won’t be easy considering one side thinks that someone is coming for everything that they have. Perhaps this is because, at some level, Trump supporters know that this country has not been fair to anyone who isn’t white and preferably male. America’s greatest sins are on full display. Our problems are wide open now. Can we solve them?