The Next Civil War

Written by FCJ Editor. Posted in Opinion, Politics

Published on April 04, 2010 with 6 Comments

By Bob Burnett

April 4, 2010

The Civil War ranks as the most costly of US wars, with 625,000 deaths and a comparable number of injuries. Now the Republican Party is stoking the fires of insurrection and for thousands of right-wing zealots a new civil war seems a political necessity. As increasing numbers of Democratic politicians are threatened, how long will it be before domestic terrorists use their weapons?

The first Civil War was precipitated by a dispute regarding slavery and states’ rights. It was inflamed by volatile rhetoric and widespread use of guns.

The looming civil war reincarnates the debate about states’ rights. Immediately after President Obama signed Healthcare Reform into law, several state Attorney Generals filed lawsuits arguing the Federal government violated the Constitution.

Rather than slavery, the new civil war is being waged over the necessity to guarantee human rights for all Americans – whether or not every citizen deserves healthcare. Many Republicans feel this is not a legitimate use of government power, that it infringes on the sacred “free market.”

In the run up to the first Civil War, passions were inflamed by fiery rhetoric from secessionist politicians such as Jefferson Davis. The impending civil war is being fed by mass-media personalities, such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, who routinely feed their listeners blatant falsehoods. The success of these demagogues was revealed in a March 23rd Louis Harris poll of Republicans: 67 percent “believe that Obama is a socialist.” 57 percent “believe that Obama is a Muslim.” 45 percent believe that Obama “was not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president.” 38 percent of Republicans say the President is “doing many of the things that Hitler did.” And, 24 percent believe Obama “may be the Antichrist.”

Coupled with these skewed beliefs is increasingly strident rhetoric from Republican leaders. House minority leader John Boehner compared healthcare reform to “Armageddon” and declared the GOP to the Party of “Hell no.” This refrain was picked up Senator John McCain and former Governor Sarah Palin, who added, “Freedom is a god-given right worth fighting for.”

There’s little doubt that the use of inflammatory language has increased the ratings of the Fox News Channel, which is now the highest rated cable channel, and “the highest rated basic channel in primetime.” Fox commentators such as Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly regularly contend the US “is headed into socialism” and compare President Obama to Hitler. On March 23rd, prominent conservative David Frum, a former George W. Bush speechwriter, appearing on ABC Nightline observed, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.”

Beck and his new Fox News associate, Sarah Palin, have appropriated the rhetoric used by the Militia movement, language that suggests violence may be required to “save” America. Since Barack Obama became President there has been an unprecedented run on guns fomented by a right-wing rumor that Obama was going to restrict gun ownership. As documented in the Spring Report of the Southern Poverty Law Center, there has also been an explosive growth of hate and militia groups. “An astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009 – a 244% jump.” (On March 29th, nine members of one of these groups the Hutaree were charged with conspiring to kill police officers.)

The Republican Party’s embrace of militant extremism follows a grim logic. The GOP is losing members; a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that only 24 percent of respondents self-identified as Republicans – versus 34 percent for Democrats and 38 percent for Independents. Grasping for support, the GOP has abandoned traditional conservative ideology and allowed its message to be highjacked.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party lacks a leader with the gravitas to speak out against the escalating violence of its supporters. Elected Republicans such a Boehner, McCain, McConnell, and Steele are much less influential than are conservative media figures such as Beck, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, and Palin. As a result, as Fox News becomes even more outrageous, and violence against Democrats escalates, GOP leaders either claim to be powerless to stop it or argue the mainstream media has exaggerated the problem.

Meanwhile, a second civil war is brewing. Considering the volatile mixture of inflammatory rhetoric, weapons usage, and growth of militia groups, it appears likely there will be a tragic event: an assault on a Democratic politician, the burning of a congressional office, or another bombing of a Federal office building.

In 1860, the onset of the Civil War could have been averted. Dispassionate observers saw that the Confederacy did not have the resources required to defeat the Union. In 2010, the impending Civil War should be averted. Right-wing zealots are a minority and do not have the resources to commandeer America. Nonetheless, they can cause needless bloodshed.

What will it take for voices of reason to rise up within the Republican Party? How long will it be before a major Republican leader speaks out against domestic terrorism and urges the GOP to return to reason and reconciliation?

Bob Burnett is a retired executive founder of Cisco Systems who has a second career as a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at


Comments for The Next Civil War are now closed.

  1. It’s coming,why do you think the government bought billions of rounds of ammo this year.They said it would be used by localites around the country.Other words militia….Why are people buying up so much ammo and AR 15 etc.We in the south have been preparing for four years.

  2. Civil war? It’s looking more and more possible by the day. If it comes to that, you can bet your life that I’ll stand up and FIGHT. In Dixie’s land I take my stand.

  3. Hrumph!! Hrumph!!  Shit on you!  I’m workin’ for Mel Brooks!

  4. Damn you have that all backwards…no wonder we are in the mess we find ourselves in. I can’t beleive the number of people that have just given up their  Constitutional Rights and decided to just drink the kool-aid.

  5. Are you for real? The rhetoric on the left is so full of hatred and so vehement that I am stunned that you can be so blind to it. You should not let your political bias blind you. I know there is rhetoric on the right but they are school children comparatively speaking to hardcore criminals, if I may draw an appropriate analogy.

  6. Civil war? I understand your fear, but I think it is exaggerated. As the dust settles over the debate and passage of ObamaCare, the public will start to see some of the benefits of the legislation such as the coverage of sick children and no discrimination against adults with pre-existing conditions. Heck even Sarah Palin, Tea Party icon, citing her son Trig having Down syndrome, told an audience in Waco, Texas last Thursday that she thinks health care reform deserves a chance to succeed: “I’ve always said that kids with special needs deserve special help. And if the recent health care legislation can help kids like Trig, it deserves a chance.” Obviously, her remarks didn’t sit well with her fellow Tea Baggers.

    The Republicans have become a party of “no.” They believe that constant opposition to Obama and the Democrats will pay dividends at election time. And passage of ObamaCare just sticks in their craw. But half of Americans are angry at both parties, according to a CNN poll, but only one in ten are angry only at Democrats. Thus, this Republican “no” strategy, I believe, will backfire at election time.

    As to its Constitutionality, I agree that ObamaCare is a Constitutional reach, but if social security and Medicare are Constitutional then it argues for ObamaCare’s Constitutionality. However, ObamaCare won’t reach the Supreme Court until at least 2013 when the mandatory elements take effect.

    I agree that I am being optimistic. Certainly, an improved economy and more jobs, jobs, jobs will help marginalize the right-wing extremists. But unfortunately, domestic terrorism will always be with us.