A Coming Civil War in the US?

by John M Repp

There has been a lot of talk lately about the possibility of a second civil war coming to the United States, this time not on a regional basis, but based on the left-right split in our politics. Some of the militant right-wing groups are preparing for such a war, stockpiling military-style weapons, and ammunition. Guns are doing the talking at rightwing demonstrations around the country. I don’t remember right-wings bringing guns to intimidate us as we protested the pending invasion of Iraq. This is a new thing in the USA.

Luke Mogelson has been a war correspondent in some of the world’s most unlucky places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. He had not been in the USA for a decade, when he started to see pictures on the wire services of men in flak jackets carrying high powered rifles standing in front of the capitol building in Lansing, Michigan. He decided to return to his native country and see what was happening. He came back and reported on the turmoil that led up to the January 6th insurrection.

After investigating the many right-wing groups, he concluded that so many of their enemies were “wild exaggerations or outright fantasies – antifa super soldiers, totalitarian globalists, satanic pedophiles…” Many also believe Trump’s assertion that the last Presidential election was stolen from him. Mogelson met a member of the Proud Boys in Washington state and was shocked when he saw that this man with hyper masculine bluster was afraid to be in a public park by himself in broad daylight. He was afraid of being attacked by antifa or Black Lives Matter people. Fear and misinformation seem to drive so much of the behavior of these people.

But Mogelson concluded that, in contrast to what he saw in Iraq or Syria, where the groups fighting each other had experienced real injury and grievance, the groups preparing for a civil war here are more delusional and if they cannot think clearly, they really would be bad at real warfare. This does not mean we should be complacent! There is a real possibility of violence, from small groups or crazed individuals. We have seen it already. But Mogelson thinks a civil war is not on the horizon.

Also, this does not mean the right-wing militants don’t have grievances. Many are white men who have not been as successful in their lives during the last 40 years as they had hoped. The entry into the middle-class has been more difficult for many and general upward mobility has been more difficult for the generations born after 1940. In other words, there has been a lot of downward mobility, and that hurts in our society that prides itself on upward mobility.  

Note, that the graph shows the year of birth, not when they come onto the job market, so those on the right side of the graph i.e. those born later, may have an even more difficult time getting established and achieving upward mobility.

Here are several splashes of cold water in the form of statistics showing the size of the wage stagnation and growing inequality of the last 40 years. “In 1972, the average nonsupervisory worker earned $25.28 per hour, adjusted for inflation, while, as of 2021, the average worker earned $25.18. This at a time when labor productivity—the average amount each worker produces over the course of a day—increased by nearly 250 percent between 1972 and 2021. If, between 1972 and today, average wages had risen in step with productivity gains, and not a penny more, the average worker’s hourly wage in 2021 would have been $61.94, not $25.18.”  $61.94!!!

Where did all the money go that the workers did not get? You know the answer. The 1%. The paychecks of CEO’s of the large corporations increased from 33 times that of the average workers in 1978 to 366 times in 2019. We also know 5 top-earning hedge fund managers each made over $1 billion in 2019. We at least understand a little of what Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk do. They own companies we have heard about. But do we know what those hedge fund guys do? Do they add any value to the economy? Do we need them?

The right-wing militants blame the efforts, or at least, the stated intentions of the government to improve the opportunities for minorities and women as the cause of their lack of success, not the system with stagnating real wages and greater income inequality. Nor do they look closely at the system. And the militants do not seem to be angry at hedge fund billionaires or corporate chieftains who have so manipulated the corporate and financial sectors to their advantage, which is a huge reason for their lack of success. They save their anger for those lower in the class structure or those of minority status. That is unfortunate and dangerous. That is the roots of fascism.

By way of contrast, many from the other side of the left-right split want to reform the system so people are more equal in the workplace with unions, or with cooperative ownership of industry. They want a political realm with everyone being well informed and voting. That side of the split seems strangely quiet now. In most media, we do not hear their voices. We need to hear them.