Could this be the beginnings of a Hot Civil War?

First things first, we have been in the preliminary phases of a hot civil war for over a generation. You don’t believe me? Tune in to oh, Rush Limbaugh for a couple of days. You will see the pattern clear as day. Linguistically Rush, and others, over the last generation or more have demonized their political counterparts. He, and others have used eliminationist language as well. I know we all prefer to blame President Donald Trump, but he is the latest actor to take up that megaphone.

That he does it very well is not in question. His populist garbage would gain no purchase if the ground was not tilled. However, it is very fertile right now for a reason.

Predictably we have the usual conspiracy theories emerge from the same dark places in the body politic of the nation. Talking Points Memo pointed to Frank Gaffney as an example of this:

“None of the leftists ostensibly targeted for pipe-bombs were actually at serious risk, since security details would be screening their mail,” Frank Gaffney, executive chairman of the Center for Security Policy, wrote on Twitter. “So let’s determine not only who is responsible for these bombs, but whether they were trying to deflect attention from the Left’s mobs.”

That message comes as law enforcement reports that “functional” explosive devices were sent to philanthropist George Soros, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and the newsrooms at CNN’s New York headquarters and the San Diego Tribune.

Now, let’s be clear on this. Whether you agree with people screaming at Majority Leaders while they have dinner, or not, they were hardly put in physical risk. They may feel otherwise, and that may excuse certain legal actions, but that is another matter. Also the last of these incidents involved a mob of one. We can argue until the cows come home whether that is an effective tactic. History tells me it is not, but that is a discussion to be had.

However, a bomb takes things to a whole new level. A few of them, using a very obvious targeted list, are an attempt at murder. Given the numbers, we are talking mass murder. We are talking mass targeted murder.

We are also talking about rhetoric becoming an actual threat to life. Look at the list of those targeted.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Former President Barack Obama

The Clintons

Governor Andrew Cuomo

John Brennan, former CIA Director. President Donald Trump removed his clearance

Eric Holder, former Attorney General for former President Obama

George Soros

What do all these people have in common? And we may still see more targets. The Union-Tribune was evacuated preemptively early in the story. The office of Senator Kamala Harris is in the same building. Though she appears to not have been the target. In fact, no device was found.

Every one of these people is a target of far right-wing rhetoric. For the Clintons, it started over thirty years ago, with the Rush Limbaugh show. It has not stopped. The rest in the list are just as relevant. All of them have one thing in common. They are all critics of the president. We see this early in civil conflicts. It is not rare.

And of course, we have had another thing happen. While the commentariat is trying to make sense of this. Yes, it is likely political right-wing terrorism, say it. I know that it may, or may not meet the LEGAL definition, but we need to start calling this for what it is. This is an attempt to scare people.

The far right has come with a whole alternate reality of who did it. Like always, they seem to be living in an alternate reality where they knit an idea that they are always victims. The Southern Poverty Law Center posted this:

It was reported this morning that suspicious packages believed to have contained explosive devices had been sent to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, while a similar device was found on Monday at the home of billionaire philanthropist and Democratic mega-donor George Soros. It was thought that another package had been sent to the White House, but those claims were later debunked.

Not surprisingly, right-wing media figures at supposedly reputable conservative outlets reacted by immediately alleging that Democrats may have sent their own leaders and a prominent donor explosives in order to politically damage Republicans.

Also, and we could all set our watches by this, the president came out and condemned it. It was a statement, likely written by somebody else in his staff. We are used to this by now. We will have to wait for his actual feelings on this in a couple of days. They will come. However, when he said, “we need to unify as a country,” fits some of the things he has said in the past. This may be the event he wants. I doubt it since none of the devices go off.

There are a few things the president can do. The first, and most obvious, is to remove all references to fake news and lying media from his stump speech. He can stop calling the media the enemy of the people. And of course, he can apologize for his comments on the assault on a Guardian reporter during his stump speech. That would be an excellent start.

When he does all that, I will start to believe him that he wants to step off that ledge. Because we are on a precarious edge of this cold civil war going hot. These bombs are all directed at people who have been demonized for decades. Some have been targeted by the president on both his twitter feed and on stage at his rallies.

The theory of the case, this is an actual legal term, could be that this is likely politically motivated. These targets were carefully curated. Each in that list that has been equated to an enemy of the people. The authorities will have to develop a case and determine if this fits the legal definition of terrorism. For your reference, I give you the definition.

the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that —

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended —

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

The investigation is now under the purview of the Terrorism Taskforce.

As the president calls for unity, it is fine and dandy. But it is time for him to stop egging his supporters on. And this goes without saying, are these mailings over? Or is this is the beginning of something larger? Suffice it to say, no civil war starts overnight. They cook for decades, and the sense of division grows. This is why this moment is so dangerous.

Written by

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store