Summary: Violence is as American as apple pie, part of most social movements since the Founding (used for, against, or both). Might it burst forth again? If so, by whom? The Left feels strongly about climate change, but looks like a spent force — capable of staging street parties but not violence. Political energy, for good or ill, lives in America more strongly on the Right (stoked by our plutocrats, for their advantage). They’re buying guns. Might they use them? This is another post in a series considering possible futures for America unlike those painted in the mainstream media.
- Introduction: political violence in our future?
- Our trust in our ourselves: failing
- Our trust in our elected representatives: failing
- Our confidence in the military: rising
- Our history of violence
- Other posts in this series about the Right in America
- For More Information
(1) Introduction: is there political violence in our future?
Let’s start with the harsh observations from yesterday’s post:
- Gun sales are increasing (see here for a rough indicator of recent growth).
- The people with guns are largely conservatives, often right-wing extremists.
- Many of them see a nation of “real Americans” and others.
- For decades right-wing media increasingly have been saturated with claims that our freedoms are in danger from the coming wave of Sharia-immigrants-communism-anarchy (see these posts).
- Many believe that citizens using guns are the ultimate defense of liberty from threats domestic as well as foreign.
- Homeland Security is concerned: see their Assessment of “Rightwing Extremism“, April 2009.
Might the time come when they use their guns on us? Let’s consider our circumstances, and the many warning signs. Imagine if the trends shown below continue, and if America’s current economic stress continues — or increases. What might happen on such a future path?
(2) Our trust in our elected representatives is falling
Our trust in our fellow Americans is a distinguishing factor between developed nations and failed States. Alienation is a bad sign, and probably a precondition for violence. From Gallup, 27 September 2013. Look at the line for Republicans.
(3) Our trust in our elected representatives is failing
Another distinguishing factor between well-run States and failed States. Lack of confidence in our democratic institutions is another precondition (but of course not sufficient by itself) for violence. From Gallup, 27 September 2013. Look at the line for Republicans.
(4) But we have increased confidence in the military
A classic warning sign: falling confidence in our fellow citizens and political institutions — but growing confidence in the military. From Gallup’s 2013 Confidence in Institutions survey. They do not show the data by party, but the gap between the parties is probably large — and growing.
(5) America’s History of violence
Before expecting nothing but choruses of “Kumbaya” in our future, look at our past. We have been a violent people since the Founding. Starting in the second year of Washington’s first term, the Whiskey Rebellion played a pivotal role in defining the powers of the Federal government (see Wikipedia). Since then violence has shaped a large number of our political movements, used either by activists or in opposition by powerful interest groups and the government. Perhaps we have changed into a peaceful people (albeit with the largest military-police budget on Earth).
(a) Violence to Afro-Americans, from the Founding until the massive race starting in the mid-1960s. See this list at Wikipedia.
(b) Violence to immigrants and Native Americans: see this list at Wikipedia.
(c) Political violence by the anarchists (see section #4 of this post).
(d) Violence to unions: see this series by Erik Loomis (Asst Prof of History, U RI). The length of the list shows the intensity of the struggle to organize American workers for decent pay and conditions. That most of us enjoy these things now is the result of their effort, The toll these people paid is as much a cost of building America as that paid by members of our armed forces.
- July 3, 1835: Paterson Textile Strike of 1835
- June 21, 1877: Molly Maguires executed in Pennsylvania
- July 14, 1877: The Great Railroad Strike
- September 2, 1885: Rock Springs Massacre
- May 4, 1886: Haymarket Riot
- December 11, 1886: Creation of the Colored Farmers Alliance
- November 22, 1887: Thibodaux Massacre
- July 6, 1892: The Homestead Strike
- July 11, 1892: Miners outside of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho blow up the Frisco Mill
- February 7, 1894: Cripple Creek gold miners strike
- April 30, 1894: Coxey’s Army
- June 26, 1894: Pullman Strike
- May 12, 1902: Anthracite coal miners strike in Pennsylvania begins, TR mediates
- December 30, 1905: Murder of former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg
- November 22, 1909: Uprising of the 20,000
- March 25, 1911: Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
- February 24, 1912: Beating of the women and children at Lawrence, MA
- June 7, 1913: Paterson Silk Pageant. Addendum here.
- August 3, 1913: Wheatland Riot
- April 20, 1914: Ludlow Massacre
- November 19, 1915: Joe Hill executed in Utah
- November 5, 1916: The Everett Massacre
- July 12, 1917: The Bisbee Deportation
- August 1, 1917: Frank Little lynched in Butte
- February 6, 1919: The Seattle General Strike
- November 11, 1919: The Centralia Massacre
- May 19, 1920: Matewan Massacre
- August 25, 1921: Battle of Blair Mountain
- June 11, 1925: Soldiers in Nova Scotia kill a striking coal miner
- August 23, 1927: Execution of Sacco and Vanzetti
- March 7, 1932: River Rouge march and repression
- May 9, 1934: Longshoremen strike begins in San Francisco
- May 16, 1934: Minneapolis Teamsters Strike
- February 11, 1937: The Flint Sit-Down Strike ends
- May 26, 1937: Battle of the Overpass
- May 30, 1937: Memorial Day Massacre in Chicago
- June 6, 1943: Detroit Hate Strike
- July 17, 1944: Port Chicago explosion
- December 2, 1946: The Oakland General Strike
- January 5, 1970: Murder of UMWA reformer Jock Yablonski
- September 17, 1989: The Pittston Strike
(6) Other posts in this series about the Right in America
- The key to modern American politics: the Right-Wing Id Unzipped, 15 February 2012
- A harsh clear look at the history of the Republican Party, 22 September 2013
- Conservatives show us their thinking, not well glued to reality, 30 September 2013
- Most of what Democrats say is wrong about the Republicans’ recent actions in Congress, 1 October 2013
(7) For More Information
Giving you something to worry about — look at some of the political trends in America:
- Is the US government illegitimate? If so, does that justify violent revolution?, 10 April 2010
- America is the new Rome. Late Republican Rome (not the best of times), 13 October 2011
- What will replace the Constitution in Americans’ hearts? Let’s check for Fascism., 29 March 2012
- A look at the future of the Republic: we will choose leaders that we trust, 14 May 2012
- A look at the future of the Republic: we will choose leaders that we trust, not the ones we need (part 2), 15 May 2012
- Undercutting people’s trust in the Republic: another step to destroying the Republic, 27 August 2012
- Under the cloak of liberalism America slides to Fascism, 20 October 2012
- Gallup sounds an alarm, again, about our lack of confidence in ourselves, 25 July 2013
35 thoughts on “What are the odds of violence from the Right in America?”
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People contemplating violence in the US never take into account the immense size of the nation. It’s a continent, and not a small one. Neither is it poor or over-populated. A population center may explode in rage, even several, as happened in the 60’s. But that is local politics.
To get a national coup, you need the collaboration/permission of the military-governmental complex, or perhaps an invasion from abroad. Otherwise, it’s just local class warfare, which is always simmering even in the quietest, deadest states and cities, egged on by the unscrupulous. That’s something one can walk or run away from and the authorities can easily put down.
The US is devoid of leadership. The people who push for anything are not out front–they have learned not to make themselves targets, after the assassination program of the 60’s and the revelations of the Snowden and Wikileaks affairs. Grasssroots movements take time to grow, but that is finally happening. In two generations, real change will become inevitable. And most likely, without guns.
And while efforts to subvert the election process continue unabated, aided by a sold-out Supreme Court, people still vote and expect to be heard.
I do not understand most of your comment.
“People contemplating violence in the US never take into account the immense size of the nation.”
You believe large nations have less violent civil disorder than small ones? I doubt that.
“Neither is it poor or over-populated.”
Neither of those have anything to do with the rate of civil disorder. The US has a violent history, but at no point was the US “poor” or “over=populated”.
“A population center may explode in rage, even several, as happened in the 60′s. But that is local politics. … it’s just local class warfare”
We have had violence throughout our history. What is the point of waving it away as “local politics”? Suppression of unions, oppression of Blacks were operationally “local politics”, but national trends.
“To get a national coup”
Not the subject of this post. A coup is almost always done by forces within the government, usually involving the military.
“The US is devoid of leadership.”
Clearly false, at all levels. You might not like our leaders, but they are powerful.
“The people who push for anything are not out front”
Except on TV and in films, leaders are seldom out front. They are still leaders.
“Grasssroots movements take time to grow, but that is finally happening. In two generations, real change will become inevitable. And most likely, without guns.”
I disagree. I have heard people say such things during the past 50 years, and yet little has happened. Lots of change, of course: civil rights for Blacks, women, and gays is the big story. But these are things our plutocratic leaders don’t care about.
“people still vote and expect to be heard.”
You really miss the point. The party system is owned by our ruling elites. Citizen participation is swamped by money. And voting rates are very low. From the Center for Voting and Democracy:
Yes, it is quite obvious that we are not talking about the same thing, since I am assuming that you are concerned about a DIFFERENT kind of violence, for example, the rise of a Nazi-type movement. If you are concerned about basic murder, why would you expect the US to change, given no change in policy at any governmental level? Do you expect Americans to suddenly change their spots and national character spontaneously? Why?
We do not have Leaders. We have Governors/Dictators/Puppetmasters who decide without the benefit of public input. And then they wonder why things don’t go as planned, and tighten the screws even harder.
There is a difference between Leaders and Powerful Forces, which you do not recognize. And since voting doesn’t seem to matter to the Forces of Power, many people don’t. You cannot fault them for being observant and rational about their use of time.
Whenever we get a Leader in government, or even outside of government, we get a sudden mysterious assassination or violent accident. Ask any Kennedy, or the children of MLK Jr., Paul Wellstone. etc.
That is why Anonymous is anonymous, why Occupy is headless, why change IS coming, and the Dictators are very nervous. That is the kind of violence I am most concerned about. The violence of a “government” against its citizen/taxpayer/workers/reason for existence.
And the only reason it hasn’t happened? Probably because the Powerful haven’t been able to suborn the military, for all their efforts to date, including the religious indoctrination of the Air Force and the military academies, for which they got their hands slapped…
“I am assuming that you are concerned about a DIFFERENT kind of violence, for example, the rise of a Nazi-type movement.”
Since there is nothing in this post about such a thing, why would you assume this? The frequency of this rebuttal suggests that many people believe that there are only two states in history: us and NAZIs. In fact there are other things that can happen.
“If you are concerned about basic murder”
The examples given here are all civil disorder in political disputes. Oppression of minorities and unions. None of these are “basic murder”.
“Do you expect Americans to suddenly change their spots and national character spontaneously?”
I begin to suspect you did not read the post.
“We do not have Leaders. We have Governors/Dictators/Puppetmasters who decide without the benefit of public input. … There is a difference between Leaders and Powerful Forces, which you do not recognize.”
I use the word leader as it is defined in the dictionary. You appear to write differently:
“And then they wonder why things don’t go as planned, and tighten the screws even harder.”
We must read different newspapers. Mine shows that things go as planned for our leaders. Unions broken, public finances stress (to drive cuts in social services), taxes on the rich far from their peaks, income inequality growing, etc.
“And since voting doesn’t seem to matter to the Forces of Power, many people don’t. You cannot fault them for being observant and rational about their use of time.”
They — and you — are unclear about the responsibility of citizens in a democracy. It does not begin and end with dropping ballots in a box. We are responsible for outcome, and required to do whatever it takes to preserve the Republic. That’s what previous generations did, and why the Republic has lasted so long. Shrugging and going to the TV guarantees its death. You see that as “rational use of time”. So it is — for subjects.
“Whenever we get a Leader in government, or even outside of government, we get a sudden mysterious assassination or violent accident.”
Yes, that is a commonplace of history. Success requires a movement whose members produce new leaders and carry one. That has been so since 400bc, when the Ten Thousand learned that their officer had been killed — they were deep in a foreign land, surrounded by foes. Read the tale at Wikipedia to learn how a free people survive.
“That is why Anonymous is anonymous”
Speaking as one writing as Fabius Maximus, I certainly agree. My email often sizzles with hate mail.
“why Occupy is headless”
Or mindless. That leaders face risks does not mean that an organization can function without them. Unless the goal is to produce street parties.
“the Dictators are very nervous.”
You live in a dream world. They are not “dictators” in any reasonable sense. Also, what is your evidence that they are “nervous”?
“That is the kind of violence I am most concerned about. The violence of a “government” against its citizen/taxpayer/workers/reason for existence.”
Don’t worry about it. Governments use violence only against opponents. So far it appears that Americans are quite comfortable with the growing power of the State, under the control of our plutocrats. The reaction to the revelations about the NSA was a big tell. Noise, little action. Which I predicted (but it’s too soon to add it to the Predictions page as a success).
And the only reason it hasn’t happened? Probably because the Powerful haven’t been able to suborn the military, for all their efforts to date, including the religious indoctrination of the Air Force and the military academies, for which they got their hands slapped…
Since there is no mechanism to directly reply under your posts, I resort to this work-around…
I always thought that a Leader was defined by his/her Followers, chosen by them, in fact. Silly me.
If you talk about Right-wing violence, and you don’t mean a Nazi-style political coup, what do you mean? I’m not going to sit there are tear down Tea Party members for anybody’s amusement. I have family in that camp. And besides, we are all the 99% and the Tea Party are our neighbors and allies…they just don’t know it yet, because their pain and confusion outweigh their intellect. But even now the light is dawning. It’s called grassroots. You should investigate it.
Class disputes, race disputes, economic disputes: these we have in abundance. We do not have pure political violence in this country: Republican vs. Democrat, or any other parties, ever.
Violence against women, blacks, unions, religious minorities: these are all rooted in class and economic struggle. As is most burglary. There is no party that stands for these groups nor for their aggressors. The Democrats aren’t even pretending, any more. To call these acts political warfare is to put a pretty face on an ugly situation, exacerbated by wrong-headed governmental policies and abuse of power by police at all levels to maintain and abuse the lower classes.
If you want to tilt at straw men, be my guest.
I don’t see how your reply pertains to the specific points I made. In fact, I don’t see what you are attempting to say. That’s why I reply to specific quotes, to avoid these communication failures.
Plus, you don’t provide supporting evidence for the questions I raised about your assertions.
You raise one specific point, about the nature of leaders. You use the “no true Scotsman fallacy”, that US leaders are not “real” leaders because they don’t meet your personal definition. In fact your definition differs from the usual meaning of “leader” on multiple levels.
(1) The definition of leaders does not require that we choose them, just that we follow them.
* Elected leaders do not require unanimous consent.
* When you join an organization you accept its leaders, no matter how they are chosen. That includes charitable organizations like the Boy Scouts, churches, businesses, government agencies, and the military,
(2) Many leaders in the US were chosen by their followers. Rush L is a radio jock, but a major leader on the Right — with many who choose to follow them. The plutocrats are leaders on the Right, with millions who look to them for insight about the world and advice as to their actions. Ditto on the Left.
This is a guess, by I suspect the US has an usually strong leadership bench compared to other nations (emphasis on guess).
I lived in Costa Rica from 1991-1995. When I returned to the US, shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing, I was startled to discover how many people hold extreme views: conspiracy theories, survivalism, anarchism, not to mention traditional movements like the KKK, John Birch Society, and so on. As Y2K loomed closer, I heard even close friends express survivalist viewpoints and extreme distrust of the government. There seem to be veins of political weirdness all over the country. Some of these could give rise to cultish uprisings or standoffs like Waco or Jonestown.
I can’t really see a major armed conflict developing, though; for all the guns and rhetoric of the Tea Party, they’re mostly comfortable middle class folks like the rest of us, and their gripes are not the stuff of armed sedition. There is no other group with the numbers and attitude to constitute anything other than a localized flash in the pan.
I agree with your observations. The surge of conspiracy stories about Y2K was a shock to me. In hindsight it might have indicated growth of a deep dysfunctionality in US society. A brief annecdotte.
I was speaking to a group about Y2k, saying that it was not going to be a problem. In the Q&A the audience came alive with horrific stories about the terror to come. After letting them run for a while (never argue with your audience, as I learned one night when getting into a debate with a group of drunk Lions — the fraternal order, not the quadrapods) I asked for hands. “How many of you work for companies or agencies providing vital services?” Many hands rose. “How many of your agencies will fail on Y2k”? No hands. End of discussion.
“I can’t really see a major armed uprising .. they’re mostly comfortable middle class folks”
You are right about people, utterly wrong in your conclusion. Most civil disorders — up to and including the most nightmarish — are conducted by regular folks. Pograms, ethnic clensing, etc do not result from demons emerging from the Hellmouth. They are conducted by your neighbors. People just like you.
This is a well-established historical fact. Under the right circumstances regular people do bad things. That’s the magic of mass psychology, converting individuals into mobs. There is quite a bit of research showing how this happens, such as the Milgram experiments (published 1963) and the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971.
What I meant was that politically and socially, the Tea Party are not presently that far off the norm. They just prefer to see themselves that way. I don’t think their current causes or problems are significant enough to bring them to that kind of activity, other than occasional localized problems. It might be that rhetoric could arise that would define an enemy specific enough to attack, or create a paranoia that would draw people to something like a fully-armed Occupy movement, but I haven’t heard anything that defined and I don’t think they’re uncomfortable enough for that yet. It’s not out of the question, especially if we went through a really deep economic crisis or got humiliated in a war. Hitler appeared after Germany’s humiliation in WWI while the Depression hit Europe. He would have little impact if he were painting houses and giving speeches right now, while Germany is relatively prosperous.
i guess my question here is what do you mean by political violence from the right? domestic terrorist action against institutions of government? that to me seems almost certain, though whether or not it’s a dramatic uptick from the ‘norm’ (i can’t believe we have a norm…) is unclear.
if on the other hand you are contending that there may be an organized attempt to overthrow the government–do we have data that even suggests that? is low confidence in civilian institutions rising among military officers? are various right wing groups coalescing around a single cause with increasing organization and militantism (e.g. organizing large scale protests, defacing institutions of power with graffiti & sabotage, staging assassinations of key opposition figures)?
my own guess: that doesn’t seem so likely to me. as long as the tea party can grind the government to a halt in order to force their extreme views on the rest of the US, they will continue to see (relatively) non violent political activism as a viable and low risk way to engage with and warp the interests of state. this generation is old and increasingly feeble–they don’t have enough young men to fight their wars. further, while gun ownership is up, new time gun buyers is way down which to me suggests that we don’t have a large swath of the population preparing for battle, but instead a small group that is increasingly well armed for the end times. so terrorism is likely to go up, but existential threats to our country seem just as unlikely from an internal source as they do an external one.
of course, this is almost completely dependent on luck. while our institutions are relatively strong, there is no doubt that we are at a moment when the US’s political and economic stability is increasingly fragile. one person with a gun can have a devastating effect on history if they pull the trigger at the right time and the right place. at the very least, i think we’re facing a decade political gridlock as the tea party will likely not lose their hold in congress but are unlikely to be viable on a national scale, forcing them to favor tactics that delay and obstruct the normal operations of government. unless QE is truly magic and our economy rebounds spectacularly or Obama and Boehner (and their successors) turn out to be stunningly good negotiators who can neuter the extreme opposition, things are probably going to get worse. and who knows where that will lead?
“here is what do you mean by political violence from the right?”
Good question. I try to avoid excessive specificity when making predictions (i.e., guessing about the future), which is one reason I get so many correct.
So the answer is: I don’t know. Just correctly predicting violence would be a big win, since so few are doing so.
To take my guessing one step further, future violence most likely will resemble past violence. Such as these forms:
* Violence in opposition to reformers, the most common form. Such as public and private violence to break up the Occupy demonstrations and civil rights marches.
* Violence to keep minorities in line. The use of “Stand Your Ground” laws in Florida might be foretaste of this.
* Violence by corporations (with de facto if quiet State support) against workers organizing to capture a larger share of rising corporate profits.
It might take new forms (new to the US), some of which might be worse. Or it might take entirely new forms.
One word: Timothy McVeigh
(Excuse me: I forgot to mention Eric Rudolph. But 200% does not make sense in this context. )
There are always incidents of violence in America.
I was not saying “what are the odds of isolated acts of political violence — as there have always been?”, but “what are the odds of a wave of political violence?”
I’ll tweak the post to make this clearer.
On the other hand, as the caveman noted in the Geiko ad, it always helps to do a little research.
“However, Mexican cartels also work with African-American gangs, and even white supremacists groups such as the Aryan Brotherhood, the report said.”
“The Canadian Biker Gang and Mexican Drug Cartel Connection”
“By the late 1990’s and into the 2000’s, Mexican cartels where making massive drug labs to produce meth. This process made it hard for bikers to produce enough high quality product to compete with Mexican prices. Their hard work of spreading meth use had come to bite them in the ass as they had drawn in a new competitor. It finally came time for outlaw biker gangs to make a deal with the cartel.
While clearly the deals that were made in following years were never made public, it is obvious by the product the bikers were distributing it was solid. The bikers further from the border still dealt some homebrew, but the gangs in urban hubs closer to Mexico had no choice but to sell Mexican meth. The product was too strong and cheap for them to continue to use their own.”
The only correction I have to note from my original post in this thread is that I suggested they would distribute Oxycontin whereas it now seems they would distribute meth instead.
Right wing violence is a serious topic, so you are correct to devote a post to it.
But it is not the real issue:
The real issue is that the disruption, degradation, disorientation, and decay associated with the government shutdown provides an opportunity for the Mexican drug lords to further infiltrate this side of the border: See, eg: “The U.S. joins failed states around the world in telling prison guards, border patrol to work for free”
Obviously if this shutdown continues, opportunities to flip various border guards and prison guards, with consequences quite foreseeable to anyone familiar with Mexico.
As for our violent right wingers, will they link up with Mexican cartels to – say – distribute Oxycontin? The only reason to assert they will not begin to do so would be because they perhaps already have.
“The real issue is that the disruption, degradation, disorientation, and decay associated with the government shutdown provides an opportunity for the Mexican drug lords to further infiltrate this side of the border”
Perhaps you are correct. I’ll take the other side of that bet. When this spending “slowdown” is over, I very much doubt that we will see any visible “disruption” etc from the Mexican drug cartels.
As for the WaPo story — the WaPo is the government bureaucracy’s house mouthpiece. At budget times it overflows with articles — press releases retyped by their stenographers pretending to be journalists — whining about the pending apocalypse if their budget increases are not met (what they call “cuts”).
The security services and military are top-grade at this game.
Color me skeptical.
At the rate the GOP position is deteriorating, my thesis, fortunately, cannot be tested.
So the biker gang cum Mexican drug cartel syndicate will have to wait a little while longer.
It might matter a lot whether the Republican party finds a way to marginalize its crazies, so that we have something like a functional two-party system again. The current climate gives extremists on the right a sort of cover they would not have if the nominally conservative party were actually conservative, and condemned rash, radical and disruptive behavior.
The idea of a coalition of “conservatives” being willing to precipitate a situation in which the United States government might default is mind-boggling.
Your observation goes to a critical question: is the GOP dominated by a rogue — “crazies”? My previous post disagreed with this view, saying that their current actions are logical given their worldview (which differs from mine).
But there is a deeper question: even if you are correct, are these “crazies” leaders or pawns? Are they are rogue group which has become a powerful element of the GOP, or shock troops of the GOP (or national) leadership — taking extreme positions which win or lose advance the leaders’ goals?
I vote for “b”. Explaining this is beyond the scope of a comment, but think of the extreme right wing politicians as shock troops sacrificing themselves to shift the Overton Window to the Right. Or rather, further to the Right.
My take is that those I call “the crazies” are formerly useful idiots who have become disruptive random factors. It was not intended that they should begin to think for themselves.
If they were intended to be shock troops sacrificing themselves (which is a stronger claim than what I suggest, but consistent with it)… they don’t seem to have accepted the sacrifice part.
We can only estimate what’s happening — “why” of events — by looking at the result. In that sense the Tea Party people are shock troops, in that their action have forged the GOP into an instrument of the plutocracy. Even today they’re moving America’s political spectrum to the Right. The GOP might go up in flames as a by-product, the the Democratic Party’s new center on the Center-Right is a victory of almost unimaginable magnitude — as seen in Obama’s love for the results of the Simpson-Bowles “catfood for the elderly” proposal, his banker friendly securities unregulation, and the big-pharma-friendly gift to the insurance industry (aka ObamaCare.
You raise a good point, one that I’ve mentioned but not so clearly, that the Tea Party’s participation in this is as “useful idiots”.
“a good point, one that I’ve mentioned but not so clearly”
You once posted a great image about it, though:
I don’t think there is any spur for organised political violence on the right. They may not like the present government, but I can’t imagine political violence because of Health Care policy.
They may mutter darkly, but that’s all. That’s not to say there could be someone like anders behring breivik lurking about.
“imagine political violence because of Health Care policy.”
I agree. But that is a narrower focus than that taken in this post. The question posed is not about odds of violence today, but considering what might happen if current trends continue.
I would have to agree with Duncan Kinder that actual violence — much less mass organized violence — from the right wing presents a less likely danger than the slow degeneration of America’s institutions and infrastructure. We appear to be turning into East Germany, rather than Somalia. But of course that’s just my opinion; your opinion may differ, and legitimately so.
As Casey Stengel reportedly said, “Predictions are difficult — especially about the future.”
“I would have to agree with Duncan Kinder that actual violence — much less mass organized violence — from the right wing presents a less likely danger than the slow degeneration of America’s institutions and infrastructure.”
One reason there are a lot more predictions on the win list than the false list is that I don’t make wild guesses like this. It’s absurd. On what rational basis can someone make a comparison of two scenarios, when the odds of each are impossible to estimate.
Larger scale violence can come only from disintegrating civil, public institutions.
We can see that local institutions are gathering steam, like police and state governments while federal institutions are being destroyed. This shows the way that the erruption of violence will be on state vs state, not on the local level.
Police power is being tested almost daily and they show their power and unity in anti-terorist actions, antidemonstartions.
prior to the war in Yugoslavia, respect for the federal police was undermined and destroyed by local institutions and population at large and they grew more ineffective at solving problems. the number of problems grew as they weekened, simply got swamped to the point of just recording insurections that grew larger over time. The next step was military involvement into police work where obviously unfamiliar to police work, military took one side and produced even more problems. The problems grew unresolved into the full blown war.
We can see that police in USA is not weaker but stronger. And military is weaker since most of it consist now of private owned military strength. There is opening for another attempt at seccesion.
Prerequisite for starting large scale violence;
One side has to believe that it holds high upper hand in power, that it will easilly succumb the opposition, with very little military action.
This parallels the way Americans are led into wars in past few decades; “We will bomb them and we will win without casualties while population will accept us as saviours” This is mentality of starting a modern war.
Does GOP holds power over Department of Defense and its military strength? Are generals mostly in the GOP camp?
“Larger scale violence can come only from disintegrating civil, public institutions.”
Your points are all valid. But none of the civil violence in US history resulted from “disintegrating civil, public institutions”. Up to and including the civil war.
Most of the parallels that might apply to our future are not large-scale in the usual meaning of the term: the violence against minorities and unions. Possible exceptions, depending on your definitions, are the State-sponsored violence of slavery (large scale in scope, low level of constant violence) and after Reconstruction until circa 1964 to oppress Blacks.
You are right to ask about violence from the right since it will not take much for the Gov’t to turn fascist (Spoken at length in previous replies). All the pieces are in place, what remains is the spark to send us there. What is sad is that most people do not realize that our ability to act collectively has weakened to the point where we may not be able to as a nation. That is the end result of the conservative philosophy and how it has become embedded in our political discourse. Conservative principles (with their emphasis on the individual) are now the axioms from which people make their arguments. This,of course, is by design. Our elites know that if the people remain focused on themselves in competition with their fellow neighbors, the systems that govern our lives remain in disrepair, left for them to fix.
Take the union movement as an example. Most of my contemporaries see unions as parasitic force, full of people who are lazy and do not want to work. They do not realize that any benefits that they currently have are due to the union movement collectively bargaining for them . They think that as long as they produce, they’ll be okay. What they don’t realize is that they are one of many Napoleon’s headed to the slaughterhouse. All the while thinking that they are going to a green, grass filled pasture as a reward for their hard work.
I particularly like this post, and would like to see your thoughts on some follow-up –
Should there emerge a wave of politically-motivated violence, how long could it last, considering the power of the American state (from local police to armed forces)?
Could such violence reach a level where it could threaten the vitality of the state, or would the U.S. be capable of suppressing the violence? Would it, in other words, reach the dangerous point of secessions, like the Civil War, or merely urban risings, like Watts and other famous riots?
What are the political catalysts that might be needed to push large groups of people in violence? What specifically about the state needs to be seen as not working to push people into organizing into armed factions?
All good and relevant questions. Unfortunately history can help us guess at the likelihood of future violence (if our future is like our past). That people are buying guns let’s us guess at their willingness to use them. Beyond that, however, we are in Magic 8 Ball territory.
(a) “Should there emerge a wave of politically-motivated violence, how long could it last, considering the power of the American state (from local police to armed forces)?”
Domestic violence to be significant would have to take the form of 4GW to avoid being crushed. And 4GW might work in the US, with support of a sufficiently large segment of the people. Even when crushed, however, violence can have successful political effect. Consider the 1960s race riots — large mob violence which looked futile, burning down their own neighborhoods. This was probably a factor extending and embedding the civil rights legislation. For example, Nixon in 1969 implemented the first large-scale affirmative action program (the Philadelphia Plan).
(b) “Could such violence reach a level where it could threaten the vitality of the state, or would the U.S. be capable of suppressing the violence?”
Today? Almost certainly not. In the future? Who can say? My guess would be that the future will be like the past in this respect, with domestic violence influencing politics but not destroying the Union.
(c) “Would it, in other words, reach the dangerous point of secessions, like the Civil War, or merely urban risings, like Watts and other famous riots?”
The nation would have to change before secession is even a reasonable goal. Today it’s a goal of slivers of old white rural people fearful of the future and yearning for the “good old day” (see this article), or dreamy Leftoids (e.g., Vermont). Neither are the stock from which revolutions are built.
(d) “What are the political catalysts that might be needed to push large groups of people in violence? What specifically about the state needs to be seen as not working to push people into organizing into armed factions?”
Too broad to answer. My guess as to the most likely catalyst: economic problems. This is the equivalent of the role bad harvests played throughout history as a spark that fired discontent into violence.
The answer to the last question (d) didn’t take. If you don’t see it, refresh your screen to see it.
The governing clearly want a new system. The governed can not yet see the light. Will the governing abandon the change? Could be. Will the governed come to suffer badly? Not yet foreseeable.
That’s an interesting idea!
I have seen this somewhat similarly — that our weakness allows our elites to change the system into a form they find more pleasing. I touched upon this lightly in Immigration as a reverse election: our leaders get a new people (6 November 2008).