The first seven months of 2020 have seen many horrors. One can only be anxious about the future. What comes next? Is the US heading towards another Civil War as tensions rise between two increasingly entrenched political parties? Although no politician of either party has suggested that another Civil War is emerging, it is abundantly clear that the political divide is growing as public rage boils, and the calm center evaporates. The focus here lies on the expanding political differences within the US, how anger from each party could lead to a potential second US Civil War, and how to stop that from happening.
Expanding Differences Between Conservatives and Liberals
In the US one can almost distinguish a conservative or liberal based on who wears a facemask and who doesn’t. On average, liberals follow CDC guidelines¹ and wear facemasks to slow the transmission of the virus while conservatives believe this violates their freedom of expression and refuse to wear one¹.
A poll conducted in Utah showed that Democrats and moderates were far more likely to wear masks. 50% of moderates and liberals said they always wear masks in public, while only 26% of conservatives polled the same way¹.
In red state Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott told a television station in June that “individual liberty is not infringed upon by government and cannot require individuals to wear a mask.¹” On the weekend before the 4th of July, Abbott changed his mind about liberty and said all counties in Texas with over 20 COVID-19 cases must wear a facemask in public and those who do not follow could be fined of up to $250 per violation after an initial warning¹. By contrast, in blue state California, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom never argued against wearing a facemask and announced in June everyone in California must wear a mask due to rising case numbers. “Science shows that face coverings and masks work…they are critical to keeping those who are around you safe¹.”
This specific political divide is motivated by conservative President Trump’s disapproval of facemasks. He indirectly encouraged supporters to follow by not wearing a mask themselves through suggesting that some Americans wear facemasks not as a preventive measure against this incurable pandemic – but merely to signal disapproval of him¹. However, no one has said this other than Trump, but in Trump’s world, everything is about Trump.
In contrast, Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, has worn a facemask at every socially distanced events attended¹. Trump recently changed his tune about facemasks, wearing a facemask only once publicly on July 11th.¹ The only reason why he went back on his old habits is probably because as the virus has worsened, Republicans urged him to wear a mask so his supporters would follow¹. A Fox co-host who Trump regularly watches, Steve Doocy, said “’MAGA’ should now stand for ‘Masks Are Great Again’”. If he did not do this soon enough, he may have lost supporters. But, Trump still says he is against making facemasks mandatory because it violates personal freedom¹.
It seems silly that something as unpolitical as covering your face during a pandemic has deepened the American political divide. This virus won’t go away any sooner if the president has effectively told his supporters not to use facemasks as a sign of loyalty to him.
In June, Trump held his first rally since the pandemic began in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Around 6,200 people showed up¹; one would think that the majority would wear masks especially as ushers handed out masks and many attendees were elderly. However, only about 10% of the audience wore a mask, which seems quite idiotic given the large crowd during the middle of a pandemic. It is no coincidence that this is because of Trump’s aversion to facemasks and his ridicule of the disease. At the rally he called Coronavirus “Kung-flu disease”¹ which is racist and inaccurate. The disease might have originated in China, but the Chinese got rid of the disease while US numbers keep rising. So, maybe this isn’t the “Kung-flu disease,” but perhaps the US is the “land of the sneeze”.
From my experience of living in Tulsa for 8 years, I can say that the majority of citizens are not only conservatives but also fervent Trump supporters. In recent months I have become more vocal of my political views and as an effect, I have been ridiculed by a number of Tulsans. In one debate with a Trump supporter, I was told: “masks are stupid”, “why weren’t we forced to wear a mask when 1.5 million people died of tuberculosis last year”, “why isn’t the homeless population being wiped out”, and “you only do it [wear a mask] because the media tells you to”. I responded that their argument about tuberculosis was irrelevant as there are vaccines and medications while there are neither for the newly-found Coronavirus. I further explained that the CDC says the homeless population is impacted worse than those who aren’t homeless. In the CDC report¹ in March through April, 25% of residents in 19 shelters tested positive in homeless shelters in four U.S. cities. The only rebuttal argument was that I was only arguing because of my astrological sign. Very odd to argue science with astrology. Most arguments I have had against Trump supporters led to them making fun of me somehow which makes sense as ridicule is about the only rhetorical tactic known to Trump.
Trump aims everything to publicity. This can be seen from comments he’s made about Coronavirus such as his comment that the recent, dramatic increase of cases in the US, “makes us look bad,”¹ and to “slow the testing down” because of it.¹ Also, his reasoning for why he didn’t wear a facemask was because, “I don’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.¹” The outcome of Coronavirus in the US does make the US look bad, so why slow testing? Things will not improve until everyone socially distances and wears facemasks¹. I’m not an epidemiologist but to compare, most of Europe, a whole continent, was shut down for 2-3 months and now, during the time period where cities are opening¹, there’s less than 20,000 cases per day in the past month (except once)¹. In the US, cases have risen, and the most recent peak came in July with 74,710 cases in a single day¹. One could hypothesize that the US struggles because self-isolation and wearing a facemask has become political. Health shouldn’t be an argument; scientists proved how to protect ourselves.
The US is slowly progressing but nonetheless there is no federal law requiring citizens to wear facemasks. As private businesses, and state or city governors mandate for people to wear masks, groups have formed protesting across the nation against these efforts at public protection because they feel it is unconstitutional. These people who so proudly support freedom against facemasks probably do not support freedom of minorities (for equal treatment) and freedom for a woman to choose what she does with her own body.
It’s interesting to see how bad this virus had to become before some conservative leaders decided to act for public health over political gain. And even then, people still argue against it. Until either everyone wears a mask or quarantines again, this virus will not get better¹. Expanding the political divide over survival in a pandemic is not only completely moronic and risks lives but also causes more unneeded political tension which could result in something terrible.
Almost every event in the US turns political somehow, which seems a bit radical. Democrats and Republicans have always had their differences, but recently, the parties seem farther apart than ever. Moderation and compromise appear to be missing, especially since there are more “radical” sources for news information told from a point of view of a conservative or a liberal.
The reason for the lack of moderation in the US could be blamed on Trump because he deliberately appeals not to the center but to the far right. He does as he pleases without any hesitation about consequences, never offers a compromise, or apologizes for his wrongdoing. Trump could be considered the most radical and extremist Republican president ever. Examples of his extremism can be found easily: when he defended white nationalists during the statue removal of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee¹, when he blamed video games for mass shootings (which is disproven) instead of guns¹, his several misogynistic and racist remarks, his statements about mask-wearing, when he defended those going to the Michigan Capitol with rifles demanding for the pandemic lockdown to end¹, calling those who peacefully protest the Black Lives Matter movement “thugs”¹, saying he will ban LGBTQ+ persons from adopting¹, and saying the Confederate flag does not support the Confederacy but somehow “protects freedom of speech¹”.
There have always been radical presidents and some have brought needed changes. Abraham Lincoln could be considered radical because he was willing to risk a Civil War to stop the expansion of slavery. However, in today’s era of Trump, matters took a turn for the worst. Instead of fighting for Lincoln-style equality, Trump fights for white supremacy.
Trump’s extremist actions and words have rubbed off onto his supporters as The Southern Poverty Law Center said in 2019 the number of white nationalist groups has risen 55% since 2017 “when Trump’s campaign energized white nationalists…and anxiety over the country’s demographic changes¹.” The FBI also reported that personal attacks motivated by prejudice reached a 16-year high in 2018. Law enforcement agencies reported that 4,954 single-bias hate crime offenses were motivated by race/ethnicity/ancestry. The most common incidents were motivated by anti-Black bias (46.9%).¹
The word Republican in the United States has significantly changed over time. Conservative/Republican opinions aren’t what they were even a few years ago as the center between liberal and conservative values has shifted to the far right¹. Of course, one can be Republican without being a Trump supporter. For example, Republican US senator Mitt Romney, Obama’s opponent in the 2012 election, voted to remove Trump from power during his impeachment trial¹ and made an anti-Trump speech saying he was “a fraud” before the 2016 election.
The subject of “moderate” news sources no longer exists for the most part. Many Democrats and Republicans now go to specific websites to hear the news told from their point of view. It is known that a Republican would never receive their information from liberal biased CNN and that a Democrat would never look up news from conservative biased website FOX news¹. As the political divide deepens, like Trump, some conservatives have labeled formerly centric news sources as “radical” or “fake news” primarily because they sometimes point out Trump’s failures¹. I had a political debate with a Trump conservative who said NBC was a “radical source”. I had no idea that NBC was considered leftist, I always assumed NBC was unbiased because they tell the news without favoring any political party. In this article I quote from many types of sources to make it as unbiased as possible, I have even sourced FOX news.
Fight for Equality
The Black Lives Matter movement has always been political but recently arguments for and against it have made each political camp furious, causing further political separation. The recent upsurge was provoked by the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by police. The Black Lives Matter protestors want equality in the US, which some conservatives argue that such protests shouldn’t exist and that the title “Black Lives Matter” is not equitable.
Equality has always been a political issue in the US, but the present situation becomes even worse when the president firmly chooses the side of oppression. Trump said governors were “weak” for not using violence to stop protesters and that they “have to dominate”¹, which directly led to increased police aggression. This can be shown as Trump decided to walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church across Lafayette Square from the White House surrounded by massive amounts of officers who tear gassed peaceful protesters in the park just so he could be photographed outside the church holding a Bible. The Trump administration said it had “no regrets” about tear gassing¹. Trump was likely not holding the Bible as a show of solidarity with the black community to end racism because his unneeded violence against peaceful demonstrators show the opposite.
Most protests are actually peaceful; it’s odd that Trump orders police officers to be aggressive to stop violence when he is the one causing the violence. Referring to the police, Trump says people should not be upset because of “one bad apple”¹. If that was the standard, then shouldn’t Trump be willing to accept the few causing violence at protests because that could also be argued as being “one bad apple”.
The goal of a protest is change, not to cause a riot. Many understand that rioting fuels the fire more which is why many protests are peaceful until police show up and start tear gassing, pushing, beating, and running over protesters¹. However, whenever a riot happens at a protest, conservatives will quickly say ‘look at the change that Martin Luther King Jr did¹’. But, these peaceful protests are similar to those led by Martin Luther King Jr. In addition, not all of the 1960s Civil Rights protests were peaceful, although Martin Luther King, Jr. was certainly a peaceful man. Plus, throughout history, the government is known to put agents in the crowd to advocate for violence to discredit the cause. The FBI did this many times during the 1960s. Some recent protests have also been joined by militia members from the Boogaloo movement, who are known to be violent.¹
It’s well known that Trump is a racist. The most evident act of hate he has done was towards the Mexicans when he demanded that they pay to build “the wall” which they rightly refused¹. He imposed a travel ban in 2017 directed to 7 majority Muslim practicing countries¹. At the time, only Iraq would’ve posed an actual threat towards the US because of ISIS. None of the 9/11 terrorists came from these countries. After reading that 40,000 people had visited from Nigeria, he said that after seeing America, the Nigerians would never “go back to their huts.”¹
In his most recent racist act he belittled the day honoring freedom for African-Americans, Juneteenth. This holiday has existed since a Union general in Texas freed slaves that his soldiers held on June 19, 1865. It is the longest known tradition celebrating slavery freedom.¹ After Trump decided that his rally in Tulsa would take place on Juneteenth, people were upset as this was extremely disrespectful because one of the biggest race riots in the US occurred there – whites killed blacks and burned their homes down. When changing the date of his rally, Trump naturally did not apologize and said he deserves credit for making Juneteenth “very famous”¹. He blatantly (or knowingly) took away a holiday that celebrates freedom for African-Americans. If anyone took away a holiday from white Americans, all hell would break loose.
Many whites relish their special privileges, and many of these whites are conservative. White privilege is defined as the societal privilege that benefits white skins over non-white skins in a society of all races. This means white skins have an advantage to succeed in society but can use this privilege to help minorities so there eventually can be equality. A way to help any oppressed community and fight for justice is to actively speak on its behalf and raise awareness. Abraham Lincoln used his white privilege to do this in 1861. Why can this problem not be solved?
Many Trump supporters criticize the Black Lives Matter movement probably because they are racist like Trump and want to keep things the way they are because it gives them an advantage. Racists debate against the movement by saying that whites are more often brutalized by police than black people¹ and support a counter argument called “All Lives Matter”. While white people may be killed more than black people by the police, the critical issue relates to proportion and not absolute numbers. According to the US Census Bureau in July 2019, 13% of the US population is black whereas 60% are white¹. While police should never kill anyone, in an equal society, the numbers of police killings per race would be the same. However, this is not the case. Of races known to be killed by police in 2019, 46.1% of those were white and 29.3% were black¹. The rate of fatal police shootings per million in the United States from 2015 to June 2020 for blacks was 31 and for whites, 13¹. The reason for this can be explained simply by racism.
The US judicial system is racist as many officers get away with brutality among black people and do not have to serve a prison sentence; some do not even get their badge taken away. A police officer in Tulsa killed Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man in 2016¹, the officer was fired from Tulsa Police Department but was also found not guilty of first-degree manslaughter¹. One year later, she was rehired as a deputy in Rogers County in Oklahoma. Despite the fatal encounter, Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton said he had no doubt about offering her a job. “The tragedy, I think, is that Betty Shelby went to work, served her duty and did her job.¹” Maybe I’m just delusional but isn’t killing an unarmed person inexcusable? How could a non-racist sheriff fathom that it would be a good idea to hire her and excuse the incident as “tragic” for the officer?
In federal courts, the average sentence during 2008 and 2009 was 55 months for whites and 90 months for blacks¹ (US Sentencing Commission 2010). There is no proof because no officer will admit that they let someone get away with a crime, but it is widely assumed that a black person is far less likely to get away with a crime than a white person. One white man claims he counterfeited a $20 bill and got away with it and tells the story at parties which is the same crime George Floyd got killed for.
The people who are supposed to protect us from murderers are murderers themselves. Who are we supposed to call when we’re in trouble if those who we’re supposed to call are the ones creating the violence and stoking hatred? The system must change.
Until systemic racism is put to rest, there will always be needless inequality and unrest. Some say this can never be achieved because everyone holds stereotypes, but making governmental treatment at all levels would be a good start. Most debates for equality do not have to do with the way people see others, but rather for minority races to be treated as equal as whites in the government. While slavery ended 135 years ago, blacks are still not free in the same sense that whites are. One way that could help bring justice to everyone, especially non-whites, is to have police body cameras always turned on, therefore no white can receive special treatment and get away with a crime. If the police refuses to do so they must get their badge taken away. Police officers should be trained to not shoot anyone unless the suspect poses a very obvious threat that can be found on the police body camera, and even then the police should be trained well enough to not kill the suspect.
Moving on, the issue with the All Lives Matter movement is that even though it may sound like equality, it is associated with no effort to attain equality or justice. It basically says that the status quo is just fine, stop complaining.
The All Lives Matter movement started to counteract the Black Lives Matter movement¹, arguing that no life should be more important than another. This message opposes providing justice for the oppressed. By analogy, it would be rude to tell a parent of a school shooting victim that “all lives matter” instead of providing sympathy and trying to stop school shootings from happening. If one believes all lives should matter, they should support equality because that provides equal treatment to everyone. All Lives Matter provides the status quo: no one deserves special treatment even when they’re being oppressed.
While fighting for equality has always been political, the issue worsens when the president takes a firm stance to not change it. The ever deepening political divide is an effect of this issue that remains to be unchanged.
Religion Mixes In
While the US has no official religion, 65% of adult Americans are Christian¹. Another political debate is whether abortion should remain legal. This is nothing but a religious debate, barely masked as an issue for the government. As the US cannot make a law based on religion, anti-abortionists have to make their belief legal based on another existing law. This religious/political argument dates back to the 19th century.
Until 1873, abortion was legal in the United States before the fourth month of pregnancy. Following the Catholic Church which banned abortion, Congress passed the Comstock law, which made abortion illegal as well¹. Abortion was considered murder because the fetus is living, which raises a debate about when life begins. For the first few months of pregnancy, a body’s organs haven’t even formed. Even though a fetus can turn into a life, it is not a life on its own. If this is going to be argued then let’s argue whether eggs should be consumed or not because it is also something that can turn into a life but hasn’t yet. During the women rights movement in the 1960s, Roe v. Wade made abortion legal again because the US Supreme Court decided such laws violated “a constitutional right to privacy”.
This remains a political issue, even though it’s nothing but religious. Republican president Richard Nixon recruited Catholic Democratic voters to defect from their party over abortion. Later, Protestants and Evangelicals followed to unite Christians under conservative cultural issues. Today, 56% of Catholics believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, and 76% evangelical Protestants believe the same¹.
Alabama is the only state where abortion is illegal, with no exceptions signed in May of 2019 further demonstrating this argument is still active. This law completely disregards “freedom”. If someone got raped and followed through with having an abortion in Alabama, they could go to prison longer than their own perpetrator as illegal abortions in Alabama are considered a Class A felony where minimum sentence is 10 years¹. In Alabama, if one engages in sexual intercourse without consent, it is considered a Class A misdemeanor¹ where minimum jail sentence is just one year with a fine of up to $6,000¹. While some argue against the ethics of abortion, where are the ethics in a law like this? The victim has to get punished for an experience that will traumatize them their whole life. This was applauded by vice president, Mike Pence who said that the law “embraced life”¹.
The Trump Republican ‘freedom’ argument is nonsense because they only argue for “freedom” when it is in their benefit. The same group of people who believe in freedom to not wear a facemask are the same to say a woman’s decision regarding her bodily freedom can be decided by legislators who she has no control over.
Why must religion mix in with politics, similar to science and race?
Common Liberal v. Conservative Debates
I have discussed current political debates that increased the rapid division of the US political environment. What should be said now is about what the main point of politics should be: to create an equal society and solve social and economic issues. At times in the past, political debates were far more civilized and focused on relevant issues, such as how government money should be divided and how the economy should develop.
Every developed country decides how to fund its various nationwide efforts. The political debates regarding these issues typically concern healthcare, education, and military spending¹. In the US, Democrats support universal healthcare supported by the government. Republicans believe private companies can provide healthcare services better than government-run programs. Nearly 75% of Democrats think the government should spend more on public schools, an idea opposed by 54% of Republicans.¹ Democrats generally feel that the government should spend less on national defense while Republicans think the opposite.
The economy makes up a country, this is a needed political topic. Democrats believe in a graduated income tax depending on a person’s income, so that the wealthy would pay taxes at higher rates while the poor pay at a lower rate. Republicans generally believe taxes should be at a uniform rate¹.
Debates on these topics tend to be calm and are actually political. It is unnecessary in politics to argue proven science behind something as trivial as wearing a facemask, have continuous arguments against equality, and promote a law entirely based on some religious belief in a country where there is no official religion. The parties are quickly growing apart and tensions between them are high but will it result in a Civil War?
Rising Tension Levels Correlating to the Beginning of the First Civil War
Let’s take a stroll back to the 1860s when the first Civil War began and compare tension levels then to now.
The Northern and Southern states were politically divided over the issue of slavery. Southern states were in favor of slavery and Northern were against it.
Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 which allowed for citizens to choose whether to have slavery or not. The location of this however was in Northern territory, creating tension.
When Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, Southern states withdrew from the United States to keep slavery. These states formed an alliance called the Confederacy. Northern states, the Union, remained part of the United States.
The US Civil War began April 12, 1861, in Charleston, South Carolina after Confederate troops captured Fort Sumter from the Union army. Afterward both sides formed large armies. After fighting the bloodiest war in US history, the Union won and freed the slaves.
If just one issue caused the Civil War and now there are multiple political issues including ones that should not be involved in politics, will blue and red states divide similar to the Confederacy and Union? The Confederacy formed because they were upset with the election of Lincoln, could this be the same for the presidential election in November? If Trump wins, Democrats will continue to be upset because Trump only says things or makes decisions that are radically right. If Biden wins, the Trump Republicans who almost always have their way will become angrier than they already are when they don’t get their way with miniscule things such as wearing a facemask. At some point, the continuation of rage may eventually result to another Civil War. No matter who wins the election, unity will continue tearing between citizens which could lead to tearing unity of the entire country.
During my lifetime I have seen nothing but growing rage between the two political parties. But, there have been eras of rage all throughout American politics and the country has had just one Civil War.
A Civil War theoretically could have broken out during the Vietnam war. It became evident that the US would win, but US troops would not leave Vietnam, leading to the anti-war movement causing political tension and protests.¹
Protests started peaceful but became violent as activists felt demands were ignored. In Chicago, police arrived at protests to arrest protesters and charged in on vehicles beating anyone near the area. Hundreds were tear gassed. Eventually, street gangs worked with police to end the rebellion¹. This era of protests are similar to today’s Black Lives Matter protests.
When the war ended, protests stopped as well. This could happen today also regarding the Black Lives Matter movement if the government listened to protesters and enacted measures to make the country more equal. If there is no change, a Civil War could begin.
A Civil War didn’t start in the 1960s, and there were multiple issues within the country – anti-war protests and the fight for civil and women’s rights – similar to the US currently as there is also more than one issue. Therefore it’s possible that the US will not have to face a Civil War but change has to come. The US will not survive if tensions keep rising.
The current federal government was created in 1789 and since then much has changed, so it may be time to rethink how the government should run.
The fairest way to destroy political tension is to have an equal government. In order to do this, maybe a presidency held by one political party should end. Every president is either Republican or Democrat, therefore one party will not be happy for at least 4 years during the president’s time in office. Instead, maybe the government should be run by a parliamentary democracy – similar to many other countries. Most countries also have a permanent civil service that runs the country on a day-to-day basis with only the highest level of political decisions interfering. This would not take away voting rights because people can vote for Senators and House of Representatives which make up Congress. For that matter, maybe the government should be led by the speaker of the US House of Representatives – in every parliamentary democracy around the world, it is the leader of the lower body who runs the government. Justin Trudeau, Boris Johnson, and Angela Merkel actually hold the same position Nancy Pelosi holds in the US.
US tensions are rising out of control due to a growing number of intractable political differences, and a Civil War could result from this. Politics should be strictly about genuine political issues, not science, race, or religion which are currently common political issues. Inequality is an issue that has caused distress for years and will continue to cause problems until equality is rightfully served. The only way to save the US would be to change the foundation of the government.
Supscripts in order:
Picture Sources In Order:
Cover Picture: https://theintercept.com/2020/04/05/coronavirus-american-politics-democratic-party-biden-sanders/
Red v Blue States: https://www.270towin.com/
Tulsa Campaign Rally: https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/06/20/photos-president-donald-trumps-first-campaign-rally-kicks-off-in-tulsa/
COVID Comparison of EU and US: https://www.statista.com/chart/22102/daily-covid-19-cases-in-the-us-and-the-eu/
Trump Holding Bible While Protesters are Beaten: https://mashable.com/article/trump-protest-photo-op/
Civil Rights Movement Compared to Black Lives Matter Protests: https://www.insider.com/photos-compare-black-lives-matter-protests-to-civil-rights-protests-2020-6
Tweet of White Man Who Got Away with Crime George Floyd Died For: https://www.wfaa.com/article/news/local/protests/smu-viral-white-privilege-tweet/287-43a663d9-41a4-495a-9875-be1af2ea896a
Protests Against Abortion Law in Alabama: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/24/aclu-and-planned-parenthood-sue-to-stop-alabama-abortion-law.html
Police Brutality During Antiwar Movement: https://www.businessinsider.com/america-activism-photos-2017-2#universities-have-historically-been-breeding-grounds-for-contemporary-activism-starting-in-the-early-1960s-many-college-students-protested-in-opposition-to-the-vietnam-war-5