A Whiff of Civil War in the Air - David French

“A steady media diet of true negative stories about our opponents can build a sense of profound grievance. Stripped of any kind of balance, one can easily build a monstrous caricature of your political opposition.”


“But to embrace pluralism is to surrender the dream of domination. To embrace pluralism is to acknowledge that even the quest for domination is dangerous. It understands that human beings will not yield that which is most precious to them, even at the point of a gun. Embracing pluralism means embracing the lessons of history and understanding that not even our great nation is immune to the forces that have fractured unions older than ours. Our nation’s angriest culture warriors need to know the cost of their conflict. As they seek to crush their political and cultural enemies, they may destroy the nation they seek to rule.”

So brilliantly put.
This delusional & ultimately destructive non acceptance of differences is really the core of the problem.

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@Claire, it’s a great article and makes several valid points, but even falls prey to the self-same partisan polarisation which it decries:

The banal normalcy of the great majority of Trump’s supporters, including those who went to the Capitol on Jan. 6, has befuddled many observers. Although private militia groups and white supremacists played a part in the attack, 90 percent of those arrested or charged had no ties to such groups. The majority were middle-class and middle-aged; 40 percent were business owners or white-collar workers. They came mostly from purple, not red, counties.

According to this NPR article there were a total of three known white supremacists at the Capitol Riots, and given that the legacy media has been vociferous in trying to find a smoking gun on this issue, I would be very surprised if there were any more- other than those who might operate in secret from the tech savvy and odiously insidious groyper network.

Of course, there were other far-right or extremist groups at the riots, but these could either be characterised as football hooligans with a cause (Proud Boys), or radical anti-government types (who can be more dangerous than actual white supremacists at the extremes).

According to the ADL, there were roughly 11,000 white supremacists in America in 2017- of these substantial numbers were members of prison gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood more intent upon selling drugs and illegal guns that actually starting a race war.

Have you been watching any of the Breaking Points content available from YouTube? Although they seem to target a millennial audience it’s one of the only genuine news sources which consistently has a conservative and a progressive in the same room reporting on the news. Anyway, their coverage revealed that of 120 key instigators of the riot, 85% had experienced some form of financial shock either in the form of personal bankruptcy, a business foreclosure or a mortgage repossession.

David French is a great writer BTW, I particular liked this piece on American Criminal Justice:

My only quibble would be that the initial charging disparities stem from gang affiliation and involvement. It’s the key reason why COMPAS (the risk and recidivism sentencing algorithm) appears to have an element of racial bias to it (which is also predictive). It’s not an entirely unjustified metric, given that even Norway with its impressively low recidivism rates (though not as low as they claim) has admitted problems with reform initiatives in relation to the gang involved.

The real problem is that whilst humans are great at assessing potential risk, we are terrible at assessing the extent said risks pose.

One of the books I keep meaning to read is Matt Taibbi’s Hate Inc.. It shows that whilst Social Media may have accelerated negative partisanship, it was legacy media which started the problem in the first place. Of course, it doesn’t help that so many in the cultural space are dependent upon social media (and Twitter in particular) to promote their work. The character limit reduces us all to the level of the schoolyard.

Here is particularly fun story about misperceptions across political lines:


Hate, Inc. is a good read; I subscribed and ead it as it serialized. Taibbi’s writing style was very gonzo at the time, and can be over-the-top. (In the last few years, he has toned his style down some, in my opinion). But he drives home the point that you’re suggesting, @Geary_Johansen2020. For several decades the legacy media have been trying to define the political dialogue in simplistic horse-race terms, so that they can treat it as a spectator sport and peddle to the partisans. And Matt is an old-school journalist, the kind who used to get their feet muddy tracking down sources. And as an old Leftist, he has enough distrust of big corporations doing journalism for profit.

But back to the main story. Here’s another obstinate Never-Trump writer, Michael Gerson, recently,

That opening line,

Though I understand that the GOP — having taken leave of its ideological senses — must be beaten and beaten regularly for its own good,

is symptomatic of where we have gotten. What does he wish that the Republican Party should become, other than the grand old party of old which started endless wars, provided employment for political writers and consultants, and tried to slow the march of the progressive agenda while offering little real alternative?

He and French, astute as they often are, just can’t imagine that there are a lot of ‘otherwise normal’ people who have lost trust in the political system, and who can imagine a great split as the only solution.


Hmm- that’s odd- I was sent to an EU legal notification (GDPR) when I try to access the article…

There may be a paywall thing. The original article was in the Washington Post. I searched for a different path and found this, but it might be a dubious work-around.

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Another consideration which French’s piece misses is very real differences in the cultures of everyday life in the Red and the Blue. In the past 20 years or so, much has been written about ‘the great sorting’, in which people who prefer the life styles and policies of the Red states have increasingly moved to the Red states, but people who live in the large metro areas on the coasts write about “What’s wrong with Kansas”. They just don’t seem to understand how anybody could want to live out on the high plain, or in any place where it could more than ten minutes for the police to respond to an emergency, the degree to which people outside of the metropolis really care about some sense of self-sufficiency, independence, and voluntary cooperation within a community of like-minded people.
That difference – the apparent disrespect by the Blues for the lifestyles of the Reds, plants the seeds of distrust by the Reds for the goals of the Blues. That then escalates into the political divide. The suggestion of secession, then, is not caused by politics, but may be necessitated by the politics.


How in the world is this any kind of “solution”? Do you envision quasi-independent liberal city-states in regions dominated by conservative voters, similar to West Berlin? What about the numerous “blue” states which have sizeable “red” minorities in rural areas? The U.S. is not red and blue; it’s purple:

Where would you draw a Mason-Dixon line in a map like this?

This may be true, but the question at the heart of What’s the Matter with Kansas? (and similar analyses) is why working-class Republicans consistently cast votes that contravene their economic interests. The answer – that cultural issues (“God, guns and gays,” as the author Thomas Frank put it) have superseded economic considerations in the minds of many voters – has been reaffirmed in the years since that book was published.

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“roughly 4 in 10 (41%) of Biden and half (52%) of Trump voters at least somewhat agree that it’s time to split the country”

I think many of these people underestimate the pain that a secession would cause. By a lot.


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However true that is, it gets harder over time, most likely. If it must be done, than it is best done sooner rather than later.

Obviously, we have the example of Brexit. It is getting done, although the opponents would have predicted catastrophe. It still might be catastrophe. But the general appearance is that it will be made to work.

The unthinkable is not ‘impossible’ Not if, when the time comes when we are forced to think about it, we do talk about it honestly and acknowledge all the contradictions which surround. But if the people charged with ‘getting it done’ don’t really want it done and don’t believe in it – as was the case with the May government – then it can’t get done. If can only be done if enough people think that it can be done and must be done.


FWIW, the National Review doesn’t agree with the Claremont suggestionn that the country is more divided than even back ijnthe lead-up to the civil war

But of course we could have expected that of NR, which dislikes any too-strong of an opinion.

As to how to the draw the lines, @Schopenhauer, The starting point, a three-way split, is easy. You let the Left Coast go one way, you let the Blue Northeast and some amount of North Central go it’s way. The rest – the South, Midwest and high plains are fairly red. You let a few states on the margins split, northern and southern Ohio, for example, Eastern Pennsylvania. The devilish details aren’t so much in drawing the lines as in how the Red wants to define its norms, because there really is a lot of difference between Louisiana and Idaho.


It is? What about the tens of millions of Democrats who live in “red” states and the tens of millions of Republicans who live in “blue” states? What about the swing states that are divided more or less evenly between liberals and conservatives? What about “red” states like Texas that are likely to turn “blue” sometime in the next several decades? (As I wrote in my previous post, all states are actually different shades of purple.)

I take talk of secession about as seriously as proposals for slavery reparations – i.e., not at all. They might serve as interesting thought experiments but the philosophical and practical obstacles to implementing these ideas are insurmountable. If you want to argue in favor of more robust federalism you’re back within the realm of possibility.


Mostly I take it about as seriously as you take reparations. But if the Democrats ever had enough control to say, “We’re coming to take your AR-47’s”, and if they had packed SCOTUS so it would agree to that, then the famous Texan response would be “Come and Take It!” The Second Amendment is one issue for which their ain’t a lot of purple, and it is also the issue which protects the possibility of secession sometime in the future. I haven’t touched any sort of firearm in fifty years, but if you come for my neighbor’s, I’ll subdue you with a slingshot and cut off your hand with a kitchen cleaver.


In the mid 90s Australia’s government told all* civilians who owned semiautomatic weapons to hand them over in exchange for cash, and sure enough, 650,000 guns were collected over the course of 12 months. Hundreds of thousands of gun owners chose to turn in their weapons instead of risking criminal prosecution. If the US Congress bolstered the restrictions laid out by the very much constitutional NFA to include a similar ban to Australia’s, I would hazard a guess that your neighbor would begrudgingly comply.

*Some occupational exceptions applied

What would happen is a shift in where the central ground is for each of the new sovereign nations, those to the right of the new center would form a party to counter those to the left of that center, politics is relative, not absolute. The US Federal system with it’s blue state/ red state division has created political distortion.
If you cut California adrift from wider US politics the parties within the state would reposition themselves so you’d have two parties of similar strength.

If you have people in a country that hate each other strongly enough, as with marriage, divorce should be considered as an option rather than forcing them to live together under the same roof.


This analogy doesn’t work because there aren’t separate houses in which we can live. As I said, the idea of a “national divorce” is interesting as a thought experiment but it’s patently absurd from a pragmatic perspective. Anyone who pretends otherwise is either delusional or virtue signaling to members of their tribe.


No doubt anyone who thought the USSR or Yugoslavia might breakup was also delusional or virtue signaling. After all, all of the former Soviet and Yugoslav republics have minorities from other republics, often sizable minorities.


With all due respect, those analogies are absurd. The differences vastly outweigh the similarities.

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I agree, differences in ethnicity and language are more important to people and less flexible so if geographically mixed likely to reduce the willingness of people to disolve a union.