“Do you think there’s going to be a civil war?” Ian asked me.
We were standing outside Cowboys Dance Hall, the site of the Bernie Sanders rally I had just attended. Ian wasn’t a Bernie fan, though. He was here for a counter-rally being held outside Cowboys by anti-socialist conservatives, including UTSA’s chapter of Turning Point USA. In the context of the evening, and the present political climate, Ian’s question was a valid one.
Hyperbolic as it sounds, the threat of political violence is omnipresent nowadays. The fight is not just left versus right, either. Waiting in line before the rally, one of the big topics of conversation was the possibility Bernie might win a plurality of delegates in the Democratic primary but lose the nomination due to machinations of the Democratic establishment at the party convention.
One rally attendee said if Bernie wasn’t nominated, it could be time to “take the pitchforks out,” and, if necessary, he’d take part himself. This may seem extreme, but anger toward the status quo is the main source of political violence, and there’s a lot of that these days.
The warm-up speakers at the rally declared America is structured by systems of oppression that enforce white supremacy, and we must dismantle the whole matter and “[take] the political revolution to the front doorsteps of the oppressors.” The crowd enthusiastically agreed with this analysis of America and the desirable future for it.
The crowd outside, however, did not. It was bizarre to see the protester I was having a calm conversation with turn around and bellow at a “Communist” driving by. While some eagerly wanted to “fight the left,” others said they didn’t set out to be belligerent — they felt it was necessary self-defense against being called a Nazi when “punch a Nazi” is popular advice.
All this flashed through my mind after Ian’s question. I replied the political and domestic stability Americans enjoy would preclude full-scale civil war from ever occurring — but in a climate where everyone on the opposing side is a Communist or a Nazi, political discord is only going to increase.