Republicans just can’t stop calling for civil war
Ask a MAGA Republican what will happen if former President Donald Trump is convicted in any of his four criminal trials and the answer is almost always the same: civil war.
That answer holds true whether you speak to rank-and-file Republican voters, local elected officials or even former national GOP leaders. It’s also an indication that the right-wing politics of grievance is spiraling dangerously out of control.
In Georgia, state Sen. Colton Moore warned politico-turned-podcaster Steve Bannon that any prosecution of Trump would lead to a likely civil war. “I don’t want to have to draw my rifle,” Moore said. Concerningly, Moore also seemed to imply that Georgia state troopers would be willing participants in any effort to bust Trump out of jail. That last bit may be fantastical thinking on Moore’s part, but he’s hardly alone.
Former Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Kandiss Taylor also lent her voice to the chorus of war cries, describing Trump’s indictments as “treason” and “a hijacking of our country,” telling podcaster William Wallis, “This is war, and I hope and pray it gets resolves before we use guns…we’re at war right now, a war for our freedom.”
Moore and Taylor are admittedly fringe figures — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp unceremoniously rejected Moore’s call to remove Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from office, while Taylor finished a distant last place in her party primary. But the right’s calls to violence aren’t just coming from local politicians in and around Atlanta. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who in 2008 served as the GOP’s vice presidential standard-bearer, assured Newsmax’s Eric Bolling that a civil war is “going to happen” if prosecutors don’t drop all charges against Trump.
“Those who are conducting this travesty and creating this two-tier system of justice […]we’re not going to keep putting up with this,” Palin told Bolling. “I like that you suggested that we need to get angry. We need to rise up and take our country back.”
It wouldn’t be hard to wave away the right’s growing calls for violence as more of the extremist political theater they’ve become so expert in producing. But Republicans are doing more than just daydreaming about revenge: Their increasingly specific urgings toward violence always include a clear call to arms for the MAGA movement. The message isn’t subtle: Have your guns ready, because the shooting could start at any moment.
As a nation, we would be foolish to ignore the threats both implicit and explicit in the right’s new civil war messaging. The fact is, violent and goading threats from our political leaders have a nasty habit of inciting action in those who take all of that hateful rhetoric as gospel. The District of Columbia’s court system is currently jammed full of them.
Just before the Labor Day holiday, a federal judge sentenced Proud Boys propagandist Joe Biggs to 17 years in prison for his actions during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. In online posts from November 2020 presented by the prosecution, Biggs openly called for civil war — and echoed many of the extreme statements Republican leaders are still making almost daily on a vast array of right-wing news outlets. In a jailhouse phone call to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Biggs said he believed Trump would pardon him when the former president is rightfully restored to power.
For his part, even the former president can’t resist making thinly veiled references to the possible necessity of civil conflict. Ousted Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson recently asked Trump if he believed the nation was headed toward civil war. Trump answered the question by remarking on the “tremendous passion and love” evident in the mob that attacked the United States on January 6, and lamented that the media only reported the attack negatively.
“People in that crowd said it was the most beautiful day they had ever experienced,” Trump waxed poetically. “I’ve never seen simultaneously so much hatred from those people for what they’ve done to our country.” By “they,” of course, Trump means the elected officials who had committed to carrying out a lawful certification of the 2020 electoral vote. In Trump’s telling, the anger of the mob is not only justified but admirable. He also warned that, properly signaled, that pro-Trump paramilitary could find its way onto the streets again.
“There’s a level of passion that I’ve never seen, there’s a level of hatred that I’ve never seen,” Trump remarked. “That’s probably a bad combination.”
Just like anyone else, the Republicans clamoring for civil war are perfectly free to use their free speech rights to the fullest. But as our nation further polarizes into extremes that view each other not just as opponents but as mortal threats to democracy, it’s worth asking whether it’s responsible or patriotic to build a political platform around urging conservatives into open violence against the state. They’ve proven their willingness to follow those orders once.
No politician who claims to love this country should be encouraging a violent repeat of one of the republic’s darkest moments.
Max Burns is a veteran Democratic strategist and founder of Third Degree Strategies.