Can you imagine a worse reason to start a civil war?
Of all the reasons to start a civil war, preserving slavery is the worst. But keeping President Trump in power is pretty high up on the list.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted the following statement by evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress: "If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal."
Jeffress isn't the only one predicting civil strife. Rudy Giuliani warned that impeaching Trump would risk "domestic tranquillity [sic]." Franklin Graham said that impeachment "could lead to conflict that nobody wants." "This is war," actor Jon Voight proclaimed.
The same people who mocked Hillary Clinton's voters for grieving after the 2016 election now say they will start a civil war if Trump is impeached in accordance with the Constitution.
Their premonitions are a sign of weakness. If you cannot argue your case with logic and evidence, you can appeal to faith or resort to threats of violence. Trump has done both. Prior to the 2018 midterms, Trump told a group of Christian leaders, "This November 6 election is very much a referendum on not only me. It's a referendum on your religion. It's a referendum on free speech and the First Amendment. It's a referendum on so much. It's not a question of like or dislike. It's a question that they will overturn everything that we've done, and they will do it quickly and violently."
As a candidate, Trump implored Americans to "take their country back" by voting for him. As president, he has convinced his base that any attempt to weaken him is an attempt to weaken the country they took back. By exploiting patriotic symbols like the flag and the national anthem, he hopes to make his interests and the nation's appear indistinguishable. He wants Americans to equate keeping their country with keeping him in office. "You're one election away from losing everything that you've gotten," he said last year. Now they're one impeachment away.
Trump reduces everything to a binary choice. You can love America or leave it. You can applaud Trump's speeches or commit treason against the United States. You can accept his abuses of power, or you will instigate a civil war by holding him accountable for them.
Some people on the right yearn for a civil war. "It's Time For The United States To Divorce Before Things Get Dangerous," The Federalist's Jesse Kelly has suggested, along with: "America Is Over, But I Won't See It Go Without An Epic Fight." In March, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) posted a meme about a civil war between red states and blue states. King used to hang a Confederate flag in his office despite the fact that he's from Iowa. As it happens, people who claim to love America the most tend to fetishize Confederate memorabilia the most.
Nationalists are not always patriots. Patriots love their country as it is. Nationalists love their country as they imagine it once was, and sometimes not even then. "There seems to be a thin line between violent, extreme nationalism and treason," Harold Ettlinger wrote in The Axis on the Air. "It seems that a man is a fascist before he is an American or a Frenchman or a Norwegian, and that he will betray his country in the interests of fascism. One moment, being a fascist, he is violently nationalistic, working for a political creed which involves exalting his own country above others. The next moment, having been frustrated in his aims, he turns against his country and fights for its downfall, or sees to it, if it has already fallen, that it does not rise again."
This is not to say that Trump is a fascist. He is a narcissist. If Trump is removed from office, is there any doubt that he will root for civil unrest as a way to avenge his wounded feelings? Last week, he said the market would crash without him in the White House. Nothing would please him more. If he suffers, he will try to outsource his suffering to others. In a civil war as in the Vietnam War, Trump will let other people do his fighting for him.
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