According to the pundits, the Republican party is engaged in civil war between its establishment and Tea Party factions. However, the civil war is actually a countrywide one. It paralyzes America’s politics, stalls its economic growth as well as cuts its basic services. Only a few people and organizations may be hit by bombs and shells, but the civil war hurts many others all across America.
Like foreign civil wars, the American one has created its quota of displaced people, those who have lost their homes due to foreclosure, eviction and deportation. Although there are no refugee camps, the shelters are fuller than ever and the number of homeless is at a record high.
Admittedly, our civil war is distinctive, perhaps even exceptional, for unlike most of those now taking place all over the world, it is fought not by soldiers and militants but by politicians.
Still, there are similarities with the civil wars elsewhere. Here as there, the war is between the government and a set of rebels, each of them supported by loyal followers, in this country called “the base.” The hardest fighting followers are fanatics, some of them engaged in an American-style jihad against infidels including government, liberals, abortion providers and an imagined foreigner in the oval office.
Their activities are supported by very rich individuals and groups that, much like warlords in other civil wars, have agendas of their own in addition to those in the rebel base.
The rebels mostly fight with words, strategies and tactics seeking to prevent the government from fulfilling its obligations. The most militant rebels aim to overthrow the government, by blocking legislation or more dramatically, by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. The ultimate aim, as one rebel warlord put it: “to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”
In the process, the rebels’ actions often impose serious hurt on ordinary citizens even though they are no more involved in the civil war than are the citizens of Syria in theirs. These actions even include terrorizing elected officials with Tea Party primary opponents, even as talk radio, cable television and internet figures secure the rebel base by feeding its paranoia.
As in other warring countries, America’s rebels are strongest in the rural and small town hinterland. Even so, they are divided into several factions. Some are religious ones trying to impose their beliefs about sex and procreation on the rest of the population. Others are secular, seeking to restore an imagined past in which America belonged to them, making them the only real Americans. The richest rebels and the warlords just want the government to reduce their taxes and to leave them alone so they can become richer.
Religious or secular, the rebels are highly skilled tacticians, succeeding in part because they reject facts and opinions other than their own. This allows them to develop conspiracy theories that enable them to treat the government as an enemy.
Above all, the rebels have learned that making stubborn demands, refusing to compromise and legally breaking conventional political rules often allows them to get their way.
As in other countries, the civil war has both ethnic and economic components. The rebels are largely “Anglos” who are angry at, and fearful of, dark-skinned people, notably African Americans and Latinos.
Still, their most intense hostility is reserved for a subset of the population, 47% to be exact. According to a now-retired rebel leader, this subset seeks to live on monies obtained from the remaining 53 percent.
America’s civil war is distinctive in a number of other ways. The rebels probably all own guns and are encouraging the rest of the population to do so. Still, they have not resorted to military violence, and their organized killing has been restricted to abortionists.
Most of the rebel energy has gone to sabotaging many government programs, although the sabotage is nonviolent. Because the rebels have not taken out their guns, the American government has not called out the troops. Local police activity has been largely limited to breaking up a group that opposes the Tea party rebellion and calls itself the Occupy movement.
Actually, the federal government has had difficulty even in taking the rebels to court. Their takeover of a significant number of state and local governments has enabled them to pass laws that make virtually all rebel sabotage projects legal.
Consequently, no one can now tell how long this civil war will last. The voters could end it at the next election and send the base back to its political cave. If government – and the voters – can then restore the country to democratic health, the rebels may stay in their cave, perhaps even until it collapses.