US Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) went on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show Thursday and stated that President Trump was “partially” to blame for the polarization and poisoned state of politics in America today. Such generosity from a right-winger is breathtaking. To think that the two-year spew of insults and rants, temper tantrums and conspiracy theories from Donald Trump may have had some impact on the national mood reflects real broad-mindedness in contemporary conservative America.
I had only two weeks ago written a piece on Alex Jones. Well, he has finally found a shooting rampage that he feels is not a hoax! And, true to form, he is leading the campaign that says America is currently drowning in a tsunami of leftist terrorist violence. The statistics aren’t there, as is usually the case with Jones and company. In fact, the stats are not even remotely close, compared with right-wing violence and Islamist violence. But it is fair to ask, could they be someday? Maybe someday soon?
Even the Koch brothers’ own Cato Institute admits that most domestic terrorism is right-wing in nature, that is, white supremacists, anti-government militias, sovereign citizens, and lone wolves of the far-right. Left-wing terrorism? It would be the rock bottom worst way to combat Trumpism. The best way is through consistently presenting better ideas. And, how can I say it? There is no heavy lifting in coming up with ideas better than Trump’s.
The 1970s was the height of left-wing terrorism, and even then it was mainly in Europe, with the Red Brigades, Red Army Faction, Carlos the Jackal, etc. South America had cults in the mode of Shining Path and FARC. Leftist terrorism in America was never at the same level. It was strongest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when anarchists assassinated Presidents Garfield and McKinley, and staged bombings and riots. Of course, the hardcore plutocracy of that time had a way of engendering radicalism.
The uproar about leftist terrorism we’ve been hearing since the Alexandria, VA, shooting rampage is wildly overstated. Protest marches are not domestic terrorism. Even vandalism doesn’t rise to that description, though it is headed that way; arson definitely has the potential to destroy innocent lives. But non-violence has been the watchword at virtually all of the many massive anti-Trump protests. Maybe the worst case in America that could be called leftist terrorism in recent years was the shooting of five police officers in Dallas by Micah Johnson in July of 2016.
The baseball field shooter in Alexandria, VA, James Hodgkinson (I’ll spare you his photograph) was a leftist political fanatic. Based on what we know of him, that is the proper description. He is also described as “creepy,” with anger management issues, a record of domestic violence, and most recently, a death wish. But you could say those same words about any number of the other rampage murderers we have suffered in this country, be they non-political psychotics, or the right-wing variety, or Muslim jihadis like the Orlando nightclub gunman. ISIS recruiters look for psychologically unstable men.
News stories of political violence always bring to mind something that was said by the late (assassinated) Pakastani politician, Benazir Bhutto. Paraphrasing, she said extremism requires chaos. It cannot exist in a rational society of checks and balances. It must have turmoil.
Three hundred and fifty million Americans, and only a microscopic minority ever turn violent. Still, we hear talk of a “second Civil War” in this country, on internet message boards and elsewhere. Right-wing and left-wing groups are barely kept separate by the police cordons in demonstrations that are increasingly hot.
With more guns than human beings in this country, and endless demagoguery on the radio and internet, it seems likely that we could see a major bloodbath. Full-blown war would be something else, but wars have been known to pop up unexpectedly in history.
At the end of the day, though, I think there is good reason to doubt the prospects for a second Civil War. For starters, unlike the first one, there is not the same geographic clarity. The South separated in a unified way in 1861. As right-wing as it is today, with occasional secessionist talk, it is just not in the same situation. It is much easier to envision a period of terrorist cults committing limited atrocities than anything like what we had in the 1860s.
The good news about our benighted times is that a greater disaster than what we already see around us is not inevitable. The vast majority of people are not extremist in their thinking or prone to violence. In fact, they understand innately the great advantage to their personal lives of a civilized approach to differences. Widespread violence would be an unnecessary ruin that would leave us, after the fires burn out, in exactly the same spot we were in before.
Let the ballot box decide. Of course, that means people voting, and being allowed to vote. We won’t be able to sustain democracy in the United States with the current numbers of eligible voters who are no-shows on Election Day.
Some common ground exists between the political right and left. Not at the extremes, maybe, but otherwise. Human beings will always trade for mutual benefit. That’s capitalism, by any other name. If it is done fairly, it is a beautiful thing. That is an ideal that we can work toward.
Communism was one of many utopian fantasies of the 19th century that is not coming back. Plutocracy is the polar opposite aberration to communism, and it is unfair and unjust by definition. Plutocracy currently has us by the throat, and remains the primary problem for mankind today.
The two parties are not “exactly the same,” or “equally bad,” as you will see on cynical, simplistic internet postings. The right wing favors plutocracy, in general, and thus is far worse. But this does not mean that the left should ever be followed mindlessly, or held in any higher esteem than what they have earned.