History's End

History will end only when Man does

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  • Wednesday, June 02, 2004

    The Second American Civil War-Part Two

    In the first part of this series I explained a bit about how the (first) American Civil War came about. To sum it up quickly again, it occurred when the cost of peace to the Southern Aristocracy and leadership was greater than the cost of war. When they felt that they had more to gain from war than peace, war was what they chose. At least by fighting they had a chance to change the dynamics of the equation. Fortunately for the Union, the South acted too late. It should have seceded ten to twenty years before, when the power disparity between North and South was far smaller. As it was, the South faced an increasingly industrialized North, a new political party that had no allegiances to the South and a history of anti-slavery sentiments in the Republicans, and finally they faced Abraham Lincoln, who proved to be one of the greatest leaders in human history.

    This leads me to the true topic of this series: the possibility of a future Civil War in the United States. This is something that has been covered before, particularly by James Davidson Hunter, in his book Before the Shooting Begins. For a review of that book try this. So I am not broaching new ground here. However, I do feel that it is a subject that receives insufficient attention, and that is something that I intend to correct. I will try and determine what the chances of a new Civil War are, as well as its scope and potential for destruction. I will also try and determine who might be the two or more different sides in this conflict, as that is something that isn't necessarily clear at first sight.

    I happen to think, and Hunter has argued this as well, that a future Civil War will be an evolution of the current "Culture War." As I have demonstrated before, the Civil War was in fact another, earlier "Culture War" that become a full blown conflict. Hunter argues that there are two major opposing "camps" in the "Culture War" today, the Orthodox and the Progressive. He tends to shy away from the terms "conservative" and "liberal" as there are some who don't fit in those two political categories that do in fact fit in the two culture war categories. There is also a quasi-category, sometimes called the "secular" category, which I prefer to call the "cultural agnostic" category, composed of people who don't really have stake in the culture war or who just don't fit into the two other categories for some reason.

    The Orthodox and the Progressives are fighting over the future of America, and only one side can win. Hunter believes that the Progressives will likely win, as they control the media and educational establishments. However, he wrote that in 1992, before the Internet had taken off, and before there were alternative news sources. So now one of those elements is less powerful than before. The Progressives still control the education system though, and that is something that gives them an edge. Only a fraction of the population as a whole can home school or go to private school, so that isn't going to make a huge difference. Anyways, the Progressive still have an edge, though not as big as a decade ago.

    The question is, what will one side or the other do if it senses defeat? Will they accept this, or will they consider the cost of war to be less than the cost of peace. The future of America, and the world is at stake here. So a further refinement of the question is, is enough at stake to give one of the sides the impetus to choose war as a means of changing the equation? I think that is something that we can't tell at this point. Both camps are far more decentralized than the pre-Civil War camps were, there is no central authority, or anything providing serious organizational centralization. Not yet, anyways. The Southern Aristocracy was a clearly defined group, and they had control over the political apparati of the South. They had various government bodies (mostly State bodies) to use to communicate with each other, and most importantly, there was one single issue that really dominated the culture war at that time, slavery. Nothing comes close to that issue today, although same-sex marriage and abortion are probably the closest approximates. Without that burning issue, what could provide the impetus to organize like was done for the South during the Civil War? I suspect that it will be something similar to what happened last time: A Supreme Court Decision. Dredd Scott really riled the abolitionists up, and helped fuel the Republican Party. It certainly helped lay the seeds for the Civil War. Another major Supreme Court decision could possibly do so as well. Of the two issues already mentioned, Same Sex Marriage is likely to represent a larger impact on existing practices when one considers what is going to come before the Court. A reversal of Roe v Wade is certainly not on the horizon, at least not until a new Justice or two steps to the Bench. That leaves SSM. The most likely situation is where the Defense of Marriage Act is challenged as un-Constitutional some point in the future. I think that the larger impact would come if it was ruled un-constitutional, and States were forced to recognized marriage licenses for homosexual unions that were granted in another state. This would cause a massive outcry from the Orthodox Camp. How massive? Difficult to tell. I wouldn't be surprised if some States decided to simply ignore the court on that, the South and Mid-West as the primary regions in mind. Depending on who the President is, and who controls Congress, we could have an interesting dilemma. If Bush is still in office, then he will have to face the option of enforcing something that he is utterly against. And Congress would have to make some tough decisions as well.

    To be continued...


    I should mention that while the Progressives are "winning" right now, that may change at some point in the future. President Bush, if he is re-elected, will have a chance to appoint several Supreme Court Justices, probably at least two, and maybe more. If he and a successor manage to alter the balance of the Court things can change for the Orthodox. The Court was one of the prime supports of the Progressive movement for a while, and it wasn't until Reagan that its support was checked, and it has only slightly supported the Progressives since. It is possible that Bush could appoint several Justices, and if he replaces Sandra Day O'Connor with a justice with more conservative social views then it wouldn't be out of the question for Roe to be overturned or significantly weakened some point in the future. I am not entirely sure how the Progressives would react to this...

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