The Coming Civil War


Republican MAGA movement folks have been predicting another civil war. The federal government’s deep state is trampling upon their freedoms and those of former President Donald Trump. 

Two days after Election Day in 2020, Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers armed extremist group, told his high-ranking members: “We aren’t getting through this without a civil war.” Twitter posts mentioning “civil war” soared nearly 3,000 percent, denouncing the F.B.I. for searching Donald J. Trump’s Florida home for missing classified documents. 

The last time a civil war was threatened occurred was when the Abolitionists, the core group creating the emerging new liberal Republican Party, pushed the Southern states to abandon slavery. 

Liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats were fiercely divided on whether enslaved Black people should be freed, but it took place within the context of individual states defining citizenship. Did the federal government have the right to declare new states free from slavery? Or should the new states have the freedom to have Black slaves? 

The threat of civil war then and now is about defining citizenship. In the past, the struggle was to allow Black slaves to achieve citizenship. Today it is to secure functional citizenship for ethnic and cultural minorities. 

History does not repeat itself as a carbon copy. Instead, it replicates patterns. By identifying them, we can better comprehend how our current social movements sustain or destroy our democratic society. 

The abolitionist movement became the most significant disruptive political movement of the late 1850s; the biggest today is MAGA. Each achieved a national presence by displacing the leadership of one of the existing two political parties that form a duopoly of controlling national political power. The Whig Party floundered and then folded as the abolitionists made the Republican Party the second-largest party in the nation.  Since the election of Donald J. Trump as President, the establishment Republican political leaders have succumbed to the MAGA wing of their party because of its grip on the primary system.

Although abolitionists did not initially push for expanding citizenship, once Black slaves were to be freed, they did not actively oppose it. However, they were joined by many citizens in the North who feared that the South was threatening their citizenship.  

The growth of the abolitionist movement can be directly attributed to a response to the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act that the Southern-dominated Congress and President Pierce sponsored. As described by Glenn Young in The Winning Words“a wide range of local and ordinary people were taken into custody for failing to support the professional slave catchers who came to their communities.” And in response, “there were public demonstrations and even riots in support of Blacks, instead of the traditional riots attacking Blacks and white supporters of abolition.” Protests and the explosion of the underground railway, which ran through the North to Canada and freed an estimated 30,000 slaves, led to the revival of the dormant push for the abolition of slavery.

The threat of an aggressive South was highlighted when Massachusetts, Republican Senator Charles Sumner, was physically beaten on the Senate floor by pro-slave South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks. The South defended Brooks’ actions. The Richmond Enquirer denounced Sumner, editorializing that “these vulgar Abolitionists in the Senate … have been suffered to run too long without collars.”

Today those in the MAGA movement fear that their citizenship is being diluted through immigration, particularly by the wave of asylum seekers that appear to be overwhelming our border facilities. And the primary thrust of MAGA (Making America Great Again) harkens back to when Black citizens were discriminated against in public schools, private businesses, and facilities serving the public. Citizenship was then more narrowly defined. Looking back to that era, it was seen as a period of security from an influx of strange new inhabitants. 

When President Trump pushed for building “the wall” to keep unregistered immigrants from crossing our Mexican border, he voiced the fear many MAGA folks felt about having their citizenship replaced by the newcomers; America wasn’t their home anymore. 

And when Trump was impeached and indicted for possible criminal actions, he was treated like a hero speaking the truth, much as Brooks was when he beat down Sumner. The MAGA folks are as passionate about drastic change as the Abolitionists were a hundred years ago. But unlike MAGA supporters, they recognized the presidential elections as legitimate when their first candidate John C. Frémont lost.

The Abolitionists didn’t ask for the Civil War. They even tried to avoid one to preserve the Union.  In 1856 they conceded to allowing slavery in the existing slave states but nowhere else. The Republicans did not win the 1856 presidential race. However, when Lincoln ran in 1860, the abolitionist movement was steering the Republican Party, and he was their candidate, although not their first choice. 

he South declared that if Lincoln were elected president, they would secede from the United States. They knew that by only adding new non-slave states, they would be outvoted in Congress and have their South Slavocracy threatened. They were willing to fight for their beliefs, as were the Abolitionists who would not tolerate creating new slave states. So, the Abolitionists did spark the Civil War by refusing to accept the growth of slavery in America. 

The Abolitionist and MAGA movements gained significant weight within one of the dominant parties to determine national policies. Their passion for pursuing an agenda to the brink of a civil war, according to Elizabeth Neumann, assistant secretary for counter-terrorism at the Homeland Security Department under Trump, raises “The question [of] what does ‘civil war’ look like and what does it mean?” She is concerned because she had not anticipated “how rapidly the violence would escalate” in reference to the January 9 insurrection and the violence that has followed. 

In comparing these two movements, there are two primary reasons why there is little to support the contention that we will see another civil war fought between the states.

First, civil wars need a geographical base for the opposing sides to operate from, as happened in our Civil War, North against South. The MAGA base is dispersed across the country, but principally in rural areas; they need a secure territory to command—the alternative for radical MAGA members would be to carry on long-term guerilla warfare, which rarely finds victory. Without sustained shelter and heavy outside funding, rebellions usually dissipate and fail to replace the existing regime. 

Second, a civil war requires a fight over controlling an identifiable and tangible objective. The North wanted slavery eliminated. The South wanted it to continue. MAGA aims to eradicate the deep state, but where? Who’s in it? For MAGA, the deep state is present in all 50 states that approved the “stolen election.” Any former Republican Party member who is anti-Trump, or not loyal to him is also in it. The organizational problem for MAGA is that the enemy is too amorphous to target since it is seen everywhere and could include anyone at any time, even former allies. 

Although America will avoid a classic civil war, it already is in a “cold” civil war of heightened polarization and mistrust between the MAGA base and liberals. That condition has morphed into violence and threatened violence against individuals doing their civic duty. Extreme cases involved making death threats to volunteers overseeing the 2020 presidential election results, and such threats continue three years later. 

On August 16, 2023, NBC News learned that the purported names and addresses of members of the Georgia grand jury that indicted Donald Trump on state racketeering charges were posted on a fringe website that often features violent rhetoric. A post on a pro-Trump forum responded to the exposure of the jurors’ personal information: “These jurors have signed their death warrant by falsely indicting President Trump.”

These potentially deadly actions replay the political and philosophical conflicts that have historically divided our nation into opposing interest groups for asserting citizenship rights and privileges. Those divisions center around racial, ethnic, economic, religious, and geographical clashes. 

Examples go back over 150 years. In 1860 the American Party was close to becoming the second party, not the Republican Party, based on its hostility to immigrants and Catholics. Hostility to Catholics was finally snuffed out when John F. Kennedy became president. Malicious opposition to immigration has ebbed and flowed, with it peaking again. Racial and ethnic discrimination has remained an institutional legacy, and while churchgoing has decreased, religion remains a rallying force in the MAGA movement. The rural, urban political divide is greater now than ever before. One constant feature in America’s past, and every other nation, is the conflict between the haves and the have-nots. 

Some commentators recommend that opposing sides listen to each other, as Monica Guzman writes in Never Thought of It That Way: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times. Listening to the other side is the first step toward rational discussions. But our history shows the odds of that happening on a grand scale to eliminate intense fights are slim. 

However, there is traction among some Democrats and Republicans, which are the political bases for MAGA and liberals, to recognize and respect the democratic functions of government regardless of who is in public office. That is a heavy lift for these outliers, whose friends are deeply suspicious about the reliability of the government to be fair to their side of the divide. 

However, through the effort of some leaders, no matter how scorned, to emphasize the need to operate within a democratic republic’s institutions, citizens can ignore the siren’s songs of despair and anger. And thus, avoid crashing our society upon the ragged shores of a civil war, whether that war is violent or illegally subversive.

Nick Licata
Nick Licata
Nick Licata, was a 5 term Seattle City Councilmember, named progressive municipal official of the year by The Nation, and is founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of 1,000 progressive municipal officials. Author of Becoming a Citizen Activist. Subscribe to Licata’s newsletter Urban Politics


  1. Howard Zinn lives rent free in your brain! The party of political violence is not the one you imagine. Small ‘r’ republicans have simply had a belly full of a tyranny of the minority.

    • What this fails to recognize is that this is not really about MAGA VS LIBERALS…but rather its now about Rural vs. Urban…Liberal Urbanites who cannot sustain themselves are surrounded by armed Rural citizens who can sustain themselves…and in the event that a civil war breaks out, would simply surround and starve out the urbanites.
      History repeats.

      • Um, since you apparently aren’t well-versed in US History let me bring you up to speed – the industrial (urban) North beat the agrarian (rural) South, and this difference is listed in most serious discussion of the matter as the key factor determining why the Confederacy lost.

        And what makes you think city folks aren’t armed?

  2. All:
    David Brin, author and futurist, makes a great set of points that we are fully immersed in stage 8 of “the” Civil War.

    Please research and read.

  3. They say history repeats itself. There will be a lot of deep state and a lot of people dying in the Civil War 2. good people will survive at the end of the day in this Civil War like the lots of war.

  4. Gloom, despair and agony on me. Deep dark depression and excessive misery. It is aligned with what many feel today. I hope and pray not but I won’t be surprised if it happens…

  5. This president Bidden and his family have ruined everyones trust in goverrment.He is anti american like the ruined fbi and doj also the open borders this president is crushing our country and people are not standing for his lies anymore.

    • Agreed, but it doesn’t start with him. He’s just the puppet, he isn’t pulling any strings. And we’ve been lied to by potus’ for a long time, let’s start with LBJ!

    • Biden did a great deal to restore my trust and the trust of hundreds of millions of other citizens in the Office of the Presidency, thank you very much. You clearly watch WAY too much Fox “News”.

      • Not really, if any educated person actually had their trust restored in the the government by THIS fool, (who, by the way, can’t make it through a speech without stumbling over his words or forgetting what he was going to say,) they need to reevaluate themselves. I don’t subscribe to any particular political party, but he has ruined my opinion of all liberals forever!

        • Biden is a stutterer, but that didn’t stop him from thinking quite adeptly on his feet and cleaning MGT’s clock at the State of the Union Address earlier this year.

          I bet you also believe that Cheetolini is 6’3″ and 215 lbs too, amirite?

  6. You wouldnt post my comment because i spoke the truth about president Bidden ruining our country if your not a liberal with crazy thoughts the media dont want to hear you.

  7. Apples and Oranges.

    We are in an era of hybrid warfare, which employs the internal destruction of civil society and intentional sowing of mistrust in public institutions by “flooding the zone with shit”, as Steve Bannon once quipped. Social media has allowed otherwise isolated groups of people to connect and bring what was once a cold civil war, which began in 1994 under Newt Gingrich, to the next level; the third space adjacent to hot and cold war.

    The other side of this hybrid civil war is violent and guerrilla in nature, albeit dispersed and stochastic. As long as progressives characterize this as exclusively a gun regulation or poverty issue miss the point. Organized militias can reorganize, as they did after the crackdown in the 1990s, and the daily acts of violence produce casualties with the same PTSD.

    MAGAs have help from an international coalition of authoritarian governments in the West (state government) and in Russia (Putin). Interference by governments foreign and domestic, in our civic and political fabric is paying dividends for MAGAs.

    The progressive version of American Exceptionalism is that fascists always lose. Until they don’t. Hybrid warfare was pioneered by Soviet Union, and was used by proxies to ferment “revolts” in the eastern block whose leaders would invite the invaders as liberators.This foreign relations strategy has continued under post-Communism and under Putin. The left’s attitude about the invasion of Ukraine is of that DNA, where hybrid warfare is plain for all to see. It is obvious to anyone paying attention that this strategy is being used against US civil society and against our bureaucracies.

    The past Civil War can certainly inform the cultural roots of the present hybrid civil war. But no two wars are the same.

    • “The left’s attitude about the invasion of Ukraine…” is way too broad a brush. As a leftist myself with many similarly thinking leftists we call Putin the fascist he is the invasion of Ukraine the imperialism it is.

      Those parts of “the left” who blame Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on NATO and the U.S. are reflecting a perspective called “imperialism of idiots” (look it up).

  8. There is no way that MAGAs will ever believe truth, even when their is tangible proof in front of them. They have been lied to for so long that their perception of the truth has been forever altered. Much like the way a woman in an abusive marriage comes to believe she is worthless and possibly even deserving of her mistreatment. Essentially, MAGA’s goal is to force their white, Christian rule on every American. To hell with the Constitution and our freedom of religion. And while they praise our veterans for their service overseas, somehow they can’t see that their absolutist mindset mirrors that of our foreign enemies.

    • Now who’s been lied to the Constitution was written by White Christian Males , most of which owned slaves , and by In God We Trust .
      Not Allah , or Jehovah or Buddha ,Not by women or men of other color.

      • My Constitutional right to freedom of religion means I get to be absolutely free of yours. And I think arguing that since a lot of the authors of the Constitution were slave-owners and none were women doesn’t exactly make a strong argument for the relevance of this 18th Century document in the modern world. If you want to live in an institutionalized sexist theocracy like Iran or Afghanistan, by all means move there.

        PS – most of the Founding Fathers were deists, not Christians.

      • If I understand your comment, you are implying that because the Constitution was written by “White Christian Males…Not by women or men of other color”, only people answering to that description should have any say in how government is run.
        I find it hard to believe that anyone in this day and age would subscribe to such an extreme opinion.

  9. “Trump Derangement Syndrome” has you focused in the wrong direction, not only are you diluting the cultural division down to a handful of issues rather than the broad base of issues that decide us, you also have highlighted the wrong issue as the main point! Perhaps because that was the best way to point liberals as the good guys in your story (They’re Not!). But have boiled it down to MAGA Republicans. Guess what! Wrong again it’s not MAGA just republicans, it’s parents who don’t support what’s happening in schools, it’s, supporters of law enforcement who disagree with the mass vilification of police, it’s people who don’t want the liberal agendas shoved down their throught, those who fear the slow collapse of the US dollar at the hands of the current administration and many others. You have painted your liberal pals as the good guys preaching from a moral high ground which you do not actually have!

    You’ve written a one sided piece about a subject you clearly do not understand!

    • Your assessment is on the mark! Frustratingly, the people of the Left possesses an arrogance and a close mindedness that leaves them open to only their doctrinal core beliefs and closed to all other views. Call it what it is, intolerance! Moreover, lately, it certainly feels like they are lashing out (and that not a healthy state of being).

      • There certainly is a lot of lashing out, and that goes for people of all political stripes. Some days it feels like Americans have formed themselves into a gigantic circular firing squad and are getting itchy trigger fingers. (I am not happy using the gun metaphor, and don’t want to give anyone crazy ideas, but I cannot think of a more apt expression). We need to de-escalate, people. We are NOT in a civil war — and not even close, imho, despite all the huffing and puffing and hurt feelings — but if we get angry enough, we could end up there.

  10. I found the article quite informative, the parallels between the takeover of the Whig party by abolitionists and the takeover and recasting of the Republican Party by the past president.

    The rift zone that has developed in the American electorate is dangerous and scary and it’s hard to see how the tremors subside.

  11. The civil war was fought over states rights (infringement of people’s rights)

    The North forcing their agenda on the Southerners, and the southerners didn’t want Northern agenda forced down there throats

    We are seeing that today… Infringement of people’s rights (and State’s) rights

    The liberals forcing their agenda

    Obamacare… We don’t want it…well too bad, your getting it anyways

    Infringement on 2nd amendment… We want to keep our rights to near arms… Too bad, we’ll keep passing laws to hurt the law abiding citizens.

    We want fair elections by ACTUAL US CITIZEN… Nope, anyone can vote. No ID needed

    I want my shower head … Nope. We want you on a water restricting system

    I want my gas car…. Nope, we are going to pass laws to hurt the gas car industry

    I want my 1st amendment rights….nope we will suppress free speech … Especially to you conservatives, I’d we don’t agree with your opinion, we will weaponize the legal system to shut you down

    I want to cool my house …. Nope electricity use for you is going to be penalized

    I don’t want my 5 year old exposed to a drag queen g-string….nope. It WILL HAPPEN. your child WILL watch otherwise we’ll take away your parenting rights

    I want to say the pledge of allegiance

    Nope… We are suppressing that and will mock you if you do

    I want to work here and go to church

    Nope… You can’t unless you get this shot

    The left wing liberals are slowly taking away people’s rights

    That’s where this tension is coming from

    I think Nick would be happier in Venezuela

    • Wow – this is remarkably childish.

      Obamacare… We don’t want it…well too bad, your getting it anyways
      Isn’t the fundamental premise of this country that we are a democracy? Obamacare passed the Congress and was signed by a duly-elected president. Are you against democracy? Polling these days reports that Obamacare is very popular. Are you a fascist?

      Infringement on 2nd amendment… We want to keep our rights to near arms… Too bad, we’ll keep passing laws to hurt the law abiding citizens.
      Hurt law-abiding citizens? How about the thousands and thousands of “law-abiding citizens” who are killed every year by guns? Are your rights more important than the right to life?

      We want fair elections by ACTUAL US CITIZEN… Nope, anyone can vote. No ID needed
      Now you’re just being silly. Actual US citizens are the only ones who can vote. For all the jumping up and down MAGAtes have done about illegal voting, they’ve been unable to prove any of the claims, even through 60-plus trips to court. You can say the courts are rigged (are you saying that?) but we have a process and the courts said no evidence was presented that proves it.

      I want my shower head … Nope. We want you on a water restricting system
      Grow up. We’ve got a water supply problem in the West. If we don’t figure out how to share it NOBODY gets water. Such a hardship that the flow is maybe less.

      I want my gas car…. Nope, we are going to pass laws to hurt the gas car industry
      Again – overwhelming scientific consensus is that burning fossil fuels is harming the planet. You want to poison it for the rest of us? (and by the way – have you ever thought for a moment why you’re consistently in the tiny minority on EVERY issue you bitch about?)

      I want my 1st amendment rights….nope we will suppress free speech … Especially to you conservatives, I’d we don’t agree with your opinion, we will weaponize the legal system to shut you down
      You clearly have free speech. Look at the nonsense you’ve written here. There’s been no suppression of free speech. What you call weaponization of the legal system is just the laws working to enforce the rules we all play by. You don’t like it, because… once again you believe that everyone should agree with you, and if they don’t (and make a stronger more clear-headed) argument, they’re suppressing you somehow. That’s just childish.

      I want to cool my house …. Nope electricity use for you is going to be penalized
      Penalized? You mean you have to pay your bills? Welcome to the adult world.

      I don’t want my 5 year old exposed to a drag queen g-string….nope. It WILL HAPPEN. your child WILL watch otherwise we’ll take away your parenting rights
      Your 5-year-old is going to drag shows? You should pay better attention and supervise them (Sounds like you don’t and you’re not much of a parent). Your school must be horrible to force kids to do that. But it’s not happening. No one’s forcing kids to watch drag. And g-string? Really?

      I want to say the pledge of allegiance
      Nope… We are suppressing that and will mock you if you do

      Ha! Suppressed? This is particularly funny. I have to hear the damn pledge over and over and over again. But so what? It’s part of the ritual so I let it go. Suppressed? That’s hilarious!

      I want to work here and go to church
      Nope… You can’t unless you get this shot

      Well – now you’re not making any sense whatsoever. I assume you’re referring to the life-saving vaccines that helped us beat Covid. People were trying to save lives. Many more people wanted protection. You want to get covid and infect other people so they’re at risk of dying? Sorry, but damn straight I don’t want you around me and mine.

      The left wing liberals are slowly taking away people’s rights

      Just fucking grow up! Time to be an adult.

      • Hear hear!

        ….and it’s no coincidence that the would-be fascists posting this nonsense here are barely one step above functional illiteracy when they try and put their Fox “News” spew into writing.

      • …not to mention the fact that crying because the mean urban North forced the pure rural South to give up slavery against its will really is a great example of saying the quiet part out loud, isn’t it?

        The moment the South started working to undermine Black voting rights during Reconstruction is the moment the Union should have sent General Sherman back down to start burning their cities again.

    • The dispute about “states’ rights” was really about the right of states to decide for themselves whether or not slavery would be permitted, and whether newly admitted states could freely choose whether or not they would allow slavery. (Of course it was more complicated). But the actual civil war was not about the sort of things you have said are being denied to you.

  12. When the Left has taken away your Right to free speech, then takes your guns, so you can not fight back, because most people die by illegal gun owners and users. Elect people using stuffed ballot boxes and votes from non citizens. Tell you how to live unless you get a vaccine or wear a mask that have been proven doesn’t work.Tells you how to raise your kids so they will grow up confused and hate filled and have to take a shower for twice as long because they won’t let you use any water. Then who are you going to turn too to save you from the people you voted in, who stuck you with these ideas and mandates? There won’t be another country to go to that has these Rights.

  13. Wow, no wonder I quit voting. With the state of our 2 parties leaves people who are in between no where to go. No wonder socialism is starting to look good to some of us!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments Policy

Please be respectful. No personal attacks. Your comment should add something to the topic discussion or it will not be published. All comments are reviewed before being published. Comments are the opinions of their contributors and not those of Post alley or its editors.