Could America be inching closer to civil war?


Graphic by Caroline Dinh

If Biden wins the upcoming election and Trump refuses to step down, civil war could be in the cards.

Rohan Dewan and Athira Nair

For the past four years, America has been at war with itself. The U.S. has reached a point in which what divides us far outweighs what unites us as a country. Trump has directly wielded racism and xenophobia as the driving forces behind his platform, exposing the fissures that have always existed within our nation. The 2020 election will be the most consequential in modern history, determining whether America will remain fractured under this fascist regime or unite under Joe Biden’s progressive government. 

After experiencing Trump’s disastrous term, America clearly wants change. Trump’s key moderate and independent supporters have been alienated by his recent rhetoric and calamitous behavior, shifting towards Biden’s promise of stability and order. Not only does the former Vice President maintain a commanding national lead over Trump, but he is also ahead in key battleground statescompetitive in even the historically Republican Texas. A Biden victory is likely, but this means civil war could loom in the country’s future.

For the first time in history, Trump has refused to explicitly state that he would accept a Biden victory and allow for a peaceful transition of power. Combined with his assault on mail-in ballots, Trump has assembled the perfect vehicle to contest the election. The President has created a base that idolizes him irrespective of his actions and finds a way to excuse him for any of his controversies. No president has ever held this level of support, and it leaves many concerned about the possible response of this massive group if Trump refuses to leave office.  

According to the Washington Post, there has been a major increase in gun sales, chatter about civil war in right-wing extremist online forums and an embrace of violent language by President Trump and other Republican officials. This introduces the chance of militia-controlled belligerent regions that claim Trump as their leader. The President has also managed to force the Republican party to become the party of Trump, causing former opposers such as senator Lindsay Graham to become vocal defenders of his actions. If he refuses to leave office, governors and senators may align with their respective leader, resulting in a checkerboard fragmentation not dissimilar to what occurred in the 1860s.

After the election of Lincoln, many southern Democrat states grew so concerned about the legality of slavery that they refused to accept him as their president. In the decades leading up to that election, the country constantly fluctuated its stance on the practice of slavery. Modern America similarly flips on numerous societal issues due to sectional differences such as abortion, gun rights and gay marriage. Since Biden is seen as a defender of marginalized populations just as Lincoln was, Republicans could have a similar reaction like in 1860 out of fear that a Democratic administration may erase their backward policies.

If Trump takes advantage of these fears he could provoke a civil war, tearing the country apart at its institutions and governmental bodies. With full access to the government during a lame-duck period, Trump could use his executive and Republican senate powers to dismantle many agencies and systems, eroding our democracy. Biden, however, would have a legitimate claim to America and not back down, resulting in the formation of two simultaneous administrations. This is not likely to result in a civil solution, leading to armed conflicts.

Biden would hold the advantage over Trump as many generals have already pledged their support for his campaign. The military has always been loyal in serving their country, not a fascist ruler that ignores Constitutional procedure. However, Trump may possess a pull with National Guard units commanded by conservative governors. With the addition of heavily armed state militias, a civil war would ensue.

America is more divided today than it has been in the past century. This election represents a choice between two alien nations, and there will undoubtedly be civil unrest regardless of who is named the victor. Donald Trump has proved that he has no appreciation for the systems that prevent the U.S. from falling to tyranny, and he will do anything to clutch onto power. 180 years ago, America entered its darkest age. With history eerily repeating itself, one can only wonder if the same bloodshed lies in our future.