In this week’s “It’s Debatable” segment, Rick Rosen and Charles Moster debate whether our growing national disunity and heightened political tension could lead to a civil war. Rosen is the Glenn D. West Endowed Research Professor of Law at the Texas Tech University School of Law and a retired U.S. Army colonel. Moster is founder of the Moster Law Firm based in Lubbock with seven offices including Austin, Dallas, and Houston.
Moster – 1The church bells pealed across the State of South Carolina shortly after the election of Abraham Lincoln celebrating its secession from the United States and entry into to a new union soon to be christened the Confederacy. Thisresounding battle cry was replicated by a bevy of other southern states devolvingthe great American Experiment launched by our forefathers into a conflagrationof blue and gray and a toxic exchange which killed over 620,000 people on both sides.Tragically, I am certain that we are retrograding fast into another civil warexchange characterized by the newly emerged colors of conflicting politicalideologies – red and blue. This polarization was unleashed by Donald Trump andhis cronies who had little concern about preserving the fundamental integrity andstability of our democratic institutions. Trump, a classic “Yankee Carpetbagger”fooled lots of folks in Texas including this columnist who recanted years ago. Ihave admitted my mistake in judgment much to the dismay of many of ourreaders who consider me to be a turncoat of sorts notwithstanding theprevalence of my other conservative views.Unfortunately, the divisive genie is already out of the bottle. A recent pollconducted by the University of California found that over 50% of Americansexpect a civil war to break out in the next few years. This frightening prospectwas reiterated in a recent article which appeared in The Atlantic – The DoomSpiral of Pernicious Polarization – which concluded that America “is moredangerously divided than any other wealthy democracy” in the world. On a scalewhere partisan polarization ranges from a low of 0 to 5 of extremism, we all get aresounding 3.8. A 2016 survey found that 60% of Democrats and 63% ofRepublicans would object to their children “marrying a supporter of a differentpolitical party.” Such emotional sentiment is incomprehensible and dangerous.Former President Trump and his Machiavellian supporters including TedCruz and Texas Governor Abbot have relentlessly attacked the very foundations ofour democracy and given credibility to the total falsehood that Biden stole theelection. This has been disputed by Trump’s inner circle including his formerAttorney General and recently his key White House counsel Pat Cipollone whoreiterated that no evidence of such fraud ever occurred or existed. He interjectedthat former VP Pence should get the Medal of Freedom for standing up to theselies and certifying the election of Joe Biden.The rub is that most Republicans and critically Americans still believe thatthe election was stolen as evidenced by the recent primary victories of candidateswho ascribe to such outright lies. Such has created a late-stage cancer in ourbody politic which led to the once unthinkable siege on the U.S. Capitol and anattempted coup staged and planned by Donald Trump which will, in my opinion,lead to his ultimate indictment and conviction for treason.All of this will tragically precipitate a new civil war which could break out assoon as Trump’s first criminal indictment is ratified by a myriad of grand juryinvestigations. Count on it and get ready for the church bells to ring out againacross the South.Very frightening, indeed.Rosen – 1I will not defend former President Trump. I never voted for Trump nor hisDemocratic Party opponents. Trump’s assertion that the 2020 election was stolenis baseless. To suggest, however, that Trump alone unleashed the nation’s divisions is flatly spurious.Trump is not the first candidate to falsely claim an election victory; his 2016opponent, Hillary Clinton, still refuses to concede her 2016 election defeat. Evenmore insidious, her campaign disseminated a wholly false narrative that Trumpcolluded with Russia to win the election. Using a phony dossier, the campaigninstigated FBI and Justice Department investigations of Trump, whichunquestionably undermined his presidency. This is the stuff of a “banana republic” (and I do not mean the apparel store).I agree there are dangerous strains on the fabric of American society. The January6, 2021, Capitol riot was intolerable and criminal, but well before that eventAmericans witnessed cities ravaged by brutal riots; a dramatic rise in violent crimeas blue cities cut their police and their prosecutors refused to prosecute andincarcerate the criminals responsible; a complete breakdown of security on thesouthern border; and a nation humiliated by an incompetently planned andexecuted withdrawal from Afghanistan. Trump’s divisiveness is certainly animportant factor, but the current administration has seemingly deliberately failedto meet its promise to unite Americans. Instead, the Administration has sought topunish those with opposing points of view, as parents protesting at school boardmeetings discovered when implicitly deemed domestic terrorists by the AttorneyGeneral.I also believe that Americans are increasingly intolerant of those holding opposingpolitical views. But this phenomenon has prevailed for decades, especially insome of the nation’s leading colleges and universities. For example, last monthdozens of University of Michigan medical students walked out of their “WhiteCoat Ceremony” because the guest speaker was personally pro-life, although thatwas not the subject of her talk. Many readers may not know that Charles is notonly a superb lawyer but also a brilliant author on subjects ranging from timetravel, to history, to space exploration. Despite his extensive expertise in amultitude of disciplines, Charles would be shunned at many schools simplybecause he is pro-life regardless of the subject of his presentation. And I sincerelydoubt that those who would shun him are Trump supporters.
Moster – 2I have never been a supporter of Hillary Clinton and agree with Rick that she created a false political narrative. However, her rhetoric was not intended to incite a riot and overthrow the government. Trump’s criminality exceeds mere vitriol and is tantamount to the most egregious actions unleashed against theUnited States. Certainly, there is no analogue in modern times. Only two deadlyincidents in American history stand out as comparable – Shay’s Rebellion in 1786 – the armed uprising against the newly formed federal government, and the infamous bloody raid on Harper’s Ferry by abolitionist John Brown in 1859.Although all the facts underlying the Jan. 6 insurrection are still in development, I predict that Trump’s overt acts to topple the government will be judged in the same lethal light.Apart from the immense political instability fomented by Trump and his millions of supporters, other factors will likely provoke a new civil war. I have written extensively about the coming fiscal crisis which will trigger a hyperinflation never experienced in the United States akin to the collapse of the German economy shortly after WW-I when trillions of “Marks” were required to buy a loaf of bread. It doesn’t take a Nobel Laureate to establish that our greatcountry is already bankrupt. You can add to that spiraling domestic violence, urban unrest, and the increased disparity between the rich and poor.A key factor overlooked by most observers will be the adverse effect of technology and automation on the American workforce.
New advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, in my opinion, will replace entire sectors of theeconomy by the end of this decade including customer service positions and blue collar employment in the manufacturing and distribution sectors.
Millions of people working in the auto industry and retail sectors including Amazon and Walmart will be displaced and added to the burgeoning ranks of the unemployed.So-called professional positions in the legal, medical, and financial fields will faceextinction in the next decade. I also foresee the rise of “Corporate City States” –armed and self-supporting/governed enclaves of the wealthiest corporations inAmerica, rising from the ashes sustained by indigenous workers and a cryptocurrency apart from the worthless American fiscal system.A confluence of factors immediate and long term will trigger a new civil war in America whether manifested as an armed struggle between red and blue states or some configuration as of yet unforeseen. What will emerge from this conflict cannot be predicted, however, our great experiment in Democracy as envisionedand launched by the Founding Fathers will likely come to an end.
Rosen – 2First, the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters washeinous. It was an attack on our democracy; an attempt to prevent Congress fromfulfilling its constitutional duty. Those involved must face justice. Then-PresidentTrump should have immediately urged his supporters to stop the violence.Nevertheless, unlike Shay’s Rebellion and the raid on Harper’s Ferry, January 6was not an armed insurrection. Few if any of the rioters had weapons—mostnotably firearms. And the only people who died that day were those whoassaulted the Capitol.Second, January 6 was unquestionably divisive. Nancy Pelosi and HouseDemocrats could have used their January 6 hearings to inform and uniteAmericans by conducting truly bipartisan hearings about the events of that day.Pelosi did not want bipartisanship—she wanted to get Trump. Abandoningprecedent, she rejected members selected by House Republican leaders andappointed only Republicans predisposed against Trump. The Watergatecommittees should have been the template. If evidence of Trump’s complicity issolid, Pelosi had nothing to fear from a bipartisan fact-finding process in whichwitnesses are cross-examined and Republican members call relevant witnesses.And any conclusions reached by such a committee would have likely drawnwidespread support from the American people. Instead, we received a scripted,glossily produced “show trial,” which I suspect many viewed as nothing more thanpolitical theater. Indeed, a recent Monmouth University opinion poll shows thatthe hearings have had no impact on public opinion. In fact, fewer Americans nowbelieve that Trump was responsible for the January 6 riot than before thehearings began.Third, Hillary Clinton did more than simply create a false narrative. Her campaignfabricated an intelligence dossier in order to trigger a federal investigation ofTrump’s campaign and undermine his presidency. To their ever-lasting dishonor,the Department of Justice and the FBI took the bait, spent two years pursuingTrump, and in the end, produced no evidence of Russian collusion. When ournation’s law enforcement agencies become a “Praetorian Guard” for one politicalparty, our democracy ceases to exist.Finally, Charles raises thought-provoking hypotheses about other possible causesof a “new” civil war. They are unrelated to the present debate, and I do notdispute his suppositions. Indeed, I agree that hyper-inflation is a possibility—onecaused by the current administration.I only hope that the future is not as bleak as Charles portrays.