America’s Cold Civil War

“Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty.”

– Plato

So many millions of people have been duped into believing Donald Trump’s Big Lie that he won the election, it seems as if we’re reliving the North-South hatred over slavery. We know how that ended.

This debilitating division among Americans has devolved to the point at which some Republicans curry favor with Trump for fear of not being elected, not because they admire him. That’s how much control he exerts. More courageous others have urged his supporters to seek emancipation from a mendacious madman who wants nothing more than to be America’s first dictator.

Our country is fighting a cold civil war, with the Republican side hurling absurd epithets at the Democrats, charging them with being socialists and destroying our lives when in fact they’re trying to do the opposite with trillions of dollars. Their childish antics and statements are right out of a schoolyard.

This distracting civil war is cold until, as on Jan. 6 at the Capitol, it gets hot and people die. The Republicans, as they do about most things, lie about the events of that day and praise as patriots the would-be revolutionaries acting under false pretenses conceived by a turncoat president. He celebrated one of them, Ashli Barrett, shot to death by a cop as she stormed the building, as an “incredible person.”

Does this make her a martyr for a treasonous cause?

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, 88 and in Congress since 1981, is running for re-election to an eighth term. He had no misgivings about accepting Trump’s endorsement at a recent rally in his home state, the former president standing at his side. He has criticized Trump in the past.

“I was born at night, but not last night,” Grassley told the crowd. “So if I didn’t accept the endorsement of a person who has 91 percent of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn’t be too smart. I’m smart enough to accept that endorsement.”

This is a good example of the depth of fear of Trump among Republicans in office or seeking election if someone with so much experience in the party of Lincoln bowed so low to one of the most despised men in America. Shame. No wonder the Republicans can’t get rid of him.

It can’t be for anything else but the desire to cling to perceived power. And Trump has accumulated power by virtue of the simple fact that 71 million people voted for him. So hanging onto his coattails may give the Republicans hope they can regain power even though Trump lost both houses of Congress and the White House in 2020.

Trump’s appeal to the voters, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told Kara Swisher of The New York Times in a podcast last week, “is that he doesn’t make much of an effort to say that he’s not corrupt. Instead, he tries to say everyone else is corrupt.  . . .

“But I’m corrupt, and I’m your corrupt guy,” Schiff mocked him. “I hear you, those others they look down on you. And if you can persuade someone, however falsely, that the other side looks down on you, you will never win over their support. And so I think Donald Trump gave a daily dose of poison into the body politic.”

Republicans charge that the “elite” Democratic “libs” ridicule Trump’s followers.

Trump, whose repeated theme at rallies is that he beat President Joe Biden, threatened retaliation if candidates for election don’t accept his phony version of the election outcome.

“If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in ’22 and ’24,” he said in a recent statement. “It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.” Huh?

He wants the Big Lie to be spread big time. That conclusive documentation, by the way, was thrown out of multiple courts and disputed by Republican secretaries of state.

Schiff said Trump had lots of enablers that made it possible for him to do what he wants.

“The enablers that I frankly hold most responsible are the men and women I served with in Congress who surrendered everything they cared about, everything they professed to believe in, to uphold this deeply unethical man who was tearing at the fabric of our democracy,” he said. “. . . Had leaders of the GOP stood up to Trump instead of so readily capitulated, we would have avoided this nightmare.”

There are some Republicans who regard Trump as so much of a nightmare that they’re urging folks to join with Democrats because it would be too difficult to create a center-right party. Americans don’t seem to like third parties.

“So for now, the best hope for the rational remnants of the Republican Party is to form an alliance with Democrats to defend American institutions, defeat far-right candidates, and elect honorable representatives next year – including a strong contingent of moderate Democrats,” wrote Miles Taylor and Christine Todd Whitman in the Times Oct. 12.

Taylor served in the Department of Homeland Security from 2017 to 2019 and Whitman was governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001. Both are Republicans.

They wrote they have fundamental disagreements with Democrats, “but we agree on something more foundational – democracy.”

Swisher asked Schiff he thought Trump would run in 2024.

“Absolutely,” came the reply.

“And you know why? It would be intolerable to him to see anyone else get the attention. I mean the idea of Donald Trump sitting at home watching Mike Pence or Nikki Haley or Chris Christie, or any of these people. He would go out of his mind. And so I think he feels a compulsion, it’s a pathology. I also think that he suspects that it’s a great way to make money.”

“Do you think he’d win?” Swisher asked.

“No,” Schiff replied. “No.  I don’t think the country is going to want to go back to that nightmare.  . . .  I think people will recoil more and more every day at the idea of ever going back to that.”

We can only hope he’s right. It’s all about turnout.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.