Escalating Political Violence in United States
What does it mean for the future?
A racist white supremacist anti immigrant’s person kills 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Another pro-Trump person in Florida mails bombs to over a dozen prominent Democrats. Last week, someone fired four gunshots into the Volusia Republican headquarters in Florida. A Republican congressional candidate, Rudy Peters, was attacked with a knife by a Clinton supporter at a festival a month ago. Republican senators are attacked while eating dinner at public restaurants. A few weeks ago, Shane Mekeland, a Republican running for the Minnesota House of Representatives suffered a concussion after being punched in the face.
A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted following a week of pipe bombs addressed to prominent Democrats and the murder of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue—among other events—found that a majority of those polled consider political violence to be “widespread.”
Approximately 58% of voters, including 63% of Democrats and 55% of both Republicans and independents found there to be political violence in the U.S. Just over one-third (36%) of those polled blamed Trump on the violence, while just shy of one-third (31%) found Democrats in Congress to be responsible. Roughly 24% had no opinion, and 9% blamed Republicans in Congress.
Meanwhile, a majority of voters also believe Trump is responsible for dividing the country. More than half (56%) think he’s done more to divide the country, while 30% said he’s served to unite the country. But between Trump and the media, most believe the media is the real divider.
No doubt, the level of political violence has escalated this year. And politicians from both sides are encouraging it. President Trump said of a Republican congressman who body slammed a reporter, “Never wrestle him. Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my guy.”
Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said, “You can’t be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for.” She said civility would only return when the Democrats retake control.
California Congresswoman Maxine Waters has encouraged Democrats to harass members of the Trump Administration said, “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
Even those who want to stay out of the political fray are being threatened. CNN host Don Lemon declared that “white men” are the biggest terror threat to the United States, noted that “there is no white-guy ban” and wondered aloud, “what do we do about that?”
That is a statement that must be troubling to the second largest voter bloc in the US.
The question is: is America that radically divided?
The answer unfortunately, is yes.
An October AP-NORC national survey of 1,152 adults found that 8 in 10 Americans believe the country is divided regarding essential values and some expect the division to deepen into 2020, the next presidential election.
Only 20% of Americans said they think the country will become less divided over the next several years and 39% believe conditions will continue to deteriorate. 77% say they are dissatisfied with the state of politics in the country.
There are clearly serious internal struggles in America. But, are they temporary or a harbinger of worse to come.
Some that see the current problems as the beginnings of a crisis in America follow the Strauss-Howe Generational Theory. This theory says history moves in “turnings,” each one lasting about the length of a human life and four cycles equaling a “Saeculum.” In the United States, the climax of the three Saeculum experienced are the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the Great Depression/World War 2.
What determines these “Turnings” is the way each generation sees itself, which is shaped by historical events that occur in their formative years, and then determine their actions as they grow older and become the decision makers.
The first turning is called the “High.” This occurs after a crisis and is when institutions are strong, and individualism is weak. Society is confident about where it wants to go collectivity. According to the authors of this theory, the most recent First Turning in the US was the post-World War 2 era that went from 1946 to the assassination of Kennedy in 1963.
According to the theory, the Second Turning is an “Awakening.” This is an era when institutions are attacked in the name of personal autonomy. People are tired of social discipline and turn to individuality. This era in the US went from the “Consciousness Revolution” and inner-city riots of the mid-1960s to the tax revolts of the early 1980s.
The Third Turning is called the “Unraveling.” Institutions are weak and distrusted, while individualism is strong and flourishing. The American Unraveling began in the 1980s and includes the current culture war.
Some of the current attacks on American institutions are attacks on established religion, attacks on the American form of constitutional government, and even attacks on traditional American freedoms.
The fourth turning is called the “Crisis.” This is an era of destruction, often involving war or revolution, in which institutional life is destroyed and rebuilt in response to a perceived threat to the nation’s survival.
The warning signs of the Crisis Turning are periods of political chaos, division, social and economic decay in which Americans move to extreme division. These will only disappear after a massive conflict that forces Americans to reunite and rebuild a new future.
The last Crisis started with the economic crash of 1929 and ended with the end of World War Two.
If the theory is correct, America is headed into a crisis period. And, given the level of political violence we see in the news, it could very well be true.
Ironically many of the critics of the theory in the 1990s are becoming advocates given the events of the last 10 years, including the political violence and political gridlock occurring today.
The Crisis and the Mid Term Elections
Could next week’s mid-term elections be a catalyst for the Crisis? Maybe.
There are clearly extremists on both sides who will not accept the results of the election. And, the closer the election outcome, the greater the possibility of renewed violence.
The worst scenario would be a close election, where the control of the House of Representatives is determined by a few close elections that will require recounts. Given the polling, this is a very real possibility.
If control of the House will be determined by 2 or 3 districts where the margin of victory is a couple of hundred votes, the pressure to influence that recount will be great on both the Republican and Democratic sides.
If there is any evidence of fraud, the losing side will consider the election and resultant control of the House to be fraudulent. And, they may very well start protests that could very well get out of control. And, as we know from revolutionary history, protests can quickly turn into the event that causes conflict as we saw with the Storming of the Bastille in the French Revolution or the Storming of the Winter Palace in the Russian Revolution.
The consequences of a serious civil unrest are being looked at by the government. In October, the Military Times carried out a poll of the uniformed services to see which branches pro-Trump and anti-Trump are. While the military is evenly split in their support of Trump, the poll found the most pro-Trump service was the Marine Corps, while the most Anti-Trump service was the Air Force.
Military men were more supportive of Trump than military women.
Nearly five years ago, the Monitor warned of the growing threat of civil unrest in the United States. Despite a change in president and the US Senate, that threat remains and has grown.
The outcome of the election next week will have an impact on the future. If one party comes out of the election with a clear win, the US may gain a respite. However, if the election results are close and control of the legislative branch of government is in doubt because of some very close elections, we can expect extremists on both sides to take advantage of the situation.
Keep in mind that after the election, politicians will start looking forward to the presidential election in 2020. While Trump’s re-nomination seems secure at this time, we can expect at least a dozen Democrats to announce their presidential campaign in 2019. Many of these candidates will try to boost their campaign with inflammatory rhetoric against Republicans and President Trump. And we can expect Trump to respond in kind as he is accused already of being responsible for the political violence environment since running for president and during his presidency.
So, can America step back from the brink? That’s where social models like the Strauss-Howe Generational Theory come into play. They postulate that the US must go through a crisis to come back into some sort of order.
No one can say with certainty that the US is doomed to a period of violence.
Either way, the next few weeks may play a large part in the future of the United States.
What Not to Do About Khashoggi
By Theodore R. Bromund
October 23, 2018
The death of Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi Arabia offers a terrible temptation to the United States: We can indulge our outrage at the expense of our interests. We have few good options but giving in to that temptation would be the worst thing to do. Everyone involved in this scandal has performed poorly, if not disgracefully. Saudi Arabia has been caught lying about Khashoggi’s death. President Donald Trump has sided both with and against the Saudis, thereby earning brickbats from all sides. Turkey pretends to care about Khashoggi but imprisons more journalists than any other nation. And then there is Khashoggi himself. It’s awkward to speak ill of the dead, but Khashoggi’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood was not a mere youthful flirtation. Just a year ago, he called on the Saudi leadership to cooperate with them, and to lead a unified Arab world to support the Palestinians in their fight against Israel. That doesn’t justify killing him.
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The U.S.-Saudi Alliance Was in Trouble Long Before Jamal Khashoggi’s Death
By Emma Ashford
October 22, 2018
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has left Washington reeling — and Riyadh bewildered. Whether Saudi leaders didn’t expect to get caught, or simply believed themselves above reproach, they appear to have been taken by surprise at the outpouring of criticism. Indeed, Khashoggi’s death feels like a watershed moment in the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Suddenly, many in Washington are finally willing to admit that Saudi Arabia — a country they have long treated as a friend and partner — is little more than another murderous Middle East dictatorship. The White House may still be supportive, but newspapers are printing criticism, think tanks are returning Saudi money, and Congress is actively considering sanctions. This moment has been a long time coming. Khashoggi’s murder caps years of growing dissatisfaction about the Saudi alliance. Like a failing marriage, the United States and Saudi Arabia have long been drifting apart. Diverging U.S.-Saudi interests, and an increasingly reckless Saudi foreign policy have taken their toll on the relationship, even as domestic repression has grown inside Saudi Arabia.
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The U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan: The Perils of Withdrawal
By Seth G. Jones
Center for Strategic and International Studies
October 26, 2018
Recent events in Afghanistan have reenergized those in favor of a U.S. military withdrawal. “Let someone else take up the burden,” urged one opinion piece in Slate. Another in the UK-based Guardian newspaper bluntly noted: “It’s time for America to end its war in Afghanistan.” Some media reports have also suggested that U.S. negotiators in Doha, Qatar have agreed to discuss the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan as part of a negotiated settlement with the Taliban. Yet without a political settlement, which is still a longshot, a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan would have serious risks. Chief among them would be the resurgence of terrorism and the deterioration of human rights—including women’s rights—that come with a Taliban victory.
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The Implications of Khashoggi’s Death for Saudi Arabia
By Jon B. Alterman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
October 22, 2018
The Saudi government has now admitted that Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the consulate. Most of the other details are coming from Turkish intelligence and are filtered through the Turkish press, some of which are quite lurid about what happened in the consulate. However, we don’t know that everything that’s been reported is true, and we don’t know what investigators found. We will certainly know more in due time, and I strongly suspect that some of what we think we know now will turn out not to be true. Some of what we know is likely to be contested. Both intent and direction are likely to be among the hardest to prove.
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What Does the Saudi Response to the Khashoggi Scandal Mean?
By YASMINE FAROUK
OCTOBER 19, 2018
It is impossible to understand Saudi Arabia’s response to the recent disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi without taking into account the complicated politics swirling around Riyadh and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Domestic politics now leave the kingdom most vulnerable to a harsh U.S. response. Riyadh’s reaction has been bewildering and, for many, infuriating. It started with the Saudi consulate’s denial of any knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate. When the story refused to blow over, the crown prince raised discussions of Saudi-led investigations and “cooperation with the Turkish government” while vehemently denying any Saudi responsibility. The official Saudi press agency also published a warning that any international sanctions could lead to retaliatory sanctions. This threat was not just aimed at the United States; it was also meant for Saudis living in the country and abroad.
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What Does Khashoggi’s Murder Tell Us About the Saudi Power Structure?
By Simon Henderson
October 22, 2018
The traditional way of looking at Saudi Arabia has been that the royal family rules by consensus and with caution, choosing leaders based on experience and seniority. That template has been increasingly invalidated since the accession of King Salman in January 2015 and the emergence of his thirty-three-year-old son Muhammad bin Salman, who has been crown prince and heir apparent since June 2017. Under MbS, now the kingdom’s de facto day-to-day leader, Saudi Arabia has begun transforming its economy (in the form of his “Vision 2030” plan), its society (e.g., opening cinemas and giving women the right to drive), and its religion (a supposed reversion to a more “moderate Islam”). Yet he has not opened the political sphere to ordinary Saudis; he also appears to have sharply reduced the role of the wider al-Saud family, sidelining thousands of princes.
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U.S. Must Impose a Price on Saudis, But One With a Clear Purpose
By Dennis Ross
October 30, 2018
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi has dominated international attention for weeks. Sadly, his death may have more impact on Saudi Arabia and its future than did his articles for the Washington Post. In the best case, where his killing was not ordered but was the result of overzealous Saudi operatives, there is still something grievously wrong with a policy designed to silence dissidents or critics, either by rendition or intimidation. As important as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s efforts to modernize the kingdom, and to reconcile Islam with modernity, may be, the killing of Khashoggi and the kingdom’s shifting stories cross the line. Nothing justifies them. The blowback against the kingdom is warranted and there needs to be a price.
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