In his recent article in The Guardian, Stephen Marche argues that the United States is facing a crisis of institutional legitimacy that has split the country into already warring factions. He writes:
“Two things are happening at the same time. Most of the American right have abandoned faith in government as such. Their politics is, increasingly, the politics of the gun. The American left is slower on the uptake, but they are starting to figure out that the system which they give the name of democracy is less deserving of the name every year.”
Violence, he argues, is the predictable reaction to people’s belief that they no longer have any democratic control over their government. In this sense, the case can be made that the United States is already in its next Civil War.
An October 2021 study by Journal of Democracyshows that political violence has been on the rise this past decade, and during the Trump era, both Democrats and Republicans increasingly believed that violence is sometimes justified to advance their political agenda.
And so, as trust in both the political system and each other have collapsed, the American people have turned on one another in ways that often feel irreconcilable.
Marche argues in both his article and his newest book entitled The Next Civil War: Dispatches from the American Future that the way forward to a peaceful resolution must involve a dramatic reimagining of our government as a whole. Trump era Democrats’ obsession with restoring “constitutional norms” won’t cut it, as the Constitution itself is over 200 years old and was designed for the 18th century.
He asserts that the crisis facing the United States is the result of structural and systemic problems that have gone unaddressed and uncorrected, so much so that “the federal system no longer represents the will of the American people.” He cites a University of Virginia study which projects that by 2040, 8 states will contain half the U.S. population, which means 50% of the country will have just 16% of representation in the U.S. Senate. This means that very soon, elections will become more and more meaningless, both in their perceived legitimacy and in their consequences. As a result, democracy becomes less and less meaningful, making civil strife and political violence more and more likely.
Stephen Marche joined us on our podcast to discuss these ideas more thoroughly. To hear our full conversation, click the player below, and subscribe to the Due Dissidence on Apple,Stitcher,Spotify,Castbox, Google Podcasts, or any major podcast player.
Photo: Tyler Merbler (Wikimedia Commons, CC 2.0)