How Close Is the U.S. to Civil War? About Two-Thirds of the Way, Americans Say

Protesters prepare for the civil war. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

A majority of Americans, no matter where they live, or the party they typically vote for, think the country is growing apart. On political, racial, and class lines, Americans think divisions are widening, according to a new Georgetown University poll.

That division is leading to a dark place, respondents said. Asked how close the country is to the “edge of a civil war” — with 0 being not close at all and 100 being time to get the “go” bag — Americans say we’re at 67.23. So, two-thirds of the way to internecine bloodshed. Could be better. Could be worse.

The poll also shows how people think we got here. On one side are Republicans who say Democratic political leaders and the media are responsible for the division. On the other side are Democrats who say Trump, his Republican allies, and “wealthy special interests” are to blame. The only thing the two sides can agree on is that we’re screwed.

Add political leaders and prominent pundits invoking civil war to that environment, and you get a country that feels like it’s nearing collapse. Those invocations are coming more and more from the right, Charlie Wetzel wrote in the New York Times last month. Here’s why:

It doesn’t matter that we’re not on the brink of a civil war; the threat as outlined by right-wing media is intended to inspire fear in liberals and conservatives alike. For conservatives, it’s the notion that Democrats will stop at nothing to get rid of Mr. Trump and will marshal the forces of the “deep state” to right the wrongs of the 2016 election. For liberals, it is a warning: Don’t push churchgoing, gun-loving conservatives too far, or there’ll be dangerous consequences.

It’s not just pro-Trump forces either. It’s Trump himself. In late September, Trump tweeted a quote from a pastor warning that if he’s removed from office it will cause “a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.”

Often, civil-war warnings from right wingers come during discussions over guns. Beto O’Rourke’s pledge to “take” guns at last month’s Democratic debate accelerated the threats, whipping up passion among guns-rights advocates such as Rob Drake, a Major League Baseball umpire. This week, Drake tweeted a message that could have come out of any right-wing fever swamp: “I will be buying an AR-15 tomorrow, because if you impeach MY PRESIDENT this way, YOU WILL HAVE ANOTHER CIVAL WAR!!! #MAGA2020.” The tweet was eventually deleted, and not because of the typo.

Americans Say U.S. Is Two-Thirds of the Way to Civil War