Why Roe’s demise pushed the US even closer to violent civil conflict: author
The United States was a deeply divided country long before June 24, 2022, when the U.S. Supreme Court’s hard-right majority overturned Roe v. Wade with its decision in Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization. But the Dobbs ruling will only intensify the United States’ bitter, ugly divisions, and some political science professors, authors and journalists fear that the tensions will lead to even more violence than the country has already suffered.
In a disturbing article published by The Guardian on June 26, Stephen Marche — author of the book “The Next Civil War: Dispatches from the American Future” — predicts that the overturning of Roe v. Wade will do a lot to bring about a major “civil conflict.” And Marche’s warning is similar to what political science professors Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way have been warning about. Levitsky and Way don’t believe that an outright civil war like the one that occurred in the 1860s is on the horizon, but they do fear that the U.S. is heading for a period of prolonged violent conflict comparable to The Troubles in Northern Ireland.
“The cracks in the foundations of the United States are widening, rapidly and on several fronts,” Marche warns in his Guardian article. “The overturning of Roe v. Wade has provoked a legitimacy crisis no matter what your politics. For the right, the leaking of the draft memo last month revealed the breakdown of bipartisanship and common purpose within the institution. For the left, it demonstrated the will of dubiously selected Republican justices to overturn established rights that have somewhere near 70% to 80% political support.”
Marche continues, “Accelerating political violence, like the attack in Buffalo, increasingly blurs the line between the mainstream political conservative movement and outright murderous insanity. The question is no longer whether there will be a civil conflict in the United States. The question is how the sides will divide, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how those strengths and weaknesses will determine the outcome.”
The author/journalist points out that in the U.S., the far right has “been imagining a civil war, publicly, since at least the Obama Administration,” adding that “the possibility of civil war has long been a mainstay of right-wing talk radio.” And Marche, in parts of his article, is somewhat critical of Democrats, who, he argues, naively act as though the Republican Party still embraces pluralism.
“The left-wing American political class, incredibly, continues to cling to its defunct institutional ideals,” Marche writes. “Democrats under (President Joe) Biden have wasted the past two years on fictions of bipartisanship and forlorn hopes of some kind of restoration of American trust. When violence like Buffalo hits, they can do little more than plead with the other side to reconsider the horror they’re unleashing, and offer obvious lectures about the poison of White supremacy.”
Marche stresses that “incipient civil conflict in the United States won’t be formal armies struggling for territory.”
“The techniques of both sides are clarifying,” Marche explains. “Republican officials will use the Supreme Court, or whatever other political institutions they control, to push their agenda no matter how unpopular with the American people. Meanwhile, their calls for violence, while never direct, create a climate of rage that solidifies into regular physical assaults on their enemies. The technical term for this process is stochastic terrorism; the attack in Buffalo is a textbook example.”
In an article published by Foreign Affairs back on January 20, Levitsky and Way warned that the United States’ political divisions could lead to an extended period of violent conflict — although not an actual civil war like the U.S. suffered during the 1860s. What Levitsky and Way fear is a conflict like The Troubles, the period of unrest that rocked Northern Ireland from the 1960s until the 1990s.
Bombings and shootings were common during The Troubles, when republicans who were mostly Catholic and unionists who were mostly Protestant fought what has been called a “low-level war.” Republicans wanted Northern Ireland (which is part of the U.K.) to be part of the Republic of Ireland, while unionists wanted Northern Ireland to remain in the U.K. Ireland is two different countries: the Republic of Ireland — which is totally independent from the U.K. — in the south, and Northern Ireland (one of four countries in the U.K.). The Republic of Ireland is on the euro; Northern Ireland uses pounds.
When this journalist visited Belfast in 2007, the city was much calmer than it had been during The Troubles. Nonetheless, there were still remnants of the tensions that Belfast had suffered. The remnants of The Troubles were painfully obvious when this journalist, visiting Belfast’s Shankill neighborhood, saw some graffiti that read, “Shankill Road supports the republican feud.”
In Belfast, The Troubles are hopefully gone, but they certainly aren’t forgotten — and as Levitsky and Way see it, the tensions between the American left and the MAGA far right are a recipe for a U.S. version of The Troubles.
Marche, similarly, views the U.S. as a place where many people on the left and right believe they have irreconcilable differences — and the end of Roe v. Wade, he warns, will only pour gasoline on the fire.
Following the Dobbs ruling, the “left-wing resistance” that Marche speaks of asserted itself in cities all over the U.S. In Philadelphia, for example, thousands of angry demonstrators gathered in front of City Hall on Friday night, June 24 and nearby streets to protest the ruling. The massive protest was largely peaceful, although there were some tense moments when far-right Christian fundamentalists showed up to taunt people in the crowd. More protests in Philly followed on Saturday, June 25.
“The left-wing resistance is more nascent but is also taking shape,” Marche writes. “If you’re rich and you want to stay living in a democracy, the time has come to pony up. If you’re an engineer, the time has come to organize. The conclusion is not at all determined. Neither side has an absolute advantage. Neither side can win easily. But one fact is clear: The battle has been joined, and it will be fought everywhere.”
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