John Derbyshire was the first person I heard use the phrase “cold civil war” to describe the culture war in American society and politics. His argument, if I recall correctly, is that the Civil War may have ended, but a cold version of it has festered ever since, largely over the issue of race, but other issues are part of it. The result has been the Blue side of the conflict, the good whites, imposing their will on the Gray side, the bad whites, using the “transcendent morality” of racism as the main weapon.
It is a good way of looking at things. The recent hysteria about the bogeyman of racism, for example, is almost all coming from suburban white women, who live in all white neighborhoods. They don’t really care about blacks in a practical sense. Their real concern is the specter of bad whites holding opinions the good whites find unacceptable. It’s what caused them to go bonkers over Bush and then force the ridiculous Barak Obama on us. The bad whites needed to be taught a lesson and put in their place, which is at the bottom of the social order.
The whole red state/blue state business that got going with the 2000 election was another manifestation of this. The bad whites voted for Bush and tended to live in awful places like the South and Midwest. The people who voted against Bush lived in cool paces like New York and LA. This was made more obvious in 2008 when the states not going for Obama were conspicuously Southern. More than a few lefties noted that the Old Confederacy did not vote for Obama and everyone knew what that meant.
Now that this Progressive Awakening is sputtering to a comical end, the Left is increasingly convinced that the nation is headed for a civil war. This post on The Daily Lunatic from last year is humorous, but representative. Here’s another from the Huffington Post. This piece in The National Interest is a recent example. TNI is not explicitly Left, but it is certainly not explicitly Right either. It’s always been a neocon hangout, which puts it on the Left, mostly as a home for heretics who broke with the Left on foreign policy.
The reason the Official Right was willing to join arms with the Left in opposition to Trump last year was their belief that Trump was leading some sort of rebellion of the bad whites against the benevolent rule of the good whites. Now that Trump has been installed as ruler, the same people are imagining a counter rebellion by the good whites, like the cat ladies, who waddled into DC on Saturday. The only thing they were missing was having the geriatric Madonna lead the crowd in singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
It is easy to dismiss it, as the Left is prone to these sorts of histrionics whenever they don’t get their way. Even so, what we may be seeing is not a new civil war or even a continuation of the Civil War. Maybe what we are seeing is the final, long delayed end of the Civil War. The political realignment we are witnessing is not the start of anything, but the end of a long cycle of American history that started in the 19th century with the Hartford Convention. After several delays, we are reaching the final denouement.
If you think of America in terms of The American Nations model or maybe the Nine Nations model, the last 200 years can be looked at as a long hegemony of Yankeedom over the rest of the country. Following the Civil War, the South was excluded from having a say in how the nation was governed. The Midwest and Mid-Atlantic were subordinate to the Yankee ruling class, while the West was simply not a factor. This remained the case into the 20th century, as America went from provincial backwater to an industrial power.
The 20th century should have been when this post Civil War arrangement began to fall apart as the South rebuilt and the West joined the Union. Instead, the Great Depression, two world wars and the Cold War locked everything more or less in place. Nixon’s “southern strategy” to win the presidency was an early sign that the old order was unstable. The necessities of the Cold War kept things in place, but the dominance of the old Yankee elite was showing it’s age as far back as the 70’s.
Look at something else. The Conservative Movement got going strong in the 1960’s and came into its own in the 70’s. The election of Reagan made conservatism the alternative to liberalism, but it did not change the regional alliances in the country. Up until very recent, conservatism was strongest in the South, but it had no Southern leaders. The GOP, the alleged home of the Right, remains a party of Southern voters, but Yankee leaders.The Trumpening has mostly been about the long overdue eviction of the Bushies from party leadership.
Perhaps what we are witnessing is the start of a process where America returns to being a collection of regions more or less cooperating only on the big issues like national defense and trade. On those items, perhaps the national ethos returns to something like the John Quincy Adams model, rather than the Theodore Roosevelt model. A lot of what Trump says about foreign policy and trade may be a reaction to the neocon debacles of the last three decades, but they are also an echo of the pre-Civil War consensus.
One final thing. The Left is suddenly talking about the need to restore powers to the state as they face a federal government controlled by their sworn enemies. There are many on the Right who would like to see an Article V Convention. One side fears what the Federal government might do and the other side has had enough of what the Federal government has done. The one thing all sides of the political class may accept in the end is a restoration of the natural regionalism that has always existed in America.