Post-election tensionsFive Reasons Trump’s Challenge of the 2020 Election Will Not Lead to Civil War
Some Americans fear that the deep political divisions in the country and President Donald Trump’s determination to challenge the results of the election will cause civil war. Those who object to Trump’s tactics argue that he behaves like an autocrat by delegitimizing sources of information that resist his narrative, demonizing political opponents, supporting political violence, and using courts as political tools Without a doubt, the president’s attempts to undermine faith in the integrity of the election are dangerous to democracy. Yet, for the moment, the system appears poised to hold together. The months ahead will be turbulent, but civil war is unlikely.
Those who object to Trump’s tactics argue that he behaves like an autocrat. Delegitimizing sources of information that resist his narrative, demonizing political opponents, supporting political violence and using courts as political tools are all hallmarks of dictators.
Much as the South rejected President Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 election with armed rebellion, will President Trump’s many supporters attempt to violently overthrow a Biden-led government?
I am a political scientist who studies public opinion and American politics. I believe the United States will not erupt in open rebellion. Here are five reasons.
1. The American Political System Remains Stable, If Stressed
As the lawfully elected president of the United States, President Trump must follow certain rules and laws. This rule of law has continued even while he challenges the election. The courts are quickly dispatching judicial challenges as meritless and recounts are proceeding legally and normally. Despite the recent invitation of Michigan GOP legislators to the White House, state legislatures have not signaled any desire to upend the electoral process. While outcomes may frustrate the president, the legal process is being honored.
In contrast, before the Civil War, interpretation of the Constitution became contentious, states argued that the Union was dead and politicians fought in open combat in the Senate. Military officers resigned their commissions to support revolution. The current American political system has avoided such systematic conflict.
Of course, governments can be shaken by the will of their citizens. While President Trump’s supporters are vocal, they are organized around a cult of personality rather than any organizational structure. This limits their ability to overthrow systems of power. Compared with organizations that resisted the Vietnam War or Revolutionary War, they lack discipline and hierarchy. They also lack supplies and material to combat entrenched resistance, and can hardly be seen as dangerous to military and federal law enforcement, which as of Jan. 20 will report to Joe Biden.
2. Trump’s Most Vocal Supporters Enjoy Little Support from the Powerful
The South rebelled with the full support of politicians, the plantation class and the small landholders. Nearly everyone embraced rebellion.