And Now the Match Is Lit

President Trump and Senate Republicans fomented this violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Right before the presidential election, GEN published Rumors of War, a package of stories about what might happen after the election.

The signs and portents of trouble are all around us. We all know and feel like something unusual has been happening in the country these past years, that the divisions have the potential to intensify into something even more extreme. The stories in Rumors of War explore what that might be — and what we might face on the other side of Election Day.

We did not know how long it would take before there was trouble in the streets, at the very least. And for a time after Joe Biden’s victory, we thought we had been perhaps excessively worried for the fate of American democracy, which had seemed so clearly to be hanging in the balance in the last months of Trump’s term.

And now here we are. The day has finally come. Trumpist insurrectionists have stormed the U.S. Capitol. U.S. senators and representatives are sequestered in fear, protected by the clearly outmatched Capitol police force. The D.C. National Guard is being mustered. And Trump is sitting by his television in the White House, nursing his grievances and refusing to call back the violent spectacle he encouraged in a speech on the Capitol Mall this morning.

America was a powder keg, and now the match is lit. Anyone could see this coming. As Steve LeVine wrote on Oct. 27:

Today, the members of some far-right fringe groups believe a second civil war has already begun. The Justice Department, National Guard units, and local governments across the country are preparing for violence. Facebook, where social swarming has helped to spur group violence in countries like Myanmar and India, says it is taking steps it hopes prevent or curb such trouble in the U.S. election. Authorities have charged 14 men in an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, and last week police arrested a Maryland man for allegedly threatening to kill Biden and Senator Kamala Harris, his running mate. On Friday, Alicia Garza, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, tweeted that the FBI had just visited her home, saying her name was found in the home of an Idaho man arrested on weapons charges and possibly affiliated with white supremacist groups. There is concern as well about militias provoking election violence: Last week, the FBI charged a member of Boogaloo Bois, a far-right anti-government militia, with opening fire on a Minneapolis police station and shouting as though he was a member of Black Lives Matter. The agency said the man coordinated with other members of the group to foment similar attacks.

There is no way to know with precision what is coming. There are clues, however, in threads of extremism running through history’s most intense periods of restiveness. In the intensely divided 1840s and 1850s, the United States was already effectively two separate nations, adjacent to one another but co-existing in isolated mystification. …

Like the orchestrated needling that preceded these past outbreaks of bloodshed, Americans seem almost fated to confront each other in the street — with potentially tragic consequences.

Executive Editor, GEN by Medium. Previously: Yahoo News, The Atlantic, The Washington Post. garance-at-medium-dot-com.

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