Could a tight presidential result in lead to civil war
October 28, 2004 3:37 AM   Subscribe

Could a tight presidential result in lead to civil war?

Either minus the word "in", or add to it "the US".
posted by davehat to Society & Culture (49 answers total)
posted by shoos at 3:48 AM on October 28, 2004

Only in a really bad airport novel.
posted by Jongo at 4:04 AM on October 28, 2004

Only if we (the rest of the world) are lucky
posted by ajbattrick at 4:16 AM on October 28, 2004

We could only wish. The populace is much too worried about entertainment-related distractions to really give much of a shit.
posted by adampsyche at 4:57 AM on October 28, 2004

Only if Bush is stupid enough to do something ultra right-wing (like appointing judges to overturn Roe vs Wade, or more of his "faith-based" crap) within the first month after the "result" is "official". Unfortunately, all signs point to the fact that he is.
posted by krisjohn at 5:04 AM on October 28, 2004

gay gay gay
posted by shoos at 5:08 AM on October 28, 2004

what is the point of askme when all it does it stroke itself?
posted by shoos at 5:11 AM on October 28, 2004

I wish someone would take a serious crack at this question. It's a really interesting question. I'll broaden it. Could there be a civil way in the US in this day-and-age? If so, what would it take to start one? If not, what would rule it out?
posted by grumblebee at 5:35 AM on October 28, 2004

A civil war is more likely if the economy gets worse. Wars aren't fought over ideals and principles, as many would believe, the root causes of war are generally financial reasons.
posted by banished at 5:44 AM on October 28, 2004

John Titor tells us it could.
posted by sohcahtoa at 5:50 AM on October 28, 2004

I think not, for two reasons. First, we have a huge, independent, federal army to keep the peace. The army's usually pretty good about staying out of politics, so they'd probably perform a peace-keeping role. Second, people aren't hostile enough. I know that sounds funny given the current climate, but remember, the last Civil War didn't happen out of the blue. There were skirmishes going on in Kansas and other western territories for years before the war. In order for today's situation to be equal, Democrats and Republicans would have to both move to Guam, and have bloody gun battles to determine which party would control it. All, of course, while slaughtering the native Guamites...Guamists...Guamines?

Anyway, so no, I don't think it could really happen. What you might see, however, is increased cheating in the next elections on both sides of the aisle.
posted by unreason at 5:52 AM on October 28, 2004

The question, as asked and corrected, is lame. A "close" race would never lead to civil war.

shoos's response is even lamer, as well as disrespectful, utterly crass and belying his complete lack of intelligence. Can't you think of a better insult than "gay"? Your obsession with male sexual imagery suggests some latent feelings.

grumblebee's question, though, is actually interesting and worth tackling. I'd give a qualified "no".

I would say that a contested election this year would result in major rioting, primarily among poor minority communities who will have had enough of their repeated disenfranchisement. Unfortunately, rioting tends to result in burning down your own neighborhood, which doesn't foster much change, or even incite violence beyond it.

If there were another pre-emptive war based on flimsy evidence, I would not be surprised to see mass desertions, if not pockets of armed conflict.

Full on civil war, though? Doubtful. When was the last time that happened in a modern society for anything other than existing tribal conflicts?
posted by mkultra at 5:59 AM on October 28, 2004

Can't you think of a better insult than "gay"?

We're on the Web. Words like "feeble" have too many syllables.
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:11 AM on October 28, 2004

I am gay, mkultra. You are the psychoanalyst. Finally someone's outed me.

Wait, did i just say 'anal'? Oops! got me again!
posted by shoos at 6:14 AM on October 28, 2004

I say "no" because, even under the worst circumstances, the two "sides" are not separated by geographical or physical characteristics. Civil wars do not begin by enlisting and uniforming troops, they begin with skirmishes defined by certain boundries... So, I would say, instead, what you might get is widespread civil unrest and rioting, which could eventually lead to civil war if there were a rift within the armed forces. Only my opinion, but I think it would take a major military upheaval to bring about actual civil war, wherein the two opposing armies organize civilians and establish zones. Assuming this doesn't happen, and things get really bad, one could expect a guerilla "resistance" culture to emerge, which would then be a revolution.
posted by taz at 6:16 AM on October 28, 2004

I would say that a contested election this year would result in major rioting

html as emetic. it really works
posted by shoos at 6:20 AM on October 28, 2004

To have real unrest, people have to lose faith in the democratic process, and start believing in the possibility of change through violence. If there's widespread, hard evidence of election tampering that affects the result, we might be looking at the same kind of polarized climate of violent demonstrations, violent police repression, and political assassinations that we had in the late 60s. But if we didn't have a civil war over Vietnam or Watergate, it's hard to imagine having one now.
posted by fuzz at 6:27 AM on October 28, 2004

Look, Britney Spears is pregnant!

Ha, not a chance of a civil war in hell. ;)
posted by madman at 6:37 AM on October 28, 2004

To have real unrest, people have to lose faith in the democratic process, and start believing in the possibility of change through violence.

I agree with that, and it brings up an interesting distinction of revolution vs. civil war. Generally, we tend to regard civil wars as attempts by a region of the country to break away. Much as I wish some days that NYC would simply say "fuck this" and form its own nation state, I just can't see that happening.

btw- Seriously, shoos, what are you trying to prove?
posted by mkultra at 6:38 AM on October 28, 2004

That depends on how you define 'civil war'.

I'm with taz, and Bush merely winning regardless of how tight the vote, will bring out unrest on a large scale that spans the entire range of age groups, unrest of the civil disobedience variety.

As for fuzz's violence and again if Bush merely wins, I think domestic terrorism will increase markedly. At first, idealists will commit the acts, but after the first few incidents, the copycats whose motivation is simple boredom will begin.

You read it here first. ;-P
posted by mischief at 6:46 AM on October 28, 2004

mkultra, seriously, that this is an absolutely stupid thread. Given that the question was posted by a non-American, well, that's fine. But the rest? It's stupid. Come back and do a nice "how are you dealing with the major rioting?" thread after Nov. 2, and we can talk about it.
posted by shoos at 6:52 AM on October 28, 2004

Only in adolescent jerkoff fantasies.
posted by jonmc at 6:56 AM on October 28, 2004

The proper place to express your displeasure with posts is MetaTalk. Or, better yet, just ignore it and move along. Shitting in it accomplishes nothing but making yourself look like an immature ass and making the rest of the community that much less likely to engage you in the future. When MeFi implements kill files, you can be assured a secure place in mine.

BTW, an email addy on your profile page helps.
posted by mkultra at 6:58 AM on October 28, 2004

When was the last time that happened in a modern society for anything other than existing tribal conflicts?

posted by Ljubljana at 6:59 AM on October 28, 2004

Nov. 3. See you there.
posted by shoos at 7:02 AM on October 28, 2004

There's an assumption here that there would only be unrest if Bush wins. If Bush wins reasonably fairly, I think it will be accepted. If the Republicans pull more hijinks, I can only hope there will be massive protest. Many of us have lost faith in the democratic process, even if we have not started believing in the possibility of change through violence.

If Kerry wins, will there be significant attempts on the part of the Republicans to steal the election through the courts? I believe they took the last election because they want to win at any cost.
posted by theora55 at 7:04 AM on October 28, 2004

Yugoslavia was primarily Serbs vs. Croats vs. Macedonians. Tribal conflict.

Spain, I guess, "officially" had a civil war, but it was more of a revolution.
posted by mkultra at 7:04 AM on October 28, 2004

Oh, no wait, there's a lube convention that day. Let's make it Nov. 4.
posted by shoos at 7:05 AM on October 28, 2004

I've been thinking about this, and the problem is, the groups that it splits off along don't have an equal ability to protect themselves. The majority of pro-choice, pro-Kerry types don't own guns.
posted by drezdn at 7:13 AM on October 28, 2004

Could a tight presidential sphincter result in lead to civil war?

Could a tight presidential underpants result in lead to civil war?

Could a tight presidential embrace result in lead to civil war?

Davehat, it's a sloppy post, which indicates that you didn't really stop and think. Speaking of hats, must go find my tinfoil.

posted by theora55 at 7:21 AM on October 28, 2004

Look, Britney Spears is pregnant!

My seven-year-old wants to know why I'm laughing.

My favorite fictional account of internal war in the U.S. is Folk of the Fringe by O. Card.

If it could happen once...[reaches for recently unbanned assault weapon]<---that was a joke.
posted by mecran01 at 7:28 AM on October 28, 2004

I think it's "Guamanians".
posted by kenko at 7:36 AM on October 28, 2004

What's that saying? There are four boxes used to guarantee liberty: The soap box, the ballot box, the jury box and the ammo box, in that order.

Anyway, I've already cleared my schedule for Nov 2, for the election, the 3rd, for the rioting, and the 4th, for the all out race war. Should be fun.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 7:43 AM on October 28, 2004

The majority of pro-choice, pro-Kerry types don't own guns.

Nor do they consider war a continuation of politics by other means. Stated differently, "war" means you have "armies" of people bombing and killing the "other side." Call me crazy, but I don't see disgruntled liberals signing up for an opposition military. ("Yes, General Chomsky, Operation Free Mumia is ready to proceed!")

This thread is simply a manifestation of how bitter partisanship has made otherwise intelligent people utterly insane. (IMHO, of course).
posted by pardonyou? at 8:16 AM on October 28, 2004

Yugoslavia was primarily Serbs vs. Croats vs. Macedonians. Tribal conflict.

I would say "ethnic" rather than "tribal," and "Bosnians" rather than "Macedonians." (I assume the latter was unintentional.) I don't want to derail this into a discussion about Yugoslavia, though. The Yugoslav civil wars are definitely not applicable to present-day America. But I do think they serve as a reminder that "modern societies" are not nightmare-proof.
posted by Ljubljana at 8:55 AM on October 28, 2004

The post looks "sloppy" because, at the last minute, I took out reference to the US. I felt it was fairly obvious where the question was coming from. Due to the error, I added the first post correction.

I asked the question because it seemed to me that in the event of a tight election the result will be contested in many ways, politically and judicially. During this time, the presidency, whosoever holds or claims to hold it could be argued to be illigitimate.

What happens if this period is prolonged over months/years instead of the days it lasted previously? With what seems (admittedly, to an outsider) to be polarised opinion on the ground in the US on a variety of emotive issues, a potential power vaccum seems to me to be a potentially dangerous situation.

This is where my question came from. I am genuinely interested in MeFite's opinions. If you felt the question lame, that is fair enough. I hear you and I'm the first to admit grumblebee's question is probably better.

shoos: nice posting mate!
posted by davehat at 9:49 AM on October 28, 2004

I rather dislike rabid Republicans, and I imagine they don't care for me. But I can't say that I'd ever be of a mind to take up arms. We're talking about killing people here. I sincerely believe that we're beyond that (at least on a large scale - I'm sure examples of random crazies are readily available) when it comes to political beliefs.

But perhaps we could redefine what we mean by civil war. Just as we had to come up with the term "cold war" to describe our post WWII relationship with the Soviets, one could claim that we've been experiencing a kind of "civil cold war" ever since Bush took office. Should he win again - especially if under similar circumstances to his first victory - this conflict may well escalate. And, of course, should Kerry win, there will be a great many disappointed conservatives.

In this emotional sense, then, I'm of the mind that civil war is imminent. It's going to get ugly.
posted by aladfar at 9:53 AM on October 28, 2004

I guess from those of us exposed to the rhetoric on MeFi on a daily basis might get the skewed impression that a) "America is divided" and b) that there is a lot of hostility (on the Internet) from both sides of the spectrum.

You could get the sense reading message boards that America is falling into civil unrest, but if that does happen, I think it will be isolated to a few geographic locations. i.e. the "battleground states," and not an all out civil unwar.

That is, unless there is a big terrorist attack (like the one that Drudge is talking about where "America will mourn in silence because they will be unable to count their dead").

Glad to be a Canadian...
posted by Quartermass at 10:05 AM on October 28, 2004

unwar? WTF?
posted by Quartermass at 10:07 AM on October 28, 2004

I don't know for certain. But FWIW I do know that for the first time in my adult life I am coming around to the idea that the Second Amendment is a positive thing. In fact, I have been pricing a good rifle (Can you belive a pre-ban AR-15 goes for +$750?). It's not so much the idea of my favored Republicrat losing this election as it is possible civil-unrest related program activities that have me concerned. IMO we're pretty much running out of boxes.

Not trying to be a drama queen, just answering the question honestly.
posted by Fezboy! at 10:12 AM on October 28, 2004

I think things are going to be ugly regardless of who wins, more so if it's Kerry, and a close election will heighten emotions on both sides. One of Bush's greatest failures is his inability to be "a uniter, not a divider," and the US is much more divided now than it was when he took office. It was irritating to see Cheney, in the VP debate, whine about how little bipartisanship their is when he meets only with Senate Republicans.

Demographic shifts are also going to be an issue. As African Americans and Latinos represent increasingly larger percentages of the population, and the Republicans increasingly play the race card, tensions are going to get higher.

Also, the Bush administration has already imprisoned Americans without trail and denied them access to counsel, and legalized torture, and that's with reelection to think about. Since their campaign has said they'll take any win as a mandate, civil liberties wouldn't get better and would probably get worse.

Military personnel take an oath of office to "defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Depending on how seriously they take that and how they interpret it, things could get interesting.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:40 AM on October 28, 2004

We're talking about killing people here.

And if there are people who want to kill me for my political beliefs, you can bet I'm going to do my best to make sure they're dead before they have a chance to kill me.

Same goes for terrorists who want to kill me because I'm American. They can die too.
posted by oaf at 12:24 PM on October 28, 2004

I do think there will be civil unrest and that demonstrations may turn into riots (we will obviously blame the police for kicking it off), but civil war? No. No revolution either.

There are things which could move things in that direction: Another war, reinstatement of the draft, banning abortion and/or reducing other civil rights, economic depression (massive loss of jobs, etc). I don't think more than one or two of those will happen, so you're probably safe.

I can certainly see it happening when oil demand exceeds supply though, and not just in the US.
posted by cell at 12:40 PM on October 28, 2004

Could it? Sure. Anything's possible. Tight races have resulted in civil wars in plenty of other countries. What makes us so special? The problem, however, is identifying the sides. If I were leading a civil war, I'd target the big houses with the long driveways hidden behind rows of trees.

The real problem would be convincing the lower-to-middle class grunts that make up your Fighting Police Force that the rebels actually have a point, and aren't just a bunch of crazied hippies. The major media outlets won't be too helpful here. You might have to take over a couple of TV station headquarters first.

Of course, this won't really change anything. Factions would break up any solidarity as soon as the guns cooled down. The ousted regime would regroup and counterattack with unmitigated fury.

No, if you really wanted to be smart about it, you'd start an underground rebellion of loosely-knit rebels, each leader with a small platoon of 4-5 soldiers. The different group leaders might know just a handful of other leaders, so if they were caught, they wouldn't bring down the whole organization.

Each cell then targets various aspects of the regime -- a sniper takes out a television executive at his home, a small bomb in a sensitive telecommunications junction, an EMP pulse at a large bank. Try and remain as non-lethal as possible, otherwise public sentiment quickly goes against you. Make sure any soft targets are generally hated assholes -- you could probably think of a few names off the top of your head.

This would produce a revolution without real end, but might scare enough of the "higher-ups" to over-react with the police and the law, and turn the public against them in a more traditional election.

Oh, wait a minute. That's already going on.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:41 PM on October 28, 2004

The majority of pro-choice, pro-Kerry types don't own guns.

That just means the first few hours of fighting could be a little one sided. After all thanks to the war on some drugs all the hippie, pot smokin' liberals know someone with links to organised crime.
posted by Mitheral at 1:00 PM on October 28, 2004

My parents were on a Mississippi River cruise a while ago, and Ken Burns was one of the guest speakers.

One evening someone asked him if he thought there was anything that could divide the country as badly as slavery did back then.

Without missing a beat he said, "Abortion."
posted by gottabefunky at 4:54 PM on October 28, 2004

Thought experiment:

You have a deadlocked election. Unlike Gore's concession in 2000, neither side is willing to concede defeat. The conundrum drags on into the spring.

Both sides proceed to claim victory on their own, and to set up the apparatus of an executive branch.

At that point, sides are chosen. State governments, possibly also local governments, choose which executive branch they support. Senators and representatives have to choose whether they will support the same executive as their state government, or go to the other side. Soon, many states actually find themselves with delegations in two separate congresses. By then, each executive is filling out supreme court vacancies and submitting them, "constitutionally", to the "Congress" that supports their executive branch.

When military units start choosing sides, you have a situation where one side could consider action to take control of the territory controlled by the other. Before that happens, you could easily have skirmishes that could involve the use of force, but not the military. What happens when one side tries to collect taxes from the other? What happens when a fugitive criminal escapes from one side to the other, especially if the criminal has broken a law that is new to one side, and not recognized by the other?

The possibility of intercommunal violence would also come up, particularly in areas where local authorities had not declared allegiance to one side or the other.

International recognition of one side or the other, or the lack of it, could also play a role.
posted by gimonca at 5:54 PM on October 28, 2004

But isn't there also the model of Paris, May 1968? Not a civil war by American standards but the weeks of demonstrations did succeed in bringing down an elected government. Of course they have a different system of government there were elections may be forced. I wonder though if there might not be, given enough public pressure, some way that might be suggested and even acted on in a not so United States of America.
posted by donfactor at 9:11 AM on October 29, 2004

are any of you guys still there? sorry i got it so wrong. all the bodies, the destruction, the absolute wasting of human life. i should have known. itll probably take me a few more months to make my way up to canada. maybe we can arrange a meeting. maybe form some form of expat resistance group later on. ill keep in touch. shoos.
posted by shoos at 1:28 AM on November 22, 2004

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