Known for his use of coded language, Donald Trump recently invoked the words of Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist pastor who declared a “Civil War-like fracture” would occur should Trump be impeached during an appearance on Fox and Friends Weekend.
In my work, I have previously discussed the use of dog-whistles in politics and how the modern-day use of coded-language became popularized decades ago with the implementation of the Southern Strategy. Since then, many elected officials have employed the use of such rhetoric; appealing to the racial biases of white working-class voters all over the country.
Donald Trump, who is no stranger to the use of dog-whistles, alluded to a Civil War early in March of 2019. His hateful rhetoric, constantly regurgitated by his followers, has undoubtedly resulted in sharp increases in hate crimes across the country.
“I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point and then it would be very bad, very bad.” — Donald Trump, March 2019
When Trump announced that he had the support of tough people, you could almost feel the collective erections (if they weren’t so small) of incels and neo-Nazis. We also heard the excitement coming from blatantly racist conservative radio and TV personalities.
After Barack Obama was elected we saw the so-called Tea Party begin to use blatantly racist language. They had no qualms about saying it then, just as they have no issues with saying it now. As we witness a sitting president adopt this Nixonian speech, we can see just how far the normalization of hateful rhetoric has come.
Trump’s language is a dangerous pattern that has militias and hate groups fantasizing about a Civil War and calling on their members to arm themselves in preparation. Many anti-government militias and hate groups have been salivating at the idea of a race war. With Trump espousing such language, these groups feel that we are closer than ever to seeing it happen.
On September 30, 2019, the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers militia, Stewart Rhodes, embraced Trump’s tweet quoting pastor Jeffress’ call for a civil war. While Jeffress’ quote didn’t directly call for a civil war, it is the perfect example of how dog-whistles work. The message was obvious and Rhodes heard it loud and clear.
“The term ‘civil war” is increasingly on people’s tongue. And not just “cold civil war” — full-blown “hot” civil war. Fact is patriots consider the left to be domestic enemies of the Constitution bent on the destruction of the Republic…” — Stewart Rhodes, Oath Keepers founder
While the Oath Keepers claim to be non-partisan, as most militias do, their actions and rhetoric make them clearly one-sided. They echo the sentiments of the far-right and protect hate groups such as the Proud Boys as they provoke violence. They boast a membership of about 35,000 active duty and retired military and law enforcement personnel, which is dangerous in its own right. Add the other groups they associate and it suddenly makes them an even bigger threat.
The connection between hate groups and law enforcement begins with groups such as the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters. This is an issue I frequently discuss that is a much broader problem than most Americans are willing to admit. This isn’t about your grandpa’s Klan, this is about modern-day racists moving into positions of authority.
David Duke helped normalize the strategy of using positions of power to control and eliminate minority populations in America. Since Duke traded in his robes for the preferred attire of politicians, white supremacists in government and professional occupations (doctors, lawyers, judges, academics, etc.) have become so common that they are almost hard to detect if you’re not looking for them.
Interestingly enough, many hate groups and militias will claim they are non-racist about as often as they claim to be non-partisan. However, listening to their rhetoric and watching their actions, will lead you to believe otherwise.
The Proud Boys the perfect example of this.
When they constantly parrot divisive language such as “the left” are “enemies of the Constitution” then the partisan messaging becomes clear. When they argue that they must be armed to fight back a tyrannical government — while remaining silent when tyranny, oppression, and state-sanctioned murder is a near-constant in communities of color — their silence is louder than any firearm in their possession.
Militias in America are an inherent white-supremacist concept. They operate unabated thanks in large part to the power of white privilege. Americans ignore white male-dominated militias while negative perceptions about people of color are widely accepted despite their inaccuracies. It’s no wonder they claim non-partisanship despite closely affiliating themselves with the far-right.
As long as the American public remains complacent while turning a blind eye to militias, of which many members live and work in our communities, these hate groups will only continue to grow and become more complicated to deal with. Particularly when law enforcement refuses to act — as many of them are members of these groups. The blue wall of silence is a powerful thing.
The idea of a civil war is as much fantasy as it is an oxymoron. When the enforcers of our laws are members of these militias and hate groups, then a civil war makes no sense. Now, if you want to talk about a race war, then their rhetoric makes all the sense in the world.
However, they still don’t stand a chance.
In their minds, they believe they are superior, that they alone can save themselves from threats that don’t exist. The reality is, more and more Americans are becoming aware of their existence and what they stand for. Those same Americans are sick and tired of these provocateurs who thrive on fomenting division and hate.