In June 2017, James Hodgkinson, a Bernie Sanders supporter, opened fire on Republican congressmen at a softball field in Virginia. The next year, Caesar Sayoc, a Trump supporter, mailed 16 pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and media figures, including former President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. In 2020, rioters and gangs loosely affiliated with the Antifa movement battled police in Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere. In January 2021, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers led thousands of pro-Trump protesters in an attempted terrorist attack on the U.S. Congress.
Few people were killed in these incidents—but not for lack of trying. There is, as David French recently wrote, a “whiff of civil war in the air.” According to research from the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, 80 percent of Biden voters, and 84 percent of Trump voters, agree that their political opposition “present[s] a clear and present danger to American democracy.” More than 70 percent on each side want to censor the other side’s media and believe that the other side “no longer believe[s] in the ideas that make America great.”
Most worryingly, an increasing number of Americans openly admit to pollsters their willingness to resort to violence. According to PRRI, 30 percent of Republicans, including almost 40 percent of those who believe the 2020 election was stolen, believe that “things have gotten so far off track [that] true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.” Twenty-six percent of white evangelicals agreed with that statement, the highest of any religious group.
Are they right? Is it time to fight?