In recent years, the term “cold civil war” has gained currency as an updated way of describing what used to be called “the culture wars.” I’ve never embraced the view that we’re in a cold civil war, but I’m not sure we aren’t.
However, when I see that most Democrats favor defunding the police, and when I see the “cancel culture’s” growing success in censoring conservative voices, I begin to fear that a cold civil war — rather than a shooting one — may soon become a best case scenario.
What are the likely consequences of a breakdown in law and order, coupled with the denial of free speech rights to something like half the country? Stanley Kurtz expands on the second half of my question:
If you deny the fruits of liberalism [free speech rights] to half the country, where do they go to get their say? Conservatives in general, and Trump supporters in particular, are already being squeezed out of social media. If Trump and his supporters are really so dangerous that they are no longer entitled to fundamental rights, why not hound them out of restaurants, shout down their lectures, get up in their faces at their homes and make their lives impossible?
We’ve seen all that already, of course. Up to now, however, it’s been condemned, however tepidly, by at least a few “small l” liberal voices on the Democrat side. But what if half the country begins to feel — with justice — that the other half is eager to deprive them of their rights, has set them beyond the pale, wants to see them crushed? What then?
Stanley gives this harrowing answer:
The Left is playing with fire, and abolishing the police is only the half of it. They think they can replicate the college campus at the national level. But it’s easier to silence visiting speakers or hapless students than to treat half the citizens of this country as fascists unworthy of rights. . . .
[I]t won’t take that long for the social fabric to tear. Once half the country sees itself made out to be bigots without rights — with no voices on the op-ed pages permitted to contradict this depiction — civil peace will slip away.
Classical liberalism arose to prevent murderous civil strife between those who could not agree on ultimate things — and who questioned each other’s good faith as a consequence. Throw aside the marketplace of ideas, throw aside even the aspiration to neutral reporting, and throw aside, on this account, the basic rights of those with whom we disagree, and we are back in the soup, back to the wars, back to the days before liberty and civil peace, the crowning achievements of our history, the history we’ve stopped celebrating — or even remembering. Is that what we want? Because that is where we are headed.
Beyond a cold civil war to a hot one.