What a new US civil war could REALLY be like: Rebel generals defect to Trump after Biden outlaws ‘terrorist’ MAGA supporters… then Antifa start a ‘kill whites’ campaign. Far-right militias execute minorities. Anarchy erupts. Forget the movie…

Flanked by two marines, President Joe Biden steps out of the Marine One chopper onto the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base to declare a national emergency.

It’s 6pm on January 6, 2025, 20 miles from Washington DC. ‘Four years ago, on this very day, Donald Trump tried to steal democracy,’ says the 82-year-old Commander-in-Chief, removing his Aviator sunglasses to signal the gravity of his point. ‘He’s doing it again, folks. We must stop him, no matter what.’

From now on, Biden decrees, Trump’s Make America Great Again (Maga) movement will be designated a terrorist group. The Trump-owned Truth Social platform will be shut down. All internet sites publishing ‘electoral misinformation’ will be blocked.

Biden reiterates that, contrary to his opponent’s claims, he has been re-elected. And he invokes his authority to federalise the National Guard until order can be restored. ‘I never wanted to do this,’ he insists. Above him, two F-22 Raptor jets rip through the sky, heading towards the Capitol.

Hours earlier, inside Washington DC, the ‘Take Our Country Back’ march, attended by 50,000 Trump fanatics, had descended into mass rioting. Left-wing ‘Antifa’ militants, in their neckerchiefs, threw Molotov cocktails into the red-hatted Maga crowds.

In the new film, Civil War, Kirsten Dunst plays Lee Smith, a renowned war photographer covering a civil war which has engulfed the nation

January 6 2021, when supporters of former president Donald Trump descended on the Capitol in Washington to protest against the then incoming President, Joe Biden

January 6 2021, when supporters of former president Donald Trump descended on the Capitol in Washington to protest against the then incoming President, Joe Biden

Shops were looted and smashed. Dozens of corpses lay on the grass of the National Mall. The Joint Session of Congress certifying the 2024 election has had to be abandoned. Three Democratic congressmen have gone missing, presumed dead.

As Biden makes his address, the man he blames for the chaos and bloodshed is 1,000 miles away in Florida, reading out his own statement from inside his Mar-a-Lago compound.

‘This is a sad day,’ says Donald Trump, surrounded by heavily armed men. ‘We never wanted to do this, but we must take our country back. Crooked Joe has lost — twice — and he lost big. They can’t steal another election.’ He thanks Governor Ronald DeSantis, his former Republican rival, for formally offering him sanctuary in the state of Florida. ‘We love you, Ron.’

In South Carolina, a far-Right militia calling itself ‘the Calhouns’ — after ‘cast-iron man’ John C. Calhoun, the staunchly pro-slavery 19th-century statesman — starts lining up black people in the streets and murdering them.

In Portland, Oregon, an Antifa leader known as ‘Che’ orders followers to ‘kill whites on sight’ — even though he is white himself.

On Telegram, the only working social-media platform, Trumpists and radical Democrats arrange a ‘live ammo re-enactment’ of the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. Seven pro-Trump U.S. generals formally break with the Pentagon and order their subordinates to fight against ‘the Biden Tyranny’.

Riots break out in every major city across America.

Governor Greg Abbott of Texas follows Florida in pledging allegiance to Trump. Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, a ‘NeverTrumper’, is shot in the head by a mystery marksman while giving an open-air speech in the state capital of Concord.

California governor Gavin Newsom declares that, while he supports Joe Biden, with the nation in chaos, his Democratic state — with its economy bigger than the UK’s — must now secede. Alaska, more than 2,000 miles from the contiguous U.S., and Hawaii, 2,400 miles away, follow suit. The states are no longer united.

Cut! Let’s stop the paranoid imaginings there. But the above scenario is hardly more far-fetched than Civil War, a new film set in the near future, about a catastrophic U.S. revolution. British writer-director Alex Garland has conjured up a plot in which the ‘Western Forces’ — a somewhat improbable alliance between Texas and California — battles against a delusional dictator-president of the USA.

The story follows four annoyingly earnest journalists as they journey through the carnage of conflict into the heart of darkness, Washington DC.

It’s mostly high-octane nonsense: Apocalypse Now for angsty millennials. We’re never told what the war is about.

Inevitably, Garland has drawn criticism from progressive reviewers who accuse him of being ‘evasively apolitical’ — i.e., he hasn’t made the baddie a blatant representation of Donald Trump, while the goodies are not obvious Democrats on a mission to save LGBTQ rights for humanity.

There is no doubt, however, that the film has been released to chime with the U.S. election this November. The viewer is clearly invited to reflect on the troubling extremism of contemporary U.S. politics. One chauvinist character kills another just for being Chinese. There’s a reference to a legendary ‘Antifa Massacre’, plus several nods towards the infamous storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

In the age of Biden vs Trump, when opposing voters truly loathe each other and confidence in the political system is at an all-time low, this is potent stuff.

Worrying about the break-up of the United States has become a national obsession. Recent surveys show that more than 40 per cent of Americans think a new civil war will be fought within the next decade.

In 2022, the government-funded Political Instability Task Force announced that the U.S. should be considered a dangerous ‘anocracy’ — a state that is somewhere between democracy and autocracy. In the liberal Washington Post, three U.S. generals warned of the ‘potential for a total breakdown of the chain of command along partisan lines’ in the U.S. military, should Donald Trump narrowly lose the next election. It’s the politics, stupid. Everybody knows that the Trump vs Biden sequel is likely to be even nastier than the horror show of four years ago. The incumbent is an increasingly doddery leader so unloved that even a majority of his own voters say they would rather he stepped down.

Former USp resident and current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump sits at the defendant's table at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York

Former USp resident and current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump sits at the defendant’s table at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, U.S.,

This famously brash challenger is facing four criminal trials on a total of 88 charges and could be a convicted felon by election day.

Both Biden and Trump like to use apocalyptic language to describe the political stakes today. ‘The 2024 election is our last chance to save our country,’ declares Trump. ‘The same corrupt forces that have been fighting us every step of the way are now shattering every democratic norm to try to stop us from defeating them in this final battle.’

Biden, meanwhile, says that equality and democracy are under assault. ‘We do ourselves no favour to pretend otherwise.’ If he wins, he argues, ‘we can say we saved American democracy’.

Trump, who still insists that the last election was stolen, says this time his victory must be ‘too big to rig’. But most pollsters expect another very tight result. It’s likely that only a few thousand votes in several swing states will decide the outcome. One Republican adviser says 2024 will be a ‘knife fight to the death’. And Trump, we can be sure, will cry foul again if he is declared the loser.

Team Biden, for its part, has been busy working on extensive plans to stop Trump trying unfairly to claim victory again. Senior Democrats point out that, last time, many Republican leaders, including the Vice President Mike Pence, refused to go along with Trump’s ‘Big Lie’.

But in the past four years, The Donald has strengthened his cult-like grip on his party, so much so that today it’s hard to imagine too many senior Republicans gracefully accepting defeat. Democratic operators are whispering to reporters that their side has been preparing to block another series of legal challenges from the Trump campaign and ‘war-gaming’ the worst-case scenarios.

To Republicans, however, these secretive schemes to ‘save democracy’ sound rather like a dastardly false-flag operation to defraud the American electorate again. Trump has vowed to ‘destroy the Deep State’ — by which he means anti-Trump forces inside the FBI, the CIA, the Justice Department and elsewhere. It would make sense, therefore, if those elements were plotting to destroy him first. ‘My line is that they really should fear a Maga takeover,’ says one Trumpworld insider.

It’s easy to forget that, in 2020, even before Trump threw his election tantrum, America almost went to war with itself. On May 25 that year, George Floyd died under a white policeman’s knee in Minnesota. A video of the killing went viral. The Black Lives Matter movement erupted and turned violent. The summer saw weeks of riots in Minneapolis, New York, Chicago and elsewhere. Shops were smashed and looted; cars and public buildings burned. The damage cost insurance companies more than $1billion.

Partly in response, a huge number of Americans decided to arm themselves. Between 2019 and 2021, more than seven million people became new gun owners. A University of California study showed that a worrying 44 per cent of new gun owners thought that political violence could be justified. In a time of furious political polarisation, that sounds like very bad news.

‘A house divided against itself cannot stand,’ said the great American president Abraham Lincoln. But the truth is that the Land of the Free has always been a restless giant. Ever since the Civil War ended in 1865, U.S. citizens have struggled to overcome the shame of slavery and racism.

That might, in part, explain why re-enacting that historical conflict is such a national obsession: every year, tens of thousands of amateur historians travel to Gettysburg, Fort Donelson and other sites to act out the great battles between North and South. Since the convulsions of 2020, the pastime has grown in popularity.

The BLM riots of 2020 were by no means the worst clashes in living memory. Back in August 1965, the arrest of a black man for drink-driving sparked The Watts Rebellion in Los Angeles, which led to 14,000 National Guardsmen being called in to restore order.

Twenty-six years later, in the same city, four white police officers were filmed beating a black man named Rodney King. That triggered more violent protests and 63 people died.

In ‘the long, hot summer of 1967’, some 150 race riots broke out in cities across America, claiming more than 80 lives. ‘The 12th Street Riot’ in Detroit that year resulted in more than 7,000 arrests and 43 deaths.

The next year saw further mayhem following the assassinations of Martin Luther King in April and Bobby Kennedy two months later. And that summer, the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Chicago turned into a street war between the police and protesters. This summer, the DNC will be held in Chicago again. It’s possible that we’ll see similar disturbances, especially given the discontent among Democrats over Biden’s leadership and the Left-wing rage at his support for Israel in the war in Gaza.

Chaos ensues indoors on January 6 after the mob breeches security and enters the Capitol

Chaos ensues indoors on January 6 after the mob breeches security and enters the Capitol

But America today is divided more by class than race. Trump’s supporters tend not to be as affluent or as educated as their Democratic opponents. Psephologists call it the ‘diploma divide’. In 1992, the Republican George H. W. Bush won a majority among college-educated whites — whereas, in 2020, Trump lost their support by 15 percentage points. Similarly in 1992, Bush won 45 per cent of white voters without a college degree — whereas, as in 2020, Trump won 65 per cent.

At the same time, the Democrats no longer appear able to command an overwhelming majority of minority votes. Polls now show Trump nearly beating Biden among Latino voters and winning some 30 per cent of votes from black Americans.

The pro-Democratic Press is eager to say that, in a second Trump term, a hardcore of ‘Christian nationalists’ will set about establishing an openly authoritarian regime that suppresses all dissent. But this is fantasy bordering on hysteria.

Even the most troublesome Right-wing voices tend to recoil at talk of insurrection. ‘Civil war?’ says Roger Stone, the so-called ‘Prince of Darkness’ and longtime Trump adviser. ‘I hope not. As someone who has made their living for years working in democratic elections, I think that’s the only way to resolve the nation’s problems.’

‘I hope not,’ echoes Tucker Carlson, the TV host often tipped to be Trump’s next vice president. ‘Of course we’re on track for one, but I think it’ll be a while, probably several years after the debt crisis and financial collapse.’

Others suggest that, far from hastening major conflict, the abundance of firearms will prevent one. Victor Davis Hanson, the historian and author of The End Of Everything: How Wars Descend Into Annihilation, says he is ‘confident a civil war is never going to happen. The people who threaten it are ill-equipped to deal with traditional America’.

Universities may be full of people who want to bring down America, he says, but a large majority of citizens identify as conservative. ‘They’re very capable people. I don’t think there was one person in my entire life as an academic at three or four universities that knew how to shoot a gun. Yet if I walk down my rural avenue at ten at night, I would not dare to knock on anybody’s door. So I think, in that asymmetrical fashion, there isn’t going to be any war.’

British people tend to scoff at America’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, something we regard as a relic of a more violent age.

One day, however, all that weaponry might come in handy.

  •  Freddy Gray is deputy editor of The Spectator. Civil War is in cinemas now.

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