Two weeks ago, Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is a conspiracist, antisemite, white supremacist, and insurrectionist, said that America needs a "national divorce." Such language is right-wing newspeak for a second Civil War.
The mainstream news media, the pundits and Church of the Savvy, and some responsible members of the political class issued obligatory condemnations, but for the most part, they just mocked and laughed at Greene. Once again, they reasoned that Greene is "crazy" and "unhinged," but not really that dangerous. Laughing at, mocking, or otherwise dismissing Greene and others of her fascist ilk, however, gives them power. Such behavior is a type of trojan horse and camouflages their war on democracy.
In all, Greene's threats of a second Civil War – especially in such a combustible political environment – are a danger to national security and therefore should be taken very seriously.
Writing at the New York Times, David French, who is far from being a radical voice or an alarmist, issued this warning about Greene's threats:
About two weeks ago, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia kicked off a conversation about a "national divorce," and it hasn't really stopped. Greene says she doesn't mean a true national division, but rather an extreme form of federalism, in which red and blue states essentially lived under completely different economic and constitutional structures while maintaining a nominal national union.
The very idea is absurd. It's incompatible with the Constitution. It's dangerous. It's unworkable. It would destroy the economy, dislocate millions of Americans and destabilize the globe. Even in the absence of a civil war — it's beyond unlikely that vast American armies would clash the way they did from 1861 to 1865 — national separation would almost certainly be a violent mess. There is only one way to describe an actual American divorce: an unmitigated disaster, for America and the world.
It could also happen. It's not likely, but it's possible, and we should take that possibility seriously….
And where are we now? Has the fever passed? Not by a long shot. America is in the grips of a simply staggering amount of partisan animosity. As I wrote in my newsletter last week, overwhelming majorities of Republicans and Democrats believe that their opponents are "hateful," "racist," "brainwashed" and "arrogant." Half of the respondents to a 2022 University of California Davis survey agreed that "in the next several years, there will be civil war in the United States," and roughly 20 percent agreed that political violence was "at least sometimes justifiable." A recent Rasmussen Reports poll found that 34 percent of likely voters (including a plurality of Republicans) think red and blue states need a national divorce.
In response to the criticism, Greene quickly pivoted, telling Fox "News" personality Sean Hannity that she is a victim and all she wants is a "safe space" for "conservatives" and "real Americans" like her. The usual suspects enjoyed belly laughs and loud guffaws once again, now directed at Greene's invoking of a "safe space" and claims of "victimhood." Instead of laughing at Greene, however, the mainstream news media, pundits, and responsible political leaders should have done the public service of critically engaging Greene's fascist comments and larger anti-democracy worldview.
Why is Marjorie Taylor Greene threatening a second Civil War? Why are these threats and others like them important and to be taken seriously? What are these threats telling us about the larger democracy crisis here in America? How should the American people respond, especially after Jan. 6? Even more specifically, when Greene said that she wants to create a "safe space" for Americans like her what does really mean? What would a right-wing neofascist "safe space" in America really look like?
Greene's threats of civil war are a textbook example of stochastic terrorism, where a malign actor or group encourages political violence through repetition, humor, the use of metaphors and analogies, by "just asking questions" and "hypotheticals" or other rhetorical moves. When confronted about their incitements to violence, they often respond with predictable talking points such as "they were misunderstood" and/or were "just kidding"; "people are too sensitive" and are trying to stifle "free speech" and "challenging ideas".
When the violence occurs, the stochastic terror agent(s) then claims plausible deniability. "We had nothing to do with it!" The claim that the terrorists were "lone wolves" is another tactic used by malign actors and others who radicalize the public into violent extremism.
Greene's claim that "conservatives" and "real Americans" need a "safe space" is an example of how the American right-wing has, for decades, and with great skill, co-opted the language used by liberals and progressives.
Here are two of many such examples.
Conservatives and the larger white right have distorted the real meaning of "racism" – which in American society and the West means institutional and systemic prejudice, bias, and other forms of discrimination against non-white people — into the nonsense false equivalence of "reverse racism" where "white" people are supposedly the "real victims" of discrimination and systemic disadvantage.
The right-wing, and especially the neofascists, are committed to a version of "free speech" that in practice does not mean dialogue or allowing others to speak. For them, "free speech" means the "freedom" to intimidate, use violence against, and otherwise silence those they disagree with.
Beyond its therapeutic origins, the concept of a "safe space" as used by liberals and progressives is one where black and brown people, women, the LGBTQ community, disabled people, and members of other historically marginalized and stigmatized groups can come together and speak freely among themselves without fear of retaliation, marginalization, discrimination or otherwise being silenced by having their experiences rejected by dominant society as not being valid or real.
Marjorie Taylor Greene's safe space would be the opposite.
Multiracial pluralistic democracy would end through violence; the country would be turned into a new apartheid, a wild space for white supremacy and neofascism.
Taking away women's reproductive rights and freedoms through forced birth laws and other threats of personal violence and other violations of their human and civil rights. Women in America would be the de facto property of their husbands, fathers, and other (white) men.
There would be even more mass shootings because guns would be sacrosanct and have more rights than human beings – especially women and black and brown people.
There would be no environmental protections, social safety net, child labor laws, public health care or any other attempts to create a more humane and equitable society.
There would be no First Amendment protections or other free speech except that which is approved by the state in keeping with its totalitarian vision. There would be thought crime laws including widespread censorship, book burnings, and violence against teachers, librarians, and other educators. Real public education designed to create more informed citizens and critical thinkers would be replaced by neofascist "patriotic education" where the result would be compliant drones and submissive citizens. There would no longer be a college or university system unless its curriculum was approved by the state.
There would be no separation of church and state. Greene's safe space would be a White Christofascist regime where other religions would likely be declared illegal. Atheists, agnostics, and other non-believers would, in all probability, be imprisoned, exiled or worse.
The plutocrats would rule without any checks on their power.
LGBTQ people would literally be erased from society. Taken to its logical conclusion, Marjorie Taylor Greene's neofascist safe space will involve eliminationism and the equivalent of pogroms and purges targeting the LGBTQ community.
In the end, Greene's neofascist safe space will be an American nightmare. The only people who will be safe there will be the Republican fascists, the white right, and those judged by them to be "real Americans". All other people will be targeted as enemies to be terrorized.
When Marjorie Taylor Greene and other Republicans dream of a second Civil War or "safe space" or whatever other label they use to describe their fantasy vision, it is not funny, a joke, or something ridiculous. They are making an existential threat that all people who claim to believe in American democracy should take very seriously.
One of history's greatest villains launched a genocidal project by claiming that Germany needed "breathing room" and "protection" from "enemies" both internal and external. It is no coincidence that in Marjorie Taylor Greene's demands for a "safe space" we hear the echoes, decades later, of those same evil words and apocalyptic vision.