Time has completed a six month investigation into the rightwing militia movement. The final product is an article called “The Secret World of Extreme Militias” which ominously reveals that “recruiting, planning, training and explicit calls for a shooting war are on the rise” in the American Heartland.
A more accurate title would have been “Really Scary White People From Red America.” The article is a compilation of “anti-government extremists” who have no real connections to each other: the Ohio Defense Force, the Klan, a Neo-Nazi who attempted to build a dirty bomb, James von Brunn, skinheads who threatened to assassinate Barack Obama, Timothy McVeigh, and of course the Tea Party.
The common thread running through this story and others like it is the paranoia of Blue America over the threat of revolution in Red America. It is also a useful illustration of Saul Alinsky’s division of American society into “Haves” and “Have Nots.” In Rules for Radicals, Alinsky pointed out that from the “Haves” will come “an unceasing flood of literature justifying the status quo” which “endlessly attack all revolutionary ideas.”
That’s what we are seeing here.
I’ve lost count of how many times I have seen this same rehashed story: a mob of White conservative rednecks out in flyover country, driven by the same “anti-government sentiment” that fuels the Tea Party, economic distress in the Great Recession, and hatred of America’s first black president, are arming themselves and preparing to march on the cities to oust America’s progressive elite from their seats of power.
With that said, there is a grain of truth to the progressive narrative.
There really are millions of angry White Americans in the Heartland supporting candidates who are running against Washington. These people really do dislike progressives. They don’t trust the mainstream media. A significant number of them really do see Barack Obama as a Muslim alien occupying the White House. They don’t watch The Colbert Report or own a Toyota Prius.
Red America does have a radical and militant fringe. The Ohio Defense Force really is preparing for a possible military showdown with the federal government. There really are violent Neo-Nazi fantasists who occasionally act on their ideas. There really is an impotent White Nationalist movement which has explicitly articulated a separatist national identity for this broader constituency.
The fringe is only the tip of a much larger iceberg.
Red America and Blue America are bifurcating into two nations. The vast continental interior of the United States is signaling that it intends to resist the sweeping demographic changes that are eroding the White majority. Long after Whites become a minority, there will still be regions of America, and subregions within states, in which Whites will remain dominant and swim against the national tide.
The political conflict between the swelling, aggressive non-White rim of Blue America and the coalescing, defensive White Heartland of Red America will dominate the next two decades. The real fireworks will be seen in the years to come.