Breaking Glass

The Next Militia Panic

Only a fool would try to foretell the course of U.S. politics a few months in advance, let alone several years in the future.  The fact that Democrats are riding high after their electoral triumph last November does not necessarily mean that they will win the White House in 2008.  But just suppose that January 2009 opens with a new Democratic president.  What can we predict about that new regime, and what, if anything, can we do right now to prepare for those events?

I would suggest one near certainty: Around 2010-11, the United States will be facing a florid national panic over right-wing militias, paramilitary groups, and domestic terrorists.  Such a prediction extrapolates plausibly from American political history over the past century.  Whenever a long-established Republican regime is replaced by a liberal Democratic successor, concern about rightist militias and paramilitaries normally surfaces within two or three years, especially when the nation faces grave external dangers.

Such a sequence has occurred repeatedly.  In the mid-1930’s, the extreme-right mobilization took the form of “shirt” groups inspired by Italian or German fascism, movements such as the Silver Shirts, the German-American Bund, and the Christian Front.  Two years after JFK stole the presidency, the media were presenting dire warnings about the Minutemen, ultrarightists who reputedly had close...

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