“Are we reaching a point in the so-far-failed Resistance where little is left except abject violence in the manner of the Roman or French Revolution?”
– Victor Davis Hanson, writing at the National Review
Leading up to the November 2016 elections, I wrote to subscribers that my most pressing concern regarding national instability was a failed election. A replay of the 2000 “hanging chad” incident, a cyber attack, evidence of widespread voter fraud, a case of actual collusion, or any number of potential catastrophes could have derailed what’s left of our Republic and potentially induced widespread, organized political violence.
One of my greatest concerns as we look to 2018 elections, 2020, and beyond is still organized political violence and revolutionary activity. I make a distinction between politically-related violence and organized political violence. The sporadic assaults against Trump supporters is politically-related violence; an armed take over of a college campus (à la the 1970 Columbia ROTC take over), government building, or a coordinated campaign of violence against politicians or politico-cultural figures are examples of organized political violence. The former we’ve grown accustomed to, the latter could be the start of a domestic conflict. Extreme events are unlikely but not impossible, especially considering what’s at stake in the elections and the future of the country. There are a number of potential scenarios we could see going forward.
Let’s start with political subversion, which we’re already seeing. There’s no doubt that the collusion investigation, which to date has reportedly produced no evidence of collusion, and the intent to remove a sitting president is a revolutionary act. Moving beyond the usual mud slinging in politics, the activities of government apparatchiks to undermine a legitimate president and the media’s efforts to foment illegitimate fear, unrest, hatred, and opposition are historical precursors for revolution.
Along these lines, a Coup D’etat is a violent or non-violent overthrow of an established government, usually by a small number of people at or near the top of the ruling class or military. One could argue that, along with political subversion, there’s been and continues to be an attempted coup against President Trump, although not in a traditional sense.
Unlike a coup, which is organized and executed at or near the top of power, an insurgency’s heavy lifting is done at the bottom. We’re undoubtedly seeing a (mostly) non-violent political insurgency, which historically carries some risk, under the right conditions, of developing into an armed insurgency. We can define insurgency as “The organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify, or challenge political control of a region” (Defense Department). We’re not yet at the point of armed insurgency, however, there are indications of intent. I typically characterized the Right as having the capability but lacking widespread desire, and now the Left as having the desire but lacking the capability. We have, however, observed behavior among extreme Left groups of adopting gun culture — everything from purchasing firearms and ammunition to holding range days and firearms training. It’s one indication that the extreme Left is marginally, yet incrementally, developing the capability to foment an armed insurgency. About fifty years ago, Leftist revolutionary groups in the United States carried out over 2,500 bombings in less than two years, along with police assassinations, bank robberies, and other violent activities. By their own words, they really thought a revolution was about to break out (Days of Rage). Few of those responsible for the bombings were caught, fewer were tried in court, and many of them are still alive. It’s not inconceivable that undesirable election results in 2018 or 2020, or some federal policy perceived as crossing a red line, could drive their contemporaries to the same kinds of activities. It’s not a prediction, but there exists the potential.
Short of an insurgency that seeks to overthrow a government, there’s insurrection and rebellion. An insurrection is localized violence carried out by an organization desiring to change policies. A riot intended to overturn or modify government policy, deter an undesirable outcome, or punish a government or institution would be an example of insurrection. Lastly, there’s rebellion, which is an attempt to create a new, independent regional government through violent means.
Shortly after the 2016 election, I started tracking 20 early warning indicators of revolutionary movements in the United States. We started with six or eight indicators around Thanksgiving 2016, and by Thanksgiving 2017, we had moved up to 12 of 20 active indicators, either strong or weak. As of this morning, I’ve added another, which brings us to seven strong indications and six weak indications, for a total of 13 out of 20.
For those new to understanding indicators, they’re a way intelligence analysts can judge how near or far we are from an event, or how dull or intense an event or condition is becoming. If three or four of 20 indicators are exhibited, then we’re on the low or unlikely end of the spectrum. If that number starts ticking up to 10 or 12, then we’re seeing moderate growth in likelihood or intensity. If the number of indicators grows to 15 or 17 or more, then we could produce a warning that a situation is serious or dire, perhaps imminent, or of a high intensity. At 13 of 20 today, this is a moderate issue and it’s something we’re actively tracking.
Leftist revolutionary movements are becoming more organized and active in the United States, although most of this activity occurs underground and is limited to just a handful of cities and regions. The week to week activities of these groups include outreach and recruiting, community organizing, and some agitation. There are a number of groups training with firearms and there are even some cadres of military veterans teaching basic infantry skills to a few of these groups.
While the number of active early warning indicators of Leftist revolutionary activity has doubled in the past year and a half, that’s not to say that the trajectory is set. Conditions change, and attitudes and opinions and behaviors change often with them. Major Democratic victories in 2018 and 2020 could stifle the growth of revolutionary sentiment, or it could rapidly expand it under favorable conditions. It’s too early to predict what will happen, however, it’s not too early to prepare for potential instability.
If you’re interested in the potential for these scenarios, or concerned about where we could be headed as a country, then stay up to date with developing conditions with our threat intelligence reports. Each Friday we publish two intelligence summaries:
- Alt-Observer, a weekly look at the development of domestic conflict, revolutionary political movements, tribal violence, and other factors that disrupt our “civil” society.
- National Intelligence Bulletin, which covers issues of national security, domestic systems disruption, risk of failing critical infrastructure, and threats to social, political, and economic stability.
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Always Out Front,
PS. If you’re concerned about where we’re headed as a country, whether on the near-end of the spectrum or the far end of the spectrum (social, political and economic instability; domestic conflict; or collapse of empire), and want to stay informed on what the headlines don’t cover, then I invite you to try us out. Our special operations and intelligence veterans track the day-to-day risk of global and domestic conflict. If you’re not happy within the first two weeks, I’ll refund your monthly or annual subscription cost – no questions asked. You can get access to our intelligence reporting and training area here.