How Dare You Suggest The Political Party That Keeps Talking About Civil War Is Talking About Civil War

This is your TPM evening briefing.
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2022/08/09: Logo at the main entrance to the FOX News Headquarters building in Manhattan. (Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

Right-wing media reacted in hysterics Monday to some remarks that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) made on MSNBC over the weekend, expressing concern about the specter of violence Donald Trump and Republicans have spent the last four-plus years conjuring.

Fox News published an article inaccurately headlined around Waters’ supposed call to investigate Trump supporters (she did not, in fact, say anything about opening any new investigations): “Rep. Maxine Waters says Trump supporters should be investigated: ‘Are they preparing a civil war?’

The conservative Washington Examiner whipped its readers into a frenzy by fronting Waters’ suggestion that people who try to overthrow the government could be considered “domestic terrorists”: Maxine Waters suggests Trump-supporting ‘domestic terrorists’ are preparing to start civil war.

A Twitter account associated with the RNC and the Trump campaign also spotlighted Waters’ remarks, calling the 17-term congresswoman, former congressional Black caucus chair and the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee “Low IQ Maxine Waters.”

Each of the write-ups in right-wing media tried to insinuate that Waters is some sort of crazy person for having concerns about Trump supporters (and even some elected members of the Republican Party) who have repeatedly ruminated about “Civil War” in recent years — including around the Jan. 6 attack, when the Capitol was stormed by Trump supporters trying to halt the certification of President Biden’s win.

Here’s what Waters actually said on MSNBC Sunday:

I’m worried that he’s so divisive and that he’s talking about retribution and they’re talking about revenge, and I think that that’s dangerous. He’s even mentioned the Civil War at one point, talked about there would be bloodshed. I am going to spend some time with the criminal justice system, with the justice system, asking them — tell us what’s going on with the domestic terrorists. Are they preparing a Civil War against us? Should we be concerned about our safety? What is he doing with this divisive language? It is dangerous, and we have to make sure that we understand that we’re not at risk with this man talking in the way that he’s doing.

It’s certainly not the first time the right-wing mediasphere has spun up outrage around Waters. She is one of the most vocal Democratic congressional leaders, and is willing to raise alarms about Trump and the dangers of a second Trump administration. But the claims of scandal after Waters brought up a topic that Trump and his supporters talk about routinely is disingenuous at best.

Not only is Donald Trump obsessed with talking about the idea that he could’ve handled the Civil War better than Abraham Lincoln, he also routinely shares posts on TruthSocial that either nod toward political violence or thirst for “war.” As far back as September 2019 Trump was circulating quotes about a “civil war-like fracture” in the U.S. if Democrats’ then-impeachment inquiry resulted in his removal from office. Nor does he shy away from invoking violence routinely at his campaign rallies. Most recently at an Ohio rally in March, he came under fire for suggesting there would be a “bloodbath” if he doesn’t win in the fall. Waters nodded toward those remarks in her MSNBC appearance.

And you’re not going to be able to sell those cars, if I get elected.

Now, if I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a bloodbath for the whole — that’s going to be the least of it. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the country. That will be the least of it.

The Washington Examiner went so far as to fact check Waters for bringing up tthat comment, saying the congresswoman was “apparently referring to misconstrued remarks when Trump warned of the decimation of the auto industry, which he described as a ‘bloodbath.'”

The details of what Trump meant or didn’t mean — and whether or not he was being intentionally vague — matter a bit less when coupled with his allies’ rhetoric. Republicans have been talking about the possibility of “civil war” for years, not just to describe the current state of their party, but also to speculate about an actual, physical war.

Most recently, Texas Republicans elevated talk of a “civil war” when the Supreme Court ruled allowing federal border patrol to cut through razor wire state law enforcement had installed at the U.S.-Mexico border. In response to Trump’s indictment in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case, Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Clay Higgins (R-LA) were criticized for encouraging “war” and a violent uprising.

“We have now reached a war phase. Eye for an eye,” Biggs tweeted at the time.

Last year Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) garnered headlines for tweeting that “We need a national divorce. We need to separate by red states and blue states and shrink the federal government.”

In the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) suggested America was already engaged in a “cold civil war.”

That’s just a handful of examples. There are many many more. The point is: despite what the right-wing media would have you believe, Maxine Waters is not the one stoking violent rhetoric. She is reacting to it.

The Best Of TPM Today

New from Khaya Himmelman: MAGA State Republicans Are Helping Perpetuate Trump’s Non-Citizen Voting Lie

Republicans Can Never Grovel Enough To Satisfy Trump

Yesterday’s Most Read Story

Collins Needs to Retract and Apologize for her Falsehood — Josh Marshall

What We Are Reading

The ‘Appeal to Heaven’ Flag Is All Over Capitol Hill, Even as It Becomes More Controversial — NOTUS

How Donald Trump Could Weaponize US Surveillance in a Second Term — Wired

The Proud Boys are back: How the far-right group is rebuilding — Reuters

Latest Where Things Stand

Comments are not currently available for this post.

Continue Discussion
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: