As violent and destructive antifa and Black Lives Matter riots continue to ravage American cities like Portland and Kenosha, a self-described communist who plotted to blow up the U.S. Capitol in the 1970s suggested that America’s second Civil War has already started.
“Am I the only one, or do you feel eerily that we’re living in Kansas, 1859, and that tensions are boiling over, but only years later will people say, ‘Yes, the Civil War began there and then?'” Ayers posted on Facebook. He posted the same statement on his website, BillAyers.org.
Ayers, who co-founded the Weather Underground in 1969, took part in the bombings of the New York City Police Department headquarters in 1970, the U.S. Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972. Since the FBI used illegal tactics against the Weather Underground and the New Left, the government dropped key charges against the Weather Underground and Bill Ayers.
After his radical career, he settled into academia, where he taught at the University of Illinois. When he retired in 2010, the university denied him emeritus status. The university’s board chair, Christopher G. Kennedy (son of assassinated Senator Robert F. Kennedy), condemned Ayers for dedicating a book “to the man who murdered my father.” Kennedy referred to a 1974 book Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism, which Ayers wrote with other Weather Underground members and which the authors dedicated to manny revolutionaries, including the man who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy. Ayers denied dedicating a book to the assassin and suggested that right-wing bloggers started a rumor to that effect.
As for Ayers’ “eerie” feeling, he was referring to Bleeding Kansas, a lesser-known precursor to the American Civil War.
In the decade leading up to the Civil War, Southern Democrats fought to extend slavery north and west. The Founders had forged a grand bargain to allow the evil institution of slavery while restricting its spread. In 1820, Congress drew a line, saying that any state north of the line would enter the Union as free while states that entered below the line could have slavery. Yet Southerners started defending slavery as a positive good and arguing for “popular sovereignty,” the notion that white landowners in states north of the 1820 line would vote on whether the state would be slave or free. Abraham Lincoln grew to prominence by opposing this notion.
The South held tremendous sway in the federal government. In 1854, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, opening up Kansas and Nebraska to “popular sovereignty.” Pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers rushed into Kansas, seeking to tip the balance toward their side. The settlers fought and killed one another in a prelude to the Civil War known as “Bleeding Kansas.”
With the benefit of hindsight, Americans see “Bleeding Kansas” as a precursor to — if not the very first tremors of — the Civil War. In one sense, the Civil War had a “soft opening” in 1854, before the main event in 1861.
Ayers was suggesting that the antifa and Black Lives Matter riots in Portland, Kenosha, Seattle, Chicago, and other cities may be a prelude to a much larger conflict, a full-blown civil war. Others on the Left have suggested something similar.
The Portland antifa ally suspected of shooting a Trump supporter said a civil war was “right around the corner.” Former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta war-gamed the 2020 election and suggested that Joe Biden may cry foul if he loses, starting off a chain reaction resulting in secession and a civil war. Far-left groups recently came together to prepare for a civil war.
Given Ayers’ violent revolutionary history, the fact that he would suggest that a civil war is brewing seems particularly significant. During his academic career, Ayers gained “stature and high esteem” in the field of education. The American Educational Research Association elected him vice president for curriculum studies. Some of the radical Marxism in academia today traces back to his efforts.
Like Abraham Lincoln, Donald Trump represents a long-overdue backlash to a radical Democratic movement seeking to transform America and break the Founders’ compact, the U.S. Constitution. This is not to say that Trump necessarily has the stature of Lincoln — but he does represent the same kind of backlash.
While the Southern Democrats before the Civil War sought to expand the institution of slavery and railroaded the Founders’ grand bargain, leftists today seek to undermine the Constitution and remake America in the name of intersectional “social justice.” Activists demonize Americans who hold conservative views and seek unlimited federal power to champion abortion, same-sex marriage, and transgender identity, to deprive Americans of their Second Amendment rights, and to foist leftist ideas in education in the name of diversity.
Trump champions the Constitution while Democrats actively campaign against it, calling for the abolition of the Electoral College and the Senate in order to push their radical agenda. Perhaps for this reason, even liberals like John Podesta suggest that states will secede and spark a civil war on behalf of Joe Biden. Democrats have used American institutions to push their ideas, but now that a backlash against their radicalism has been building, they no longer want to abide by the terms of the agreement.
The South arguably brought the Civil War on itself, and the antifa and Black Lives Matter riots suggest the Left may do something similar. That makes Bill Ayers’ comment all the more chilling.
Let us pray it does not come to that.
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Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.