There’s a level of passion that I’ve never seen, there’s a level of hatred that I’ve never seen, and that’s probably a bad combination.”
That was former President Donald Trump commenting on the possibility of armed conflict in response to a question from X host Tucker Carlson in an interview that aired on Aug. 23, saying that the political passions of his supporters and other Americans, combined with their anger over the state of affairs in the U.S., was a toxic and dangerous combination.
At first, Trump was commenting specifically on the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol following the Save America rally on the National Mall, saying that the rioters were a “very, very small group of people” in comparison to the wider crowd that had come to, in Trump’s words that day, “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” challenging the results of the 2020 election of President Joe Biden.
Despite the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, eventually the election challenges were heard on the floor of Congress on Jan. 6 and Jan. 7, and the peaceful transition of power still took place on Jan. 20, 2021.
Trump said, “There’s tremendous passion, and there’s tremendous love… There was love in that crowd. There was love and unity. I have never seen such spirit and such passion and such love. And I’ve also never seen, simultaneously and from the same people, such hatred of what they’ve done to our country.”
Again, this is in response to Carlson’s question of “Do you think we’re moving towards civil war?”
When pressed again, “So, do you think it’s possible that there’s open conflict?” Trump responded, at first, “I don’t know,” followed by his statement that there were high levels of passion and hatred he’d never seen.
What he didn’t mention was that the feeling may be mutual on both sides of America’s political divide, as is evident from now the fourth indictment and arraignment of Trump, this time by Fulton County, Ga. prosecutors for challenging the results of the 2020 election.
Trump’s political opponents want him gone, or at least, imprisoned.
The arraignment in Fulton County comes atop prosecutions in New York City, N.Y. over alleged federal campaign finance violations and federal indictments by Special Counsel Jack Smith in Miami, Fla. and Washington, D.C. district courts over his receipt of classified documents while Trump was president and then retained upon leaving office and his political and legal challenges of the 2020 election results, respectively.
Which came atop the counterintelligence and later criminal investigations of Trump and his 2016 campaign over false, made-up charges of being a Russian agent, initially leveled by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, that led to the FBI and Justice Department applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to spy on the Trump campaign, surveillance that was carried over into the Trump administration, led to the recusal of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and ultimately, the appointment of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who in 2019 found no Trump campaign conspiracy with Moscow to hack the DNC and John Podesta emails and put them on Wikileaks.
And it came atop two impeachments of Trump, the first for asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about Joe Biden’s time as vice president in facilitating the firing of Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin who was investigating the Ukrainian natural gas firm his son, Hunter Biden, served on the Board of Directors for, and then later, in 2021, for challenging the results of the 2020 election.
All told, that’s seven different legal processes that were taken against Trump to prevent him from ever taking office, to remove him from office and now to prosecute and potentially disqualify him from ever running for public office again. You can draw a straight line through Trump’s entire run for president to where we are today.
Insofar as this is all completely unprecedented, Trump intuitively understands the level of passion and hatred, too, on the other side, that it would take to weaponize federal, state and local governments to prosecute political opponents.
And he’s correct that it is a “bad combination,” just as it is with his own supporters. This is the “violence of faction” that James Madison warned against in Federalist No. 10 in 1787, stating the Constitution was needed to break the cycle of violence: “the numerous advantages promised by a wellconstructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction…”
But the Constitution was not perfect, nor are human beings perfect, and so, more than 70 years later, in 1860 and 1861, once the Framers were all gone, the country plunged into the Civil War. Here, Carlson and Trump, are warning, rightly, that it could always happen again.
It is also remarkable that Trump sees himself — via his representation of his supporters and his presidential candidacy in 2024 — as perhaps one of the things that helps preserve the civil society, by upholding one of its greatest institutions, elections, and holding back what could be a very terrible outcome for this country.
That is, when the American people are allowed to decide for themselves the direction the country is going to head in, including who will be president, the civil society can and will prevail. But if they are disenfranchised, and disallowed from deciding for themselves, say, if state election officials seek to unconstitutionally disqualify him, it can be very much endangered. He’s right.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.