Cleantech Worst Case Scenarios For 2024: Political Violence & Civil War

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As we head into 2024, there’s a lot of reason to be both wary and optimistic. Over the last few days, I’ve covered a lot of reasons to be optimistic, but I wanted to turn my attention to some very big and bad things to watch out for in 2024. The idea here isn’t to feed doomscrollers, but instead to give people a heads up and hopefully come up with some good solutions to these unlikely outcomes.

I already covered one very bad natural thing that could happen: solar storms. Next, I’m going to turn my attention to a manmade disaster that could happen in the United States and set clean technologies back for decades.

Election Violence Is Nothing New, But We Haven’t Seen It In A While

As we approach the 2024 election, we’re seeing a lot of unprecedented things happen, and other bad things that we haven’t seen in over 100 years.

Disputed elections are nothing new, of course. Americans have been arguing over elections since the 1770s. The biggest nasty election was in 1860, with states seceding and a civil war starting over the results, which exacerbated a lot of existing tensions over big issues, especially slavery.

While high school history teaches us that the civil war had ended in 1864, 1865, or 1866, it really didn’t, and the South went into a state of insurgency not unlike Afghanistan or Iraq. In some ways, the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse was akin to George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” moment, with an enemy military beaten while the war itself was far from actually over.

In the midst of this partisan violence, there was another particularly ugly election in 1876 that resulted in nobody securing enough undisputed electoral votes to win. Facing the possibility of armed groups attacking Washington, DC, a compromise was struck that both gave them them the candidate they wanted and ended the federal military occupation of southern states.

Thus, in some key ways, the South really won the civil war in 1877 in the same way the Taliban won the war in 2021. They weren’t allowed to reintroduce slavery, but they did disenfranchise the black population, manipulate ongoing elections, and deprive people of their human rights for decades after. Lynchmobs and other acts of terror kept former slaves and their descendants in a state not much better than slavery for almost 90 years.

While it came at the cost of repression and terror in the South, subsequent presidential elections didn’t have further civil war associated with them. We’ve only seen a war of words and not any actual wars over elections for the 20th and early 21st century. Even the 2000 election that went all the way to the Supreme Court didn’t result in warfare, despite many people feeling like the election was stolen.

As we know, the long streak of relatively peaceful elections ended with the 2020 election. Trump disputed the results, many of his followers believed him, and a riot at the Capitol was aimed at trying to prevent certification of the electoral votes, and thus the final step in electing Joe Biden.

An Uncertain Future

The big question at this point is whether we’re seeing a rising trend toward more political violence or just an uptick with a peak on January 6, 2021.

On the one hand, there was a long streak of peaceful elections. If you had asked me about prospects for election violence in 2019, I probably would have said that it was very unlikely. There were tensions, no doubt, and even violence happening in the United States, but the long history of peaceful elections was a powerful trend.

2020 upended everything, though. Protests and riots over police brutality and murders, the abandonment and burning of a police station, the establishment of a commune-like “autonomous zone” in Seattle (complete with heavily-armed guards who killed), violence in Portland that continued well into 2021, the closing of a Chinese consulate that may have been connected to all of this, riots outside of the White House, and then the contested election and Capitol riot all make it pretty clear that the streak of peace is probably over.

2021, 2022 and 2023 haven’t proven to us that it’s over, either. Not only has violent rhetoric continued to get worse, but terror attacks have continued. For example, a Neo-Nazi shot up a grocery store in Buffalo New York, specificially targeting black people and trying to stir up a race war, with the names of past violent racist shooters written on his weapons. This year, a transgender man targeting “white privlages” and “little crackers” shot up a Christian school with things written on the murder weapons, showing us that violence from the left also continues with the violence of others in mind.

While mental illness certainly plays a role in these terror attacks and many others, we’d be fools to not see it as political violence continuing.

It’s also important to note that surveys show support for political violence rising in the United States. While support for it is higher the further right you go on the political spectrum, support for violence has risen across the board. Support for conspiracy theories and fears about the future of democratic systems in the United States are also on the rise.

The 2024 Election Isn’t Cooling Off

It seems like the closer we get to the 2024 election, the crazier the rhetoric gets. When news that Donald Trump wanted to use the military against Americans if he gets into office came out, which followed much hand-wringing over Project 2025 (including a piece by me), Trump was asked point-blank whether he wanted to be a dictator. He not only didn’t deny it, but supported the idea, even if only in a limited fashion.

It gets worse in some ways. With Trump removed from the ballot in two states (with implementation delayed pending a Supreme Court ruling), secretaries of state are getting death threats. Along with accusations of election interference via prosecutions of Trump, this leaves a big part of the MAGA base feeling like civil war is necessary to stop Democrats from stealing the election.

While we can’t predict whether we’ll see violence, a coup, or a civil war, I can confidently say that the threat of such things is higher than it has ever been.

The Impact On Cleantech

As I mentioned in a previous article, the actions against clean technologies would certainly be part of any dictatorial “day one” under a reminted President Trump. “Drill, drill, drill!” means more than just upping oil production, with any action that can be taken against Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Bill guaranteed to happen.

But, since I wrote that piece, Trump has said that he wants to be a dictator as needed to implement “drill, drill, drill!”.  So, we would likely see illegal things done to stop EV tax credits, the construction of charging stations, subsidized heat pumps, and all of the other cleantech progress that has been made. California’s clean air waiver would be gone, by hook or by crook.

Want to challenge all of those things in court? Haha, nope. Trump owns the court. Want to protest? Troops are going to kettle your group and drive it off the street, or you’ll be pushed into a van and taken to detention by unknown people. This time they might not let anyone know where the abducted were taken.

It also may be a mistake to think we can head all this off at the ballot box. It was no miracle or natural outcome of a democratic system that the election wasn’t stolen. Some people worked hard behind the scenes for years to protect it from exactly the threat it faced. But, since 2020 and 2021, Trump’s team has had years to learn from past failures and come up with a better plan. Many people considering using violence to affect the outcome have learned from the failure to stop the electoral vote count on January 6th. People in charge of counting votes in some states are actively trying to affect the outcome, too.

It’s going to take serious action both now, during, and after the election to keep it legitimate and fair. If it’s lost, it’s going to take some serious efforts to protect clean technologies from the whooping they would receive from a Trump unconstrained by Constitutional limits and with a wish for us to “ROT IN HELL”.

If you’re not working toward fighting this, you’d better start getting active on Tuesday.

Featured Image By Tyler Merbler, CC BY 2.0 License.

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