One of the most interesting aspects of political science is the notion of game theory. There are lots of famous examples, from mutually assured destruction through the prisoner’s dilemma.

The primary defining concern in US politics today is understanding the nature of the Trump administration, with those on the left under a constant, near daily terror that the Trump administration will cross an (undefinable) line into full-blown fascism.

As an aside, while Trump exhibits traits of a petty dictator, there is no political theory or underlying message to his approach. There is no Mein Kampf, no Communist Manifesto or any other coherent ideology other than bluster. As a country, the United States will still need to deal with a staggering set of issues around race, but that’s been true since before the founding of the country.

There is a striking parallel between the actions of Putin on an international level and Trump on a domestic. The final, terrible repercussion of Putin pushing past a red line would presumably be World War III. The ultimate repercussion for Trump is not impeachment and removal — it’s the threat of civil war. Vox has an excellent piece asking people to stop making clickbait articles about a potential second American Civil War, which I highly recommend. That said, the US fought a war over race before, and Trump is busily ripping as hard as possible on that fault line. There is a reason why people are so worried.

In line with that, I think it’s worth sorting out the events that would likely be true triggers for an unpredictable but likely violent transition.

  • False arrests of major political opponents
  • Cancellation or mass manipulation of elections
  • Use of violence against citizens

Right now, it’s a simple calculation — no matter what you might think of Trump, it’s not worth civil violence. A deficit busting tax cut is not sufficient reason for civil war. Horrifying deportations of illegal immigrants are not sufficient for civil war. As far as we can tell, there are still checks in place for the judiciary and other actors to act as blockers.

In addition, in the current climate violence would merely serve as an excuse for a reprisal. Imagine the response if, say, a major government building were attacked by an anti-Trump terrorist. That would be a true cause for fear, and the beginning of what would be a very, very dark time.

The two main points to watch will be the 2018 and 2020 elections. If Trump loses the election but refuses to step down, who knows what will happen. Until then, pick your cause, send money, donate time, and wait.

I mentioned Putin for a reason at the top of this article. The only known way to topple a superpower is with a civil war. It’s really not hard to see that very civil war as the ideal outcome for Putin. Pushing buttons on race is known to be a major focus of the Russian psychological assaults via social media and fake website.

Will the bait be taken? Will another path be found? Can the many, many pitfalls of these games of chicken be avoided, and some light be found ahead?

We’ll get a good start on the answer this summer and fall.

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