No, The United States is not headed for a new civil war. But the idea keeps popping up. I’d argue that it is a topic of discussion because of the bias towards the present that most of our pundits have. If you don’t know much about history, everything can seem unprecedented, and it can feel like everything is falling apart in a new and awful way. But all of this really has happened before, and back then it was so much worse. With today’s video, the first of two parts, I lay this all out.
Video Transcript after the jump…
Hey There. Lately a very troubling idea has been floating around. Today we ask the question, Is the United States heading towards a Civil War? The answer is no, absolutely not. These articles are half-baked clickbait. I of course would never cover a controversial topic just for the views.
My hypocrisy aside, I think it’s worth addressing the general sense that the US Republic is in unprecedented danger. It’s not. There are many problems. The internet has been doing some very weird things to our economy and our politics. Anybody with a smart phone can impact the national conversation. I’m obviously a big fan of this, but there are downsides. It’s given us a president who is an idiot and a blowhard. Most troublingly, the rise of the alt-right has turned the country’s racist sub-text into text. It’s shocking to be dealing with proud white Supremacists in 2017, and I don’t want to minimize that.
But we’re nowhere near where we were in the run up to the US Civil War. In fact I can think of a number of historical points since then when we were in a lot worse shape than we are today. We’ve got problems, but we can handle them. We’ve handled them before.
When it comes to the possibility of armed insurrection, I’d argue that things were actually worse in the early 1990s. Anybody remember the Michigan Militia? After a botched arrest at Ruby Ridge in 1992, and the government massacre of a religious cult in Waco in 1993, the armed militia movement exploded across the country. Thousands, some say tens of thousands of people formed armed groups, who talked enthusiastically about fighting the federal government. I’d say that’s a good deal more intimidating than a bunch of losers re-tweeting frog memes wouldn’t you? On April 19,1995 Timothy McVeigh, a man affiliated with the militia movement, blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. After that the militia movement pretty much evaporated. Remnants still exist, but it was over as a mass phenomenon. It’s too early to tell, but I am getting the sense that the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville earlier this month might be having a similar effect on the Alt-Right. Ironic Racism isn’t that cute anymore.
Some claim we’re going to get a civil war over income inequality. Globalization and the internet mean that the rich are doing very, very well, while the majority of the country hasn’t made much progress in decades. That’s a real problem. But here’s a question. Have you ever gone to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York? 100 years ago the contents of this museum, and dozens of other museums across the country sat in the many mansions of our plutocrats. America’s millionaires truly lived like Kings. At the same time Much of the country lived like this. We’ve had extremes of wealth and poverty before. And they were much, much worse at the turn of the last century. Sorting that era out occasionally involved open warfare between capitalists and workers. A consensus seems to be building that something needs to be done about inequality today. And nobody’s died in a strike. We don’t know what the answer is yet, but we’re already focused on the problem.
And to go all the way back to 1861, the year the US civil war started, there’s something very basic missing if we were heading for a repeat. There were dissidents in the North and South back then, but most folks were on board with their sectional interest. We love talking about Red States and Blue states today, as if everybody in California was a Democrat, and everybody in Texas was a Republican. That’s just not true.
31% of California, the home of Nixon and Reagan, voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
And Texas actually increased its Democratic percentage in 2016. For Hillary Clinton, the 2nd most hated presidential candidate in US history. I’m beginning to suspect that Trump will lose in 2020 actually, not because the Democrats will get their acts together, but because Texas will go blue. But that’s a different video.
When people imagine a new civil war, they probably aren’t envisioning armies in blue and gray like the 1860’s they’re probably thinking of something darker and more messy. They are thinking of the 1960’s, but moreso. To truly do justice to the 1960’s we’re going to need a whole nother video. Come back later this week, or maybe next week for 4 Dead In Ohio, my discussion of the 1960’s in memory and in fact.
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