We Are Not on the Verge of a New Civil War

The red and the blue are not the blue and the gray.


America is not on the verge of a new civil war. That may seem like an uncontroversial thing to say, but the apocalyptic rhetoric has gotten pretty thick out there, so I took the time to write an article for the L.A. Times explaining what the second-civil-war cliché gets wrong. Here's an excerpt:

Thure de Thulstrup

[W]hile the country is filled with reliable Republican and Democratic voters, much of that reliability reflects what political scientists call "negative partisanship." Put simply, that means their votes are driven less by love for one party than by fear and hatred of the other one. In the last election, a large share of Donald Trump's support came from people who did not like him but found the prospect of a President Hillary Clinton more terrifying; much of Clinton's support came from people whose position was the exact opposite.

The atmosphere that produces negative partisanship can fuel a paranoid loathing of the other party's members. In its most concentrated form, it can drive people to aggressive violence. This is the sort of ill feeling that pundits invoke when they talk about a new civil war.

But that atmosphere also means that the two purportedly warring sides don't command as much loyalty as those red/blue maps imply….American politics are structured in a way that naturally tends toward two-party rule, but many Americans are clearly chafing at those constraints.

Other topics covered include why the political class is more polarized than everyone else and why you shouldn't mistake an alt-right/antifa brawl for the state of the nation. To read the whole thing, go here.