Do not expect a civil war in America

Here is Chris Blattman on that topic, read the whole thing, but here is an excerpt:

  • Talk of a US breakup is nonsense
  • But there are real risks of regularized, serious political violence
  • Even so, I personally put those risks much lower than most of the people I just mentioned
  • Especially the risk of an organized right-wing insurgency—my own view is that risk is minute
  • That’s important, because a different risk level and a different diagnosis implies different solutions and priorities—because you don’t avert the next pandemic by prepping for the zombie apocalypse
  • Meanwhile, the backstory on things like the democracy downgrade should make you worry that the only thing that has degraded is the credibility of the rating organizations
  • For America, the greater risk (in my mind) is not violent insurrection, it is the quiet erosion of democratic norms (an actual degrading of American democracy) that never becomes violent, because it almost never makes sense to rebel
  • Even then the big story to me is the recent robustness of our institutions
  • Those of us who fear the specter of right-wing machinations—be it violence or state capture—should be vigilant, but also try to be suspicious of ourselves and our worst fears, for humans are perennially biased judges of our rivals

And from Musa al-Gharbi’s recent excellent piece:

We are not living in a “post-truth” world. We are not on the brink of a civil war. The perception that we are is almost purely an artifact of people taking poll and survey data at face value despite overwhelming evidence that we probably shouldn’t…

In fact, rather than January 6 serving as a prelude to a civil war, the US saw lower levels of death from political violence in 2021 than in any other year since the turn of the century. Even as violent crime approached record highs across much of the country, fatalities from political violence dropped. This is not an outcome that seems consistent with large and growing shares of the population supposedly leaning towards settling the culture wars with bullets instead of ballots. This turn of events does not seem consistent with the notion that tens of millions of Americans – including large numbers of military, law enforcement and militia members – literally believe the presidency was stolen, elections can no longer be trusted, and the fate of the country is on the line.

Indeed, far from giving up on elections, Republican voters are reveling in the prospect of taking back one or both chambers of Congress at the end of this year; they are eagerly awaiting the midterms (likely for good reason).

In truth, most Republican voters likely don’t believe in the big lie. But many would nonetheless profess to believe it in polls and surveys – just as they’d support politicians who make similar professions (according to one estimate, Republican candidates who embrace the big lie enjoy a 6 percentage point electoral boost as compared to Republicans who publicly affirm the 2020 electoral results).

They are both right.


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