Capitol riots: America is not on the brink of another civil war – it’s worse

The anniversary of the Capital Riot has been a great opportunity to sell books. The political scientist Barbara F. Walters got in early with her claim that America is on the brink of “civil war” – a reprise of the carnage that was the 1861 Civil War. She thinks the deepening divisions between Blue States and Red States can only lead to military conflict in a land where 40% of households are armed.

The USA is becoming an “anoncracy”, she says, with no one in charge. Given its current political leadership, that seems a pretty good call. She is right that the country is driven by “identity politics” with “ethnic entrepreneurs” promoting division online. She then compares America today with conflicted India (Muslim v Hindu), Ireland (Catholic v Protestant), Ukraine (Russia v Nato) and the Middle East (Shia v Sunni). That’s where the theory comes unstuck.

The right in America is pro-gun, pro-Jesus and pro-flag but there is nothing comparable to the eternal religio-ethnic division between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Nor is there a neighbouring country trying to foment border tensions, unless she thinks Canada has Putinist ambitions. There is cultural and political friction between the more liberal Blue States on the two seaboards, and conservative Red States, in Middle America. But there is no secessionist movement as there was 150 years ago to provoke a military confrontation over geography.

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