How close is the United States to a civil war?

The most troubling analogy I heard last week was between the 2020 presidential election and that of 1860. My interlocutor noted that Abraham Lincoln won a four-way race in 1860. If a centrist — say Ohio Governor John Kasich — runs as an Independent, if the Democrats nominate a progressive (Kamala Harris, anyone?) and if Trump seeks reelection, we could have a somewhat similar situation.

The implication is not comforting. The election of 1860 exposed that the divisions over the issue of slavery had become unbridgeable. Lincoln’s victory was swiftly followed by the secession of seven Southern states and the formation of the Confederacy.

True, there is no single issue in today’s culture war. True, the time on the civil war doomsday clock looks more like 11:08 than 11:58. But when I tell you who drew the 1860 analogy to my attention, you’ll know why I’m troubled. Reader, it was Steve Bannon.

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