“This is the America that Obama will govern in his second term: A place divided not only by ideology, race and class but also by the very perception of reality. . . . The president who spoke ambitiously at his first inauguration about uniting America instead arrives at his second with the country further divided.” — Eli Saslow, The Washington Post, Jan. 20, 2013
Note: This post was published in 2013 following the 2012 presidential election. It seems more relevant than ever as America prepares for the 2016 presidential election.
Divided by ideology, race and class.
That sums up America in the decade leading up to the Civil War, as described in “Team Of Rivals,” Doris Kearns Goodwin’s history of Abraham Lincoln and the politicians, abolitionists, generals, and ordinary people of his era. The similarities between the present time and the decade before the Civil War are striking and frightening.
Eerie, huh? All the states of the 1861 Confederacy voted red in 2012, except Virginia and Florida. Most of the states that stayed in the Union in 1861 voted blue in 2012. The exceptions are the border states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Kansas, which remained in the Union during the Civil War, but now vote with the red Southern states; and Indiana, the only state that regularly votes red in the otherwise solidly blue northern tier. The border states of Maryland and Delaware now vote with the Northern blue states.
More than a century has passed since the beginning of the Civil War in 1861. Although U.S. population has increased greatly, population distribution and density have been surprisingly stable.
The areas of densest population remain about the same as at the time of the Civil War. The most populated areas are the Northeastern states, the Midwest states, and the northern tier of the old Confederacy. Population is also concentrated in the three Pacific states, and along the Gulf of Mexico, from Texas to Florida. The areas that had not attained statehood at the time of the Civil War — the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains — remain underpopulated by comparison.
The Plains and Mountain states have evolved over the last century to be more like the South, socially and politically, than the North. The states that were territories during the Civil War vote mostly red. Their population is insignificant in terms of political power, except that each of the sparsely populated states elects two U.S. senators, just like the densely populated states.
Do you think humankind has evolved or advanced in the past 100 years?
I think not. Americans in the 21st century are no different, and certainly no better, than Americans of the 19th century. A significant minority of the population in 1860 was willing to enslave other human beings, even though slavery was widely believed to be wrong and immoral in both the North and South.
A significant minority in the U.S. today is willing to use any means available in the modern economy to exploit fellow humans. Then as now, the differing economic and political views of the people were concentrated geographically. Could America come apart again? The potential fault lines can be plainly seen on any U.S. map. — John Hayden
- Americans are Unbecoming (3quarksdaily.com)
- The Big Squeeze (historynet.com)
- The Other Lee (historynet.com)
- Aims to hit benchmark set by Lincoln… (telegraph.co.uk)
I think the divisions have been growing for years and years, and right now they are just as bas as they were in the 1860’s. However there is one thing different here; restraint and organization. In the 1800’s we were still settling the west and communication between states took much more time than it does now. People have become much more entrenched in their lives and rooted in their circumstances, so revolting and rising up is much more difficult because capitalism has taken hold. However if those circumstances change then you might begin to see things just as scary as they were during the Civil War.
The U.S. by 1860 had recently entered the modern era regarding transportation and communication. Transportation was much faster than only a few years earlier, thanks to the railroads. And communication was suddenly almost instantaneous for those with access to a telegraph line.
I don’t see the creation of the Confederacy as a popular uprising or revolt. I think it was a move by the rich and powerful in the South to protect their entrenched interests.
Hi John Happy New Year to you first of all..
I sure hope that the USA doesn’t fall apart again, but I do think people are divided in their thoughts, for as a none American, looking at it from the outside, I think many are fed up of hearing false promises…
We put people in power hoping that they can rule and sort out problems putting those that be in positions of responsibility, and yet we are often guilty in a sense of not taking responsibility in our own lives…
We rely upon others to solve our economy, we rely upon others to solve our environmental issues of pollution etc..
While all the time we spend what we do not have… and all the time we keep on polluting our atmosphere by the way we are living, in our throw-away society we each are part of..
I do not even pretend to understand US politics, I only see if we are not careful we are becoming wrapped up in self and greed…
We need to embrace our Unity within our own families, our own neighbourhoods when we start to make a difference in our own lives by seeing we need to share and care with one another, then those values start to ripple outwards into our Communities and Countries…
To find each other We first have to take a Deep Look at ourselves… and put the Kindness BACK into MAN-KIND…
Once we stop fearing each other, and fearing what they want to take from us and what we want to keep… We then start to live from our hearts and not from our heads we then see we are all the same… We all just want love in our lives… and no amount of money, property, gold or possessions will heal us…
To bring Unity and Peace within the world we each need to find Peace within our own hearts… Its no good blaming another.. If we cannot find it within our own hearts to Change…
Sorry, John, my fingers often run with my thoughts….
Thank you Sue. Kindness, love and peace. Well said.
The US can’t keep going the way it is. The root of the problems I think is the debt of the individual citizens. People can’t live the way too many Americans are living.
Agreed. Each one of us needs to live responsibly.
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