“There never was a good war or a bad peace.” – Ben Franklin
It is a blessing and a curse of being a social animal that we are often aware of what the other social animals around us are thinking. If online activity is any indication of what people are thinking, then things are not great. Every day for the past year, I have found that the most viewed essay on this site, by far, has been something I wrote in 2019 about who would win a second civil war in the United States.
Perhaps I am giving this too much attention. But maybe not. A significant percentage of Americans have been deeply worried and/or angry for a while. In an October 2020 poll, 61% of people agreed with the statement: “I’m concerned that the U.S. could be on the verge of another Civil War.” Another Yougov poll from the same time found that 56% felt that the country would see “an increase in violence as a result of the election.” A smaller poll from December reported that 71% of Trump voters and 40% of Biden voters believed “we are headed into a civil war or significant upheaval.” (Upheaval and civil war were not defined, however).
When I play the scenario out in my head, I think the possibility of another civil war is remote, at least not in the sense of replicating the original one. Although there has been chatter about secession in a few states (Texas, Wyoming), this has little momentum. And while there are certainly regional political differences, they do not fall along neat boundaries akin to northern and southern states. There is no Mason-Dixon line. Rather, the main divide seems to be urban-rural, within states rather than between them.
Yet even within states and within counties, there is plenty of political variation. While many counties voted overwhelmingly for either Biden or Trump in 2020, most were not very lopsided. According to one analysis, fewer than 600 out of roughly 3,000 counties (excluding Alaska, for some reason) voted over 80% for either candidate.