Although it has been a lifetime since this morning when Trump threatened civil war, he was onto something. Not a war now- which Russian trolls have been pushing and right wingers have echoed for over a year- but how the present looks like the years before the real Civil War. /1
In the 1830s, wealthy slaveowners began to defend slavery as good for white men. But when Indian Removal in 1830s pushed native people off rich cotton lands, land prices skyrocketed and forced many whites into poverty (see @rothmanistan's Flush Times and Fever Dreams). /2
As poor folks started to turn against the rich slaveowners who made up less than 1% of the population, elites undercut their opponents by increasingly denigrating enslaved black people and urging racial solidarity. Opponents, they said, wanted to make slaves equal to whites. /3
By the 1850s, rich slaveowners believed they were a master class that should spread slavery across the nation and the world. But they had lost a popular majority, and knew it. Americans thought slavery hurt white workers, and did not want to use the government to protect it. /4
So southern leaders gamed the system. They forced through a law that permitted slavery into previously free western lands, got SCOTUS to declare that Congress could not prevent the spread of slavery, and then demanded that the government protect slavery nationally. /5
When a majority of Americans protested, they explained that they were the nation's true leaders, and the rest of the country was made up of "mudsills," people who needed their guidance. So even if they were a tiny minority, they should still rule: an American oligarchy. /6
In 1860, a majority of Americans were so appalled by the rise of a political cabal that they rejected it, giving such extremists only a little more than 18% of the vote. As voters split over three other candidates, Abraham Lincoln, who vowed to stop the spread of slavery, won. /7
Immediately, that southern cabal recognized that their control over the government was doomed. They would no longer shape the laws to promote the fortunes and power of a few. So even before Lincoln was inaugurated, they left America to create their own oligarchical nation. /8
And the poor whites who had hated those elites before came to the support of a war for their "country," fully expecting that war would be as bloodless as leaders promised. /9
Those who have never seen war always underestimate it. And the 600,000 people who paid the ultimate price were not the leaders who had started the shooting. /10
The parallels between the consolidation of elite slaveowners' power from 1830-1860 and the rise of Movement Conservatives from 1954-2019 are eerily similar. Like their predecessors, Movement Conservatives took power by denigrating black Americans after Brown v. Board. /11
Their racial dogwhistles won voters and they began to pass laws that moved wealth upward. The more those laws hurt regular people, the more they doubled down on racism against all POC, and then turned on "Feminazis," all of whom they said threatened white men's liberty. /12
As they got richer and lost popular support, they came to believe they were the nation's natural leaders who should rule even as people turned against their policies. They stayed in power by gaming the system: gerrymandering, voter suppression, and a compliant SCOTUS. /13
But that is now crumbling. When Trump threatens civil war, he is not just talking about saving his own hide; he is calling for his supporters to rally around race and gender so they protect the oligarchy that has been gathering power for a generation or more. /14
There is, though, a crucial difference between 1860 and 2019. The world of 1860 was a world dominated by white men. But now POC and women are political participants with voices and votes. And both are getting more powerful daily. /END
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