Our Best Stuff From the First Week of a Brand New Year

Happy Sunday, and Happy New Year. This might seem like a weird thing to say while it’s 17 degrees here in Ohio, but can we talk for a moment about cooling down the temperature?

In remarks on Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris compared January 6 to two other notable dates in history: December 7 and September 11. On the one hand … yes, it’s a date that has been seared into the memory of most Americans. Just as hearing “September 11” makes one’s mind fill instantly with images of the burning World Trade Center towers, “January 6” will likely always bring to mind a sea of Trump flags on the grounds of the Capitol and the violent mob pushing its way into the building. On the other hand … Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks each killed thousands of people and led directly to war. Those days united Americans against horrific outside threats. But January 6 was a warning sign of just how divided we are, and the only kind of war that it can lead to is a civil war.

I wish Harris had been a little more judicious in her comments (and left out a plug to pass an unnecessary election reform bill), but even I don’t think that was an analogy she was trying to make. But while we’re on the topic … 

The notion that we could be facing a national breakup has moved into the mainstream discourse. In his review of Stephen Marche’s The Next Civil War, the Washington Post’s Carlos Lozado writes, “There is a horrifying yet normalizing quality to such discussions. The more often cable news chyrons, think tank analyses, political rhetoric and nonfiction works elevate the discussion of a new civil war, the more inevitable such an outcome may seem, and the more fatalistic the public may feel.” At the New York Times, Michelle Goldberg discussed Marche’s book and another new entry in the genre, Barbara Walter’s How Civil Wars Start. She writes: “I agree … it’s absurd to treat civil war as a foregone conclusion, but that it now seems distinctly possible is still pretty bad. The fact that speculation about civil war has moved from the crankish fringes into the mainstream is itself a sign of civic crisis, an indication of how broken our country is.”

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