Historians Gregory Downs and Kate Masur edit The Journal of the Civil War Era. In a recent piece at The Washington Post, they remind us that what we saw on January 6, 2021 was, in one sense, very American.
Here is a taste of “Yes, Wednesday’s attempted insurrection is who we are“:
It is tempting to consider Wednesday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol an exception in U.S. history, but the presence of Confederate flags and Sen. Ted Cruz’s ill-founded reliance on the 1876-1877 election crisis to justify baseless challenges to the 2020 electoral results remind us that anti-democratic violence has deep roots here, especially in the period of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Public invocations of American ideals of democracy and the peaceful transition of power serve some good purposes. Yet our country also has a long history of authoritarianism, white supremacy and political violence, one that cannot be ignored without misunderstanding the depth and endurance of the problems we face as a nation and the breadth of the solutions these problems require.
The shocking scenes Wednesday at the Capitol remind us that there have always been Americans who have little regard for procedures established by the Constitution. When Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, political leaders in South Carolina refused to accept the result, fearing that a Lincoln presidency would lead to the weakening of Southern political power and ultimately to the elimination of slavery. Ten other Southern states eventually joined in rejecting the election’s outcome and declaring that they intended to form a nation of their own.
Read the rest here.