In the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, academics and journalists have increasingly taken seriously the possibility of more political violence in the U.S. And polls suggest Americans are worried about this too. In a December University of Massachusetts Amherst Poll, 62 percent of respondents said they were at least somewhat concerned about violence in the 2024 presidential election.
In her new book, “How Civil Wars Start: And How To Stop Them,” University of California at San Diego political scientist Barbara F. Walter goes a step further. After spending her career studying civil wars abroad, she writes, “We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe.” It’s a bold suggestion, and in this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, we interrogate it. Sure, America is polarized, but is it headed toward war?
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