Some on the right believe so. To examine that dire possibility, it’s necessary to look at history – the issues that led to the Civil War and the issues created by the defeat of the Confederacy. As any school child knows, the cause of the Civil War was slavery. The primary reason the Union won was its manufacturing power. And, following the war, the South was left in poverty, even resenting the attempts of the North to help restore its institutions and economy.
While the South suffered and chafed at what it considered northern meddling, following the Civil War, the North went back to business as usual, happy that its boys were no longer dying. It never believed that its culture was all that different from the South. Sure, there were the stereotypes that anyone with a southern drawl was slow; that they didn’t believe in education and hard work. There were jokes that, in the South, a family reunion was a great place to pick up chicks. But few people in the North held a grudge.
Attitudes in the South were entirely different. Rather than admitting the war was initiated by slavery, it called the Civil War the “War of Northern Aggression.” And though the Confederacy surrendered, the South has never really admitted defeat. It kept its own identity; its distinct culture; and, of course, its racism.
You’ve heard the phrase, “The South Will Rise Again?” Well, it has – at least politically. The states of the old Confederacy are now almost completely red, with Republican governors, Republican-controlled legislatures, Republican US senators and mostly Republican congressional representatives. Like the Confederacy, today’s elected officials from the South believe in states’ rights and they have an almost universal contempt for the federal government.
In fact, the second Civil War has already begun. But, so far, it has been confined to a culture war. Rather than build their own business, southern states seem intent on taking corporations and jobs away from the North. And, to some extent, they’ve succeeded. In search of low-paid labor and lower taxes, many corporations have abandoned their places of origin and moved south, leaving the cities and former employees to wallow in poverty. Southern states have even succeeded in swaying the nomenclature to their benefit. While northern states are now known as the “Rust Belt,” southern states are known as the “Sun Belt.”
Yet the biggest differences can be measured in terms of faith, poverty, education and tax contributions to the federal government. Most of the northern states contribute far more in federal taxes than their southern counterparts. Indeed, most of the southern states receive far more in expenditures than they contribute. The southern states routinely rank among the most underfunded public schools and at the bottom with regard to the level of education. And most of the people in the southern states are devout followers, believing that their impoverished circumstances are an act of God; that they will succeed if they only pray harder.
While the South has a relatively uniform identity, the North is much more diverse. States like California, New York, Minnesota and Washington have little in common with Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota and New Hampshire. About the only thing they share is the climate.
And though the Civil War represented a clash over slavery, it was also urban versus rural; manufacturing versus farming; the educated versus the uneducated. For the most part, those differences haven’t changed. Certainly, there are large cities, large manufacturing plants and large universities in the modern South. But the culture divide remains and, following the last 4 national elections, the divide seems to be widening.
For example, Arizona (now part of the South) has already passed a nullification bill that would challenge any federal law or regulation its legislature deems “unconstitutional.” Can the rest of the South be far behind? Even though the bill is likely to be vacated by federal courts, the attitude will remain. The southern states would rather spend the millions of dollars required to challenge the federal government than to spend the money improving their schools, nurturing business start-ups, maintaining the environment and creating jobs.
Where all of this conflict will end is uncertain.