The trigger of the U.S. Civil War was the election of Abraham Lincoln in November of 1861. One month later the states of South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Georgia seceded and a bloody war that would last four years began.
Reading about the politics of America in the decades that preceded the war made me wonder what comparisons could be drawn to today. The issue then was certainly slavery, the deal-breaker being extension of slavery into new territories west of the Mississippi, while today... well just what are the issues in America, right now?
From this Canadian's perspective the big issue comes down to the more government / less government question: If citizens feel abandoned by the American Dream, is the answer large government involvement from Bernie Sanders or balanced budgets and smaller government from Donald Trump or Ted Cruz? As fundamental as this disagreement is, it probably doesn't warrant any comparison to the Civil War.
What troubles me more is the "take our country back" rhetoric, the racial overtones, the angst that many Americans apparently feel (Trump, Cruz, and others wouldn't be saying it if it wasn't resonating with a lot of people). It sounds like a segment of the population will strongly resist the end of the white, Christian majority. Plus, it sounds like that segment of the population is far more likely to own firearms. It's probably nowhere close to a majority but that doesn't mean it couldn't be hugely disruptive or influential in American politics. Like Al Capone said, "You can get more with a kind word and a gun than just a kind word."
I believe that dark sentiments hinted at in the above paragraph (violence, racism, etc.) exist in all populations and in each of us. However they can be exacerbated by our environment. Both Democratic and Republican primaries have had huge support for candidates viewed as "outsiders" who will take politics back from "the establishment" and this suggests a feeling that voices are not being heard. Add to this the stagnating wages and rising costs of the "Apple Economy" (where all manufacturing jobs are outsourced leaving only a few high-paying design jobs and the low-paying retail and distribution jobs) and people will become more desperate.
I have no idea where things are going: better, worse, more of the same. Hopefully Americans have a healthy debate (it seems their primary system expresses views we shy Canadians would never air) and enter their future in a way that more or less works for everyone.
A worst-case scenario? It wouldn't be "these states" vs "those states" conflict like in the 1860s - but that's probably a rare exception as far as civil war's go. More of the Cliven Bundy / militiamen stuff, or success of politicians that are skilled at tapping into and manipulating the discontent of the masses, a la Trump.
Hope you enjoyed this! I'll go into this more in the future since I have more thoughts. If you'd like to read some fiction on a future U.S. Civil War, check out Orson Scott Card's book, Empire: