Refighting the Civil War, 150 years later

A century and a half after the start of the Civil War, some historians say Americans are still fighting over many of the same issues, John Blake writes at CNN.

“When you hear charges today that the federal government is overreaching, and the idea that the Constitution recognized us as a league of sovereign states — these were all part of the secessionist charges in 1860,” University of Pennsylvania history professor Stephanie McCurry says.

And it’s not just the terms of the debate that sound familiar, but also the tone, adds David Goldfield of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Now, as then, much of the rhetoric is fueled with moral certitude that wipes out the possibility of compromise.

“By transforming political issues into moral causes, you raise the stakes of the conflict and you tend to demonize your opponents,” Goldfield says.