Head Scratcher of the Day: Why Was There a Civil War?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Our historian-in-chief raises a provocative question that no one has considered before:

“People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why?” Trump said during the edition of “Main Street Meets the Beltway” scheduled to air on SiriusXM. “People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

So what’s this all about? Listening to the audio, it seems like it’s just a case of Trump’s usual ignorance and free association. It went like this: 2016 was a nasty campaign —> Andrew Jackson also ran a nasty campaign —> Jackson was tough but had heart —> Jackson was angry about the Civil War1 —> What’s the deal with the Civil War, anyway?

But there’s another possibility: this is yet another shout-out to his base. After all, the usual lefty lies about the Civil War that infest our schools revolve around racism and slavery in the South. It’s political correctness run amuck! Isn’t it about time that we really ask what caused the Civil War? It was probably just a minor misunderstanding. You know, tariffs and whatnot. Maybe Lincoln couldn’t handle it, but Trump could have.

From there, it’s just one nice, easy step to believing that those Confederates weren’t such bad guys really. They were just defending their, um, traditional way of life against the elite, snobbish Yankees. So let’s leave all those monuments and flags alone, amirite?

1Don’t even ask. Nobody knows what Trump was thinking here.

UPDATE: It’s also worth noting that merely by saying this, Trump will get lots of earnest liberals to start discussing it. And liberals being who they are, they will earnestly note that the causes of the Civil War really are complex. I expect a New York Times op-ed tomorrow or Wednesday. End result: lots of wasted pixels and a public that more-or-less figures that Trump was right.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate