Civil War by Other Means: America’s Long and Unfinished Fight for Democracy

PublicAffairs: Perseus. Oct. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9781541758544. $30. HIST
The U.S. Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021, was yet another indication that the Civil War that erupted in 1861 has never fully ended, argues Suri (history and public affairs, Univ. of Texas, Austin; The Impossible Presidency). Suri explains that long-standing but underappreciated domestic forces of stubborn resistance and fearful revenge feed 21st-century white supremacist heirs of Confederates, who refused to surrender; they rioted for their vision of an exclusive, white male-dominated society and against a rising multicultural America. As their rebel forefathers rejected Amendments 13, 14, and 15, the rioters and their supporters continue to reject and rebel against the idea of a predominantly nonwhite U.S. democracy. He notes that more than Southern whites have been disaffected by opening U.S. society to Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color. Mirroring dispossessed rebels, many whites in the North, particularly Midwestern Protestants, have also feared declining status from competition outside a closed, whites-only vision of American democracy. Masterfully reviewing post–Civil War history to visualize the persistence of violent white supremacy, this exposes numerous whites’ fears of loss and indignity in an increasingly multicultural society, plus the governance structures supporting white supremacy and how they must be dismantled.
VERDICT Compellingly insightful and essential for all concerned about the United States’ present and future.
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