Best Defense

Mulling Kansas 1856 and America 2016

Best Defense is in summer reruns. Here is an item that originally ran on February 24, 2016.



Best Defense is in summer reruns. Here is an item that originally ran on February 24, 2016.

I’ve been reading Bleeding Kansas, another lender from my historical daughter. And the more I read about Kansas in the 1850s, the more I see some unhappy parallels to today.

— Each side undercutting the legitimacy of the other. Refusing to recognize election results when other side wins.

— Federal government paralyzed by parallel disagreements. House would make a move, Senate would block it.

— Allegations of voter fraud, some of them quite accurate. In a March 1855 election, some 5,427 votes were cast — even though there were only 2,905 voters residing in the Kansas territory.

— Violence becoming part of politics. South Carolina congressmen beats the hell of a Massachusetts senator on the floor of the Senate.

What happens when these trends accelerate:

— Militia activity becoming more widespread.

— Political parties edging into becoming militias.

— General radicalization with the passage of time. Today’s extremism is tomorrow’s norm.

— When people are charged with treason, juries say it was self-defense.

— John Brown commits acts of terror to respond to the attack on Lawrence, Kansas.

— Eventually, the presence of U.S. troops are polling places is needed, but even so doesn’t happen.

Photo credit: John L. Magee (c.1820 – c.1870)/Boston Athenaeum Digital Collections/Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at Twitter: @tomricks1

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