Culture Wars/Current Controversies

When elections lead to violence: It’s happened before — and we’re heading that way now

By Paul Rosenberg, Salon

Not even the most perceptive academic could have timed the publication of a 10-year research project this perfectly. LSU political scientist Nathan Kalmoe’s new book, “With Ballots and Bullets: Partisanship and Violence in the American Civil War” is being published in this overheated election season, and that’s just an accident. Ten years back, no one would have imagined the recently reported Transition Integrity Project projection of “both street-level violence and political impasse” in all four war-game scenarios it conducted for the 2020 election. (The full report is here.) Such possibilities weren’t on anyone’s radar — except for his.

“Pundits and scholars have generally lacked perspective in thinking about the bounds of mass partisanship in the U.S.,” Kalmoe told me. They “virtually never consider that partisans might kill each other in extreme circumstances.” Yet here we are today, facing that dire possibility in the weeks and months ahead. Both the length of time and the scope of research that went into this project set it far apart from any superficially similar warnings, even as it grounds them in much deeper soil — combining exhaustive historical research with expertise in public opinion research and political psychology.


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