he “Second American Civil War” is an umbrella term used by some academics to reclassify historical eras of significant political violence in the United States as a “civil war,” or more commonly to discuss the potential outbreak of a future civil war.
The phrase “second civil war” has been used in political discourse, usually as a threat if certain actions are taken by the opposing political party (e.g. the removal of a sitting president; massive changes in federal laws perceived as unconstitutional). Occasionally, references to a second civil war by political leaders and commentators are more serious in nature. Discussion of a second civil war has occurred with varying degrees of frequency and sincerity since the first civil war ended in 1865.
In 2016, discussion of a possible second civil war entered the mainstream in earnest as a result of the polarizing effect of the election of Donald Trump. Concern of civil war rose dramatically after the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump, and continued to grow due to the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest sparked by the George Floyd protests, and the aftermath of the highly contentious 2020 United States presidential election (which resulted in the election of Joe Biden, the 2021 United States Capitol Attack, and the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump).
Following the violent capitol attack in 2021, an increasing number of political scientists, journalists, historians, intelligence officials, military leaders (including former U.S. generals), investors, and politicians on both sides of the political divide started to raise concerns that the United States might break into civil war in the coming years. On the first anniversary of the 2021 Capitol Attack, former President Jimmy Carter warned that the nation’s inability to confront “toxic polarization” in the aftermath of the attack put the U.S. “on the brink of a widening abyss” and at “genuine risk of civil conflict.” Some assert that the country is currently locked into a cold civil war between the political left and the political right that could break out into war within the next 5 to 10 years, with many identifying the 2024 Presidential Election as a potential fire-starter. Others claim a second civil war may have already begun.