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Historians Warn Biden Which Eras Most Resemble Today's Political Climate–And Yikes

Historians Warn Biden Which Eras Most Resemble Today's Political Climate–And Yikes
Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

If you have some knowledge of the darker periods of history, you may have felt over the past few years like things in America are seeming a little... eerily familiar.

Well, turns out you're not wrong. "History doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes" as Mark Twain said, and a group of historians have noticed so much rhyming they warned Democratic President Joe Biden about it in a recent meeting.

According to these experts, all the talk of Nazi Germany and another civil war lately is not exactly off-base.

In a recent meeting at the White House, they warned Biden that present-day America bears a remarkable resemblance to pre-Civil War America and pre-World War II Europe--and that our democracy is "teetering."

In addition to members of Biden's staff, the meeting included Princeton University professor Sean Wilentz, University of Virginia historian Allida Black, journalist Anne Applebaum, and presidential historian Michael Beschloss.

Beschloss in particular has been publicly outspoken in recent months about what he sees as a dire need for Biden to address rising fascism and threats to democracy in our country, telling MSNBC in March he believes "we are all in existential danger of having our democracy and democracies around the world destroyed."

The meeting, held August 4 in the White House Map Room, is said to have turned on similar themes, centering on two particularly dark American eras that seem to be returning with a vengeance.

The first was the incredibly divisive and dangerous era around President Abraham Lincoln's 1860 election, when Southern states threatened to secede because of his anti-slavery sentiments. The Civil War broke out less than three months after his inauguration.

The second was the period around Franklin D. Roosevelt's election in 1940, when Americans were becoming increasingly sympathetic to European fascism and antisemitism, especially in Hitler's Nazi Germany, and increasingly opposed to the idea of America intervening in World War II to stop it.

Based on these parallels, the historians sounded alarms to Biden that our times are the most dangerous modern America has ever seen, and part of a worldwide surge in totalitarianism that has democracy itself hanging by a thread.

On Twitter, many were disturbed by the dire warnings that came up during the conversation.

But others were left frustrated by the news, feeling this conversation was a long overdue stating of the obvious.

Historians, writers and media figures have been warning of America's parallels with 1930s Europe and our own dark history since as far back as the 2015 lead-up to the 2016 election, and especially since the January 6 coup attempt last year.

Here's hoping more people will now start taking the warnings seriously.