Experts Share How the U.S. Can Save Our Democracy … and Avoid a Civil War

What Matters to Me an Why - Priya Satia

Photo Credit: Steve Castillo

America is closer to a collapse of its democracy than much of the country may realize, according to several experts interviewed by NBCLX in the months following the insurrection in Washington on Jan. 6.

The Historian: Liberal Arts Can Save Us

“The latter half of the 20th century, there was sort of an automatic assumption behind most [American attitudes that] if you just sit back and wait, history will turn out OK,” said Stanford University history professor Priya Satia.  “But nothing is going to just work itself out. It is on us to work things out. We need to do that work.”

Satia said too many Americans have not only failed to learn lessons from world history, but also their own country’s past.

“If you have a good, accurate narrative of…United States history, you won't go storming around the Capitol building with a Confederate flag,” Satia said.  “[We should] invest much, much more in humanistic studies so that people are better readers and can better-distinguish fact from fiction, [but] investment in those fields has really eroded in recent decades as we've emphasized technology and technological fields much more.”

A recent poll by USAToday and Suffolk University found 58% of President Trump’s supporters believed Antifa was behind the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, compared to just 28% who believed it was mostly Trump’s supporters, even though the FBI has repeatedly rejected claims that Antifa or any liberal groups were involved in coordinating the attack.

“The more educated we are, the more we're able to cope with this media universe,” Satia said.

She added that history suggests confronting America’s gender and racial inequality could strengthen democracy.

“Is American power preeminent in the world? I don't know if that's how we should be judging the health of American society. Maybe we should [ask]: Is there less inequality in America? Is everyone well employed? Does everyone have health insurance? Maybe those are better things to look at for how well-off America is.”