I do not know what kind of America I will wake up to November 9. But I know that the result of the election does not hinge on Election Day. What happens to the U.S. will be the cumulative effect of a campaign that has mainstreamed bigotry and is now mainstreaming – or at least severely playing down – white supremacist violence.
Trump never specified what era he was referring to when he said he would “Make America Great Again.” Many assumed it was the 1950s, when job growth for whites was high and civil rights were denied. But when I visit Lovejoy’s grave across the river, I am reminded of life in St. Louis in the 1830s, of the mob violence that preceded the Civil War, of the way Lovejoy tried to convince people that non-whites were human and white mobs were a dangerous problem, and how he anticipated his own death as a result of these toxic politics. His era was one in which white men could attack non-whites with impunity, and those who defied them faced terrifying consequences. It would have been a great era to be Donald Trump.
The tyranny of the mob is enabled by those who refuse to recognize the threat, who rationalize the mob’s aims, or who – like the elites of the 1830s – avoid discussion of the racial enmity at its core. That same deep denial is occurring today, over 180 years later. We have a moral obligation to oppose it and document it, as others have in dangerous eras, in the hopes of negating threats to the most vulnerable.
As Lovejoy proclaimed, there is no excuse for deserting your post.
Our fate was sealed long before November 8 (and not because the election’s rigged)