AuthorHightower, Jim

Many years ago, literary critic Dorothy Parker skewered an unfortunate author with the apocryphal line: "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."

That's how a lot of us feel about the 2020 presidential election, distinguished by an incumbent who is so self-centered, incompetent, and both mentally and morally unsteady that he's more dangerous than a baby who's gotten hold of a hammer.

Trump, swinging wildly, tried to win by demolishing the truth, shattering the law, smashing basic rights, annihilating fair play, trashing the common good, busting up social trust, splintering justice, and ... well, generally eradicating the egalitarian principles that unify Americans into a functioning democracy.

It has been the worst and most divisive election ever, right? No. That horror belongs to the 1860 contest, a four-way race that Lincoln won with 39.8 percent of the vote. Rabid racism, furious intimidation of voters, blatant manipulation of ballots, personal attacks so vicious they'd even make Trump cringe, and daily death threats not only from the goofball "proud boys" of the day, but from Southern elected officials and establishment newspapers.

"If Lincoln is elected," a Virginia member of Congress told the New York Herald, "we will go to Washington and assassinate him before his Inauguration." It was a campaign of demonic fury. Mobs attacked and wrecked Lincoln's campaign offices in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland, and ten Southern states wouldn't even put his name on the ballot.

Despite the vitriol and violence, Lincoln won, stayed calm yet firm in a time of dangerous turmoil, and not only held a bitterly divided nation together, but expanded our democratic ideals and advanced the possibilities for ordinary people to achieve them. He didn't wear a silly red cap arrogantly proclaiming "Make America Great Again"--he did it. Indeed, he died for it.

The point is that Lincoln didn't preserve the noble idea of America by rewriting the law, but by altering the culture, pushing people to act on their better natures. So, 160 years after that toxic election, here's another one, and there's no Lincoln in sight. That means that We the People have to do the healing ourselves.

Good grief, cry many progressives. How has America turned so far to the right that a narcissistic, wannabe-dictator like Trump was even in the running?

But wait--aside from a minority of racist, xenophobic, misogynistic voters, plus...

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