At last, almost four full days after the November 3rd Election, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris almost literally sprinted to the lectern last night in Wilmington, Delaware to deliver acceptance speeches as the newly minted 46th President-Elect and 49th Vice President-Elect of the United States.
There was something cathartic, if I may, to see spontaneous celebrations erupt across America yesterday after the major news networks finally confirmed what was crystal clear by Friday morning, which was that challenger Biden’s Electoral College advantage was far too superior to be overcome by the incumbent occupant of the Oval Office, Donald Trump. Cathartic in that much like the crowds of peaceful protesters that took to the streets this summer demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, they depicted racial, ethnic, gender, and religious diversity in a way that even the most packed MAGA rally this year failed to do.
On this last point, those homogeneous MAGA rallies, I have argued many times before that Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the White House was merely the outward manifestation of the oldest plague in American history, which was the original creation of a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” with the silent but blatant antecedent of “people” being “white” in general–and wealthy white men, specifically.
That I borrow the phrasing of the 16th POTUS Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” is not by happenstance; in his victory speech last night, Joe Biden mentioned historical “inflection points” that noted presidents that were elected during perilous times like Lincoln, a man whose narrow defeat of incumbent Buck Buchanan in 1860 was the proximate cause of what would become the Civil War.
To be clear, the historian in Hobbs refuses to revise what was at stake that year, which was slavery and Southern states desire to expand their “Peculiar Institution” into the West and possibly into Cuba and Mexico via military takeover. But in 1860, wealthy Southern white men spent that entire election year griping about perceived dangers to their rights, “States’ rights” if you will, to keep, beat, rape, and murder enslaved Black people in perpetuity. Let us remember that for the 73 years prior to that 1860 election that wealthy slave owners like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, James K. Polk, and Zachary Taylor had been president for 50 of those 73 years. Let us also remember that for the first 60 years of U.S. history, that slavery supporting southerners served as Speaker of the House of Representatives for 41 of those years and that of the 31 white men who sat on the United States Supreme Court, 18 of them were wealthy Southern slavery supporters. In essence, the South, due to its massive numbers of enslaved Blacks that were counted as 3/5ths of a white man for census and election purposes, dominated the Federal government and policies that inured benefits to slave owners, like the Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act.
As such, when the inflection point that was the 1860 presidential election arose, the very idea that the white race was in peril was a dialectical mendacity used to stir up fear among less wealthy white men across the country who were easily manipulated into believing that Abraham Lincoln was a “mulatto” who would release enslaved Blacks so that they could roam and mix and create “mongrels” across the land. That such words made their way onto the editorial pages of Southern papers is no surprise, but pointed out here to show that the stoking of racial resentment and fears is as old as the American Republic itself.
Which draws me back to the present and the fact that the divisions that we see in America this morning are not new, but they are old, systemic–and still fraught with great peril for whites and non-whites who are ready, willing, and able to push back. Thus, when I point with pride that the Biden-Harris ticket won over 74 million votes–the most in American history–lest we forget that the Trump-Pence ticket drew over 70 million votes–the second most in American history. What this means is that Joe Biden soon will preside over a “Divided” States of America much in the same way that Abraham Lincoln did during his one term in office.
The divide is so bitter that as CNN contributor and Donald Trump supporter Rick Santorum pointed out multiple times on air yesterday, over half of the voting public would not tune into the Biden-Harris acceptance speeches because they do not accept the race as over. Indeed, Mr. Trump has for several months hinted that any loss would be due to voter fraud, a claim that both Republican and Democratic state-level Secretaries of State rebuffed in the media last week. Perhaps the most flawed claim from Trump and many of his intransigent followers is that votes were just “magically appearing” in states that he won in 2016 like Michigan and Pennsylvania, when the only magic there was being ballots that were mailed in–and counted–from eligible voters! Even this lie was a flashback from 1860, as Southern newspapers blamed Abraham Lincoln’s victory on some “numerical tyranny” as opposed to the logical conclusion that the numerical majority simply supported Lincoln much like the numerical majority this week supported Joe Biden.
The question this morning, I contend, is where do we, the people, go from here? Jefferson Davis, the first President of the Confederacy who had formerly been a U.S. Senator from Mississippi, stated in an 1864 interview that the Southern states seceded following the election of Abraham Lincoln “to rid ourselves of the rule of the majority.” While secession would be practically impossible today, one can peruse the Associated Press electoral map and note that Mr. Trump’s strongest showings were in the South (save Georgia), and the the Midwest. Last night, Joe Biden promised to shun the notion of “red states or blue states” and to preside over the “entirety of the United States of America.” His words were inspirational in the same way that Lincoln, upon inauguration in March of 1861, promised to preside over “all of the people,” a promise that included his fervent efforts to coax seceded Southern states and those still considering secession to return or remain in the Union.
A little over a month after his inauguration, Southern forces in Charleston, South Carolina fired on the Federal garrison at Fort Sumter…
I do not suspect that armed conflict on such major scale will occur in 2021, but I also do not believe that Trump supporters will warm up to Biden and the first Black, first Indian, and first woman to serve as Vice-President, Kamala Harris. I also do not believe that Republican recalcitrance in the US Senate will abate no matter how much personal affinity some, like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have for their former Democratic Senate colleagues. The ideological divides are so extremely polarizing and much like the sun chases away the darkness, I do not see where fundamental differences in opinion as to what systemic white supremacy was and is can portend fully functioning governance of, by, and for all people in the short term.
Indeed, Trump’s rally cries and Tweets of “Build that Wall,” or that “Barack Obama, Kamala Harris, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are not ‘real Americans'” come from deep resentment that many among his record number of supporters have towards people of color and of immigrants. Trump’s declaration that alt-right groups like the KKK, Neo-Nazis and Proud Boys have “many fine people” would make Confederate leaders like Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest proud. Trump’s Tweets about “ungrateful Black NFL SOB’s,” “S-hole countries in Africa and Haiti,” and “rat infested cities like Baltimore and Atlanta” all were virulently racist and divisive. Trump’s repeated refusal to acknowledge that UNARMED Black citizens are being slaughtered by the police was only made worse when he would consistently pivot to the false notion that police are under attack from the left and that “Black Lives Matter” is a greater threat to law and order than what his OWN Justice Department through its FBI has ALWAYS noted–that white right wing militias–Trump’s “very fine people”–are the true threats to the Republic.
Now, whether soon to be former President Trump personally believes these lies and statements or simply threw them out there to entertain and humor his base is now irrelevant; what is relevant is that the overwhelming majority of his base believe them as Gospel truth, much like the overwhelming majority of Southern whites believed that the white race was soon to become extinct when Abraham Lincoln won in 1860.
As such, while I rejoice in knowing that I will not have to wake to the latest Twitter tirade from the White House for at least four years, I am also keenly aware that the ideological gap between Americans is wide, that the contempt is palpable, and I am admittedly skeptical about whether the spirit of compromise will ever return to these United States…or if it ever existed at all. So as we look forward to this uncertain future, you can trust that in the days ahead, Ol’ Hobbs will continue to watch and analyze these very events and opine about them in real-time!