The Symposium: Election Season is Almost Over, Make the Most of the Final Stretch

The Symposium is a column by Leland Culver ’24 intended to act as a forum for the Amherst community to engage in dialogue together about current issues. If you would like to contribute to the Symposium, whether with suggestions for a topic, your opinion on this week’s topic or by guest-writing an installment yourself, you can submit by clicking this link. This week’s topic is a reminder to stay politically active, even in the final stretch of the election.

On Monday, Oct. 12, the morning that I write this, Dean of Students Liz Agosto sent an email warning on-campus students of a “Trump Campaign/Back the Blue rally” taking place from noon to 3 p.m. The email particularly cautioned that the participants may not be socially distancing or wearing masks, because, unfortunately, that’s just the nature of these things. To me, it was a sobering reminder that while Amherst may look like an ivory tower, it is by no means divorced from the troubles of the rest of the country and world. We must not forget that fact.

And yet, just three hours later, a second email arrived in my inbox that left me in awe at the speed of left-wing activism. This time, Dean Agosto was notifying us that a second rally had been organized, a counterprotest to the Back the Blue rally. Now, of course, the existence of a  counterprotest is no reason to slip back into complacency, but it is an example to me that progressive values will not, in fact, stand to be overrun again by hatred.

Ever since the 2016 election, we have been getting what seems like constant news of acts of domestic terrorism and hate against Black people, Jewish people, LGBTQIA+ people, Muslim people and immigrant communities (because hatred is always intersectional). I wrote my very first column for this paper out of despair over what the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg signaled to me — that is, the long-term codification into our government of a minority backlash against progressive values that I had hoped was at an end.

And yet, in the weeks following Ginsburg’s death and the ridiculous, underhanded reversal of opinion on confirming a Supreme Court justice in an election year by senators like Lindsey Graham (who literally said, “I want you to use my words against me” — well, congratulations, Linty, we did), we saw money pour into fund-raisers like ActBlue, which at one point was processing over $100,000 a minute, which the average contribution standing at just $37. Such organizations help candidates like Jaime Harrison, who is running against Graham in South Carolina and has now turned a once forgone race into a dead heat. Moreover, apps, websites and media personalities across the internet are pushing us to get out the vote like never before. Snapchat has even been helping its users register to vote directly in the app.

The power of true, motivated grassroots efforts, mobilized online, many times in the once exclusive spaces of far-right activists and hate groups, seems to be finally coming to bear. A new crop of liberal and leftist media personalities and discussion forums has risen to the occasion to challenge the right-wing hegemony of internet discourse. It’s thrown the right into a tailspin.

So, what’s the takeaway from all this? I’d say that we need to stick the landing, make the last mile of this crazy marathon of a presidency; that we should keep donating, keep telling people to vote, keep discussing the issues on- and off-line; and that we must also recognize that, if Joe Biden is elected, that’s not the end of the race. It will be a great relief to many to see Trump out of office, but that is no reason to take the pressure off. Find a balance of what action you can take for years to come, because seeing a Democrat in the White House is only the beginning of the project to rebuild, from the mess left by the Trump administration, — itself hopefully only the beginning of a greater, longer, more beautiful, peaceful and equitable country and world.