Election 2020 occurs in a year that seems without parallel. (Take a look at special election coverage from LMU Magazine.) But when voters went to the polls in the presidential election of 1968, they cast ballots in a year of unprecedented disruption — riots, assassinations and nightly scenes of war on TV screens in their living rooms.
George Wallace, a proponent of segregation, ran a third-party race appealing to voters who supported his views. His candidacy threatened to throw the Electoral College vote into disarray. Richard Nixon, the Republican Party candidate, promised a secret plan he claimed would end the Vietnam War. In March, President Lyndon B. Johnson, the incumbent whose reputation would be ever tethered to that unpopular war, removed himself from the race for his party’s nomination. Just five days later, Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in Memphis, and riots broke out nationwide. Robert F. Kennedy, himself a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination, gave one of his most memorable speeches on the occasion of King’s death, and died from gunshots, murdered here in Los Angeles, two months after. In late August, the Democratic Party convention took place in Chicago, a city swamped by outrage, political demonstrations and violence.
The year 2020 seems just as perilous — a global health crisis with more dead in the U.S. than in any other country, protests in the streets, acts of racial injustice, police brutality and a White House incumbent who appears to stir as much rejection as loyalty in the American people. Political polarization in the United States today has reached a degree unseen, perhaps, since Union and Confederate armies fired on each other on American soil.
Much like 1968, the turmoil of 2020 shapes not only the American people but also the nation’s institutions. Like individuals, institutions can offer voices of reason and visions of hope. And it’s a fair expectation to suggest that Jesuit institutions not only can, they should.
In the past six months, LMU Magazine drew on faculty, staff and alumni to shed light on the impact of and the response to the coronavirus pandemic. In the coming weeks leading up to the U.S. presidential election, we’ll draw on LMU experts among the university’s faculty, staff and alumni to shed light on the issues and implications of the November 2020 presidential election. You’ll find essays, interviews, articles and podcasts intended to bring insight and analysis to events, issues and controversies shaping the country, for better or worse, in the final days of the 2020 election season.