Mobilize Mac is the umbrella framing that the Civic Engagement Center and Macalester College uses for democratic engagement and elections-related work throughout the year via campus-wide collaboration across many different departments and offices. Although programming usually wraps up following Election Day, we made a strategic decision among the staff, faculty, and students involved to continue the effort due to the profound attacks on the U.S. democracy.
This page includes background on Mobilize Mac and important and relevant resources for understanding and engaging the post-election context.
We must name that this has been, increasingly throughout and well before 2016, an incredibly traumatic time, particularly for BIPOC. We all — especially those of us who identify as white — must do our part to dismantle white supremacy and continue or embark on the lifelong work of dismantling that which lives in ourselves. Here is a snapshot of the resources available. See more at our Centering Black Lives page:
- How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- Me & White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
- Blogpost: What to say and not to say in your statements about the white supremacist coup attempt at the Capitol
- 2020 International Roundtable on Facing Pandemics of Disease and Race: Radically Reimagining for Liberatory Futures
- Resources about anti-racist pedagogy and scholarship on race and racism
- American historian and Professor emeritus of history Jim Stewart created the video series “Jim Stewart’s Historical Tonic for Fragile White Folks.” Learn more about the project from the Mac Weekly.
- Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Learning Group Research Guides from the DeWitt Wallace Library
- American Studies: Getting Started research guide from the DeWitt Wallace Librarcy
- Threats by white supremacists in state continue to be serious, officials say by The Star Tribune, Feb. 5, 2021. Brian Lozenski, associate professor of urban and multicultural education, was quoted in this article about the threat of violence from white supremacists in Minnesota.
- The Capital was Just the Start by Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times, Jan. 13, 2021
- Live Updates: The House, With Some G.O.P. Support, Votes to Impeach Trump a Historic Second Time
- We’ve Seen the Ugly Truth About America by Roxanne Gay of The New York Times, Jan. 7, 2021
- An Incomplete History of White Election Violence from The Root, Nov. 2, 2020
- Legacies of the Third Reich: Concentration Camps and Out-group Intolerance, published online by Cambridge University Press, Jan. 27, 2020
- Hundreds of Political Scientists Call for Removing Trump from Inside Higher Ed, Jan. 7, 2021
- Vote Certification Proceedings Restart After Siege at Capitol: Live Analysis from New York Times
- Trump Allies Scrambling for Strategy to Overturn Biden Win by Star Tribune, Jan. 5, 2021
- 3 scholars say Trump isn’t staging a coup — but he still poses a threat to democracy by Vox, November 14, 2020
- Key dates between vote and inauguration by Associated Press
- Trump May Never Concede And 4 Other 2020 Election Takeaways by NPR
For American racism, slavery was only the beginning by the Star Tribune, Feb. 6, 2021
James Stewart, professor emeritus of American history, argues that in order to address systemic racism we need to focus on what happened after slavery.
Duchess Harris named to board of The Kamala Harris Project from Insight News, Feb. 4, 2021
“When I realized that I was one of six women chosen for the advisory board, I was honored to have the privilege of joining a conversation with the most esteemed scholars on women of color in politics,” said the professor of political science and American studies.
Doomsday Clock Says World Remains ‘100 Seconds’ From Disaster by The New York Times, Jan. 27, 2021
Andrew Latham, professor of political science, was quoted at length for this article about the Doomsday Clock. “Once a year, it reminds us that there are some big dangers out there,” he said. “They’re all man-made, and that means maybe they can be man-unmade.”
Can a Biden-Harris administration deliver unity? by MPR News, Jan. 21, 2021
President Suzanne Rivera joined fellow guest Rev. Elijah McDavid and host Angela Davis to discuss the inauguration and what’s next for the country.
It’s time to recognize the forgotten Americans who helped elect Joe Biden op-ed by Katrina Phillips, assistant professor of history (Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe) in The Washington Post, Nov. 9, 2020
Fear Spreads in Minnesota Town as ‘Extremist Group’ Moves to Open Church Victoria Guillemard ’18 was interviewed for this article in The New York Times for her work in forming the Murdock Area Alliance Against Hate to organize against the white supremacist hate group that opened a church in Murdock.
Minnesota organizers credit COVID-19 pandemic with helping mobilize Latino voters by Zoë Jackson, Star Tribune, October 15, 2020
Warren makes several stops for Biden in Minnesota, Wisconsin by Kim Hyatt, Star Tribune, October 19, 2020
Groveland podcast 2020: A Historic Election by Lindsay Weber ’21 and Kori Suzuki ’21 dated October 29, 2020. Groveland is a Mac Weekly production.
Macalester President Offers to Pay Bail, Fines for Student Protesters from Inside Higher Ed by Emma Whitford, November 9, 2020.
How young voters helped Biden win Minnesota by Zoë Jackson, Star Tribune, November 9, 2020
Over 50 liberal arts colleges team up to fight systemic racism on campus by EducationDive, November 14, 2020
We all have a duty to name and acknowledge the intense circumstances under which we are living: Covid-19, unchecked white supremacy leading to rampant anti-BIPOC violence and murder, urgent threats to our natural environment, uprisings / civil unrest, and now a recent attempted coup. We must also name that trauma, violence, racism, and exploitation are foundational principles of the U.S., so for many people, none of this is new.
It is normal to be experiencing feelings of intense anger, anxiety, fear, rage, numbness, difficulty falling asleep, difficulty concentrating, ambiguous grief, or other reactions. For helpful resources, check out the Care, Calm, and Movement page from Student Affairs as well as the Hamre Center Counseling Services Drop-in Schedule Spring 2021 (Mod 3&4).
Prior to the U.S. General Election, some members of the Mac community took advantage of Choose Democracy’s toolkit to prepare in how to prevent and, if necessary, stop an undemocratic power grab or coup. The training and work involves psychological preparation, lessons from history (both in the U.S. and abroad), and strategic sensibility. Visit their webpage to see their latest updates and sign up for their emails.
Yesterday we saw the transition of power in the form of a ritual known as Inauguration Day. It was a moving day for a moving moment. For many of us, it was a moment to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Before emails bombard you asking you to prepare for the next fight ahead, we want to send you an email encouraging you to take another exhale. It’s okay to exhale. It’s okay to not stay reactive, to not be always on edge, and to not lose sleep over the latest political maneuvers. To be human in this moment is to recalibrate and detoxify.
Yes, there’s much work to be done to address the roots of last week’s attack, to advance democracy, and to combat the underbelly of misinformation and violence. But that work isn’t best done when we’re stuck in a reactionary, hypervigilant, reptilian brain. So do all of us a favor and allow yourself the space to detoxify.
We’ve promised we would close shop on January 21st and so this is our last email. We wanted to take a moment to explain that decision and leave with a few parting thoughts.
We’re well aware that Democracy has not been unequivocally Chosen — so we can’t exactly say “mission accomplished.” But Choose Democracy was born to alert people about the very real possibility of a coup (check), to prepare thousands how to stop an active coup (check), to use levers available to us to help deter a coup (partial check), and to prepare a national response to stop a coup if warranted (check).
We’ve trained over 10,000 people, reached millions of people with our articles, and built ready-to-run plans for coordinated strikes if an active coup situation unfolded. We can’t predict the future — and while we will officially close down we’re leaving a shell of an organization in case it needs to arise again.
We transitioned our website to include the story of the past year and curated resources in the event we need to stop a coup in the future (in the U.S. or elsewhere).
History has shown us that organizations who hang on after completing their mission too often turn into vampire organizations — they linger without a clear purpose. The field of nonprofits is littered with organizations who did something good once, but are now adrift. They stick around to keep fundraising, sucking attention, rewriting strategy plans, and following the times rather than leading on the times.
Letting organizations die is a gift for the future — just like a crowded forest needs the space for old trees to clear out so the new can arise.
PEOPLE MAKE A DEMOCRACY FUNCTION
Our democracy rests on much more than the act of voting. We saw this over and over again the last several months. There were so many key moments by citizens that kept history from turning even more sour:
Election officials carried out a clean election and then defended their work at holding a largely free and fair election;
Grassroots groups shot down haywire attempts to undermine electoral process (like in Michigan), expanded voter access, and fought for people’s rights to get to polls without intimidation;
Governors and state elected officials enforced and approved the democratic processes even in the midst of a raging pandemic;
Organizers and regular folks pressured elected officials to honor election results and forced Republican leaders in Pennsylvania and elsewhere to send electorates who represented those results; and
Judges shot down unhinged theories of scary-sounding but fact-deficient claims and held strong against overt political pressure.
You can probably keep adding to this list.
If any of those pillars had completely buckled, we would be in a very different situation. We might still be engaged in prolonged consumer and labor strikes to try to wrestle control back from a successful coup. (Don’t believe us? Read Stephen Zunes’ analysis in Yes Magazine.)
Instead, the coup attempt flopped within hours.
As we look to the future, let’s look to the past and honor all the work, the contributions, the sacrifice, the risks, and the courage.
MANAGING OUR FEAR OF VIOLENCE
January 6th left many terrified, terrorized, and traumatized. This engenders a normal and healthy internal response. Our hearts beat faster and the fight-flight response pumps adrenaline into our system.
If we’d managed to live a life protected from this country’s violence, this was a wake-up call. For others, it was just a reminder of the strong thread of violence woven in this country’s history. Many of the symbols at the Capitol insurrection harken directly to those violent lineages of racism and anti-Semitism: Confederate flags, nooses, “Camp Auschwitz” shirts.
Whether this was a wake-up call or a stark reminder, it’s a chance to work on our fears. How we handle fear determines a lot whether we’re useful to the movement for liberation or whether we contribute to the cycles of hate.
This seems unlikely to be the last act of violence. And so it makes sense for us to learn from this moment about our own reactions — and practice being more present and able to react wisely.
Meditative practices, like breathing, help us more quickly ground our heartbeats and move from our reptilian brain. Accepting — rather than pushing away — reality is part of that. So is getting a good sense of U.S. history. And having a community to lean on — so you don’t feel alone in these moments. We strongly recommend the practices over at FindingSteadyGround.com.
WATCH FOR THE CRASH
After a big spurt of adrenaline in our system, there’s a natural next step: the crash. It’s an up-and-down cycle: violence, the body rapidly mobilizes, and then the body crashes…
We’ve been braced as we had been counting down to Inauguration Day.
Movement therapists remind us of the importance of getting that adrenaline out of our bodies: walk, run, exercise, have sex, do whatever makes you sweat and helps get those toxins out of your body. Spend time laughing and crying, recounting what scared you with people who can listen. And if you do crash, be gentle with yourself and seek community support.
If 2020 was a sprint to survive, we think 2021 is about finding our pace for a marathon ahead.
THIS IS NOT THE FIRST COUP
Many of us watched the insurrection and felt the terror and pain of an attempted coup in the United States. Most haven’t seen a dramatic insurrection or coup quite like this.
But many people have experienced coups. One person who has lived through 6 coups (several backed by the United States) wrote to us, “I send my love to all of the Choose Democracy family and your country. Watching the images was shocking. And as I pray for your country, I also pray that it changes how your country moves in the world. With less arrogance and more humility.”
We hope this may be a teaching moment for us to grow in empathy towards countries whose people experienced coups — especially the many countries whose coups were backed by the United States, such as Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Congo (1960), Brazil (1964), Bolivia (1971), and Chile (1973).
If you were angry at Trump for his coup maneuvers, imagine the coup plotters being a foreign country on the other side of the planet.
ADDRESS UNDERLYING CONDITIONS, LIKE ECONOMIC POLARIZATION
The whole possibility of a coup-attempt came from the brokenness called political polarization. Political scientists have discovered that one of the biggest drivers of political polarization is economic inequality. The more inequality, the more polarization.
During the Great Depression in the 1930s we had enormous political polarization, with old school Nazis filling Madison Square Garden for a rally and frequent bombings and KKK lynchings. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was trying to do some progressive things and several figures in the elite began to plan a coup. The plan was dropped because they saw it couldn’t work — democracy-loving progressives were too well-organized.
We can expect more political polarization because the economic inequality has been accelerating; some economists say it is the most extreme in U.S. history. This takes us back to the work of building mass movement organizations that can achieve positive goals with accountable, anti-racist, and pro-democratic policies.
There is a severe breakdown of our country afoot. It’s not going to get better without effort. We certainly can’t fix it by staying in reaction mode to each act of violence — which may grow dramatically. We have to handle our fear and our internal state so we can keep working on the big issues — the positive visions.
We didn’t avoid a successful coup by focusing on the negative — we did it by shoring up systems of democracy: registering to vote, voting, organizing, pressuring officials to act right, counting votes, debunking myths, preparing if things got worse, and being strategic about when we act.
That’s our parting hope: to lead with eyes open, feet on the ground, and hearts wide. To be led by love and strategy.
We love and thank you all for journeying with us.
The Choose Democracy Team
Source: Choose Democracy
This afternoon, a rally of Trump supporters — after being whipped up by Trump, repeating myths of a stolen election — stormed the Capitol building and stopped the electoral vote certification. Yes, it’s an attempted coup.
Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the emotional weight of this moment. This is awful and another line crossed by Trump’s behavior. He called for the protest, spoke at it, and told his supporters to march to the Capitol. It is outrageous — broken windows, shots fired, explosive devices planted, 13 arrested with weapons confiscated inside the Capitol and one person shot under unclear circumstances. As members of the public, we’re feeling angry and disheartened.
We always said a coup needs legitimacy to be successful. If the goal of today’s seizure of the Capitol was to gain legitimacy, the action has backfired spectacularly.
The pillars of our democratic society are largely standing and supporting our democracy. This coup is not gaining traction or convincing the majority of lawmakers, particularly those required to certify election results. Police have successfully regained control of the Capitol (though questions will need to be answered about their taking selfies with occupiers inside the Capitol and the obvious disparate treatment of black protestors previously and the armed white protestors who just invaded the Capitol).
And it’s not playing well in the public arena. In fact, the seizing of the Capitol is being decried widely by the right (some calling it domestic terrorism) — and even by politicians who supported stymying the election. This is a fluid situation.
Some other happenings of note:
- Before the Capitol was breached, Pence signalled he will not and cannot stop certification with a letter to Congress;
- Immediately after the insurrection at the Capitol, Politico reported a series of rapid condemnations of it from Trump-world — including people pleading with Trump to order protestors to go home;
- Biden made a national speech demanding Trump unequivocally tell protestors to go home;
- Eventually, Trump called on his supporters to “peacefully go home,” while repeating myths about the election;
- Meanwhile, calls are flooding in for Trump’s resignation (e.g. from Piers Morgan), impeachment (e.g. from the NAACP), and for Pence to institute the 25th amendment (from the National Association of Manufacturers);
- Twitter removed at least some of Trump’s tweets;
- Nancy Pelosi announced intention to resume the vote tally tonight.
You can be sure we are monitoring this situation. We are in discussion with allies around what development might call for a national mobilization. But strategically we think this is a last gasp and the risks are huge if we simply tell people to rush into the streets.
At this moment, we are not calling for mass protest. We think one of the most dangerous cocktails would be violent clashes between civilians. Tonight, we encourage people in the DC area to honor the curfew and stay home. Everyone at the Capitol should go home.
This violent coup attempt appears to be backfiring on its perpetrators, and they seem to be losing both in the electoral process and in the sphere of public opinion. They look out of control.
Tonight, the most effective action is to let the coup plotters expose how isolated and unsupported they are. Their actions are doing that.
We think it is strategic to get on with certification and finish it. Contact your Representatives to urge them to certify the results of the election ASAP. It’s time to end this.
We are keeping a close eye to see if things change course. Some indications we’re looking for are leaders of societal pillars — other than politicians or the Stop the Steal protestors — encouraging taking to the streets to support the coup OR, people successfully occupying the Capitol building and again delaying the vote certification.
Violence could escalate overnight, so it may be helpful to mentally prepare for that possibility. We think that behavior would only further isolate and discredit their effort to overturn the election.
We don’t believe this coup attempt has the support necessary to overturn the election result. We believe we will see a democratic — if not peaceful — transfer of power on the 20th. And we return to the collective feeling: this is bad. This President’s lies, urges to violence, and support of a coup attempt have done damage to our democracy that will take all of us to heal.
Dear Macalester Community:
Like many of you, I watched in horror this afternoon as our federal government was attacked. It was a frightening spectacle the likes of which I never imagined we would see in the U.S. Despite the many ways our country sometimes falls short of its ideals, until today I believed that the tradition of a peaceful transfer of power was a reliable feature of our democracy.
I have said publicly that peaceful protest is patriotic. That is not what happened today. The images of armed domestic terrorists storming the Capitol, threatening our elected officials as Senators and Representatives from across the political spectrum attempted to certify the election results, were both chilling and shameful.
In an academic year that has brought us so much fear, loss, and grief, our hearts are broken again. Many of you worked very hard to assure a free and fair election in November. Indeed, we all should be proud of Macalester’s role in promoting voter registration and access to the polls. The violence we witnessed today was an unacceptable assault on our system of legitimate self-governance.
People of conscience must not stay silent when the very fabric of our society is being unraveled. When something is wrong, we need to say so. What happened today is wrong, it is inconsistent with our values, and it is a threat to our freedom.
Since arriving at Macalester in June, I have strived to lead us with honesty and with optimism. I can easily share the truth that I don’t know what the next few days will bring and that is deeply upsetting. It is more difficult to muster optimism in this discouraging moment. But I will close this message by expressing hope and gratitude.
I hope you all are safe. I hope this violence in Washington ends quickly. I hope that our country will swiftly return to the customary procedures for transferring power to a new President and Vice President without further violence. And I am grateful to each one of you, who do so much to support one another through difficult challenges, and who live Mac’s values every day.
Dr. Suzanne M. Rivera
- Sept 17: Constitution Day
- Sept 22: National Voter Registration Day
- Oct 13: Last day to pre-register to vote in MN
- Oct. 23: End of Module 1 (Finals Period ends)
- Oct 24: Vote Early Day
- Oct 28: Start of Module 2
- Nov 3: Election Day
- Nov 4: Campus-wide post-election reflection, events
- Nov 5: Perspectives on the 2020 Elections Panel Discussion
- Nov 6: Pi Sigma Alpha Zoom discussion, Africa Latin Dance Moves, VirtualGATHER Zoom Discussion
- Nov 7: Joe Biden declared winner of the 2020 Election by The Associated Press
- Nov 12-13: 2020 International Roundtable: Facing Pandemics of Disease and Race
- Dec 14: State electors cast their ballots. The candidate with 270 or more votes wins.
- Dec 15: End of Module 2
- Jan 6: A joint session of Congress convenes to confirm results
- Jan 20: Inauguration Day
- Jan 21: Module 3 begins
The U.S. Presidential Election, also known as the General Election, is held every 4 years. In addition to the President, as much as a third of the U.S. Senate is also on the ballot in the General Election. Midterm Elections (named so because they occur halfway through a President’s term) are held every 2 years, and determine the makeup of the U.S. House of Representatives since all 435 seats are on the ballot each Midterm Election.
While the U.S. Constitution specifies the right to hold elections, the method and location are left to the states with Congress having the power to alter their regulations. This is why the process varies from state to state.
Initially granted solely to white, property-owning men, the right to vote now belongs to every U.S. Citizen when they turn 18 if they can meet certain residency requirements (one can still be homeless and meet this requirement). In nearly every state, residents can register to vote if they will be 18 years of age on or before Election Day.
Although the popular vote for the General Election is held the first Tuesday of each November, the Electoral College is the formal body that elects the President and Vice President. Prior to 2000, there were already 7 General Elections in which one faithless elector helped elect a president that had not won the popular vote. A blank ballot was cast in 2000, resulting in the controversial re-election of George W. Bush. In 2016, 7 electors broke with their state on the presidential ballot and six did so on the vice presidential ballot.
A sincere and heartfelt thank you to everyone who participated in the democratic process of the 2020 Election! From organizing and planning as part of the Mobilize Mac effort, to phone banking and letter writing, to marching to ensure each vote be counted, to personally voting, so many members of our community contributed countless hours to ensuring the 2020 Election was engaged, fair, transparent, and safe.
A special thank you to our partners across campus who participated in the Mobilize Mac effort, which began last Spring. Collectively, this working group planned more than 20 different events or programs to take place before, during, and after Election Day!