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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden spoke with the media following a visit to Detroit One Coney Island Restaurant on August 01 in Detroit.

What 1860 and 1968 can teach America about the 2020 presidential election

The ConversationSarat is a professor of jurisprudence and political science at Amherst College.

Fresh evidence of the nastiness and divisiveness of the 2020 presidential election emerges every day.

President Trump has let loose a storm of invective over Twitter about various African American public figures and about the conditions of life in America's inner cities. The president seems bent on exploiting a rural/urban divide and creating racial cleavage as a way to get re-elected.

In addition, he has questioned the patriotism of Democrats and alleged that they are trying to "destroy our country."

Democrats have responded by denouncing the president's racially tinged language and accusing the president and his supporters of being the ones destroying the country.

"Four years of Donald Trump," former Vice President Joe Biden claims, "would be an aberration in American history. Eight years will fundamentally change who we are as a nation." Biden, of course, is running for president.

Nasty, divisive elections are nothing new in the United States. As someone who teaches and writes about the importance of historical memory in American law and politics, I believe the 2020 election will rival the ugliest America has ever witnessed.

There are lessons that can be learned from examining this election's parallels with two previous presidential elections – 1860 and 1968 – both of which left America deeply divided.

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