At Mr. Trump’s rally in Illinois, many people seemed altogether unaware of the synagogue shooting, until someone offered a prayer from the stage.
Asked who was to blame for the country’s strife, Patricia Mitchell, who drove more than two hours from St. Louis to attend, cited “the globalists,” which she then defined as “somebody who won’t allow or doesn’t like for our country to just be themselves.”
“They want to mold everybody into one big melting pot,” she said. “That’s not how we’re designed.”
But the violence shows that the turmoil is starting very much at home. Many voters, in interviews with The Times in recent weeks, have been divided over national identity and who gets to define values in America, especially on issues of immigration and race.
Mark Hetfield, who leads HIAS, a global Jewish nonprofit that resettles refugees and that appears to have angered the synagogue shooting suspect, said his organization was in a state of shock. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my lifetime,” he said in a phone interview.
“People have to stop saying hateful things about refugees, about Jews, about Latinos, about transgender people, about the other,” he continued. “It has to stop in the context of everything that we are doing, not just in the context of this election.”
But in the final weeks of the midterm election, which has become in part a nationwide referendum on Mr. Trump’s leadership, the climate has intensified, and escalating violence and fear are exacerbating divergent viewpoints among voters. At the halfway mark of his term, Mr. Trump faces a reckoning at home related to some of the words he spoke from the inauguration dais: “This American carnage stops right here and right now.”
“Pipe bombs against public officials, African Americans killed in Kentucky, continued physical threats against the press, an all-out campaign of fear directed at immigrants” signal that hate is on the march in America, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on Saturday.
“We’re facing a battle for the soul of this nation,” added Mr. Biden, who is considering a run for president in 2020. “Words matter. And silence is complicity.”
For some, a parallel that comes to mind for the current moment is the summer of the presidential election of 1968, which saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy two months apart, said Randall Balmer, who chairs Dartmouth College’s religion department.
“The difference, however, is that those shootings appeared to be directed against specific individuals, whereas this year’s violence is more tribal — against Democrats generally or Jews generally,” he said.