How long will it be before someone gets shot by a Donald Trump supporter in what the shooter may likely consider an act of patriotic civil disobedience? Or before someone uses a gun against right-wing vigilantes?
There is no shortage of evidence pointing toward some violent outburst surrounding the presidential election results. Reporters interviewing Trump supporters at rallies, national polls showing likely voters are expecting Election Day violence, consumer-trend tracking firms saying demand is rising for gun purchases, and rhetoric from the longstanding cadre of right-wing loudmouths, all suggest some type of ugly response.
“Sixteen percent of Americans plan on buying a gun as a result of the upcoming election,” said a press release Thursday from Elementum, “the real-time supply chain platform company, who polled 2,000 Americans from October 20-24 and found that among those living in the South, 19 percent will buy guns and among Gen Xers, the number is nearly 23 percent, especially among women, 24 percent.”
Wrapping oneself in the flag and taking up arms is a staple of the far-right militia-embracing fringe. But the urge has found a new home in the Trump campaign, led by a presidential candidate who says the vote will be stolen unless he wins, a manager who publishes bomb-throwing Breitbart News, and backers who get their “news” from even more extreme sources like conspiracist Alex Jones of InfoWars.
Just this week, conservative talk radio hosts like Joe Walsh, the former Illinois congressman-turned-AM shouter, were promoting this militant line. “On November 8, I’m voting for Trump. On November 9, if Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket,” Walsh tweeted.
When CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted back, “#WalshFreedom what exactly does that mean?” the self-styled revolutionary replied, “Protesting… Acts of civil disobedience. Doing what it takes to get our country back.”
Walsh, when pressed by other news outlets, ever so slickly declared he was referring to a firearm used in colonial times, meaning it was symbolic posturing. An ex-congressman should know better—and he is playing with fire.
But other Trump true believers do not know better.
“People are going to march on the capitols,” Jared Halbrook, 25, of Green Bay, Wisconsin, told the New York Times in a piece posted Thursday based on interviewing 50 supporters in swing states. “They’re going to do whatever needs to be done to get her out of office, because she does not belong there… [Clinton] has to go by any means necessary, it will be done.”
There is mounting evidence that the Trump-led faction of the Republican Party is preparing to take their rage into the streets. Half of likely voters expect Election Day will be violent, a USA Today/Suffolk University poll released Wednesday found.
“Hillary Clinton has built a formidable lead over Donald Trump approaching 10 percentage points,” the national newspaper reported. “But she faces a deeply divided nation that is alarmed about the prospect of Election Day violence and what may be ahead. A 51 percent majority of likely voters express at least some concern about the possibility of violence on Election Day; one in five are ‘very concerned.’”
Digging deeper, USAToday echoed what Trump supporters at rallies were saying, according to the Times.
“More than four in 10 of Trump supporters say they won't recognize the legitimacy of Clinton as president, if she prevails, because they say she wouldn't have won fair and square,” USAToday said. This confirms the far right is taking Trump’s repeated claims that the election will be rigged as their new political gospel, even though a majority of top state election officials—who are Republicans—have said that’s not true.
There have been almost no post-debate polls by credible pollsters (not counting instant Internet surveys on right-wing websites like the Drudge Report) showing Trump with a path to the 270 Electoral College votes to win the presidency. But facts have never mattered to the Trump campaign and his flock. He has said they need to patrol the polls on Election Day, raising the specter of right-wing vigilantes intimidating voters in non-white population centers, an image last widely seen in the pre-Civil Rights Movement south.
Clinton, in her latest speeches, has said Trump’s talk of rigged elections and his threat not to accept certified vote counts is targeting American democracy itself.
“Donald Trump is attacking everything that has set our country apart for 240 years,” she said Tuesday in Florida. “After spending his entire campaign attacking one group of Americans after another … now his final target is democracy itself.”
And in addition to democracy, the target includes all Americans who reject Trump and the far right’s machinations.