With just days left before the 2016 election and with Donald Trump projected to have a 33 percent chance of winning the presidency, Lawfare writers Quinta Jurecic and Ben Wittes published a paragraph that now looks disturbingly prescient about the movement of Trumpism:
There's a simple measure for whether our basic theory here is, in a general sense, right: If it is, we will see a significant spike in white supremacist violence over the next few years. The Trump campaign has provided a baseline undemocratic ideation to hundreds of millions of people and also provided a platform through which extremists, both violent and non-violent, can recruit and cultivate. If our collective understanding of the process of violent radicalization is correct, the result will be blood.
Jurecic shared the paragraph over the weekend after the recent mass shootings, writing: "[Wittes] and I wrote this four days before the 2016 election. I've never really stopped thinking about it."
The piece itself analogized the movement behind Trump to the Muslim Brotherhood. Its point wasn't to say that the movements were equivalent, but that they had similar functions as political ideologies and potential drivers of extremist violence.
Unfortunately, the theory appears to be proving correct. And it's not just the weekend's El Paso massacre, which appears to be inspired by Trump's favored sort of anti-immigrant rhetoric. Nor is it just the Tree of Life massacre, which appeared to have had a similar motivation. And it's not just the slaughter at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, where the murderer appears to have believed the same bigoted myths.
As has been widely reported, hate crimes under President Donald Trump have spiked. In a recent paper, researchers Griffin Edwards of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Stephen Rushin at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law, found evidence that Trump is the cause of this phenomenon.
"Using time series analysis, we show that Donald Trump’s election in November of 2016 was associated with a statistically significant surge in reported hate crimes across the United States, even when controlling for alternative explanations," they concluded. "Further, by using panel regression techniques, we show that counties that voted for President Trump by the widest margins in the presidential election also experienced the largest increases in reported hate crimes."
They added: "We hypothesize that it was not just Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric throughout the political campaign that caused hate crimes to increase. Rather, we argue that it was Trump’s subsequent election as President of the United States that validated this rhetoric in the eyes of perpetrators and fueled the hate crime surge."
Similar research has reaffirmed these findings.
And as NBC News reported Monday:
Extremist-related murders spiked 35 percent from 2017 to 2018, "making them responsible for more deaths than in any year since 1995," according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Last year, every one of those extremist-related murders was carried out by a right-wing extremist.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 2018 was also the fourth straight year of hate group growth, culminating in a 30 percent increase overall, "roughly coinciding" with President Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency.
The Justice Department is documenting the same trends. Hate crimes in the country increased by 17 percent from 2016 to 2017, marking the third straight year of a spike in hate crimes, according to an FBI report released last November. More than half of the hate crimes reported in 2017 were motivated by racial or ethnic bias, while anti-Semitic hate crimes jumped by 37 percent.
While the FBI and Justice Department have clearly identified a white nationalist domestic terror problem, they have been slow to identify the crimes as such, which deprives the ensuing investigations of resources and fails to thwart subsequent acts of extremist violence, national security experts say.
It wasn't just Jurecic and Wittes who noticed the violent trends in Trump's rhetoric an implicit ideology in 2016, of course. Journalist Benjy Sarlin of NBC News reported in October before his election:
Trump's emphasis on violence and retaliation, especially outside the confines of the law, is unique among modern nominees and is rooted in a set of guiding principles.
"We are concerned about the possibility of violence on Election Day and afterwards," Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center told NBC News.
"We see a lot of violence around Trump appearances where supporters think: 'Well, gee he's authorized me to do it,' even without a direct order," said Kim Lane Scheppele, a Princeton professor and expert on authoritarian regimes. "It creates a kind of culture of permission," Scheppele said.
"What happens on Nov. 9 is anyone's guess, but some of these trend lines of mainstreaming and broadening bigotry and incidents of violence and hints of a dark conspiracy are very concerning," Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in an interview.