President Donald Trump has refused to commit to the peaceful transition of power, but his supporters appear overwhelmingly convinced that any election-related violence will be provoked by his opponents.
The president has repeatedly suggested that nationwide protests against police brutality are part of a conspiracy to undermine his re-election, and 10 of 11 delegates to the Republican National Convention interviewed by Politico believe violence will surge if Trump wins.
"I’ve been paying attention intensely to the violence, propagated and paid for by a hardcore Marxist organization and group," said Barbara Bowie-Whitman, a 79-year-old Trump delegate from Virginia. "I do not believe any of this was spontaneous, and I think very little of it has anything to do with racial justice. It is an organized effort to promote chaos and make sure Trump is blamed for it."
She's sure that any post-election violence would be the fault of Democrats.
"I think there will probably be less violence if [Trump] loses, because the left will have won and they’ll be happy," Bowie-Whitman said, "and that’s the objective of this violence, just to make sure that he does not win, because they want to intimidate us."
The delegates told Politico they feared their support for Trump could make them targets.
"I would be very concerned if Trump won again," said Ken Reid, a 61-year-old from Virginia, "and I don’t think I’d be walking around with my MAGA hat."
Joseph Buckner, a 20-year-old delegate from North Carolina, said he fears wearing his Trump T-shirt on campus, and he's already fearful that Democrats will try to steal the election.
"I think the burden of proof is on the Democrats to show that they will peacefully accept four more years of a Trump administration," Buckner said. "Republicans believe in law and order and that elections should be decided in a lawful, transparent manner."
The delegates seemed deeply shaken by the nationwide protests.
"I don’t want any violence," said Gary Grisafi, a 56-year-old Trump delegate from Philadelphia. "I don’t want any destruction of your own country, your own neighborhood. I mean, some of these people in West Philly, when they looted that area and set fires, they did it to their own neighborhood. They did it to their own brothers and sisters. They did it to their neighbors."
The delegates seemed sure Trump would win but Democrats would not accept the results.
"I believe that the election might be challenged, but there are enough people involved to draw the correct and true outcome out of it," said Don Huizenga, a 55-year-old from Minnesota. "I know conservatives will accept the outcome that follows the research. I know that liberal minds will not."
And they mostly seemed resigned to the likelihood of violence.
"I think if Trump wins again the tension will be more inflamed," Huizenga said. "But I think, like the Civil War, it’s a tension that needs to run itself out, and so, personally, I’m willing to go through that process in order to start some real healing."