What Now?

The Election and Its Aftermath

Given what we know today – and with the usual caveats that things COULD change between now and November 3 — it is quite clear that Biden will win the election, racking up a large popular vote margin and a strong majority of the Electoral College. That should short-circuit all of Trump’s efforts to muddy the post-election waters.

The big question right now in my mind is how his supporters react, specifically the “Proud Boys” and other heavily armed militias that have already taken it upon themselves to confront peaceful protestors. Trump is, for these people, their last, best hope to reclaim a country that they see slipping away (but hasn’t in fact existed since the 1950s). If the country instead rejects Trump (soundly), do they crawl back quietly to the cracks from which they emerged?

It’s hard to believe these zealots have an abiding commitment to democracy; rather, they seem alienated from democratic processes, and certain of their own righteousness in confronting – violently – those who disagree with them.

That’s a dangerous combination in any political environment but is particularly worrisome now. Trump may concede the race, given a large enough defeat. But, having sullied the public’s confidence in the administration of an election conducted largely by mail, can he persuade others to accept his defeat, as well? Who, having watched Trump over the last five years, truly believes he’ll even try? He’s already asked the Patriot Boys to “stand by” and refused to condemn them (“they seem to like me a lot”).

In truth, right-wing extremists and the militias they organize, inspire and direct have roiled just under the surface for decades – emerging occasionally in a burst of violence that catches the country off guard (Oklahoma City bombing, Malheur Wildlife Refuge, Kenosha). They could well view Trump’s defeat as the last vestige of hope for America’s salvation slipping through their fingers and determine to take matters into their own hands. Then what?

We should begin to worry about and plan for a period of post-election violence. It won’t be a ‘civil war’ OR a revolution – just a bunch of malcontents stirring up trouble. The good news is there aren’t so many of them that they pose a big threat everywhere; the bad news is that they are dispersed and, in many cases, hidden, and the FBI – primarily responsible for domestic security – hasn’t under Trump prioritized tracking and intelligence gathering for these groups.

A lot may depend on the military. Most senior military leaders take SERIOUSLY the need to avoid intervention in domestic politics. Come November 4, it will no longer be a political issue, but one of domestic order. I’m confident that under those circumstances, governors in affected states will call on the National Guard to restore peace in the face of post-election chaos.   At the end of the day we may need to put our faith in the military. But let’s hope and pray it doesn’t come to that.

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