Why Election Day Violence Is A Very Real Threat With Donald Trump As A Candidate
“I'd like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters, and to all the people of the United States, that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election… if I win.”
For weeks, he's been peddling this idea that because he's slipping, the system is working against him. But here are a few things Trump is forgetting. First is that this is a presidential race, not the Emmys.
Saying the Emmy Awards are rigged is funny and annoying, but largely forgettable. Saying that a United States election is rigged is harmful and undermines our entire democratic process.
He also seems to forget that people of color not ticking the “Trump” box in voting booths is not an example of election rigging. It's just how voting works.
And please excuse women for picking the candidate who doesn't say how much they like our presidential candidates to "grab us by the pussy" without permission. Again, not rigging. Just common sense.
But here's what's really troubling: This isn't about being mad that your garbage TV show didn't win an Emmy because it was, in fact, a garbage TV show.
This is about turning everything we know as a country on its head and setting what appears to be a trap. That trap could ensnare Clinton voters (and any non-Trump voters) on election day. The fact that he will not concede if he loses will only light fires under his most extreme supporters' angry asses.
Although the polls seem to be leaning largely in Clinton's favor, Trump has opened a Pandora's Box of bigotry and irrational fear that will be hard to snap shut.
As Vox's Dara Lind points out, “Even if Trump turns around tomorrow and says that he will unconditionally accept the results of the election, and never mentions rigging or voter fraud again, he can't close that door.”
While the monster he's created has systemic reach, the real problems this could cause are less abstract.
Let's talk about Pennsylvania. Back in August, Trump assured his supporters that the only way he could possibly lose Pennsylvania would be if the state somehow cheated. The candidate went so far as to tell voters to stake out polling places.
That's why he made this actual, real-life page on his campaign website where you can sign up to be an “election observer.”
“The only way we can lose, in my opinion, I really mean this, Pennsylvania, is if cheating goes on,” he said to a full house. Aside from being an affront to the English language, this statement is flat-out dangerous.
“We have to call law enforcement,” he continued, “and we have to have the sheriffs, and the police chiefs and everybody watching.” He then went on to talk about “certain sections of the state” that would, in his warped mind, cheat.
What he's saying is that in a place like Philadelphia, which is typically a blue district, the polls are rigged. No, Donald. There are just more people of color living in Philadelphia than there are in Erie. You make marginalized people feel unsafe. For that reason, most will not vote for you.
But what happens when women, members of the LGBTQ+ community and people of color go to the polls in “certain sections” that day? Will they be met by red-capped guard dogs?
Even if they legally have to stand 10 feet away from the polling station, what happens when non-Trump voters get 11 feet away from the building?
So if they're saying the election is rigged, it implies people's votes for Trump are either being thrown out or counted for Clinton. To give you some context, The Washington Post asked Trump voters what they thought their leading man meant when he said “election rigging.”
One such voter said he thought homeless people would be paid to vote for Clinton. That seems totally reasonable and not insane or demeaning at all.
Another is convinced that evil Democrats will do “the stealth thing that they can do electronically... to really either erase somebody's valid vote or get a bunch of people secretly voting to load it up for the other side.”
If that's the sort of made-up behavior Trump's observers want to sniff out, will they ask voters questions as they leave polling places? What happens if those voters say, “I voted for Hillary Clinton?" What happens if they just keep walking?
That all boils down to speculation at this point, but this looks like a trap. And it's one that could put Clinton's, Johnson's and Stein's supporters at risk.
“He has unofficially deputized them as poll watchers,” Lind writes. “He has charged them, individually, with ensuring the outcome of the election is free and fair.”
In their minds, a free and fair election ends in a Trump victory. His staunchest supporters will do whatever it takes to get there, even if that means using methods that undermine freedom and fairness altogether.
What he's asking his supporters to do also runs counter to Republican National Committee (RNC) policy. After Democrats slapped the RNC with a lawsuit in 1982, the committee agreed to rein in poll-watching practices on election day.
Part of the consent decree bars people from observing polls in a way that results in voter suppression. Since voter suppression seems to be the name of Trump's game at this point, he's not playing by the rules.
The decree expires next year, but it's still going to be a thing when election day rolls around. One of the benefits of being post-fact and totally off the rails, though, is that Trump doesn't have to worry about that nonsense, anyway.
And before you brush this fear off as melodrama, you should probably hear what some Trump supporters have done so far and what one plans on doing at the polls.
One of his future election observers from Ohio explained what his election day plans were, and as you can imagine, they're deplorable. (The basket is full, my friends.)
He said, “I'll look for... well, it's called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can't speak American.”
Off to an excellent and not at all unsettling start.
“I'm going to go right up behind them. I'll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I'm not going to do anything illegal. I'm going to make them a little bit nervous.”
And he sticks the landing!
Then there was the armed protest that took place outside of a Democratic campaign office in Virginia. One protester said, “I'm just trying to provide a voice for someone who might be closet supporters of Trump. Other people that are a little worried to speak out because of possible persecution.”
That bodes well for election day!
And yes, I'm sure Trump supporters are the ones who are afraid of persecution, gun-wielding hater of Democrats. This makes total sense. Everyone working inside that office being watched by people with guns probably felt like persecution was off the table as well.
Make no mistake that this is a blame game no one will win — not his terrified, angry supporters or those they've labeled “other.” But personally, I'm more worried about all of the “others” out there.
All the people who are marginalized and threatened by a loud-mouthed bigot who's given voters across the nation a platform for their hatred.
All the people who now have to wonder if they'll be followed at the polls while black, followed at the polls while trans, followed at the polls while brown, non-Christian or gender-fluid.
I'm afraid for all the people who don't buy into this false narrative that hurts everyone, including those it's inspiring to overthrow the government.
This isn't my own personal attempt at fear-mongering a la Trump. Don't assume every person who's voting for Trump on November 8 is out to get you because that's clearly not true. We've just reached a point of such contention that the pot could easily boil.
My only real advice to you is to go out and vote for the candidate you feel should lead the United States. It's pretty upsetting that this is where we are right now, but be cautious of people who feel it's their right to follow you or demand information from you.
Let's all just get out, do our thing and vote in peace.
If you want to vote for Trump, go ahead. If you want to vote for Clinton, do it up. Third-party candidates more your style? That's great. Exercise your rights in the booth and let others do the same.
That's a whole lot easier than the alternative.