How Political Violence Threatens U.S. Elections

Oct 15, 2020

The Department of Homeland Security says white nationalism is a major domestic terrorism threat. Is that, coupled with distrust in the electoral system, a recipe for political violence in November?


Mary B. McCord, legal director at the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection and visiting professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center. She previously served in the Department of Justice as the acting assistant attorney general for national security. (@GeorgetownICAP)

Devin Burghart, executive director of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. His group just put out a huge report on the alt-right group “People’s Rights.” (@dburghart)

Eric K. Ward, executive director of the Western States Center. Editor of “Conspiracies: Real Grievances, Paranoia and Mass Movements.” (@BulldogShadow)

From The Reading List

New York Times: “Opinion: The Plot Against Gretchen Whitmer Shows the Danger of Private Militias” — “In the swirls of disinformation that now pollute our political discourse, one is particularly dangerous: that private militias are constitutionally protected.”

Washington Post: “Mary McCord: Trump crosses the constitutional line” — “President Donald Trump incited insurrection Friday against the duly-elected governors of the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia.”

CNN: “White supremacists remain deadliest US terror threat, Homeland Security report says” — “White supremacist extremists will remain the deadliest domestic terror threat to the United States, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s first annual homeland threat assessment, which details a range of threats from election interference to unprecedented storms.”

Washington Post: “Justice Dept., FBI planning for the possibility of Election Day violence, voting disruptions” — “Bracing for possible civil unrest on Election Day, the Justice Department is planning to station officials in a command center at FBI headquarters to coordinate the federal response to any disturbances or other problems with voting that may arise across the country, officials familiar with the matter said.”

Southern Poverty Law Center: “Anti-Blackness & White Nationalism: A Call to Black America” — “These are hard times for Black America. Black communities are disproportionately devastated by COVID-19 – one in 500 of us is projected to die from the virus by January 1 – along with police violence and criminalization, wage inequities, healthcare disparities, environmental toxins, and hate crimes.”

The Guardian: “‘Our worst nightmare’: will militias heed Trump’s call to watch the polls?” — “In the final minutes of last week’s televised presidential debate, a few days before he tested positive for Covid-19, Donald Trump was asked by the moderator, Chris Wallace, whether he would call on his supporters to stay calm and desist from civil unrest in the immediate aftermath of next month’s election.”

Washington Post: “Donald Trump doesn’t really care about the white supremacist threat, and you’re not going to make him” — “At the end of the day, President Trump has been consistently clear about his view of white supremacist violence. If you expect him to spontaneously denounce it, you’ll be waiting a while.”

The Guardian: “Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacy fits pattern of extremist rhetoric” — “Donald Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacy during Tuesday night’s debate fits into a pattern of extremist rhetoric that has already baselessly stoked fear of voting fraud amid the president’s urging of his supporters to descend on polling stations in November’s election.”

New York Times: “Election Officials Are Preparing for Potential Unrest at the Polls” — “The day after the presidential debate, the phones began to ring at the clerk’s office in Ada County, Idaho, with a handful of residents worried about their safety at the polls. Election officials hastily added training for poll workers on what to do if someone shows up armed.”

Washington Post: “Contested elections can unleash violent white supremacy. We have seen it before.” — “Last week, President Trump declined to commit to accepting the results of the election.”

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