Can We End the Intimidation?
Terry H. Schwadron
Dec. 10, 2020
If Donald Trump-supporting Republicans can’t knock off the nonsense of denying an election, can’t we at least stop the intimidation of public officials, election poll workers and voters just going through their normal day?
If, as New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg posits, it was wrong for shouting protesters to force Sarah Sanders Huckabee from a Virginia restaurant where she was dining with family, why isn’t it wrong for armed Trump supporters to surround the home of Jocelyn Benson, the Michigan secretary of state, who was with her four-year-old?
As protests go, it is hard to see what the guns do except seek to intimidate — not the ostensible reason for Second Amendment-allowed open carry laws, and certainly rife for accidents to happen. Plus this one came after Michigan already has certified its results, so it basically serves no purpose other than intimidation.
But “So far, what happened to Benson doesn’t appear to be turning into a big cultural moment. There’s no frisson of the new about it; it’s pretty routine for Trumpists to threaten and intimidate people who work in both public health and election administration,” argued Goldberg.
The Trump resistance to acknowledging the election is stoking fears of continued street conflict — and anticipated violence, drawing warnings from many but Republican lawmakers. Various tweets not only threaten non-supporters, but like a Republican party official in Arizona, exhort the faithful to be willing to die for the cause.
While we’re at it, just why is it that it is okay for law-and-order Trump to call from the White House — in open violation of the Hatch Act — for state legislatures to summarily overturn elections in which no evidence of fraud still has appeared in nearly 40 court cases filed to challenge election results.
We’re building to a muted crescendo in the Trump denial of democratic elections as the last of the states certifies the election and we move to a formal Electoral College validation vote by next Monday. Or are the goal posts to be moved again to a confirmation vote in the Congress after Jan. 6? Or are we supposed to wait for the magic moment of official win/loss to come only at noon on Jan. 20, when Trump apparently is talking of a public show at the White House to counter the actual inauguration?
The Supreme Court spoke briefly and directly, striking down a challenge to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania votes in a single sentence. We’ve already passed yesterday’s so-called safe harbor deadline for election challenges before the Electoral College meets, yet three Republicans on the actual inaugural committee blocked a resolution before that six-person group to recognize that the inauguration is for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
Now in a lawsuit filed directly with the U.S. Supreme Court, the Texas attorney general claims injury to Texans because there was alleged fraud in voting in four other states. What? And the Trump grievance campaign and officials in 17 Republican states want to jump on this train too, despite nary a shred of evidence.
Sheesh. When does it all finally end?
More Mass Rallies
Team Trump is calling for supporters to demonstrate in Washington two days starting Saturday, Dec. 12, two days before the Electoral College vote. At the most recent of these “stop the steal” rallies, groups including the Proud Boys — which the Southern Poverty Law Center deems a hate group — and militias like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters had a large presence.
Already, counter-demonstrators are planning to show up as well.
That Nov. 14 gathering resulted in fistfights and at least one stabbing after standoffs with opponents. “While much of the day unfolded peacefully, brief but intense clashes erupted throughout,” reported The Washington Post. “Activists spewed profanity and shouted threats, threw punches and launched bottles. On both sides, people were bloodied, and at least 20 were arrested, including four whose allegiances remain unknown on gun charges. The chaos also left two officers injured.”
It is foolish to think that this will be the only demonstration of its kind; there are groups across the country unhappy with the election results and ready to show up to say so.
The question is: Why are Republicans silent not only to the reality of elections, but to the threats of street violence that seem to be building? There is no question that the two are linked; Trump’s calls in the recent Georgia rally and the recent harvest of $200 million in protest slush funds promise that the threats will continue even after he finally leaves the White House.
From my perspective, it looks as if none of these heightened tensions will resolve unless Trump himself lets the air out of the balloon.
But Trump’s public remarks, videos, tweets and recent rally cries are filled with invective about his victimhood to fraud ignoring all realities of voting, prosecutorial withdrawal by the Department of Justice and court decisions. Clearly, Trump finds the threat of public violence a useful tool — so long as it is in personal support of him.
None of this explains why Republican leadership cannot come up with better public support for calm, even if the endless recounts have to continue.
The broader question here is why Trump even wants to continue in a job that he seems unwilling to do. For all the obvious reasons, he still is ignoring coronavirus and its effects, with time and attention only to pursue his agenda of aggrandizement of his personal fortunes, his business fortunes and the loyalty of friends and family, even at the point of abusing presidential pardoning powers.
Since the unacknowledged election, we have been moving steadily beyond a snub of tradition and courtesy into an era in which we are supposed to be intimidated by the threat of armed opposition.
That is not making anyone in this story great.