Where will Donald Trump's violent and dangerous rhetoric lead after Nov. 8?

Impromptu poll watchers, "lock her up" and NRA fantasies of "post-freedom America" point toward possible violence

By Heather Digby Parton


Published October 25, 2016 12:00PM (EDT)

Donald Trump, Wayne LaPierre   (Reuters/Chris Keane/AP/Evan Vucci/Photo montage by Salon)
Donald Trump, Wayne LaPierre (Reuters/Chris Keane/AP/Evan Vucci/Photo montage by Salon)

As he sinks further in the polls, Donald Trump is ratcheting up his insistence that the election is being rigged against him in every possible way. The media are all conspiring with "Crooked Hillary," mass voter fraud is being plotted as we speak and the polls are all phony and designed to keep his voters from turning out on Election Day.

Last week in Colorado Springs the Republican presidential nominee said:

Voter fraud is all too common, and then they criticize us for saying that. But take a look at Philadelphia, what’s been going on. Take a look at Chicago. Take a look at St. Louis. Take a look at some of these cities, where you see things happening that are horrendous.

You'll notice that he mentions cities only with large African-American populations. He's not even trying to be subtle about it. And that could spell some trouble for his campaign and the Republican Party, which is under a consent decree that goes back to the early 1980s, when the Justice Department barred the GOP from "ballot security efforts" due to its unseemly habit of intimidating voters in minority areas.

The Republican National Committee is prohibited from challenging voters at the polls through "caging" and other vote-suppression efforts without following a designated process.

The good news is that Trump's organizing effort doesn't seem to be going anywhere. The New York Times reported that much like the rest of his campaign, it largely seems to be a "Potemkin effort." Election officials in the cities and states that he often cites as hotbeds of voter fraud report very few inquiries from volunteers seeking to become poll watchers.

But as election law expert Rick Hasen told The Washington Post, even if there's no coordinated intimidation, one of the things this rhetoric can do is "get rogue people riled up." He added, "Trump sets the fuse and lets someone else do the explosion. It strikes me as a very dangerous thing to be suggesting, because it does lend itself to the possibility of violence at the polls.”

The Boston Globe reported on a few people who said they planned to informally "observe":

“I’m going to go, for sure,” said Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio. "I’ll look for . . .  well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American. 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.”

On Monday it was "reported" by scam artist James O'Keefe that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had personally ordered a man in a Donald Duck costume to taunt Trump at his rallies about "ducking" the release of his taxes. Trump spokesman Jason Miller released this statement:

Recent revelations surrounding Hillary Clinton's corrupt campaign further illustrate that she will stop at nothing to secure the presidency. On a totally disqualifying act that is a violent threat to our democracy, Hillary Clinton directly involved herself in inciting violence directed at Trump supporters.

That is incredibly silly: We're talking about a man in a Donald Duck costume but it adds to the fury and sense of grievance that Trump is stoking among his supporters and this is potentially dangerous.

Trump insists that Clinton is an illegitimate candidate because she is "guilty as hell" of unnamed federal crimes for which he promises to jail her if he wins the election, inspiring lusty chants of "Lock her up!" at all his rallies. Refrains of "Hang the bitch!" and "Kill her, kill her!" are heard as well. An adviser to the campaign even told a radio station Clinton should be shot for treason. (He remains in Trump's good graces.)

The GOP candidate himself has made some veiled threats from the podium in the past, suggesting that "Second Amendment people" might take matters into their own hands against Clinton should she win the election. He gins up their anger by suggesting that she plans to confiscate their firearms, which they are more than willing to believe. The far-right anti-government Oath Keepers published an essay last spring predicting "outright civil war" if Clinton wins because "the level of hatred among conservatives for that woman is so stratospheric."

And if they weren't agitated before, they surely are now after a dark dystopian rant from the "get out the vote" video of National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre. He spent the first few minutes relaying the horrors of the Obama years, including America's surrender to ISIS and the ayatollahs, and then assured his members that it's only going to get worse:

So feel free to mark my words: If, God forbid, Hillary Clinton is elected, she will launch an all-out war on the Second Amendment. She will come for your guns. She will attack your right to carry. She will attack your most basic right to defend your family with a firearm in your home. And she will continue the disastrous policies of this administration to their inevitable conclusion: the creation of a new, post-freedom America that you won’t even recognize.

And he continued:

There is no red line President Hillary Clinton will not cross when it comes to attacking your rights and forcibly taking your guns. She dreams of twisting a knife into the heart of the one freedom that separates us from the rest of the world. The only thing that can stop her is you. The NRA's 5 million members are history’s most committed, most elite defenders of freedom. You are the Special Forces that swing elections, and I need you now more than ever.

Never accuse LaPierre of understating his point.

The truth is that most NRA members support the sensible gun regulations proposed by Clinton and other Democrats. But there is a large minority of zealots who are convinced by people like the paranoid LaPierre and the feckless Donald Trump that any gun regulation is tantamount to a total ban. If they believe the election has been stolen through a conspiracy by the media and election officials to rig the results, some of them might get it into their heads that it's their patriotic duty to do something about it.

Trump and his supporters' loose talk goes way beyond normal campaign rhetoric, and it's aimed directly at people who are armed to the teeth. It's hard to imagine anything more irresponsible.

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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