It isn’t exactly unhinged to speculate on a wide range of things Donald Trump might unleash on the country should he lose. For now though, if you want to target your worries, here are a couple things Trump has been telegraphing — two things the GOP has a history with.
Since August or earlier Trump has been blathering regularly to his mostly white audiences about alleged voter fraud and rigged elections. On his website he reportedly calls for followers to sign up as poll watchers and says ominously “go down to certain areas and watch and study” In speeches he issues marching orders to “…make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times.” And on this there is no daylight between Trump and running mate Mike Pence. Indiana Governor Pence encouraged a crowd in Manchester, New Hampshire, to help ensure a fair election by serving as poll watchers because “you are the greatest vanguard for integrity in voting.”
Trump could rely on the party for help on this one as the Republicans have past organizational skill with proactive voter intimidation — meaning actions beyond the latest burdensome registration requirements Republican controlled legislatures enact. One notable example, the Donald might approve of is the action taken by the Orange County California Republican Party in 1988 ,hiring uniformed guards to monitor polling places during the general election. The blue-uniformed Republican guards greeted residents at mostly Latino polling sites with bi-lingual signs reading: “Non-Citizens can’t Vote.”
And how about potential outrageous Trump strategies for after the votes have been cast? A small riot after a loss in the general election might be just the thing to soothe an ego savaged at the polls.
It’s pretty clear he isn’t a good loser. During the primary Trump often imagined out loud that he might be “cheated” out of winning, and he threatened that his supporters could riot in Cleveland at the RNC convention if he was not the nominee. Trump advisor and Republican operative Roger Stone even threatened to retaliate against convention delegates who might oppose him. Stone spelled it right out for the troops: “We’ll tell you who the culprits are. We urge you to visit their hotel and find them.”
Stone’s long resume (going “back” to Nixon) includes organizing the Brooks Brothers riots, credited with shutting down the Florida recount in 2000. Stone marshaled about two dozen hired “angry” Republican operatives to storm into a Florida canvassing office shouting “Shut down the recount!” That demonstration effectively ended the long recount process in favor of George W. Bush, which, in concert with the Supreme Court’s decision, doomed Al Gore’s chance at reaching the White House.
It doesn’t take much of a leap to see that Trump might urge his disappointed/outraged followers to riot in the streets in favor of putting Trump on the throne, despite the outcome of the popular and/or Electoral College vote. He’s already propagated a democracy-undermining narrative about “crooked” vote counting and “rigged” elections.
Donald Trump’s past performance offers little evidence he might choose to follow two hundred years of tradition (for the good of the country), and honorably concede electoral defeat, going off-stage quietly to fortress-Trump Tower. Whatever form his closing act takes may be limited only by Trump’s fevered imagination. Comedy or tragedy, at least it will soon be over. Hold the curtain calls.