Before Nov. 3, some Americans worried about Election Day violence and unrest. Webster professor Kelly-Kate Pease discussed these concerns and the likelihood of violence.
It’s not uncommon to hear whispers of civil war and fears of Election Day violence. Articles from prominent news outlets are expanding upon these fears making them feel increasingly credible and worrisome. In fact, a USA Today poll found that three out of four voters fear post-election violence. This is the reality we now live in, but do our fears have any credibility?
Kelly-Kate Pease, Ph.D, is a professor of International Relations at Webster University. Pease expressed that the likelihood of any violence occurring would depend on the outcome of the election and if there is a clear winner.
“We might not have a clear winner on Election Day,” Pease said. “What might happen is that one side might unilaterally declare victory [in the election]. Many people seem to be concerned that, that would be Donald Trump because he has a tendency to declare victory and make a declaration that isn’t true.”
Her analysis has been shared by entertainer Bill Maher of “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Maher has been sharing his Election Day anxieties since 2017.
“[Trump] is not going to go gently into the night,” Maher said on Jimmy Kimmel. President Donald Trump has alluded to not conceding Election Day before.
In response to a question asking him if he would commit to a peaceful transition of power, Trump stated, “We’re going to have to see what happens. You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”
Pease elaborated on this scenario further: what could potentially happen if Trump does not concede an electoral loss?
“[The FBI] sees the biggest threat as from the right,” she stated. “You might see militias taking to the streets, particularly if there’s mass protests against the election of Donald Trump.”
Politico has reported that far-right militia groups have been telling their most loyal supporters to “prepare for war against violent, rioting leftists on that day.” Oath Keepers’ leader Stewart Rhodes has alluded to “battle-hardened veterans” guarding polling places from “coercive and threatening” anti-Trump forces. Some of the militias have alluded to an outright civil war.
The militia leader’s forecast of Election Day echoes a statement by Trump during a debate with former Vice President Joe Biden.
“I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen,” Trump said.
While not calling for violence at the polls directly, Trump’s request to his supporters can intimidate non-Trump voters. Trump has previously retweeted a video that stated “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”
Recently in an interview with NBC, former presidential nominee and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that Joe Biden should not concede the election, citing that could prolong the final outcome of the 2020 election.
There is a very real possibility that we do not know the results on Election Day. Due to massive influxes of mail-in voting, many votes may not be counted by the end of Election Day.
While this may intensify fears of Election Day violence, Pease insists that a civil war is not likely.
“I don’t see [civil war] happening,” Pease said. “You might see states going their own way. You might see Missouri just ignoring what the federal government says if Democrats get elected, or you might see California and New York telling the federal government to take a hike if Trump gets elected. We’re already seeing states and even towns doing something different in terms of the pandemic because they don’t agree with what’s going on at the state level.”