Before he fancied himself the LAW & ORDER president, Donald Trump was the chaos candidate. The guy who didn’t care about norms. The guy who was going to break a bunch of stuff on purpose and even more stuff on accident. They guy who was beloved by his cult of supporters not in spite of his penchant for demagogic incitement, but because of it.
So here is Question #1: Are you surprised?
Answer: You shouldn’t be. There is a straight line from this:
There is another straight line from this:
….These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2020
And while we’re drawing lines, there is a another straight line that runs directly from this:
….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019
These results are not accidents.
They are not random events.
And Donald Trump is not the man standing in the breach preventing America from descending into anarchy.
He is a pyromaniac campaigning for the office of fire marshal.
He did this. He told us he was going to do it. And for a nontrivial percentage of his supporters, this is why they voted for him.
There is no reason to believe that a second Trump term would be a boon for either law or order.
Question #2: What would happen?
Answer: The same thing that’s already happened.
Question #3: Before 2016, when was the last time you saw pitched battles between armed, opposing political forces in America’s streets?
Did you see it under Barack Obama? Or George W. Bush? Or Bill Clinton? Or George H.W. Bush? Or Ronald Reagan? Or Jimmy Carter?
Answer: By my count, you have to go back at least half a century and even then for the most part you were seeing fights between radicals and agents of the government. In the Jim Crow South, the violence was almost entirely on one side. To find the type of mayhem we now have on the reg, with armed civilians clashing, you have to go back to the union-busting wars of the early 20th century—and even that’s probably not apt, since those were workers pitted against companies.
Yet, once Donald Trump arrived on the national stage, street fighting became a common feature of American politics.
This is a thing that happens now, regularly. Street fighting has become a feature of American politics.
Question #4: Do you think this would be happening today if Mitt Romney were president? Or Ted Cruz? Or Mike Pence? Or Scott Walker?
Answer: Of course not. And on the rare occasion it did happen, there would be a president who would have the clarity to tell both the skinheads and anarchists to cut it out rather than embolden them.
When you have armed gangs fighting in the streets, people are going to be killed. The first person murdered because of Donald Trump’s politics was Heather Heyer. Just in the last week, we have added three more bodies.
The other man running for president is cheering on the people on his side who are running toward the sound of guns.
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) August 30, 2020
Question #5: With this dynamic happening at the forefront of the presidential vote 64 days from now, and President Trump already saying that the only way he can lose is if the election is “rigged,” do you think we are likely to see more chaos and more violence and more death?
Here I should clarify that I mean, in addition to the 183,000 Americans who have died—so far—from COVID-19.
Answer: Almost certainly. Because we are living in Donald Trump’s America. He made it this way because it was politically helpful to him.
And it still is.