November’s election is coming during one of the most dangerous and deeply divisive periods in American history. There are some clear warning signs that a contested election could lead to significant unrest and violence and perhaps worse.
Race-related demonstrations, the COVID-19 pandemic and the constantly polarizing rhetoric from Donald Trump have all contributed to a spike in domestic terrorism, white supremacy groups and direct threats against public officials.
This week, some 13 hard-right terrorists were charged in connection with the planned kidnapping of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. According to the accusations filed by the FBI and state law enforcement, the group intended to take the captured governor to another state, hold a “trial” and perhaps execute her.
(Update: recent news reports say that six were charged in connection with Gov. Whitmer’s planned kidnapping and seven people were charged for planning violent acts, perhaps instigating a civil war).
In Virginia, meanwhile, gun sales have hit new records in the run up to the Nov. 3 election. Data from the Virginia Firearms Transaction Center, which has tracked mandatory background checks on buyers since 1990, shows estimated firearm sales have spiked in 2020, a year rocked by the global pandemic and protests across the country, WRIC-TV reported.
It continued: “There have been 587,107 background checks in Virginia through September, surpassing the annual record in 2016 of 505,722. Gun sales have risen nationally, with statistics from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System showing an average of more than three million background checks from March through August.”
I am a regular commentator at WTJU, the University of Virginia’s radio station and we often do podcasts under the title “Bold Dominion.”
We just finished one about the chance for election-related violence or maybe even insurrections or a civil war. Joining me is Emily Gorcenski, a data scientist and social activist who has been tracking hate groups. We attempt to lay out what could happen in a contested election, notably since an increasingly unstable Trump has implied he might not leave office if he loses. You can watch the podcast here.