Donald Trump continues to question the integrity of the US presidential election on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations and outlandish allegations. Such assertions do more than erode American democratic norms and institutions – they endanger the lives of Americans.
Trump’s account of massive voter fraud and a “stolen election” signals to his supporters that the Biden-Harris administration is illegitimate and could encourage violence against the forces that allegedly helped Biden “rob” the White House.
Trump’s refusal to accept the election result delayed the presidential transition, prompting more than 100 former national security officials from four Republican administrations, including that of President Trump, to sign a letter warning that the delay threatened US national security. Officials argued it posed “a significant risk to our national security, at a time when the United States faces a global pandemic and faces serious threats from global adversaries, terrorist groups and other forces ”. The risks were not just hypothetical, they warned, pointing to the 9/11 Commission report which identified a shortened transition time between the Clinton and Bush administrations as jeopardizing the ability of the national security community. to defend itself against Al Qaeda in the months leading up to September 11. . The transition is now underway, but Trump continues to spew false information about the election.
The concerns of national security officials are alarming, but they are neither the most likely nor the most dangerous consequence of the president’s persistent lies. Trump’s repeated false claims are fueling the already simmering fire of right-wing extremism in America. Individuals and groups with such views, including white supremacists, could interpret Trump’s narrative to justify violence against the federal government, the Biden-Harris administration, or other targets.
Polls already indicate that an alarming number of Trump supporters do not believe the election was free and fair. Some polls indicate that 70 to 80% of Republicans have serious doubts about the integrity of the election. A recent poll found that only 20% of Republican voters believe Biden actually won. Such beliefs, encouraged by the president, Republican lawmakers and the conservative media, are troubling and could easily metastasize in violence.
Right-wing extremist groups now pose the greatest threat to American internal security, according to the FBI: not American Muslims radicalized by Al Qaeda or sympathizers of the Islamic State. This has never been the case, despite the flow of Hollywood TV shows and movies after 9/11 that has regularly portrayed them as suspicious and potentially violent.
Today, the main threat is white and domestic, not brown and “foreign”. These are the “very good people” Trump refused to denounce in Charlottesville and those he encouraged to “liberate Michigan!Emboldened by Trump’s racist, xenophobic and bigotry rhetoric over the past four years and outraged at a “stolen election,” some members of these groups may resort to violence. Trump’s fantasy of “massive electoral fraud,” repeated by Republican lawmakers and amplified by right-wing media, is an incitement to violence for groups already predisposed to hate and conspiracy.
The Department of Homeland Security reported in October that white supremacist extremists “will remain the most persistent and deadly threat to the homeland” and that their ideologies are “often reinforced by a variety of online content, including theories. of the conspiracy ”. DHS specifically warned that these groups could target “the election itself, the election results or the post-election period.” October DHS Threat Assessment was released before Trump’s fictitious claims and his supporters’ wacky claims about faulty and improperly programmed voting machines, missing votes, lost ballots, dead voters, and Communist Cuban and Venezuelan election interference.
You don’t have to be a national security expert to see the dangers manifested in Trump’s rhetoric. The plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, following her stay home order and death threats received by election officials in Georgia, are disturbing examples of what the future may hold. Those accused in the Michigan conspiracy discussed the taking of hostages in the state legislature, their execution on live television, and the outbreak of a civil war. No, these were not ISIS sleeper cells in the American Midwest, but local right-wing terrorists affiliated with a paramilitary group. Some of the suspects attended a Trump-backed anti-Whitmer rally.
The logical conclusion to Trump’s account and the conspiracy theories peddled by the conservative media is that Joe Biden is an illegitimate elected president who will soon run a corrupt federal government thanks, in part, to the “Deep State” to “fake news”, Antifa, George Soros, and Black Lives Matter (have I forgotten Silicon Valley, Hollywood, the FBI, and China?).
You also don’t need a well-organized or sophisticated organization to cause havoc and mass murder. I live a 20-minute drive from the site of the old Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. It was there, on April 19, 1995, that an anti-government extremist detonated a homemade truck bomb, killing 168 people, including 19 children, and injuring hundreds more in the most domestic terrorist attack. murderer in the history of the United States.
The horrific bombing took place almost two decades before I moved to Oklahoma. At the time, I was visiting a friend in Beirut. I will never forget the first words of my friend’s mother when we saw death and destruction on television: “I hope these are not Arabs.”
It was not. Despite early media reports suspecting men of “Middle Eastern” appearance, the terrorist was a 26-year-old white US military veteran. He had served in the 1991 Gulf War and became enraged with the federal government for perceived injustices, including the 1993 siege of Waco. He was also a white supremacist who was steeped in anti-government conspiracy theories .
Trump’s reluctance to systematically and unequivocally condemn white supremacists during his presidency, his rhetoric and occasional nods to these groups has emboldened right-wing extremists who pose a real threat to American security. Trump’s toxic “stolen election” narrative, picked up by prominent Republicans, Fox, Newsmax and other conservative media, more than erodes American democracy. It endangers the lives of Americans.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.