After the vote to un-elect the president, the next-best things about Election Day were the things that didn’t happen.
According to those responsible to know, there were no cases of significant foreign psy-war influence on the election, and there were no reports of significant violence or even menacing interference with voters by armed para-militias.
But a lot of people who sighed with relief that the MAGA muscle stayed home on Election Day haven’t banished the worry from their minds that their worst fears could still come true between now and January 20.
Many of them are still chilled by Donald Trump’s response, during his raging first debate with Joe Biden, when asked by moderator Chris Wallace to “condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down.” Sure, said Trump, I can do that, but “Give me a name. Go ahead, who would you like me to condemn?” Both Wallace and Biden nominated the Proud Boys.
“Proud Boys? Stand back and stand by,” said the president, as good as his word. But as bad as his next words: “but I’ll tell you what, somebody’s gotta do something about Antifa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem, this is a left-wing problem.”
To civil society/rule of law worrywarts, that last part sounds a lot like the famous “deniable” order from the English King Henry II: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” And quick-as-that Thomas a Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was turbulent no more, murdered by agents of the King.
In other words, a lot of people, some of them Republicans, worry that Trump’s message to the Proud Boys and their cohorts on the armed Right was “Stand down – for now.” And that his next message could invite someone to take up the challenge of “somebody’s gotta do something about Antifa and the left.”
How could anyone’s enemies list be so mindlessly inclusive to bracket as targets “Antifa and the left?” Antifa, which specialists in domestic terrorism say is more a concept than an organization, and in any case is embraced by a pitifully small minority of people and “the left” — whoever Donald Trump mans to tar with that label — are a damn lot of people.
“Doing something” about them might require a civil war. Which would bring President Donald Trump’s mission to destroy and degrade America to a successful conclusion. So who was the president messaging, and what could they do if his next message was to act?
Frank Smyth is an independent, award-winning investigative journalist specializing in armed conflicts, organized crime and human rights overseas, and on the gun movement and its influence at home. His recent book is The NRA: An Un-Authorized History. He is a former arms trafficking investigator for Human Rights Watch breaking the role of France in arming Rwanda before its genocide. Smyth is a global authority on journalist security and press freedom having testified to Congress and member states of several multilateral organizations.