The right-wing wants a revolution, and we had better pay attention
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Yesterday, Trump supporter and Sheriff David Clarke declared on twitter that it was time for the “pitchforks and torches.”

While, in all likelihood, he was simply being hyperbolic, this is just the latest incident in the last year in which right-wing extremists have struck a tone of violent revolution in the U.S. The trend extends further back, accelerating during the Obama years, but now reaching a fever pitch as it becomes increasingly clear that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPoll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona The Hill's Morning Report - Trump touts new immigration policy, backtracks on tax cuts Hickenlooper announces Senate bid MORE is likely to win November’s election.

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Countless examples of this trend can be seen on daily basis. During Trump rallies, the chant of “lock her up” is often heard. Trump supporters at these rallies often respond to interviewer questions with conspiratorial ravings that are commonly espoused on alt-right websites. Several prominent Trump supporters, such as Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannKlobuchar urges CNN town hall audience: 'That's when you guys are supposed to cheer, OK?' Michele Bachmann praises Trump: Americans will 'never see a more godly, biblical president' Will Biden lead a 'return to normalcy' in 2020? MORE, have been hinting to the electorate that a Clinton win would mean that this is the “last election,” implying the establishment of a dictatorship. Recently, Trump mentioned that “second amendment folks” might be able to do something to stop Clinton from “abolishing the second amendment,” something she has, of course, never called for. 

These claims echo those in which Obama has been accused of “trying to take away all the guns.” While most Americans never took these claims seriously, gun and ammunitions sales skyrocketed immediately after Obama was elected. Back in July, one of Trump’s advisors called for Clinton to be executed for treason. Just two days ago, three members of a Kansas militia groups, called the Crusaders, were arrested for planning an attack on a building with a large Muslim Somali population for November 9th, one day after the election. One of the men was quoted as saying, “the only f—ing way this country is going to get turned around is it will be a bloodbath.” While these folks may seem extremists outside the mainstream, the Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, recently used similar rhetoric when claiming that a if Clinton won “blood would be shed.”

These episodes are not happening in a vacuum. Now forgotten from the headlines, it was only a few months ago when a right wing extremist group took over a government building in Oregon. Groups like this one have been on the rise for years. In fact, groups like these have been responsible for more attacks and killings than have Jihadist groups in the U.S. since the September 11th attack. A recent survey of local and federal law enforcement agencies showed that 75% considered right wing extremism to be a top threat. Many of these groups are heavily armed, have an affinity for the old Confederacy, and claim that we have reached that kind of moment Thomas Jefferson listed in the Declaration of Independence: “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

These groups found a home in the nativism, nationalism, and anti-establishment tone of the Trump campaign; there was even talk of a Trump’s “Lion Guard” militia being formed at one point. Another similar and heavily armed group, calling themselves the Oath Keepers, had shown up during some Black Lives Matters protests to “help keep the peace,” despite not being welcomed by local law enforcement. Armed bands have even begun showing up outsides mosques and an NAACP office in Texas. As recently as few days ago, two Trump supporters flashed firearms in front of a Democratic office in Virginia. Taken on their own, each of these events seems minor, which in and of itself is an amazing sign of how low our discourse has been degraded. Taken together, they represent a frightening foreshadowing for potential post-election violence.

A common thread running through much of this activity is an anti-Washington and anti-establishment feeling among many who are struggling to get by and see America changing before their eyes. Over the last four decades, wages have stagnated and more and more families have fallen near or below the poverty line. Almost half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and are looking for someone to blame. Putting aside the causes (the undue influence of an economic elite over the government policy for several decades, in this writer’s humble opinion), the U.S has simultaneously seen a huge increase in the wealth of the wealthiest Americans, creating a historically high level of inequality. This economic decline has led to a complete lack of confidence in our government institutions.

Howard Zinn, in his landmark “A People’s History of America” in 1980, predicted much of what would come under these circumstances. The resulting alienation, he claimed, “would spread upward into families above the poverty line. These white workers, neither rich nor poor, but angry over economic security, unhappy with their work, worried about their neighborhoods, hostile to government—combining elements of racism with elements of class consciousness…. And thus open to solutions from any direction, right or left.”

On the left, this led to the rise of insurgent candidate Bernie SandersBernie Sanders2020 candidates have the chance to embrace smarter education policies Bernie Sanders Adviser talks criminal justice reform proposal, 'Medicare for All' plan Poll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona MORE, who nearly won the Democratic primary. On the right, this led to the successful insurgent candidacy of Trump on the Republican side. The Sanders movement, building on the earlier occupy movement, pointed the finger of blame at a crony capitalist system in which government seemed to be working for the top 1% and not the other 99%. On the right, there is a bit of the same feeling, but it was wrapped in an anti-Washington tone. Additionally, added into the mix on the right was a nativist message targeting Hispanics and Muslims and a call for a return to the good old days. There have even been hints of anti-Semitic messaging being dog-whistled occasionally from within the campaign, and several examples from Trump supporters, like the comments seen against the Jewish #NeverTrump conservative writer, Bill Kristol. Calls for a return to Nixon style “law and order” and the restoration and expansion of “stop and frisk”, a NYC program that unconstitutionally targeted young men of color for police stops, have led to renewed claims of racism on the right, as well.

As the polls widen, Trump has taken to claiming that the election is being rigged against him. He has even called on supporters to go to voting locations and watch for shenanigans. Though he and his running mate, Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceIceland's prime minister will not be in town for Pence's visit Trump's latest plan to undermine Social Security Nikki Haley voices 'complete support' for Pence MORE, have stated that they will accept the results of the election, he is clearly hinting to his followers that results may be illegitimate and need not be accepted by his supporters.

If the polling gurus are to be believed and Clinton does win, such claims may be the catalyst for outbreaks of violence on November 9th. The extent and danger of these outbreaks is hard to predict, but I doubt they present a great threat to the union. That being said, if the economic problems of the past few decades persist, the resulting anxiety and alienation will continue to compound and eventually, the state of the union may actually be endangered.

Ignoring the problem will only make it worse. Recently on Bill Maher’s HBO show, anti-Trump conservative Andrew Sullivan admonished Bernie Sanders for claiming that our big business interests have far too much control over our government, saying that he was only fueling Trump’s anti-establishment message. Sullivan has it all wrong. Only by addressing the problems, not ignoring them, can we diffuse the growing tension that fueled Trump’s rise.

In order to stave off this long-term threat, we need what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called a “radical revolution of values.” A peaceful movement that demands change on a scale necessitated by the massive scale of the problems that beset the United States: a movement that can capture, in King’s words, the “revolutionary spirit [to] boldly challenge the status quo” without being mislead into falsely aiming racist ire at other groups of struggling Americans simply because they look different. Only when the American people begin feel their influence being exerted on government through the democratic process in an effective way, will confidence in our government institutions be restored. Only when the working families of every background begin to feel that they are sharing in the national prosperity, will confidence in the economic system be renewed. We ignore these issues at our own peril.

Ron Widelec is a history teacher in NYC and a progressive activist on Long Island, NY.


 

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