Election Violence in November? Here’s What the Research Says

This is Naked Capitalism fundraising week. 1410 donors have already invested in our efforts to combat corruption and predatory conduct, particularly in the financial realm. Please join us and participate via our donation page, which shows how to give via check, credit card, debit card, or PayPal. Read about why we’re doing this fundraiser, what we’ve accomplished in the last year, and our current goal, more original reporting.

Yves here. We foresaw social polarization and breakdown years back due to failure of post financial crisis “reforms” to fix what was really broken: an economic model that had produced stagnant real worker wages for decades, and used rising debt levels to produce increases in household consumption. This is a prescription for rising inequality, which as it becomes more extreme, produces multiple types of desperation and resentments: downward mobility, either currently or for children; a valid perception that the system is unfair, which means the “losers” have no reason to support it. But we also argued, given the lack of any tradition in the US of successful revolts, the perception that protestors (save for the causes of other) are shabby malcontents (as in protesting for your interests is proof you aren’t a good middle class person), and atomization, made worse by the progress of neoliberalism, led us to predict that “protests” would mainly take the form of individuals acting out (see school and workplace shooters) as opposed to cohesive action.

By Ore Koren, Assistant Professor, Indiana University Bloomington; International Security Fellow, Indiana University. Originally published at The Conversation

After Kenya’s 2007 election, as incumbent President Mwai Kibaki declared victory, the opposition alleged the election had been rigged.

A wave of protests, riots and ethnic violence followed. As many as 1,500 citizens were killed and another 600,000 forcibly displaced.

As the U.S. presidential election draws near, many have expressed concern that a similar scenario may unfold here. Some envision President Donald Trump’s supporters using misinformation to mobilize vigilante militias to clash with leftist protesters. Others envision that groups on the left will refuse to accept the results and mobilize, leading to violence and deaths across the country.

Having a contested election in times of crisis, however, is by no means a guarantee of violence. The front-runners in the 2017 French presidential election, for example, were as politically polarizing as their U.S. 2020 counterparts, with centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron calling right-wing leader Marine Le Pen’s party racist and xenophobic and Le Pen charging that Macron was “the candidate of savage globalisation.”

And the first round of voting in France took place just after a shooting in the heart of Paris sent the country into a state of emergency. Yet, as the votes were counted and Macron was declared the winner, Le Pen conceded defeat, allowing for a peaceful transition.

With the barrage of 24/7 media coverage of the upcoming U.S. election, it can be hard to tell what’s real and what’s not – and that can be frightening. It’s important to step back and ask: What does the research say about the likelihood of election-related violence in November?

Predicting Political Instability

When social science researchers like me try to predict political violence, we look at a large number of historical cases across multiple countries, and try to identify which events have resulted in many casualties.

In taking this approach, we can systematically evaluate what explains these extreme events, pinpointing specific issues that were present in most of the situations, and avoiding the inaccuracies that can happen by relying too much on anecdotal stories.

Such studies have highlighted three factors relevant to the upcoming election.

First, strong political institutions are especially effective in reducing the risk of violence. Many have voiced concerns that President Trump has weakened American political institutions. But as one of the world’s longest-enduring democracies, the United States and its democratic institutions have proven their capacity to maintain order through crises and abuse of presidential power before.

In the U.S., for example, despite allegations to the contrary, electoral fraud is extremely rare. Even if uncertainty and chaos were to ensue in the wake of the election, the authority to decide a winner is vested in an independent institution such as the U.S. Supreme Court or by the House of Representatives. Kenya in 2007 had no comparable institutional anchors to help ensure post-election stability.

Second, research, including my own, finds that mass political violence usually happens in countries that have no capacity to prevent it. In Kenya, for example, most violence was perpetrated by unofficial militias affiliated with ethnic or religious groups, such as the Mungiki, which the government was unable – or unwilling – to curb.

In the U.S., if any political leader calls for vigilantes to mobilize, both the federal government and states have the capacity to expeditiously eliminate this threat. Militias may be armed, but they are no match for a well-trained National Guard or Army regiment. This should help deter the risk of violence by vigilantes.

Some, however, fear that the president will send federal agencies to seize ballots. Although military officers continue to express formal commitment to keeping the military nonpoliticized, such actions, if taken, may result in a violent backlash by left-wing vigilantes. But federal agents acting under orders from the White House will have the tactical upper hand in such clashes, which greatly adds to their deterrent capacity.

Finally, an especially strong predictor of election violence is a history of armed political conflict. After the 2016 elections, America experienced massive protests and some rioting, but little in the way of deadly political violence.

What the Numbers Say

Is post-election violence impossible in 2020 America? No.

However, data suggests it is unlikely.

Ninety-five percent of the 12,607 political demonstrations in the U.S. between May 24 and Sept. 19, 2020, were peaceful. There were 351 other kinds of incidents, including imposing curfews and perpetrating physical attacks. In 29 of those, there was violence against civilians, where 12 people were killed, nine of them by the police. And in an additional five drive-by shootings, three police officers were killed by the extremist group the Boogaloo Bois.

Considering the number of people involved in the recent Black Lives Matter and COVID-19 protests, and the fact that many were heavily armed, these casualty figures are surprisingly low. According to the data, the majority of deaths were caused by police, not vigilantes or protesters, and all of the perpetrators (with the exception of two drive-by shooters), police and civilians alike, were taken into custody.

Like the U.S., France experienced protests and riots, in addition to multiple terrorist attacks, prior to Election Day. There was even a government plan to handle the potential violence and instability that might ensue if Le Pen were elected. And yet, as the most polarizing elections in decades concluded, there were few riots and no killing.

So, What Will Happen in November?

Researchers cannot perfectly predict political violence. Their analyses rely on the past.

Add to the equation a notoriously unpredictable incumbentagainst a backdrop of unprecedented social and economic conditions, and making accurate predictions about potential post-election bedlam is impossible, as much as scholars and others may try.

While I think some concern is valid, it is important to remember that there is a big difference between using a call to arms to mobilize your voters and instill fear in the other party’s supporters, and staging a post-election insurrection, which could subject its instigators to charges of sedition, if not high treason.

Ultimately, the three factors discussed here suggest that fears of widespread violence by vigilantes and activists during and after Election Day should be treated as fears, not as a probable outcome.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

66 comments

  1. Eric Patton

    fix what was really broken: an economic model that had produced stagnant real worker wages for decades

    Again, the atomic bombs weren’t failures, they were successes. They did what they were designed to do. That what they were designed to do was horrible is irrelevant to assessing them as successes or failures.

    The current economic model, likewise, is doing what it’s designed to do. It’s a resounding success, not a failure.

    Reply
    1. DTK

      Yes. This reasoning reminds me of the the FCNL (Friends Committee On National Legislation) slogan, “War is Not the Answer”. This is taken from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.. But war is the answer; to the ones controlling the question.

      Reply
  2. DTK

    What the data does not reveal is that President Trump has lied about the accuracy and integrity of absentee and mail in voting, encouraged armed white supremacists to show up at polling places, and said “we’re going to have to see what happens,” when asked about a peaceful transfer of power. The preceding list of facts live in the country. We can be comforted by the data or, when it comes to his own self preservation, be assured about the like mindedness of Donald Trump and too many of his followers.

    Reply
    1. Aumua

      I’m not going to make predictions about anything happening at this election, or involving this or that particular group or militia, or under Trump or someone else down the line. I’ll just say this: the tide is rising, and signs continue to show me that some form of fascist takeover is possible in America. I understand that general hysteria and over-use of the word to smear Trump in particular is also a factor.

      Reply
      1. lyman alpha blob

        Some would argue that we’ve already had a fascist takeover, at least as far as who is allowed to wield power in this country – if you aren’t extremely pro-corporate, you aren’t getting anywhere near the presidency for sure and you aren’t very likely to make it into Congress either or stay for any length of time if you do, with Sanders being the exception who proves the rule. So we already have the coming together of corporate, military and political power.

        Trump doesn’t much worry me – he’s a horrible president and responsible for deaths and destruction all over the world and in a sane world he’d be in the slammer, but so would most current political leaders.

        People still haven’t figured out that above all, Trump is a bu***hitter who is playing reality show, not politics. I don’t believe his own self-preservation is tied to him being president – ut;s tid to him getting ratings, which he will continue to get as long as someone is willing to put him on the TeeVee so they can cash in themselves, and there are no signs of any TV executives exercising any type of self control in that regard. Which is why the recent debate was done as it was – they wanted and expected an incoherent brawl, and they got it.

        It’s what will happen after a return to the status quo ante, which is exactly what Biden’s people are aiming for, that worried me. Once Trump is gone and people are still sick of politics as usual, we may get an actual competent demagogue who actually believes the drivel that comes out of their mouth. Someone like Pence.

        Reply
          1. lyman alpha blob

            Heh – while I wouldn’t like Pelosi or Schiff much, I don’t think they actually believe the stuff they spout either.

            Reply
          2. Aumua

            Whatever her shortcomings, I would be quite happy at this point to see AOC running for president. And it ain’t Pence who’s waiting in the wings. It’s Tom Cotton. It’s Tucker. Younger, smarter and more competent versions of Trump and when they get here you will see a lot harder of a boot stomping the face of the oppressed and any resistance that’s left at that point.

            And yes bringing back neolib Biden is exactly what will hasten their arrival.

            Reply
    2. Laura H. Chapman

      I agree with DTF because Attorney General Bill Barr is perfectly willing to follow Trump’s leads, and Trump has not only been candid about his efforts to discredit the election process, but has also, aided by Bill Barr, used federal marshals and the national guard to impose “law and order” on protesters. Barr has openly spoken about his belief that the Constitution gives the President almost unlimited power. Trump will be allowed to demonstrate that, aided by the stacked courts he wants to prove that he won the election. Ready for massive disruption are the Poor Boys, led by a lawyer, and other militias eager to sow chaos and defend the sowers..

      Reply
      1. lyman alpha blob

        In all seriousness, what’s not to discredit about the election process? If you’ve ever participated as an election clerk, it would be very clear just how broken and inaccurate our system is.

        I know for a fact that machines, even the supposedly good ones, do not count all the votes because I have participated in a hand recount of machine counted ballots. The only way to accurately count all votes is by voting in person on hand marked paper ballots, and then have those ballots counted in public by hand. But other than in a very few small towns, that is not how we do it here in the US.

        I’m still waiting for someone to tell me who won the Iowa Democrat party primary, and how the guy who didn’t get the most votes supposedly came out on top.

        You can fault Trump for a lot of things, but not for pointing out that we have an absolutely wretched voting process.

        Reply
            1. Starry Gordon

              Diversity. Seriously — that’s supposed to be one of the strengths of the federal model. The states also decentralize authority, which make it more difficult to seize power by knocking off the one great leader or monarch.

              Reply
            2. Cynical Engineer

              Because the philosophy of the founders of the nation was that there wasn’t a single “right” answer to how to run things, so they delegated as much as possible to the states and encouraged them to find the solutions that best fit their local conditions.

              It’s not 50 different ways to conduct an election, but it’s easily a dozen different ways, and the advantage is that even if one of those methods is flawed, the others will hopefully work better.

              The United States government is a Rube Goldberg mechanism, but I think it has worked better than it would have if we tried to impose a single solution to everything across the entire country.

              Reply
    3. marym

      > The preceding list of facts live in the country.

      Agreed. The assessment of where we stand on violence during or after the vote has to account for both the status of armed vigilantism and the establishment role in undermining the ability to vote and public trust in the process.

      I would add: Trump explicitly saying increased voter turnout will cause him to lose, and that he needs a 9th judge on the SC; Trump administration and state Republican court cases to impede mail voting; overlap of armed vigilante groups and cops; and right-wing media and public officials’ glorification of vigilante violence.

      As for the Democrats: long-term complicity in voter suppression, primary manipulations, and making fools of themselves over russiagate contribute to distrust of a dysfunctional system.

      Reply
  3. TomDority

    According to the data, the majority of deaths were caused by police, not vigilantes or protesters, and all of the perpetrators (with the exception of two drive-by shooters), police and civilians alike, were taken into custody.
    The way news and social media have been programed to feed information on grabing attention for marketing purposes (always sensational or car crash like). It is easy to see why the facts always get the last hearing – even at all – because it just is not the way to monetize.
    Amazon warehouse workers have far more hazerdous and dangerous jobs than police – but people believe the police are such brave folks.
    The amount we spend on Homeland security to prevent terrorists from hurting us is so far outside the need given the facts – it would seem that the police perform more terrorist acts than the terrorists – but that, of course, has been a boom white supremists and other cowards as way to wrap themselves in the flag and patriotism and all that – Who was it who said that patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel?

    Reply
  4. CletracSteve

    In my several decades of living through US elections, this year I observed a first here, reminiscent of events I have often seen in southern counties in this hemisphere: a parade of trucks (and cars) festooned with flags driving through our town, honking loudly, trumpeting their candidate.

    Reply
    1. savedbyirony

      Yes. Here in North East Ohio Trump supporters are organizing these truck/car parades. I here ads for them on sports radio channels daily.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        The idea that said parades greatly resemble an ISIS get together on the road in Toyota trucks, complete with oversized flags and weaponry openly displayed, is a little disconcerting.

        You shall reap what you sow rules, do apply.

        Reply
      2. lordkoos

        In our little town I’ve witnessed a couple of small Trump parades as a response to BLM protesters standing in front of our county courthouse. Haven’t seen guns openly displayed as this is not an open carry state although I’m sure the people riding in the parades are packing.

        Reply
    2. Duck1

      Parades by partisans are a great tradition, to whit: By the time of the Ohio Whig Convention in Columbus on February 22, the theme and enthusiasm had taken full hold. Tens of thousands of delegates and spectators filled the streets as a mile-long parade featured log cabins on wheels, with the builders drinking hard cider on the roof, and giant wooden canoes with the image of Old Tippecanoe, though General Harrison was not in attendance. Many of those who came to Columbus dressed as pioneers, in buckskins with coonskin cap. Barrels of hard cider were provided on every corner.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Henry_Harrison_1840_presidential_campaign

      Imagine 10,000 contemporary drunks. Oh, the Philadelphia Mummers.

      Reply
  5. LaRuse

    I stopped watching television regularly in 2018 and haven’t watched a 24-hour news channel except in random waiting rooms in even longer than that. I feel certain we will see protests in November and beyond – some might turn violent – but I don’t walk around under a cloud of fear. Correlation does not equal causation but the people I know who are openly most frightened of violence are the people that taken in daily doses of any of the severely biased 24-hour news channels. My very Pro-Trump, non-stop Fox News-watching father called this week to explain how he bought a gun recently because he expects post-election violence. Mind you, he lives in a affluent area, in an expensive house somewhat beyond the suburbs of Greensboro, NC. “Out in the boonies” as we say. What does he truly have to fear? Did anywhere outside of maybe Charlotte, NC, even have any protests this summer?
    I live in the county just south of the City of Richmond, VA, in a lower class suburb – and Richmond saw real protests, arson, Hawaiian shirted Proud Bois and Buggaloos, shots fired, and police violence this summer. Not ONCE did I ever believe my home or neighborhood was at risk. Despite living in a deeply red county, I have neighbors up the street that have posted homemade BLM signs in their yard – signs that have been there since June and have remained undamaged for months now. The divisions in my neighborhood are real – the threats of violence and property damage are not.
    Americans are being psyched out – terrorized into expecting violence – largely, I think, to generate ratings. Both the Fox/OANN and the MSNBC/CNN sides of the television are PRAYING for violence because advertising revenues should be amazing. I don’t want to be gamed for advertising dollars so I stepped out of the TV game. I highly recommend it.

    Reply
    1. William Hunter Duncan

      “Americans are being psyched out – terrorized into expecting violence – largely, I think, to generate ratings. Both the Fox/OANN and the MSNBC/CNN sides of the television are PRAYING for violence because advertising revenues should be amazing.”

      I suppose too they are angling for even more a police state, to secure their standing. There must be a law against inciting political violence – just no one apparently to enforce it?

      Yeah, I haven’t had a TV in 25 years, I have never watched cable news with any regularity. When I visit my parents they have Fox News on two TV’s just about all the time. My father will watch CNN briefly just to get a bit indignant. I watch with him, and it doesn’t matter if it is left or right, I grow increasingly infuriated and sick to my stomach. It is a sick game they are playing, ratcheting up the Hate. Especially as it is obvious they are getting rich doing it, and doing the bidding of even richer masters.

      Reply
    2. Ford Prefect

      I agree with this.

      I pointed out to somebody the other day that they have to keep pointing to Portland, Oregon in the absence of anywhere else significant. That is ultimately a few city blocks that are impacted in one of the biggest countries on earth. I also pointed out that the poor people can’t get to the suburbs, so the suburbs are safe from them. There just aren’t enough of the white supremacist and fascist militias to be able to take over the suburbs either and they are mainly just in some of the smaller swing states.

      I am more conceerned about returning to the Jim Crow era tradition of “poll watchers” intimidating potential voters. That is where the real damage would occur in reducing the completely inadequate voter turnout now. I think this is going to be a major test of our democracy if poll watchers show up unchallenged.

      A national election is actually run by over 3,000 counties (or county equivalents) in 50 states. Trump declaring election night that he is sending armed federal officers to take over the election returns in key county and states would be a massive constitutional battle that I think many of the Republican governors, Sectrtaries of Sate, and County Executive would push back on vigorously. Would the FBI and US Marshalls enforce such an order? I think the US military would refuse to act upon such an order as an “unlawful order”. I think the Joint Chiefs of Staff were appalled by the St. John’s Church debacle by the White house and are vaccinating themselves against a repeat.

      Reply
    3. lordkoos

      Yes — I’ve been saying for some time that the media is preparing us for some kind of event around the election. Not only the MSM but I’ve also seen quite a few blogs on the topic of Trump stealing the election, refusing to leave, possible violence etc. It’s not overly paranoid to suggest that some entities want something crazy to happen.

      I haven’t had cable TV for decades, and do not have an antenna. I prefer watching news online, especially unfiltered crowd-sourced videos that are relatively spin-free.

      Reply
  6. The Rev Kev

    ‘In the U.S., for example, despite allegations to the contrary, electoral fraud is extremely rare. Even if uncertainty and chaos were to ensue in the wake of the election, the authority to decide a winner is vested in an independent institution such as the U.S. Supreme Court or by the House of Representatives.’

    Ummm. He is talking about the U.S. of America, isn’t he? There isn’t another U.S., is there? Like the U.S. of Armenia? Because everything that he said in that passage is just not so. Well, maybe in an old-fashioned civics class. Otherwise I literally have no idea what he is talking about.

    ‘Militias may be armed, but they are no match for a well-trained National Guard or Army regiment.’ So, how did ‘Nam work out? Or Iraq? If the author is expecting a stand-up fight, it is not going to happen. Think more along the lines of the British return march from Concord & Lexington. The Army may be willing to shoot civilians but the National Guard live there. And how many people are returned vets with combat experience? Whose side will they take? How much damage can they do?

    So, will there be a second Civil war? No. Will there be riots and demonstrations? Yes. Will some people die as a result? Yes. And these troubles will continue until stuff actually starts getting fixed in the political system. But whoever “wins”, I can see a bad moon rising.

    Reply
    1. Acacia

      Yeah, I tripped over “electoral fraud is extremely rare” too.

      Is Koren arguing that the DNC is squeaky clean and it’s “extremely rare” that they fudge primaries?

      Reply
    2. lyman alpha blob

      Yeah that one cracked me up too. I’m sure the author meant ‘independent’ in the sense of ‘they exist and are separate institutions’ but all of our institutions are so far from being politically independent as to make that statement laughable.

      Reply
      1. sharonsj

        Electoral fraud is not the same as voter fraud. The latter is virtually non-existent. I do agree that our patchwork voting system is terrible and that both parties take advantage of it; that’s why they won’t fix it. If Biden wins, it better be by a large margin, but I expect some violence anyway.

        Reply
        1. Alex Cox

          The author wrote, “In the US… electoral fraud is extremely rare.” Given the absence of individually-counted paper ballots, how does he know this?

          He goes to all the trouble to write this article and doesn’t seem to have heard of Diebold or any of the other voting machine scandals. Needs to read Votescam.

          Reply
          1. wilroncanada

            I’ll correct the author. In the US, Voter fraud is extremely rare. Electoral Fraud is the very name of the US electoral system.”

            Reply
        2. lordkoos

          If Trump supporters want to perpetrate violence, fine — let them be on the wrong side of “law and order”. The best thing would be left wing protesters standing down during the election period so that if there is violence, let it be from the right.

          Reply
    3. Wally

      “independent institution such as the U.S. Supreme Court or by the House of Representatives.”

      Institutions they may be, but the Trump method is to go after the individuals, not the institution, and thereby undercut the institution. It’s a repeated pattern: always go right after the individual, single him or her out, ridicule them, fire them if possible. Replace them with a sycophant.
      It has been quite effective.

      Reply
  7. Winston Smith

    Perhaps the authors missed the point of all this electoral violence drumbeat. The thrust of all this may be the threat of violence rather than the actual unfolding of violence itself. That in itself may discourage people from showing up at the polls.
    As for the analogies with other countries, I think they might fail given the widespread ownership of guns, some of which cannot be classified as defensive or hunting weapons.
    It would only take a couple of snipers shooting up a few polling places, expertly amplified on social media to sow complete chaos.
    Let’s hope for the best

    Reply
  8. funemployed

    “mass political violence usually happens in countries with no capacity to prevent it”

    Logically, this is the equivalent of saying “starvation usually happens in countries that lack the capacity to feed their citizens.”

    also “countries”? Since when do “countries” have agency? Does Professor Koren mean “mass political violence usually happens in countries where the state lacks the capacity to prevent it”?

    If so, that is obviously nonsense, as the overwhelming majority of mass political violence in history has been perpetrated by military and police forces organized directly by, or with the tacit permission of the state. Did Hitler’s Germany, Mao’s China, or Pinochet’s Chile have the “capacity” to prevent mass political violence?

    So the question really is, at what point will the actors within a state with the greatest capacity for violence (i.e. law enforcement and the military, along with fellow travelers, in the case of the US) break with democratic traditions, and subsequently engage in mass political violence to ensure the rule of their preferred strongman leader.

    Which brings me to “an especially strong predictor is a history of armed conflict.” As someone who has studied the history of the United States, this baffles me a bit. I’d very much like to see how Prof. Koren defines “history of armed conflict” such that the US doesn’t have much of one.

    In any case, I agree that the most likely outcome of this particular election is not going to be quite the outright fascism or some sort of Orwellian neoliberal totalitarianism that dispenses with democratic elections entirely. Though I certainly think one of those is coming soon to a theatee near you.

    And I absolutely agree that the CiViL WaR! and general mass liberal media hysteria is nonsense through and through. But the reasoning in this article certainly reminds me why I chose to run with the historian rather than the quantitative polisci crowd in my undergrad days.

    Reply
  9. Wukchumni

    I think there’s a number of other factors when it comes to violence and our culture. If there was yet another mass murder episode today and a dozen high school kids were gunned down, we’d be like ‘thoughts & prayers’ and nothing more. Our politicians would do nothing and we’d give the shooter his 15 minutes of fame by splashing his name all over the internet, which is what he wanted.

    And then there’s the glorification of violence on tv & the movies, i’ve seen say 10,000 or more fake murders on the screen, the body count just keeps on keeping on, and we’re ok with it, the price of unfettered guns in our country.

    Plus another aspect, all these militia galoots who went out and got armed and dangerous have done nothing more with their weaponry than shoot at paper targets, there’s an expectation of violence on their end, they hunger for the opportunity.

    Reply
  10. William Hunter Duncan

    I was one of those saying the fallout of 2008 would be an ever greater concentration of power and wealth, and ever greater economic despair among the many, leading to all manner of social pathologies. But my wealthier liberal acquaintances were self-assured in their understanding that Obama was the dawning of a new age of Meritocratic glory, while my wealthier conservative acquaintances were too busy rolling around in the largess of QE to notice or care.

    These same people today, so well ensconced in stock market righteousness, are the very ones so very ready to stoke the fear of political violence. Most of the “regular” people I know are too busy trying to figure out how to survive the winter economically to notice much or care at all about this preposterous choice between rich white geriatrics.

    One of the great ironies about all this is, antifa and the boogaloo/proud bois have a lot more in common with each other than they do with my acquaintances who live by rentier monies, or who work for major media, ideologies notwithstanding. America’s elite would be happy to crush the rabble left and right. Perhaps that is the point, to get the rabble to fight, to unleash the State upon both. Which of course would not work out very well for anybody.

    Reply
  11. Ignacio

    France usually has much higher turnouts than the US in general elections. This suggests that the bar for election-associated violence could be higher in France if the turnout somehow reflects confidence in the electoral process and in the public institutions. Besides, the relative importance of public institutions is higher in France, for instance, because some of these provide universal HC coverage. So you cannot possibly extrapolate what occurs in France to the US without any doubt.

    Yet, I agree with the final conclusion though it cannot be ruled out that some isolated circumstances of violence might occur. This is always and everywhere a possibility. An eye should be kept on groups that dislike democracy as this is the best occasion for them to disrupt with the civic process by provoking violence. Whether they will try and/or succeed with provocations in the current atmosphere is above my pay grade. Another question is if some people could decide not to show up for fear and if this could have a noticeable effect on the turnout. The mere existence of this article suggests this as a possibility.

    Reply
    1. Ignacio

      A quik search led me to Gallup polls on confidence in institutions. Regarding the congress, the confidence hit a low by 2014-2015 and thereafter climbed somehow so by this measure the probability of incidents might be lower now than in 2016 elections. Anyway the result is not encouraging with only 13% showing great deal/quite a lot of confidence in 2020.

      May be this measure shows that Biden has better chances than Cinton had in 2016.

      Reply
    2. Yves Smith Post author

      The French, unlike Americans, romanticize political violence. Going to the barricades and all that. Not just Les Mis but other examples like Flaubert’s L’education sentimentale (although his brilliant ending makes clear it was futile).

      Reply
      1. Basil Pesto

        biiig hat tip to Sentimental Education, a great book that I need to reread. The scenes of 1848, even in translation, were astonishing.

        I also like Robbe-Grillet on it in this interview, particularly with reference to Flaubert’s manipulation of time:

        In Flaubert’s novels no revolutionary ideas are propounded, yet his entire work is an appeal to question the world through the cracks in the space/time continuity, and particularly in the continuity of the causal chain. For example, at the end of Sentimental Education, in the last phase of the Revolution of 1848, a member of the National Guard kills Dussardier with his sword, and the text reads: “The guardsman drew a circle in the crowd with his gaze and Frédéric, gaping, recognized Sénécal.” Gaping! Then there is a blank space on the page, and the narrative continues with: “He traveled. He experienced the melancholy of boats, the cold dawns beneath the tent, . . . the bitterness of interrupted friendships.” In that second when Sénécal looks at the crowd, we have ten years of Frédéric’s life in one paragraph: “La mélancholie des paquebots” et cetera. And that is Flaubert’s life. And it happens in the text. It is profoundly moving, and it is precisely what makes Flaubert a revolutionary writer. Lukacs doesn’t see it. I mean he doesn’t see the way it is made.

        Reply
    1. Dan

      Here in the Great White North, Proud Boys and the Jewish Defense League (along with other groups like Three Percenters, Soldiers of Odin, and explicitly Neo-Nazi White Supremacists like Canada’s own Paul Fromm) started supporting one another at public events circa 2017. It was an odd, odd thing to witness a neo-Nazi and a Jewish militant fighting side-by-side against anti-fascists in Toronto when that first happened (see this article, not so much for content, as for photo evidence: https://www.cjnews.com/news/canada/jdl-partners-soldiers-odin-ad-hoc; see here for more on the broader collaborations: https://torontoist.com/2017/07/anti-fascists-disrupt-proud-boys-rally-queens-park/).

      The upcoming wave of neo-fascists and White Nationalists actually tend to admire the state of Israel because of the way in which it has used massive amounts of military violence against civilians in order to maintain itself as an ethnostate. Neo-fascists tend to respect those who are willing to be ruthlessly violent (see the almost countless war crimes committed in Palestine) and those who believe in keeping different races (like Jews and Arabs) separate (Israel also is a big fan of the “build the wall” chant). And, of course, the Israeli state has long worked with White Supremacist allies to target racialized others whom they consider undesirable as citizens or neighbours.

      So, yeah, it’s a strange partnership that causes some cognitive dissidence (“this ain’t your grand-daddies fascism”), and the neo-fascists use this to their advantage to then disavow their fascism.

      Reply
  12. Acacia

    Upon a moment’s reflection, the implicit comparison in this article between Macron vs. Le Pen, and Trump vs. Biden just seems like apples and oranges. Neither Macron nor Le Pen were incumbents. They weren’t cracking jokes about overstaying their term in office as a way to troll their political opponents. The French media and PMC weren’t openly airing their paranoid fantasies that the incumbent François Holland would refuse to vacate without being (pun intended) frog marched out of the Élysée Palace. The French electoral system wasn’t and isn’t dominated by a corrupt, corporate-sponsored duopoly that systematically excludes third party candidates and has them arrested (e.g. Jill Stein) for non-compliance. I could go on, but why bother?

    Reply
    1. Mel

      I’m kind of aghast. I think I’m seeing both sides dragging the Overton Window around to show us violent political breakdown triggered by this next election. I hope I’m not.

      Reply
    2. Biph

      I would also add that Macron won by 30 points, so there wasn’t much to contest. This election will be much closer and even if Biden were to hit his polling numbers and won by 5-8 points nationally there would still be a number of States were the results were close enough that Trump die hards could be easily convinced that “fraud” cost Trump the EC. Similarly if Biden were to win the popular vote but lose the EC the other side would see election chicanery as the cause of defeat.

      Reply
  13. Skip

    I was all over Kenya a couple weeks before the 2007 election, including by the church where people later sheltering from mayhem were locked in and burned to death. Beyond fear of criminal assaults, as in parts of Nairobi, you could cut the tension with a knife, including when passing through highway checkpoints set up throughout the night. But I had no idea what kind of violence would accompany the election. Political chaos is also excellent cover for criminals.

    Beyond Swahili and English, there are scores of languages in Kenya, and over forty tribes of varied ethnic groups, many nursing traditional grievances against others. Some are fodder for politicians manipulating and playing off tensions, strife and tribal politics.

    It’s a hard truth that in the US, a country of 340 million people, even a tiny percentage of nutballs, with easy access to high-powered arms as in few other countries, can cause a lot of tragedy. Consider what one crazy did in Vegas. Or the city-wide fear generated by the DC snipers in 2002. Our gun disease. Which also gives license to police militarization, a double-whammy.

    But even under extreme economic circumstances I don’t see a wide and violent civil conflict likely to unfold in the States. “Tribes” here have too many overlapping interests and connections. Plus, it’s not so easy to hide in America.

    Reply
  14. David

    Sorry, but if the only “research” you’ve done is on the Kenyan elections of 2007, which resulted in violence, and the French elections of 2017 which didn’t, then you have nothing useful to say about the elections in the US in November.
    The Kenyan violence was mostly (though to be fair not entirely) linked to ethnicity, and to the rivalry between Kikuyu and Masai, which dates from (at least) independence . The fact that political parties in many African countries are ethnically-based has been a source of conflict in a number of cases: in the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo it was worse. I fail to see what that has to do with the US.

    The 2017 election in France was not held at a time of crisis. The violence the article refers to, was carried out by islamic jihadists, who murdered nearly 200 people between January and November 2015, or about eighteen months before the election. It had nothing to do with the election, Le Pen, or domestic French politics. There was no particular political crisis around the time of the election. Nobody (including Le Pen) expected her to win, and, from the time Macron squeaked into the second round against her, the only uncertainty was the size of his victory. Macron and the MSM did go berserk, it’s true with warnings about OMG Fascism!Fascism! but that didn’t reflect the mood in the country as a whole, which was one of boredom and resignation, reflected in the lowest turnout in modern times. So not only does the example tell us nothing about the US, it tells us nothing about France either.

    Reply
  15. Tim

    In 2015 I was providing engineering support to a manufacturing facility in a semi rural area, and many of the people that worked there were conservative and I was involved in a discussion where they were mention that people they talked to “all over” whether their neighborhood, or on a vacation trip somewhere, pretty universally think a civil war is coming.

    I thought to myself what would ignite such a thing, and what would it look like, the sticks taking over downtowns across the country?

    Trump has made it abundantly clear what would start the former.

    I’m not claiming that an uprising of armed conservatives at the direction of a president telling them he was cheated in the election would be successful at overthrowing the government , but I am saying the circumstances are a tinderbox, and an uprising doesn’t have to successful to do significant damage, and force significant change.

    It would significantly contribute to the consideration of this election being a constitutional crisis even with those that don’t take up arms.

    I’m nervous enough about it in my personal belief that I strongly prefer a landslide election either way over a preferential winner.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      The leader of the gun pack and his priors…

      Rhodes had joined the military just out of high school, hoping to become a Green Beret, but his career was cut short when he fractured his spine during a parachute training jump. After his discharge, he worked as a firearms instructor and parked cars as a valet. In 1993, he dropped a loaded handgun and it shot him in the face, blinding him in his left eye.

      Reply
  16. MB

    Trump + Barr + Courts = problems. They have thought this through to the very end including the assigning of (complicit, i.e. their side, electors). The biggest determinant, I think, will be the strength of the vote. A zillion semi-automatic weapons is not a good factor. Now, where are my pearls?

    Reply
  17. occasional anonymous

    Here’s my prediction: Trump will lose. After that, one of two things will happen:

    1. He will grumble and be a smartass, as usual, but he will give up power.

    2. He refuses to leave. Part of me hopes this happens, because I would find the spectacle of Capitol Police arresting him for trespassing hilarious.

    Because that’s about all that will happen. There will be no coup or similar disruption. Power will be transferred more or less without upset.

    Now, in either of the above scenarios I fully expect that, with or without an explicit instruction from Trump, that a bunch of the particularly stupid MAGA hat types will take to the streets and cause trouble (I also expect a lot of these same people have been complaining for months about ‘roving bands of antifa terrorists burning down our cities’. I don’t expect they’ll see any irony). These will amount to nothing more than some local damage and lots of cringey videos.

    Every Liberal who has been screeching about fascism will look like an idiot.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *