For months, the media has warned us that a narrow Joe Biden victory in the presidential election could lead to civil war. President Donald Trump would refuse to accept the result and his supporters would resort to violence. Well, the first part seems right; Trump is clinging on to the bitterest of ends. The second part, however, is wrong — so far, at least.
There have been no outbreaks of Trumpist violence. The Proud Boys are not marauding the suburbs and ‘pivot counties’ with AR-15s. Buildings are not being set on fire. Yes, there have been entirely (not just ‘largely’) peaceful protests.
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a ’Stop the Steal’ rally was held to demand an ‘audit’ of the vote. ‘We’re not asking for much,’ Rep. Scott Perry told the crowd. ‘We want the ballots and the votes that are counted to be legal, to be valid. We want to have a postmark on them either on or before election, not after Election Day.’
Sour grapes? Possibly. Yet what’s most remarkable is not that Trump’s voters are complaining — any group of people who lost an election so late would be entitled to feel aggrieved. It’s that there are absolutely no signs of civil unrest among Trump supporters. As Donald Trump Jr put it on Twitter: ‘70 million pissed off Republicans and not one city burned to the ground.’ Little Donald has a point. Deplorables don’t riot.
So if you are a Biden voter who thinks Trump and his fans should stop sulking, try to put yourself in their position. Imagine if this election, billed by both sides as the most important democratic contest in history, had played out the other way, as it so nearly did. Let’s say that all the early Joe Biden votes had been counted first, in every state, and by late Tuesday a Biden win seemed inevitable. Then, and only then, a huge red wave started to break across the election map. MSNBC, say, declared Arizona for Trump, even as the networks refused to call the states in which Biden was miles ahead. Key battleground states were inexplicably slow in tallying their results. Senior Democrats started panicking and claiming they had in fact won the election, but Twitter censored their claims as part of what it called its ‘security efforts’. Two days of uncertainty and confusion followed, and then on Saturday the networks eventually declared that Donald Trump had been reelected.
It’s possible, even probable, that Joe Biden would have shown more grace than Donald Trump has exhibited. We’ll never know. But we do know what was expected to happen in the cities. We know that shops in streets across urban America were boarded up in the run up to November 3. That wasn’t for fear of Trump fans. There just aren’t enough Trump supporters to cause unrest in the cities, even if they wanted to. But the real reason we aren’t seeing MAGA hordes threatening anarchy is because Trump enthusiasts are the not the mirror extreme of the antifa vandals who terrorized cities this year. On the whole, Trumpists love their country and believe in law and order. They have lots of guns. They don’t tend to fire them at humans.
We don’t have to guess how the Democratic media, which is now calling on Republicans everywhere to grow up and take the loss on their chins, would have reacted had their side narrowly lost. We already know from 2016. They really did spend four years trying to undo Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton. In some Democratic quarters, there might have been a numb acceptance that the people had spoken. In others, the revolutionary chants would be breaking out. Fanned by the widespread media notion that America had succumbed to fascism, riots would now be rife. As it is, we see no such scenes. Trump and his fans may never accept the result of this election. But, so far, they have not resorted to unDemocratic tactics. Rather than berating the Trumpists for their inability to accept defeat, perhaps Democrats should reflect more deeply on how they might have behaved if November 3 had turned out slightly differently.