“I’m fearful of violence in a way that I was not in 2000”

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by Neil Godfrey

First, there was this call to Trump from Roger Stone:

Roger Stone (In November 2019 he was convicted of witness tampering and lying to investigators in order to shield Trump from the fallout of the Russia-hacked emails. On February 20, 2020, he was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison. After asking Trump for a pardon so he could help him be re-elected in 2020 Trump commuted his sentence July 10, 2020.) – Financial Times photo

During his September 10 appearance on The Alex Jones Show, [Roger] Stone declared that the only legitimate outcome to the 2020 election would be a Trump victory. He made this assertion on the basis of his entirely unfounded claim that early voting has been marred by widespread voter fraud.

Stone argued that “the ballots in Nevada on election night should be seized by federal marshalls and taken from the state” because “they are completely corrupted” and falsely said that “we can prove voter fraud in the absentees right now.” He specifically called for Trump to have absentee ballots seized in Clark County, Nevada, an area that leans Democratic. Stone went on to claim that “the votes from Nevada should not be counted; they are already flooded with illegals” and baselessly suggested that former Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) should be arrested and that Trump should consider nationalizing Nevada’s state police force.

Beyond Nevada, Stone recommended that Trump consider several actions to retain his power. Stone recommended that Trump appoint former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) as a special counsel “with the specific task of forming an Election Day operation using the FBI, federal marshals, and Republican state officials across the country to be prepared to file legal objections and if necessary to physically stand in the way of criminal activity.”

Stone also urged Trump to consider declaring “martial law” or invoking the Insurrection Act and then using his powers to arrest Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, “the Clintons” and “anybody else who can be proven to be involved in illegal activity.

Johnson, Timothy. 2020. “Roger Stone Calls for Trump to Seize Total Power If He Loses the Election.” Media Matters for America. September 9, 2020.

Two days later Trump appeared to respond to Stone’s call:

Jeanine Pirro: (09:05)
What are you going to do … Let’s say there are threats, they say that they’re going to threaten riots if they lose on Election Night, assuming we get a winner on Election Night. What are you going to do?

Donald Trump: (09:17)
We’ll put them down very quickly if they do that.

Jeanine Pirro: (09:18)
How are you going to do that?

Donald Trump: (09:19)
We have the right to do that, we have the power to do that if we want. Look, it’s called insurrection. We just send them in and we do it very easy. I mean it’s very easy. I’d rather not do that because there’s no reason for it but if we had to we’d do that and put it down within minutes, within minutes. Minneapolis, they were having problems. We sent in the National Guard within a half an hour. That was the end of the problem. It all went away.

Donald Trump Judge Jeanine Pirro Interview Transcript September 12.” 2020. Rev (blog). September 12, 2020.

Stone, further, in his call to Trump on The Alex Jones Show:

[Stone] also said: “The ballots in Nevada on election night should be seized by federal marshals and taken from the state. They are completely corrupted. No votes should be counted from the state of Nevada if that turns out to be the provable case. Send federal marshals to the Clark county board of elections, Mr President!

Trump again responded:

Nevada has not gone to a Republican since 2004 but is shaping up to be a crucial contest this year. Biden leads there, but polls have tightened. On Saturday, after a planned rally in Reno was cancelled because of coronavirus restrictions, Trump staged an event which disregarded such strictures in Minden. His rhetoric was not far removed from that of the man [Roger Stone] he spared prison.

Attacking the Democratic Nevada governor, Steve Sisolak, Trump said: “This is the guy we are entrusting with millions of ballots, unsolicited ballots, and we’re supposed to win these states. Who the hell is going to trust him? The only way the Democrats can win the election is if they rig it.”

Stone said: “Governor Sisolak is a punk. He should not face down the president of the United States.”

On Sunday, on ABC’s This Week, senior Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller also attacked moves to facilitate voting by mail in Nevada. He also called Sisolak a “clubhouse governor … who, by the way, if you go against him politically … politically speaking, you’ll find yourself buried in the desert”.

Stone knows what Trump should do:

Trump and his campaign have also consistently claimed without evidence that “antifa”, or anti-fascist, activists represent a deadly threat to suburban voters that will be unleashed should Biden win. Commenting on a Daily Beast report about leftwing activist groups planning what to do “if the election ends without a clear outcome or with a Biden win that Trump refuses to recognise”, Stone told Jones the website should be shut down.

“If the Daily Beast is involved in provably seditious and illegal activities,” he said, “their entire staff can be taken into custody and their office can be shut down. They wanna play war, this is war.”

Stone also advocated “forming an election day operation using the FBI, federal marshals and Republican state officials across the country to be prepared to file legal objections [to results] and if necessary to physically stand in the way of criminal activity”.

Pengelly, Martin. 2020. “Roger Stone to Donald Trump: Bring in Martial Law If You Lose Election.” The Guardian. September 14, 2020.

Stone has done it before, “small scale” then…

Stone is no stranger to interfering in elections. He was reportedly an organizer of the so-called “Brooks Brothers riot” during the 2000 presidential election that led to vote counting being suspended in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

Johnson, Timothy. 2020. “Roger Stone Calls for Trump to Seize Total Power If He Loses the Election.” Media Matters for America. September 9, 2020.

The Brooks Brothers Riot

In late November 2000, hundreds of mostly middle-aged male protesters, dressed in off-the-peg suits and cautious ties, descended on the Miami-Dade polling headquarters in Florida. Shouting, jostling, and punching, they demanded that a recount of ballots for the presidential election be stopped.

The protesters, many of whom were paid Republican operatives, succeeded. A recount of ballots in Florida was abandoned. What became known as the Brooks Brothers riot went down in infamy, and George W Bush became president after a supreme court decision.

In 2020, fears are growing that the US could see an unwanted sequel to the Brooks Brothers debacle –but with more violent participants.

Protesters shout outside the Miami-Dade County election office Nov. 22, 2000. (Colin Braley/Reuters) — From ‘It’s insanity!’: How the ‘Brooks Brothers Riot’ killed the 2000 recount in Miami: Washington Post Nov 15, 2018. — “These were brownshirt tactics,” the Miami-Dade Democratic chairman, Joe Geller, told Time magazine in the days following the riot. — The Guardian 24 Sep 2020

After a year in which armed Donald Trump supporters have besieged state houses across the country and shot and killed Black Lives Matter protesters –and in which Trump has said he will only lose if the election is rigged –a 2020 reboot of the Brooks Brothers stunt could be dangerous.

Joseph Lowndes

Everything is far more amplified or exaggerated than it was 20 years ago,” said Joe Lowndes, professor of political science at the University of Oregon and co-author of Producers, Parasites, Patriots, a book about the changing role of race in rightwing politics.

“In terms of party polarizations, in terms of the Republican shift to the far right and in terms of the Republican party’s open relationship with and courting of far-right groups. This puts us on entirely different grounds.”

Trump supporters have been fed a “steady diet” of misinformation that the election is likely to be stolen by Democrats, Lowndes said. Trump has encouraged supporters to go to voting places to act as “poll watchers”, and on Sunday a group of Trump supporters intimidated early voters at a polling location in Fairfax, Virginia.

“You’ve got thousands of armed vigilantes on the streets this summer, first around these reopen demands protests clamoring for coronavirus lockdown restrictions to be lifted] at state capitols.”

Gabbatt, Adam. 2020. “Two Decades after the ‘Brooks Brothers Riot’, Experts Fear Graver Election Threats.” The Guardian, September 24, 2020.

Hope or Fear?

“As a political scientist, I am sounding the alarm that America’s political institutions are at their weakest point that I have ever seen or read about in my life,” he said.

“In the backdrop of not having the protections of the Voting Rights Act, it is highly conceivable that armed militias show up at polling stations in an effort to eliminate voting.”

Sylvia Abert

Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections at Common Cause, an elections watchdog group, said she believes disruption of the voting process is unlikely, but she shared the concerns of others that the counting process could be at risk.

“There are strong laws on voter intimidation,” said Albert. “Counting comes into regular laws around disturbing the police or being in a group; there’s nothing specific on that issue. That’s not to say laws don’t cover it, they do –various laws cover being a nuisance but how that’s interpreted in the situation is going to vary by location.”

Albert stressed that she did not believe it was probable there would be altercations at vote-counting sites, but she said: “I’m fearful of violence in a way that I was not in 2000.”

“We have seen that the rhetoric on the right, both from the president and Republican lawmakers, has encouraged people to take up arms. And whether directly or indirectly, encouraged violence. And that was not happening from George Bush.”

Gabbatt, Adam. 2020. “Two Decades after the ‘Brooks Brothers Riot’, Experts Fear Graver Election Threats.” The Guardian, September 24, 2020.

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Neil Godfrey

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10 thoughts on ““I’m fearful of violence in a way that I was not in 2000””

  1. Thanks for providing these transcripts.

    I wish I could feel as optimistic as Ms. Albert.

    Trump has been telegraphing to his base that he wants them out in force to intimidate voters. He hasn’t even seriously attempted to disguise the rhetoric calling for his people to get out there and look for corruption at the polling stations.

    He endorses the violent intimidation and sees groups like the Proud Boys as his own personal militia: “Stand by!” says Commander Trump.

    I fear that the US is on the brink of a civil war. In the event that the election is anything less than a landslide for Biden, Trump will likely use the excuse of electoral corruption to hang onto power. Unless Trump’s GOP enablers suddenly get some scruples, Trump will attempt a coup d’état with the support of his Supreme Court toadies. I don’t see how this can end well…

    I fear that this may well be the end of the great American experiment.

    I hope I’m wrong.

    1. Everything I have read (by family and close colleagues and prize-winning journalists who have spent much time with him) about Trump makes it very difficult to imagine him even accepting a landslide in favour of Biden. All the more reason, I can hear him saying, to believe the election was rigged.

      (Cohen in Disloyal writes that he believes Trump knows he faces fail if he loses and leaves the office and that that is one more powerful motive for him to cling on to power no matter what.)

    2. My recollection of the Federalist Papers from my undergrad days tells me that the Constitutional structure was designed for a pre-industrial society and to encourage compromise among representatives as distinct from parliamentary team contests. On the pre-industrial context, I’m thinking of the expectation that electoral college reps would be removed from the pressure of mass public opinion and decide on a president in a calm, reflective environment in which rationality and best national interests would be the sole considerations. Of course, mass media and communications have rendered that setting impossible today.

      An interesting book addressing these and other problems:

      Mann, Thomas E., and Norman J. Ornstein. It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism. Revised, Expanded ed. edition. New York: Basic Books, (2012) 2016.

      Mann and Ornstein compare the U.S. system with parliamentary democracies and offer suggestions for modifying the U.S. constitution in order to accommodate the new pressures of polarization — in effect, of party politics. The days of Republicans and Democrats civilly working out compromises together have become a mere memory, it seems, today.

  2. So, if we’re to take Trump seriously, there is no honest way for a Democrat to win this election. That would be taking into consideration how disaffected a majority of the American people are toward liberalism.

    It seems to me that if we’re to take progressives seriously, there is no honest way for a black person to win any American presidential election. That would be taking into consideration how deeply racist this nation is.

    I don’t take Trump seriously. His incompetence knows few bounds, but he is a consummately skillful salesman.

    1. Few “progressives” could deny the major progress that has been made since the 1960s for so many of their causes. Historically, sweeping social changes tend to provoke reactionary backlashes among those diehards who feel most threatened, and we are seeing that pattern play out once more in the U.S. The fact that a black was able to win the presidential election sparked an unprecedented hostile, racist reaction among so many — including Trump himself, of course.

      THE ELECTION OF 2008 was a cataclysm for Trump, as he watched a young African American senator from Illinois defeat first Hillary Clinton and then John McCain. Barack Obama’s victory in many ways was the defining event of Donald Trump’s rise. There were really no words to describe Trump’s hatred and contempt for Barack Hussein Obama—always all three names and always with a disdainful emphasis on the middle. This was when I started to witness the increasingly reactionary and unhinged Archie Bunker racism that defined Trump and his views on modern America. He was friendly with many African American people, pretty much exclusively of the celebrity variety—of course, Trump really had no friends, only interests and desires and ambitions—and he wasn’t so stupid as to use the N-word, at least not in my presence. Mike Tyson, Don King, Oprah—those were the black folks he admired and embraced. Rich, famous, part of the peer group he inhabited. But, as a rule, Trump expressed low opinions of all black folks, from music to culture and politics. Africa was a hell-hole, he believed, and Nelson Mandela, to use but one example, was an object of contempt for Trump.

      “Tell me one country run by a black person that isn’t a shithole,” he would challenge me as he cursed out the stupidity of Obama. “They are all complete fucking toilets.”

      . . . .

      Watching Obama’s Inauguration in 2008 with Trump, with the massive, adoring, joyful crowd on the Mall, incensed the Boss in a way I’d never seen before — he was literally losing his mind watching a handsome and self-evidently brilliant young black man take over, not only as Commander in Chief, but also as a moral world leader and guiding light. It was just too much for Trump. I thought I’d seen the worst of Trump then, but when Obama won the Nobel Prize, Trump went ballistic, as if the universe were playing some kind of trick on him to drive him out of his mind. It was almost like he was hearing voices, the way he ranted and raved about the idiotic Obama and how he was beloved by so many Americans. Trump mocked the way Obama talked, walked, even appeared, as if acting presidential was just that: an act. The shtick you see him pull at his rallies, when he mocks the idea of being “presidential” and says how easy it is to pretend to be a serious leader, walking like a robot and marching around like a fool and a phony, was first performed for yours truly in Trump’s office while I sat quietly listening to him go on and on and on about Obama and caricature his mannerisms. We even hired a Faux-Bama, or fake Obama, to record a video where Trump ritualistically belittled the first black president and then fired him, a kind of fantasy fulfillment that it was hard to imagine any adult would spend serious money living out — until he did the functional equivalent in the real world.

      Trump didn’t despise Obama. It was much, much stronger than that. I figured that Obama was the only person on the planet whom Trump actually envied — truly, madly, deeply. Air Force One, walking the carpet to deliver the State of the Union, the way Angela Merkel and other world leaders obviously admired and listened to Obama — it drove Trump out of his mind. Then came The Speech: Obama was invited to address the German nation in front of the Brandenburg Gate, in the same place as John F. Kennedy in the early ’60s, one of the indelible images of American history in the twentieth century. Trump went from incandescent to sputtering, spittleflecked fury as he watched Obama talk about freedom and ridding the world of nuclear weapons and turning back the rising seas by fighting global warming.

      “You’ve got to admit he’s a great orator,” I said.

      “Fuck him,” Trump yelled at me, Obama on the screen before him calmly addressing untold millions of Germans thrilled to have a world leader ushering in the prospect of a twenty-first century where diversity and tolerance and peace and responsibility would become global aspirations, and maybe even realities.

      “He’s obviously very smart,” I said, knowing I was egging Trump on, but also honestly impressed by Obama’s speech and demeanor.

      “Obama is a fucking phony,” Trump screamed. “He’s a Manchurian Candidate. He’s not even fucking American. The only reason he got into fucking Harvard Law School and Columbia was fucking affirmative action. He could never get into those schools on his fucking grades. Fuck him.”

      * * *

      HERE IS THE true story behind Trump’s first serious attempt to run for president and avenge the cosmic injustice that Barack Obama represented to him. . . . .

      From Cohn’s Disloyal

      1. In the progressive rhetoric I have seen, I agree that I rarely see any denial of the progress that has been made during my lifetime. What I see instead is any mention of the progress offered as proof of the mentioner’s own racism, or commitment to alt-right nationalism, or something of that sort. We who lean right cannot say there has been progress without being accused of wishing it hadn’t happened.

        Yes, any change provokes backlashes. It always happens. And it happens whether the change is good or bad. There was plenty of backlash against Hitler until he managed to suppress it with some serious violence. Human nature does not like change of any kind. When the change is good, though, human nature tends to get used to it and, in due course, to treat it as the new normal. When the resistance persists or becomes more intense, then the agents of change are obliged to start asking themselves some hard questions about the methods they employed to make the change happen. Hitler couldn’t do that because he was so convinced of his own infallibility. In his mind, anyone who disagreed with him was just foolish or evil, and in either case they had to be gotten rid of.

        I cannot believe that Obama’s election made anybody a racist who wasn’t already a racist. What I believe has happened, because I think I have seen it happen, is an eagerness within certain ideological circles to see racism where it does not really exist. Sort of like certain conservatives used to see Communism in places where there wasn’t any.

        1. What I believe has happened, because I think I have seen it happen, is an eagerness within certain ideological circles to see racism where it does not really exist.

          This is a common response from “the right” to accusations of racism today. How do you explain it — how do you explain accusations that are apparently baseless?

          1. I don’t try to explain all baseless accusations.
            The claim that some accusations of racism are baseless is not a blanket denial of racism. I neither say nor believe that there are no racists in America. I do say that many people currently accused of racism are not racists.
            In those instances where I believe that particular accusation to be baseless, I explain it in general (not necessarily in every particular case) the same way I explain the accusation by Christian apologists that atheism is motivated by a desire to violate God’s commandments: It’s a mistaken notion arising from faulty reasoning.

  3. Don’t forget Governor Christie shutting down the bridge and killing people! All because a little town in Jersey didn’t like him.
    Oh yes, and Clinton purposely turning his back on the 800,000 Tutsies who were slaughtered as he sat back and did zippo. Neil likes to delete any reference to radical left-wing corruption. He pretends it doesn’t exist. Brave soul that Neil.

    1. It’s not only the USA that seems threatened. Today’s Haaretz.com article (remember to click on the web page’s Print button to read the full text if you are not a subscriber to Haaretz):

      Curbing protests, Israel takes another step toward civil war

      Netanyahu’s supporters called demonstrators monsters, and the Knesset gave them a seal of approval. It is a shocking failure of the government, at the lowest point of Israel’s democracy.

      . . . . .

      And what’s happening in Israel? Amid a terrible crisis affecting things such as physical and mental health, the economy and community, amid an unending political whirlwind whose instigator is trying by any means possible to cancel his criminal trial, Israel is moving by leaps and bounds toward civil war.

      On one side of the divide is Alin Shahar, and on the other stand Netanyahu’s opponents. The legislation that the Knesset approved on Wednesday merely pours more fuel on this fire.

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