American politics — as some dissident Republicans and state election officials will tell you — is already conducted in the shadow of violence. The threat of violence was always a subtext of Trumpism, usually involving the encouragement of assault against hostile protesters or the refusal to clearly repudiate brutality by Trump supporters. This could sometimes be dismissed as barroom bravado. But we entered a new phase when former president Donald Trump explicitly sided with the political violence of Jan. 6 and declared that our current government is illegitimate. The baseless claim of electoral fraud , in particular, has acted as an accelerant to anger. Trump consistently claims that something — power, respect or social dominance — has been stolen from his supporters and that only “strength” will reclaim it. The consequences of failure, Trump declares, would be apocalyptic: the loss of America itself. “If you don’t fight like hell,” he said before the events of Jan. 6 , “you’re not going to have a country anymore.” This is the cultivation of desperation. It is little wonder that about two-fifths of Republicans (in a poll this year ) expressed an openness to political violence under certain circumstances. People in this group are not being stigmatized. They have the effective endorsement of a former president and likely GOP presidential nominee in 2024. This line of argument is dangerously congruent with one view of the Second Amendment on the right that long preceded Trump — a belief that the ownership of guns […]
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