by Andy Schmookler
This piece will be appearing this weekend as a newspaper op/ed in the NORTHERN VIRGINIA DAILY in my very red congressional district (VA-06) under the title, “Political Lawlessness and the Wider Community.”
As the election approaches, I’m thinking: there those who are lawless in their politics, and then there is the political community of which those lawless people consider themselves the heroes.
About the people who have repeatedly vandalized my Biden signs where I live in Shenandoah County, for example: do they believe their Trump-supporting community likes what they did?
I hope I’m wrong in believing – based on all I’ve seen – that they did. But I hope Trump World would convey to their members: “We don’t want our people committing crimes for our cause.”
More recently there was a driver of a big Mack truck who — after glaring hostilely at my wife, as she stood by the side of the road in Woodstock (Virginia), expressing her support for Trump’s challenger — let loose a dense cloud of black smoke that enveloped her and shocked her like a body blow.
Does that truck drive ever hear, in his conversations with his political community, that that it would be wrong to do something like that to someone participating appropriately in the American democratic process?
(And I know for a fact: a number of liberals in the Shenandoah Valley feel endangered by some of their Trump-supporting neighbors.)
Going even further in the direction of violence, we’ve got that plot in Michigan—that gang of right-wing militiamen who have been arrested for conspiring to kidnap and possibly murder Michigan’s Governor (Gretchen Whitmer).
(These terrorists were reportedly also planning to attack Virginia’s Governor, Ralph Northam.)
Had those terror-plotters hear anything from their political community about importance of protecting and defending the Constitution? (They had felt encouraged by President Trump months ago when he put out the call to “Liberate Michigan.”)
Had their community conveyed to them that, in America, we’re supposed to fight our political battles as our founders laid out—in accordance with the Constitution?
(And then there’s that Michigan county sheriff to whom I’d say: “No, just because you think the Governor’s public health measures are unconstitutional, that doesn’t mean it would be OK for a self-appointed ‘militia’ to take it upon themselves to take the Governor hostage. That’s just plain lawlessness.”)
This issue arises with growing urgency at America’s present political moment.
For as Election Day draws near, two things look very likely:
- that the majority of the American people will choose to take the powers of the presidency away from Donald Trump; And
- that Donald Trump will refuse to accept defeat, and will call on his supporters to do everything they can – including lawlessness — to block the proper transfer of power.
(This is the President — seeming willing to do anything to keep himself in power — who shockingly told a potentially violent right-wing, White Supremacist group (with 70 million Americans watching) to “Stand By,” in a clear suggestion he might want them to attack the Election process.)
So how will the people in Trump World respond to Trump’s invitation to lawlessness?
What we’ve already seen from the Trump-supporting community gives us reasons to worry– worry that they might give the political terrorists among them tacit permission to act lawlessly and replace election with war.
It is worrisome that, we’ve heard no complaint from Trump’s supporters, while he has been openly cheating. (The sabotaging of the Postal Service is only one of the more obvious ways that Trump has brazenly cheated in his comprehensive effort to disenfranchise voters who support his opponent.)
But while this acceptance of Trump’s cheating – this “whatever the leader says or does” character of Trump’s support — gives us reason to fear how they’d respond, one can also hope—hope that the people in Trump World will become again the Conservative World.
Nothing has been more fundamental to the American conservative creed than that the Constitution is to be protected and defended. And there’s nothing more fundamental to the Constitution than that — in America – it is only through the constitutionally mandated election process that the powers of the state will be granted.
The Constitution is founded on a sacred mutual agreement we Americans have entered into: that all of us are obliged to accept defeat when that’s what the will of the people deals us.
And historically, it has been a matter of honor among conservatives to play by the rules and accept the results.
If the likely scenario unfolds—i.e. 1) Trump loses (perhaps by a landslide) and 2) Trump then calls out to his supporters to resist in every way (not excluding things like those terrorists were planning in Michigan) – the world of Trump supporters would then have to choose whether to side with “playing by the rules” or with political lawlessness.
Here’s what I think the Soul of America would say to the people in Trump world:
“Don’t blow on the embers. Douse the fire. Keep our great American house standing.
“An American patriot should think of the choice between the Constitution and political lawlessness as the choice between good and evil.”