Many Americans are afraid of what the U.S. would look like if Donald Trump won November’s election. Would President Trump really ban Muslims — including American citizens — from crossing the border? Would Mexican immigrants have even more to worry about than they do now? Would he usher in an era of American fascism?
But in a nation in which Donald Trump has a huge number of riled-up, racist supporters, the question not enough people are seriously considering is: What happens if Trump loses?
Some presume that a defeated Trump would slink away to ponder a new method for attracting attention, while his loyal supporters would return to their homes, jobs and pre-Trump lives, begrudgingly accepting the start of the Sanders or Clinton administration. But I’m not so sure. While we have witnessed many divisive campaigns and candidates before, we’ve never seen such a volatile, socially regressive political crusade as Trump’s in modern American politics. If he loses, don’t bet that all his angry, hate-filled, xenophobic supporters will go gently into that good night.
Trump’s base is so damn scary because it’s not so much made up of people with shared policy ideas — it’s more of a battalion filled with angry, mostly white folks who’ve been hungry for emancipation from the supposed scourges of political correctness and diversity. The reason Trump’s campaign events sell out, sometimes overwhelming entire towns, while his Republican opponents fail to attract similar audiences (like Rubio’s embarrassing, near-empty rally in his home state of Florida) is because Trump and his campaign rallies offer attendees something no other candidate does, to quite the same extent: an unfettered taste of good ol’ fashioned bigotry.
A Trump campaign event is less a political rally than a time machine to an era many conservative Americans ardently long for. Stadiums act as asylums for those aching to call Mexicans rapists and “A-rabs” terrorists with an ease their parents and grandparents might have gotten away with. And now that Trump is advocating violence against protesters, especially those of color, rally attendees can enact the same type of violence we’re more accustomed to seeing in grainy black-and-white films from the Sixties Civil Rights movement. The ability to say whatever the hell you want, violently lay hands on whoever disagrees with you, and publicly castigate those who are different from you are the unofficial selling points of a Trump rally, something no other GOP candidate can offer.
And Trump’s supporters hope this environment is indicative of President Trump’s America — it’s an ideal the Trump rebels are literally fighting for.
After Trump announced his candidacy last June, in a speech calling Mexicans rapists and drug dealers, Trump supporters Scott and Steve Leader were leaving a Boston Red Sox game. They noticed a homeless brown man sleeping near a train station. Deciding that he must be one of the undocumented immigrants Donald Trump had bemoaned in his speech, they proceeded to beat him with a metal pole and then urinate on him.
When informed of the incident, Trump said, “I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country, they want this country to be great again.”
In the months since that incident, Trump has continued to incite violence against the “other.” It’s no surprise, then, that we’ve recently seen white nationalists like Matthew Heimbach show up to Trump rallies to violently shove non-violent black men and women around; that we’ve seen peacefully protesting Muslim women like Rose Hamid ejected from his events; that we’ve seen young men kicked out of arenas for no apparent reason other than being black; that we’ve seen women like Breitbart‘s Michelle Fields allegedly assaulted at Trump events; or that we’ve seen a Trump supporter like 74-year old John Franklin McGraw punch a restrained protester in the face, saying, “The next time we see him we might have to kill him.”
And all the while, Trump enthusiastically eggs his minions on, saying things like, “Knock the crap out of them, would you?” and “In the good ol’ days, they’d have knocked him out of his seat so fast.” He even recently said that he’d look into paying John Franklin McGraw’s legal fees.
Trump is giving all these hateful people a voice. He’s done damage to the country that cannot be undone by merely losing this election. People this committed to violence, disorder and authoritarian rule will not simply accept defeat and four-to-eight more years of living under “politically correct” Democratic rule.
After Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, America witnessed a sharp increase in coded racial hostility that resulted in the rise of right-wing, predominantly white militias and even the ridiculous “birther” movement — famously endorsed by Donald Trump. If Trump loses the general election, we could see his supporters fracture from American society in an overtly violent manner. We could see anti-government militia groups continue to grow at an explosive rate, bringing vigilante justice with them, and for brown, Spanish-speaking and non-Christian people in America to face greater threats of violence. Domestic terrorism and mass shootings could become likelier, especially against minorities and groups Trump’s supporters disagree with. And this white-supremacist voting bloc might find voice with other candidates down the line, at the national or local level.
Perhaps these are worst-case scenarios, but based on what we’ve seen happen in the Trump campaign so far, it’s clear these fears are not unfounded. If anything, we may soon find out that Trump’s supporters are even more serious than we yet understand.
Watch anti-Trump protesters and Trump supporters clash at a Chicago Trump rally.