Trump urging his supporters to “watch the polls” should terrify all of us.
During tonight’s presidential debate, Trump was asked once again whether he would honor the results of the election, regardless of whether voters granted him another term in office. He juggled a stilted response to this question before defaulting to his unproven belief that the 2020 elections will be riddled with fraud. But it’s what he said next that should terrify every American. He urged his supporters to get out and “watch the polls,” calling on his heavily militarized fanbase to supervise the schools, community centers, and gymnasiums where Americans vote. At face value, Trump’s call to action may not seem particularly dangerous. It was indirect, unspecific, and buried in the midst of a debate that most people didn’t watch. But Trump is simply planting the seed for the future battle cry of a President who is losing his reelection bid badly. It won’t be long before Trump takes to Twitter and urges his supporters to conduct a civilian defense of polling places, a request that shall certainly excite his authoritarian-minded supporters. At best, this could cause rioting and protests across the nation on election day; at worst, America could plummet into a national bout of conflict and a contested election that could be the final straw in America’s democratic backsliding of the past four years.
In a debate where Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” he characterized the neo-nazi militia as a personal defense force of sorts, ready to protect him from the mere possibility that he loses the election. It only seems inevitable that it won’t be long before he calls on his supporters to militarize the polls.