In these final weeks before the general election — in a presidential race that has been a coming-out party for white nationalists who hope to take their country back and “make America great again” — the Republicans are relying on a time-honored tactic of racial intimidation and terrorism against Black people.
Donald Trump, his supporters and his surrogates are invoking the specter of “voter fraud” by Black people, and the notion that Hillary Clinton and her minions have rigged the election in her favor. What the Trump camp is advocating is a race war.
For those who were paying attention, at a rally held by Trump running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence last Tuesday in Iowa, a woman told the vice presidential candidate she was ready for a revolution, and “our kids’ futures depend on this election” as NBC News reported.
“I will tell you just for me — and I don’t want this to happen — but I will tell you for me, personally, if Hillary Clinton gets in … I’m ready for a revolution because we can’t have her in,” the woman, who identified herself as Rhonda, said.
Pence responded by saying: “Yeah, you don’t want — don’t say that,” adding, “There’s a revolution coming on November the 8th. I promise you.”
Nevertheless, the people in the Trump camp are getting their lines together, and raising the specter of voter fraud and the need to enact strict voter ID measures and other suppression tactics in order to counter it.
On the campaign trial and on social media, Trump himself has made the case that global elites have rigged the electoral system in Democrats’ favor and against the Republicans.
The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary – but also at many polling places – SAD
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2016
On Sunday, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” that Democrats could steal the election by allowing dead people to vote in Black neighborhoods.
“You want me to (say) that I think the election in Philadelphia and Chicago is going to be fair? I would have to be a moron to say that,” Giuliani said. “Dead people generally vote for Democrats,” he added.
— CNN (@CNN) October 16, 2016
Even as Pence says he will “absolutely accept the result of the election,” the Indiana governor faces allegations that he is suppressing the Black vote in his state. Earlier this month, the Indiana State Police raided the offices of the Indiana Voter Registration Project (IVRP), the largest voter registration operation in the state, as part of a state investigation into voter fraud, as Fusion reported. Political advocacy group Patriot Majority USA, which sponsors IVRP, has released radio ads claiming Pence is “leading an attack” against his “own citizens.”
Craig Varoga, director of Patriot Majority USA, told the Washington Post that 45,000 people, mostly Black, could lose their vote on election day. According to Fusion, after the state police raid, the state police investigation into voter fraud has been expanded from nine to 56 of the counties in Indiana.
“In the state of Indiana, we have a pretty vigorous investigation into voter fraud going on right now. And I encourage you here in Iowa, let’s be sure that our state officials are upholding the principle of ‘one person, one vote’ and the best antidote to that is to be involved in the election process. If you are concerned about voter integrity and you haven’t signed up to be a poll watcher, to volunteer at a polling place to be a part of the integrity of that process, then you need to do it.”
Meanwhile, the Trump campaign has promised to install poll watchers in states such as Pennsylvania, and wants his supporters to monitor the voting activities of communities of color. And according to Vox, Trump has urged his supporters to intimidate nonwhite voters on election day, telling them it is their duty to go en masse to “some other place” and make sure there is no voter fraud — a form of racial profiling, if you will.
The potential for racial intimidation and violence is clear, and Trump supporters are heeding the call. For example, on Thursday in Fluvanna County, Virginia, an armed man and Trump supporter stood outside Democratic U.S. House candidate Jane Dittmar’s office for 12 hours with his firearm exposed, according to The Hill. Daniel Parks said he was protesting against Clinton’s campaign.
“I’m just trying to provide a voice for someone who might be a closet supporter of Trump. Other people who are a little worried to speak out because of possible persecution,” said Parks. “We’re not a threat to anybody; the only threat is ignorance, and ignorance breeds fear,” he added. Parks was joined by a second protester.
As alarming as these recent developments are, these incidents are nothing new in American politics. As Jamelle Bouie wrote in Slate, Trump’s attempt to undermine confidence in the electoral process by conjuring up images of Black voter fraud is part of a long history of whites employing violence in order to suppress the Black vote. And although Republicans made claims of voter fraud in 2008 and questioned the legitimacy of the Obama presidency, these tactics have been around as long as Black people had the right to vote.
Bouie made the point that on the eve of election day in 1868 and 1872, for example, the Ku Klux Klan and white vigilantes intimidated Black voters and assassinated Black lawmakers in Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas and South Carolina — in some cases opening fire on crowds of Black people and killing and injuring thousands. This took place in the North as well as the South under Jim Crow by Democrats.
And in the early 1960s, Republicans such as then-future Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist participated in “Operation Eagle Eye,” a Republican effort in Phoenix to challenge the eligibility of Black and Latino Democratic voters at the polls under the guide of “ballot security operations.”
“If we are living in the midst of another white backlash — and Trump’s ethno-nationalist campaign for the White House suggests that we are — then it’s only fitting that we’ve seen a new push against full access at the ballot box, spearheaded by a political party enthralled to a recalcitrant movement of white revanchists,” Bouie wrote. “Likewise, it’s fitting that its symbol and head, Trump, is now channeling a sesqui-century of racial reaction.”
Bouie suggests, however, that the difference between today and years ago is that white reactionaries such as Trump are losing, that they are in the minority, for all of their anger.
Yet, as history is yet to be written on the 2016 election, the past has taught us that racist voter intimidation is effective, which is why so many Southern counties with majority Black populations maintained exclusive white control under Jim Crow. Whether angry, uneducated whites — heavily armed and emboldened by their new leader to take revenge on Black people — will do enough damage to tip the scales in battleground states such as Pennsylvania remains to be seen.
History has proven that when white supremacy lacks the sufficient number of votes to win, it creates its own electorate, and uses bullets to prevent Black ballots from being cast. In a nation where the angry white folks find themselves permanently outnumbered through a demographic shift, could this be their last stand?