If Trump loses, expect violence
The president’s base is conditioned to believe in a conspiracy against him, and their response to a 2020 loss will be deadly
Should Trump lose the 2020 election, someone is going to die. The offices of a left-wing organization will be bombed. A mosque will get shot up. Someone’s skull will crack open in street battles. Possibly all three. While such a macabre prediction might strike readers as alarmist, it’s an outcome so probable it approaches absolute certainty.
Trump’s presidency is the apotheosis of what historian Richard Hofstadter dubbed the “paranoid style of American politics.” For nearly two decades since 9/11, this toxic strain of conspiratorial thought has metastasized, moving from the fringes to the center. It brought Trump to office, and he nurtured it once in power.
Post-election violence will be the rational result of an irrational worldview. Trump’s most ardent supporters are the very same people who spent the Obama years stockpiling guns and forming militias. To them, the 2016 election represented hope that they were going to finally “take the country back” from the evil forces embodied by the “Kenyan Muslim socialist.” To one who lives in a reality where the true “voice” of the people is being subverted by a Deep State globalist cult of spirit-cooking pedophiles who murder children by the thousands, violence is not only justified—it’s a moral imperative.
When MAGA Bomber Cesar Sayoc mailed poorly made explosive devices to more than a dozen prominent Democrats, including megadonor and favorite bogeyman George Soros, it was written off by conservatives as the act of a lone mentally ill man. However, nothing about Sayoc was exceptional. There are thousands—possibly hundreds of thousands— just like him all over the country.
Images of the bumper stickers covering his impounded van were proffered as evidence of his disturbed mind, yet such vehicles are so common there is an entire subreddit dedicated to them called r/InfoWarriorRides. Go to any pro-Trump rally and you’ll see those same slogans and imagery everywhere.
It’s hard to distinguish between the kind of pathology that drove Sayoc and actual clinical mental illness because it functions in almost exactly the same way. Psychosis is a break with reality that is caused by a chemical imbalance in people with disorders such as manic depression and schizophrenia, but the same effect can occur in people with brains that are physiologically “normal.”
Conspiracy theory is a mass-produced delusion whose bacillus spreads with lightning speed in the internet age, and the results are increasingly deadly. Take Lane Davis for example. Davis, who made Pizzagate videos on Youtube under the name Seattle4Truth, had no history of mental illness or drug use, yet he was displaying behaviors consistent with methamphetamine psychosis on the day he murdered his father, whom he accused of being a “leftist pedophile.”
That was back in 2017. Pizzagate has since been supplanted by QAnon, a more elaborate and far-reaching conspiracy theory. With many of the same themes, QAnon is the work of “Q,” an anonymous person who posts “insider intelligence” to 4chan. It usually takes the form of cryptic messages that QAnon “researchers” work to decipher and communiques about the imminent mass arrest of “Deep State operatives,” including many of the same people Sayoc attempted to murder last year.
QAnon has a certain durability that Pizzagate lacked, and it appeals to a much wider audience. It’s not just unemployable shut-ins like Davis. QAnon believers include retirees, NASCAR dads, soccer moms and sheriff’s deputies. Last year, Time magazine named the anonymous Q on its list of the top 25 influential persons of the year.
Often likened to a cult, QAnon is particularly resistant to encroachment from reality. When mass arrests failed to materialize, true believers were reassured that the regime’s enemies had secretly been indicted and were now wearing ankle monitors. As the Mueller investigation started heating up, they were told that he and Trump were secretly in cahoots.
But what will happen if Trump loses next November without a single “traitor” behind bars? What is the next logical step when the QAnon followers can no longer sustain the belief that every setback for Trump is just 5D chess?
While some have become disillusioned with the failure of Q’s predictions, there are still thousands out there keeping the faith. The history of cults points to a dire possibility. As documented in books like When Prophecy Fails, the beliefs of some cultists can actually grow stronger after prophecies fail to materialize. This can result in what psychologist Robert Lifton calls “forcing the end,” wherein followers try to make the prophecy happen themselves, which is what what the doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo was attempting with the 1995 sarin gas attacks in Tokyo.
The lack of promised mass arrests in December prompted one QAnon follower to call for “patriots” to “storm the white house:”
Just as past experience tells us that extremists tend to act violently on their delusions, it also informs us that Trump will encourage them. Before he won in 2016, Trump was calling the process “rigged” against him. Afterward, he contested the popular vote, claiming without a shred of evidence that millions of undocumented immigrants had voted.
What’s more, throughout the campaign, Trump engaged in stochastic terrorism, egging his supporters on to violence. Why should we expect him to act any differently this time around?
The “Deep State” has served as a convenient alibi for Trump’s inability to deliver on promises to his base, and should he lose reelection, they will strike against it. But since it’s a shadowy amorphous entity, they’ll have to settle for what they perceive as its “agents,” which could be literally anyone or anything—random minorities and immigrants, synagogues that help refugees.
Trump’s base is a time bomb and the dial is set for Nov. 3, 2020.