Trump-supporting 'Stop the Steal' mobs are a reminder that political violence is always inexcusable

Trump-supporting 'Stop the Steal' mobs are a reminder that political violence is always inexcusable
Trump supporters gather near the Capitol Building for the Stop the Steal Rally in Atlanta on November 21, 2020.(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
  • An armed "Stop the Steal" mob descended on the home of Michigan's Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson this weekend, threatening her over her role in overseeing election results.
  • Trump and his Republican allies have explicitly or implicitly endorsed such intimidation tactics.
  • These mobs are a helpful reminder that political violence should never be condoned or excused in a democracy, as it was by many prominent journalists, academics, and activists over the summer.
  • It shouldn't be controversial in the slightest to say that political violence is immoral, and it shouldn't be hard to condemn it with a clear throat, no matter from which wing of the political fringes it arises.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.

An armed mob showed up outside an elected official's home this weekend, threatening her and her family while they decorated the family Christmas tree. The enraged congregants carried signs and shouted slogans expressing political outrage, which the elected official later described as "threats of violence, intimidation and bullying."

In a different city in September, another armed mob assembled outside an elected official's home. This group also came looking for a politically-motivated fight, and some of its congregants broke windows and attempted to set fire to the building.

Each mob came to intimidate, but their political motivations could hardly have been more different.

The mob in the first incident were Trump supporters baselessly alleging voter fraud, shouting "Stop the Steal" as they harassed Michigan's Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson for her role in overseeing election results.

The mob in the second incident were protesters associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, and their target was Portland's Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler's apartment building.


They're both acts of intimidation through brute force, distinguished only by politics.

With Team Trump's insistence on perpetuating the lie that a massive voter fraud conspiracy is responsible for illegally removing their man from the White House, the potential for political violence grows by the day.

One of Georgia's top election officials - a Republican - said plainly last week that "Someone's going to get hurt, someone's going to get shot, someone's going to get killed." The chances for tragedy are disturbingly high as the mainstreaming of political violence happens right under our noses.

Roughly 33% of Democrats and 36% of Republicans said it is justifiable "to use violence to advance political goals," according to a YouGov/Nationscape/Voter Study Group survey published in October.

That's why it's more important than ever to condemn political violence and mob intimidation tactics - no matter the politics - and to make very clear distinctions between such tactics and peaceful protests.


This should be easy: condemn political violence no matter the politics

For months over the summer in cities across the country, peaceful protests against racism and police brutality were at times marred by looting, rioting, and other forms of violence.

These incidents were condemned by many, especially by the peaceful protesters, but far too often, such destruction was excused by some of the country's most influential journalists, academics, and activists as the justifiable rage of the oppressed or minimized as a rare occurrence when compared to the overwhelming amount of peaceful protest.

To be sure, many Democratic politicians - including President-elect Joe Biden and the democratic socialist Rep. Ilhan Omar - forcefully decried mob violence and destruction over the summer.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, you have Trump implicitly endorsing violence and Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell, who cravenly avoided taking a position one or the other on Trump's incendiary statements. On Monday, the Arizona GOP's official Twitter account in a number of tweets shared violent imagery and language exhorting voters to "die" for the president.

Violence and destruction aren't minor things. When it's your head getting round-housed-kicked in the middle of the street or your life's work burned to the ground, the ratios of good versus bad protests are irrelevant.


And when Trump supporters get violent - as they have - one is unlikely to hear caveats from polite society about how rare such violence is compared to the overwhelming amount of peaceful Trump supporters.

The country is currently in a crisis of democracy, as the president and his hapless legal team continue to spread the Big Lie that a second term was stolen from Trump.

As a result, many Trump supporters believe a coup is taking place. They feel oppressed by unaccountable powers. They demand justice, and are threatening violence.

They are completely and totally wrong but that's beside the point.

One person's "righteous rebellion" is another person's "mob assault." That's how politics works.


This isn't to draw an equivalence between protests against legitimate societal injustices and the rank idiocy informing the "Stop the Steal" protests. The value of the ideas behind the protests should be evaluated on its own. Violence, and the threat of violence, should never be sanctioned as legitimate protest.

When Black Lives Matter activists attack people eating dinner at restaurants in the name of the cause, it is as inexcusable as when far-left Antifa radicals assault journalists or when far-right Proud Boys instigate street fights as a matter of cause.

Now that Trump supporters are whipping themselves up in a frenzy of (in their minds) righteous belligerence, it's easy to see why such tactics are terrifying and should have no place in a liberal democratic society.

It shouldn't be controversial in the slightest to say that political violence is immoral and typically counterproductive to the underlying cause. And it shouldn't be hard to condemn such violence with a clear throat, no matter from which wing of the political fringes it arises.