Trump’s ‘toxic rhetoric’ could lead to violence after the election, crisis group warns

Danielle Zoellner
·3-min read
Mr Trump's dangerous rhetoric includes seemingly telling far-right group the Proud Boys to 'stand by' (Getty Images)
Mr Trump's dangerous rhetoric includes seemingly telling far-right group the Proud Boys to 'stand by' (Getty Images)

The International Crisis Group has released a stark warning of potential post-election violence ahead of Election Day, citing President Donald Trump's "toxic rhetoric" as what's causing concern among officials.

"The primary factor that makes risk calculations different this year is President Trump himself," read the statement by the International Crisis Group. "There is no precedent in modern US history for the president's toxic rhetoric – which routinely calls for the jailing of political opponents, gives what has appeared to be winking support to white supremacists and is laced with martial references that arguably seem to call his supporters to arms."

In the statement, the group referenced Mr Trump seemingly encouraging the far-right militia group the Proud Boys to "stand by" during the first presidential debate. The president has also led chants of "lock her up" for political rivals like Hillary Clinton and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who was recently targeted in a kidnapping plot by an extremist group.

The Crisis Group – whose mission is to sound the alarm ahead of deadly conflicts, prevent war, and shape policies – has never weighed in on US politics until 2020.

Besides expressing concern about Mr Trump's rhetoric, the group also said his refusal to "commit to leaving office peacefully" if he were to lose the upcoming presidential election was worrisome.

"The main reason that the US press and civil society have focused so intently on the possibility of violent unrest amid the election is that Trump himself has refused to commit to leaving office peacefully, and suggested that he could lose only if the election were rigged," the statement read.

What has made 2020 different from past years was the number of "risk factors" that have all added up unrest across the US. These risk factors include the polarisation of the political parties, "threat of armed right-wing groups," mail-in voting for the election opening the door for contestation, and racial injustices – according to the Crisis Group.

Each of these factors combined with the president's rhetoric has encouraged the Crisis Group to raise the alarm before 3 November.

"The failure of democratic institutions to deliver a peaceful election and, depending on the result, transfer of power in the United States would be bad for the American people, for the country's governance, for the nation's credibility and thus its influence abroad," the group warned.

But the US could "dodge this bullet" depending on what federal, state, and local officials do from this point forward to keep violence at bay pending the election results, the group said.

The statement released by the Crisis Group comes after the group revealed last month it was turning its attention to the US for election-related violence as Election Day grew closer.

At the time, Robert Malley, the president of the group, said, "We would never predict civil war, but isolated incidents of violence could be quite serious." His statement again warned about right-wing militias and the violence they could stoke following the election.

Mr Trump has called for his supporters to "go into the polls and watch very carefully" in recent weeks, which has raised alarms that he was encouraging supporters to take up arms and guard polling places.

Politicians, both Democrat and Republican, were encouraged by the Crisis Group to "commit to peacefully upholding the democratic process" in an effort to sway any potential election violence that could ensue.

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