In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign, where Trump suggested that he would not acknowledge defeat. His legal challenges to the election of Joseph Biden have toggled between appalling and farcical. But his base continues to believe the bogus narrative.
Ron Brownstein at The Atlantic:
Late in the 2016 presidential campaign, an anonymous author, eventually revealed as Michael Anton, a conservative scholar who later joined the Trump White House, described the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as the “Flight 93 Election.” In his widely read essay, Anton insisted that a Democratic victory would change America so irrevocably that conservatives needed to think of themselves as the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11—the ones who chose to bring down the plane to save the U.S. Capitol from al-Qaeda hijackers. Letting the Democrat win, in other words, would doom the country.
Trump supporters’ rampage on Wednesday represented a bracingly physical expression of that belief—and a bitterly ironic inversion of it. To save the country, in their eyes, the pro-Trump rioters assaulted the same building that the actual Flight 93 passengers died to protect.
In polling last fall by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute, a larger share of Republican voters said that white people and Christians face significant discrimination in the United States than said the same about Black people and Latinos. In another national poll conducted earlier last year by the Vanderbilt University political scientist Larry Bartels, just more than half of Republican voters strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement that “the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.” Fewer than one in six Republicans disagreed. (The rest were unsure.) Foreshadowing Republican voters’ embrace of Trump’s racist and baseless claims of election fraud in big cities with large Black populations, Bartels also found that three-fourths of Republican voters agreed that “it is hard to trust the results of elections when so many people will vote for anyone who offers a handout.”
The MAGA movement never thought about the consequences of what would happen if the base magically succeeded. What would have happened if the courts somehow had overturned several states’ election results and handed Trump victory? What would have happened if the mob intimidated Congress to proclaim Trump the 2020 victor? What would have happened if Vice President Mike Pence had declared Trump the victor?
The answer: civil war.
The majority of Americans who voted for Biden would fight back. Capitals would become war zones and innocent people would die.
Russian state media had played its own part in amplifying Donald Trump’s baseless claims of electoral fraud and gleefully predicting that post-election violence would inevitably follow. “There will be blood,” asserted Russian lawmakers and state media talking heads, a prospect they considered to be “excellent.”
And indeed, there was blood. Vesti reporter Denis Davydov was embedded in the thick of it all, interviewing sweaty seditionists with bloody knuckles in between their attempts to storm Capitol Hill. “The United States never experienced anything like this,” Davydov noted. In his report for Vesti, U.S. correspondent Valentin Bogdanov asserted that the violence is not over: “While the Democrats gained control of Congress and the Senate, that doesn’t mean they can control the minds of the people. January 6, 2021 is forever written into the American political calendar. For some, it’s a dark date they will try to forget. For others, it’s a day to remember—or perhaps to repeat.”