When riots erupt, there is always a reason — it just might not make sense to rational people. When it comes the election season, most Americans relish their chance to cast a ballot. Some would rather throw a rock, though, and certain types are determined to do both. For the perennially malcontented, post-election violence has been the pre-election plan all along. The mixing of democracy with anarchy defies logic, but there is little sensibility in the celebration of raw emotion, especially when it is accompanied by the raised fist.
The electoral stalemate that followed the closely fought 2020 presidential faceoff between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden last week was not unexpected. Neither was the violence that flared up during the days that followed. As Americans held their breath in anticipation of a declared victor, legions of agitators deployed Wednesday night to tangle with urban-center authorities.
Blueprints laid out the game plan for election chaos. “After you vote, hit the streets!” implored ShutdownDC.org. Thousands did exactly that in the nation’s capital, gathering near the White House to follow election returns, vent their demons and scuffle with police.
The organization urged fellow dissidents elsewhere to gather where votes are tabulated “and come up with a plan to create serious disruption if Trump really tries to steal the election!” Nearly 200 protesters were arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after blocking a downtown interstate and forcing police to close it. In New York City, demonstrators set fires in the street, bullied outdoor diners and clashed with cops. In Portland, Oregon, vandals smashed windows of street-front businesses until the National Guard arrived.
Suit-and-tie Never-Trumpers from the so-called Transition Integrity Project, have also spurred the arousal of the jeans-and-T-shirt set: “We assess that President Trump is likely to contest the result by both legal and extra-legal means, in an attempt to hold onto power,” they wrote with their slick white-paper propaganda skills.
In peaceful contrast, pro-Trump supporters in Detroit, Michigan, and Phoenix, Arizona, rallied to bring attention to reported vote-counting irregularities.
Upheaval in the streets has been the dominant motif of 2020, as if it had been printed on the wall calendar. When George Floyd died in May, anger boiled over from coast to coast in mass demonstrations, arson, looting and murder of innocents. Likewise, when the Los Angeles Lakers clinched the NBA championship in October, jubilation sent thousands of rowdy fans to bedevil the City of Angels. Glass bottles and fireworks were hurled at police, a city bus was burned and a Starbucks ransacked.
Whether outraged or overjoyed, the default symbol of impassioned Americans circa 2020 has become the act of destruction — breaking and burning the accoutrements of civilization and, sometimes, enraged assault against innocents.
The mainstreaming of disruption of the electoral process is creating a social environment that neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Biden will be able to govern. Such chaotic behavior deserves a stark label: anarchy.
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