Letters From an American: September 14, 2020


Today’s big story is the growing threat of violence on the part of Trump loyalists in the administration, including the president himself.

On September 10, Trump's friend and adviser Roger Stone appeared on Infowars, the show run by the far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Convicted of lying to Congress and tampering with witnesses before they testified concerning the ties of the 2016 Trump campaign to Russia, Stone publicly asked Trump to commute his sentence and, in exchange, promised to campaign for him.

Stone was a political operative for Richard Nixon—he famously has a picture of Nixon tattooed on his back—and was a business partner of Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, now also a convicted felon. Stone calls himself a “rat-f**ker”—a term used by Nixon insiders to describe electoral fraud and dirty tricks—and was an instigator of the “Brooks Brothers Riot” that shut down the recount of ballots in Florida in 2000.

In July, Trump commuted Stone’s 40-month prison sentence, and now, apparently, Stone is holding up his end of the deal.

The escalating language of violence indicates that the Trump team thinks it is going to lose the election. Others appear to think that, too: Georgia Senator David Perdue has recently begun to distance himself from the president in his own reelection campaign.

For my part, it just makes me sad. This rhetorical pattern echoes the strategy of southern Democratic leaders in 1860, when they knew they did not have the numbers to win the upcoming election fairly. They kept opponents from the polls, jiggered the mechanics of state elections, and warned white voters that, if Abraham Lincoln were elected, he and his dangerous radicals would destroy America. As their calls for violence escalated, they promised supporters that if it came to a fight, weak and frightened northerners would run away.

Even so, when Lincoln won the 1860 election, most southern whites were content to see what he did before they picked up their guns. But southern leaders were unwilling to live in a country they did not control, and declared they were going to create their own country, based in human slavery, even before Lincoln took office. In the ensuing war, ordinary Confederate soldiers learned the hard way both that northerners would not run away, and that their leaders cared about protecting the economy, not them.

It sounds poignantly familiar.

Read entire article at Heather Cox Richardson

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