Tensions rise in US as Trump incites radical supporters, Democrats plan reckoning

By Yang Sheng Source: Global Times Published: 2020/11/6 19:50:58

US President Donald Trump arrives to speak in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House, in Washington DC on Thursday. Democrat Joe Biden is leading Trump in the race for the 270 electoral votes as of press time. Photo: AFP

 US President Donald Trump's reelection chances are fading away as more votes are counted in battleground states.

Biden has taken the lead in Pennsylvania over President Trump as of press time, widened his advantage in Nevada and overtaken Trump in Georgia, moving closer to securing the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election.

As vote counts push Biden closer to victory, Trump said at a press briefing from the White House on Thursday night that the election was being "stolen" from him. Without offering any evidence, Trump suggested corruption and fraud in the states where Biden flipped, and predicted "lots of litigation" since they "can't have an election stolen like this." 

Chinese analysts said Republicans, who will likely retain the majority in the Senate, are keeping a distance from Trump, which is a clear sign of Trump's failure.

Jin Canrong, associate dean of the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Friday that although Trump plans legal challenges, the possibility for him to change the situation is very low.

"At Trump's press conference, Vice President Mike Pence was nowhere in sight. This could mean the Republicans are keeping a distance from Trump, and may even be abandoning him," Jin said.

AP reported that the Republicans have already secured 48 seats in the Senate, three seats away from the majority, while the Democrats have 46 as of press time.

"Without support from the Republicans, Trump's legal challenges in multiple battleground states are unlikely to receive enough political, logistical and financial resources," Jin said. 

Post-election unrests?

While Trump takes a fighting stance, his backers, especially in these crucial battleground states, seem to have become more irrational - making online threats, ramping up demonstrations, spreading unverified information of election "fraud and corruption," or staging protests at vote counting venues. 

Shen Yi, an expert on US politics and international relations at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Thursday that both sides are trying to use social media networks to organize to impact the vote counting process, but nationwide chaos is unlikely. 

"Some radical Trump supporters are playing old tricks such as spreading disinformation and launching sectarian and anti-intellectualism propaganda. But it seems social media platforms and US mainstream media are containing their voices," Shen said.

US media reported that many Trump supporters have become the hub of disinformation and hatred, sowing conspiracy theories and falsely claiming that the ballot count was being rigged, and called for demonstrations. 

For example, Facebook on Thursday banned a large group called "Stop the Steal" which Trump supporters have been using to organize protests against the presidential vote count. Some of its members had called for violence, and many claimed Democrats are "stealing" the election. 

Twitter permanently suspended an account belonging to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon after he suggested Thursday morning that Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray should be "beheaded." His comments came in a video posted on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

Bannon falsely claimed Trump had won reelection, despite several key states still being too close to call, and said that he should fire Fauci and Wray.

Aside from organizing rallies, Trump supporters were also found sowing violence. According to The Hill, a Colorado police officer named Jason Taft has been placed on leave after sharing a post on Facebook threatening Democrats and calling on supporters of Biden to "please meet me at the battlegrounds."  The officer also left a comment on Facebook saying "I'm ready to leave my job just so I can hurt these people that act like they know what real life is about."

Threatening others and spreading false information are not only what Trump supporters are doing to help him. After the video of Trump's spiritual advisor Paul White leading a strange prayer service for his victory went viral, other Trump supporters were seen kneeling and praying outside the Clark County Election Department Office in Nevada on Thursday night.

Shen said this is the first time that almost every political force in the US political system, except the military, has been involved in the election and could have very intense interactions. This is a significant and unprecedented chance for Chinese people and scholars to research on and observe the problems of modern US democracy. 

Photo: Xinhua

Using riots

"To what extent the unrests will take place depends on the state governments and law-enforcement agencies in those battleground states - to encourage or connive with the protesters, or suppress them," Shen said.

Police in Portland arrested 11 people and seized fireworks, hammers and a rifle after demonstrations on Wednesday, the night after voting in the US presidential election, Reuters reported.

Some observers said Trump's grassroots radical supporters are still cooperating with Trump to pressure the vote counting process and the media, so Trump might want to use them to create more civil unrest and riots, and to force the Democrats not to hunt him down on alleged tax fraud and other issues after he leaves the White House.

"This would be very dangerous for Trump and his family, because if Trump uses his supporters to bring further damage to US society, he should be held accountable, and the Democrats and the Biden administration won't let him just go away easily," Jin noted.

But based on the number of votes that Trump had this time, populist and far-right political forces have been underestimated in the US. So if the future Biden administration wants to hunt Trump down and put him in jail after he leaves office, this would be highly risky since it would anger Trump supporters and cause nationwide unrest, Jin said.

Posted in: AMERICAS

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