This Election Season Must Remain Non-Violent

Los Angeles, CA (TFC) – With both Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropping out of the race, Donald Trump has become the Republican candidate for the general election. This nightmare scenario has set the stage for a turbulent general election season. This development, which has raised the specter of a dysfunctional future in which fascism rules America, has left many people in the US scared and angry. This has driven many people who oppose Trump to violently lash out, most recently at protests in Costa Mesa and Burlingame in California. This, however, is very short sighted and will only divide the country further.

I have previously written about how the use of violence in the name of anti-fascism will inevitably be used by Donald Trump to discredit his enemies. Despite this, anti-fascist protesters have continued to use violence to express their displeasure about Trump’s vitriolic ideology. They often justify this by arguing that anti-fascists and the United States as a whole will lose their credibility if people don’t make a vocal stand against Trump. In addition, they would argue that the public’s failure to react to Trump would amount to appeasement to fascism, which is comparable to how the Weimar Republic reacted to Hitler in the 1930s.

I do agree that the current situation is comparable to that of the 1930s Weimar Republic. However, violent protest will not save America from the fate that befell Germany. In fact, there is good reason to believe that violent protest would actually help fascism to take root. Currently, Trump openly espouses a fascist ideology that is reviled by most people. But as he has already done several times, Trump is likely to pivot and change his message when it benefits him. I suspect that he will borrow from the political playbook of the European far-right. Far-right parties in Europe know that an ideology, which is openly based on animus, is unlikely to resonate with the public. As a result, they have rebranded themselves as parties that oppose multiculturalism or immigration. This has allowed them to disguise the animus and xenophobia that is at the root of their ideology and market their party to the public. This has been rather successful as far-right parties like UKIP, the National Front, and PEDIGA have gained traction.

Khalil Bendib is OtherWords’ cartoonist. OtherWords.org

Khalil Bendib is OtherWords’ cartoonist. OtherWords.org

Trump, who is a master of media manipulation, could easily find a way to rebrand and disguise his positions into something that is more acceptable to the public. If the public is receptive to this, then he could actually sell his fascist ideology as a legitimate and reasonable policy position. If Trump successfully does this, then violent protests against him will only strengthen his cause. He could easily use this to portray his followers as innocent people who are being politically repressed by the rest of society. This could allow him to discredit his opponents by arguing that those they are the real fascists. Even worse, this could help him to garner sympathy and to rally more support. As a result, any unlawful and unprovoked violence against his supporters is likely to help his electoral prospects.

Another factor is that Trump has opened a proverbial Pandora’s box. Unfortunately, the racism and animus that Trump has sparked is going to be a long-term problem. Even if Trump is defeated in the 2016 election, he or a charismatic successor could make another bid for the presidency in the future. As a result, those who oppose Trump would be wise to avoid actions that could help the future political ambitions of those who share Trump’s ideology. I fear that anti-Trump violence would do just that.

Trump’s meteoric rise has been nothing short of terrifying. Trump has tapped into an angry segment of the electorate and this anger is beginning to spiral out of control. Trump’s followers, who have attacked those who disagree with them and intimidated journalists, offer a taste of what a Trump presidency would look like. The use of violence by his opponents, however, only makes this dystopian future more likely to occur. It will also escalate violence from Trump supporters and further divide the country. This last point is important because after this election season, all of us still have to live together in this country. The use of violence will only create fault lines and make it more difficult for us to reconcile after the election. As a result, I urge those opposed to fascism to express their anger and discontent in a productive and non-violent manner.