Donald Trump, Anarchist-in-Chief?

Donald Trump, Anarchist-in-Chief?
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Donald Trump is a real estate mogul, showman, crude trash talker and master media manipulator. To some he is a racist, misogynist, authoritarian, Russian appeaser and xenophobe. To many Republicans who believe he has destroyed their party, he is a hijacker and an arsonist. New allegations have raised questions about whether Trump is also a sexual predator and molester. But the time has come to set all of that aside and ask: Is the GOP nominee, running to be our next commander-in-chief, actually an anarchist?

There’s an apocalyptic tone to Trump’s closing argument. To lay advance blame for his possible defeat, he describes a conspiracy in which Hillary Clinton, House Speaker Paul Ryan, international banks and the media have plotted to bring him down in a stolen election. Trump’s rhetoric, just weeks from Election Day, has raised fears he may refuse to concede, stoke supporters’ anger and encourage unrest following the results, and therefore incite violence.

Trump is now characterizing a Clinton victory as an existential threat to America, saying that “the election of Hillary Clinton would lead, in my opinion, to the almost total destruction of our country as we know it.” Despite his own political troubles -- brought on most acutely by the “Access Hollywood” audio recording in which he boasted in vulgar terms about his predatory behavior with women, which was followed by allegations from four women that he groped them -- Trump is insisting that “there’s a whole sinister deal going on.” His desperate tone -- “If we don’t win this election, I don’t know what I'm going to do” -- invites more desperation from his fervent supporters.

A few days ago, one named Rhonda told Trump running mate Mike Pence she fears voter fraud and that “if Hillary Clinton gets in, I myself am ready for a revolution” -- a comment that elicited applause from the crowd. Though Pence tried to dissuade her (“Don’t say that,” he said), the Indiana governor too has warned about voter fraud, saying, “Vigilance, I think, is essential to any kind of vibrant democracy.”

Trump inflames these fears, knowing full well that many of his supporters feel just like Rhonda. When he rallies in Pennsylvania, Trump warns his voters to “watch other communities because we don't want this election stolen from us,” and points to Philadelphia, where Clinton is expected to run up large voter margins, saying, “We have to make sure we’re protected.”

The website of a group called “Oath Keepers” stated back in the spring that “If Hillary Clinton is chosen by the establishment to take Obama’s place, the result would probably be outright civil war in the U.S.”

Trump friend and confidant Roger Stone, a proud conspiracy theorist, said in August that Trump should warn his supporters of voter fraud -- indeed, he should “begin talking about it constantly.” Stone added, “If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.”

Stone has launched a website dubbed Stop the Steal and will be dispatching hundreds of volunteers to questionable precincts to watch for any fraudulent activity at the polls on Nov. 8.

Notably, not one person working for, or closely associated with, the Trump campaign has disavowed Russian interference with the election, which was confirmed publicly by our own government last week and explained to Trump himself at his classified intelligence briefings several weeks ago.

The meddling by hackers tied to Russian intelligence, who could be responsible for the WikiLeaks dumps of Hillary Clinton’s embarrassing emails, is now the headline of the Clinton campaign as it seeks to deflect damage the emails could do to her candidacy. Russia’s role, of course, has nothing to do with what was said in those internal communications, but it also is extraordinarily relevant to this election.

Yet don’t count on Trump to blame the Russians; he’s blaming a bipartisan cabal of Americans instead. Trump is denigrating our democracy now, and indicating it could get far worse after Election Day. In Florida this week he said, “This election will determine whether we remain a free nation or only the illusion of democracy,” and then once again stated that “the system is rigged.”

Trump is no longer just undermining our system but openly attacking it. Republican Party officials and leaders supporting him have been silent in the face of his accusations. Perhaps they are waiting to see if Trump, should he lose, will concede and ask his voters to accept the outcome. But if they don’t speak up now, they are complicit in any damage. The morning of Nov. 9 could be too late.

A.B. Stoddard is associate editor of RealClearPolitics and a columnist.

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