What Should Happen To Elected Officials Who Overtly Stoke Political Violence?

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) released this statement to the media last night, blasting some of his seditious Republican colleagues:

“The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic. The congressional power to reject electors is reserved for the most extreme and unusual circumstances. These are far from it. More Americans participated in this election than ever before, and they made their choice. President Trump’s lawyers made their case before scores of courts; in every instance, they failed. The Justice Department found no evidence of irregularity sufficient to overturn the election. The Presidential Voter Fraud Commission disbanded without finding such evidence.
“My fellow Senator Ted Cruz and the co-signers of his statement argue that rejection of electors or an election audit directed by Congress would restore trust in the election. Nonsense. This argument ignores the widely perceived reality that Congress is an overwhelmingly partisan body; the American people wisely place greater trust in the federal courts where judges serve for life. Members of Congress who would substitute their own partisan judgement for that of the courts do not enhance public trust, they imperil it.
“Were Congress to actually reject state electors, partisans would inevitably demand the same any time their candidate had lost. Congress, not voters in the respective states, would choose our presidents.
“Adding to this ill-conceived endeavor by some in Congress is the President’s call for his supporters to come to the Capitol on the day when this matter is to be debated and decided. This has the predictable potential to lead to disruption, and worse.
“I could never have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world. Has ambition so eclipsed principle?”

Louie Gohmert was on Newsmax yesterday not so subtly urging violent right-wing sociopaths to start shooting, after Trump-appointed Federal Judge Jeremy Kernodle threw out his nonsensical lawsuit trying to overturn American democracy. "But if bottom line is, the court is saying, 'We’re not going to touch this. You have no remedy'-- basically, in effect, the ruling would be that you gotta go the streets and be as violent as Antifa and BLM."

Starting with Josh Hawley (MO) and then Ted "me too" Cruz (TX), a gaggle of far right Republican senators are also challenging the election with stunts planned for the 6th. The other malefactors-- for those who keep track-- are Ron Johnson (WI), James Lankford (OK), Steve Daines (MT), John Kennedy (LA), Marsha Blackburn (TN), Mike Braun (IN), Cynthia Lummis (WY), Roger Marshall (KS), Bill Hagerty (TN) and Tommy Tuberville (AL).

As Bernie noted yesterday, "The outcome of the 2020 election is not in doubt. Let’s be clear: Joe Biden resoundingly won the popular vote by more than 7 million votes, and he won an Electoral College margin that Trump called a 'landslide' in 2016. On January 6, the House and Senate will ratify the results of the Electoral College, as has been done for 231 years. From the beginning of his campaign for president, Donald Trump has shown a profound disrespect for the institutions of democracy. It is pathetic that 13 of my colleagues in the Senate and 140 members of the House of Representatives are now demonstrating a similar disdain for the American people by engaging in a dead-end, unconstitutional effort to overturn the will of voters. Every state, including those with Republican Governors, Secretaries of State and legislatures have certified the results of this election. In the two months since the election, more than 80 judges, including some who were appointed by the President, have rejected Donald Trump and his allies' attempts to overturn the election. There are no cases pending that will have any impact on the results. There have been numerous recounts, audits and verifications, including in the most closely contested states. Donald Trump’s Department of Homeland Security even called this 'the most secure election in American history.' What all of this comes down to is that Donald Trump and right wing extremists are refusing to accept the will of the people and the fact that Trump lost the election. In their contempt for democracy, they are using lies and conspiracy theories about 'voter fraud' in an attempt to overturn the election results. It will not work. Joe Biden will be President at noon on January 20. This spectacle by Republican lawmakers only demonstrates their disdain for voters, democracy and the will of the American people."

The only thing that surprises me is that Kelly Loeffler hasn't joined this sedition (yet). Yesterday, Noah Smith interviewed author and political scientist Paul Staniland on the chances of these rightists sparking another civil war, like the one they started in the 1860s. Smith noted that there are so many elected Republicans "going along with this attempt to effectively turn the U.S. into a dictatorship because their constituents want it. 77% of Republicans polled say they believe in the myth of widespread voter fraud, and Trump supporters are pouring huge effort and energy into rallies and public disinformation campaigns. Nothing quite like this has ever happened in U.S. history."

Staniland said he thinks "the odds of an actual civil war in the US are low. Rich countries with large security apparatuses tend not to have these kinds of conflicts-- they tend to have some combination of less-aggrieved populations and more effective deterrence and disruption of potential rebels. There are of course exceptions that matter (think Northern Ireland), so nothing is impossible. But what Aila Matanock and I argue in our Foreign Affairs piece is that it's more likely you see some degree on ongoing, but probably comparably low-level and sporadic, political violence linked to radical right-wing actors. We've seen plenty of this already, especially death threats and disrupted plots. The US security apparatus seems to be, in general, taking this stuff seriously now, though at points we've seen both local sympathizers and efforts at the federal level to downplay threats from the right. My fear is that this kind of low-level but potentially fatal dynamic could persist, especially linked to a Lost Cause myth of a stolen 2020 election, and fueled by Trump and his base. Even with sustained policing, this kind of thing could drag on, and could kill people, even if we never hit standard civil war definitional thresholds (much less 1864 America)."

Smith asked him what the government and regular people can do lower age risk of major civic conflict in the U.S.

Staniland responded that "At the level of the government, a consistent and non-selective approach to investigating armed groups and individual plots is essential, with political elites not giving rhetorical or policy space to actors using or threatening violence. Once you get violent actors embedded in 'mainstream' politics, things can get out of hand quickly. For individual citizens, I can think of two pieces-- the first is to demand appropriate behavior from elected officials of whatever party. The second is to avoid spreading misinformation or incendiary rhetoric that can fuel narratives that support violence."