Could Trump Start a Civil War With Just This One Tweet?
Is it just me, or is Trump’s behavior increasingly (and eerily) similar to that of another infamous demagogue during the final days of his reign?
Like Trump, this other leader, let’s call him Floda Reltih, was faced with imminent defeat by a grand coalition of capitalists and socialists. Holed up in his offices, colloquially known as his “bunker,” he surrounded himself with loyalists, whom he ordered to keep fighting on to the last man.
Like Trump, who, according to people close to him, is moving between baseless belligerence and resignation, Reltih moved between a fanatical belief in the “Final Victory” and tired resignation to the inevitable.
Also like Trump, he purged some of his generals and senior officials right up to the end, while his staff kept working as if his reign would last for a thousand years.
And where Floda Reltih kept hoping for last-minute relief by armies that no longer existed, Trump keeps pinning his hopes on votes that were never cast.
To Concede or not to concede
Floda Reltih did eventually realize all was lost, at which point he bit a cyanide capsule and shot himself in the head. The question is whether Trump will have a similar moment of clarity.
During a staff meeting at Trump’s campaign headquarters on November 9, campaign manager Bill Stepien reportedly said that Trump was “still in this fight,” and that, “There is a process. Have patience.”
He’s still in this fight? Have patience? Tell me that doesn’t sound more like he’s talking about some traumatized Vietnam Vet with a red headband holed up in the woods than the President of the United States.
And even if most people around Trump seem to be expecting the president will soon surrender to reality, if there is one thing friend and foe can agree on, it is that Trump is like “a horse loose in a hospital,” as the comedian John Mulaney once said. “No one knows what the horse is going to do next, least of all the horse.”
On November 13, ten days after Election Day, Trump tweeted: “700,000 ballots were not allowed to be viewed in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh which means, based on our great Constitution, we win the State of Pennsylvania!”
Does that sound like someone who is close to accepting reality?
So how is this going to play out?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume Trump will not concede. Not now, not ever.
He may acknowledge that he will no longer be president come January 20th, but whatever happens, he is going to keep spewing baseless accusations about election fraud and maintain that the election was stolen from him by anarchists and radical leftists (much like how the Germany Army maintained it did not lose World War I on the battlefield but was stabbed in the back by Jews and anti-monarchists).
Look at it through Trump’s eyes. What would he gain from conceding? Respect? Hardly. The people that don’t respect him now won’t respect him whatever he does, and the people who do will no longer respect him if he admits that he lost.
So what we have here is a lame-duck president, holed up in the White House for a few more weeks, out of legal options to contest the election but believing with all his narcissistic heart that victory—his inevitable, great, big, beautiful victory—was stolen from him through all kinds of nefariousness.
A few weeks is plenty of time to do a lot of damage. And unlike Floda Reltih, Trump really does have a secret weapon that can activate an army of millions of fanatical, loyal supporters at the touch of a button: Twitter.
The question is: what is he going to do with that weapon?
On November 10, Trump tweeted: “People will not accept this Rigged Election!” And if by “people” Trump means his people, I would say he is right about that.
So, what if one boring Saturday morning the Dear Leader would tweet something like this:
“RADICAL LEFTISTS ARE STEALING OUR DEMOCRACY! DON’T LET THEM! MARCH ON WASHINGTON, DEFEND THE REPUBLIC!!!”
I previously calculated there are about 32 million fanatical Trump supporters, 20 million of whom are likely armed. If only ten percent of those—heck, if only one percent of those would heed Trump’s call, 200,000 fanatical, armed supporters could descend on the capitol within days. And that’s really a very conservative estimate.
Of course, Twitter would quickly slap a warning on such a tweet for falsely asserting election fraud. But would they also delete it? And if so, how long would that take? The above tweet about alleged voter fraud in Pennsylvania that Trump sent on November 13 had 100,000 likes and 34,000 retweets in the first 30 minutes.
And a tweet calling for a MAGA march on Washington would probably be retweeted even faster and get picked up by hundreds of news outlets; some serious, some…not so serious. In other words, unless Twitter would remove such a tweet within minutes, it would already be too late.
This is how rebellions start. And it could happen. We all know it. And then what do we do? I can tell you one thing: it won’t be so easy to escort Trump “from the White House in a dispatch,” as Biden has said, if the city is crawling with armed Trump supporters.
So how can we prevent this from happening?
Civil rights organization Color of Change recently called for the suspension of Trump’s Twitter account until all the votes are counted. Others, including Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, have in the past also asked Twitter to suspend Trump’s account.
I have always been a big believer in the right to free speech and as a rule am very wary of curtailing anyone’s right to voice their opinion. Under the current circumstances, however, considering what’s at stake, and the mayhem a disgruntled President Trump could cause on his way out, I am inclined to agree with this call.
Yes, the president has the same rights as any other citizen, but he has also far more power than an ordinary citizen and therefore a greater responsibility and public duty to exercise more restraint. Trump has never shown any such restraint, though. On the contrary.
Given this, I think it is fair to say Donald Trump has forfeited the right to do any more damage to our democracy.
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