Election Rioting: How Violence Became A Forecastable Event In America

US Government photo

Below is my column from Fox.com on the boarding up of downtown areas across the country in anticipation of election rioting if Trump wins or the election is close.  I have been long critical of both sides in fueling the anger and conspiracy theories on both sides. On the Republican side, President Donald Trump has been denouncing mail-in voting as a Democratic conspiracy to steal the election. On the Democratic side, leaders have been telling voters that there is no legitimate way for Trump to win.  The fact that our leaders are trying to use such anger and fears is reprehensible. However, none of that excuses those people who believe that they have license to riot, loot, and burn. These are criminal acts being excused as “protests.” We now prepare for rioting like it is a natural result of contested elections.

Here is the column:


Driving around Washington, D.C. a couple days ago was a shocking experience. Block after block of businesses are boarded up and anything throwable or movable has been removed from the streets.

In the meantime, faculty, staff, and students at George Washington University (where I teach) have been told to stockpile medicine and food “as you normally would for a hurricane or a snowstorm.”

The reason? We are about to have a democratic election. The expectation is that is, unless it is a landslide for Biden, there will be rioting and arson in Washington and other cities. A warm front moving in with “possible election related disruptions” is being reported like an electoral meteorological event.

When exactly did election rioting become as forecastable as inclement weather?

The forecast for rioting with a chance of passing looting and arson is being repeated across the country as if it is now an inconvenient truth of the political version of global warming.

The most likely disruption would come a close election or Trump lead. That risk is heightened after Democratic leaders like House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C. declared on Sunday that the only way Democrat Joe Biden could lose the election would be “for voter suppression to be successful.”

Thus, if Trump is close or winning on election night, it can only be due to unlawful conduct. When President Trump made such statements about stealing the election, the media went into full alert over his laying the foundation for a coup.

Yet, the media seems entirely comfortable with Clyburn’s pre-election declaration that either Biden wins or the election is invalid.

The fact is that the odds are against President Trump. However, the current polling shows a tightening of the race in critical states.

The country remains sharply divided with even the best Biden polls still showing a solid 45 percent for Trump. Yet, Democratic members like Clyburn are already stating that either Biden wins or the election is stolen.

No wonder officials are declaring a violent front moving into major cities with political doppler readings with developing protest vortexes and political depressions.

Yet, rioting is not an act of God, but the criminal acts of those who only embrace democratic elections to the extent that they result in the “right” outcomes. D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham warned “it is widely believed that there will be civil unrest after the November election regardless of who wins.”

For those of us tasked with doing the legal analysis on election night and the ensuing days, the rising threat of violence only clouds the understanding of viewers. There is already pressure on many networks to shape legal analysis to meet the needs of the echo-journalism model.

People have little tolerance for analysis that does not reaffirm their bias. They want clarity and reinforcement like Clyburn assuring them that any close election or Trump victory is by definition a stolen election.

This expectation has been magnified by the unrelenting media coverage supporting Biden and his campaign. If you watch CNN or MSNBC, there is no other possibility than voter fraud if Trump comes close on election night.

I have covered presidential election nights for different networks for roughly 20 years. In each election, there have been irregularities and challenges. The greatest such controversy came with the 2000 election that was ultimately decided in the Bush v. Gore decision by the Supreme Court.

Yet, I do not recall any prior election where there were predictions of rioting, let alone such predictions in virtually every major city.

The legal forecast is not good. Absent a Biden landslide, this is going to be messy. We have never relied on this number of mail-in ballots. Even in a normal year with a fraction of this number of mail-in balloting, we have had inevitable challenges on when and how to count such votes.

This could be a perfect storm of such election issues. Both campaigns have assembled forces of lawyers that make D-Day look like a small intimate gathering. They are going to use those lawyers.

It falls into the old military adage that “when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” In any contested election, all these campaigns will have are lawyers and every problem will look like fraud.

Yet, the advantage of legal challenges is that lawyers do not throw their burning briefs through the broken windows of courthouses. We have a political system to bring democratic change and a legal system to make sure that such change comes from as the result of balloting, not rioting.

So here is my legal forecast. This constitutional system will survive this election even if our windows do not. Those rioting will be triggered by the exercise of democracy, not its denial.

For the rest of us, this too will pass.

Jonathan Turley



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