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Batavick: Amid pandemic, racial unrest, looming election, we’re living in a tinderbox | COMMENTARY

It’s a common trope in drama and film. The director makes sure the audience sees a gun, sometimes subtly, in the first act or early part of a film. The messaging telegraphs that the gun is sure to make a return appearance in the script, and obviously to no good end. In our present frightening, real-life narrative, we have seen the gun far too many times in the last year, and I fear the calamity that may be awaiting us in Act II.

Social justice think tank, Political Research Associates, recently documented nearly 150 instances of right-wing, paramilitary groups, many of them heavily armed and wearing body armor, at anti-police violence protests.

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In April armed men stormed the Michigan State House to protest a proposed extension to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers to combat COVID-19.

In early June, Las Vegas police arrested members of the extremist Boogaloo group on charges of possessing and conspiring to use improvised explosives at a Black Lives Matter protest to escalate violence between protesters and police. That month also saw an armed group in Albuquerque, New Mexico, show up at a protest over a statue of Spanish conqueror Juan de Oἦate.

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Armed men, reacting to rumors about impending antifascist street violence, assembled in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho to support police, and two weeks ago, two opposing, heavily armed militia groups stood a few dozen yards away from each other in Louisville, Kentucky in a standoff over the police shooting of a Black woman, Breona Taylor.

According to the Brookings Institution, the U.S. has the most heavily armed citizenry in the world — 400 million guns for a population of 330 million. A staggering 19 million firearms were sold in the first six months of 2020. We are scared.

That’s because all of us, some newly unemployed, are on-edge about the COVID-19 pandemic, the worst economic contraction in U.S. history, and the urban violence following George Floyd’s killing. But our president has done little to allay these fears and instill confidence. In many ways, he has magnified our collective agita by his failure to craft a national strategy to combat the coronavirus (“It is what it is.”), disinterest in working with Congress to address the worsening economy, and partisan-flavored dispatching of poorly trained federal agents — first to create a personal photo op in Washington and later to confront protesters in Portland.

For most, this should be enough to worry about, but not if ol’ “45” has his say. Slammed by plunging election poll numbers and rope-a-doped by Joe Biden’s “steady-as-she-goes” campaign style, the president has dug deep into his bag of dirty tricks. First, he suggested that we “delay the election until people can properly, securely and safely vote,” though this violates central Constitutional tenets.

When his own party pushed back, he hit the accelerator and made drive-by claims that election results won’t be legitimate because of the predicted increase in voting-by-mail during the pandemic. He claims foreign and domestic bad actors will corrupt balloting. Yeah, that’s just like a Division II basketball team claiming bad refereeing will skew a game against Duke. In other words, “45” can smell defeat and he’s starting to panic and look for excuses. You know how fond he is of slapping the “loser” label on critics? That’s the last thing he wants applied to his shredded legacy.

Now it’s time in this column to cue the gun again. Remember it? Because of the millions of mail-in ballots predicted this year, the inefficiency of the underfunded post office, and shrinking numbers of local poll workers willing to count ballots, it’s possible we won’t know the election’s winner until late November or sometime in December. And the more confusion there is about interpreting the results, the more the prez and his armed supporters will rattle their AR-15s, seeking to nullify the count with charges of fake news and deep state chicanery. The prez may even declare premature victory as the results from the smaller red states roll-in first and give him a slim lead in the electoral college.

As the second wave of COVID-19 hits, “45” may mount legal challenges to the unfavorable election results, and large-scale civil violence may rack the country. All it would take is the accidental firing of one round or even the pop of a firecracker to begin the bloodbath. He might even refuse to leave office on Jan. 20. If so, that’s cause enough to dust off and shout the ancient phrase, “sic semper tyrannis” as his generals escort him from the Oval Office: “Thus always to tyrants.”

Frank Batavick writes from Westminster. His column appears every other Friday. Email him at fjbatavick@gmail.com.

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