LATROBE, Pennsylvania—President Donald Trump has long signaled that if he loses reelection, it would surely be illegitimate. With his base primed to believe that victory is the only acceptable outcome, the post-election period could be the most combustible in memory. This wrenching summer—and the Trump rally I attended here yesterday—provides a grim preview of what the weeks after the November 3 vote could look like, with a subset of Trump’s supporters already showing that they’re prepared to advance his interests in the streets.
When I asked Leo Walker, a 68-year-old retiree at the rally, whether the president’s backers would publicly protest a Biden victory, he said, “They’ll do more than that. They will take the country back.” By force? “They will take the country back. There’s no doubt in my mind.” Trump, Walker said, “can do no wrong.”
The weeks after the election could be “a very dangerous period” for the country, says Miles Taylor, a former senior official in the Homeland Security Department, whose agents were deployed to quell recent police-violence protests in Portland, Oregon, against the wishes of the state’s leadership. Taylor left the agency last year and has since emerged as an outspoken critic of the president. “I talk to law-enforcement officials all the time who I used to serve with, and they’re nervous about November and December,” he continued. “We’re seeing an historic spike in gun sales. There’s some of the worst polarization in United States history. This is beyond a powder keg. This is the Titanic with powder kegs filled all the way to the hull.”