I got home from my daily dose of physical humility at Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and checked my phone. I had several texts from friends and acquaintances telling me that they were worried about tomorrow: Election Day 2020. Strangely enough, they weren’t worried about the outcome. They were worried about the process and the potential chaos from a disputed election.
I can’t blame them.
Over the past 6 to 8 months, we have watched mobs loosely associated with the Black Lives Matter movement loot and burn cities. We have watched militias loosely associated with the extremes of both the Republican and Democrat parties rally and even exchanged gunfire with each other and the mobs. President Trump has repeatedly hinted that he will contest the outcome of the election in the courts if he has to. Former Vice President Biden has been less vocal, but he has also assembled an army of lawyers for the same purpose.
The major political campaigns have run on themes that the other candidate is a die-hard criminal, completely untrustworthy, corrupt, and totally willing to sacrifice America on his personal altar of ambition. The campaigns have also clashed bitterly over whether COVID-19 modified voting procedures are corrupt. In short, the playing field has been perfectly prepared for Election Day chaos.
Some of my friends and acquaintances think that chaos will involve shooting and have referred me to the Battle of Athens. The Battle of Athens occurred in Athens, Tennessee in 1946. Returning American GIs and virtually the entire Athens community had reached the end of their patience with the Crump political machine that ran Tennessee politics and engaged in voter intimidation, predatory policing, and complete political corruption.
The GIs formed a non-partisan coalition and put forward a slate of candidates for the August 1946 election. The local Crump political machine responded by hiring 200 deputies for election security – mostly out of county ex-cons. After sheriff’s deputies shot an elderly Black farmer in the back for trying to vote for the GI candidates, the GIs raided a nearby armory and between several hundred and two thousand GIs laid siege to the county jail where the sheriff had gone with the ballot box. The GIs ultimately blew the door off the jail with dynamite and forced the political machine to surrender and concede the election. History is unclear on the number of casualties.
While the present day political passions are similar to those in Athens in 1946, the circumstances were different. Most of the GIs had spent the last three years engaged in serious combat with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. They had an appetite for shooting for what they wanted or needed. Modern Americans have been play-acting their version of a war in comparison. Despite all of the rhetoric, the demonstrations, and the political turmoil, modern Americans don’t have the stomach to engage in the prolonged shootout necessary to carry an election by force. Thus, I see no Battle of Athens in our future.
To those who wonder if President Trump will leave office peacefully if he loses, I have no doubt that he will. If the last four years have shown him anything, it is that he doesn’t command the type of respect or loyalty within the federal government necessary to defy an election by force. He may contest the election in the courts, but, if he loses there, he will leave office peacefully.
That leaves the courts. The spectre of Bush v. Gore still hangs over the country’s head. I am no election law scholar, but I can take a wild guess that any dispute will likely be a generalized fact-based one that will play out over the month of November. During that time, both parties will spin a dispute as the end of the world for America if they don’t win.
Americans, however, will endure the political posturing over the dispute as they have endured the political posturing over every issue of the past 20 years. The dispute will be settled, and life will go on. No physical battle will occur over the election. In other words, prepare to have your fears proven unwarranted.