Behind Donald Trump’s Warning of ‘Riots’ at the GOP Convention

GOP Nomination

By DOUG HEYE – – – –

Doug Heye is a former communications director for the Republican National Committee and deputy chief of staff to then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. He is on Twitter:@DougHeye.

After his largely successful night in Tuesday’s primaries, Donald Trump has continued his tactic of shouting “Fire” into crowded theaters, this time by telling CNN there could be “riots” if he does not get the Republican presidential nomination–even if he falls short of the 1,237 delegate votes necessary.

I don’t think you can say that we don’t get it automatically,” Mr. Trump told CNN in a phone interview Wednesday. “I think you’d have riots. I think you’d have riots. You know we have, I’m representing a tremendous–many, many millions of people. In many cases first-time voters. . . . Now, if you disenfranchise those people? And you say, ‘Well, I’m sorry, but you’re a hundred votes short, even though the next one is 500 votes short?’ I think you would have problems like you’ve never seen before.”

“I think bad things would happen. I really do. I believe that. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”

There’s a lot to dissect here–including how only Mr. Trump is routinely permitted to phone in to television interviews–but this is clear:

Some try to limit the language Republicans use by calling their terminology “dog whistle” rhetoric or “code words.” With Mr. Trump, there are no such worries. Calling for supporters to “knock the crap out” of a protester, suggesting a protester ought to be “carried out on a stretcher,” or saying that he would like to punch a protester or pay the legal fees of someone who does is advocating violence. And Mr. Trump may tell interviewers that he is not leading this, but he has done nothing to discourage bad behavior.

The fighting in Chicago on Friday at the scene of the canceled Trump rally suggests that violent protests may occur during the Republican National Convention regardless of whether Mr. Trump wins the nomination. After months of Mr. Trump’s taunts and insults, activists on the left are organized in their attempts to interrupt, shut down, and otherwise spoil Trump events. The convention would be a jewel in their crown. And that’s leaving out ordinary citizens who may be compelled to protest.

Mr. Trump’s political rivals, leaders on Capitol Hill, and President Barack Obama have spoken out against rhetoric inciting violence. Whether or not they mentioned Mr. Trump by name, the implication has been clear. Mr. Trump is likely to continue ignoring their warnings. The question is whether he will escalate his rhetoric and what actions his suggestions may incite.

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