Global conflict watchers issue warning of ‘new danger’ ahead of US election

A prominent group of experts that monitors violence around the world has issued an unprecedented warning ahead of Tuesday’s presidential election in the United States.

In a 30-page report, threat trackers at the International Crisis Group – an organization that frequently reports on instability in failing states and war zones – warn that a bitterly polarized America faces “new danger” in the coming days.

“While Americans have grown used to a certain level of rancor in these quadrennial campaigns, they have not in living memory faced the realistic prospect that the incumbent may reject the outcome or that armed violence may result,” the group writes.

Toxic rhetoric

In its report, issued last week, the ICG lists several factors that could result in violence on and around Election Day, including the proliferation of online disinformation and hate speech, recent controversies surrounding racial justice in America, the ascent of armed groups, and the possibility of a close or contested presidential election.

The group also places the blame for potential violence at the feet of President Donald Trump, writing that his “toxic rhetoric and ability to court conflict to advance his personal interests have no precedent in modern U.S. history.”

On the campaign trail, Trump has claimed he rejects all violence.

In any case, his refusal to forcefully denounce and condemn periphery and violent factions of the far-right, coupled with incendiary comments about his perceived political foes, continue to raise questions about whether he is using the full weight of his office to suppress potential violence.

In its new warning, ICG experts single out Trump’s recent call for an “army” of poll watchers as a factor that could contribute to election-related violence. The group writes that “Trump’s use of martial language will flag a desire for supporters, untrained in poll watching, to strike an intimidating posture to deter Democratic voting.”

Conflict researchers at ICG also point to Trump’s attempts to decrease confidence in mail-voting as another ingredient for potential violence should the results of the election be prolonged or contested, writing, “Trump has already seeded the baseless narrative that mail-in voting will occasion massive fraud and sought to delegitimize post-Election Day vote counting.”

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