If Trump loses, neither he nor his followers will take it well. Some pundits wonder whether Trump will even concede. On August 1, Trump declared that the election will be “rigged”: a preemptive move to delegitimize a possible loss as his poll numbers fall. The next day, Trump’s advisor, Roger Stone, proclaimed there will be a “bloodbath” if the election is “stolen.” When I interviewed Trump’s supporters in March, several told me they would form militias if he did not get the nomination, and other reporters have heard the same. Trump’s loss could be the cause that unites disparate hate groups across the country, potentially leading to standoffs against the government like that of the Bundys in Oregon, or to violent clashes like the neo-Nazi rally in Sacramento.
The second major challenge is that, thanks to Trump, economic discontent has become linked to white populism. In an attempt to diagnose the Trump phenomenon, D.C. wonks have written profiles of imaginary Trump fans, as if his fan base were a monolith. In fact, the Americans voting for Trump are as diverse in their reasoning — open bigotry, economic agony, hatred of Clinton, vague longing for change — as the supporters of any other candidate.
Where they are not diverse is race: Trump’s fan base is almost uniformly white. It includes the militia and hate organizations described above. But many Trump fans are simply down-and-out white male workers. This faction’s primary concerns are jobs, trade, and a feeling that the government has abandoned them while crowing aboutmisleading statistics of low unemployment.
The problem is that, while not always openly racist, these voters implicitly condone racism through their support for Trump, contributing to the mainstreaming of white supremacy. The appeal of Trump’s racialist version of the economic discontent argument is so great that it has extended to surprising audiences. A small but vocal contingent of the Bernie Sanders fan base seems to have migrated to the Trump camp. Ideologically, this switch makes no sense, but given the precedent set in the primaries, it is not surprising. The Democratic primaries were the most racially divided in U.S. history — states with black or Latino populations of over 10 percent almost always went to Clinton.
As white men with disparate ideological perspectives unite under the Trump banner, many of them have come to espouse or condone his racist views, tainting their legitimate economic grievances with an ugly nativist edge. Meanwhile, America’s much-vaunted economic recovery is still failing to create enough well-paying jobs. As a result, white populism is set not only to keep growing, but to become further incorporated into mainstream American politics.
If the broken white male workers out there decide they can be talked into resistance or something far worse when Clinton wins, it's going to be awful. As I keep saying, the 60 million people who will end up voting for Donald Trump aren't going to shrug and say "Well, good fight, we'll see you in 2020" and walk away.
If you thought America's white supremacist domestic terror problem was bad before, wait until 2017.