Former Arkansas governor and failed presidential candidate Mike Huckabee made a striking prediction on a recent episode of his Trinity Broadcasting Network show, warning that if former President Donald Trump fails to win the 2024 election because of his criminal indictments, “it is going to be the last American election that will be decided by ballots rather than bullets.” Right Wing Watch was the first to report on Huckabee’s comments; by Thursday morning the Right Wing Watch video clip had been viewed 2.4 million times and Huckabee was being roundly criticized for his comments.
In a healthy democratic system, it would be shocking for a major political leader to make such a threat. But apocalyptic rhetoric and threats of violence and civil war have become increasingly common among right-wing leaders and far-right activists.
From Right Wing Watch reporting just in the past month:
- Huckabee accused President Joe Biden of using dictatorial tactics and charging Trump with “made-up crimes,” warning, “If these tactics end up working to keep Trump from winning or even running in 2024, it is going to be the last American election that will be decided by ballots rather than bullets.” Huckabee’s comments are a classic example of right-wing propagandists’ tactic of accusing others of what they themselves are doing—or are planning to do if they get power. Trump and his allies talk openly about their authoritarian plans to eliminate the independence of the Justice Department, “decimate the deep state,” and jail (or worse) Trump’s enemies if they re-take the White House.
- Far-right online personality Stew Peters urged MAGA-minded Americans to being exploring “extra-legal options” to remove “enemy combatants” like Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs from office. Peters recently shared a ReAwaken America stage with Donald Trump Jr., Lara Trump, Kimberly Guilfoyle, and Michael Flynn, where Peters vowed that when the MAGA movement takes power, they will execute Anthony Fauci, Hunter Biden, and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. As Right Wing Watch has noted:
Stew Peters is a far-right virulently anti-LGBTQ bigot who regularly uses his nightly “The Stew Peters Show” program, speeches, and social media accounts to promote white nationalists and antisemites and to spread wild conspiracy theories, bigotry, and calls for violence. Nevertheless, Peters regularly manages to get Republican leaders, elected officials, and candidates for office to appear on his program.
- Dominionist “prophet” Johnny Enlow, who said after the 2020 election that Trump would be justified in imposing martial law and calling for revolution, interviewed on the “Elijah Streams” program Henry Hastings, a former special forces commander who says God told him to train “modern-day Minuteman” with the military skills to “overtake and destroy those who would threaten freedom.” Echoing claims made by the “constitutional sheriff” movement, Hastings said sheriffs have the power to establish militias to remove “domestic enemies from office,” saying “The federal government is now becoming an enemy of ‘We The People. And when we have elections where people have not been legally or lawfully elected, we have domestic enemies in office and our Constitution gives us the authority to remove them.”
- Christian nationalist musician-politician Sean Feucht, a close ally of Sen. Josh Hawley and partner with Turning Point USA in an ongoing “Kingdom to the Capitol” of state capitols, joined far-right extremist pastor and former state legislator Matt Shea to pray over Spokane’s mayor and political candidates. Shea is a former Republican member of the Washington state House of Representatives who was stripped of his committee assignments and booted out of the party in 2019 in the wake of a report detailing how he had “participated in an act of domestic terrorism” and “planned, engaged in and promoted a total of three armed conflicts of political violence against the United States Government in three states outside the state of Washington over a three-year period.” Earlier this year, Shea presented Feucht with a “defender of liberty” award.
- Kandiss Taylor, a conspiracy theorist whose campaign for Georgia governor in 2022 failed spectacularly, attended Mike Lindell’s most recent “summit,” where she said during an interview that the indictment of Trump and his co-conspirators for trying to overturn the 2020 election is treason that could lead to bloodshed. “This is war, and I hope and pray it gets resolved before we use guns. I really do. I do not want to see bloodshed in America, but we’re at war right now: a war for our freedom.”
- Far-right legal activist Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch and current leader of Freedom Watch, claimed in August that President Biden and members of his family had been indicted by a “citizen grand jury” and that a “citizens’ judge” had handed down felony convictions after a “trial” in Boise, Idaho. Klayman said he would “commission” members of law enforcement and the military to enforce the “sentence.”
In June, multiple Trump allies warned that his criminal indictment could lead to civil war, a possibility suggested by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson in the interview with Trump that was posted online just before the Republican presidential debate that Trump skipped. As I noted in a blog post after the debate, “Trump supporters have threatened civil war over the lost 2020 election, his impeachments, and the FBI carrying out a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. Speakers at the religious-right Road to Majority conference in June, at which Trump spoke, declared that the country is ‘at war’ and rallied people to ‘the battlefield of the spiritual civil war.’”
Earlier this year, far-right broadcaster Pete Santilli demanded that the military and law enforcement round up Barack Obama, Eric Holder, Susan Rice, and other members of the “criminal cabal,” line them up against a concrete wall and shoot them. After Trump’s June indictment, Santilli fantasized about using the Marines to launch a coup by arresting President Biden and congressional leaders; Santilli’s guest said that if he were a high-ranking general, he would murder Gen. Mark Milley and order servicemembers to “go after” everybody on his “hit list.”
As the recent sentencing of Proud Boys leaders related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol reminds us, threats of violence can lead to real violence. The widespread belief among some conservative Christian Trump supporters that he was anointed by God, and that his opponents are therefore enemies of God and agents of Satan, adds to the danger of violence. Sociologists and pollsters have documented that Christian nationalists are more likely than other Americans to support authoritarian leaders and believe that political violence may be necessary to “save” the country.