As the presidential election nears, the risk of violence appears to be growing. Increasingly heated presidential rhetoric, political polarization, COVID-19-related anxiety, mobilization and counter-mobilization related to Black Lives Matter protests, and other concerns all pose risks for election security and public safety. Law enforcement agencies, social media companies, and others anxious to preserve the peace are scrambling to identify, and disrupt, possible threats, but their efforts may not be enough. Much depends on a wild card—the actions of the president of the United States—and the prognosis there looks quite grim. If violence does occur, which seems likely, a key challenge could be to stop it from cascading, leading to more lives lost and a greater disruption of traditional peaceful politics.
The stakes are high for this election and the national mood appears dark.