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University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation

Political Violence, Ex-Presidents, and Upcoming Elections

August 31, 2022
Pearce Edwards


In analysis for Political Violence At A Glance, an IGCC-supported blog dedicated to political violence and its alternatives, Pearce Edwards, postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University, analyzes lessons U.S. policymakers can take from Argentina about extremists committing violence in the name of an ex-president.

After Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents executed a search warrant at the Florida residence of former president Donald Trump, officials reported threats of political violence against federal law enforcement. A Pennsylvania man was charged after issuing violent online screeds against the FBI. Threats turned to action in Cincinnati, Ohio, as a self-professed Trump supporter attempted to attack the FBI’s local office before being killed in a firefight with police. Reacting to these events, a former New Jersey Attorney General remarked that “extremist rhetoric” from politicians with respect to the FBI would have “real-world consequences” such as escalating violence.

While scholars have studied political extremism and armed groups in the United States—investigating the causestargetstacticsorganization, and online behavior of extremists—the sophistication of these groups and their ties with politicians have reached a perilous point. During the January 6, 2021 riots against the certification of the 2020 presidential election results, the founder of the extremist group Oath Keepers attempted (unsuccessfully) to contact President Trump. Trump, however, gave only “inspiration” to these groups leading up to January 6, never overtly coordinating with them. David Rapoport characterizes this “intensified” alignment between the Trump administration and extremist groups and the potential for a splintered far-right to “merge into larger movements” as aspects of a new “fifth wave” of modern terrorism.

As the 2022 midterm elections and 2024 presidential campaign approach in the US, what are the implications of violent extremists acting in the name of a politically powerful former—and potentially future—president? Such a situation is unprecedented in recent United States history, but not for another country in the Americas: Argentina. My research looks at what happens when extremists use violence against security forces and political elites to support the comeback of a former president, using evidence from the lead-up to Argentina’s September 1973 elections. Our findings offer insights—and warnings—for the present situation in the United States.

Read the full blog post at Political Violence At A Glance