The militia movement is a right-wing movement that arose following controversial standoffs in the 1990s. It inherited paramilitary traditions of earlier groups, especially the conspiratorial, anti-government Posse Comitatus. The militia movement claims that militia groups are sanctioned by law but uncontrolled by government; in fact, they are designed to oppose a tyrannical government. The movement’s ideology has led some adherents to commit criminal acts, including stockpiling illegal weapons and explosives and plotting to destroy buildings or assassinate public officials, as well as lesser confrontations.
So the question for the layman arises, what is the relation between Militias and the elections, well, as mentioned militias adhere to far-right ideology which Trump currently promotes, i.e., America first, protection of gun laws and in the worst case scenarios, return of the conditions faced by colored people before the civil war upto to the civil rights movement(highly unlikely in this era)but cannot be entirely dismissed because of the reactions we saw during George Floyd incident followed by BLM(black lives matter). What followed were not only typical protests but also strong presence of NFAC, African-American Militia and such rise seen after a long time. Before this, Black Panther Party (1966-1982) saw its peak with aims for cop watching (policing the police) and challenging police brutality.
Most militia organizations envisage themselves as legally legitimate organizations, despite the fact that all 50 states prohibit private paramilitary activity. Others subscribe to the “insurrection theory” which describes the right of the body politic to rebel against the established government in the face of tyranny. (In the 1951 case Dennis v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the insurrection theory, stating that as long as the government provides for free elections and trials by jury, “political self-defense” cannot be undertaken.) Do militias have authority to act during the election? Not unless the governor explicitly calls such militias into service under the state’s authority. All fifty state constitutions prohibit unorganized militias, namely private and unauthorized armed groups, from engaging in activities reserved for the state National Guard, such as law enforcement. The Supreme Court ruled in 1886 that such state prohibitions do not violate the Second Amendment under the U.S. Constitution and reaffirmed that ruling [PDF] in 2008. Many state constitutions also provide that “the military shall be in strict subordination to the civil power.” Some states, including Michigan, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, prohibit paramilitary actions “during or in furtherance of a civil disorder.” While militia organizations vary in their ideologies and objectives, with many high profile organizations espousing anti-tax, anti-immigration, survivalist, sovereign citizen, libertarian, land rights and southern restoration views, they generally share a common belief in the imminent or actual rise of a tyrannical government in the United States which, they believe, must be confronted through armed force. Some believe in the New World Order conspiracy theory. Yet there have been gatherings of unorganized militia units at demonstrations in a number of states in recent months, none of which has been ordered by any governor. Although unlikely, a governor could authorize an unorganized militia to stand guard over lines of voters at polling stations or respond to the slightest unrest. This would spur immediate efforts to legally enjoin the governor’s order over charges of voter intimidation.
The Hate Groups are categorized as Ku Klux Klan, White Nationalist, Racist Skinhead, Christian Identity, Neo-Confederate, Black Separatist, and General Hate. Because skinheads are migratory and often not affiliated with groups, this article understates their domain. Christian Identity describes a religion that is fundamentally racist and anti-Semitic. Black Separatist groups are organizations whose ideologies include tenets of racially based hatred. Neo-Confederate groups seek to revive many of the racist principles of the antebellum South. White Nationalist groups espouse white supremacy or white separatism but generally avoid anti-Semitism. General Hate groups espouse various ideologies of hatred and include the sub-categories of Anti-LGBT groups, Anti-Immigrant groups, Anti-Muslim groups, Holocaust Denial groups, Racist Music labels, Radical Traditionalist Catholic groups (which reject core Catholic teachings and espouse anti-Semitism) and Other (a variety of groups endorsing a hodge-podge of hate doctrines).
During Trump’s tenure along with Militias, hate groups have also seen a rise after a long time and unlike militias they stick to Trump’s comments about Covid-19 and the elections very strictly at times going at it word to word. Majority of them belong to rural areas and though they are involved in similar activities to Militias, most of their members have minimal education and almost no exposure to outside world. This is why at times we have seen Militia members retiring as a third quarter of them are former military and so educated. But the hate groups on the other hand such change is rarely observed.
Militias and hate groups are not solely dominated by far-right ideology but far-left also has significant influence as we saw with emergence of NFAC currently headed by John Jay Fitzgerald Johnson (Grand Master Jay). But, with far-left ideology comparatively with far-right, most are just simply demanding for their rights instead of typical anti-Govt or anti-anything.
What happens if Trump decides not to concede and tries to take a stand? well, Trump’s stand might be in court but there will be bloodshed of all colors, even though he might not call onto militias and hate groups directly to his support, but as we have seen during his tenure and even in recent interviews, he might put out the call indirectly. In the final minutes of last week’s televised presidential debate, a few days before he tested positive for Covid-19, Donald Trump was asked by the moderator, Chris Wallace, whether he would call on his supporters to stay calm and desist from civil unrest in the immediate aftermath of next month’s election. Trump pointedly declined the invitation. Instead, he replied: “I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen. I’m urging them to do it.” Although bloodshed will not only limit to civilians but men in Uniform will suffer too both civil and federal troops. States have legal authority to respond to election-related violence. At the most local level, municipal officials would typically use city police to deter or quell violence. Regardless of the sufficiency of local efforts, the governor can act under state constitutional and statutory authority to deploy state law enforcement personnel, such as highway troopers, and the state National Guard. Each of the fifty states has a National Guard contingent that the governors can call to serve during emergencies, typically natural disasters, and for law enforcement purposes, as they have done throughout history. National Guard members are individuals with civilian jobs who can be activated as trained and uniformed soldiers. By June 2, in response to protests over police brutality against Black people, governors had deployed seventeen thousand state National Guard members to assist local law enforcement personnel in twenty-three states. Yet their armed deployment covers a limited scope of actions. If a governor were to order the deployment of armed National Guard members to interfere with the right to vote under the pretense of deterring violence—such as by breaking up long lines of voters before or on Election Day—that action could trigger unrest and would be challenged immediately in the courts as unconstitutional conduct under both state and federal law. However, it was perfectly legal during the 2020 primaries when governors activated unarmed, plainclothes Guard members to serve in polling places to facilitate the voting process.
Additionally, thirty states have now called upon the National Guard to bolster cybersecurity for the general election. Now for authority of Trump, two categories of national forces are under Trump’s direction as commander in chief. The first consists of the 1.38 million active personnel of the U.S. Armed Forces. An additional 840,000 individuals are in the reserves, and of that number, a little more than half is drawn from the Army National Guard and Air National Guard. These Guard components operate under the dual command of state governors and the federal government, the latter having superior command authority to call into active federal service those state National Guard personnel who serve as reserves in the U.S. National Guard and can be ordered overseas for training or to fight wars. The Supreme Court ruled this command structure was constitutional in 1990.The U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to “provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union suppress insurrections and repel invasions.” But Congress adopted the Insurrection Act of 1807, which empowers the president to accomplish such objectives using the U.S. Armed Forces and the U.S. National Guard. A 1956 amendment requires the president first to issue a proclamation ordering the insurgents to disperse. Presidents invoked the Insurrection Act twenty-two times between 1808 and 1992. President Ulysses S. Grant relied on it in 1872 to deploy federal troops to suppress unrest following the 1872 Louisiana gubernatorial election, even though that state did not request the assistance. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy invoked the law to enforce federally mandated desegregation in southern states, despite opposition from governors. The relatively obscure Insurrection Act stands as an exception to the more widely known Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, as amended, which prohibits the Army, Air Force, and, by regulation, the Navy and Marine Corps from enforcing domestic laws inside the United States. This includes any federalized component of a state National Guard called into active duty by the Defense Department. At work here is a constraint (long honored, particularly by the military) on any attempt by a president to intervene with armed force against the American populace. Federal law also prohibits deploying armed federal agents to polling places. Trump’s deployment of various National Guard units to clear demonstrators near the White House in June, as well as his sending Department of Homeland Security agents to protect federal buildings in Portland, Oregon, may preview presidential action surrounding the election. His authority to use military forces in the District of Columbia is more far-reaching than in the fifty states.
In conclusion there are only two scenarios in which potential unrest can be avoided is if Trump concedes or he doesn’t but faces resistance from his own people i.e., the military. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, recently drew a red line in the event of a contested election result, saying “if there is [a contested result], it’ll be handled appropriately by the courts and by the U.S. Congress. There’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election. Zero.”
Military commanders and soldiers at the state and national level can interpret orders as unlawful, particularly if they are based on falsehoods, and refuse to comply. Court filings to prevent the president and any governor from following through on such use of the military would refer the matter to the judicial branch, where the Supreme Court would be the final battleground.
But if it does boil down to violence, both militias and military will taste a certain irony. The Militias made to fight tyranny will side with tyranny and the military will fight against the Govt they’re sworn to protect. I guess all oaths are tricky when the time comes to fulfill them. Let’s hope we don’t see the glimpse of third world countries in the US.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Dunya News’ editorial stance.