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Despite “credible threat of violence,” Michigan’s Electoral College vote went smoothly

Extra security precautions illustrated how Trump is radicalizing his followers.

Pro-Trump demonstrators protest outside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing on Monday.
Elaine Cromie/Getty Images

Michigan’s presidential electors convened on Monday at the state capitol in Lansing and officially cast 16 votes for Joe Biden amid concerns of violence — and in a superheated climate created by President Donald Trump’s willingness to stoke resentment as he continues to refuse to concede an election he clearly lost.

The vote, which took place just before 3 pm Eastern time, happened in a Senate chamber that was closed to the public on Monday due to a “credible threat of violence.” Police stationed at the building prevented Trump supporters from entering the area where the Electoral College vote took place.

There was good reason for the extra precautions. Just hours before the vote took place, a Republican state legislator, Gary Eisen, went on a local radio show and suggested he was at least aware of a violent plot to disrupt the proceedings.

“There’s going to be violence. There’s going to be protests. And they asked me if I was going to assist today. ... And how could I not?” said Eisen, in comments that promptly caused Republican leaders to remove him from his committee assignments.

Eisen’s remarks were extreme, but they reflect the mood among Trump followers who have bought the lies he and his campaign have been pushing about the election being stolen from him. And this anger wasn’t just on display in Michigan — in Arizona, for instance, Biden electors met on Monday at an undisclosed location for security reasons.

Thankfully, plots to disrupt the Electoral College votes with violence or otherwise have not come to fruition. But Trump did everything in his power in hopes of tarnishing what has traditionally been a peaceful national ceremony to officially end a presidential election.

Trump is openly encouraging unrest for no good reason

Monday’s Electoral College meetings came hours after Trump posted a Twitter thread claiming falsely that if swing states like Michigan and Arizona went ahead with the Electoral College votes, they’d be committing “a severely punishable crime.”

Trump concluded his thread by exclaiming, “VOTES CANNOT BE CERTIFIED. THIS ELECTION IS UNDER PROTEST!”

Of course, Monday is the day that states, by law, must allow their electors to vote — the crime would be to stop them from doing so. And the Trump campaign and its lawyers have failed to bring forth any evidence of significant fraud (because no such evidence exists) that would call the election into question, prompting even judges nominated by Trump to rule against his efforts to overturn the election results.

But that lack of evidence doesn’t seem to bother Trump’s ardent supporters, some of whom came to the brink of openly calling for violence against Trump’s enemies during pro-Trump events that took place over the weekend in Washington, DC. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, for instance, argued that now was the time to take up arms to secure a second term for Trump in order to avoid a “much more bloody war” later.

Street clashes that took place following those pro-Trump rallies culminated in four people being stabbed. But instead of trying to turn down the temperature, Trump on Sunday morning not only continued sounding off about a purported Democratic plot to “steal the election” but went as far as to suggest, absurdly, that Republicans who have supported him through thick and thin were in on it.

The potential consequences of this sort of incendiary rhetoric from the president have already been seen by Michigan state officials. In October, armed right-wing militia members were arrested for allegedly plotting to kidnap a frequent target of Trump’s abuse, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. One of the men posted a video of himself wearing a Trump hat on social media shortly before the plot was broken up.

Predictably, however, Trump responded to those arrests not by toning down the rhetoric, but by attacking Whitmer more during the numerous visits he made to Michigan in the campaign’s final weeks.

Those efforts weren’t enough to prevent Biden from carrying Michigan by more than 150,000 votes.

Despite his decisive loss, Trump in recent days has repeatedly called for Republican officials and judges to have the “WISDOM & COURAGE” to help him “OVERTURN” Biden’s win. Those efforts weren’t enough to convince these officials to stop the Electoral College vote in key states, but they appear to have been more than enough to further radicalize a segment of his supporters, including those who made threats against electors and those willing to join Trump in his doomed fight.

On Monday, for instance, Stephen Miller — who both works in the White House and advises the Trump campaign — told Fox & Friends that “an alternate slate of electors in the contested states is going to vote and we are going to send those results to Congress.”

Like Trump’s other efforts to overturn his loss, the “alternate electors” gambit is destined to fail — they have no legal standing and can’t actually cast any votes. But efforts of this sort are succeeding in undermining confidence in Biden’s victory, which a recent Quinnipiac poll indicated only 60 percent of registered voters view as legitimate.