Former Republican member of Congress and conservative commentator Joe Walsh said on Twitter Wednesday that if Donald Trump loses, “I’m grabbing my musket.”
On November 8th, I'm voting for Trump.— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) October 26, 2016
On November 9th, if Trump loses, I'm grabbing my musket.
On the one hand, he didn’t say “gun,” he said “muskets” — a term so antiquated and bizarre that it was almost funny, and a lot of commentators were quick to make jokes at Walsh’s expense.
I'M GRABBING MY MUSKET is the perfect thing to scream into an old fashioned phone that isn't plugged in— Erin Gloria Ryan (@morninggloria) October 26, 2016
It's not a great thing to tweet
I do not believe that Joe Walsh:— Ben Dreyfuss (@bendreyfuss) October 26, 2016
1) knows how to load a musket
2) knows how to fire a musket
3) owns a musket
But at this particular moment, after weeks of Trump refusing to say whether he’ll concede if he loses, it’s also dangerous, alarming rhetoric.
As Vox’s Zack Beauchamp explained, Trump’s repeated talk of “rigged elections” could put American lives at risk in a real and scary way:
Trump is doing something very different, pairing rhetoric about a rigged election with a message that basically says it’s him or the apocalypse. He has repeatedly warned his fans that if he loses, the America they know will be irreparably damaged.
Those kinds of words can have serious real-world impact. A range of scholars who study everything from civil wars to the history of the Ku Klux Klan each expressed deep concern about potential consequences ranging from murders at polling booths to the rise of a new racist terrorist movement to the weakening of the long-term stability of the American political system.
Joke or not, Walsh’s tweet was also a call for armed insurrection. It glorified that insurrection by recalling the Revolutionary War and our forefathers’ fight for freedom, as well as the “militias” that formed the basis of the Second Amendment — which many of Trump’s supporters are big fans of.
Trump has already “joked” about his rival, Hillary Clinton, getting shot. That wasn’t funny, and neither is this. It normalizes and even encourages violence at an incredibly volatile moment in American politics.