You may recall that on Wednesday, Donald Trump gave a chilling warning to the Republican establishment–his supporters may riot if he goes into the Republican National Convention with a clear lead in delegates, only to get denied the nomination. Well, a major Trump surrogate and tea party activist doubled down on that threat a few hours later, saying that if Trump were denied the nomination, violent outbursts wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Scottie Nell Hughes is the chief political commentator at USA Radio Networks, a distributor of mostly Christianist talk radio programs. She is also a prominent Trump supporter, and has been a fixture for most of the campaign on CNN and Fox News Channel. On Wednesday’s edition of “The Situation Room,” Wolf Blitzer asked Hughes about Trump’s threat. Watch a clip here.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 16, 2016
Watch a longer clip here.
Hughes agreed with Trump that there would indeed be a lot of anger if his supporters felt “the people’s voice” were ignored. If the GOP establishment dealt what she called “a backhand” to Trump’s supporters, she said that anger would boil over. Under those circumstances, Hughes didn’t think that “riots aren’t necessarily a bad thing” if the GOP were to “ignore the voice of the people.”
Blitzer was understandably dumbfounded. He wondered if Hughes thought the 2016 GOP convention could turn into a repeat of the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, which is still infamous for the sometimes violent protests that took place there. But Hughes said–with a straight face–that such a “riot” would be violent. She didn’t think that there would be actual violence if Trump were denied the nomination, but she did believe that “they would make sure that their voices are heard.”
If you think that clip was chilling, the full exchange was even more mind-numbing. Hughes claimed that there are actually two definitions of riots. She claimed that if Trump followers “rioted,” it wouldn’t result in violence, but just “a large display of emotion.”
Well, we’ve already seen a number of examples of “large displays of emotion” from Trump supporters. Back in November, a protester in Birmingham was violently kicked and beaten by Trump supporters, and Trump himself said he deserved it. And last week, a Trump supporter in Fayetteville, North Carolina cold-cocked a protester and threatened to kill him if he ever showed up at another Trump rally. This also comes on the heels of another Trump surrogate, Ann Coulter, saying that she would actually like to see more instances of protesters getting beaten up at Trump rallies.
After hearing this, if I were a delegate pledged to Trump, I would probably vote for someone else on the convention floor, or not even vote at all. Granted, pledged delegates are legally bound to vote for that candidate in the first round. But if there is ever a cause for an exception to that rule, it is when that candidate either condones or outright encourages behavior that has no place in any self-respecting democracy. That would especially be true if I were a parent. How would I be able to tell my kids why I voted for a man who condones or tacitly encourages violence?
Let’s review. In the last week, a top Trump surrogate called for more violence at Trump’s rallies, Trump himself threatened riots if he doesn’t get the nomination, and another surrogate said that riots wouldn’t be a bad thing under such circumstances. If a delegate pledged to Trump opted not to do so and cited these instances as reasons for breaking that pledge, that delegate would be a hero.