Black voters warned of Trump’s history with political violence after ‘bloodbath’ remark

“We know the history of how political violence has been used to influence and silence Black voices historically in the country and how it's been used as a cudgel," said Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist.

Former president and current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a Buckeye Values PAC rally in Vandalia, Ohio on Saturday, March 16. (Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images)

After presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump declared that there would be a “bloodbath” if he is not elected in November, Democratic strategists are cautioning Black voters – and all Americans – to take him at his word.

“If I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a bloodbath … that’s the least of it,” Trump said during a campaign rally in Ohio on Saturday.

The former president’s campaign attempted to clarify that Trump was not referring to political violence in his remarks but was referring to the economy if President Joe Biden is elected to a second term. However, Democrats say voters don’t have to look far to know Trump’s history of using rhetoric to incite or excuse violence. 

“Donald Trump and his supporters want you to give him the benefit of the doubt when we know he’s led a violent insurrection,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne, referring to the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol building by Trump supporters after he refused to concede his 2020 election loss to Biden.

Payne said the twice-impeached, four-times-indicted former president “uses political violence as a rhetorical weapon” and has “done it for a long time.”

On Monday, the Biden-Harris campaign released a memo detailing what is essentially Trump’s greatest hits of encouraging or downplaying violence, including infamously telling white nationalist groups to “stand back and stand by” when asked to condemn white supremacy and violence. 

The reelection campaign of President Joe Biden (left) and Vice President Kamala Harris listed some of ex-President Trump’s past violence-related comments after his “bloodbath” remark. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The campaign noted other incidents — like when Trump encouraged his supporters to “knock out” hecklers disrupting his campaign rallies or declared there was “blame on both sides” after white supremacists held a violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. As president, Trump also threatened to use “vicious dogs” against Black Lives Matter protesters.

“The Trump campaign can try to spin all they want, but the context is clear: Their candidate has spent every moment since his first campaign encouraging and excusing political violence. Repeatedly,” said Biden-Harris campaign spokesperson Sarafina Chitika.

Payne, who worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential election, told theGrio that Black voters, in particular, should be mindful of Trump’s penchant for encouraging political violence.

“We know the history of how political violence has been used to influence and silence Black voices historically in the country and how it’s been used as a cudgel,” he said. “It would be unwise for folks to give the benefit of the doubt to people like Donald Trump, who have historically used that to keep their thumb on Black voters.”

Political consultant Antjuan Seawright, founder and CEO of Blueprint Strategy LLC, noted that Trump and Republican leaders aligned with his “MAGA” agenda want to take the country back to a time when “certain people had all the power and influence in this country and other groups of people suffered generationally because of it.”

“This is right in line with dictatorship. It’s right in line with eliminating democracy as we know it,” he told theGrio. “We should not be surprised that Trump is not new to this; he’s true to it.”

Markus Batchelor, national political director at progressive advocacy group People For the American Way, similarly told theGrio: “Over and over, Donald Trump weaponizes dangerous rhetoric and innuendo that stokes his base and heightens the threat of violent incitement.”

Supporters of then-President Donald Trump try to open a door of the U.S. Capitol as they riot on Jan. 6, 2021. Recent comments by Trump are validating concerns of more political violence. (Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AP, File)

Batchelor drew to history, arguing that while Trump’s rhetoric is “irresponsible,” he believes it’s also “very intentional behavior we see from rising authoritarians throughout history.”

“The same we saw in the days leading up to Jan. 6,” he added. “The challenge is that voters and institutions charged with protecting democracy don’t sleep through the clear warning Trump is sending us ahead of yet another election.”

Concerns about more political violence in the U.S. following Jan. 6 remain as Trump continues to suggest that he will not accept the results of the 2024 presidential election if he loses again to Biden. The stakes are even higher for Trump as he faces criminal indictments and civil penalties worth half a billion dollars related to fraud and defamation. He would likely be shielded from legal harm if elected back into the White House.

As Americans learned following the Justice Department probe into whether Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, sitting presidents enjoy certain privileges like exemption from prosecution. A pending Supreme Court case will determine if Trump can claim presidential immunity in a criminal case in a Washington, D.C., federal court for allegedly obstructing the transfer of power of the executive office. Despite losing the 2020 election, Trump falsely claimed there was widespread voter fraud and that the election was “stolen” from him.

“Our country has had enough, and we will not take it anymore … you’ll never take our country with weakness. You have to show strength,” Trump said to his supporters less than two hours before they violently attacked the Capitol. “We fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

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Gerren Keith Gaynor

Gerren Keith Gaynor is a White House Correspondent and the Managing Editor of Politics at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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