News & Politics

Joe Walsh Tweets 'If Trump Loses, I'm Grabbing My Musket,' Then Walks It Back

(AP Photo/Daily Herald, Mark Black)

Has there been an election this tense in modern history? It’s not just the amount of tension, but the type which proves alarming. We’re not sitting here wondering who’s going to win. We already know. The tension comes not from uncertainty about the result, but from uncertainty about the reaction to that result. There may be riots, something more traditionally reserved for the Left, when Donald Trump loses. That’s something that, if said in any previous cycle, would have been loony hyperbole. But the candidate and too many of his supporters have made it a real threat.

In his third and final debate performance, Donald Trump stated that he would “keep [us] in suspense” as to whether he would accept the outcome of the election on November 8. Coming as it did after a week of harping about a “rigged” election system, the comment seemed to leave the door open for all manner of rebellion. Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway assured the media that Trump was only referring to contesting close results, as Al Gore did in 2000. But that’s not how many supporters took it.

Former congressman and radio talk show host Joe Walsh took the notion a step further on Wednesday:

At face value, that’s a clear reference to violent revolution. Confronted with indignant feedback, Walsh walked the tweets back in an interview with Yahoo News:

“I’m not talking about inciting violence. I’m saying, ‘If Trump loses, man, game on, grab your musket. We’re going to protest. We’re going to boycott. We’re going to picket. We’re going to march on Washington. We’re going to stop paying taxes. We’re going to practice civil disobedience.’ Whatever it takes,” Walsh explained.

Walsh, who became a conservative talk-radio host after he left office in 2013, said his reference to a musket, an outdated Revolutionary War-era weapon, should have made it obvious that he wasn’t seriously advocating an armed response to the election.

“What the heck! A musket! … For the life of me, it’s like the left … has no sense of humor,” Walsh said. “I mean, a musket, what damage could a musket do? What if I had said grab your slingshot?”

Even if we give him the benefit of doubt, isn’t the larger issue what such rhetoric may drive people to?

It’s the same problem raised by Trump’s stance on the election results. Whatever he meant by it is almost irrelevant. What matters is the kind of environment he’s fostering by taking that stance. Despite Conway’s spin, it’s not perfectly analogous to Gore, who wasn’t going around weeks in advance of the election talking about keeping people in suspense. Indeed, Gore initially conceded on election night before retracting when Florida came into question. It wouldn’t have made any sense for Gore to stomp around refusing to concede before a single vote was cast, and it doesn’t make any sense for Trump to do so now.

That is if Trump’s goal is actually winning the election, which it’s clearly not. You only talk like he is if you know that you’re going to lose and are laying the groundwork for something else—like, I don’t know, a new media network. At this point, Trump is going with Plan B. With these inflammatory tweets, Walsh is playing a similar game. You may not have known who Walsh was before. You do now. And that’s the point. This is guerrilla marketing, folks. It has nothing whatsoever to do with beating Democrats or securing public policy. It’s about monetizing your anger.