The siege of the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump’s supporters follows identifiable paths and patterns of election violence seen around the world.
Election violence is rarely spontaneous. It is intentionally organized in order to influence the process and outcome of elections. It is not a coup, but it is a close cousin. Coups are about change in power, often with a military backing.
Election violence begins in three clear stages, all of which have unfolded during the recent events in Washington.
First, the perpetrators convince their followers that their political grievances cannot be resolved through institutional channels of democracy. This explains why Trump has relentlessly insisted the presidential election was a fraud. Individuals may lash out spontaneously, but legitimizing violent acts is a strategy usually groomed over time until it’s whipped into a frenzy.