The 2020 US presidential election is unlike any other in living memory. Previous contests have been rancorous and some were described in existential terms. But never, at least in recent times, have Americans faced the realistic prospect of the incumbent rejecting the outcome, and rarely have partisan divisions risked escalating into armed conflict.
We at the International Crisis Group (ICG) have a mandate to end, prevent, and mitigate violent conflicts wherever they emerge. While our efforts over the past quarter-century have taken us all around the world, not until this year have they required us to focus squarely on the United States.
In many countries, elections often come with a risk of bloodshed, owing to such factors as extreme political polarization, winner-take-all stakes, a proliferation of weapons in the hands of armed groups with political agendas, and flawed electoral processes that leave many citizens doubting the results. Under these conditions, elections can be particularly dangerous when each candidate has a sizable and committed base of support.