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America Is a Powder Keg

A collection of stories about one of the most uncertain, anxious moments in our nation’s history

Illustration: Anthony Gerace

Election Day 2020 will be either a short night or a long month. We’ll know right away if there’s a Biden blowout—look to Florida, Arizona, and the way things are trending in the upper Midwest — but anything narrower could wind up in the courts or in recounts. Absentee and mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin won’t be counted until polls open, adding to the potential for a lengthy period of uncertainty about who will preside over the United States come 2021.

No matter who wins, though, when America finally gets an answer, only part of the country will be in the mood to celebrate. If the president manages to pull off a late comeback, a left whose members are already stocking up on protective gear will surely take to the streets. If Biden prevails, Trump’s base will do the same, but they’ll be mostly maskless — and, in many cases, toting the weapons they’ve been stockpiling for months.

The signs and portents of trouble are all around us. We all know and feel like something unusual has been happening in the country these past years, that the divisions have the potential to intensify into something even more extreme. The stories in “Rumors of War” explore what that might be—and what we might face on the other side of Election Day. —Garance Franke-Ruta

Will There Be Blood? by Steve LeVine

We game out all the scenarios, from a surprisingly peaceful transfer of power to violence in the streets.

Our Right to Protest Is Under Chilling Assaultby Aaron Gell

How a First Amendment right has been systematically dismantled — just when we might need it most.

All Your Most Paranoid Questions for a Lame-Duck Session, Answered’ by Ben Jacobs

A lot can go haywire in the months before a new Congress and president are sworn in.

I Cover Civil Wars—the State of America Right Now Makes Me Anxious’ by Janine di Giovanni

What a balkanized America can learn from the breakup of the Balkans.

How Experts Are Preparing for Disruption at the Pollsby Morgan Baskin

Hate crimes and domestic terrorism are real risks surrounding the election.



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