“What a revoltin’ development this is” is a quote made famous on 1940s radio and 1950s TV by William Bendix in “The Life of Riley.”

It was my reaction last Wednesday when the election results became known.

Having worked the Bristol polls Tuesday morning and early afternoon, I knew that turnout was exceptionally high, especially for a miserable, wet, windy day. I also knew the candidates in most of the contests along the mid-coast so, for me, the results were unexpected to say the least: Not so just the win/lost results but the margins in many races.

The good news for everyone is that the campaigns are now over. Those dreadful, hateful TV ads are gone. The offensive, venomous and insulting comments and commentary will likely continue, but there is no reason to read it or listen to it. Everyone can choose to take some time out to enjoy the holidays with friends and family. I surely will.

I have very strong views and — others will doubtless have opposing strong views — of whose campaign tactics were more divisive, hateful or dishonest. Fortunately, I attended school when history was taught and know hateful campaigning has always been with us.

This campaign was child’s play compared to some in the past, including even the violence.

We heard endless hyperventilation over Russian meddling and, as I wrote last year, I have no doubt much of the nastiness in this election cycle was foreign-inspired, foreign-funded, and foreign-organized. It is simply what “they” do, and it goes far beyond Russians spending a few thousand Rubles on Facebook bots or even hacking e-mails.

It should stretch nobody’s imagination that Russia is not likely even one of the top five or six countries now attacking American institutions, including our elections. Foreign interference is real and it is the responsibility of the intelligence community, Justice Department and military. Aside from staying informed, there’s little we can do individually to combat it.

Domestic subversion is another matter.

We were told that civility could return when Democrats were returned to power. Whatever the outcome of the marginal races, Democrats have been handed power. We may hope for a return to civility, but if the Wednesday night Antifa attack on Tucker Carlson’s wife and children is any indication, the odds of it happening are vanishingly small.

Even so, I do hope folks on our side will not compound the problem by turning their disappointment and frustration into personal attacks and taking to the streets wearing ugly hats and disgusting costumes to scream obscenities, burn cars, break windows and beat people.

Beyond hoping for it, however, I submit that we all have a duty to demand better behavior. Despite the gratuitous “both sides” so many talking heads are fond of, the facts on the ground are that assaults in restaurants, departments stores, gas stations, public streets and even private property have been overwhelmingly one-sided.

A savage and dangerous element in our society has been activated and enabled by irresponsible people and very dark funding. History has repeatedly demonstrated how foolish it is to think that element is controllable or that it will remain focused on Republican officials. Eventually they will turn their violence on anyone who opposes whatever they decide they want next, especially Democrats who aren’t radical enough to deliver their every fantasy.

Trying to assign (or reassign) responsibility and rejoicing that “those” guys are getting the worst of it is folly, though it apparently makes for TV ratings, book sales and digital media readership.

Antifa and all its cousins are a cancer that will grow and metastasize if not eradicated. Eventually, if it’s not already so, hostile foreign actors will infiltrate and assume direction and control. Mob violence, including confronting officials in public places is not free speech, protest or political expression. It is criminal behavior.

I do hope there are responsible Democrats and unaffiliated citizens who recognize the danger these mobs are to everyone. We must resolve to set aside our other, substantial, differences and join in first unconditionally condemning mob violence, then censuring those who encourage it, and finally crafting new laws that preserve freedom of speech for everyone while giving law enforcement tools to detect and preemptively stop criminal mob violence designed to silence and intimidate opposition.

Another View is a weekly column written collaboratively by Dale Landrith of Camden, Ken Frederic of Bristol, Paul Ackerman of Martinsville, Jan Dolcater of Rockport and Ralph “Doc” Wallace of Rockport.


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