Trump is America's first vigilante president

Later that year, Trump reminded his audience that “I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump—I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough—until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

Such talk and its implicit or overt threats of violence is very much in keeping with America’s vigilante tradition, which can be traced back to the early nineteenth century and reached its heyday in the years leading up to the Civil War.

During that period vigilantism was most prominent in the West and South. In those areas, groups formed with the express intent of protecting civic values in a context where they claimed crime and vice were rampant.

Vigilantism generally has taken root in times of transition and in places with high levels of cultural diversity and institutional instability. Vigilantes attack outsiders who, in their view, do not really belong in their community.

Indeed, much as with the lynching that emerged after the Civil War, vigilantism has often been associated with protecting white American power.