Businesses in cities like New York City, Washington, DC, Los Angeles and Chicago are boarding up as if a Category 5 hurricane is bearing down.
Everyone tends to be coy about the reason why. The cops in Beverly Hills worry about "protest activity." Tiffany refers to "potential election-related activity." Saks Fifth Avenue says it's taking precautions "in the event of civil unrest due to the current election."
This is all very diplomatic, but there's no doubt about what has American business on edge, and it isn't the possibility that the local women's Republican club is going to take to the streets if Joe Biden wins in a landslide.
No, the risk is that left-wing rioters are going, as is their wont, to rampage through America's cities if Donald Trump wins a second term. There are certainly malefactors on the right, who should be called out and shunned, and it's disgraceful that Trump has spent so much time preparing the ground to argue that he's been cheated if he loses.
Yet the left has the numbers, the proven penchant for violence (up to $2 billion of property damage this year so far) and the intellectual enablers to put parts of America on crisis footing in anticipation of its possible shock and upset after Nov. 3.
Trump's most fervid critics have been expecting a coup with such certainty that they will treat a Trump electoral victory as if it is one.
They believe in the moral necessity of accepting the election result only if it is to their liking, and in the majesty of American democracy so long as a president they fear and loathe doesn't win.
They are sticklers for rules, provided they work in their favor, and for norms that don't constrain their own conduct, up to and including excusing mayhem and property damage.
Everyone knows the same rioters who have ransacked businesses in the name of "social justice" for months are coming again if Trump gets to 270 electoral votes. According to The New York Times, some stores are using different screws than during the summer to foil looters equipped with screw guns.
The Times notes a contractor in Colorado who has bought a two-year supply of plywood for retailers and removed the name of his business from his trucks for fear of retaliation. Nothing to see here — just life in America when urban violence has become expected, indeed part of the social fabric.
It is widely assumed on the center-left that Trump is going to "steal" the election, by which is meant he will deploy lawyers to file post-Election Day litigation protecting his interests. Obviously, Joe Biden will do the same.
In such a post-game, Trump is likeliest to succeed where judges re-wrote the election rules in defiance of the US Constitution's requirement that state legislatures write them.
In such cases, it is the new rules, not Trump's prospective challenges of them, that are illegitimate.
Another trope is that Trump can only win via "voter suppression," a bizarre charge in an election where about 100 million people have voted early and overall turnout is going to smash the 2016 record.
The cry of "voter suppression" is best understood as itself a powerful tool for turning out voters, rather than a description of an America where there's unprecedented voting.
That is to the good. But the election shouldn't be taking place under the implicit threat of violence if it goes the "wrong way." This is not how a great republic is supposed to work, and perhaps one day there will be a universal consensus about that again.
For now, though, to paraphrase the old song, it's praise the Lord and pass the plywood.