It’s finally Election Day, and the drama of Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump is nearly over for good. Or is it? Donald Trump has been claiming for months that the U.S. election process is rigged. Not just rigged, but rigged against him and in favor of rival Hillary Clinton. Trump has remained fairly ambiguous regarding whether he will even accept the election results if he loses.
As CNBC reports, after Donald Trump’s troubling debate declaration, where he refused to issue a promise regarding accepting the outcome of the election, both Hillary Clinton and Republican politicians alike responded with frustration and horror at a presidential candidate who refuses to accept and honor the U.S. election process.
“I will look at it at the time. What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense.”
Ironically, Donald Trump’s debate answer indicating that he might not accept the results of the so-called “rigged” election were a direct contradiction to what Trump had said during the first debate. When asked the same question during the first presidential debate, Donald Trump swore that he would “absolutely” accept the outcome of the election. Now, apparently, he’s on the fence.
So what happens if he doesn’t? What happens to the American people and American politics if Donald Trump loses the election but refuses to concede?
Thankfully for the American voters, as NBC News reports, Donald Trump doesn’t have to accept the election results or concede victory to Hillary Clinton in order for his loss to be complete. If the former reality TV star loses and refuses to concede the presidency to Clinton or to even acknowledge her win, nothing changes for the American people. The results of the election are in no way contingent on Donald Trump accepting them or conceding his loss.
There is absolutely no requirement under the law or in the Constitution that requires a losing presidential contender to accept their loss gracefully — or even at all. Of course, it has become an American custom for losing presidential candidates to put on a show of good sportsmanship and good faith by officially conceding their loss to the winner. However, if Donald Trump chooses to forgo this tradition (which has gotten more attention as communication technology has improved), the election results still stand.
“The act of conceding is not a legal act. It doesn’t have any legal effect as to whether or not someone is declared a winner.”
It’s entirely plausible (and even likely) that in the event of a loss tonight, Donald Trump will conclude his unorthodox and controversial campaign in the same manner that he’s conducted it for over a year. Donald Trump may choose to snub his nose and refuse to concede, possibly ruffling feathers in the process (while almost certainly providing his adoring followers with some balm for their souls), but if he loses, he loses.
In fact, in early American history, concession speeches weren’t even a thing. They simply didn’t exist. If it was 1800, Donald Trump wouldn’t face the expectation of a concession speech should he lose. However, in modern American history, with the advent of television, concession speeches have become the norm. If he loses, Donald Trump would be expected to follow in the tradition of the presidential losers who came before him, but he doesn’t have to.
“The concession speech itself has no legal status. It’s more part of this cultural expectation.”
Donald Trump has, over the course of his campaign, been completely unorthodox and unusual. It’s election eve, and he still hasn’t released his tax returns. Trump has repeatedly called the election “rigged,” and it’s highly unlikely that (in the event of a Donald Trump loss) any concession speech he might give would be comparable to any the American public has ever heard before.
“”Because Donald Trump is not conventional politician looking ahead to run again, he’s going to have less inhibitions in criticizing the result and the process.”
This is not to say that Donald Trump doesn’t have the right to challenge the election results if they end up being close. Trump, like any candidate, has the right to do what he feels needs to be done to certify the results of a close election. For example, Donald Trump can sue for a recount or other challenges while the votes are still being certified.
However, in the event of a clear Clinton victory, Donald Trump will no longer have any grounds to challenge her presidency. If Trump continues to allege a “rigged election” in the face of a definitive loss, it is possible that other members of the GOP (who do have a vested interest in keeping with tradition and ensuring the public’s faith in the U.S. election process) could concede on Trump’s behalf.
It’s even possible that Mike Pence will concede for Donald Trump if Trump erroneously denies the results of the election.
Even though Donald Trump doesn’t have a legal obligation to concede, it would arguably be a much better situation for the American voters (and public at large) if he did so. According to recent polls, as many as 27 percent of Trump’s voter base already refuse to accept the election results if Trump loses. If Trump also refuses to accept the results, it could add fuel to the fire and cause real problems both immediately (there have been widespread threats of an armed revolution and other violence in event of a Donald Trump loss) and in the long term.
“How are we going to solve problems through policies if we have 40-45 percent of the people not accepting the result? Our system could be doomed, and our country could doomed.”
What do you think? Who is going to win, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? Will Donald Trump accept the results if he loses? Will Donald Trump’s supporters accept the results?
[Featured Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]