Over the past year, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has made no shortage of ridiculous statements. With a history of sexually lewd (and just generally absurd) comments, some may argue that the extent of Trump’s head-turning diatribes extends far beyond the recent election cycle. From the infamous “wall” to his characterization of Clinton as a “nasty woman,” Trump has captured our nation’s attention time and time again as we continue to ask ourselves how this man has managed to become a presidential candidate. Few of Trump’s outlandish remarks, however, have stumped viewers quite like his forecast that he may not concede following November’s election decision. Speaking from a podium to a roaring GOP crowd in Ohio just after the third debate, the former reality TV host said, “I would like to promise and pledge, to all of my voters and supporters and to all of the people of the United States, that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win.”
To many people, Trump’s remark may seem like nothing more than one of the many pathetic cries for publicity that have become characteristic of the candidate’s campaign. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Trump is saying that, if he loses (which according to most major political analysts is extremely likely), he will refuse to accept defeat. It’s no secret that the Donald is a sore loser, but what does this actually mean for American politics?
Trump’s potential “refusal” of the electoral decision is a threat to American democracy. Our political system, at its core, is firmly rooted in the idea that the American people will vote and choose someone to be their leader. The winner steps into power, and the loser accepts defeat. Trump is challenging the idea of a peaceful transfer of power and subsequently encouraging his supporters to refuse to submit to anyone else becoming president.
The real danger of Trump’s rejection of the political system is the possible manifestations of his supporters’ anger. Rather than accepting the results of the election, Trump is pushing his most fervent supporters to rebel. Many of those trying to “make America great again” will follow his lead and refuse to admit that their candidate was defeated. Instead, fervor could take the form of violence, riots or attacks on one of the many minority groups that Trump has managed to offend and alienate.
Beyond potential violence, Trump is delegitimizing the American electoral process and setting an example that it is not necessary for one to follow the rules. This idea — one of turning democratic politics on its head — is detrimental. By refusing to concede, Trump will set the stage for insurrection and chaos. In a time when political stability and cooperation are of utmost importance, Trump’s remark is far more than a controversial stunt to maintain the spotlight. Trump’s words are a threat — a threat to politics, a threat to peace and a threat to America as we know it.
Donald Trump isn’t trying to make America great again. He’s attempting to make America take a step back. He is advocating for an America where progress and democracy are left behind in favor of defiance and hostility.
Michelle Obama said it best: “I know it’s a campaign, but this isn’t about politics. It’s about basic human decency. It’s about right and wrong. And we simply cannot endure this, or expose our children to this any longer — not for another minute, and let alone for four years. Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say enough is enough. This has got to stop right now.”