On September 26, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were in a virtual dead-heat in the general election race. Fivethirtyeight, Nate Silver’s ESPN affiliated website, had Hillary Clinton as only a slight favorite with a 54.8% chance of winning the election. The evening of September 26 changed the election for good, however, as Hillary Clinton dominated the first Presidential debate. What may in time prove to be the most important question, however, was the last question asked to both candidates by moderator Lester Holt, “will you accept the outcome as the will of the voters?” After Trump initially tried to avoid answering the question directly, Holt pressed on and Trump finally responded, “the answer is, if she wins, I will absolutely support her.” While Trump had previously hinted that he believed the election could be rigged, his declaration of support for Clinton should she win the election seemed to indicate any talk of a rigged election or a refusal to accept the results would be over.
Soon after Trump’s loss in the first debate, however, his campaign began to crumble. A video tape leaked not long after of Trump bragging about his ability to grope women because he is a celebrity. He also spent a week attacking a former Miss USA—tweeting at 3am for people to look at a video of her. Trump’s campaign continued to struggle as many prominent Republicans revoked endorsements of Trump. The second presidential debate brought more struggles for Trump as he once again was outmatched by Secretary Clinton. Plummeting poll numbers and a faltering campaign left Trump in trouble.
Instead of continuing to preach his message on trade, immigration, and safety, Trump’s desperation led him to begin declaring that election is rigged against him and even asking his supporters to watch poll places carefully on election day. Trump’s surrogates including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani began preaching similar propaganda with Giuliani declaring that the inner city elections are rigged and dead people traditionally vote Democrat.
Trump’s rhetoric is simply dangerous. Declaring that he would refuse to accept the election results is un-American, unpatriotic, and wrong. Trump announced at the final Presidential debate that he would “look at [the results] at the time. I’m not looking at anything now, I’ll look at it at the time.” The next day, Trump clarified his remarks by stating, “I will totally accept the election result if I win.” Trump’s comments exemplify the sore loser and the boy who cried wolf that he has proven to be. After losing to Ted Cruz in the Wisconsin primary, Trump called foul play and claimed that the primary was rigged against him. Trump further called foul play when Ted Cruz established a stronger ground game in Louisiana that threatened to take some of the delegates Trump felt he deserved from winning the state’s primary. Now, as all projections indicate Trump is destined for defeat on November 8th, he once again is crying foul play—only this time louder and to a larger audience.
Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway compared the current situation to the contested 2000 election between Al Gore and George W Bush. The comparison made by Conway is absolute blasphemy. Before election night in 2000 both candidates certainly would have agreed that they would accept whatever results the election generated. The 2000 election had a legitimate reason to be contested to the Supreme Court and many still debate the legitimacy of the Court’s decision. The 2016 election, that has been fair to Donald Trump in every way, is not remotely close to 2000 situation when after election night a legitimate debate about the winner of Florida and the election began.
An unwillingness to accept defeat in a democratic election is something only a dictator would understand. In 1945, during the height of the famous Potsdam Conference, Winston Churchill famously lost an election to Labor Party challenger Clement Atlee. While Churchill accepted the election results, Joseph Stalin, the leader of the USSR, could not understand why Churchill did not just do what he had done many times and rig the election in his favor or demand a recount that could then be illegally altered. Stalin’s mindset was that of a brutal dictator. Trump’s mindset is eerily similar in that ensuring what he deems to be the appropriate election results far outweighs the importance of fair and open elections.
Trump’s inability to accept the notion of defeat is both dangerous and unpatriotic. Trump is blatantly insulting the American democracy that some Americans still cherish. A major part of the American experiment is the peaceful transfer of power from one executive to the next. A second crucial part of the American experiment is that the loser of the election admits defeat, congratulates the winner, and attempts to unify the country to ensure the survival and prosperity of our democracy. Whether Trump or his supports like it, all projections indicate that Hillary Clinton will be their President come 12:00 PM on January 20, 2017. It is important to remember that Clinton will not just be the President of the people who voted for her, but she will be the President of every American—including Donald Trump himself. Refusing or protesting the election results will have no positive outcome whatsoever for Trump, the Republican Party, or the United States of America.
As Donald Trump loves to say and even President Obama readily admits, America still has its work cut out. America faces huge problems at home and abroad. The only way America will have any chance of tackling the modern day struggles it faces will be to unite behind whoever wins the election and allow the experiment called American democracy to continue. In 1630, future Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, famously declared, “we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.”
What Winthrop said in 1630 still proves true today: the eyes of the world are still upon us. America must send a message to the rest of the world that our democracy is strong and getting stronger. The message must be sent to people dying in Civil Wars to implement democracy. It must be sent loud and clear to America’s enemies including ISIS. It must be sent to every American who vehemently believes that American democracy is the only form of Government that they will ever live by. America is a beautiful social experiment, America is the land from sea to shining sea and America is “a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people upon us.”