If Donald Trump loses in November, he may not go down peacefully.
The United States has survived as the oldest constitutional Republic in the world in no small part because it has had political leaders of all ideological stripes who accepted the results of elections. When Richard Nixon narrowly lost to John Kennedy in 1960, Nixon didn’t call his supporters to the streets or demand a recount, even though some of his advisers told him Kennedy stole the election.
“He thought contesting it would do a great harm to the country,” one of Nixon’s advisers later said, explaining Nixon’s decision.
Al Gore accepted the decision of the Supreme Court as final in 2000 for the good of the Republic and John Kerry quickly conceded in 2004 despite some of his leftwing supporters claiming foul play in Ohio.
“In an American election, there are no losers,” Kerry told his disappointed supporters in Boston the morning after the election. “Because whether or not our candidates are successful, the next morning, we all wake up as Americans. And that is the greatest privilege and the most remarkable good fortune that can come to us on earth.”
Donald Trump doesn’t seem to have much real concern for the Republic. He doesn’t like to lose — and when he loses, he doesn’t do so gracefully. He blames the loss on others or denies it ever happened.
Indeed, three months from Election Day, Trump seems to already be laying the groundwork to claim the election was stolen from him.
“I’m afraid the election’s gonna be rigged. I have to be honest,” he said at a rally in Columbus, Ohio Monday.
Anticipating Trump’s statements, longtime Trump political adviser Roger Stone made the case for Trump to begin claiming Hillary is rigging the election in a podcast released Monday (though presumably recorded earlier).
“I think we have widespread voter fraud, but the first thing that Trump needs to do is begin talking about it constantly,” Stone, a renowned conspiracist, told Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos. “He [Trump] needs to say for example, today would be a perfect example: ‘I am leading in Florida. The polls all show it. If I lose Florida, we will know that there’s voter fraud. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.’”
“If you can’t have an honest election, nothing else counts,” Stone continued. “I think he’s gotta put them on notice that their inauguration will be a rhetorical, and when I mean civil disobedience, not violence, but it will be a bloodbath. The government will be shut down if they attempt to steal this and swear Hillary in. No, we will not stand for it. We will not stand for it.”
You might call it the “Heads Trump Wins, Tails Trump Would Have Won If The Election Wasn’t Stolen From Him” political strategy. Win or lose, Trump can still claim to be a winner. The strategy isn’t cost free, however. Telling your followers the election is rigged will undermine their trust in the political process and potentially lead to violence in the streets. But Trump’s not the sort of person who would care about such consequences. All he cares about is saving face.
If for some reason you doubt Trump’s capacity to undermine our democracy this way, he’s already given us a preview of it. On Election Night 2012, after it became apparent that Obama won the election, Trump took to Twitter with some thoughts.
“The election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy,” he declared in one tweet.
“More votes equals a loss … revolution!” he said in another, erroneously suggesting Romney actually received more votes than Obama.
“We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty,” he urged his followers in another tweet.
If this is how Trump responds when someone he merely supports loses a presidential election, how do you think he’ll respond if he loses?
No need to answer that. It’s a rhetorical question.