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Donald Trump, according to everybody, challenged either a pillar or a cornerstone of American Democracy at Thursday's debate when he said he'd have to think over whether he'd agree that he lost if he loses. One way or the other, the architectural metaphors are grim. Asked by moderator Chris Wallace to commit that "you will absolutely accept the result of the election," Trump didn't see why he should make any such commitment: "I will look at it at the time. I'm not looking at anything now, I'll look at it at the time. What I've seen, what I’ve seen, is so bad."

Then he was off and running with claims that "millions of people" are registered to vote who shouldn't be, and also the media is unfair, and Hillary never should have been allowed to run anyway, because email crimes.

Wallace appealed to the whole "peaceful transition of power" thing, and pressed Trump for a straight answer: "[Are] you saying you're not prepared now to commit to that principle?" Trump wasn't prepared, no way: "What I'm saying is that I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense, okay?"

Hillary Clinton immediately replied that Trump's answer was "horrifying," but she was also clearly more ready for Trump to not answer the question than Trump was:

You know, every time Donald thinks things aren't going in his direction, he claims whatever it is, is rigged against him. The FBI conducted a yearlong investigation into my e-mails. They concluded there was no case. He said the FBI was rigged. He lost the Iowa caucus, he lost the Wisconsin primary, he said the Republican primary was rigged against him. Then, Trump University gets sued for fraud and racketeering. He claims the court system and the federal judge is rigged against him. There was even a time when he didn't get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged against him.

[Trump, interrupting: Should have gotten it.]

Not surprisingly, the reaction has been something less than positive. Editorials condemning Trump for his attack on the pillars of democracy, appeals to the peaceful transitions of power, reminders that we're not some third rate banana republic, no matter how insistent Trump may be that we're living in Democracy Hell, and many, many reminders that Al Gore stepped forward after the Supreme Court stopped the recount of votes in Florida in 2000 and congratulated George W. Bush on winning the presidency, saying that the Supreme Court had spoken, and that was that:

Let there be no doubt, while I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College. And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession. I also accept my responsibility, which I will discharge unconditionally, to honor the new President-elect and do everything possible to help him bring Americans together in fulfillment of the great vision that our Declaration of Independence defines and that our Constitution affirms and defends.

Gracious, even though a lot of Gore supporters wanted him to keep fighting even after the Supreme Court decision.

Weirdly, some Republicans have been claiming that Trump's position is no different from Gore's: Gore contested the vote count in Florida, didn't he? Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said as much in the spin room after the debate:

You remember Al Gore in 2000? Nobody says ahead of time that they're going to contest the election, but Al Gore did.

Thing is, Gore didn't spend the month prior to the election whining that the media was out to get him (and to a degree, it was, amplifying even his factual if inelegant statements into self-aggrandizing "exaggerations." Dude really was a key player in making the Internet happen, after all). And he certainly didn't announce three weeks ahead of time that he wouldn't necessarily accept the outcome -- he only contested the results in Florida when it was clear the vote count was too close to call. And if you want to get all factual about it, Florida law mandated a recount when the results were so close, too. And most importantly, Gore never claimed the Florida election was rigged: all of the recount lawsuits were about where and how the disputed ballots should be re-tallied. So there.

Finally, for all the talk about the pillars, cornerstones, joists, walk-in closets, and messy garages of Democracy being imperiled by Trump's possible refusal to concede, it's also worth noting that if he loses the election, he's lost the election regardless of whether he admits it or not. Especially if he loses in the kind of landslide that now looks likely (although Hillary should also have a concession speech prepared, because we do not want to tempt the Wrath of the Whatever from High Atop the Thing). The states will certify the votes, the electors in each state will meet on the Monday following the second Wednesday of December and cast their votes (almost certainly in accordance with the popular vote in their states), and the President of the Senate will read the results to Congress. At no point in this process does Donald Trump have to admit he lost.

Yes, sure, he can launch lawsuits in every state where the vote is close. Which will be very expensive, and which he will almost certainly lose, because the elections are not actually rigged, and the most Trump could possibly achieve would be to drag out the process longer. Even if he gets one or more of those cases to go to the Supreme Court, we can't see him winning there, either, although with only 8 members, we suppose that could make things interesting. Then Trump can whine that the SCOTUS is rigged too, and can go on Twitter to call for a revolution like he did in 2012:

And it still won't make a goddamned bit of difference if he loses the election bigly enough. There's not going to be any revolution. Conceding the results of the election is merely a courtesy, and this is a man who has already demonstrated he doesn't give two and a half shits for courtesy anyway. And then he can be consigned to the septic tank of democracy.

Besides, this is Donald Trump: Expect him to tweet in the next day or so that he'll accept the outcome of the election, and then to insist he never said otherwise.

[Politico debate transcript / Associated Press on Twitter / American Rhetoric / Heavy / LAT]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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