In a New York Times feature interview this weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) warned that it’s likely President Donald Trump will contest the results of the next election in an attempt to stay in power, especially if he loses by a thin margin. While this may sound like an extreme concern, it’s substantiated by Trump’s own rhetoric — he refused to say back in 2016 whether he would concede the election.
Pelosi’s specific concern is that if the 2020 election produces a very narrow victory for Democrats, Trump will reject the outcome by claiming that it was rigged, perhaps by regurgitating vacuous claims about Democratic voter fraud. She had the same concern last year, speculating that if Democrats only took back the House by a few seats won by narrow margins, “he would poison the public mind. He would challenge each of the races; he would say you can’t seat these people.”
Pelosi said only a decisive, overwhelming victory will convince him to step aside.
Trump himself has previously cast doubt on his ability to respect the results of an election he has lost. During the 2016 election, Trump regularly claimed that the election was rigged and that Hillary Clinton was trying to steal it from him. At the third presidential debate, he avoided a direct question as to whether he would concede the election if he were to lose. “I will look at it at the time,” he said.
Reiterating his unsubstantiated claim that millions of people were improperly registered to vote, he insisted that the election was “rigged” based on his belief that Clinton should not have been allowed to run. When host Chris Wallace pressed specifically about the country’s tradition of a peaceful transfer of power, Trump only again said, “What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense.”
Clinton responded that his answer was “horrifying.”
Clinton also made the point that Trump didn’t even respect the results of the Emmy awards. Trump’s Twitter record backs this up. The Apprentice won none of the eight Emmys it had been nominated for in the mid 2000s, and nearly a decade later he was still attacking the awards for being rigged against him because of his politics.
The Emmys are all politics, that's why, despite nominations, The Apprentice never won–even though it should have many times over.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2012
According to many, and while nominated, I would have won the Emmy many times except for my politics. @PrimetimeEmmys
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2013
Emmy Awards show was terrible last night. Same shows winning over and over again (politics). Amazing race a joke. Host Seth Meyers bombed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2014
Which is worse and which is more dishonest – the #Oscars or the Emmys?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2014
If Trump has cast doubt on U.S. presidential elections before, and even refuses to accept the results of a television award show, it stands to reason that he would not back down from a fight over the results of a national election that removes him from office. It might not even matter whether it’s close or not.