Halfway through the final presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace took a short break from questioning both candidates on their policy positions to ask what should have been a very simple question: are the candidates prepared to accept the results of the election?
The standard answer in a peaceful democracy—the one that Donald Trump’s running mate, his campaign manager, even his own daughter gave—is yes. But Donald Trump wouldn’t entertain the idea of losing fairly.
“I’ll look at it at the time,” he said about the election results. “What I’ve seen is so bad. The media is so dishonest and so corrupt and the pile on is so amazing.”
With that, Donald Trump threatened to dismantle the very foundation upon which the United States was founded.
Chris Wallace, for one, was dumbfounded.
“But sir, there is a tradition in this country, in fact one of the prides of this country, is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign, that the loser concedes to the winner,” he said. “The loser concedes to the winner and the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying that you are not prepared now to commit to that principle?”
“What I’m saying now is I will tell you at the time,” reiterated Trump. “I will keep you in suspense, okay?”
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) October 20, 2016
The condemnations of Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power were swift and bipartisan.
— DNC Press (@dncpress) October 20, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump saying that he might not accept election results is beyond the pale
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) October 20, 2016
My thoughts on a 'rigged' presidential election. pic.twitter.com/075n83NXMH
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 20, 2016
He should have said he would accept the results of the election. There is no other option unless we're in a recount again.
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) October 20, 2016
Afterword, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said Trump “will accept the results of the election because he will win the election.”
From the minute Trump launched his campaign, he has insisted that various forces were trying to steal the GOP nomination—and now the general election—from him. He and his campaign offer no evidence of any such thing.
Instead, Trump has encouraged his supporters—who have already demonstrated a willingness to turn violent in the face of critics—to patrol polling places in battleground states.