It doesn’t really matter if Donald Trump accepts the results of the election because this is one reality show in which he’s not the boss.
Everyone’s all atwitter, and all over Twitter, about how Donald Trump says he might not accept the results of the election in a couple of weeks.
It’s shocking and dangerous, some said. It’s un-American, even seditious, others say. The usually reserved Associated Press wrote on debate night that Trump was “thrusting the nation into uncharted territory” by threatening to undermine a fundamental pillar of the country’s 240-year-old democracy.
So here’s my hot take: Who cares if Donald Trump accepts the results of the election?
Trump seems to be suffering a fundamental delusion about who’s in charge here. He thinks he’s the boss. But to use a frame he might understand, running for president is a lot like his old reality show “Celebrity Apprentice.” Except he’s now one of the apprentices.
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We’re the ones doing the hiring and firing. So the verdict — the election result — is not his to accept or reject.
Imagine if the election were held today. According to the poll trackers at FiveThirtyEight.com, Hillary Clinton is projected to win by about 6.5 percentage points and score 340 of the needed 270 electoral votes. That’s about a 10-million vote win.
Now imagine Trump refused to accept that. Sure he’d spin out all manner of conspiracy theories. But it’s a bottom-up process, involving 9,000 county auditors certifying local elections around the nation. Nothing he says could stop these votes from being counted. He’d just look like a sad fool.
We’ve had other candidates who refused to concede elections, and the republic hardly ceased to function. In fact in one case I’m closely familiar with, the republic got stronger.
I had a front-row seat in 2004, when Chris Gregoire and Dino Rossi effectively tied in the governor’s race, touching off what everyone hyperbolically called a constitutional crisis.
I participated in the third hand-recount in that election (I recounted 5,544 ballots). I also attended a two-week trial in Wenatchee over the integrity of the election. Throughout, various partisans righteously demanded that one candidate or the other must concede. It was always “for the health of our democracy,” or because without a concession, the state wouldn’t “come together and heal,” or some such blather.
But neither side did concede for six long months. Yes there were protests, but eventually a trial was held that proved the election wasn’t rigged. It was simply close. Election reforms were launched to improve the vote-handling system. A governor was picked, and state voters obviously weren’t that aggrieved because they re-elected her four years later.
Trump wouldn’t even be the first presidential hopeful who refused to accept an election. Andrew Jackson never did concede the 1824 presidential election — he famously cried he was jobbed in a “corrupt bargain.” Democracy not only soldiered on, but Jackson himself got elected four years later (that’s how real men do it, Donald — they try again).
My point is we’ve built a system sturdy enough to survive demagogues like Trump. That he doesn’t appreciate this is yet another reason he shouldn’t be president.
But the best way to deal with Trump’s trolling is to not take his bait.
If the polls are to be believed, it’s the women of the country who will refuse to hire him. He is leading narrowly among men but being massacred by women. If this holds up, it would be the largest gender gap in U.S. voting ever recorded.
It’d be nice if he honored the wishes of the nation’s many female bosses. It’d be gracious. But here’s the important part: In the end it doesn’t matter. For the first time in his life, he’s just the job applicant. You’re the boss.
Doesn’t that make it more delicious anyway? He’s yelping like a trapped dog, but that’s because it’s dawning on him that he’s not the alpha in this reality show he’s joined. And now, at the end, it turns out women hold the trump cards? Awkward.
So let him reject it. The show will go on. They’ll just repackage it, maybe call it “The Sorest Loser.” Believe me, ratings are gonna be yuge.