In an election that has had its share of shocking moments, Donald Trump managed to raise the bar Wednesday when he refused to say he would accept the results of the Nov. 8 election.
Debate moderator Chris Wallace, perhaps thinking Trump had not discerned the gravity of his initial answer, even gave him a second chance, framing it more forcefully with this follow-up: "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 the loser concedes to the winner … and the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you're not prepared now to commit to that principle?"
Instead of recognizing that question for the lifeline it was, Trump offered a response stunning in its glib dismissal of one of this nation's most cherished traditions: "I'll keep you in suspense."
Unwilling to accept his backslide in the polls, Trump has been malevolently cultivating the notion that the American system of elections, whose heart is a peaceful, orderly transition of power every four years that is the envy of many nations, is so manipulated, so corrupt, that it cannot be trusted, nor its results necessarily accepted. Not only does Trump bring no evidence for such astounding assertions, he has made his claims in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. One study recently found 31 cases of potential voter fraud out of 1 billion votes cast in primary and general elections between 2000 and 2014.
Minnesota knows something of disputed elections. The results of its 2008 U.S. Senate race between Democrat Al Franken and Republican Norm Coleman were the closest in modern U.S. history. This state's voting system was subjected to unprecedented legal scrutiny, recounts and court action. Despite allegations of voter fraud, none was found. In the end, Coleman faced the crushing fact that he had lost by a mere 312 votes. But he did accept it.
To do otherwise in a presidential election would put the U.S. in the position of those countries that never accept the will of the majority. Coups are staged, civil wars fought, opponents jailed. That is not — and can never be — this nation.
At a rally in Ohio on Thursday, Trump not only showed no remorse or second thoughts, he turned his threat into a punchline for the crowd's amusement, saying he would "totally" accept the results of the election, adding slyly, "if I win."
The Star Tribune Editorial Board called on Trump to leave the race. The time for that, sadly, has passed. Republicans may soon wish they had acted while they had the chance.