The media and Democrats have returned to their pre-2016 election talking point that Donald Trump won’t accept election results. But after nearly four years of refusing to accept their defeat in the last presidential election, it is they and other members of the Resistance who must commit to accepting election results that don’t go their way.
The final 2016 debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gave voters much to think about. That was the night Clinton admitted that she was willing to engage in a proxy war with Russia in Syria. For his part, Trump highlighted Clinton’s radical support of abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, a charge she could not deny.
But media coverage in the days that followed focused almost exclusively on Trump’s response to a question posed by moderator Chris Wallace, a Fox News host. Asked if he would “absolutely accept the result of this election,” Trump said — and you may want to sit down for this one — “I will look at it at the time.”
For context, Trump had been talking about election-rigging for months, made easier by the confirmation that Democrats had rigged their primary election against Bernie Sanders for Clinton. During the GOP primary, Trump tended to complain about rigging in contests he lost.
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In his debate answer, Trump expressed concern about how the media corruption might make the results unfair and about the lack of voter roll integrity. In the days prior to the debate, Clinton operatives had been caught favorably discussing vote fraud and instigating violence to shut down political events.
Seeking an anti-Trump narrative, the media agreed to make this the headline for the crucial next 72 hours of the closing days of the 2016 campaign.
It absolutely dominated print and TV news for the next three days.
“Trump’s Shocking Answer On Respecting Election Results Is The Only Debate Moment That Matters,” the Huffington Post’s Jonathan Cohn dutifully wrote. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank wrote that with his answer, “the crater blew off, leaving a gaping caldera where Trump’s presidential campaign once stood.”
The New York Times’ Gail Collins said of Trump’s response that it was “The Debate in One Scary Answer.” The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne’s piece was headlined, “Unable to Control Himself, Trump Confirms Everyone’s Worst Fears.” The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson said Trump “disqualified himself as a candidate for the nation’s highest office.”
The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart wrote, “Trump’s Worst Answer Will Also Be His Downfall.” Michael Cohen of the Boston Globe said that Trump “undermines the legitimacy of our democracy.” Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “If Trump continues to tell his followers that the election system is ‘rigged’ and accuses Hillary Clinton of stealing the White House on Nov. 8, the result could be months of chaos and years of bitterness.”
Nate Silver said polls confirmed that Trump’s answer meant Clinton would “probably” win by an even bigger margin than she was already going to win by (she had a lead of about 7 percentage points over Trump going into the debate).
Cable news could talk about little other than Trump’s answer. It also got critical comments there. Charles Krauthammer said, “This was political suicide,” adding, “You don’t challenge the legitimacy of an election.”
Hillary Clinton was not asked whether she would accept a loss, an oversight that would soon prove significant.
Clinton Should Have Been Put On Record
Trump’s actual answers on the topic were more nuanced than his critics suggested. He said he would accept fair results but that he reserved the right to dispute any results he thought were unfair. For whatever it’s worth, the now-deranged “Morning Joe” program ran a montage of prominent Democrats and journalists routinely talking about election theft regarding prior elections, which made the media hysteria over the comments seem even more unhinged.
The lengthier debate discussion was also full of interesting tidbits. After Trump’s initial response, Wallace pushed back:
WALLACE: 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. Not saying that you’re necessarily going to be the loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and that 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?
He was absolutely correct. No matter how hard-fought a contest, the losing side had been expected to accept defeat, set aside hard feelings, and give the victor time to put together a functioning government. After that was in place, the fights resumed.
Following Trump’s surprise victory, the Resistance obliterated that norm and tradition immediately. Instead of a peaceful transition of power, the country endured horrific riots, efforts to tamper with the Electoral College, the beginning of a high-level coup attempt based on fraudulent Clinton campaign claims about Trump’s supposed collusion with Russia, and a refusal of nearly 70 Democratic lawmakers to witness the inauguration.
Following the inauguration, the Resistance continued to ruthlessly fight Trump’s administration of government and to perpetuate the false and damaging Russia collusion conspiracy theory, leading to a sprawling special counsel investigation. When that ended in humiliating fashion for the Resistance with no evidence of collusion, they attempted to argue that Trump complaining about falsely being accused of being a traitor meant he had obstructed justice.
It went nowhere, particularly after the Special Counsel Robert Mueller revealed he had very little handle over the investigation he ostensibly led. The resistance immediately launched an impeachment plot over something most people can’t explain involving, perhaps, a phone call to Ukraine.
Whereas Trump was lambasted by the media in October 2016 for refusing to pre-emptively accept the integrity of results for an election that hadn’t yet occurred, the media in no way held Democrats accountable for slaughtering this tradition that Wallace accurately called “one of the prides of this country.” That was almost certainly related to most of the media joining the Resistance in their years-long temper tantrum.
Clinton herself said that claims of election rigging are “horrifying,” adding:
CLINTON: So that is not the way our democracy works. We’ve been around for 240 years. We’ve had free and fair elections. We’ve accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them. And that is what must be expected of anyone standing on a debate stage during a general election.
Beginning immediately with her loss and for the next several years, Clinton would routinely claim the election had been “stolen” from her:
Wallace did an excellent job moderating the 2016 debate, but he later admitted he should have asked Clinton the same question he asked Trump.
4 Years In, Return To Election Acceptance Hysteria
Even after years of Clinton and other prominent Democrats falsely claiming that the 2016 election was stolen and otherwise refusing to accept the election results, the media are back to their old talking point:
This is all happening while prominent leftist voices are claiming that Trump is rigging the 2020 election. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman tweeted out an elaborate conspiracy theory that Trump could not win legitimately but might try to, well, steal the election. MSNBC’s John Heilemann said Trump is engaged in “a genuine attempt potentially through force to try to steal this election.”
It would be funny if it weren’t so infuriating. Actually, it’s still funny, as the satirical news site The Babylon Bee showed with their article, “‘Trump Might Not Accept The Results Of The 2020 Election,’ Says Movement That Still Hasn’t Accepted Results Of 2016 Election.”
Given what they’ve put the country through since November 2016, the groups that need to be asked if they will accept an election loss in November 2020 are the media, Democrat politicians, and other Resistance activists.