Donald Trump is a veteran of reality television, and it seems like he hasn't left his "The Apprentice" past behind. When asked by debate moderator Chris Wallace if he is willing to accept the results of the presidential election, Trump gave a reality TV answer, saying "I'll keep you in suspense."
Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, called Trump’s statement “horrifying.” And as an American citizen, I have to agree with Clinton’s assessment of Trump’s statement. As a presidential candidate, Trump should not be acting coy and concealing his opinions, let alone about such an important topic as the backbone of America’s democracy. Comedian John Oliver succinctly and hilariously explained why Trump’s claims of a rigged election are dangerous on his show Last Week Tonight:
"Telling your supporters the election is being rigged is legitimately dangerous because faith in fair elections and in peaceful transfer of power are essential foundations for a democracy, and undermining them is like asking why one of those giant eagles didn’t just fly Frodo all the way to Mordor in The Lord of the Rings: If enough people start thinking that way, the whole thing kind of falls apart.”
And as the nominee of a major political party, Trump’s words can have a significant impact on the American public. Trump has questioned the integrity of the election on numerous occasions, even tweeting that “The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary - but also at many polling places.”
Besides possibly promoting voter intimidation with his calls for Trump supporters to monitor polling places in minority communities, Trump's words may actually be significantly impacting members of his party. His views are shared by a significant portion of Republicans, with only one-third saying they have “a great deal or quite a bit of confidence that votes on Election Day will be counted fairly,” according to a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. This is an alarming sign for the fate of democracy in the United States.
During a prior debate, Trump said that if he was president, Clinton would "be in jail." He's also implied at rallies that if he loses it will be because the election is rigged against him, which would make Clinton an illegitimate president. If Clinton wins, GOP members and Trump supporters may refuse to work with her. In a worst case scenario, Trump may try to overturn the results of the election. If he wins, he has said he'll have Clinton investigated, a chilling statement that parallels what might happen to a losing candidate in a dystopian, dictatorial version of America.
Trump's running mate Gov. Mike Pence has said he and Trump "will absolutely accept" the results of the election during an appearance on Meet the Press. We'll have to wait until Nov. 8 to see if that statement stands true.