In some sense, this is shocking. Our democracy depends on our accepting the validity of election outcomes and the peaceful transfer of power between presidents. To have a major party nominee not commit (on a major national stage, no less) to accepting the election outcome of the presidential election is unprecedented.
In the other sense, in this strange election of not an October Surprise but October Surprises (and we still have a ways to go!), we have been reminded of Mr. Trump's inability or at best unwillingness to accept outcomes that are not in his favor. He has insisted vociferously that the election is "rigged" despite the studies showing that voter fraud is all but nonexistent, and despite people calling to his attention the dangers in stoking such anger among his supporters. He tweeted several times the night of the 2012 election to declare that it was a "sham" and "not a democracy." He tweeted that the Emmy Awards were rigged, and when Secretary Clinton baited him about that at the debate, true to form, he took the bait: "Should have gotten it." Perhaps the man so keen on calling others losers cannot come to grips with things coming full circle (karma).
His campaign's rebuttal to critique of Trump's comments about the legitimacy of the election has been quite misleading, using Vice President Al Gore as an example. This is hardly a legitimate grounds on which to make his case, for a number of reasons:
1. Mr. Trump is preemptively declaring that the election is rigged, absent literally evidence to support this wild claim, and based on that is preemptively declaring that he will not automatically accept the outcome of the election as legitimate. This is a true undermining of the democratic process, which typically works very well, resulting in ebbs and flows in party control and the policy direction of our nation's governance.
2. In the 2000 election, Vice President Gore had won the popular vote and the Electoral College was legitimately in question. This was not a hypothetical election irregularity, but a genuine question of whether the ballots had been accounted for. It was ultimately determined to a difference of 537 votes in the entire State of Florida.
3. Gore did not himself push for the recount. Rather, it was determined by Florida state law applying to those elections determined by 0.5% or less.
4. At the conclusion of the highly controversial Supreme Court decision of Bush v. Gore (2000), with the Court ruling 5-4 along party lines in Bush's favor, Vice President Gore declared, "Let there be no doubt, while I strongly disagree with the Court's decision, I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College. And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession. I also accept my responsibility, which I will discharge unconditionally, to honor the new president-elect and do everything possible to help bring Americans together in fulfillment of the great vision that our Declaration of Independence defines and that our Constitution affirms and defends." Frank Bruni recently called attention to this speech (and others) as a lesson in grace for Mr. Trump. He is correct.
No one -- no Democrats, no Republicans -- would begrudge Mr. Trump for seeking a recount in the event of an extraordinarily narrow election. But that is not what he is saying, and he has no reason based on the polls to believe that he will be in such a scenario. To undermine citizens' faith in the democratic process as a "cover" in the eventuality of his loss is dangerous and a disgrace.
He and his supporters know better. They should act like it.