One of the informal norms of American presidential elections has long been that after the concession speech, the loser disappears for a while. Maybe, like John Kerry and John McCain, he goes back to work in the Senate. Or, like Bob Dole, he retires to a life of hawking Viagra and filming Pepsi commercials with Britney Spears. Whatever he does next, the smooth exit from the public eye and the peaceful installation of the new president are necessary reminders after a contentious election that America is a stable and functioning democracy.
Does anyone foresee Donald Trump gracefully exiting the stage if he loses on Nov. 8? Can you imagine him accepting the judgment of an exhausted nation that Hillary Clinton should be its next president, then ascending in the Trump Tower elevator back to his life of tanning sessions and filing for bankruptcy?
Of course not. And if current polls are accurate and the trends continue, his only chance is to get close enough to Clinton that he can plausibly claim that someone hacked a few voting machines or stuffed a few ballot boxes.
Which is why he’s laying the groundwork for legal challenges now with talk of a rigged election and voter fraud that will see Democrats somehow casting ten votes apiece for Clinton, among other nefarious schemes. If this kind of talk keeps his base riled up for the next three months, he can spend all of November and beyond complaining on Fox News and anywhere else that will listen that the election was “stolen” from him.