In the unlikely event somebody has yet to make up their mind about the presidential election, Wednesday’s debate should have ended any doubt. In one simple exchange, Donald Trump reminded the nation that he is unfit for the presidency; that he has enmity for the American political system; and that his campaign has little to do with making America great and much to do with massaging his oversized ego.
Moderator Chris Wallace noted that “one of the prides of this country” is the peaceful transition of power and that such a transition is facilitated by the concession of the losing candidate. Asked whether he would accept a defeat at the polls, Trump responded, “What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, OK?”
This continues Trump’s trope of recent weeks that the election is rigged, that there is widespread voter fraud, and that vast forces that include the media are conspiring against him. In truth, the statements reveal a man completely devoid of the composure and the demeanor necessary to be the chief executive of the world’s most powerful nation.
Trump is constructing a straw-man argument to explain a possible election loss, rather than risk the need to accept his own failures of policy and character. In the process, he is further revealing his infantile nature, one that has been demonstrated time and again as akin to that of a schoolyard bully. When challenged with facts, he answers with insults; when challenged with dissent, he responds with outrage; when challenged with possible failure, he fabricates conspiracies. Throughout the campaign, Trump has left no doubt that he would bring indignity to a most dignified office — an office that to the rest of the world is a symbol of the United States and her people.
Those childish traits long have been in evidence, but the declaration at Wednesday’s debate raised them to an unacceptable level. Despite all of his shortcomings as a candidate, Trump has millions of supporters who follow his lead. His suggestion that the results on Nov. 8 might be illegitimate will be embraced by many of those supporters, serving to destabilize a democracy that has stood strong for more than two centuries. Suggesting that a Hillary Clinton administration would be invalid as a manner of caressing his tender psyche is an affront to the foundation of this nation.
Then again, this Quixotic quest for the presidency never really has been about making America great. It has, at its core, been the manifestation of Trump’s desire for another thing that he can acquire, possess, and mold into a testament to his grandiose selfishness. That selfishness has been demonstrated in the way he talks about treating women as possessions; in the way he boasts about his wealth; in the way he suggests that he — and only he — is equipped to fix the nation’s ills. These are not media creations, they are evident in his own words.
Undoubtedly, a fair and secure and well-monitored election is essential to the preservation of the republic. Safeguards are in place to provide that, and yet they must always be re-evaluated and reassessed in order to ensure the confidence of the public. That is a necessity in a democracy, and it is not one to be taken lightly.
But Trump’s pre-emptive strike at the heart of that public confidence is simply an attempt to provide a ready-made excuse should he lose the election. That is unconscionable for a presidential candidate — even one who is clearly unfit for the office to which he aspires.