Since the Civil War, every other president in modern history has conceded peacefully.
Donald Trump is refusing to concede even as election results show former Vice President Joe Biden the clear winner of the 2020 presidential election.
CNN reported over the weekend that the Trump campaign, now in its final throes with the Biden transition team gearing up, has begun floating the idea of hosting even more "campaign" style rallies, in order to push the demonstrably false narrative that Trump lost due to massive election fraud.
"[T]he President is being urged by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, attorney Rudy Giuliani and campaign adviser Jason Miller to hold rallies throughout the US pushing for recounts of votes," CNN reported, citing sources close to Trump.
The report added, "...The goal of the messaging blitz is to raise enough doubt about the results that secretaries of state in battlegrounds feel pressure to open investigations or call on their own for recounts — something that would prolong the process and potentially give the campaign more time to advance its litigation through the courts."
In an unprecedented turn of events over the weekend, as results rolled in and news outlets around the country began reporting Biden's win, the Trump campaign issued a statement slamming Biden for "rushing to falsely pose as the winner."
"The simple fact is this election is far from over," the statement read. "Joe Biden has not been certified as the winner of any states, let alone any of the highly contested states headed for mandatory recounts, or states where our campaign has valid and legitimate legal challenges that could determine the ultimate victor."
The campaign then baselessly claimed, as it had in the days leading up to the call, that there had been widespread ballot fraud that had allowed Biden to win. "In Pennsylvania, for example, our legal observers were not permitted meaningful access to watch the counting process. Legal votes decide who is president, not the news media," the statement said.
Observers were in fact permitted to view the tabulation process, despite the campaign's claim, and there is zero evidence that widespread fraud took place.
"Beginning Monday," the statement added, "our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated. The American People are entitled to an honest election: that means counting all legal ballots, and not counting any illegal ballots."
Again, there has been no evidence that the election was plagued by any sort of widespread fraud or ballot manipulation.
Trump has claimed he "had such a big lead in all of these states late into election night, only to see the leads miraculously disappear as the days went by" as proof of that supposed election fraud. But he ignores that fact that, for months, he sowed doubt about the integrity of mail-in voting — even amid a pandemic — causing his own supporters to choose to vote in person instead and resulting in a post Election Day wave of pro-Biden votes, tabulated later in the week.
Prior to Biden's victory, Trump had privately told allies he would dig in his heels, with aides like chief of staff Mark Meadows reassuring him falsely that the election had been "stolen from underneath him" according to CNN.
"Trump has acknowledged to some allies he recognizes the electoral math will not work in his favor, according to people familiar with the conversations, but has maintained that a prolonged court battle and corrosive rhetoric about election fraud would sow enough doubt to allow him to refuse to accept the results," the outlet wrote on Friday. "Some of the President's allies have grown concerned that someone will eventually have to reckon with him that his time in office is likely coming to an end."
The outlet noted Trump had reportedly not prepared a concession speech.
Trump has been planting seeds of unrest for months, spreading false rumors of widespread mail-in ballot fraud and accusing Democrats of cheating to undermine his reelection bid.
In late September, a White House reporter asked Trump if, "win, lose, or draw," he would "commit here, today, for a peaceful transferral of power after the election."
Trump's answer was less than reassuring.
"Well, we'll have to see what happens, you know that," he replied. "I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster."
When the reporter repeated the question, Trump again demurred.
He said they'd have to "get rid of the ballots."
"We'll have a very peaceful — there won't be a transfer, frankly," he added. "There will be a continuation."
A few days later, House Democrats called for a vote on a resolution to uphold an "orderly and peaceful transfer of power called for in the Constitution of the United States.
Five Republicans voted against it.
Former White House counsel Don McGahn made waves for suggesting Trump "deserve(d)" four more years because of the Mueller probe.
And at the vice presidential debate in early October, even Trump's second-in-command, Vice President Mike Pence, declined to answer whether Trump would agree to a peaceful transfer of power.
At the time, his only response was that he didn't see any way Trump could lose the election.
"So let me just say, I think we’re going to win this election," he said. "President Trump and I are fighting every day in courthouses to prevent Joe Biden and Kamala Harris from changing the rules and creating this universal mail-in voting that’ll create a massive opportunity for voter fraud. And we have a free and fair election — we know we're going to have confidence in it. And I believe in all my heart that president Donald Trump's going to be reelected for four more years."
In a mid-October NBC town hall with Savannah Guthrie, Trump grudgingly agreed for the first time that he would concede the election if he lost fair and square.
"They spied heavily on my campaign and they tried to take down a duly elected sitting president, and then they talk about 'will you accept a peaceful transfer?' And the answer is, yes, I will," he said, "but I want it to be an honest election and so does everybody else."
He went on to undermine the election process and tout rumors of supposed mail-in voting fraud again, complaining of "thousands of ballots dumped in a garbage can" with his name on them. (It's unclear where he came up with this claim; other instances of so-called "fraud" that he has referred to previously have been thoroughly debunked.)
Later, he added that he just wanted the election "to be clean."
"I really feel we're going to win, but I want this to be clean," he said, noting that he "absolutely" wanted a peaceful transfer.
There was one caveat: "Ideally, I don't want a transfer because I want to win," he said.
Since the Civil War, every administration has transferred power peacefully and every loser of a presidential election has conceded with grace.
In 2000, after the Supreme Court halted the counting of votes in Florida, effectively handing the election to George W. Bush in the infamous Bush v. Gore case, Al Gore accepted the court's decision and made a concession speech.
While Gore said he disagreed strongly with the high court, he added that he would "accept the finality of the outcome, which will be ratified next Monday."
"Tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession," Gore said at the time.
Experts have long predicted Trump might refuse to concede.
Richard Hasen, a UC Irvine School of Law professor, told the Atlantic in late September that "we could well see a protracted postelection struggle in the courts and the streets if the results are close."
"The kind of election meltdown we could see would be much worse than 2000’s Bush v. Gore case," he said.
Princeton professor of history and public affairs Julian Zelizer also told the Atlantic that the country was "not prepared ... at all" for such a momentous fallout.
"We talk about it, some worry about it, and we imagine what it would be," he told the outlet. "But few people have actual answers to what happens if the machinery of democracy is used to prevent a legitimate resolution to the election."
There is no real precedent in place under American law to resolve the situation now that Trump has refused to concede.
Lindsay Hayes, a speechwriter for the McCain-Palin and Romney-Ryan campaigns, told Vice during the 2016 election season that concessions tell the American people that the election results are "a settled matter and it is time for people to move on, [although] there are differences of opinion."
She added that conceding an election is important because it "creates a sense of continuity, stability. And people need that in their government.”
America now faces a 79-day "interregnum" period codified in law. But with a contested election, an incumbent who refuses to concede, and a slew of constitutional and Electoral Count Act nuances to navigate, it's hard to say what happens next.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.