Jamelle Bouie writes: In 1800, Federalist president John Adams lost to Thomas Jefferson and his Democratic-Republicans, following a painful and contentious contest. And rather than fight or challenge the results, Adams handed his rival the reins of power, the first peaceful transition of power in a democracy and a milestone in the history of the modern world. The act of conceding, in other words, is vital to the functioning of democracy. It confers legitimacy on the winner of an election, giving him or her a chance to govern. To refuse to concede, to deny that legitimacy, is to undermine our democratic foundations.
Surrogates for Trump have tried to defend his comments, citing then–Vice President Al Gore’s conduct following the 2000 election. But Gore didn’t challenge the process; he let it move forward. As ordered by state law, Florida had to do a recount. That recount was then stopped by the Supreme Court. At that point, Gore conceded the election, gracefully and without public hesitation.
In presidential elections at least, there’s simply no precedent for what Trump is promising. The slave South may have seceded from the Union following the 1860 election, but neither of Abraham Lincoln’s opponents denied his legitimacy as the duly-elected leader for the United States. It is world-historic in the worst possible way. [Continue reading…]