If Trump refuses to concede, here’s what happens next

If Trump refuses to concede, here’s what happens next


It’s an American tradition that when one presidential candidate loses the election, that person publicly (and quickly) admits their loss in a concession speech. At least, this is the normal way of things. As USA Today put it, “No presidential candidate in modern history has refused to concede.”

Why is this tradition important? According to NPR, concession “means you are stating the obvious: that it appears the election cannot be won.” Interestingly, as USA Today pointed out, a concession speech isn’t actually a part of the U.S. Constitution; it is a voluntary action.

Looking at the tight race in the 2020 presidential election between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, it seems fair to ask: What will happen if Trump loses but refuses to concede? It’s doubly fair, considering the fact that in the early hours on Nov. 4, 2020, Trump falsely announced that he won the whole thing while votes were still, in fact, being counted. 

With Trump so set on winning, here is what will actually go down should he refuse to concede to Biden.

Donald Trump could contest the results for a while

In 2020, researchers created the Transition Integrity Project, which was made to “study scenarios” that could compromise the integrity of the 2020 presidential election, according to USA Today. It’s a useful tool since Donald Trump himself said on Nov. 4, 2020, that he’ll take the election to court. “We want the law to be used in a proper manner so we’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said, per Newsweek.

According to the Transition Integrity Project, “As a legal matter, a candidate unwilling to concede can contest the election into January.” The project adds that problems were expected in the 2020 election: “We anticipate lawsuits, divergent media narratives, attempts to stop the counting of ballots, and protests drawing people from both sides.” As such, should Trump lose but refuse to concede, the nation could be in a constitutional crisis where courts would be dealing with aspects of constitutional law rarely used. Not to mention, his refusal could lead to nationwide — and possibly global — unrest.

Plus, there’s the issue of power at play. As Rosa Brooks, a co-founder of the Transition Integrity Project, explained to FiveThirtyEight, “You have just a tremendous differential between the president of the United States of America, who has just awesome coercive powers at his disposal, and a challenger who really has no power whatsoever.”

What could this mean, exactly? As Brooks put it, “Joe Biden can call a press conference; Donald Trump could call on the 82nd Airborne.”

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