Donald Trump says he might not pick up the phone and call Hillary Clinton if he loses the election.
Let’s be honest. Did anybody think he would?
There seemed to be a collective sigh of disbelief among many debate watchers Wednesday night when Trump said he would keep us in suspense as to whether he will accept the election results.
He’s treating one of the cornerstones of democracy – the peaceful transition of power in the nation’s highest office – as if it’s the season finale of “The Apprentice.”
This proves, once again, that Trump thinks this election is all about him. It has little, if anything, to do with the fate of the loyal supporters who show up at his rallies or the trusting Americans who will vote for him thinking that he is the one candidate who has their back. They are merely the audience at a game show in which he is the biggest prize.
Let’s not pretend that, at the end of this race, anyone thinks Trump will suddenly transform into a graceful loser if things don’t go his way.
Throughout the campaign, he has acted like a spoiled brat, refusing to acknowledge his weaknesses and blaming every misstep on anybody but himself.
And if he goes down on Election Day, he is poised to take not only his staunch supporters with him, but also anybody else who’s willing to go.
It’s understandable that most Americans are troubled by the prospect of a failed presidential contender refusing to concede the election. Never in recent history have we seen the candidate for a major political party in America complain of an election being rigged against him.
It is a dangerous precedent for our country but not just for the obvious reasons. It is callous not so much because of the threat to democracy. Our democracy will stand regardless of whether Trump throws a tantrum because he didn’t get his way.
The real disservice would be to the people who put their trust in him.
Anyone who votes in a presidential election runs the risk of disappointment at the end of the day. All of us who care deeply about our country likely have experienced a deep sense of loss when the numbers come in and our guy falls short.
But we find comfort when he walks onto the stage, surrounded by his family, and reassures us that we fought a good fight. Our resilience is restored when he reminds us that this is still our country and that we must continue to work through the system to make our voices heard.
George H.W. Bush did it with Bill Clinton. Al Gore eventually did it with George W. Bush. John McCain and Mitt Romney did it with Barack Obama.
When they told their supporters that it was time to move on, they began to look forward – if only toward the next election.
Many of Trump’s most ardent followers believe they are part of a movement fighting for something far greater than a mere presidential election.
Though most of us may not agree with them, many of his base supporters see this election as a battle for America’s soul. Losing would not be easily digested.
That’s why Trump’s behavior is potentially dangerous.
By insisting that he is being cheated and might not accept the results, Trump continues to fuel discontent among a segment of our society that has long felt out of place in a rapidly changing America. He’s pushing them deeper into a corner from which there is no reasonable retreat.
In the three presidential debates, he has barely mentioned the uneducated, poor and working-class, white, mostly male Americans who make up his core constituency.
He has promised them a wall to keep out unwanted Mexicans. And he vows to push for discriminatory laws against Muslims. But mostly, he has captured their hearts with a vague promise to make America great again.
What we know about Trump is that he will thrive regardless of the outcome of the election. He will trample over his supporters on his way back to the top.
And what will become of them if Trump loses the election?
Some fear there will be discord, even a revolution. But that is highly unlikely.
Many of them will simply retreat back into their cradle of discontent, and angrily watch from the sidelines as America moves full steam ahead.
Perhaps they will become permanently disillusioned with the political process and never vote again.
But in the end, they still will be forced to live with the decision of the majority. And so will Donald Trump.
Because that is how democracy works. And that’s why America already is great.
Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.