Here's What Could Happen If Trump Actually Refuses To Accept The US Election Result

His legal options are limited, but he could smash centuries of American history.

Cover image via Boston Globe

At the 3rd and final 2016 US Presidential Debate, Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump suggested that he might not accept the results of the November election, i.e., if the results are not in his favour and Hillary wins, he would not concede defeat

His statement has set off a huge storm with the Democratic Presidential Candidate, Hillary Clinton, calling it "horrifying" and terming it "an attack on 240 years of US democracy"

However, while as "horrifying" as it may be, this wasn't what the Republican Presidential Candidate had said during the first Presidential Debate 25 days ago.

When NBC's Lester Holt asked if Trump would accept a Clinton victory on Election Day; Trump, after some prodding, said he would "absolutely" support Clinton as president.

Then three days later, he was telling the New York Times that he was rethinking his statement, saying: "We're going to have to see. We're going to see what happens."

And now, hours after the third Presidential Debate, in which he refused to commit to accepting the results of the Presidential election regardless of the outcome, Trump told an Ohio crowd that he would absolutely accept the results of the election "if I win."

As it's clear, Donald Trump is basically undermining the legitimacy of the 2016 Presidential election, which is less than 3 weeks away

And in doing so, Donald Trump, as Dara Lind of Vox notes, is encouraging millions of Americans to preemptively reject the legitimate outcome of a Presidential election just because "the wrong person" won, in this case, Hillary Clinton.

So what happens if Trump actually refuses to accept the US election result?

Legally, a refusal to concede defeat makes no difference whatsoever. A concession, which in itself means nothing legally, is an American tradition and an act of political goodwill that allows for the transfer of executive power without violence or unrest and is valuable for allowing the legitimacy of the system to remain intact for the next POTUS.

However, if the election result is a close one, Donald Trump does have the legal right to contest the outcome and demand a recount.

Additionally, in case, of an electoral fraud, as he has been suggesting, he can issue lawsuits against officials in any of the states suspected of wrongdoing.

Trump, while painting himself as a victim of conspiracies, is stoking anger in advance of what may be a defeat on 8 November and has started encouraging his supporters to sign up online to be "election observers" to stop "Crooked Hillary from rigging this election"

His supporters believe that Trump is going to win the popular vote but the Electoral College would still elect Hillary Clinton because there is corruption.

Trump has warned his supporters to "watch your polling booths".

One of his supporters recently said, "We're heading toward North Korea", saying if he doesn’t win, the United States government will be no better than dictatorships.

Heeding his call to watch the polling booths, one Steve Webb from Ohio said, "I'm going to go, for sure. I'll look for, well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American. I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous,” he said.

While his legal options are limited, Trump, if he actually refuses to accept defeat if Hillary wins, would smash centuries of American history and could very well cause violence on the streets of America

Trump, who commands a loyal following among his supporters, holds a major power via the Internet and a considerable amount of media under his thumb to spread whatever theories he wishes to at any given time.

Just last month, Trump sparked a backlash after suggesting "Second Amendment people", or gun owners, could take action against Hillary Clinton.

And the fact that he has successfully managed to portray himself as an anti-establishment guy who is being victimised by Hillary Clinton and her elite supporters, will only contribute to making him more dangerously appealing to millions.

His continuous insinuation that the election is being rigged, had led to some frightening remarks by his ardent supporters.

For example, a contractor in Cincinnati told the Boston Globe that if Hillary Clinton wins, "I hope we can start a coup", adding, "We're going to have a revolution and take them out of office. There's going to be a lot of bloodshed."

Trump, with his politics of hate and divisiveness, has successfully created an us-versus-them mentality among his millions of supporters. While he has denied using hate speech or playing any part in fostering division, anger and hostility from his supporters have been the most overwhelming sentiments at his rallies.

A fight between Trump supporters and protesters outside an event in California, May 2016.

Image via Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty via Vox

Meanwhile, there's a group called "Chinese-Americans for Trump" and its members like to join his rallies dressed in white T-shirts with red lettering that reads "Chinese Americans heart Trump":