The good news is that Trump’s coyness about “accepting the election results” has created a wave of controversy that over shadows probably his best debate performance (which is not saying much actually.)
Unfortunately among the comments about this, there are many along the line of “there could be people in the streets, riots and so on.” Maybe, I would not discount that idea entirely. I’ll get to the possibility of riots in a bit. I will say, I don’t think we have to worry about that.
But first, about concessions.
There is really only two ways that Trump could “not concede.”
The first would be to actually take some kind of legal action (resulting in something like Bush v Gore). This looks extraordinarily unlikely. He could probably only challenge election results in a state that were close and if that state (or states) could in fact tip the election. This was the case in 2000 when the whole election came down to Florida. Current predictions have Hillary getting enough electoral votes in states where her lead is pretty significant (8 points or more.)
So, even if, say, Ohio were close enough to demand a recount, if Hillary has 270 elsewhere, it won’t make any difference if the recount changes the result in Ohio. Generally you are not able to legally challenge election results unless they are within a certain percentage, usually less than one half of one percent. So, Trump would not even be able to get anything off the ground in New York, Illinois and California, no matter how many dead people he thinks voted there. It looks as though the election is not close enough to really allow any kind of legal action.
So what happens if Trump simply does not give a concession speech and grouses that the process was rigged? Well, actually, nothing. There is no Constitutional requirement that the loser acknowledges the loss. The process goes on whether Trump likes it or not. The Electoral College will vote in December and the inauguration will take place in January. I am sure that Obama will turn over power peacefully.
Now, what will Trump’s followers do if he doesn’t “concede” and continues to grouse about the election being stolen or rigged? I am going to guess, mostly nothing.
Hitting the streets, especially with threats of violence would completely delegitimize the alt-right. How can you claim to love the Constitution and actually be violently trying to overthrow it? Every single Republican politician would have to denounce even the call for such action.
The other problem is just one of logistics. If there was going to be some kind of “direct action” about the election, it would seem to be most likely in Red states. What good is marching in Idaho going to do?
The other problem is that Trump himself if uniquely vulnerable to counter-protests. It is not likely that he would risk his properties and businesses by actually calling for people to take direct action.
The most likely result will be Trump making some kind of “non concession” statement, probably on Twitter. Something like, “The votes may be for Hillary, but the struggle continues!”
He just needs to set himself up for the launch of Trump TV. There he can rant and rave all he wants, but it won’t be any different than the ranting of Rush, InfoWars or Breitbart. Riling up an ever shrinking audience to write blog posts and put bumperstickers on their pickups.
We can stand that.