Considering Trump's temperament, it wouldn't be surprising if he blamed the "deep state" for an election failure. Really, though, we have no need to speculate about what an attack on the sanctity of the electoral process would look like, since Democrats have been delegitimizing a valid election for the past four years.
Even as liberals make chilling predictions about Trump's attack on democratic norms, they champion such politicians as Stacey Abrams, a middling Georgia state legislator whose national fame relies on a baseless contention that her gubernatorial seat was stolen in 2018.
This weekend, that same Washington Post published a sycophantic feature story about Abrams (headline: "The Power of Stacey Abrams") that echoed her claims of voter suppression and put her in a superhero cape for good measure.
Abrams's election claims have been adopted by virtually every major Democratic Party figure, including presidential hopeful Joe Biden. If Biden winds up picking Abrams, will anyone challenge the presumptive Democratic Party nominee to explain why a woman who refused to acknowledge the validity of an election should be considered for the vice presidency?
To be fair to Abrams, there are increasingly few close political contests in which Democrats don't blame their defeat on Republican chicanery. These days, "democracy" is just another word for partisan victory. The last Democrat who lost a presidential race honorably was Michael Dukakis. Al Gore not only eschewed graciousness in 2000, he sparked a national crisis, and thereafter fueled the idea that the presidential election had been stolen by George Bush.
The United States, fortunately, boasts one of the, if not the, longest uninterrupted peaceful democratic transfer of power in the world. A stable two-party, right-left consensus has allowed us to avoid turmoil in the transition of power. It's a system that relies on trust from the electorate and good behavior from our leaders.
We learned about these magnificent norms from 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who, when conventional wisdom anticipated her victory, said: "We've been around 240 years. We've had free and fair elections and we've accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them..."
But Clinton discarded any deference to results after the election, when she, and many Democrats, blamed the Russians, sexism, the unfairness of a 240-year process, James Comey's letter to Congress, and a slew of other bogeymen. These concerted attacks were not only aimed at Trump's ideas, policies, or person — completely reasonable targets — but the validity of the election system itself.
Democrats now have an assortment of justifications for discrediting outcomes they may not like. They can allege "voter suppression" — a perpetually evolving catch-all grievance that can never be satisfied and goes largely unchallenged because it harkens back to genuine crimes of the past. They can blame foreign social media troll accounts. They can blame the nation's antiquated constitutional system. They can blame Fox News, which is apparently the only network that can strip feeble-minded Americans of free will and convince them to vote against their own interests.
During the impeachment hearings, Nancy Pelosi maintained that "Let the election decide" was a "dangerous position" to hold because it was "jeopardizing the integrity of the 2020 elections." Adam Schiff's central rationale for impeachment was the notion that Trump had already cheated in 2020. "Russia is interfering in our elections again. And Trump supporters are emulating Russian tactics," argues a Washington Post column this week.
Democrats know there's no genuine way, save wide-ranging censorship, to stop a foreign state from infiltrating our open information stream with their ineffective and amateurish social media accounts. Yet, they have no compunction whipping up moral panic over foreign interference by conflating trolling social media accounts with Russia's attempts to hack state voting systems. The former has been ineffective, the latter is attempted "meddling" that failed. And, yet, as of 2017, a majority of Democrats believed that vote tallied had been tampered with by Russians, without a scintilla of evidence.
So we can speculate about what Trump might say if he loses — and let's hope he doesn't follow Hillary's precedent. But we already know what Democrats will say if they lose: the election was rigged.