Conceding the presidency: Expectations vs. Trump’s projections


Image credit: Los Angeles Times

What exactly does it mean to concede an election? In politics, a concession is the act of a losing candidate in an election publicly acknowledging defeat to the winning candidate after the result of the vote has become clear. Conceding a lost election is the professional thing to do when one has lost an election and it has been a long, time-honored tradition of this country. President Donald Trump on the other hand, has refused to concede to President-Elect Joe Biden, who was projected to be the winner of the 2020 Presidential Election on Saturday, November 7 by every major news outlet covering this year’s election, and has not yet indicated that he has any intention of doing so.     

As much as a concession is considered a gesture of courtesy that helps with a peaceful transition of power, it is entirely optional, and candidates sometimes refuse to concede defeat despite the vote count being stacked against them if they suspect voter fraud or a miscount in a close race, as is the case now with President Trump. In that case, the candidate would likely demand a recount of the votes or other investigations into the suspected fraud. It is not necessary for the losing candidate to concede once defeat has been conclusively determined. However, in times like these when election results have drastically divided the American people, conceding one’s loss is important in order to get the losing candidate’s supporters to accept the outcome and ensure social and political stability within the country. Failing to urge one’s supporters to accept the outcome of the election will allow bitterment to linger between supporters of both candidates, who will need to live and work together in the same country for the next four years under a president whose office term is not fully accepted by almost half of the US population. 

According to Iowa Public Radio, there are usually two parts to a concession: a phone call to the winner and a speech to fellow supporters. First, a losing candidate will offer a private concession directly to the winning candidate in the form of a phone call before making a public announcement. The concession speech then consists of four elements:

  • The statement of defeat, an admission that the candidate has lost the election to their opponent, who is then congratulated on their victory.
  • The call to unite, an expression of support for the winner’s upcoming term in office, and a call for unity under their leadership.
  • The celebration of democracy, a reflection on why democracy and the participation of millions of voters in the electoral process is important, and that their choice should be respected. 
  • The vow to continue the fight, a reminder of the importance of the issues the candidate has raised during the campaign, and the policies their party advocates for. The candidate emphasizes that these remain important goals to strive toward, promises to continue fighting for them, and urges their supporters to do the same.

The speech could be extremely short or last for several minutes, and there is variation in how lightheartedly they accept their loss, and how warmly they congratulate the winner. It depends on whichever method the defeated candidate prefers. Either way, by publicly and honestly admitting defeat, the candidate is sure to gain honor and respect from their opposers.

Out of courtesy, according to NRC, the winner of the campaign usually waits for a concession speech before delivering the acceptance speech. Throughout history, the losing candidate has usually made their concession speech a few hours after midnight when the outcome was clear they had lost. However, if the vote is relatively close, it can be unclear when it is appropriate for a losing candidate to concede an election. So far, it has become quite clear that Joe Biden has won the 46th Presidential Election with 306 electoral votes compared to Trump’s 232.

Two months after Election Day in January, the losing candidate will usually attend the winner’s inauguration ceremony. At this moment, it is unclear if Trump is planning to attend Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20. The President has already initiated a flurry of legal accusations in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, Georgia, and Arizona, alleging voter fraud, but the US Constitution makes it very clear that a new president will take the oath of office on January 20 at noon and that will happen whether Trump agrees to concede to Joe Biden or not.

Meanwhile, pressure is currently mounting on the Trump administration to allow the Biden administration access to the full range of resources usually provided to an incoming presidential administration. According to the Associated Press, President Donald Trump has refused to allow President-elect Joe Biden to access classified intelligence briefings or connections to foreign countries. 

Under the Presidential Transition Act, once the Administrator of the General Services Administration determines the apparent successful candidate of a presidential election, the president-elect and his transition team have the right to gain access to the office space, funds, briefings, and other government resources necessary for a smooth and effective transfer of power. It is important to resolve any uncertainty in who will be the next president in order to minimize US vulnerabilities during transitions of power such as this one. Resolving the presidential election in a timely manner is crucial to allowing the incoming administration the time necessary to prepare to face current and future national security challenges. The longer the transition of power is delayed, the longer the country is at risk due to the uncertainty in who will lead it. 

Biden has been declared the winner of the 46th Presidential Election, and with these crucial national-security concerns at stake, it is in the Trump administration’s best interest to begin treating him as president-elect as soon as possible because the cost of them not doing so could be catastrophically high.