During his latest call-in interview to Fox News' morning program yesterday, Donald Trump was asked if he'd accept the results of his own country's election in the event of his defeat. Predictably, the president, as he's done many times before, hedged.
"You have to see what's happening," the incumbent Republican said, adding that he doesn't believe the 2020 elections will be "fair."
A few hours later, with the Democratic National Convention poised to get underway, Trump hit the campaign trail, taking an even more provocative message to a Wisconsin audience.
"The only way we're going to lose this election is if the election is rigged," Trump said during a rally in Wisconsin. "Remember that."
The combination of the two quotes is a toxic cocktail: the president isn't prepared to accept election results he doesn't like; he's already decided the race isn't "fair," and he's concluded that any election in which he loses should be seen, by definition, as corrupt.
This comes just one week after Trump falsely accused Democrats of "cheating" in the election, trying to "steal" the election," and "meddling" in the election.
The best-case scenario is, the president is creating pitiful excuses for himself, which he'll use to explain away an electoral defeat in the fall.
The worst-case scenario is far more nightmarish: an unhinged leader with authoritarian instincts may decide to reject the peaceful transition of power, one of the pillars of our political system.
Also yesterday, Trump suggested to a Minnesota audience that he intends to serve more than two terms, adding in Wisconsin, "We are going to win four more years. And then after that we'll go for another four years, because they spied on my campaign. We should get a re-do of four years."
First, no one spied on his campaign.
Second, Trump can champion "law and order," or he can talk up the idea of ignoring the Constitution, but he really shouldn't try to do both at the same time.
And third, when an incumbent president is telling voters he's looking for "a re-do of four years," it's a sign that things aren't going well.