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Published on November 5, 2020 3:42 AM

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What if he doesn't concede? The US presidential tradition explained.
When a candidate loses a U.S. presidential election, tradition holds the candidate promptly and publicly acknowledges defeat in a concession speech to help with the peaceful transition of power.

The speeches, while difficult for a candidate, are typically gracious celebrations of American democracy. The Chicago Tribune and Arizona Republic opinion columns have held up John McCain's concession to Barack Obama in 2008 as an example of the tradition done right.

"The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly," McCain said at the time. "A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Sen. Barack Obama to congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love."

A concession speech isn't part of U.S. law or the Constitution — it's a time-honored voluntary gesture, author and liberal commentator Van Jones said in an October 2020 Ted Talk.

He is among those who have speculated about the details of what could happen if Trump — who has previously declined to commit on a peaceful transfer of power and is now facing a narrow path to reelection — refused to concede if he lost the 2020 presidential election.

Without a concession, usually hidden parts of the election process — such as the inner-workings of the Electoral College — could be ripped open and used to decide the election in an unprecedented way. It would mean a race could be headed for a result decided by ...