To everyone working tirelessly around the world to hold together splintering democracies, I have a question: Why do people keep asking Donald Trump if he’ll “accept” the outcome of the election? I’m 46 years old and can’t remember any time we’ve asked this of any candidate for any office. I’m not an elections expert or a constitutional scholar, and I know that Trump’s obstinance and possessiveness are dangerously real, but I’m 100 percent sure the election results aren’t up to him. They’re not his to “accept.” Just like with kids and ice cream.
If I ask my 8-year-old every day for months, “Will you get upset if I don’t buy you ice cream on November 3?” and, in the way of children, she answers, “I don’t know. Maybe I will,” I know I’ve already lost.
November 3 rolls around and my child asks for ice cream, and I say no. I would be surprised if she didn’t get upset. Wouldn’t you? I’ve basically reinforced for her that I’m expecting she’ll be upset. This was her cone, after all. Even though my daughter has more impulse control than Trump, she knows that I anticipate she’ll throw a fit and she’ll negotiate, insult, whine, scheme, and scream at me in public—and, if she feels I’ve withheld her cone unfairly, she may resort to violence (dear god, I hope that phase is over).
Even if she makes it exceptionally difficult, the good news for me and the bad news for my daughter is that she doesn’t get to decide if the ice cream is hers. I do.
Donald Trump does not get to decide the election or whether its results are acceptable. We do.
P.S. I know that parents and journalists and media workers of all kinds don’t have identical roles in a (democratic) society, but we’re all suffering a kicking-and-screaming child-adult in the White House, and we might witness worse in November. Remember to stay strong—parents, journalists, parents of journalists, everyone.
Venu Gupta is Mother Jones’ Midwest regional development director.