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Of all the lousy things Donald Trump has said in this U.S. election, and there have been a few – racist rhetoric, applauding torture, puerile name-calling – the most pernicious is his claim that the American voting system is rigged in his opponent's favour.

"The only way we can lose, in my opinion... is if cheating goes on," Mr. Trump told an audience in Pennsylvania. "I'm afraid the election is going to be rigged, I have to be honest," he recently told an Ohio audience. "I'm telling you, November 8, we'd better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged," he told Fox News. "And I hope the Republicans are watching closely, or it's going to be taken away from us."

These outrageous claims, completely devoid of evidence, are inflicting long-term damage on American democracy. The doubt Mr. Trump has cast on the outcome of the election, and on the voting process in general, could harm U.S. politics for years to come.

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The peaceful transition from one government to the next is the most fragile moment in the life of a democracy. Voters are often angry when their candidate loses, but the system demands that they accept the outcome and allow the winner to take office. It also demands that the losing candidate recognize the outcome, in order to ease the process.

That's why, in Canada, the opposition is known as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. They are there to oppose the party in power, but at the same time they absolutely support and recognize the legitimacy of the system of government – including the election that led to a party other than theirs coming to power.

If he loses the election, Mr. Trump can save America a lot of trouble, and partly restore his reputation, if he concedes defeat. He doesn't have to support Hillary Clinton or agree with a single one of her ideas or policies. He can criticize and oppose her at every turn. But when the votes are counted, if he has lost he must say that the election is over, and the people have spoken.

There is little evidence he is of that mind, however. He often boasts that he never regrets anything he says or does, and he has amply demonstrated that he is indifferent to common decency. Above all, Mr. Trump seems determined to destabilize his country in his quest for power. Why would he stop after Nov. 8?

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