Trump appears to break with 124-year history of concession speeches, experts discuss

Concession speeches have been seen as a moment to help unify the country, and every losing presidential candidate has conceded since 1896. ABC News’ Jon Karl and Leah Wright Rigueur talk about why.
6:17 | 11/18/20

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Transcript for Trump appears to break with 124-year history of concession speeches, experts discuss
A little while ago, I had the honor of calling senator Barack Obama to congratulate him -- Please. To congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both ve. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. And we don't just respect that, we cherish it. Reporter: It's a hallmark of American democracy. Since 1896, every losing presidential candidate has conceded. I have lost, Mr. Nixon has won. The democratic process has worked its will. Reporter: Often after bruising campaigns. It hurts too much to laugh, but I'm too old to cry. I promised you four years ago that I would never lie to you. So I can't stand here tonight and say it doesn hurt. Tomorrow will be the first time in my life I don't have anything to do. Reporter: The losing candidates finding the words to help unify the country. At a time like this, we can't risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people's Whether or not our candidates are successful, the next morning we all wake up as Americans. Reporter: In 2000, the nation woke up with no Winn historic Florida recount between Al gore and George W. Bush left the country on edge for 36 days. Let there be no doubt, while I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I accept it. And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession. Earlier tonight I spoke with our chief white house correspondent Jon Karl and his tore yeah Leah W regore about presidetrump's refusal to concede. Jon, first question. There's news tonight president trump has fired the head of the agency that vouched for the reliability of the 2020 election. What does that say about his willingness to concede and accept the results? This is Christopher Krebs, the top cybersecurity official for the past two years at the departme homeland security, at Donald Trump's department of homeland security. And Krebs had said that there was absolutely no credible evidence of any kind of funky business with voting machines, that they were secure. He said that cybersecurity experts across the board had confirmed this. And just after he does it, trump fires him. So look, it does not point to a quick concession from Donald Trump. He is still insisting, even as he's firing his own top cybersecurity official, he is still insisting widespread voter fraud of all types. Leah, to that point, seems like president trump has the nation on a particular path. What will be the impact if trump refuses to deliver a concession speech? Well, I think one of the things that we think about when we think about concession speech is the message that it sends to supporters. It sends one of generally unity, fall in line, this is the person that will be leading the country, and I ask that you accept that. When Donald Trump says to his followers and to the world, I do not accept the results, it signals to his followers that they don't have to accept the one thing that we know is that it will certainly undermine anything that the new administration and the administration-elect wants to do. Joe Biden and kamala Harris will certainly have a lot of trouble on their hands because 70 million people in the country are being told by Donald Trump not to accept the results. Leah, you're a historian. How significant is it to our nation's history, these concession speeches, and a peaceful transition of power? The interesting thing is that you don't have to do a concession speech. You don't have to concede the election. But it's generally something that T losing party does. It's seen as a sign of civility. It's seen as a really important transfer of power. So it signals, again, to the losing idate's supporters that this is really important, that we be unified around the new administration. And what we know is that historically, even after the most bitterly contested of races, there's always been this moment where there H a concession speech and where that concession speech has upheld democratic institutions and told amerat it is really important to move forward accept the results of a free and fair nation. Jon, you've heard your fair of speeches by the winner and by the loser. You covered the bush V. Gore recount and concession speech. Describe that moment, and would we expect to see something similar in this election eventually, at some point? The Florida recount, this is one of the most bitterly divided moments in our modern history. And after 35 days of a hotly contested recount, it was over after the supreme court ruled. There had been protesters out in front of the naval observatory, Republicans who were chanting "Get out of Dick Cheney's house." Gore gave this speech, just a beautiful speech, conceding that George W. Bush hat won even after he fought so hard to overturn the results in Florida. Wished him the best of luck. Offered to help him in his administonon. Those protesters actually still were out there chanting, but now they were chanting "Thank you, Al gore, thank you, Al gore." As for Donald Trump, look. He wants people to believe that this election was fraudulent. He will ultimately, I believe, give some kind of speech, but it won't be a concession speech, it will be accepting the results in a way, but conceding, if he's conceding anything, conceding that the election was stolen from him. He wants to be able to go out to the 70 plus million people that voted for him and say that he's not a loser, that he didn't lose this thing. The only reason why he's leaving the white house is because the presidency was stolen from him. Jon and Leah, tnks again for your time. This is a conversation I know we will continue in the days and weeks to come. Thank you both. Thank you. Thank you, Byron.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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