Post-election day, what will happen if Donald Trump loses?
ANALYSIS: With simmering violence, cries for coups and revolutions, calls for pitchforks, torches and a bloodbath, November 9 will be like no other morning-after for US voters.
Does the country explode or can it get on with a gracious concession of defeat and the peaceful acceptance of a new president?
Already Americans are in uncharted waters. They have faced waves of voter anger in the past, but none had the pulsating angry, aggression and bitterness of Donald Trump's candidacy; and none was sustained in an echo chamber as volatile as today's social media.
Trump, along with surrogates who should know better, keeps stoking the fires.
* Republican lawyers: Trump 'telling voters they don't matter'
* Running mate Mike Pence breaks ranks with Trump – again
* Donald Trump accuses Hillary Clinton of drug use at debate
* Why women supporters continue sticking with Donald Trump
On Monday he railed again about the system being "rigged", hammering his own party leadership, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, for rejecting his conspiracies.
"Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!" he said on Twitter.
Describing US democracy as "an illusion" and the election as "one big fix", Trump has reduced his campaign to a consuming conspiracy theory by which he accuses the Democratic Party, elements of his own Republican Party, corporate America, "global special interests and the mainstream news media" of "rigging " the election – and all along he's prepping his millions of supporters for a "we was robbed" campaign after November 8.
At the centre of it all is Trump the martyr. In a speech in Florida last week, he denounced those he sees as conspirators as vile, bad and vicious, declaring: "Nevertheless, I take all of these slings and arrows gladly for you -- gladly. I take them for our movement so that we can have our country back."
And there's more than a hint of violence from the candidate, directed at protesters at his rallies and at Clinton, who Trump says he'll jail her if he becomes president.
He has called for her security detail to be stripped of their firearms and he warned that the "Second Amendment people", ardent gun owners, might take matters into their own hands if a president Clinton appointed judges who supported gun control.
In Virginia last week, an armed Trump supporter stood on the street outside a Democratic Party office, reportedly staring into the office for much of the day, as he displayed a licenced firearm. After a time he was joined by another supporter – also armed.
In gauging Trump's likely response to a defeat that now seems inevitable, it's instructive to go back to 2012 poll, when we had a taste of Trump the vengeful loser, after that uppity African-American Barack Obama had the audacity to win a second term – it wasn't pretty.
On Election Day he unleashed one of his now-familiar Twitter storms:
* This election is a sham and a total travesty. We are not a democracy!
* More votes equals a loss…revolution!
* Let's fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us.
* We can't let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided.
* He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country.
* House of Representatives shouldn't give him anything unless he terminated Obamacare.
* The Electoral College is a disaster for democracy.
* Hopefully, the House of Representatives can hold our country together for four more years…stay strong and never give up!
Fast-forward to 2016 and the Trump tweets are more incoherent, but the message is the same. And this time he has more skin in the game – a citizen observer back then, on November 9 he'll likely stand before the nation as to be a defeated candidate; with a campaign machine of sorts at the ready; millions of diehard supporters to mobilise; and an ego that does not respond kindly to being slighted.
In a tailspin as Republican leaders abandoned him after the release of the "grab them by the p...." video, Trump went on the warpath, declaring "the shackles are off".
The shackles have been off among his supporters for some time.
When the SurveyMonkey Election Tracking poll asked if they would accept the result if Trump is defeated, only 31 per cent said they would accept the legitimacy of the vote; 28 per cent said they were unlikely to accept, or definitely would reject the outcome.
The result troubles observers like Princeton presidential scholar Julian Zelizer.
"If Clinton is elected, as it looks like she will be, they will be convinced she should not be president because the Republican nominee has confirmed their own fears, anxieties, and conspiratorial outlook," he said. "It will make governing more difficult."
Trump's supporters line up at his rallies to tell reporters what they really think.
Here's a selection of the kind of quotes that have observers worrying about how the supporters heightened hostility and anger would inform their reaction to his defeat:
* Contractor Dan Bowman, 50, at a rally in Cincinnati: "If [Clinton] is in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That's how I feel about it. We're going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that's what it takes.
"There's going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that's what it's going to take. . . . I would do whatever I can for my country."
* Judy Wright, a Trump campaign volunteer, in Ohio: "If Hillary wins, it's rigged. I've heard people talk about separation of states. I don't even like to think about it. But I don't think this movement is going away. We don't have a voice anymore, and Donald Trump is giving us a voice."
* A woman identified as Rhonda, in an exchange with Trump's running mate Mike Pence at a rally in Newton, Iowa, last week: "I don't want this to happen – but I will tell you for me, personally, if Hillary Clinton gets in, I'm ready for a revolution because we can't have her in."
* Syndicated, right-wing radio host Michael Savage, advising Trump supporters to stock up on guns and weapons: "If Hillary Clinton gets elected she may ban guns and we might need them if the country devolves into civil war."
* Former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan: "The Republican electorate should tell its discredited and rejected ruling class: If we cannot get rid of you at the ballot box, then tell us how, peacefully and democratically, we can be rid of you?" wrote Buchanan. "You want Trump out? How do we get you out? The Czechs had their Prague Spring. The Tunisians and Egyptians their Arab Spring. When do we have our American Spring?"
* Key Trump adviser Roger Stone: "[Trump is putting] them on notice that their inauguration will be a rhetorical, and when I mean civil disobedience, not violence, but it will be a bloodbath."
* Milwaukee County sheriff David Clark, in a tweet: "incredible that our institutions of gov, WH, Congress, DOJ and big media are corrupt. Pitchforks and torches time". And in a subsequent tweet: "To all @realDonaldTrump supporters, Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled (John:14 1-3) Big media knows that our day is coming. Stay strong."
"That's really scary," Fergus Cullen, a former chairman of the GOP in New Hampshire, said of the violence at Trump rallies. "In this country, we've always had recriminations after one side loses. But we haven't had riots. We haven't had mobs that act out with violence against supporters of the other side.
"There's no telling what his supporters would be willing to do at the slightest encouragement from their candidate."
At the weekend, Pence insisted "we will absolutely accept the result of the election", but in the same sentence he pushed Trump's conspiracy, adding: "But the American people are tired of the obvious bias in the national media. That's where the sense of a rigged election goes here."
The Trump campaign has consisted of back-to-back rallies attended by thousands of diehard supporters, at which he feeds off their adulation. If his rejection by the electorate is as massive as suggested by most opinion polls, chances are he'll respond like a junkie in need of a fix – demanding rallies that could precipitate actual violence.
There is a possibility that Trump has overplayed his hand, inadvertently creating circumstances by which his defeat could be monumental.
In lashing out incessantly, even his own supporters, some of whom sport T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like "Trump the b...." and "F... your feelings" might stay home and not vote – what's the point if he has convinced them that the system is "rigged" for him to lose and embittered them towards most of the down-ticket GOP candidates for refusing to back him.
Trump also is encouraging Election Day confrontations by urging his supporters to "monitor" polling stations to guard against fraud, particularly in predominantly African American precincts. Some of his followers are dangerously enthusiastic in their responses.
Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio, told reporters he'd be signing on: "I'll look for ... well, it's called racial profiling. Mexicans, Syrians ... people who can't speak American. I'm going to go right up behind them. I'll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I'm not going to do anything illegal. I'm going to make them a little bit nervous."
Who might convince them to remain peaceful?
Trump has regularly encouraged violence at the same time as he claims to keep the peace. And in the Republican Party, there'll be few voices of authority to hold Trump supporters in check – the Republican National Committee leadership is impotent; Trump's key surrogates, Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich are actively stoking the "we was robbed" fires; and the one high-level voice in his inner circle, Pence, who might have called for reason, will have been cast aside as a spent force.
- Sydney Morning Herald