Bar Lowered For What Passes As Political Maturity, Concession Speeches Should Be Our Norm

I noted many times on Election Night and the days afterward that news reporters and those offering analysis or explaining vote counts from those states still not having concluded the process so to ascertain a winner used cautionary remarks for the public. On the night of voting reporters on CBS, CNN, and MSNBC advised viewers, in their own words and way, that vote counting could take days in some cases and that was not in any a nefarious or under-handed approach to dealing with voters’ intentions at the polls.  While I understood the need to say such things considering the persistent Big Lie pushed by Donald Trump and a huge segment of the Republican party, it also served as a notice about how much of a gut-punch democracy has suffered from a segment of the electorate.

Treating the public in such an elementary way was noticeable to the folks who gathered at our home to watch the returns and were met with the dismaying comment of “we have come to this in our land”. Feeling a need to tamp down the unhinged elements in our nation was clearly a broad-based assessment in newsrooms, especially following the danger posed to the country on January 6th, 2021.

In the days that followed, I noticed another verbal gold star that got affixed to some top-name Republican candidates who floundered with the voters and needed to concede their races after the voters rendered their judgment.  For simply doing that gracious and time-honored custom of the concession statement or speech they were applauded and patted on the back.  We truly are in an odd time when everyone gets a participation prize and is allowed to wear an honor cord, whether it is meritorious, or not. That is how we are constructing our society these days. Needing to praise a loser on Election Night for not being churlish does seem a step too far.

I noted how the Washington Post wrote of the matter of concession speeches in an analysis article. They noted the damage not making one can play in our democracy.

That’s a key reason concessions matter. They help democracy move forward. A study of the 2020 electorate found that a strong majority of voters who cast ballots for Donald Trump would have accepted the result as legitimate had Trump conceded.

I noted that it was Democratic candidate Tim Ryan when conceding to Republican J.D. Vance in Ohio who even stated it was a ”privilege to concede”. Ryan said that to do anything other than taking that route would be a slap to democracy. The fact we have been lowered in this nation to the place that an explanation, though brief and to the point needs to be said about conceding, is truly a testament to the shaky place we find ourselves in America.

Our elections are not rigged and there are no throngs of illegal votes or rampant fraud.  That can all be demonstrated with the data from every state and polling location. The same people who champion such wild-eyed conspiracies are the ones who also gave us the boorish behavior of not conceding when voters in their calm manner cast a ballot.  Arizona was treated to the third-grade verbal tantrum of Kari Lake who tweeted a curse upon learning she was rejected at the ballot box. As the Washington Post might say hers was not “a grace note” in this election cycle.

Over the years I have been able to see in real-time how a concession is handled, while more often reading or watching such a happening through the media.  But in each case, a concession following a hard-fought campaign shows the mettle of a person perhaps better than any other facet of seeking office.

I found it troubling a few years ago when then Wisconsin State Assemblyman Adam Jarchow was reported to have tweeted his concession to the victorious Patty Schachtner following the special state senate election. I grasp the fact that everything these days is seemingly done on the gadgets people carry around like aged smokers with their oxygen tanks.  But when it comes to concessions there is a need to be personal and more connected.  Surely the phone number for the opposing campaign was available.  Call me old-fashioned but just pick up the phone and place the call!

The morning following the 1988 election victory of State Representative Lary Swboda the phone rang in his Kewaunee County home.  I had worked in the district often that fall on the campaign and as I stood in the kitchen as Lary answered the call I was privy to one of the gracious acts of politics.  Bob Papke, then Door County Clerk, had run, up to that time, the most expensive race for the state assembly.  He had been condescending and rather mean-spirited during the months leading to Election Day.  But on the phone, as Papke spoke to Lary there was a gentlemanly quality to the conversation and though the two would never be friends, an air of good sportsmanship was most apparent.

That is how election outcomes once were handled. May it totally revert to that fashion again.

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