I deeply respect the handshakes and quick banter that two professional tennis players allow each other following a mentally and physically punishing game. It is an honorable way to conclude the contest regardless of outcome. When it comes to the end of a political campaign I also desire to see the best of one’s character shine.
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.
This comes to mind as State Assemblyman Adam Jarchow was reported to have tweeted his concession last week to the victorious Patty Schachtner following the special state senate election. I grasp the fact that everything these days is seemingly done on the gadget people carry around like aged smokers do their oxygen tanks. But when it comes to concessions there is a need to be personal and more forthright. 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 type of concession was missing in the special U.S. Senate race this year as Roy Moore refused to understand his role as to why concessions matter. And to show that I have no partisan stake regarding concessions let it be shown I also had words for not only a Democrat–but one I know and had supported–Kathleen Falk.
I was very disappointed to have read that she did not show up on Election Night to greet campaign workers and countless Democrats who worked so very hard for her over the past many months. On Election Night she did not need to concede, (given the closeness of the race) but did need to say thanks. To stay at her home and watch the returns come in was not what many expected.
It is Saturday afternoon as I write this post, and I am unhappy that Kathleen has not conceded the race for Attorney General. Being defeated in an election after a well-fought effort should not be an embarrassment. But not being a better sport in the arena of politics is much worse than coming in second place.
The gracious nature of Vice-President Al Gore following the grueling legal wars of a recount in 2000 demonstrate the reasons character matters when it comes to our elections. The same rules of the road apply in local elections, too. Being graceful with concessions makes for a strong mark of character.