How to Concede an Election: McCain; Romney; Gore; Bush; Hillary Clinton; Kerry

John McCain, 2008.

Mitt Romney, 2012.

Al Gore, 2000, conceding to George W. Bush. Gore won the popular vote by nearly half a million, and the election went to the Supreme Court, which decided 5-4 in a partisan vote that Bush won. Gore quoted Stephen Douglass when he lost to Abraham Lincoln: “Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism.” and “While we yet hold and do not yield our opposing beliefs, there is a higher duty than the one we owe to political party. This is America and we put country before party. We will stand together behind our new president.” Text.

President George H.W. Bush in 1992, conceding to Bill Clinton. And below, Hillary Clinton recalls the letter the first President Bush left for Bill Clinton in the oval office in 1993.

Below, Hillary Clinton’s concession to Donald Trump in 2016.

Hillary Clinton delivered a message of both disappointment and hope during her concession speech for the 2016 presidential race. She won the popular vote by nearly three million, and a greater margin than 10 presidents. Text.

In June, 2008, Hillary conceded to Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, even though both candidates won about 18 million primary votes.

Senator John Kerry’s concession speech in 2004 to President George W. Bush. On Youtube, one commenter wrote: “”If had poured my heart and soul into something, campaigned, put my family and friends on a public pedestal, raised and spent millions of dollars. If i had given every ounce and effort to win, and come up short in the eyes of the voters. Could I hold myself with such dignity and poise, respecting the decision, to be calm and considered, statesman-like. I thought, that’s the measure of the man, and my respect for him, even when he lost, increased for not dis-respecting the office, and being magnanimous and generous in praise for his rival and friends alike. You might not like him, or agree with his politics, but you must recognise the qualities of the man.”

For more concession speeches in presidential elections, see History’s Losers. Of course, even losers were winners in that they built movements based on ideas that are enduring in the American psyche and experience. America is a highly individualistic nation that tends to believe in the Great Man or Woman Theory of History. Ideas in this country are bigger than any individual, because we do not believe in rule by divine right, but by consent of the governed through individual voting, “one man, one vote.” We believe in constitutional restraints on power and checks and balances on three co-equal branches of government — a judiciary independent of partisan considerations; an executive accountable to the people every four years, and a legislature that can take both the short and long view of policy. We believe in the rule of law not by men but by an electoral majority with respect for minority rights, objective facts over conspiracy theories, lies, and disinformation.

Drill Deeper:

see History’s Losers.

Great Man or Woman Theory of History.

one man, one vote.”

Trump’s refusal to concede defies long tradition of classy speeches by losing candidates. (Washington Post, November 8, 2020.)


3 thoughts on “How to Concede an Election: McCain; Romney; Gore; Bush; Hillary Clinton; Kerry

  1. Pingback: ‘You’ll Be Back’, You’ll Regret This, He Proclaims. I Think Not! – 400 Years of American Politics

  2. Pingback: Insights Into US Presidential Elections From Studying History – Exploring North, Central, and South America

  3. Pingback: Lameduck: A History of Presidential Transitions and Concession Speeches – Teaching History's Slender Threads, Including 'What Ifs', Almosts, Alternatives and Turning Points

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