News

The art of the concession speech

Stunned supporters of Hillary Clinton await her Election Night concession speech in November 2016. (Photo: YouTube)

It’s an art form that no one wants to get really, really good at.  Perhaps that’s because no one wants to practice it.

It starts with “…a few minutes ago, I telephoned…”

You guessed it.  Concession speeches. And even though all the votes still aren’t counted from the June 5 elections, we’ve heard a lot of them.

You dutifully, and with as much sincerity as you can fake, thank them for their splendid efforts. They fought the good fight, and the ideals represented by your candidacy will go on

A concession speech has a few vital ingredients.  It must contain, first, due congratulations to the skunk who beat you in the damn election.  It must then go on to pledge support to the skunk.  If you’re an incumbent, and the skunk has inexplicably ousted you, it’s a requirement to declare that you will help the skunk in the “transition.”

Meaning the skunk gets to take over.

Can you believe it?  This guy couldn’t find his way around a banana peel, and he won.  What were those idiots in the polling booth thinking?  The people.  The cretins.

You must also resist the overwhelming temptation to tell your faithful campaign workers that if they’d just gotten off their asses and worked harder, you wouldn’t be up here making this damned speech.

No, you dutifully, and with as much sincerity as you can fake, thank them for their splendid efforts. They fought the good fight, and the ideals represented by your candidacy will go on, and your candidacy and their sterling efforts did some good for the cause. “No one could have done more,” you say.  And then you add that “we must all now join in the effort to…”

Whatever.

It’s very, very, important that you appear to be a good sport, and one who is unbowed and undiscouraged by this setback.  Why is that? you may ask.  A moment’s thought will give you the answer:  Your concession speech is the opening gun in your next campaign.

Two months after a campaign awash with preposterous twaddle you may get a chance to sit down and chat with the defeated candidate.

You’re a politician, aren’t you?  You’ve never met an elective office you didn’t like, right?  You are therefore not going to let a little thing like a 70%-to-30% shellacking knock you out of politics.

The governorship is going to be open in a few years.  I can beat the idiot who’s in there now.  Sure I can.  Lemme see if I can start raising money right away.  Yeah, sure.  I can do it.  Sure.  I am the embodiment of all that is good and noble, aren’t I?  Sure I am.

So you are gallant.  You show your family.  You smile, even if it’s killing you.  Tomorrow is another day.

One of the wonderful thing about American politics, at least from the reporters’ standpoint, is that two months after a campaign awash with preposterous twaddle you may get a chance to sit down and chat with the defeated candidate.  (Maybe after the candidate has had a nice Hawaiian vacation.) Most of the time, not always, what you’ll get is a dispassionate, intelligent and insightful analysis of the campaign.

It may be a little rueful, as well, but it will almost always be smart.

That’s because getting elected to office is a politician’s business, and they’re almost always good at it, and they usually like to talk shop.

Campaign consultants are also interesting people to talk to after a campaign, and they, too, are extremely intelligent, but politicians usually have more charm.  Politicians, despite what they say publicly, are almost unanimous in their contempt for the IQ of voters who disagree with them, so it’s interesting to political junkies to hear after the fact how the rustics could have been stampeded in one direction or the other, if only….

If only, if only.

But there’s always a next time.


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: