We say that Britain has no written Constitution and we here in the USA have a written Constitution. But there are unwritten elements to our public life which are of great importance. The concession speech at the end of an election is an important part of our “unwritten” Constitution.

The concession speech puts an end to the campaign and the mindset of the campaign. It reminds people that the campaign is not everything, that some things are more important even than the hoped for victory and the sadness of defeat, that democracy itself is the most important thing. Done correctly, the concession speech drains the bitterness and anger, it gets people to focus on the future. The candidate takes the failure on himself and, in that way, absolves his followers of responsibility for the defeat and allows them to go on their way with a feeling of closure.

I watched Kerry’s concession speech. It was done with class. He struck the right notes. A gesture of regard for the victor, “the fight goes on” for Democrats, but unity is needed, and we should not have anger, etc., and we are all Americans and this is a great country and it is a privilege to be here. It was formulaic, but so are marriage vows. Language on such ceremonial occasions is supposed to be formulaic. Ceremonies are not “empty ritual” but are affirmations of our common life together, of continuity, and they are the glue that holds our immense, disparate society together.

There is a right way to do it. You hate like Hell when your guy has to be the one to do it, but you know it has to be done. To his credit, Kerry did it right.

The ritual was adhered to. The legitimacy of our democratic process was reaffirmed. The Republic remains secure.

God bless America.

4 thoughts on “Ritual”

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  2. As a high school student in Britain, I was taught that Britain or, more properly, the United Kingdom “has no written constitution” rather than “an unwritten constitution.” This distinction may appear pedantic but I submit it is meaningful. The British constitution consists in large part of statutes, which are, of course, written down but not found in a single document like the U.S. constitution, which is therefore described as “a written constitution.”

  3. When i got up this morning and saw the margins that were still not being called i said to my self, “Uh oh, it’s Trial Lawyer Day”.

    But it wasn’t. There was a proper concession after due consideration. There was anguish and gnashing of teeth across the cubicle wall when it happened, but the real message in the office was “Life goes on”.

    And i apologize to John & John for the ill thoughts i harbored in my heart.

    Matya no baka

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