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.