Saturday, October 31, 2009

I Hereby Concede

Speech By: Just About Half the Candidates on the Ballot

Title: I Concede

Date: A Few Hours After the Polls Close on Election Day

Location: Campaign Headquarters / Some Hotel Ballroom

Occasion: Lost Election

Length (words):

Video Posted: Usually live

I’ve been in this situation. Although, to my great personal relief, not as frequently as I might have been, considering the competitiveness of the elections I’ve worked in. It’s a campaign speech writer’s most feared chore. And, in speech writing terms, often the most necessary.

It takes nothing for the winning candidate, surrounded by a swelling crowd of raucous supporters who share the same joyous elation, to stand up there and say the right things. If there is ever a time when it’s easy to be gracious, this is that time.

For the losing candidate, it’s a very different proposition. Facing a hushed room, except perhaps for a few muffled sobs, while people who last week claimed to be your friends, sneak out the back door so as not to be seen, it’s very easy to give vent to the harsh emotions a loser must endure.

Unscripted, you can wind up with scenes like Richard Nixon’s bitter - “You won’t have Nixon to kick around any more.” Or Howard Dean’s incongruous -  “The scream.”

Nothing in the law demands a losing candidate concede. You can silently sneak off to Tahiti that night and never be heard from again. It doesn’t matter, the person who got the most votes will still be sworn in to office at the beginning of the year.

Political candidates almost invariably possess a healthy amount of ego. An election takes place in front of your friends, family, and neighbors. It takes a special kind of ego to put one’s name out there for the public to accept or reject in a highly visible arena. That ego takes a substantial bruising when the public’s choice turns out to have been the latter.

So a concession speech is an opportunity to show a little class under a situation of great emotional distress. It’s the speech writer’s job to make sure that opportunity is not wasted.

Here are the elements of a successful concession -

  • Announce you have called the winner to concede, and wish that person luck in office.
  • Thank your family. If your campaign has been at all active, it has truly put a burden on them.
  • Thank your supporters for all their hard work.
  • Mention how you much you appreciate the opportunity to represent your party, and to meet as many voters as you did.
  • Say thank you once more, then leave the stage.

Who to watch Tuesday night:
New York’s 23rd Congressional District - Who will concede - Hoffman or Owens?
Editor’s Note: Dede Scozzafava essentially conceded this morning, as I was writing this, and was quite classy in doing so. Not a result to be wished for, but successful nonetheless.
New Jersey Governor - Christie or Corzine?
New York Mayor - No, I am not predicting any suspense in this election, but how will Bill Thomson handle a moment he must have long known was coming?

From The Bully Pulpit - Tom

To Be Continued ......