How to Fix Election Night Concession Phone Calls: End Them

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 7 2013 9:34 AM

How to Fix Election Night Concession Phone Calls: End Them

Kevin Drum is rather bored by the stories of unsuccessful 2013 candidates refusing to call their conquerers. Longtime Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes did not call victor Ken Thompson, who beat him in the Democratic primary then crushed him 3-1 when Hynes insisted on taking his temper tantrum into a general election. Ken Cuccinelli did not call Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe. Given that I was in the room for it, I can confirm that E.W. Jackson celebrated his 10-point loss in the LG race by talking about his future plans but never mentioning his opponent.

Bqhatevwr, says Drum. "How many people think we should do away with the whole tradition of a congratulatory phone call from the loser of a political campaign? Is it an insincere gesture that's nonetheless useful as a public way of bearing witness to the peaceful transfer of legitimate power in a democracy and keeping up a facade of civility?"

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I think it's a fine concept but an imperfect tradition. In my birth state of Delaware, candidates do more than concede to their opponents. After the election, they commemorate Return Day by literally "burying the hatchet," submerging an actual ax in an actual bucket of sand. This, I believe, is why so many financial institutions decide to incorporate in the state. (Well, that or the insanely favorable tax and legal code.)

It's fun, but even better is the British tradition of making all candidates in a race stand on the same stage and just suffer through it as the election results are read. This leads to the sort of high drama usually reserved for the time between a photo finish at a horse race and the moment the judge you've paid off determines who one. Nothing better symbolized the 1997 Labour Party landslide than the defeat of Michael Portillo, a Tory expected to be a top candidate for party leader after the loss. Watch here as the crowd hears Portillo's number, then some third party candidate's numbr, then the first digit of Labour candidate Stephen Twigg's number—and realizes that Twigg has won.

See? Much better. Imagine Todd Akin having to stand there as Claire McCaskill's victory is announced, then getting to trash her and his party as she watched.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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