The Politics of Losing

There’s a lot of debate in the country over which political party is better suited to lead, and that question is supposed to be decided regularly at polling places throughout the nation. However, there is absolutely no question about which party is better at losing elections; hands down, it’s the Republicans.

Let’s face it, the only reason we knew the make-up of the Senate within 24 hours or so of the recent elections was the fact the two razor-thin margins (in Virginia and Montana) went in favor of Democrats. The two Republicans (Allen and Burns) waited overnight for some canvassing and then conceded their races. There were no accusations of voter fraud, no crying about defective machines, hanging chads, butterfly ballots or voter intimidation. Instead, they said, “You won; we lost.” George Allen was particularly gracious in praising the man who will take his job.

Call me cynical, but you can bet a Kennedy half-dollar that, if the situation were reversed, we still wouldn’t know who would be running the Senate next time because we would be up to our necks in litigation and investigation. Voters would have been “encouraged” to come forward to tell their horror stories about how they were deprived of their rights, and TV and newspaper reporters from around the country would have descended on Virginia and Montana to expose the flaws in voting machines and unearth the fraud which had undoubtedly been perpetrated throughout those states.

Happily for the country, however, the “right” side won, so those problems didn’t seem to exist this time around. It’s surprising, given the number of pre-election stories outlining the potential for irregularities and discussing strategies to challenge any “illegitimate” results, but I guess those nasty election officials cleaned up their acts just in time.

The problem with elections is they are a bit messy, and, more often than not, they’re pretty close. One of the reasons the Founders came up with the Electoral College on the Presidential level was to create the illusion of a more sound victory in order to minimize the possible damage to our political system resulting from extremely tight popular vote races. The idea was to give the winners a chance to govern more effectively. And the job of the losers was…well, to lose, and to do it graciously.

One of the main reasons the past six years have been filled with such unyielding acrimony is the Democrats have made it clear, through word and deed, they believe this administration to be illegitimate. From the legal fiasco in Florida in 2000 to accusations of stealing Ohio (and maybe a couple of other states) in 2004, they convinced their followers it was fraud which kept this nation from experiencing a Gore and/or Kerry administration. They were the equivalent of a spoiled kid holding his breath until he turned blue.

The Republicans did a lot of things wrong this past election cycle. If you don’t think so, ask a Republican. But one thing they did right—and which they generally do right—is to take their lumps and put country ahead of party.

Ask yourself this: if you were trying to teach your child the importance of being a "good loser” and learning from his or her mistakes and moving on, at which political party would you point to help make your case?