I would not have predicted, but Hubert Humphrey's was my favorite—or at least the most entertaining. Also, 7 other things worth your time.
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Things I do with my spare time: I went back and dug up footage of the concession speeches from every defeated presidential candidate dating to 1952, when Adlai Stevenson offered congratulations to then-General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
I only watched parts of each video, of course, but it was an interesting, moving experience. And so, I compiled the highlights into a short video you’ll find below.
I should mention that I started this project on Saturday evening, after every media organization called the election for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. And then, it was great weather here Sunday, so I spent the day at the shore with my family.
But now the president hasn’t conceded, almost 48 hours later—and reports are he has no plans to do so anytime soon, instead plans a lot more court challenges, etc. (I’m not getting too deep into all that for now, although I have a link or two in the “7 things” section at the end.)
So, this examination will either seem premature or even more apt, depending on your point of view.
Anyway, these are 16 tough, ambitious politicians who fought hard campaigns for the highest office in the land, but who ultimately came up short. Then, in their moment of defeat, they had to stand up in front of the nation and acknowledge it.
Chances are you saw at least pieces of some of these at the time, depending on your age. But who ever goes back and looks at them years later? It’s pretty interesting.
After Stevenson, there was Nixon, who lost to JFK in 1960, and who might have had very good reason to complain he’d actually been robbed of the presidency in Chicago and Texas. But, he decided not to fight for the good of the country.
Then, Barry Goldwater, who got trounced in 1964 and reportedly deeply disliked his opponent, President Johnson—but pledged his support where he could, and remained a force in the Senate for decades afterward.
Most amusing among the speeches might be Humphrey’s speech in 1968, which is ironic given what a tumultuous year that was. I only included two lines in the video, but during most of his talk he sounds mellow and relieved to be headed back to Minnesota as a former vice president. (He later was reelected to the Senate in 1971.)
Anyway, we go on past McGovern, to Ford (whose voice was hoarse and who had his wife, Betty, read most of his concession), then Carter, Mondale, and Dukakis.
Then, the first President Bush, who famously left a very warm letter for his successor, Bill Clinton, and who was about as gracious as you can imagine in his speech, despite being heartbroken at the result.
Bob Dole was next; he hushed his own supporters during his speech, to remind them that President Clinton was his opponent, but not his enemy.
From there: Al Gore (I’m sure you remember that one), John Kerry, John McCain (exceptionally gracious), Mitt Romney, and of course, Hillary Clinton in 2016.
It’s funny, for many of these, they seem so authentic and relaxed, albeit disappointed, that you wonder: If they’d been like that during the campaign itself, would they have had to give a concession speech? It might have made the difference for them.
I’ve had a thought in the back of my mind since the last debate, when the moderator asked Trump and Biden how they’d address people who didn’t vote for them in their inauguration addresses.
It occurred to me: Even if a presidential candidate won in an absolute landslide — say, 70% of the vote in a 150 million vote election—that would still mean 45 million people assessed you, considered you, and said “no thanks.”
And that’s if you win big; by definition giving a concession speech means you didn’t.
Anyway, for the zillionth time in the last little while, I have to conclude here by acknowledging an uncertain future.
But besides just an interesting history lesson, the experience of watching parts of these speeches—one after the other after the other—at least gave me a little bit more faith in the past.
Here’s the link to the video. It runs a bit over two minutes, and I hosted it on YouTube via Twitter, mainly because there’s no easy way to display it in this email otherwise.
7 other things worth your time
Let’s start with some non-election news, although it’s sad: Alex Trebek, who hosted the iconic, daily TV game show Jeopardy! for 36 years, died at age 80 after battling cancer. (ABC News)
Americans lost an estimated 138 million collective hours of sleep on election night. And probably a lot more afterward, too. (The Print)
The U.S. broke its daily record for new coronavirus cases once again, with 134,000 diagnoses on Saturday, and some very pessimistic epidemiologists say that the “very worst of the pandemic” lies ahead, “with no apparent strategy.” (Washington Post, The Guardian)
The president of Notre Dame is blasting students after they held big parties in the wake of their football team’s two-overtime win over Clemson. Among other things, students can’t go home for Thanksgiving until they’ve had a Covid “exit test” ahead of time. (WNDU)
Notwithstanding the lack of a concession from President Trump, former President George W. Bush congratulated Biden and Harris on their victory, as did the heads of state of many foreign countries. The president and vice president-elect (I’m going to call them that since every news org does) gave victory speeches, and will meet with their new coronavirus task force today. The main immediate practical impact of the lack of a concession is that the administration official in charge of authorizing a transition hasn’t signed the letter doing so yet. (Politico, Fox News, Washington Post)
After 49 years without a layoff, Southwest Airlines delivered legally required warning notices to 42 employees letting them know they might be the first. They’re represented by the Teamsters, which Southwest says ended negotiations over potential pay cuts instead of job cuts, due to the pandemic. (Me, on Inc.com)
An Ohio sheriff’s deputy says her boss fired her for being gay. So she ran for sheriff, and beat him in the election last week. (NBC News)
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