Our Political System is Not a Game: Real Leaders Know When to Accept Defeat

September 21, 2016

With just weeks until the American public chooses our next president, it is troubling to see headlines filled with dubious suggestions that our elections might be “hacked” or “rigged” when the likelihood remains so remarkably small. Even more disturbing is the possibility that these kinds of stories could undermine the election results if things don’t work out after election day.

The wonder of American democracy is that we resolve our conflicts with votes and laws, not tanks and guns. This tradition is possible only because we treat the other party as opponents, not enemies, and we respect the integrity of our democratic institutions.

If the margin is very close, we rely on our election system and our judicial system to use predetermined rules to bring the election to a settlement. The alternative to relying on elections and rule of law is unthinkable and should be rejected in the strongest possible terms. When the votes have been cast and ballots counted, we expect that losing candidates will make a phone call to congratulate the winner and then publicly acknowledge the will of the electorate.

Refusing to accept election results wholeheartedly and without reservation is not just wrong, it is un-American. Gracefully accepting defeat is one of the truly powerful moments in our nation’s political life. Both of the major party candidates should commit to doing so this year.

Before it’s too late, we must call on political, media, and civic leaders to make clear that this is not a game. When candidates lose elections, we expect that they will accept defeat and call for the American people to come together as a nation. Period.