By Chrissy Houlahan
The standard definition of the word “concede” is to acknowledge the truth or existence of something.
In the United States, the tradition of public concession has played an essential role in strengthening our democracy. The speech or announcement has a certain cadence and etiquette: a congratulations to the winning team, an acceptance and finality of defeat, a call to unite behind the winner, and a plea to supporters to continue to work towards shared goals.
Some of the most striking speeches in our modern era have been concession speeches, given by candidates who have recognized in their defeat the value and importance of a unifying and patriotic message. During his speech, John McCain tamped down boos in the audience and spoke about his admiration for President Elect Obama and the history Obama had made. Al Gore mentioned in his ultimate concession the acceptance of the “finality of the outcome.” Hillary Clinton spoke to the fact that we as a nation owed President-elect Donald Trump an “open mind and the chance to lead.” She later said, “Let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear; making our economy work for everyone not just those at the top, protecting our country and protecting our planet and breaking down all the barriers that hold any American back from achieving their dreams.”
I am disappointed but not surprised that President Trump has refused to acknowledge the truth of President-elect Biden’s victory, but this problem is not just at the top of the ticket. So many of my fellow candidates, in races where the results are clear and far beyond recount territory, have still not formally conceded.
Concession is a final personal sacrifice that a candidate should make; it in and of itself is a service to the nation. A concession is not just about the candidate; it is about the country writ large. It is a sign that the American democracy still stands after a chaotic election. It reminds us that we all may come together and share the same truth. Because truth and decency matter.
U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, a Democrat, represents Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District.