Stephen L. Carter / Concession translation

What tonight's losing candidate really means to say

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Sometime late tonight, barring an unexpected bout of litigation, one of the major party presidential nominees will be calling the other one to concede.

Immediately afterward, the defeated candidate will come out and address his supporters. We all know what he'll say. Let's take a look at what he'll be thinking:

"I just made a telephone call to my opponent to congratulate him on his victory." Scattered boos. "No, no, none of that. None of that."

Translation: More of that. More of that.

"This is a time to be charitable. To be grateful to God for this opportunity, and to accept the judgment of the voters. This is a time to unite behind the man our fellow Americans have chosen to lead the nation for the next four years."

Translation: I know I can count on each of you to do all in your power to frustrate his agenda.

"Things didn't work out the way we'd hoped. We did our best, and we should all be proud of the campaign. Sure, defeat is painful. At moments like this, I am reminded of the words of Abraham Lincoln, our greatest president, who after losing the 1858 Senate race to Stephen Douglas commented that he felt like the boy who stubbed his toe: 'It hurt too bad to laugh, and he was too big to cry.' "

Translation: That's the Lincoln line people always remember. What I'd really rather be quoting is the rest of what Lincoln said about his opponent's policies: "No ingenuity can keep this deception up a great while."

"We tried to run a good, clean campaign. In the heat of battle, I know that my opponent and I both probably said a few things we shouldn't have. But I want him to know that he'll have my full support in the tough work of knitting this fractured nation back together."

Translation: All of my attack ads were regrettable necessities. All of his attack ads were vicious lies.

"My opponent and I have our differences. So do our parties. We put competing ideas out there, and I guess this time around the people chose to go with the other side's ideas rather than ours."

Translation: Blankety-blank news media, garbling my message.

"But this is America, the country we share. The country we love. Let us never forget that however heated the rhetoric of an election campaign, the things that unite us are greater than the things that divide us."

Translation: Wow. I didn't think I could get that line out with a straight face.

"Our nation faces significant challenges at home and abroad. We still have a great deal of work to do to get our economy moving again, to restore fiscal sanity, to protect and defend our homeland, and to bring our enemies to justice. I look forward to working with my opponent to accomplish these ends."

Translation: My vague proposals were better than his vague proposals. Why couldn't those blankety-blank voters see through his smoke and mirrors?

"This campaign generated a lot of excitement. I want you to know that I am grateful for each and every one of you who went to the polls. Election Day is one of the great showcases of our democracy, and it is a tribute to your faith in the electoral process that even at this difficult time, so many turned out to vote."

Translation: Blankety-blank hurricane.

"I'd like to express my appreciation to my running mate. During our time together, my respect for him has only increased. We've become great friends, as have our families. He worked as hard as anyone, and I will always be grateful."

Translation: Still, I can't believe some of those gaffes. What on earth was he thinking? Never mind. Calm down, get the rest of the speech out, and start your vacation.

"I want to offer a special word of thanks to my family, my children, of course, and particularly my brilliant and beautiful wife, who has been with me every step of the way, and whose love and support are the most important things in my life."

Translation: Her poll numbers continue to amaze me. She's more popular than I am. She's more popular than my opponent is, and he won the election. Maybe the American people are smarter than I thought.

"And let me say this. We are all blessed to live in the greatest nation on the face of the planet. Sure, America's had some tough times lately, but we're a resilient people. I possess a boundless faith in the people of this country and in the values that have made us great. I am absolutely certain that our greatest days lie yet before us."

Translation: Wow. I actually believe this. OK, so we lost. Still, maybe things won't be so bad. His policies are wrongheaded, but he's not a bad man. If we offer serious criticism, maybe he'll even listen.

"Again, to all my supporters, thank you for being a part of this extraordinary experience. God bless all of you, and God bless the United States of America."

Translation: And I hope the bloggers and talking heads will lay off the guy for a while. Enough demonizing, OK? Let's give him a chance. This is why we have elections. And, in the end, either you trust the people or you give up on America.

opinion_commentary

Stephen L. Carter is a Bloomberg View columnist and a professor of law at Yale University. He is the author of "The Violence of Peace: America's Wars in the Age of Obama" and his most recent novel is "The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln."


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