Principles in Campaigning
To me, this demanded more than just a short grab buried in the midst of a bunch of other links: When Your Best Speech is Your Concession, What’s Wrong?
John McCain’s concession speech was by far his best of the campaign. He was, convincing, generous, and passionate. It brought to mind Hillary Clinton’s concession speech last summer, which was also widely heralded as her best.
What is it with these politicians that [they] can only give a good speech after they have lost?
One could hardly miss the fact that in order to be gracious in defeat, McCain had to contradict much of his own campaign. Clinton’s concession speech left her in the same dilemma: in order to be gracious in defeat, she had to contradict much of what she had said over the preceding months.
If Obama had lost either the nomination or the general election, he could have given a gracious concession speech without contradicting anything he had said during the campaign. One might counter by arguing that it is easy to be principled when you are the front runner. But Barack Obama entered this race not as a frontrunner but a long shot. In fact, much of Obama’s extraordinary rise to prominence was rooted in his self-evident commitment to politics that are principled in this sense. A sizable chunk of the American electorate responded to that in a powerful way.
This would be a good measure with which to distinguish “principled” politics from “unprincipled”: a principled politician can concede graciously [without] having to take back his or her campaign.
This is the issue the media swings at but misses with all the talk of “negative campaigning” and “attack ads.” Principled and unprincipled attacks get lumped together in a absurd measure of “going negative” that suggests a good candidate never criticizes his or her opponent. Instead of “negative campaigning” we need to talk about unprincipled politicians.