It is traditional for the losing candidate in a presidential race to give a concession speech thanking his or her supporters, and calling on them to join together with those who did not vote the same way. John Kerry followed that tradition in his concess ion speech, but as one of his supporters, here is some of what I would have liked to hear him say:
My friends, after a long and hard-fought campaign, it has become clear that a majority of the American people voted yesterday in a way that we had hoped th ey would not. Millions of our fellow Americans have given their support to four more years of fear, of war and its attendant profiteering, to the repression of working people, and the suppression of some of our most cherished individual liberties. They ha ve backed an empty strategy of denial where objective facts do not support the policy choices of the current administration, of bluster where those policies have no hope of success, and of threats when those policies are questioned.
I am deeply disappoi nted in the choice made by that slim majority, but I am an American, and I humbly accept it. And now, for those of us who make up the nearly half of the electorate whose votes are our only record of the beliefs, the values, and the moral choices we have m ade in this election, I say to you that we too have won something. We have declared ourselves as true Americans, we have stood up and been counted in opposition to the wrongheaded and dangerous policies of the current administration, and we have won the r ight to remain in patriotic and loyal opposition to the continuation and extension of those policies. An opposition loyal to the values that made this country a beacon of light and hope to the rest of the world for generations, loyal to the preservation o f individual liberties and the basic principles of tolerance which underlie our Constitution, loyal to the founders’ precepts of freedom and justice for all.
If we remain united in our resolve, dedicated to standing firm against the tide of fear, of suspicion, of intolerance and of selfish greed that has temporarily prevailed in our great country, we will withstand the onrushing forces of extremism and unilateralism, and preserve the basic rights and freedoms which over the last five decades brought us to the levels of power, strength, and prestige that we enjoyed until the start of the current administration.
To those who are discouraged by the events of the past 36 hours, I say, “Remain steadfast, remain united, remain faithful to our fundamental pr inciples, and when the current swell of nearsighted and mean-spirited politics fueled by fear and suspicion has ebbed, we will stand ready to welcome back those voters, those Americans, who recognize that in 2004 they were swayed by appeals couched in a morality that holds no virtue, security that offers no protection, and self-interest that provides no relief from the very real problems that face our nation.”
I stand before you today, humbled by the extraordinary effort that you have made on my behalf, and on behalf of all of us. I have spent years in public service, and I will not leave this stage now without promising you this: The Democratic Party, including the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, has important, vital work to do over the next f our years, and there is no time or place for lethargy or depression. We will oppose, patriotically, those policies that we have identified time and time again during this campaign as being bad for our working families, bad for our security interests at ho me and abroad, and bad for the long-term prospects of this great experiment we call America. It is our home, and we will fight loyally to preserve all that is important and vital to us, at home and overseas. In a short time, only two years from now, we wi ll have the chance to regain control of Congress, and in the meantime, we need to defend our liberties, our freedom, and our fundamental values, at every turn. That is the work we have in front of us today, and for the next four years, and I promise you I will remain dedicated to those tasks, inspired by your dedication over the long course of this campaign. Good luck to all of us, and God bless America, and all its people.
Bart Selden has lived in Berkeley for more than 25 years.