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The most important part of a democracy is what the losers do

Posted on 7 November 2012

Last night was the most watched exercise in democracy in history.

Or not.

Because there is a certain segment of the population who are viewing last night’s results as somehow illegitimate or undemocratic. And of course there are no shortage of people congratulating America on making the right choice, implying that all the people who went the other way were wrong and had there been a few more of them, America as a whole would have made the wrong choice. That’s problematic.

The most important thing in creating a stable democracy isn’t that people get to choose a leader. The most important thing is that even the people whose choice didn’t win still feel like the results are legitimate. That political opponents could legitimately lead the country, if enough people supported them.

From that point of view, the most important part of an election isn’t the victory speech. It’s the concession. It’s the moment when the loser acknowledges the legitimacy of the winner to lead, and the legitimacy of the people and the system that made that happen.

Filed under: Best Of, politics

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5 Comments

Exactly. A key function of an election is bringing about an orderly change of government. Nice, pithy post.

Posted by Jpols on 7 November 2012 @ 3pm

I paid attention in some of those classes.

Posted by Andrew on 7 November 2012 @ 9pm

Lots of us around the world are breathing sighs of relief that Obama has his four more years. Democratic presidents have a history of ending wars while Republicans seem fond of starting them. Hopefully the world will be a safer place and we can get on with fixing the economy and getting people back to work.

Posted by Noctor Till 6 on 8 November 2012 @ 9am

Great post. You might like this article as well, which is one of my personal favourites to come out of the election: http://gawker.com/5958556/dying-of-the-white-requiem-for-the-2012-election

Posted by Jacquie Betty on 8 November 2012 @ 11am

Seeing a lot of commentary on this subject. Again, I would say the important thing is that the old guard accepts the legitimacy of the new guard. If they do, and try to court them, that’s hopeful. If they don’t accept their legitimacy as fellow citizens… that’s trouble.

Posted by Andrew on 8 November 2012 @ 12pm

No more than once a week, promise.


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