Whatever your philosophy or political persuasion, I bet most of you will agree with me that it sure would be nice to get back to normal.
In 2020, we have seen a pandemic, social distancing, economic shutdown, tropical storm damage, delayed sports seasons and a presidential election that’s going to take a few days to resolve. Now the pandemic is again peaking and we have to face fears of both COVID-19 and seasonal flu.
At least we’re free of those wall-to-wall political ads. Well, mostly free. There is an upcoming runoff vote.
During this long, political season, I’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of interesting TV specials. One was a series on first ladies and a feature about President Richard Nixon. One of the most interesting was a series of clips showing losing presidential candidates’ concession speeches, beginning with Nixon in 1960 to Hillary Clinton in 2016. What was most interesting were how all these people were most gracious and all praised our democratic system and the voting process.
The 1960 presidential election between then-Vice President Richard Nixon and his Democratic challenger, Sen. John F. Kennedy, was the first presidential election to feature a televised debate, which gave many voters their first chance to view the candidates. Before families began installing television receivers in their homes in the 1950s, many people only saw the candidates in newspaper photos or in the MovieTone News at movie theaters.
The televised debate between Kennedy and Nixon is often cited as the reason for Kennedy’s narrow 1960 victory. People who were tuned in saw a calm, cool Kennedy, who looked very presidential, compared to a sweaty, uneasy Nixon, who unfortunately was suffering with a fever.
The 1960 election was the first U.S. election with all 50 states casting ballots, including the new states of Alaska and Hawaii. Kennedy won by a slim 110,000 popular vote margin and 303-219 electoral votes.
Many charges of election irregularities were suspected in the narrow Kennedy victory. However, Nixon chose to concede and turned aside pleas from his campaign staff to wage a legal challenge.
“One of the great features of America is that we have political contests, they are hard fought, but once the decision is made, we unite behind the winner,” Nixon told the crowd attending his concession speech.
Among the saddest of the 60 years of concession speeches was the one delivered by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. Carter lost the 1980 contest to Ronald Reagan in a landslide after American voters took their feelings about rising inflation and an Iranian hostage crisis to the voting booth.
As Carter reached the end of his heartfelt speech, his emotions showed in his voice.
“I wanted to serve as president because I love this country and I love the people of this country. Finally, I want to say I am disappointed, but I have not lost either love.”
After Carter left the White House the following January, he returned to his rural home in Plains, Georgia, but he didn’t sit idle in his rocking chair. He went on to serve the nation and the world as one of the greatest peacemakers and humanitarians.
It always makes me feel good about my country when I see a politician accept defeat and still pledge his devotion to our nation and its Constitution.
Winston Jones is a former journalist living in Carrollton.