Rep. Tim Ryan ran one of the best campaigns of the year, but when all was said and done, the Democratic congressman came up short in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race. After his fate was sealed, Ryan took the high road, delivered classy remarks, and told his supporters he considered it a “privilege” to concede the race to Republican J.D. Vance.
“When you lose an election, you concede,” the Democrat said. “You respect the will of the people. We can’t have a system where, if you win it’s a legitimate election and if you lose someone stole it.”
Oddly enough, some notable Republican candidates who also fell short have come to similar conclusions. The New York Times reported:
Several bitterly contested races remain undecided, but by Wednesday it was becoming clear that the 2022 midterm campaign had spawned a modest and somewhat unexpected national political comeback — by civility. ... This year, many defeated Republicans — including some endorsed by the former president and many who embraced his lies about the last national election — accepted their losses with magnanimity, rejecting the Trumpian example without mentioning him by name.
As yesterday morning progressed, the list of Trump-backed Republicans acknowledging the legitimacy of their defeats grew. Michigan’s Tudor Dixon conceded. So did New York’s Lee Zeldin. They were joined by Pennsylvania’s Mehmet Oz and Dan Cox.
A Washington Post report on the trend added, “Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) said she choked up with relief when Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon conceded Wednesday morning. The act, Benson said, reinforced a democratic norm of acknowledging election results that Trump had undermined.”
For a variety of reasons, I find all of this absolutely amazing.
It’s worth noting for context that while many prominent GOP candidates did the right thing, and should be recognized for doing do, some in the party were far less responsible. And with some races yet to be called — Arizona’s Kari Lake, I’m looking in your direction — it’s entirely possible that the public will soon hear another round of dangerous election denialism.
But it’s nevertheless true that prominent Trump-aligned candidates are rejecting the former president’s example and honoring the will of the voters. I wouldn’t be surprised if some online tantrums from Mar-a-Lago soon follow.
These concessions were far from assured. Too many Republicans hedged in recent months when asked whether they’d accept the legitimacy of the official vote tallies. The fact they ended up conceding comes as a relief.
But therein lies the larger concern: This relief shouldn’t be necessary.
We used to be a country in which questions like these weren’t even asked. As we’ve discussed, it was a foregone conclusion for generations: The United States was a stable democracy, and the world’s pre-eminent superpower. There was no real need to wonder; American candidates for powerful offices honored election results.
There was no need for New York Times and Washington Post articles marveling at Republicans’ willingness to accept a norm of American democracy. In the not-too-distant past, everyone simply assumed that concessions were a normal part of the process.
But in Donald Trump’s wake, in an era of GOP radicalization, it’s become newsworthy when Republicans concede that election results matter.
In other words, the good news is that many defeated Republican candidates are acknowledging the legitimacy of the results. The bad news is, we now live in a country where this comes as a pleasant surprise.