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November 07, 2013 9:50 AM When the Campaign Frenzy Ends

By Ed Kilgore

So as of yesterday, afternoon, anyway, Ken Cuccinelli had not made the obligatory phone call to concede to Terry McAuliffe and wish him well on his stewardship of the Commonwealth, etc., etc.

Kevin Drum has a good question:

Let’s see a show of hands on this. How many people think we should do away with the whole tradition of a congratulatory phone call from the loser of a political campaign? Is it an insincere gesture that’s nonetheless useful as a public way of bearing witness to the peaceful transfer of legitimate power in a democracy and keeping up a facade of civility? Or is it just a pointless and humiliating ritual that’s long since worn out its welcome?

I suppose when you’ve implicitly been calling your opponent a godless baby-killing crook for months on end—not Satan, perhaps, but definitely one of his Infernal Minions—it’s a little ludicrous to wish him well when the perfidious bribed-and-propaganda-drenched electorate narrowly elevates him to office. But hey, even in actual wars when people are shooting at each other every day with intent to kill, there are truces. So I see nothing particularly wrong with some concession gesture that indicates Cooch will not be imminently calling on his supporters to march on Richmond and pull T-Mac off the dais at his Inauguration and beat him senseless.

What I find more objectionable is the regular phenomenon in party primary battles wherein one candidate calls the other a traitor and a whore and then nine seconds after the votes are counted, the loser is up there smilingly endorsing yesterday’s traitor/whore and in the event of final victory joining the traitor/whore’s administration. That’s not a truce; that’s a surrender that exposes everything said earlier as a cynical pack of lies.

Some degree of civility is necessary for a functioning democracy (which ours is, I suppose, albeit marginally), but it doesn’t require the kind of hypocrisy and toadying involved when a reviled foe instantly becomes “the boss.”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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