Tuesday, November 07, 2006

REGARDING CONCESSIONS Before things kick into high gear later today, a few words about the peculiar ritual that is the televised concession speech, and why it seems like a pernicious tradition on a couple of related levels:

First, it implies to the unsophisticated viewer that trailing candidates are in a position to declare the election over in the same way that cornered chess players resign. And that's just not how it works in a modern democracy: There are laws, rules and procedures to be followed.

So while it may be politically expedient for likely losers to trot out before the cameras minutes after the polls close, that doesn't mean that election workers will stop their tallying or that judges will refuse to hear voting rights challenges. The candidate's decision to say, "I stand down" can't--and shouldn't--derail those processes.

Relatedly, there's a reason why a candidate's election night declarations are more or less beside the point: In elections, it's the rights of voters that are paramount and the rule of law that must be vindicated. And yet the concession ritual reinforces the media-fueled fantasy that it's the interests of the candidates--their clashing personalities, their competing career prospects--that are the most critical thing at stake.

So tonight, at least in close races, I hope candidates have the sense to wait in their hotel rooms and to keep their mouths shut. We all know that the networks are eager to "call" the races as soon as possible (another meaningless exercise) but that doesn't mean politicians should play along.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.