OPEN UNIVERSITY NOVEMBER 11, 2006
by Cass Sunstein
In the immediate aftermath of the elections, at least two Republicans have shown considerable grace: Rick Santorum and George W. Bush.
Santorum's concession speech was, in its way, quite remarkable. Showing no trace of bitterness, he began by praising Bob Casey,
saying that he was a fine man and that he would do a fine job for Pennsylvania. He specifically asked his supporters to give a round of applause to Casey, and when the applause was tepid, he added, spontaneously and with evident sincerity, "Come on, give it up, give him a round of applause!"
For his part, President Bush has shown a combination of generosity, humility, openness, and gentle humor. He has been full of praise for Democrats and their campaigns, emphatic on the presence of patriotism on all sides, and optimistic about the possibility of a bipartisanship approach, drawing good ideas from all sides.
Of course grace and gracelessness can be found on all sides of the political spectrum. Of course grace can be used strategically. Of course grace is not the only or the foremost political virtue, and it has its times and its places. But for those whose candidates are defeated, one of the worst fears is that their own defining commitments will effectively be excluded from the political domain--that the winners, having won, will humiliate the losers and pay no heed to what they have to say. Gracious winners are even more important than gracious losers, because they alleviate that fear.
It is hard not to wonder what the last several years would have been like if President Bush and the Republican Party had, as winners, demonstrated the same kind of generosity and inclusiveness shown by Santorum and the White House as losers.