This article was originally posted on RealClearWorld.
Concession speeches by politicians in America generally go something like this:
I called my opponent to offer my congratulations. [Crowd boos.] Though we didn’t win this fight, I know our values are America’s values. [Yay!] I will continue to fight hard for you. [Yay!] God bless America! [Yay!]
Notice that, despite losing, most American concession speeches somehow work in a humblebrag. There is also usually an implicit sentiment that the losing campaign was in reality far superior to the winning one, and that he really ought to have won if it weren’t for all the knaves and buffoons who voted for his opponent. Finally, there is a nearly blasphemous appeal to the Almighty as a way to garner one final, cheap ovation from the adoring crowd, after which the defeated candidate prances off the stage, hand-in-hand with his spouse, pumping his fist in faux enthusiasm.
Now, compare that to the concession speech of Ed Miliband, the main opposition candidate to Prime Minister David Cameron:
Friends, this is not the speech I wanted to give today because I believe that Britain needed a Labour government. I still do, but the public voted otherwise last night… I take absolute and total responsibility for the result and our defeat of this election. I’m so sorry for all of those colleagues who lost their seats…
First of all, Mr. Miliband looked sick to his stomach. Though he expressed hope for and belief in the future of Labour and its ideas, there was no faux enthusaism. Here stood a man who was able to admit that he and his party had been thoroughly beaten. Then, he takes personal responsibility for the outcome and, amazingly, uses the word “sorry.” Sorry? That word isn’t even in American politicos’ lexicon. And, as expected, he resigned from leading the Labour Party.
Also, consider the concession speech given by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister whose party, the Liberal Democrats, served as the junior partner in a coalition with the Conservative government. Mr. Clegg expressed sorrow that many talented friends and colleagues were booted from Parliament, and he accepted that the election was “immeasurably more crushing and unkind than I can ever have feared.” And, as expected, he resigned from leading the Liberal Democrats.
How foreign this is to American voters! British politicians actually apologize, admit bitter defeat, and, most importantly, resign from leadership. That final point is worth pondering.
American politicians never seem to resign. Ever. Most are political careerists who treasure power more than integrity. American politicians only seem to resign when facing incessant media mockery or legal indictments. In Britain, losing an election is sufficient for a politician to bow out of his party’s leadership. Actually, it’s not uncommon in many countries for prime ministers to resign if they lose key votes in parliament.
In stark contrast, American politicians often hold onto power until it’s pried out of their cold, rigor mortis-stricken hands. For instance, it is absolutely stunning that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid — both of whom had their clocks cleaned in 2010 and 2014, respectively — are still leading the Democratic party. Due to their lust for power, they haven’t the decency to step aside to allow a colleague to steer the ship in a new direction. Such self-centeredness would not stand in Britain. It is not honorable.
The aftermath of the British general election should serve as a model for American politicians. It should also serve as a reminder that the country from which we revolted nearly 240 years ago still has a thing or two to teach us about government.