We have a long-standing tradition in this country. No matter how bitter or hard-fought an election, once it is over, the contestants must endorse the results. This is an important ritual because democracy calls for two very hard skills – being a good loser, and being a gracious winner. Neither comes naturally to most people, but both are essential if democracy is to survive. The is why, no matter how loudly the loser trashed the winner, and no matter what disasters the loser predicted if the election went the other way, the loser must always call to congratulate the winner and must give a gracious concession speech making clear to even the most zealous followers that the people have spoken and we must abide by their decision. It is why the winner, no matter how much mud he or she has slung, must always strike a conciliatory note in acknowledging victory. It is why a losing incumbent for President always attends his successor’s inaugural and why the winner who ousted the incumbent nonetheless thanks the incumbent during the inaugural address.
Nasty and hard-fought as this election is and will be, unwilling though the Republicans are to accept any Democrat as legitimate, I do not think we are ready to abandon those rituals, at least not yet. That is why, much as the Republican base will want to hear it, I do not expect Mitt Romney’s victory speech, or his inaugural address to go anything like this:
My fellow authentic real Americans: The nightmare is over. Legitimacy has been restored. This country has endured the indignity of a Democrat in the White House for the last time. Ronald Reagan made clear as long ago as 1980 that the Presidency is an office for Republicans only. Newt Gingrich made clear in 1994 that a Congressional majority is also one that only Republicans may legitimately hold. And yet Democrats continually contest elections, run candidates, and act as if they had the same right to lead the country that we do. Indeed, since Ronald Reagan’s time, they have twice usurped the White House, and from 2006 until 2010, they usurped control of Congress as well. Well, those days are over. From now on the message is clear. If you can’t win the Republican primary, you have no business holding office. Today, Karl Rove’s permanent Republican majority at last assumes the place it has long been due. And make no mistake, we will NEVER yield it.
Mitt Romney will not give this message because it is contrary to all accepted etiquette in American politics. Indeed, this message is so contrary to our political tradition that I doubt the even most people who believe it dare think it in so many words. But make no mistake. Mitt Romney is very smart. He may not come right out and say as much, but I have no doubt he will manage to get the message across.