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Monday, November 1, 2010

ELECTION MAGNANIMITY

It's election day here in the United States and the end of a grueling and quarrelsome race pitting one ideologue against another. It was bitter even within the parties as evidenced by the highly contested primary races. Undoubtedly there will be a lot of hard feelings regardless of the outcome. Not too long ago it was customary for the loser in a political contest to concede defeat and wish the victor good luck in his/her endeavors, but it seems such concession speeches are becoming few and far between. When they are finally given, they are done so grudgingly and not necessarily with the most sincerity. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if today they weren't sent by text messaging which is not exactly the best way to convey a heartfelt congratulations, e.g.,
GRATZ U WIN - LOL
(Real classy.)
Let's compare this to another time. In the U.S. Senate race of 1855, Abraham Lincoln lost in Illinois to Lyman Trumbull. It was a tough race and even though Lincoln lost he was determined not to express any hard feelings over the matter. Instead, he surprised people by showing up at Trumbull's victory party and offered him a smile and a warm handshake. Such magnanimity did not go unnoticed nor was it forgotten. Trumbull and his confidants helped Lincoln in his bid for the Senate in 1858 and later on in his run for the presidency in 1860. The point is, instead of losing friends over a defeat, Lincoln actually made friends of his opponents.
I doubt Lincoln's act of magnanimity would play in Peoria today. Instead we are more inclined to be more visceral in acknowledging defeat. This could be due to the adverse effects of today's technology and our lagging socialization skills, or because of our incompatible ideologies. Nonetheless, imagine the effect if the losers of the midterm elections would do as Lincoln and offer a sincere handshake of congratulations, in person. A simple act like a handshake could go a long way to repairing the divide in Congress.
Some might argue Lincoln lived in a simpler time which was much less contentious than today. Really? I wonder if anyone remembers the viciousness of the Missouri Compromise and the other acts leading to the American Civil War, perhaps the darkest chapter of our history.
In his famous speech of 1858, Lincoln warned, "A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved - I do not expect the house to fall - but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other." Click for the full SPEECH.
Lincoln's speech is as prophetic today as it was then. Interestingly, he seemed to understand the issue of the day posed a significant threat to the Constitution, which is also on the minds of a lot of people today. Even though his talk was well remembered, it wasn't considered politically correct and may have cost him the Senate race (losing to Stephen Douglas). So, are we really any different than yesteryear? Hardly. If anything, we are chillingly similar.
Regardless, wouldn't it be delightfully different to see your opponent offering a sincere hand of congratulations to you in person? As the victor, would you turn away from the person or embrace your opponent? I think I know the answer. So do you. Yet this will probably never happen as our socialization skills have deteriorated due to our dependence on technology and because today's campaign tactics are less about issues and more concerned with personal attack and innuendo instead. Simple civility, such as a sincere handshake, is no longer in the campaign play book. Further, the example set by politicians is often emulated by people in both their personal and professional lives. It saddens me to watch our culture deteriorate so. God how I hate the 21st century.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com
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