Hopeful and strangely revealing concession speech by John Kerry. Here are some highlights and thoughts.
John Edwards went first: “We will fight for every vote, even though the outcome won’t change.”
“John Kerry is a great American”
“Your cause will always be our cause”
“10’s of millions will be disappointed with this outcome, but don’t walk away”
He struck a strong populist note, mentioning the “factory worker, mill worker looking for work, the mother in the emergency room wondering how she will pay, the young person who wants to go to college but doesn’t know how he will pay for it, the mother of the young person who won’t come home from war, the child who wonders why she is treated differently just because her skin is a different color.”
He concluded with, “choose to be inspired, this is America, where everything is still possible.”
Kerry, voice hoarse, smiling sadly but seemingly at peace — he KNOWS he did the best he could, unlike for example, Gore — began:
“Danger of division, need for unity, finding common ground, healing”
“It’s clear when all votes are counted, and they will all be counted, we won’t win”
“We presented our hope and vision for a better America.”
“It’s been an honor and a gift to get to know so many of you – I wish that I could just wrap you in my arms and [voice cracking with emotion] embrace each and every one of you individually all across this nation. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Then two calls from the crowd nearly simultaneously: “We love you” and “We still have your back.” Somehow Kerry conflated the statements and called back, “I love yours too.”
He clearly wasn’t familiar with the popular phrase “got your back” and so confused the statements, and responded rather nonsensically – he loves your back? A person truly familiar with the culture, with the vernacular, would not have made the mistake.
This was a remarkably telling moment: no matter how hard, and I have no doubt, sincerely, Kerry has tried to connect with the soul of the nation, to jump on the back and ride the great dragon that is our culture, he never quite connected, he never quite got it right.
This isn’t something you learn, this is something you are. It is very difficult to make a broad, generally populist appeal when you are simply NOT a man of the people, when you are an upper-crust Eastern intellectual with a bizarre billionaire second wife, even if you are pals with Bruce Springsteen (who is also a multi-millionaire, by the way). That morning in the duck blind in Ohio convinced no one and rang false – it was a jarring moment that reinforced an underlying perception of opportunism, of trying to be all things to all people, of stretching oneself too thin.
Bush, with a remarkably similar early background, doesn’t even try, much. He has to deal with the opposite perception that he is a dumbass and a cowboy. He seems genuinely most at home out on the ranch, on the open plains of Texas, so his patrician, blueblood heritage is largely neutralized. He is seen as a regular guy despite the accident of birth. He is of the vernacular. He isn’t trying to appear to be something he is not, he isn’t trying to be all things to all people.
The rest of Kerry’s speech was very fine — his line, “There are no losers in American elections – we all wake up as Americans, and that is the greatest gift of all,” was brilliant, and his calls for unity and commonality touching and sincere — but that one awkward, unscripted moment summed up for me why Kerry was conceding and not graciously accepting.
Fascinating also that the transcription on Kerry’s site, “corrects” his misunderstanding:
Audience member: “We still got your back!”
“Thank you, man. And I assure you – you watch – I’ll still have yours.”
FoxNews has the transcript correct here.