“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned”
(The Mourning Bride, 1697, William Congreve)
One of the discussions after our recent Thanksgiving repast turned to women in politics, notably those involved in recent political leadership campaigns. We wondered what is it with our kind, what is it with us, when it comes to conceding defeat in a political campaign? Why can’t we swallow our own bile, graciously shake hands with our opponents and wish them well, instead of erupting like a broken main, spewing endless effluvium, visibly sulking and scowling at the victors, or popping up when least expected like a Jack-in-the-box? Why is it, even after the fat lady has sung the last note, or THE END is declared on the screen, is our epilogue always like Tonya Harding’s of figure skating fame? It’s not over.
“It’s not over” means, not that you haven’t won, but that you haven’t beaten me. And I’m going to get you.
Hillary’s hissy fits when she lost in the primaries have become the stuff legends and late-night stand-up comedy routines are made of, and Portia’s nightmarish diatribes are etched in stone, inextricably linked to her personality profile. And how can we possibly forget the unstoppable Sarah, Xena-the-warrior-princess Palin, pouting and tearing up when refused the opportunity to give her unprecedented “concession speech” — scraps of red meat, no doubt, to a salivating horde of her disaffected “base”. Her last act of defiance?
I’m no authority on this, but men seem to know the rules of winning and losing far more intimately than does the gentler sex. Perhaps they have had more experience with competition, been in the game longer, or perhaps they’re just hotwired to give in with the hopes of returning to the ring later for another bout. Perhaps to them it’s more a game, when to us females it’s no less than war. But face it, these three who come to mind became frighteningly combustible upon defeat.
(Just imagine what the fallout would have been if it were Hillary instead of Al Gore who had “lost” to the Bush dynasty in the 2000 presidential elections)
With Irish cream to settle our stomachs, we explored the possibilities of the differences with the male/female reaction as being hemispheric, since we weren’t aware of females in other regions exhibiting less than grace after losing the race. Or could the phenomenon be epochal?
Clinton refused to concede on the night Obama won the Democratic nomination, and strangely conducted the rally as if she had won, thanking her opponent (Obama) for having run “an extraordinary race”. Not a word was spoken to her 18 million about losing the nomination, and Miss Thing waited a full four days before she grudgingly admitted she’d lost. Her line “Today as I suspend my campaign…” still gives me the willies, since that little word “suspend” is no synonym of “end”.
Although many have lauded her appointment as Secretary of State as a smooth Machiavellian move by the President-elect, Clinton still manages to keep the public speculating about her full support of her one-time rival and new boss. But chances are her personal professional drive may propel her to stellar performance in her current position of prestige, the acridity of the hard-fought campaign buried and forgotten. We continue to be audacious in hope.
Portia Simpson-Miller (The Most Honourable) was epic in her refusal to concede defeat, even after the elections were declared free and fair by monitors from the Organization of American States (OAS). Initial hesitancy to concede is understood, since doubt was expressed about the integrity of the electoral system, yet when she technically conceded 24 hours later, it was still with her assurance that “nothing is certain.” Since her supporters were expected to maintain her stance, it was a deliberate act to ensure the nation remained riven in purpose.
Then two weeks after the race was over, in her first public address as opposition leader at a party conference, Simpson-Miller maintained her usual combative stance (read: less than honourable), issuing her ominous and now-famous threat of “sleepless nights” to the new government and promising to be its “worst nightmare.” The delivery and decorum conveyed the feral intent of the statement, and it was tempting to liken her to Hecate, but we decided against it. Were these statements designed to heal the nation, or were they to ‘energize the base’? Could her barely concealed contempt for the new PM have been construed as a call to unity?
To be fair, while Sarah Palin did not throw a tantrum in the final hours of November 4, her punches were no less jarring. She maintained, wanting to throw tradition and protocol to the wind by giving her own unprecedented concession speech, that she wanted to praise her running mate John McCain, and “brag him up” (I suspect she meant “big him up”), since he had faced so much adversity. Hogsballs. That’s no concession, thank you Ma’am.
As a matter of fact, Palin continued her Obama-is-a-terrorist smear even after John McCain delivered the concession speech of the century, appearing sincere in his promise to stand with the new regime, and most importantly, the appeal to his supporters to do the same (Simpson-Miller needs to study this speech line upon line and precept upon precept, for future reference). Governor Palin is now MIA in Alaska, still cavorting around the lower 48, trying to “restore her image” through all the interviews she was unable to grant under the gaze of her handlers. Like the Energizer bunny, she is indefatigable, still pouring fuel on the smoldering embers of the rabid Republican right, still in denial.
Well, what do those ladies – strike that – females, have in common? They all needed to be dragged aside, kicking, screaming and biting, and told without much innuendo, “face it girl, it’s over!” Perhaps in Palin’s case, we just need to have her batteries removed.
So we ended the Thanksgiving conversation agreed that the demonizing of opponents after the race is over, is irresponsible, dangerous and divisive, and that these women in politics were all in varying degrees guilty.
They must be reminded that the concession speech is the swansong that signals the end of what is usually bitter campaign rivalry. It is the final bell at the end of the last round, the acknowledgement of the victor crossing the finish line, a declaration of the cessation of hostilities, the white flag of surrender. It promises that bridges will be mended and wounds will be healed. It is the first step in making whole a nation fractured by the cut and thrust of the campaign duels.
Of course you are going to blame our reasoning on post-prandial somnolence, which is quite understandable, given the gourmandizing that had occurred earlier.