Throughout its history, America has been blessed with leaders who’ve understood that no matter how fiercely the battle at the ballot box is waged grace in defeat greases the system. That belief has made the peaceful exchange of power the hallmark of the American system.
Election losers, particularly at the presidential level, may fume for a while about the outcome. But they eventually have receded into the background or resolved to fight again another day, without openly disparaging voters, the country or its election mechanism.
Then came Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who is proving to be the worst sore loser in U.S political history.
Hillary now is back in the public eye, ostensibly promoting a new book she co-wrote with her daughter, Chelsea. But time in front of friendly liberal interviewers is giving her the opportunity to trash President Trump, whose trolling - egad! - is prompting Hillary to threaten to run for president again.
Please, Mr. President. Anything. But. That.
In a CBS interview last month, for example, Hillary called Trump an “illegitimate president” who “knows” he is not legit. Some “funny things” caused her to lose in 2016, she maintained, adding “I know that he knows that this wasn’t on the level. I don’t know that we’ll ever know what happened.”
This past week she mused about another go-round with Trump. “Maybe there does need to be a rematch,” Hillary said. “Obviously, I can beat him again.”
Earth to Hillary: You didn’t beat him the first time.
Democrats have plainly shown they hate our system when they lose, but all of them, including Hillary, knew the rules going in, since we’ve used them for 230 years.
Moreover, we put Robert Mueller, the most ethical man in D.C., according to her fellow Democrats, in charge of finding out “what happened” in 2016. He took almost two years, spent $30 million and came up empty on finding monkey business.
That’s because nothing “happened” to Hillary.
Her mindset is understandable, though. She blew the most winnable election ever. Given her high regard for herself, and the fawning attitude of the media that repeatedly announced she was bound for glory, Hillary thus remains unwilling to accept that stunning, stinging upset.
Her recent comments clearly show, however, that Washington is the graveyard of irony.
Recall that famous moment at the final debate in October 2016.
Trump had been suggesting the election was rigged - an allegation that is becoming more plausible as we unravel how the Obama administration, aided by information supplied by a contractor working for Hillary, spied on Trump’s campaign. At the debate, Trump said he would “totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election - if I win.”
Hillary, Barack Obama, other Democrats and their media allies went nuts.
During the debate, Hillary called Trump’s comment “horrifying.” “He is denigrating - he is talking down our democracy,” she added. “And I am appalled… That is not the way our democracy works.”
“When you try to sow the seeds of doubt in people’s minds about the legitimacy of our elections,” President Obama said afterward, “that undermines our democracy.”
Yet since Nov. 9, 2016, Democrats, both elected and otherwise, have worked relentlessly to do just what Obama mentioned.
They pumped up the phony Russia-collusion story, and have overhyped this latest nonsense with Ukraine’s president. They began laying the foundation for impeachment a month before Trump took office. They’ve repeatedly proclaimed his unfitness for office and advocated invoking his removal from office by the 25th Amendment. They attempted - and may yet succeed - in normalizing routine political disputes as criminal activity. They’ve asserted that he bashes constitutional norms, without acknowledging Trump governs more or less like his predecessors.
In September 2017, when Hillary’s campaign memoir came out, Gregg Jarrett of Fox News wrote that he found 56 factors that Hillary identified as reasons for her defeat.
For instance, she trashed the voters, the media, fellow Democrats, the election system and women, just to name a few. In a rare moment of humility and introspection, she also took “personal responsibility” for losing.
Yet, according to Jarrett, she couldn’t bring herself to name Trump as a decisive factor, and simply admit that she was outhustled, outplayed and outwitted. Now, her unwillingness to show grace in defeat has helped cleave the country apart.
“I want to be sure that people understand I’m going to keep speaking out. I’m not going anywhere,” she said back in March. And that’s the problem. If only we could convince her otherwise.
Bill Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the editorial page editor of The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida.