Ethics Hero: Defeated Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Terry McAuliffe (D)

Terry M

Well, that was unexpected!

After McAuliffe made an appearance before the already deflating crowd of supporters and staffers on Election Night, only acknowledging the ominous news of a persistent Youngkin advantage by saying that “every vote” should be counted, the news media assumed that the close Hillary Clinton ally was planning a long battle over a close result if he lost the election. “His speech was notable for what he didn’t say,” one commentator said at about 10 pm. But by the early hours of the morning all outlets had declared Glenn Youngkin, the Republican who McAuliffe’s campaign had tried to brand as a racist and a Donald Trump clone, was the upset winner of the governor’s race, with not enough uncounted votes available to give McAuliffe the win he once assumed was “in the bag.”

McAuliffe defied expectations by conceding, quickly and graciously, the old fashioned way. His statement, issued early on in the morning after what must have been a crushing defeat, read,

“While last night we came up short, I am proud that we spent this campaign fighting for the values we so deeply believe in. We must protect Virginia’s great public schools and invest in our students. We must protect affordable health care coverage, raise the minimum wage faster, and expand paid leave so working families have a fighting shot. We must protect voting rights, protect a woman’s right to choose, and, above all else, we must protect our democracy. While there will be setbacks along the way, I am confident that the long term path of Virginia is toward inclusion, openness and tolerance for all.

“Congratulations to Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin on his victory. I hope Virginians will join me in wishing the best to him and his family.“I would like to thank my wife Dorothy, my family, and my incredible campaign team for their tireless efforts and dedication over these past eleven months. And to all of my supporters across Virginia who knocked on millions of doors, made countless phone calls, and talked to their family, friends and neighbors: I am eternally grateful that you joined me on this journey to move Virginia forward.

“Serving as Virginia’s 72nd governor was the highest honor of my life, and I will never stop fighting to make our Commonwealth stronger and brighter for all.”

It would be easy to pick apart the details of this—describing the right to have unborn children aborted as “the right to choose” is deceitful and cowardly, for example—but what matters is that this is how candidates are supposed to handle defeat in the United States after the voters have spoken. It is why Richard Nixon, hardly a paragon of ethics, chose to concede in the 1960 Presidential race when there were good reasons to question Jack Kennedy’s close victory, enough to demand a recount and an investigation. If Al Gore, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had followed Nixon’s example, the United States would be in a far more secure and healthy state today.

The fact that McAuliffe had invited Stacey Abrams, the losing candidate for Governor of Georgia who still claims her opponent stole the election and refuses to concede, to campaign for him was widely assumed to mean that McAuliffe planned to follow her divisive playbook. No, it just meant that a desperate McAuliffe campaign was trotting out everyone and thing but the kitchen sink—in fact, if there had been more time, he might have had a kitchen sink speak for him at a rally. It couldn’t have been more ridiculous than having American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten appear, shout and wave her arms like a deranged semaphore operator.

“Nothing in his life became him, like the leaving it,” Duncan says of MacBeth at the end of the tragedy. The same can, and should, be said of Terry McAuliffe’s last act in his political career.

7 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Defeated Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Terry McAuliffe (D)

  1. “Nothing in his life became him, like the leaving it,”
    Not to be a pedant, but that’s Malcolm’s line. Duncan was killed by Macbeth, starting the whole unraveling of the society.

  2. It is telling that conceding an election result makes one an ethics hero, especially coming from the likes of McAuliffe. That should be standard operating procedure, barring actual claims of fraud and election shenanigans.


    • Have to agree. I’ve seen many heartbreaking concessions by many candidates I wish had fought on, but, in the USA, it USED to be we would all shake hands afterward and go back to being neighbors and fellow Americans. Despite Obama’s very good (if fake) speech following Trump’s victory in 2016, that hasn’t been the case for probably more than a decade. It might even go back more than two decades now.

      Let it not be forgotten that it was Al Gore who retracted his concession, Al Gore who tried to litigate his way into the White House, Al Gore who openly tried to cherry-pick three Democratic-leaning counties to get him there, and Al Gore who years later was still peddling the myth that “I won, but the Supreme Court said I couldn’t serve.”

      It was the Democratic Party who kept peddling “SE-lected not elected,” and that it was a 5-4 decision that kept Al Gore from succeeding Clinton. It was also the Democratic Party that signed onto Jill Stein’s ill-conceived attempt for a triple recount, which sank like the Yamato. Finally, it was the Democratic Party which, for a full four years, used every fair or foul trick in the book and more than a few that weren’t in the book, to make it impossible for Donald Trump to govern and to make certain 2020 was NOT a level playing field for the election.

      Yet to hear their sycophantic media now it was all Donald, 45th of 45, so bad that he was impeached twice and the people turned him out after one term. Maybe that’s how they want to write the history and pass it down to the next generations, but I was there, and we all were there. Donald Trump had many issues and was certainly no polished statesman. However, the economy and the country did very well on his watch – until the Wuhan virus hit, which was beyond his power to stop. He was impeached once as a partisan attack and a second time as an attempt to smear him for a riot he did not start. He was turned out by the voters in large part because the other side weaponized a biological disaster against him, threw gasoline on a fire started by a crazy cop in Minneapolis, and used Big Tech and the media to make damn certain that the voters would go to the polls WITHOUT all the facts.

      Of course, now that he is out, those problems haven’t gone away. The pandemic still is a problem, which they are having real difficulties solving. The fire started by the George Floyd thing burned way too far and endangered way too much. They have all the levers of power, but don’t seem to know how to use them. Worst of all, the guy they put forth as the moderate to Trump’s extremism, the steady man to Trump’s mercuriality, the wise man against Trump who was afraid of wise people, has turned out to be neither moderate, nor steady, nor wise. The American people don’t like being tricked, and they don’t like being treated like idiots. I think one party just did that one too many times.

  3. I just can’t get on board with Terry McAuliffe being named an Ethics Hero. Yes, he did this ONE thing right; but he also spent his entire tenure as Governor and then this entire re-election campaign lying about too many things to count, including slinging all too frequent career (and sometimes life as it’s known) types of accusations at his opponent.

    To use an extreme example: a wealthy person donates tons of money to fund education/food/basic necessities in a third world country. He’s given multiple humanitarian awards. Later, it comes to light that while on those trips to do said humanitarian work, he was raping the women or children he was there to help.
    His true nature (unethical & immoral as well as criminally wrong) absolutely negates, IMHO, the millions of dollars he donated.

    While his political (and human) failures aren’t on the same level as the scenario I laid out above, his signature significant wrongs paint him far more as an ethical villain than as a hero of any kind.

    • Believe me, it’s roiling to have to write anything positive about an ethics corruptor like McAuliffe. Remember, though, that the standards for Ethics Hero are always based on a single, ideally important, episode. Bill Clinton has been an Ethics Hero. Bill Maher. It’s what they do, not who they are.

    • Yes to all that, but contrast him with Stacy Abrams who has still never conceded.

      It may be old fashioned now, but Virginia specifically and the country in general is certainly better off for McAulliffe having given a clear concession.

      I don’t think the New Jersey Republican candidate has conceded yet, but that is still an exceedingly close race and they are still counting votes. Once the result is clear — including a recount if needed — I certainly hope that the loser there will do the same thing. Our democracy functions a whole lot better when the winners win and the losers admit that they lost.

  4. “Nothing in his life became him, like the leaving it,” Duncan says of MacBeth at the end of the tragedy. The same can, and should, be said of Terry McAuliffe’s last act in his political career.

    Indeed. Sometimes people can surprise you. The sad truth is, we shouldn’t have to be surprised about a politician doing the right thing, alas.

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