Vice President Al Gore conceded defeat Wednesday night, ending the longest presidential election in American history.
President-elect George W. Bush followed with his victory speech; ending the presidential race that has lasted over a month.
“For the sake of our unity of the people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession,” Gore said in his speech, which immediately followed a phone call to Bush, congratulating him on winning the election.
Gore joked that his phone call congratulating Bush wouldn’t be followed up by a call rescinding the concession.
In his speech, Bush called the phone call from Gore “gracious.”
Gore’s speech included his hopes that Bush would end the partisanship that has marked the recent history of the U.S. Congress. Bush asked for bipartisanship throughout the country, saying that common hopes must come before party lines.
The Vice President said he accepted the finality of the election, but disagreed with the ruling of the Supreme Court. He asked the American people, regardless of party to support the 43rd President. In Bush’s speech, he asked Democrats for their help in reaching consensus in the government.
“Now the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken,” Gore said. “Let there be no doubt, while I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College.”
“Vice President Gore and I put our hearts and hopes into our campaigns,” Bush said. “We both gave it our all. We shared similar emotions, so I understand how difficult this moment must be for Vice President Gore and his family.”
Gore did not discuss the possibility of a 2004 election run, although as he left his office a crowd outside chanted “Gore in four.”
“I’ve seen America in this campaign and I like what I see. It’s worth fighting for and that’s a fight I’ll never stop,” Gore said. “As for the battle that ends tonight, I do believe as my father once said, that no matter how hard the loss, defeat might serve as well as victory to shape the soul and let the glory out.”
Chris Matthews, MSNBC political analyst, praised Gore’s speech in the commentary that followed. He said that Gore “recognized his citizenship before his ambitions.”
Matthews also noted that Gore was the first to call Bush “President-elect.”
Bush spoke from the Texas House of Representatives where Democratic Speaker Pete Laney introduced him. A very thankful Bush praised both his supporters and Gore’s supporters for their “spirited campaign.”
In his speech, Bush noted that even though many people didn’t vote for him, he needed support from all of America.
“Our nation must rise above a house divided,” Bush said. “Americans share hopes and goals and values far more important than any political disagreements. Republicans want the best for our nation, and so do Democrats. Our votes may differ, but not our hopes.”
Bush ended his speech reasserting his party’s platform, talking about Social Security reform and taxes, among other things.
Both speeches were filled with American mythology and pride. Bush invoked Thomas Jefferson, whose election as the third president of the United States was also hotly contested.
There was little discussion by either candidate about the hotbed of potential foreign policy crises awaiting the president-elect. The candidacy of ultra-rightist Benjamin Netanyahu for Israeli Prime Minister; the possibility of U.S. intervention in Colombia; Russian arms sales to Iran and the controversy surrounding trade normalization with China were not addressed by either candidate.
Also missing from both speeches was the potential for what Democratic activist Jesse Jackson described recently as “a civil rights explosion.”in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. There is a conviction among many Americans that the Florida election results were tainted by a deliberate effort on the part of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (the president-elect’s brother) to disqualify black voters.
Whether or not the election was fairly decided, as many contend it wasn’t, America does have a new resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave come January.
“Now the political struggle is over and we turn again to the unending struggle for the common good of all Americans and for those multitudes around the world who look to us for leadership in the cause of freedom,” Gore concluded.