Editorial: Gracious in defeat

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    Sen. John Kerry showed himself to be a statesman yesterday when he conceded the presidency to George W. Bush. CNN and other news organizations reported that Kerry?s fleet of lawyers advised him Wednesday morning to file suits in Ohio courts, seeing a flood of legal action as the only way to scrape out an unlikely victory.

    But Kerry said no. He reportedly told his aides that he did not want to put the country through the legal mess that surrounded Florida?s popular election in 2000. In effect, his decision spared America the quagmire of another disputed victory. It also spared him from being branded a sore loser.

    There are some undeniable differences between Kerry?s position and that of Al Gore in the 2000 election. For one, Kerry?s chances for winning looked significantly slimmer. Al Gore had won the popular vote in 2000, but Kerry ended this election trailing Bush in the popular vote by 3.5 million votes. Another difference was a general lack of widespread voting skullduggery. The controversy of Florida ? the hanging chads and butterfly ballots ? had no real equivalent in Ohio in 2004.

    But Kerry could have justified contesting the Ohio and other states’ elections by citing his commitment, as Sen. John Edwards had promised Tuesday night, to guarantee that ?every vote be counted.? He could have clogged the courts with lawsuits and kept America waiting for a verdict for weeks. But he didn?t.

    Instead he called President Bush in the Oval Office Wednesday morning, conceding the election and reportedly urging the president to bring unity to a sharply divided country.

    President Bush has the skill set to do this. As governor of Texas, he gained a reputation as one who could unite the parties to find solutions. In his first term as president, he has gained somewhat the opposite reputation among D.C. politicians. Bush?s second term will be a test of his ability to unite a nation deeply divided over the issues debated in the months preceding Tuesday?s election.

    This is not to say that Bush should make concessions in his stand against terrorism, same-sex marriage or partial-birth abortion. His unflinching resolve regarding these issues was arguably what won him this election.

    Because of the powerful Republican majority in the Senate and the House, the Bush administration may not need to bow to Democratic demands. The Republican Party may have so much political clout that compromise and discussion across party lines is unnecessary. This presents for Bush a unique opportunity to compromise and to cooperate with other parties even though he doesn’t have to.

    Though pre-election polls showed the war in Iraq as the key factor deliberated by American voters, Tuesday’s exit polls indicated that Americans voted more based on social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion.

    Bush?s greatest challenge will be to maintain his firm stance on these issues while building trust and respect among the almost half of Americans that didn?t vote for him Tuesday.

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