Donald Trump’s failure to say that he would accept the results of November’s election at Wednesday’s presidential debate inspired a renewed appreciation of otherwise remarkably uneventful transitions of power throughout American history.
George H.W. Bush’s letter to Bill Clinton, left behind per tradition in a drawer of the Oval Office’s Resolute desk, quickly made the rounds on social media:
George H.W. Bush left this magnanimous, bipartisan & dignified note for Bill Clinton on January 20, 1993. pic.twitter.com/G5EqnY8fuN
— James Cameron (@CameronJJJ) June 9, 2016
Reminder of what “Presidential” look like. George H. Bush letter to Bill Clinton on inauguration in 1993: pic.twitter.com/nuiBERLUdx
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) August 9, 2016
Even political tastemaker BroBible rated the correspondence “Bro As Hell,” in June.
As long as Donald Trump continues to insist he’ll have to leave Americans “in suspense” over whether he will accept election results, here are a few more pieces of history for those nostalgic for simpler times.
Adlai Stevenson, conceding the 1952 presidential race to Dwight D. Eisenhower, said “that which unites us as American citizens is far greater than that which divides us as political partisans.”
“We vote as many, but we pray as one,” he said.
In 1976, a hoarse Gerald Ford asked wife Betty to concede to Jimmy Carter. Mrs. Ford said “the president urges all Americans to join him in giving our united support to president-elect carter as prepares to assume his new responsibilities.”
In 2000, one day after the U.S. Supreme Court stopped a recount in the state of Florida, Al Gore delivered an address from the White House. While he cited Stephen Douglas’ 1860 concession to Abraham Lincoln—odd, considering what happened afterwards—his tone was unmistakable: “May God bless his stewardship of our country,” Gore said of the president-elect.
In 2008, after a often bitter election, John McCain hushed boos from the crowd and affirmed: “Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on earth.”
“Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans,” McCain said, “and please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.”
And just four years ago, Mitt Romney’s election loss was an even more somber affair. Yet even the former Massachusetts governor noted that “the nation, as you know, is at a critical point, and at a time like this we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the peoples’ work.”