When Does One Concede?

Eric Medlin
4 min readNov 14, 2018

The Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson campaigns in Florida make it clear: Democrats are too quick to concede close elections.

Andrew Gillum rescinding his Election Night concession. Source: The Daily Beast.

The 2018 midterm elections, held last Tuesday, are still not over. Several races across the country, at both the highest and lowest levels, have not been decided. These races are in several states, from California with its mail-in ballots to Georgia with its razor-thin gubernatorial race (and election chicanery). But the most controversial races that have attracted the public’s attention have been in Florida. That state has two high-profile races that are in the midst of a recount. Both the Florida gubernatorial and senate races were called on election night but have significantly narrowed as votes have continued to be counted. On Saturday, a machine recount was ordered, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum withdrew his concession, replacing his concession speech with “an uncompromising and unapologetic call that we count every single vote.”

Much has been made of the drama behind these races and the personalities involved. The progressive energy behind Andrew Gillum has helped attract attention, with Gillum’s Saturday speech gaining a wide social media visibility. And, because this is a controversial event during the Trump presidency, Donald Trump got involved as well, tweeting out a baseless accusation of voter fraud in order to bolster Senate candidate Rick Scott’s earlier allegations. Liberal commentators have cried foul at Trump’s comments and the behavior of other Florida Republicans. When Marco Rubio suggested that Democrats were engaged in a conspiracy to use fraud to flip the Senate race, New York Magazine’s Eric Levitz accused him of “reckless demagoguery” on par with Trump’s behavior.

But the undecided Florida races should highlight yet another norm that should be abolished in the era of the Trump presidency: the close-election concession. Like the filibuster, the blue slip, and deference to a president’s Supreme Court nominee, the close-election concession is yet another tool that has been used by conservatives to protect their own candidates under the banner of decorum, then abandoned the moment it does not serve their self-interest. Like those other institutions, the close-election concession should also end.

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Eric Medlin

I’m a writer interested in the intersections of history, ideas, and politics. I publish every week. www.twitter.com/medlinwrites