Bush wins; Kerry shows honor

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Facing an insurmountable vote deficit in Ohio, Sen. John Kerry conceded the presidential election to George W. Bush yesterday and sent home thousands of lawyers the Democratic Party had amassed to challenge the results.

While some may argue that Kerry was simply facing the clear facts of the vote tallies -- something he admitted in his concession speech -- his decision to recognize Bush's victory saved the nation weeks of rancor and division. For his part, President Bush showed grace and restraint by not claiming victory until Kerry confronted the hard facts.

Both men proved themselves proud Americans in their actions and lifted up the best values of our democracy.

Elections are difficult, because coherent government demands electoral winners and losers. Thus, one group is disappointed while another celebrates. Sen. Kerry proved his mettle by calling for his supporters to unite with President Bush in moving America forward.

"Today," he said, "I hope we can begin the healing." At the same time, he and his running mate John Edwards promised to continue to fight for the American values they support.

This is the American way, and it is a blessing that such spirit exists in our nation. Candidates can argue their positions as opponents until Election Day. But on the day after, when the votes are counted and clear, the good ones all wake up Americans, common in the big goals. John Kerry deserves praise. Facing the facts -- "I would not give up this fight if there was a chance that we would prevail" -- he woke up an American.

President Bush accepted Kerry's remarks with magnanimity and grace, and he gave tribute to his opponent, praising him and his supporters in warm and inviting terms. This, too, is what is great about America. Maliciously attacked during the campaign, President Bush understands that America is best when America is united. Of course, victory heals many wounds, and it is easier to be magnanimous in victory than in defeat.

And this election if nothing else was a great victory for President Bush.

Hobbled by the circumstances of his close election in 2000, Bush begins his second term with a clear mandate. He is the first president to be elected with more than 50 percent of the vote since his father in 1988. Indeed, no candidate in history has received more popular votes, surpassing Ronald Reagan's landslide tally in 1984, and defeating Kerry in the national totals by more than 3.5 million.

In addition to his win, the president's coat tails carried his party to victory throughout the country, and Republicans added seats in the U.S. House and Senate. Here in Missouri, they took historic control of the state capitol with margins never before seen. Among the winners: governor-elect Matt Blunt and lieutenant governor-elect Peter Kinder.

In his remarks to the nation yesterday, Bush outlined a serious and ambitious agenda for the next four years. From strengthening the public school system to fighting terrorism and bringing our troops home, he acknowledged that "when we come togethe and work together,, there is no limit to the greatness of America." Speaking directly to supporters of John Kerry, he said, "I will need your support, and I will work to earn it."

Bush recognizes that this decisive election presents him a new opportunity to lead, and he is reaching out accordingly. "We have one country, one constitution, and one future that binds us."

Both Kerry and Bush proved their greatness as Americans yesterday. Now the question is, Will the rest of America join them? The history of our great nation is that we will. Ultimately, though, the decision lies individually, and it is our own character that must respond.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian.

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