At 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 9, Republican Mehmet Oz called Democrat John Fetterman to concede defeat in the Pennsylvania Senate race. After that call, Oz — who was backed by Donald Trump — also released a statement that said, “We are facing big problems as a country and we need everyone to put down their partisan swords and focus on getting the job done. With bold leadership that brings people together, we can create real change.” As CNN’s Chris Cillizza noted about that sequence, what was gracious and kind was also once quite unremarkable.
For all who yearn for a return to normalcy in American politics — Oz gave us reason to believe, or at least hope, that’s possible. What he did was considered standard protocol — until Trump not only refused to concede his loss in the 2020 presidential contest, but falsely insisted, and continues to falsely insist, that he really won. Trump’s election denial spawned a universe of others who embraced it as a way to undercut faith in the electoral process and curry favor with him.
The fact that some Trump-backed candidates broke that dangerous covenant with him offers a glimmer of hope for the future of democracy. That it’s considered newsworthy and praiseworthy, as Steven Petrow also wrote in USA Today, shows the extent of the threat. Even so, the good news should be celebrated.
In these midterm elections, democracy really was on the ballot. Thankfully, some Trump-backed candidates understood that and wanted to be on the right side of that decision. So, they did what losing candidates are supposed to do under a system of democratic government. They acknowledged their defeat.
For example, as political writer Steven Porter noted on his website, Granite Memo, two Trump-backed New Hampshire Republicans who lost to incumbent Democrats “didn’t drag their feet. They didn’t cite conspiracies. They didn’t stoke doubts any further. When it became clear Tuesday that the math wouldn’t add up in their race... both Don Bolduc and Karoline Leavitt conceded graciously and promptly.”
Those concessions were significant because both Bolduc, who ran against incumbent Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan, and Leavitt, who challenged incumbent US Representative Chris Pappas, a Democrat, started out as election deniers. Yet when the campaign was over, both acknowledged reality. In conceding defeat, Bolduc said, according to the Concord Monitor, “I’m honored to have had the opportunity to represent the Republican Party in the US Senate race here in New Hampshire. This is not a loss. We woke a lot of people up. Hopefully we put her on notice.” Leavitt conceded her race by saying, according to the AP, “I certainly wish tonight’s results came in a little bit differently. I’m nevertheless humbled by the outpouring of support that we received across every single city and town and more.”
Trump, meanwhile, is as delusionary as ever; He said Bolduc lost because he rejected Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election. As Mediaite reported, Trump wrote on Truth Social, “Don Bolduc was a very nice guy, but he lost tonight when he disavowed, after his big primary win, his longstanding stance on Election Fraud ... Had he stayed strong and true, he would have won easily. Lessons Learned!!!”
And certainly not all Trump-backed candidates broke with Trump when it comes to his false claims of election fraud. In Arizona, Republican Kari Lake, who made denial of the 2020 election results a key element of her campaign for governor, stirred doubts as votes continued to be counted in her tight race with Democrat Katie Hobbs. Lake has complained that the vote count is taking too long, and said that if she’s elected she will call a special session of the Legislature to take up election reform, according to The Arizona Republic.
With Trump continuing to stir the pot of election denial, the danger to democracy is far from over. But in the concession speeches delivered by Oz and others, there is hope.
Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.