Yesterday, I asked for your help in writing a speech I never want to hear: Ned Lamont's concession speech. The response was tremendous; we received all kinds of great ideas, many of which I've used in crafting the speech below.
Far too often politicians don't speak from the heart until it's too late. Freed from their consultants, they finally summon the passion and purpose that drove them into politics in the first place -- ironically turning into the candidates they should have been all along.
We desperately need Ned Lamont to get to that point now, while there is still time -- and two more televised debates -- left in which to let the people of Connecticut know (exactly and unequivocally) why returning Joe Lieberman to the Senate would be such a disaster.
Maybe having Lamont look in the mirror and deliver this speech will be the political equivalent of that moment in Moonstruck when Cher slaps Nic Cage across the face and says, "Snap out of it!"
Here then is Ned Lamont's concession speech. Let it be a wake-up call for him -- and an object lesson for all future Democratic candidates in how not to run a campaign. If pre-election Ned listens to post-election-day Ned, this speech will never have to be delivered.
I stand before you tonight with a very heavy heart. Not because I lost, but because of the way I lost. And because I realize that I didn't have to.
First and foremost, I want to apologize to all of you who gave your heart and soul -- and your hopes for a better America -- to this campaign. Instead of honoring that commitment, I ran a milquetoast race, and I am deeply sorry. You wanted reform, and I gave you warmed-over political platitudes. You wanted righteous indignation, and I gave you calculated criticism.
Like Al Gore and John Kerry before me, I forgot how high the stakes were. And I played it safe. I played not to lose rather than to change the country. I forgot that I had to give people a reason to vote for me -- or a reason to vote against my opponent -- every single day, every single hour. I forgot --and how could I forget? -- how dirty the other side would play to win. I forgot that in building a successful business of my own, I had relied on my own gut instincts, not on advice from some M.B.A. textbook. I should have stuck with my gut; instead I let consultants tell me what to do and what to say.
I turned my campaign over to hired guns who think that running to the middle is a winning strategy -- even though it's proven to be a loser time and time and time again. These Beltway professionals, some on loan from Democratic leaders who do not share my passionate opposition to the war -- the core issue of my campaign -- came in, having learned nothing from their electoral defeats, and ran the same cookie cutter campaign.
Hopefully, my self-inflicted defeat will help break this endless and tragic cycle and be a first step on the road to reclaiming the Democratic Party.
Joe Lieberman didn't win this election; I lost it. I lost because I forgot what Ned Lamont stood for. I lost because I lost faith in myself and forgot what had led me to victory in the primary. And in doing so, I let you -- and myself -- down.
You thought you were getting somebody different, somebody unafraid to speak his mind. You thought you were getting someone who would continue to place principle over politics, someone who would not treat caution as an ally. It was this way at first, but then I got scared. I should have been willing to risk losing the election by continuing to stand firm for what I believe is right. Public office -- especially at this moment of crisis in our country -- is far too important to leave in the hands of those who are afraid. I'm sorry I forgot that. You deserved better.
I especially regret having allowed myself to be cowed into believing that the way to win was to appeal to the indecisive middle by adopting a tone of fake Senatorial civility -- like the time I said of Sen. Lieberman: "I know the man. I respect the man. He is a man of integrity." The words should have burned my tongue as soon as I said them. That's not what was in my heart; indeed, I spent millions of ad dollars trying to convince voters of exactly the opposite. But it was suggested by some of my Greenwich friends that I should scale back the outrage -- and the truth. As if watching the mounting death toll in Iraq shouldn't fill us with rage and cause us to direct it at those who sent our young people off to die in an immoral war -- and who are stubbornly keeping them there. When you deal with the unscrupulous, it's best to roll up your sleeves, put all thoughts of comity aside, and stop praising them for their integrity. Indeed, I sacrificed mine by pretending that my opponent had an ounce of it. And for that I am more than sorry; I am ashamed.
But I don't want this moment to just be about self-recrimination and Monday morning quarterbacking. There'll be plenty of time for that in the weeks and months ahead -- especially as my opponent decides who he really plans to caucus with, and finally makes up his mind whether the country is better off with Democrats controlling the House (thank god we won that one!).
I'd like something positive to come out of my loss -- the flowering of a remade Democratic Party nourished by the fertilizer of my shitty campaign. To my fellow Democrats I want to say: Let my mistakes not be your mistakes. Let me become a cautionary tale -- an object lesson for all future Democratic candidates in how not to run a campaign.
Don't become a pawn for high-priced consultants who have their own agendas. Don't water down your message. Don't run to the middle. Don't worry about stepping on the toes of your friends (like mine back in Greenwich). Being a leader means doing the right thing, even if it sometimes makes your longtime buddies nervous.
Do speak from the heart. Do fight fire with fire. Do remain true to your core values. Do remember that it is better to be divisive in service of the right cause than to be a smiling enabler of an immoral political culture and of the destruction of our Constitution.
And most of all, do continue to fight for what you know -- what we all know -- is right. Don't give up. Learn from my mistakes. If we refuse to concede our core beliefs, in 2008 there will be no need for concession speeches.
Thank you and goodnight.
Thank you to robertlockwoodmills, rushmc, Jean2k, feminazi, and Steamboater for their contributions to this speech.