So what? This analysis of Al Gore’s concession speech after the contentious 2000 Presidential Election provides crucial insights for communicators and marketers. Gore’s strategy of accepting the outcome with dignity, focusing on unity and a positive future, transcends beyond politics. It demonstrates the power of graceful communication in difficult situations. Marketers and communicators can learn from Gore’s approach to create messages that resonate with their audiences, build goodwill, and foster a cooperative spirit, which is essential in today’s competitive and divided landscape.
TL:DR: The 2000 Presidential Election between Al Gore and George Bush concluded with a controversial Supreme Court decision, leading to Bush’s victory. Despite winning the popular vote, Gore conceded gracefully, focusing on unity and the greater good. His approach offers valuable lessons in communication and marketing, highlighting the importance of context, unity, grace, and positive language in messaging.
No one expected how the 2000 Presidential Election would play out. Vice President Al Gore and GOP candidate George Bush fought an extremely close race, which came down to a hotly-contested Florida vote count. Whoever won Florida would cross the 270-vote threshold in the Electoral College and win the Presidency.
The Florida vote count was so close that several parties called it for Gore, before quickly retracting their predictions. The Florida State Supreme Court ordered a hand recount, and both parties fought tooth and nail to get these recounts witnessed and certified. Eventually, the Bush campaign appealed to the Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled in Bush v. Gore that the recount should be stopped, making Bush the winner.
This split provoked outrage in many quarters, especially as it would later come out that Gore had won the popular vote by a slim margin. In this context, with bitterness over what was seen as a partisan decision by many in his party, Gore conceded the election in a speech delivered on December 13th, 2000.
Put Principles First
First, Gore explains his reasoning behind the concession:
“Over the library of one of our great law schools is inscribed the motto, ‘Not under man but under God and law.’ That’s the ruling principle of American freedom, the source of our democratic liberties… Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken. Let there be no doubt: while I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it.”
After thanking his colleagues, volunteers, and family, Gore then points towards an insight he had about how close the election was:
“…this belatedly broken impasse can point us all to a new common ground, for its very closeness can remind us that we are one people with a shared history and a shared destiny.”
Gore closes by saying he’ll continue his political work in different avenues, with a final call for unity before, as he jokes, “it’s time to go.”
While Gore is clear about his feelings, he doesn’t linger on it, setting an example for the people working on his campaign. Instead, he followed his principles, putting them ahead of his emotions.
Similarly, in his speech, he doesn’t accept the ruling as inevitable and say there’s nothing else he can do, even though this was true: There was no possible appeal. Gore lays out the moral reasoning behind his concession, not the legal.
No matter the size of the setback, communicators can be effective by clearly articulating their principles. Notice, also, that Gore doesn’t make it personal: he accepts his loss as part of a more extensive system that he views as fair. He also (rightly) understands that the decision has been made, and a continued fight may only end with further damage to the country.
Marketers can learn something from how Gore uses this moment to define the context, which also allows him to define his principles, leading to the peaceful transfer of power.
Bring Audiences Together
Gore’s speech is also graceful in other aspects, specifically around his call for Americans to come together.
For example, one conservative Justice, Antonin Scalia, justified his vote on the premise that a recount would do Bush’s presidency irreparable harm, as it would put the legitimacy of his election in question. Gore very well could have criticized this aspect of the court decision. Gore instead highlights the shared passions and agreements of Americans as a starting point for a stronger future:
“President-elect Bush inherits a nation whose citizens will be ready to assist him in his large responsibilities.
I will be at his disposal, and I call on all Americans–I particularly urge all who stood with us–to unite behind our next president. This is America. Just as we fight hard when the stakes are high, we close ranks and come together when the contest is done.”
This speech reflects that. Repeatedly, Gore emphasizes he’ll be available to help Bush as he transitions into the White House and encourages his colleagues, friends, and voters to do the same. He makes it clear that it’s best both for them and America. He also urges his volunteers, staff, and supporters to put their energy towards something positive that benefits the country:
“Just as we fight hard when the stakes are high, we close ranks and come together when the contest is done.”
It’s always critical to bring together the audience, not to divide them. That doesn’t mean there aren’t times when you should argue for what you believe in… but there are also ways to recognize when the fight is over. More importantly, it’s essential to create a shared space where audiences can feel comfortable listening to your words.
Conclude with Grace
Near the end of his speech, Gore makes this statement:
“Some have asked whether I have any regrets, and I do have one regret: that I didn’t get the chance to stay and fight for the American people over the next four years, especially for those who need burdens lifted and barriers removed, especially for those who feel their voices have not been heard. I heard you, and I will not forget.”
In Gore’s speech, he leaves the audience with a closing thought–no matter if you were for me or against me, this doesn’t mean that anything is lost. There is still a brighter future for us, so long as we’re working toward a shared goal.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of a rhetorical “dismount” from a speech. No matter what content we create, it’s imperative to consider how you leave the audience. Does this audience feel heard? Do they feel hope? Do they feel like their questions have been answered?
As marketers, we often boil this down to “effective Calls To Action,” but it’s much more than that. As we create new content and CTAs, we can also consider how they move our readers. Are they crass sales pitches, or creative invitations to discover more?
Create Good Faith
No one benefits when a group is divided, whether a group of citizens or a work committee. Part of being a good competitor is being graceful in both winning and losing. What Al Gore demonstrates in his speech is that beyond fair play, grace and tact in defeat help lay the groundwork for everyone to succeed.
Likewise, it does no one any good to approach marketing as competitive or winner-takes-all. We can still think of the world we want to create. Do we want it to be one of cooperation and learning, or one where we are just trying to get attention and money?
At Media Shower, we’re all for the cooperation.
Are you looking to create content that educates and inspires? Read more about our vision in The Media Manifesto: A new vision for media companies.