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With worries mounting over what could happen if a candidate for President tries to de-legitimize the results (anywhere from bad to very bad) comes a reminder that brutal campaigns don’t have to endanger our Republic.

The 1992 campaign where Bill Clinton unseated incumbent President George H.W. Bush was nasty. They all are, to a greater or lesser extent. Clinton was a philandering liar and Bush was an out-of-touch old man who broke his promises, at least if you went by the attacks. But when it was over, it was over.

On January 20th, 1993, H.W. left this letter in the desk Bill Clinton would occupy in a few hours. Bush willingly walked away from being the most powerful man on the planet, because the voters told him to, and he respected the will of the voters.


“You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success is now our country’s success. And I am rooting hard for you. Good luck – George.”

For 219 years, we’ve survived because we respect the idea of a peaceful transition of power. No military in the streets, no riots. Even in 2000, when the election was decided by the Supreme Court, Al Gore defied the will of his most ardent supporters and accepted the rule of law and conceded the presidency to his bitter rival, George W. Bush, H.W.’s son.

Can we keep it going? 2016 might put the greatest strain on our fragile democratic experiment yet.