I know this is virtually old news considering it occurred two weeks ago, but the incident left a lasting impression on me. On May 7th, former Republican candidate for President, Rick Santorum "officially" endorsed front-runner Mitt Romney. Well, if you can call sending an email an endorsement. You see, Mr. Santorum decided he would communicate his message in an email. While it's not quite as tacky as breaking up with someone over a text message or IM, I don't consider this the appropriate actions of a gracious loser.
On the heels of that, I was invited again to the be the guest on our local Q13 Fox to discuss political mudslinging and negative campaigning. I think the two issues are linked -- our leaders have forgotten how to be civil and respectful of one another.
Mr. Santorum's email wasn't even sent to Governor Romney. It was actually sent to his supporters, and rambled on for over 1,000 words. The endorsement of the presumed Republican nominee didn't even come until well down into the 13th paragraph. This is not usually how candidates and those that have exited a race treat one another, at least not publicly. Typically, when it comes time for an endorsement, it is made publicly -- often at a press conference -- and frequently in person where there's a chance for a photo opp.
Not this time. And, to me, that says a lot.
You see, I think it's easy to be gracious when things are going your way. But a true test of character comes when things don't turn out the way you want. It's almost more important to see how people behave under pressure and in times of loss or defeat than it is to see when things are golden. To me, Rick Santorum's email constituted being a poor loser. Regardless of how he felt -- both personally and professionally -- the right thing to do is to be civil in public, congratulate the winner and be supportive of that "win." I don't mean he has to become Romney's best new buddy overnight, but he should at least show enough decorum (rhymes with "Santorum" but only coincidentally) and class to be supportive.
This reminds me of the same feeling I get when I watch the Food Network program "Chopped." If you haven't seen it, it's a competition between four chefs who are supposed to cook three meals (appetizer, entree and dessert) using three different mystery baskets. After they cook the course, they are judged and one chef is eliminated after each round if their dish is rated lower than the others. In other words, as host Ted Allen says, "If your dish doesn't cut it, you will be chopped."
The comments and reactions of those chefs that are chopped in each round are very interesting. While some of them take their defeat graciously, regardless of how disappointed they are, some of the "losers" are really poor sports, talking down to the judges (all celebrity chefs who have made their names in their respective industries or specialties), even claiming that "they don't know what they are talking about." I find that I don't want the arrogant and cocky contestants to advance because, in my mind, they are not good competitors. Of COURSE we are disappointed if we lose or fail to achieve a goal, but accept your loss with grace, learn from the experience, and leave a positive impression on everyone involved. THAT is the mark of good character.
It will be interesting to see how this election year progresses -- how many more examples of poor character we will see from our leaders and prospective leaders. I truly believe we learn more about them in the "down times" than we do when they are on top. When the polls reflect certain ups and downs, let's pay attention to the reactions to those numbers and maybe we'll see a side of a candidate that we wouldn't otherwise experience. Take THAT into account because, as Stephen Covey has said, "Public behavior is merely private character writ large." And I don't need to see poor sportsmanship "writ large" by those who deign to lead us.
Did you like this? You might also like "Negative Campaign Ads Disrepect Voters"... http://corinnegregory.com/blog/2010/10/25/negative-campaign-ads-disrespect-voters/