So Much For Sportsmanship

Speaking of election denialism…

Most of us remember youthful ball games with the whiny little kid who responded to losing  by taking his ball and bat and going home. Most of us also remember parental lectures on what “good sportsmanship” means, and why fair play and graciousness in losing is so important.

It appears that the GOP has jettisoned those values, along with the precepts formerly associated with genuine Christianity. (Evidently, none of those ethical principles are consistent with the party’s growing devotion to QAnon…)

The Washington Post recently questioned a number of current GOP candidates for public office, and reported that at least a dozen Republican candidates running for governor and Senate simply refused  to say whether they would accept negative results of their contests.

In a survey by The Washington Post of 19 of the most closely watched statewide races in the country, the contrast between Republican and Democratic candidates was stark. While seven GOP nominees committed to accepting the outcomes in their contests, 12 either refused to commit or declined to respond. On the Democratic side, 18 said they would accept the outcome and one did not respond to The Post’s survey.

Trump, of course, has continued to claim– without a scintilla of evidence– that his loss to Joe Biden in 2020 was rigged. Since he attacks fellow Republicans unwilling to agree, the article notes that he has made election denialism the price of admission in many GOP primaries, with the result that more than half of all Republican nominees for federal and statewide offices that administer elections “have embraced unproven claims that fraud tainted Biden’s win, according to a Washington Post tally.”

As I’ve repeatedly noted, one of them is running for Secretary of State here in Indiana.

In competitive races for governor or Senate in Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas, GOP candidates declined to say that they would accept this year’s result. All but two — incumbent senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Marco Rubio of Florida — have publicly embraced Trump’s false claims about 2020, according to a Post analysis.

Seven Republicans did pledge to accept the results. One of them was  Colorado Senate contender Joe O’Dea.

O’Dea, who is behind in the polls as he attempts to unseat incumbent Colorado Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D), did not reference Trump by name, but used his response to offer notably sharp criticism of candidates who refuse to concede when they lose.
“There’s no polite way to put it. We have become a nation of poor sports and cry babies,” said O’Dea. “We’ll keep a close eye on things, but after the process is done and the votes are counted, I’ll absolutely accept the outcome. If the Senator is up for it, we can certify it over a beer. It’s time for America’s leaders to start acting like adults again. Loser buys.”

This growing unwillingness to accept the results of an election is no small thing.

Elections have been defined as a substitute for armed conflict–rather than taking to the streets, democratic polities choose “champions” (aka candidates) who take their arguments to the people. The people vote, and the loser accepts their verdict (usually biding his or her time until the next election cycle). Violence averted, governance continued.

That, of course, is the ideal. And there are plenty of reasons to criticize America’s current conduct of elections– gerrymandering, the greater weight given to rural votes, social media campaigns sowing disinformation, the outsized influence of money, and the widespread lack of civic literacy among the voting population. I do not mean to minimize the significance of those factors, or their ability to affect the results of electoral contests.

We definitely need to address the multiple defects in our electoral processes. We need to streamline registration and minimize state-level game-playing, and we clearly need to make it easier rather than harder to vote.

But none of those defects means that the result of a given election contest is “rigged.” 

“If I win, it was a fair election. If I lose, it was rigged.”  Heads I win, tails you lose is, as O’Dea put it, the position of a cry baby–the modern iteration of the poor sport who responded to a loss by taking his ball and bat and going home. It is also a position absolutely incompatible with a functioning democracy.

Those of us who support a candidate who loses can point to lots of reasons why voters supported the “wrong” candidate. But in the continued absence of provable fraud, our civic obligation is to suck it up and concede. 

The Republican candidates who are telling us they will refuse to abide by  results they don’t like are telling us who and what they are.  Believe them.


  1. Sheila writes, “It is also a position absolutely incompatible with a functioning democracy.”

    We are ranked as a “flawed democracy” for many reasons, and we go down several notches each year.

    I would look in those states/districts to see if there are any Trump/McConnell-appointed federal judges.

    If corrupt judges owned by Charles Koch start overriding voters, then we aren’t even a country of laws. Please tell me why you would even vote if your ballot is cast aside by a corrupt judge owned directly by the oligarchy.

    And since we already censor dissidents, what’s next?

    Placing them in detention or prison?

    That’s not far away…

  2. Extreme wealth inequality is the number one cause of our country’s sad state of affairs. Reagan and his wealthy advisors can take 100% credit for starting the forty year downward spiral of our democracy into an oligarchy.

    As the wealthy accumulated more and more wealth they have both bought the politicians and controlled the elections. Their purchased politicians have rewarded them with even great wealth via tax breaks and corporate subsidies/giveaways.

    They then bought all of the mass media sources and create and control the mostly free sources of news for the general public. If any politician or news source they don’t own disputes their lies that politician or news source’s credibility is viciously attacked without end.

    The congressional and state politicians either comply and back up the oligarch’s lies or they are out of a job. What I can’t comprehend is why didn’t the majority of the politicians in power get together and choose to tell the public the truth many years ago before it could get so bad? Apparently, enough of them had already complied with and backed up the oligarch’s lies that they were too selfish and too afraid to expose themselves publicly as frauds.

    Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

  3. Well said, Nancy, and we’re not alone…

    “Liz Truss has been accused of “inept madness” by one of her own MPs as Conservatives round on her over market turmoil in the wake of Kwasi Kwarteng’s ‘mini-Budget’ last week.

    The Bank of England was forced to intervene on Wednesday morning in an attempt to avert a pension crisis.”

  4. “But none of those defects means that the result of a given election contest is “rigged.” ”

    You’re right. Those are not the defects.

    Average Americans has a “near zero” effect on the passage of any law. – Princeton University study

    Every day, politicians spend 50-70% of their time raising money. Only 0.05% of Americans give more than $10,000. That tells you why the wealthy get undue influence in Congress.

    With gerrymandering, only 14% of House campaigns are actually competitive. 86% are not. In a majority of elections, there are no opposing candidates.

    This is not rule by the people, but by the corrupt two-party system. The system is rigged.

  5. Thank you, Shiela and Christopher. Chris, your reasoned post and citation of Jennifer Lawrence’s high quality production on You Tube was: right on; with both analysis and aligned long term solutions to attack corruption of our two party system.

  6. “Sportsman/womanship” is a cultural relic of the past, like decency, caring, courage, ethics, modesty, community…etc. I could go on….

    Sports itself, at almost all levels, is now, more than ever, focused on winning, money and celebrity.

    There – cleared the chest for this pm…(part of High Holiday ritual).

  7. I keep thinking of the old Leiber/Stoller song, Charlie Brown, recorded by The Coasters in ’59 with it’s tag line “Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me?”

    Donald “Charlie Brown” Trump has taken ‘sore loser’ to new heights with his ‘persecution complex’

    Leader and role model for the Republicans – sad and pathetic

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