On this day in 2000 one of the closest and most contentious presidential elections in U. S. history ended when Vice President Al Gore gave a speech conceding the presidency to George W. Bush. The day before, the United States Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore ended voting recounts in the state of Florida and effectively awarded the election to Bush. Although Gore won the plurality of the popular vote, he lost the election when Florida’s 25 electoral votes were awarded to Bush.
Thus, on December 13, 2000, more than a month after Americans had cast their votes, Gore gave his concession speech:
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. I accept the finality of this outcome which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College. And tonight, for the sake of our unity of the people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession (1).
As Gore demonstrated in his speech, sometimes a politician has to admit defeat. That does not mean, however, that the person is a failure. After leaving public service, Gore gained prominence as an author and an environmental activist, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his work in combating climate change.
In argumentation, instead of being an admission of defeat, a concession is an admission that a portion of an opposing argument is true. Inexperienced writers often see concession as a weakness, but experienced writers know it is a powerful method for establishing common ground.
When a concession is carefully and clearly framed, it shows the audience that you have carefully considered both sides of the argument. By clearly addressing the opposing views and showing that you understand them fully, you can better neutralize them by combining them with arguments that support your thesis.
Imagine for example that a police officer pulls over two drivers for speeding. The first driver argues as follows:
“Officer, I wasn’t speeding and should not get a ticket.”
In contrast, the second driver states the following:
“Officer, I probably was going too fast, but if you look at my driving record, you’ll see that I’m a safe driver.”
Which of the two drivers do think has the best chance of getting off with a warning? If this were a bet, you probably would put your money on the second driver. He understands that making a concession is not admitting defeat; instead, a concession is a valuable move, requiring that you give a little ground to gain a lot.
Today’s Challenge: Comparison, Contrast, and Concession
Given two items in a category to debate, how might you include a concession in your argument? Write a comparison and contrast paragraph in which you argue for the merits of one thing over the other. Include a concession in your argument, acknowledging at least one of the merits of the opposition side. Select one of the topics below, or come up with your own:
Seasons: Summer or Winter?
Pets: Cat or Dog?
Sports to watch: Football or Baseball?
Sports to play: Team or Individual?
Continents to Visit: Europe or Australia?
Sci-Fi: Star Wars or Star Trek?
Movie Genres: Action or Comedy?
Political Parties: Republican or Democrat?
Political Philosophies: Capitalism or Socialism?
Books: Fiction or Nonfiction?
Bands: Beatles or Rolling Stones
Presidents: Lincoln or F.D.R?
NBA Franchises: Celtics or Lakers?
Fast Food Franchises: McDonalds or KFC?
As you write make sure that you make a strong claim for your side of the argument while at the same time conceding a strength of the opposition’s side. Use the templates below to help you frame your concession:
People who argue X are correct when they say that _______________; however, a more important point is _________________________________.
Admittedly it is true that _____________________________________, but it does not necessarily follow that _______________________________________.
Although it is true that _____________________, I believe __________________ because __________________________________________.
(Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)
Quotation of the Day: . . . one way to get people to agree with you is to agree with them — tactically, that is. Agreeing up front does not mean giving up the argument. Instead, use your opponent’s points to get what you want. Practice rhetorical jujitsu by using your opponent’s own moves to throw him off balance. -Jay Heinrichs