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October 27, 2020

Election 2020: The Moral and Public Obligations of Winners, Losers, and the Rest of Us

Election 2020: The Moral and Public Obligations of Winners, Losers, and the Rest of Us Video Player

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A week before the election, the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown brought together respected leaders to assess the moral responsibilities and public obligations of candidates, campaigns, institutions, and citizens to protect democracy and to promote the common good at a time of intense polarization.  

The United States is deeply divided, and some are challenging the fairness of the presidential election and will not pledge to accept the outcome. In this timely dialogue, a former chief of staff in a Democratic White House, a special assistant to a Republican president, a Washington Post opinion writer, the former chairperson of the Republican National Committee, and a leader in efforts to promote democracy explored what should be done and not done to inspire confidence and help unite the nation in the aftermath of a hard-fought election.

These experienced and respected leaders addressed the following questions:

  • What are the moral and public responsibilities of a candidate who wins or loses a national election?
  • What are the moral and public obligations of candidates and campaigns in the last week, on election night, and after the election?
  • How do you assess our current political context? What is undermining and what is encouraging confidence in the electoral process? What is enhancing and threatening an orderly continuation or transfer of power? What is working against that?
  • What are examples of leadership in this area and what can we learn from them?
  • How can political leaders accept victory or defeat and keep faith with their principles and supporters?
  • What about the rest of us, citizens and voters, religious leaders and journalists, universities, and other institutions? What are our moral and public obligations during and after a hard-fought and bitter election?

John Carr, the director of the Initiative, moderated the discussion.

Resources

View a list of articles, podcasts, websites, and other resources for this dialogue.

This Public Dialogue was part of the Initiative’s Faith and the Faithful series. It was co-sponsored by Georgetown’s Institute of Politics and Public Service and was supported by the Democracy Fund.

Participants

Christine Emba

Christine Emba

Christine Emba is an opinion columnist and editor for the Washington Post. She was the Hilton Kramer Fellow in Criticism at the New Criterion, a deputy editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit, and is writing a book on sexual ethics after MeToo.

Joe Goldman

Joe Goldman

Joe Goldman is the president of Democracy Fund, an independent foundation that champions the leaders who defend American democracy and challenge the U.S. political system to be more open and just.

Cherie Harder

Cherie Harder

Cherie Harder is the president of the Trinity Forum and former special assistant to President George W. Bush and director of policy and projects for First Lady Laura Bush. She previously served as policy advisor to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and policy director for Senator Sam Brownback.

Denis McDonough

Denis McDonough

Denis McDonough is the former White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama and was a leader in the transition from the Obama administration to the Trump administration. He previously served as a staff member in the House and Senate and as the deputy national security advisor in the White House. He is also professor of the practice of public policy at the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame.

Michael Steele

Michael Steele

Michael Steele is senior advisor to The Lincoln Project, former chairperson of the Republican National Committee, former lieutenant governor of Maryland, and host of The Michael Steele Podcast.