Port: Accepting defeat with dignity is important in a democracy

Rather than own up to their error, Measure 3 operatives decided to hatch a conspiracy theory. One which hurts us all.

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Rob Port
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MINOT, N.D. — If you want to live in a society like ours, with expansive political freedoms, you must learn to accept defeat with dignity.

Some political outcomes won't go your way.

That doesn't mean you have to abandon what you believe in, but if we want a peaceful society, you do have to accept the outcome.

I'm worried about what will happen in November. Very large factions among both President Donald Trump's supporters and detractors have convinced themselves of far-reaching conspiracies to manipulate the outcome on Election Day.

Whoever wins, be it Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden, many will refuse to accept the outcome.


With recent history as evidence, many will express their chagrin with violence and vandalism. Many more will commit themselves to obstruct the governance of the winning party with endless lawsuits and investigations.

And then the cycle will repeat, driving the divide between us wider, all because we've lost the ability to accept that other well-meaning people with different views about the way things oughta be will, in a society like ours, sometimes get to be in charge.

This isn't just playing out at the national level.

For a local example, look no further than the recent debacle around Measure 3.

That was a constitutional measure making sweeping changes to the political process in our state which was tossed off the ballot by the state Supreme Court last week because its organizers violated the law.

The reaction from Measure 3 organizers to this turn of events was, in a word, ugly.

"There can be little doubt that Measure 3 was a threat to political insiders and career politicians in North Dakota. The proof is in the way they banded together in a coordinated and unprecedented effort to ensure North Dakota voters never had the chance to cast their ballot," Measure 3 campaign chair Carol Sawicki said in a statement after the court's unanimous ruling.

This talking point was echoed by left-wing commentators in the region, and it's understandable why they'd glom onto it.


If it was a political conspiracy that took Measure 3 down and not a flaw in the way it was drafted and circulated, this campaign's organizers don't have to take responsibility for squandering the hundreds of thousands of dollars they were given by out-of-state groups.

This sort of convenient conspiracy-mongering, which many choose to believe despite the obvious motivations behind it, undermines our trust in the process, to the detriment of us all.

Measure 3 lost because Tim Purdon, the attorney for the campaign who was paid nearly $50,000 for his services according to the most recent disclosures, made a mistake.

His modest legal abilities often get lost in the shadow of his towering self-regard, and rather than own up to the error, the Measure 3 operatives decided to hatch a conspiracy theory.

One which hurts us all.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Related Topics: ELECTION 2020
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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