I write just past the mid-point of 2024 — an important election year in several of the world’s major democracies. We know the results of the Indian and British elections; we half-know the results in France; and we may not know for some time the eventual candidates in the US.

Politics is a nasty business in most nations and the tendency towards partisan extremes we have witnessed since at least the Great Financial Crisis has only sharpened the rancor.  However, I am moved to write by the opposite: the decency and respect shown over the last two days by the leaders of the two great British parties.

In magnanimous victory, Keir Starmer, the new Labour Prime Minister saluted his opponent, the Conservative Leader and outgoing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, for his “dedication and hard work” and for the historic first he represented as a British Asian PM.  Likewise, Sunak lauded Starmer as a “decent public-spirited man I respect.”

It is hard to imagine Donald Trump even acknowledging his opponent, let alone conceding loss in an orderly and peaceful transition of power.  And perhaps that was the distinction these two British public servants were making in a typically English, understated manner.  We can and, in fact, should disagree on policy issues but we must retain respect for our democratic institutions and conduct ourselves decently.

In pursuit of decency and even a measure of kindness, I was happy to vote for Joe Biden in 2020.  He has restored respect for the institutions of government,  generally appointed adults to key positions, and navigated a highly partisan Congress to deliver some substantive legislative achievements.  As Tom Friedman has suggested, Joe can declare “mission accomplished.”  The decent thing for him to do now is to bow out gracefully and leave the field to a Democratic candidate who can keep the unqualified, deranged and dangerous Donald Trump out of office.

The great American poet Walt Whitman captured the spirit of this moment although he was writing about an earlier threat to the nation and its principal defender,  President Lincoln.


O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won


Decency and the nation demand no less.