7 years ago: Return Day

7 years ago: Return Day November 15, 2013

November 15, 2006, here on slacktivist: Return Day

Every two years, two days after Election Day, Delawareans gather on The Circle in Georgetown to hear the official reading of the election returns. That’s anachronistic these days, with the results available online as soon as the votes are counted, but the event has come to serve another function. Candidates — winners and losers — ride together in a parade and bury a ceremonial hatchet.

Riding next to each other in horse-drawn carriages, the candidates are forced to be civil to one another — civil in every sense. This is what makes democracy work. It’s not just the voting and the honest counting of votes. It’s also the willingness of the defeated to get up and go, to clear out their desks without coercion and to accept, along with everyone else, that these are our new leaders (at least until the next election).

I like the idea of this very much, and I agree with the editors of the Bethany Beach Wave that “We could use a nationwide Return Day.”

That call for a nationwide Return Day isn’t really realistic. Georgetown’s celebration is too off-the-beaten path, at this point, to expect it to be duplicated on The Mall in D.C.

But if I were the mayor of some struggling county seat — somewhere like Clearfield, Pa., for example, or St. Johnsbury, Vt. — I’d look into embracing a local version of this tradition. What’s not to like? It’d be good for the local economy, good for local pride, good for civil society.

Plus, it’s a party. The Georgetown event is a bit like Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pa., with the top-hatted pomp providing a respectable sheen of tradition for two days of revelry. I’ve been to Clearfield. They could use a party.

Get enough county seats doing this every two years and eventually the idea of a national Return Day wouldn’t be so far-fetched.

Browse Our Archives