On this holiday reserved to honor and appreciate the accomplishments of all American presidents, it's also a moment to take stock of what the losers have given us.
It's much more than you think.
Losing presidential candidates have fundamentally changed their parties, set down road maps for new ways to practice presidential politics, settled long-simmering political debates, launched new issues for an inattentive nation to later confront, and broken gender barriers for the presidency and vice presidency.
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We don't always consider this much in our victory-obsessed culture and presidential losers of recent vintage have been discarded by their parties like sacks of medical waste. Two quick examples: Michael Dukakis went from Democratic standard bearer in 1988 to the board of Amtrak and a professorship at Northeastern University, while 1996 GOP nominee Bob Dole went from leader of the Senate and party powerhouse to a pitchman for Viagra and Pepsi.
A happy reversal of this trend is of course Hillary Rodham Clinton, who though losing after a spirited battle for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, was tapped by President Obama to be secretary of State. We won't include her as she is so obvious a ground-breaking non-victor.
Likewise, there is the continued visibility and vibrancy of 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry, who has served ably in the Senate since losing to George W. Bush and who may become secretary of State if Obama wins a second term and Clinton steps aside as she has indicated. Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee, was an early confidant of Obama's during the presidential transition but became a prominent critic of the president's policies dealing with economic stimulus, health care, Afghanistan and Libya - positions that helped him stave off a primary challenge and win re-election in 2010.