Winning elections

It’s good to win.

When I got involved in the wonderful world of endless campaigns and election cycles, it wasn’t with any thought that we’d actually win.  The concept was that even supporting losing candidates changed the conversation — and boy, the conversation needed to be changed.  The conversation had become filled with right-wing propaganda, and it felt like no one was talking about the issues that really mattered in ways that made any sense — it was all framed to agree with Republican assumptions about the world. And some of us felt those assumption were not only wrong, but geared to re-distributing wealth from the majority to a tiny minority at the very top.

We kept being told it was a center-right country. We kept being told that this was the new reality. We kept being told that we were a minority.

But it didn’t feel like that. It felt like the leaders — whether it was the politicians or media flunkeys — were ignoring the majority. It felt like we needed to organize and start yelling … and the best way to do that was to support candidates who were running from the left, talking about our issues in ways that make sense, people who would listen to the lobbyists for our allies and not the corporate elite. But most of all: make the other candidate justify their positions, and make them re-think some of their positions.

It felt like a long-term plan. Keep at it. First you win at very local races, the small ones, build a bench, then move on to the bigger prizes.  Give it thirty years or so. Don’t worry about the battles: see the war for what it is — a war for our future.

But once you start winning … winning is fun. It’s joyous. It’s the precursor to a lot of hard work, the hard work of governing — but it’s good to win. Because then you’re not just changing the conversation, but allowing the folks who agree with you to have a voice — and proving that there’s more of them than conventional wisdom assumed.

Losing isn’t the end of the world. It can lay the ground work for the next race, the next election. It can show that an incumbent is vulnerable, even if he/she managed to hold on.  The best candidates learn from their losses … and take it to the next level the next go round (see Obama, Barack, loss to Bobby Rush, D-IL 1st Congressional District).

And sometimes you win and the candidate you worked so hard for turns out to be disappointing … easily co-opted by the powers that be. But sometimes they turn into real fighters, who really do take the work seriously, and work at the business of learning when to fight and when to compromise, when to poke a stick into the wheels of the legislative body to slow it down, and when to compromise to get something done — even when it’s not perfect.

But winning is sweet. It makes you see that you’ve made a difference, and that makes you fight harder for the next one.

It may be addictive as well.


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