When to Discuss the “L” Word

  • May 3, 2013
  • meredith
By Emiley Lockhart, Emerge Massachusetts Class of 2013
It’s not a pretty topic.  We try to avoid it and fill our heads with “winning strategies” and “winning words.”  But it’s out there and it’s about time we are honest: there is a chance you can … Lose.  In fact, I just did.
It started simply enough: I launched my first political campaign about a month after joining Emerge.  It seemed like a natural thing to do given the timing and the classes.  Armed with positive support and lots of new tools, I gave it a good run for Town Meeting. 
I saw the potential signs of losing early in the campaign as the incumbents ran on a slate unified by the singular principle of keeping the “upstart candidate” out.  I heard from more than a couple of people that “it wasn’t my turn.”  But I went for it anyway.  And I lost by 16 votes after canvassing and campaigning and standing at the polls for 13 hours.  That was Tuesday. 
Today is Thursday.  Of course it still stings a little.  I was really hoping to win and actually thought that I had pulled it off.   But it was not to be.  And that’s okay; I just wish I had been a little better prepared.
I have since learned that many, and probably most, first-time candidates lose their races.  And, sadly, most candidates who lose don’t try to run for office again.  This is a tragedy, especially considering that pretty much every politician in the country has lost at least one race (and likely many) in his or her political life.
We need to open the discourse about losing, and start talking freely about the simple truth that losing is a very common part of the process.  As I have come to realize, running for elected office is not about having the nerve to run a race.  It’s about having the nerve to run lots of races.  Campaigning and being a politician is really about getting your name out there, raising your profile, showing them that you have courage, and making them know that you care enough to run again … and again … and again.  
Let’s start the losing dialogue today.  We have heard that a woman needs to be asked to run 4, 5, or 6 times before she will actually file the papers and do it.  Well, ladies, let’s stiffen our backs and understand that once we decide to run, we run until we win… and then we run again.