On this past Tuesday, the state of Texas had their political primaries for November’s mid-term elections. Texas was the first state in the country to hold their primaries and this morning I wanna share several lessons I learned that I think will help our listeners all over the country.
As you may know, I started a political organization called Real Justice to help elect progressive, reform-minded prosecutors and District Attorneys that are committed to ending mass incarceration. In Texas, we endorsed two candidates – a wonderful, compassionate man named Joe Gonzales in San Antonio and a brilliant black woman named Elizabeth Frizell in Dallas.
In San Antonio, our candidate, Joe Gonzales, won in a landslide, and helped oust a horrible DA there, but in Dallas, our candidate, Judge Frizell, is now in a 50-50 split that is going to come down to a recount, and we won’t know the full results for another 10 days or so.
But let me tell you what I learned…
In San Antonio, Joe Gonzales, the winner who won by a landslide, raised twice as much money as his opponent and spent it well.
In Dallas, a race I poured my heart and soul into, our opponent raised and spent more money than us, and that has everything to do with why it’s neck and neck right now.
But if you don’t mind, I need to get even more detailed this morning, because something else happened on Tuesday that I think every single one of us needs to understand. Our opponent, in some ways, gamed the system. I’m not mad about it, but I need us to understand that if we don’t increase the sophistication and nuance of our political strategies, we are going to lose all over the country.
Let me explain what I mean.
On Tuesday in Dallas, our candidate, Judge Frizell, won the popular vote by 10 points in a landslide by a 55-45 margin. She won precincts all over Dallas County in the North, South, East, and West. It wasn’t even close. All of the hype was behind her. It was an amazing victory. To make that happen our team knocked on tens of thousands of doors, made hundreds of thousands of phone calls and sent hundreds of thousands of texts. We sent mailers to all of Dallas. We ran ads on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I traveled to Dallas to speak and mobilize voters. We were still outspent, but we raised and spent $150,000 on the race and on Tuesday, our efforts paid off, but get this….
Even though we won the vote on Tuesday by a 55-45 margin, we are now down by 516 votes. I’ve never seen anything like it. We won Tuesday by over 5,000 votes, but we’re now down by 516 votes, because our opponent blew us away in early voting. Don’t get me wrong, we worked our butts off in early voting, but while we worked harder, he worked smarter.
For instance, he did something we didn’t even think of. He had thousands of senior citizens mail in voting ballots. In Dallas, they are the only people that get to mail in their votes. Had we gotten just 600 senior citizens to do this, we would’ve won.
I said all of that to say this – Republicans currently control the House, the Senate, the Presidency, the Supreme Court, most governorships, and most state legislatures not because that’s just the way it has to be, but because they often out-organize and outspend us.
On Tuesday in Dallas, we did what we do well – we showed up to vote on Election Day, and we crushed it by 10 points, but it looks very likely that we’re still going to lose because our opponent had a more sophisticated strategy and got votes in places that we didn’t even think of.
That’s why I say that our political strategy all over the country has to be a lot more than “Go Vote.” On Tuesday in Dallas, we voted, won the popular vote on Tuesday by a wide margin, and will likely still lose because we didn’t play the whole game.
And here’s what I know – we can say what we want about our opponents, but they are crafty and organized. They know how to use the whole system to their advantage.
So when you begin organizing in Birmingham and Atlanta and Baton Rouge and in Boston and up and down California, when you begin organizing in Detroit and Flint and Indianapolis and in Charlotte and Charleston – when we begin organizing all over the country – just know that we can say Go Vote, show up and vote, which we must, but we can do those things and still lose if we don’t figure out how to get people to vote in every way available to us.
They know how to game the system, and if we want to win, we have to do the same thing.
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