Tucked away in a back room with televisions lining the walls and dozens of laptops displaying election results, I watched the numbers roll in on Tuesday night as John James’ campaign team sorted through various precincts to see if the Republican outsider would pull off an upset. Although the night didn’t end the way I — and thousands of Michigan voters — had hoped it would, election night in that Detroit conference room taught me some valuable lessons.
First, every vote matters. Yes, every single vote. That simple phrase has saturated discourse over the past few weeks as various pundits, politicians, businesses, and corporations have pushed for a higher voter turnout. Many still feel that one vote doesn’t have impact and is useless in the grand scheme of things. But sorting through results with very narrow margins showed me the power of a single vote. A state House race in northern Illinois came down to quite literally one vote: Mary Edly-Allen collected 25,105 votes to incumbent Helene Walsh’s 25,106 votes. The same rarity occurred in Kentucky. If a few more people had voted in each precinct across the state, many races would have turned out differently. Votes add up quickly and it all starts with an individual deciding to make their voice heard.
Next, a loss doesn’t have to leave us defeated. After hours of data crunching, phone calls, and poll watching, our team reached the unfortunate conclusion that James had lost the election. The fight was a long and historic one, but it didn’t put James on Capitol Hill. The students and staffers around me were visually worn and beat as we packed up to head home.
At that moment, James walked into the War Room with a smile and confidence that made us all wonder if someone hadn’t brought him up to speed yet. He spoke to the group and reminded us that a year ago no one had heard of this movement. It had no traction. Now it is a massive, national movement. He spoke of the change from six years ago when Stabenow beat her opponent by 20 points, yet this time she won by less than six. James’ message of national security, economic prosperity, and fewer regulations resonated with millions across the country. James wasn’t defeated; he was grateful and energized for the next battle.
In short, this is only the beginning. John James promised Michiganders that he isn’t going anywhere. The hard work of dedicated volunteers put him in the national spotlight and gave him the position to talk about issues that truly matter to this state and to the rest of the country. He will continue to fight and so will we.
Finally, as James told our small group, “People like to thank God when they win. Let’s praise him when we lose, too.”
Perhaps that thought is the most important lesson I learned. The battle for truth and liberty is far from over and John James will be at the forefront, in whatever capacity God has in store.
Ben Wilson is a freshman studying the liberal arts.