Post-Primaries, What’s the Next Step?

District map of the United States Photo by FiveThirtyEight, "The Atlas of Redistricting"

The primaries, the first step in the midterm election process, took place on March 6. The results are in. Your candidates for the November ballot have been selected. The bubble has gotten smaller. The focus has been narrowed.

The primaries can be daunting for people to comprehend. There are too many bullsh*t candidates to filter through and too many issues to try to get a handle on. And of course, politicians are politicians, so they give politicians’ answers to their stances on things. I actually read the entire website for one gubernatorial candidate and I still can’t really summarize his position on important issues. How exhausting.

But all those guys are gone. The midterm candidates have been chosen, so now we as voters can research the people who matter on the issues that matter. We can pay attention to the money and where it’s coming from, we can get to know the candidates on a more personal level, and we can decide who we want representing us in our government.

It’s easy to forget that we have a say in these things. We do, and it’s our vote. Yes, protests and social media campaigns matter, and they help to sway public opinion one way or another, but the fruition of all those efforts should be reflected at the polls. Otherwise, what was it all for?

It’s also easy to get discouraged by the way our government generally functions. People are still upset by the existence of the Electoral College, and many people still don’t fully understand how it works or why a man who didn’t get the most votes is a sitting president (even though this is not the first time it has happened). The results of the last election, combined with the prevalence of things like lobbying, gerrymandering, and government officials in cahoots with big business can easily dissuade someone from voting.

But it shouldn’t. Voting is the least anyone can do to influence their government. It doesn’t take long. It’s not hard. It’s literally the least you can do.

And if you choose to do more? You still have that option.

So, what’s the next step?

In the primaries, some of your ideal candidates may not have won. Some of them were likely outvoted by someone else in their party, which doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Going forward, it becomes a party-wide effort to get that person elected. The party can now throw all of its backing behind one candidate with the goal of defeating the opposition.

This recent election saw all kinds of people coming out of the woodworks to run for office. Some of them were actually qualified to do the jobs that would have been required of them. Some of them were decent candidates who may have lacked experience in government. Some of them suffered from less name recognition than their peers. Some of them were only on the ballot because they didn’t like anyone else who was on it.

While their levels of experience, circles of influence, and prioritized platforms may have varied, they likely stood for generally the same things, per party. In a country run on a two-party system, the party in control matters. What that means is that even if you don’t agree with everything your candidate says, it’s still better to throw your support behind them for the sake of the party (arguably). The Democratic goal is to take back control of Congress; the Republican goal is to keep it.

Having a defined goal and an overall strategy to execute that goal is important. That said, the goal should be more than just getting or keeping someone out of office. While that can be a strong motivator, it’s not as strong as presenting people with what life could be like under better circumstances. Perks are an easier sell than fear. It’s more exciting to fight for something than it is to struggle to prevent something else.

The road ahead will be interesting, though. For instance, Dayna Steele is running for Congress in Texas District 36. She beat out her Democratic opponents in the primary by a significant margin, but her real fight will be against Congressman Brian Babin, a dentist and a Republican who has served the district since 2015.

District 36 is an interesting playing field, though. Covering the southeastern and eastern portions of Houston, it stretches all the way out to the Louisiana border. It’s the home of NASA (“[District 36], we have a problem.”), and it encompasses a very diverse portion of Greater Houston where both Steele and Babin reside. However, it also includes far more rural areas of Texas, notably Jasper. Jasper, Texas is a small town east of Houston that’s known for its annual butterfly festival and for the racially-motivated murder of a black man. The dragging and decapitation of James Byrd, Jr. occurred in 1998, but racial tensions plague the town to this day.

That said, if Steele is hoping to win the election against Babin, she needs to not only appeal to southeastern Houstonians, which I believe she does, but also to those all the way out by Louisiana. Her strategy will need to be of the utmost importance. In a primarily Republican district, her bid for the seat is still one she can potentially win if she plays her cards right. In my opinion, that strategy shouldn’t include Babin-bashing. Instead, it should focus on value offers and strategic foresight.

Texas is also the site of a significant amount of gerrymandering that is being reviewed for constitutionality, specifically around the strongly liberal city of Austin. For instance, a tactic called “cracking” has been used, which essentially dilutes votes from one party by way of strategic districting. Here’s a good article from Ella Nilsen at Vox.com that goes into more detail on that.

So, what’s next for those whose candidates were eliminated?

If your candidate didn’t win the primary vote, that doesn’t mean the road ends. There were many candidates who had a strong platform to stand on, but simply didn’t have the backing they needed to get elected. Still, they have a lot to offer by way of directing influence. Now, instead of working on a parallel platform alongside others in their party, they can join forces with them, adding to the elected candidates’ overall value proposition. After all, the people reached by each candidate are stronger when they stand together. The big picture is more important than individual gain or ambition.

But all of this isn’t meant to be a deterrent. It’s meant to motivate. It’s meant to point out that regardless of how hopeless a situation seems, hope can be found in examining the details, the motives, and the whys behind the way things are. Start from a point that makes sense to you, and work backwards from there. Don’t be afraid to question established thoughts and actions, and don’t be afraid to offer a solution to a problem. Talk to others; listen to them. Share ideas and perspectives, and see where that gets you. Always remember that tides shift all the time and that you are a part of that shift.

And at the very least, vote. Because it’s literally the least you can do.

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