|Inner City Diary|
|Election Results Humble Both Losers and Winners|
|June 27, 2004|
|I turned up the volume on the radio and sat in front of the television. With the remote in hand, I tried to follow the election results from both media last Tuesday night. Bouncing back and forth between radio and TV, I listened to reporters as they interviewed candidates and workers from campaign offices around the city.
It didnít take long before both stations declared the winners and losers. Thatís when things started to sink in for each of the candidates and their supporters. The campaign offices of the losing candidates looked remarkably similar. Disappointed friends, disillusioned workers. In their faces and, for some, in their words it was easy to tell that they felt the public had made a mistake.
In some scenes, it was hard to see who felt worse. The workers felt bad for their candidate. The candidates, on the other hand, feel bad for their workers
I remember what itís like to be a loser.
I recalled the scene in my own campaign office in 1999 when I ran for the office of MLA in the constituency of Minto.
People told me it was silly to run as a Conservative in a traditional NDP stronghold.
Some insisted that anyone with a social conscience would not run as a Conservative. I knew in my heart that my social activism and community service was more a consequence than a contradiction of my political and economic conservatism. I didnít want to change parties just to get votes.
Others suggested that I run in a more ďwinnable,Ē traditionally Conservative area. But I knew if I were elected by people of another community, their needs would take priority over those of my friends and home neighbourhood. I didnít like the thought of deserting the people in my neighbourhood.
I decided that I would run as a Conservative in my neighbourhood. I would win or lose on my achievements, on my convictions and on my home turf. I would run with my conscience, not with the naysayers.
We campaigned hard. We climbed countless stairs and faced hundreds of dogs to knock on thousands of doors. We dropped lots of literature and addressed all too many answering machines of potential voters.
On election night the results came in and it didnít take long to realize I was losing. People used their ballots to reinforce their message at the door. ďSorry. We like your work but we canít vote for you. Thanks anyway.Ē
I was crestfallen as I looked at the campaign workers. I knew they felt bad for me. But I felt bad for them. Like I had let them down. We did our best to comfort each other.
Some say itís humbling to win. I believe that Ė even though I know itís even more humbling to lose. And you have plenty of time to digest that humble pie as you clean up signs abandoned on lawns and boulevards, clean the campaign office, return the rented furniture, prepare reports and package up all the campaign material.
Some people asked if I had any regrets about running and losing. My only response was that I knew I had done the right thing in laying open my personal convictions for public approval and accountability.
Win or lose, it was a great education. Win or lose, I knew that whoever was elected would need the respect and support of all voters Ė not just ďtheirĒ voters. Several of the losers in this civic election approached the winners to offer both their congratulations and their cooperation. No party or person can do it all on their own.
A few weeks ago, I met the NDP candidate running to become the MLA for Minto. We chatted briefly on the sidewalk. It didnít take long to sense a two-way respect that transcended our political differences. On Monday he won the by-election and one of his first comments was that he wanted to work together for the good of the community. Iím looking forward to meeting with him.
I also had some good talks with our new mayor and some of his workers. When he gets a chance, it will be great to take a walk through the neighbourhood and find more ways to support each other in our work. Iím looking forward to some creative and positive things for Winnipeg.
Last Tuesday night, several of the other candidates took time to reassure us that their community service wouldnít be derailed by a failed run at elected office. I was glad to hear it. They would be sorely missed if they didnít stay involved.
My brief experience with elections taught me that thereís way more to life than elections.
What matters most is what comes AFTER the election Ė both for those who lose AND for those who win.
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
|Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.|
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