As you no doubt know by now, on Tuesday, in a runoff election in Mississippi, white folk in Mississippi did what white folk in Mississippi do – they elected a white supremacist to serve as their next United States Senator. In the final weeks leading up to the election, Cindy Hyde Smith repeatedly made it clear that she was a full fledged bigot – perhaps more than any successful candidate for the Senate that I’ve seen in decades – and she won anyway. Hell, some are saying that it helped her, and it might have, but this morning I want to make a case not just for a silver lining in this loss in Mississippi, but in the painful losses of Stacey Abrams, Andrew Gillum, and Beto O’Rourke as well.
Tens of thousands of our listeners fought their hearts out for Mike Espy in Mississippi, just as they did in Georgia, Florida, and Texas last month, and our biggest candidates lost in those states. And that hurts. Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum lost by a fraction of a percent. On Tuesday in Mississippi, it’s true that Mike Espy lost, but the fact that he lost, and the fact that he lost to a white supremacist, is clouding several sincere bits of good news.
Mike Espy got nearly 47% of the vote on Tuesday. He lost by the smallest margin for a Democrat in Mississippi in a generation. A black man in Mississippi was just a few percentage points away from winning in Mississippi – and that’s a big deal. It’s a huge deal. Black folk showed up to vote in a major way all over Mississippi. And some white allies, not nearly enough, but some white allies rejected Cindy Hyde Smith and voted for Mike Espy as well.
And because of that, because people showed up in huge numbers to vote for Mike Espy, two really, really good things happened in Mississippi on Tuesday. First, because people showed up in such huge numbers in places like Hinds County, which is the home of Jackson, Mississippi, because they showed up in such huge numbers there to vote for Mike Espy, every Democrat there that was in a runoff won. Every single one of them. For the first time ever in Hinds County, the circuit court will have four Black judges. All four won their runoff elections on Tuesday, and three of them are Black women. Listen – Mississippi has been a state since 1821 and Hinds County has never had three Black women serving as judges on the Circuit Court. This is a huge deal. It’s a game changer. It’s how we change the justice system from the inside out.
So yeah, Mike Espy lost, and it hurts, it really does, but what we are seeing is that when we run exciting candidates, particularly exciting Black candidates in The South, like we did in Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi, those candidates are lifting every other candidate down the ballot. That’s part of why we saw 17 Black women elected judges in Houston. It’s why we saw a Black woman like Lucy McBath win the same congressional seat in Cobb County, Georgia that Newt Gingrich once held. Lucy ran an amazing race, but Stacey Abrams lifted everybody’s chances of winning all over Georgia.
What I’m saying is this, and it’s the second major lesson I’ve learned studying these races, is that we have to fight in every single state. For too long, in states dominated by Republicans, we thought the only way to win was to either run a moderate white man or sometimes no candidate at all, and doing that not only meant we had no chance of winning the governorship or the Senate seat, it also meant that those down ballot candidates running for judge or Congress also stood almost no chance of winning.
Not only that, and I need you to hear me on this, we must never allow victories to be easy for white supremacists and bigots. Never. Even if every single expert tells us we can’t win somewhere, we must ignore that, get in the ring, and fight our hearts out. We can never allow horrible people coast to victory anywhere. Ever.
And I have one final point on what happens when we fight and almost win in Texas and Georgia and Florida and Mississippi, when we do that like we’ve done for the past month, Republicans then have to pour all of their resources and volunteers and dollars into races that they never used to even have to fight for. And those resources are finite. When we make Republicans fight and organize and spend their money in races they are normally able to ignore, it then makes it much easier for great Democrats to win elsewhere. A huge part of why it looks like Democrats are going to win an astounding 40 seats in the House, is not just because great candidates ran, and they did, but because we made Republicans fight in all 50 states, and they’ve never done that before.
I’ll close with this. Don’t be discouraged. We’re just getting started. We’re going to win the Senate. We’re going to defeat Donald Trump. And 2018 is a prelude of what’s to come.