No One Gets Elected Alone

Listening to Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) speak during the Women’s Conference last weekend, it was easy to nod your head along to the lofty ideals he mentioned. There’s a certain air about the best politicians – an effortless grace that makes even the most elevated ideals seem grounded and, above all, American. Listening to Don Beyer, or any politician for that matter, it’d be easy to think that his campaign ran solely on this natural charisma. But this just isn’t the case. Behind any one politician is a deep network of allied politicians, partnered organizations, and voters that help forge their candidacy. The fact of the matter is that politics is a team sport, and no one gets elected alone.

At the heart of every campaign is core network of peers – from House members to Senators, both up and down the ballot – that help make sure the candidate gets elected. Even the best of campaigns is fraught with political missteps and last-minute reversals, but when equipped with a supportive network of politicians united around the same values, mishaps are less costly. Help, whether through media exposure, joint fundraising, or even simple advice, is always on hand. And while seasoned politicians might not need all the support their peers can provide, nothing helps nurture a first-time candidate then a community of like-minded peers. In that sense, if a campaign is the car, then this network is the pit crew – working tirelessly to help give the campaign an extra boost when needed. And it’s only through a well-managed campaign that a politician can get anywhere.

But it’s not just an excellent network of colleagues that determines a candidate’s success, but also the backing of several organizations and communities. In the 2014 Midterm Elections, for example, only 21% of people 18-29 years old voted. Similarly, only 40% of blacks, and 27% of hispanics voted. These are incredibly low numbers compared to white and older voters. For groups that feel like the government doesn’t hear them, community organizations are crucial in building the relationship between the candidate and the people. And, more often than not, these groups can sway an election when they come out to vote. While Donald Trump won his presidential bid largely on the back of white male voters without a college degree, he also won larger portions of the black, hispanic, and asian voters than Romney did in 2012.

Of course, all campaigns eventually are made or broken by the voters themselves. Whether it’s by word of mouth, or through the collective hive-mind of social media, or even through volunteering, voters are the last and most important factor to a campaign’s success. Just as a candidate must collaborate with their colleagues and communities, at the end of the day, they must also resonate with voters. Clear, encompassing values are the key here; it’s what the voters will remember on Election Day.

In Don Beyer’s case, we can see all of these factors come together in the poised and confident candidate standing in front of us. And while it’s tempting to see only the man at the podium, we should try and remember that behind him stands a strong network of colleagues, countless local communities, and thousands of voters. In a representative democracy where each politician is meant to stand for many people, it’s only fitting to remember that politics is, and always was envisioned to be, a team sport.