Editor's Note: Chad Manspeaker is the former campaign manager for Nancy Boyda's re-election campaign. Theirs was one of 4 democratic incumbents who lost Tuesday night.
When I was an organizer for the Teamsters, I dedicated six months to working 14 hours a day 6 days a week for a campaign everyone was sure we were going to win. But when the election finally came, we lost.
The night of the loss, our boss called us all into a room and asked us how we felt and I stood up and said, "I want to fight back. Tell me how we can fight back and let's get it done."
The next day, we were back at it. We set out to organize 1,300 workers but because we tried something completely different, we surpassed our goal and organized 13,000 people. We didn't let the feeling of failure knock us down. Instead, we were inspired to continue the fight for something better.
Now, five years later, I am in the same position. I was the campaign manager of Kansas' Second District's Congressional campaign. During the months leading up to Election Day, all indications made us believe that we would be celebrating a victory on November 4. But, after all the votes had been counted, we came up short.
The day after Election Day, I was inspired by various status updates on Facebook. My friends expressed their feelings of hope about our country's new leader.
"I am singing patriotic songs and I've never done that before."
"I finally have a President I can be proud of!"
"The wind is blowing and I can feel change in the air."
Others expressed feelings of disappointment in Kansas politics. But just like my days as a community organizer, I was disheartened just long enough to remember how much I wanted to fight. My intention now is to not stop but to move forward.
More than anything, I learned from this campaign that grassroots organizing really does get the job done and new technologies like social networking tools are presenting themselves to make organizing forward even more efficient and effective.
If we are going to change Kansas politics, we must start from the bottom up, not from the top down. Utilizing social networks to build our ground forces and recruit new people will put us in a position to go after local races, could you imagine a city council race with social networking? But we can't stop there. We must build a structure that is more vast than the small races and act as a support mechanism for every race. We must build leadership within our state and retain those young leaders and fostering their enthusiasm. We must be a presence not merely for those who voted Tuesday, but those who will cast ballots in the years to come.
This campaign taught me that if someone has never been forced to run a campaign, no one will know who they really are. It is our job in the coming days, weeks, and months to change the rules and fight to expose people for who they are and what is really behind them. "The true test of our strength is how we rise to master challenges like these when they do arrive."
We must set the loftiest of goals and aim to redefine Democratic politics in the state of Kansas.
We have the inspiration of a great leader in President-elect Barack Obama. We have an amazing pool of talent and people chomping at the bit to make this state something different. Our country has seen that change is possible. We must bring that momentum to Kansas.
If you agree with what I am saying, pass this on. We must start our own grassroots movement to show those who participated, those who watched, and those who didn't care that we can make a difference. Friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, but most importantly let’s start talking, dreaming and organizing.
If we start today, we can organize and fulfill a brighter dream for those who come behind us.
In the words of one of my favorite labor leaders upon his death:
"Don't mourn, organize."