Did you lose your race on Tuesday night? Congratulations!

That’s an awful thing to say right after the election, right? How could I be so insensitive and mock your pain? I’m not mocking. I’m totally serious.

If you lost, that means you ran. You took a chance and put yourself out there. It took guts. Too many people are happy to shout from the sidelines, to criticize and critique and point fingers at what’s wrong. By running, you took responsibility. You stopped being a spectator and became an active part of solving a problem.

If you lost, that means you and your friends and family and supporters took time and energy and money and applied it toward the democratic process. You built a team of people who feel the way you do and turned those feelings into action. Apathy is the worst enemy of democracy, and you brought new blood into the game.

If you lost, it means you stepped up to provide a different option on the ballot. Without challengers, there is no choice for people to make. Without a choice, voting means less and citizens often feel like there’s no point in going to the polls.

If you lost, that means you thought long and hard about the values that you want to apply to making your community better. You formulated ideas and found a way to articulate them to others. You learned how to be persuasive and to respectfully converse with those who disagreed with you.

If you lost, it means that you tried, and are now accepting an outcome that you were not hoping for. Abiding by the will of the majority and having a peaceful transfer of power between opponents are founding principles of our country. That can only happen when all participants abide by the rules.

If you lost, you showed the kids in your life that it’s OK to fail, that worth is not measured purely by the numbers totaled at the end of the night, and that losing gracefully is just as important as winning. It’s the effort that counts.

If you lost, you might have made mistakes, and you’ll apply what you learned to do things better the next time you run.

If you lost, you’re in good company. President Obama lost his first House run. Lincoln lost five races before being elected president. If they hadn’t tried again, they wouldn’t have a successful legacy to footnote with that stat. So give it a few days before swearing off any future campaigns, no matter how much your loss stings right now.

So, seriously — if you lost last night, congratulations. Thank you for being an important and an all-too-regularly-unsung part of our political process. Your race was better because you ran it. (And the next one will be, too.)

 

Shannon Watson, of St. Paul, is the founder of Definitely Someday, a firm that helps people prepare for a future run for office.