In February 2014, I entered this race because the idea of Steven Palazzo running unopposed made me nauseous. As an activist, I knew little of the inside political arena. I couldn’t get much help because there was a possibility of other candidates putting in and those with the Party didn’t want to show favoritism. I understood that. So I did the best I could with what I had and what I felt was right. I was just going to be me. And I knew this was uphill. My daughter even asked if I were going to vote for myself, and I said, “Of course. It might be the only vote I get.”
I wanted to run because the idea of the same (or yet another) GOP puppet having control over legislation that affects my body and my bedroom just pissed me off. I wanted to run for office because I wanted to see if there were other progressives like me, stranded on dwindling life-rafts in this deep, scary Red GOP Sea. I have always loved my home state of Mississippi, but I have never fit in. I’ve wanted to be on Broadway since I was 11, and I’ve wanted to “Be the Change” since I was 13. These two divergent paths have always been at the core of what I wanted to do with my life. So my life didn’t follow the usual “script” that so many other people followed. Yet, every chance I had to leave Mississippi, I didn’t; I stayed. Except for three months I lived in Memphis, and it was just like Mississippi.
My love of Broadway musicals led me to create Musical Theatre Magazine. My activism led me to create ArousedWoman, a site, blog, radio show, and an upcoming project all of which focus on women’s issues and women’s rights. “Arouse” means “to stir to action, to awaken”, and I felt it was perfect for my activism for women’s rights. ArousedWoman(TM) was borne out of the horrible misogyny of the 2012 campaigns that gave rise to Romney, and “legitimate rape”, and “binders full of women”, et al. With Palazzo’s horrible voting record, I had to do something, so in 2013, I began throwing around the idea of running for Congress. Years ago, I used to make the joke, “When I’m Governor of Mississippi…” and explain some egregiously progressive, liberal change I would enact to benefit the People and support social justice. In September 2013, ” When I run for Congress…” was becoming a reality, and one that I liked very much.
I had to raise the money for the $200 candidate fee because I am a poor single mom, the epitome of the “struggling artist”. In 2011, I worked as a writer for two companies in New York, but I lost one job to the economy later that year and lost the other to reorganization in July 2013. Since then, I have worked hard to build my theatre magazine from scratch. I live below the poverty line. For the most part, it’s okay. My daughter and I live very simply — no car, no TV. The only time it is hard is when my daughter needs extra money for a field trip at school — that kind of thing has to be budgeted in. Or when my daughter wants to do something after school but can’t unless she can find a ride because I can’t pick her up.
When I say, I understand what Mississippians are going through, I actually mean it.
After I put in for my candidacy, an email was sent out to local Dems, looking for a “well-funded, viable candidate”. This incensed me at the time, but as I introduced myself to more and more people, the first two words out of their mouths were always, “What’s your platform, and how much money do you have?” I soon learned that the entire conceivability to win was based on money. Raising money is not something I wanted to do. I raised a little and felt guilty doing it.
Every day, I wanted to quit because the more I learned about politics — even on this level — was disturbing and disappointing. Frankly, it seemed pointless because there are political machinations in play that cannot be undone single-handedly. But then someone would reach out to me on Facebook or Twitter and say how glad they were to see me running. And so every day, I had renewed energy for the idea of the process, while I rather loathed the process itself.
Because I am not financially invested in politics or the projects that politicians bend rules to protect or instigate, I felt a freedom to be me. I said what I felt and how I felt it. I am an activist and an artist, after all. I’m accustomed to my First Amendment privileges. Some people were taken aback by that. Someone in politics saying what they actually feel? Quelle surprise!
Things were going swimmingly as I ran my campaign by myself, until politics itself reared its ugly head. My opponent, the current candidate for the general election, made strange, passive aggressive comments about me on his Facebook page, but I had only met him a few days prior. As one Facebook viewer commented, he seemed to be taking cues from Palazzo. So it was very disheartening to see this sort of political play within the Democratic campaign. Silly me. I thought the dirty stuff wouldn’t happen until one of us went up against the GOP candidate. He deleted the comments, but I took screen shots, so I have it on record.
Fast forward to the past few days in which people all over the Democrat and left leaners’ Facebook pages were debating whether to vote Democrat or cross over to sink Palazzo by voting for Taylor in the Republican primary. It has been a whirlwind of hypotheses on which would result in a better outcome…. because apparently Democrats voting for Democrats is deemed unnecessary by some.
There were many angry words within the Democrats the past week or so, and this likewise was sad to see. Every single rights’ group I have ever worked with has fallen apart due to in-fighting: name-calling, labeling, inability to understand another’s perspective. Why do you think the right-wing is so successful? They are united in their narrow focus of protecting their power and their wealth for their little bubble. Activism caves in to in-fighting for the very quality that makes activists so strong — our diversity! Of course, we will disagree! We have so many diverse backgrounds and experiences that we have many choice personal stories to engage and learn from. THAT is the ONLY way we will ultimately defeat the united front that is the GOP.
Even with the Tea Party faction finally losing its stranglehold on the “stupid party”, the GOP is still rich and powerful. Instead of using our differences against each other, we should use our different but equal experiences as bricks in a foundation on which to build up our activist groups. THAT is how we create change that will rise up through society to our government. Government does not exist to be proactive for the People. The politicians are representatives; they take their cues from We, the People. And when We, the People don’t give a rat’s ass to vote or are too busy arguing amongst ourselves within our little groups, the united stupid party wins and the People lose.
Which brings us to tonight’s results for the 2014 midterms’ primary election for Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District. Democrats reportedly crossed over to vote for Taylor, while Republicans crossed over to vote for my opponent. I will consider this to be a sign the Republicans were scared that someone like me could whip Palazzo’s ass in the general.
When the final tally came in, I had 44.6% of the vote. I wish I had had enough votes to go to the general, but that is not to be.
I have to remember that for most of these voters, I came out of nowhere just 4 months ago. I’ve been told that my running in this election has changed the political landscape of Mississippi. I’ve been told that my running has encouraged other progressives and liberals in my district to be more outspoken, now that they know they are not alone in this Red Sea.
I have to remember that I am unlike ANY candidate who has ever run for Congressional office in Mississippi. I was up front about my ArousedWoman activism, and my bisexuality, and my non-Christian, pagan beliefs. AND I AM A WOMAN. And I got a whopping 44.6% of the votes. Just today, I got calls from people in Taylor’s home turf, Hancock County, to tell me how glad they were to be able to vote for me.
At 44.6% (4,848 votes), I guess I did okay for a loudmouth, non-Christian, bisexual, pagan female candidate in Mississippi. Is this Red Sea looking a little purple, now?
I’ve already been asked if I will run for State office next year. If I recall, the people in my area really like their State legislators. But here is what you need to know….
I learned a lot from this process. I already knew that every major change in our society began with a grassroots movement within the People. Change trickles UP, not downward. And now I know why. The People must be awakened in order for government to awaken to the needs of the People (remember, “to stir to action, to awaken”?). As long as half the People are asleep in their bubble, the rest of us will suffer for their narrow-minded bigotries, while they decry our refusal to settle for oppression at the hands of crony capitalism, religion-infused politics, and good-ol’-boy games.
If I run for another office, I will be even MORE loud and proud about my activism for women. I will be even MORE persistent with fighting for equality and non-discrimination. And I will be even MORE up-in-your-face about saving Mississippi from the tentacles of the rabid GOP monstrosity that seeks to pull us under every time we catch a gasp of air in this Red Sea.
I will NEVER back down from the GOP’s misogyny, racism, homophobia, and selfish egotism. EVER.
If you want to support my activism, make a tax-deductible donation to my radio show.
But don’t ask me to run unless you’re really ready for my brand of full-throttle activism.
Until then, I love you all. Thank you so much for your love and support.