Eleven months ago, my mom decided to run for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections. Last night, I felt prouder of her than ever.
Here’s the catch—she lost.
From the beginning, the experience watching my mother run was inspiring. Last December, Kathy Manning decided it was time to step up and take action; she couldn’t just stand by and watch as our country veered down a dark and twisted path.
Her decision to run pushed me to quit my own job to do something I felt was more important, too. I started a new audio-first media company to tell the stories of women like her. Through that work, I realized that my mom was by no means alone in her quest to preserve the values that really urge our country towards greatness. I got to know 12 other women running for the House, each of whom said in one way or another, “If not me, who? If not now, when?” Each of whom felt the personal impact of policy and said, “The arc of the universe may bend towards justice, but we’re going to have to push it.”
As Election Day grew ever closer, I spent afternoons knocking on doors in areas of my home district I had never visited. I met strangers at their homes, at churches, in restaurants, and on streets who were so inspired by Kathy Manning that they beamed at the opportunity to shake my hand.
Through grueling, seemingly never-ending days of work, my mom shined. She listened to the concerns of people throughout the district and nightly reported back stories of the tenacity of the people in our area.
Still, she lost. It would be lying by omission to gloss over the pain and anxiety of last night. The race was an uphill battle from the start—North Carolina’s districts have already been deemed too gerrymandered by the courts. They were cut with “surgical precision” to keep districts, including the 13th, where she ran, red. At the first signs of a loss, I felt both wired and deeply saddened.
Enter Kathy Manning. She arrived at the watch party without any sign of tears. She embraced person after person with love and gratitude for the hard work done by all. She asked about other women she knew were running throughout the country, and she was happy to hear so many of her peers won. A record number of women will serve in our next House of Representatives and her fellow Democrats retook the chamber.
When my mom took the stage to speak, she proved once and for all, that Kathy Manning is not just the leader we wanted, she’s the leader we need.
As I looked out at the crowd during her speech on election night, I saw the faces of hundreds of people filled with love, propelled by hope, moved to keep on fighting. She said it better than I ever could: “Because what really makes America great is our desire to be a land of opportunity for all. What really makes us great is our history of setting high ideals and striving to meet them. We may stumble along the way, but we must continue to fight for what is right.”
Kathy Manning’s run for Congress was just the beginning. The way she acted when faced with defeat stoked a full-on fire of activism—not just within me, but within people across the North Carolina’s 13th District and across the country.
A better future can be a reality. Some parts of the country felt it last night. Some didn’t. But midterm elections weren’t our last chance. Change is coming. As this chapter comes to a close, it’s time to double-down and charge ahead.
As my mom said last night, “We know change is possible, and we know change is required. We must continue working together to make this country what it can be and what it should be.”
Jenny Kaplan is the co-founder and CEO of Wonder Media Network, an audio-first media company focused on women and politics. She’s also the host of its flagship podcast Women Belong in the House. Kaplan was formerly an award-winning reporter at Bloomberg News.