Jaime Harrison is leading the charge for a new American South.
The South has signaled for years its need for change. Big-ticket races in Georgia with Stacey Abrams, and Florida with Andrew Gillum, have brought the region to this moment. The latest battleground in this fight is in South Carolina, the same state that helped push now-President-elect Joe Biden to victory in the primaries.
After years of failing schools, a lack of rural hospitals, and a raging pandemic that infected all facets of South Carolinian’s lives, the state needed a new hope. And Harrison emerged as its Jedi savior.
A New Hope
I got the opportunity to be an organizer for the Harrison campaign. I joined early on back in June and watched this movement grow from the very beginning.
No one expected Jaime to have a real chance against Lindsey Graham. Graham was a twenty-year incumbent who, during the Trump era, routinely placed his own interests over the needs of South Carolinians. In politics, time brings with it security, so this race became a battle, as Jaime loved to call it, between David and Goliath.
Being an organizer, I was on the ground level of this campaign. As a native of South Carolina myself, I knew firsthand the problems that plague the people of this state.
Speaking with other residents, I could hear the pain in their voices. Stories of jobs lost, medical struggles, and fighting obstacles just to make ends meet were heartbreaking to hear. Even still, each person I spoke with, no matter their situation, had a quiver of hope in their voices that grew as we talked more about Jaime. The New South was truly embodied by Jaime Harrison.
The goal for this campaign was to bring hope back to South Carolina, but this message quickly extended even further. Organizing in the midst of a global pandemic came with its own challenges.
Navigating a campaign in the midst of a pandemic
While other campaigns continued to organize and engage with communities in person, Jaime wanted to ensure the safety of all of his staff, and thus limited organizing work to be remote. The drawbacks of this approach are obvious.
The face-to-face interactions, the large rallies, the hugs, cheers, and tears of a normal campaign were all gone but with it sprouted the ability to reach people beyond South Carolina to join in this movement. The New South led by Jaime Harrison, but also people from across the entire nation.
Volunteers poured in from all across the country to help get Jaime’s name out to the people. People from New York, Chicago, California, and many other places heard this message of hope and were inspired.
This level of support inspired me as I quickly realized that no matter the result of this election, the work that we did started a movement that will extend long past November 3rd.
The Empire Strikes Back
When Election Day came, the team and I were prepared for the fight of our lives. We believed that this race would come down to a field-margin of votes. A fight to the end that could result in a recount situation.
Later that night we quickly realized that wouldn’t be the case. After all of our hard work, the red empire of the South struck back.
After weeks of headline embarrassments from crying on national television about fundraising, to confirming a Supreme Court Justice during an election year, Graham found himself on the verge of victory with a commanding 10-point lead. We lost.
We shed tears that night the same way we would have celebrated. Together. It was the perfect time to lose hope, but the fight goes on.
Return of the Jedi
It’s been days since the Harrison loss but, even in defeat, our hope prevailed. With the election of President-elect Biden, America can return to a place of decency.
The shadow of despair that hovered over the nation opened up to shine a light on a brighter future.
Collectively, we chose to believe in love. We elected to believe in leaders that care about the people they serve. Working on this campaign taught me to keep dreaming of a brighter future, no matter the circumstances.
While South Carolina didn’t elect Jaime, Georgia is on the verge of turning blue due in large part of the work from Stacey Abrams and the many organizers like myself in the community pushing for change.
What Abrams has done for Georgia is nothing short of amazing, turning a loss into a beacon of change. I believe Jaime can be that for South Carolina and this nation.
This moment is only the beginning for him. South Carolina still needs change. It just has to wait for the return of its Jedi.