Around the same time, the 26-year-old daughter of another friend and donor died of complications from a lifelong battle with hydrocephalus. Despite severe chronic pain resulting from multiple brain surgeries, she had remained kind and selfless and even grateful to the end.
Mindful of those losses, I tried to put ours in perspective. "It was just an election," I would tell disheartened supporters. "Not a life. Not a loved one or a friend."
For a few weeks following my concession, it seemed as if the campaign hadn't ended. More nights than not, Elayne and I found ourselves at central committee meetings, candidate appreciation nights or other political gatherings. At each, we encountered melancholy volunteers who had put heart and soul into the campaign, and we tried to console them.
Sometimes I wasn't very sympathetic. "You're the most morose group I've greeted yet," I told the Tri-Valley Republican Women Federated at their Christmas party. "Remember, we're happy warriors! Lighten up!"
In attempting to reinvigorate discouraged allies, I would recite the campaign's accomplishments. I'd remind them how close we'd come. Although we'd had a bad night in California, we'd had a great night in the rest of the nation. Outside money spent defeating me couldn't be spent on other races, enabling good candidates elsewhere to win upset victories.
Still, the sadness lingered. On further reflection, I think I understand why.
Activists on the right are often mischaracterized as angry or hateful. My experience has been the opposite. What prompted the outpouring of support for our campaign was love: love of our families and neighbors, our homes and neighborhoods, our lands and livelihoods, our rights and freedoms. We treasure our liberties, so we want not only our families and friends to enjoy them, but all people. A patriot is one who loves his "patria," his country; and along with our country, we love our countrymen.
How felicitous that our Declaration of Independence recognizes, among the most fundamental of rights, the pursuit of happiness. Just as we want to be free to pursue our own happiness, we want others to be free to pursue theirs. Apprehensive that the political class was smothering the pursuit and implementing its antithesis -- federally guaranteed minimum levels of happiness, with a blizzard of happiness regulations drafted by bureaucrats in the Department of Happiness and enforced by the happiness police, financed by happiness bonds and a happiness tax -- Americans rose up to reclaim the rights, and the risks, of freedom.
That's what our campaign was about: the pursuit. It was a labor of love. All of us were engaged in a worthy cause much greater than ourselves. We were happy in our work, in our association with each other, and in our engagement with the undecided.
To those distraught by the outcome, or going through withdrawal from the camaraderie of the battlefield, please understand that the depth of your disappointment reflects the height of your commitment. Your effort wasn't wasted; good things resulted; and greater opportunities lie ahead.