“I can’t help but think,” she went on, “that as intense as this race became, the money, the scrutiny … that those other races, the other steps in my life, helped me to be prepared in this race.”
Such experience isn’t always deemed an asset in elections. Her opponent branded her a “career politician.” Others called her worse, some of it unprintable, but one of the labels they tried to pin on her was: loser. Keeps running, keeps losing.
Personally, I never saw Handel’s persistence in stepping into the arena as an unseemly inability to get the message that she wasn’t wanted. Rather, it seemed like the right kind of ambition: the kind born of knowing one has much to contribute, and has overcome long odds before.
Handel’s life story is well-known by now: left an abusive home at 17; finished high school; tried to balance college with supporting herself but, not uncommonly for the time, wound up choosing the latter; went on to success both in the public sector and the corporate world. It’s a story that merits our admiration, and more.
“Obviously, it’s a better feeling to be on the side of winning,” she reflected, “but I really … feel like it’s bigger than me. It’s not lost on me, the responsibility that comes with being the first Republican woman in Congress from the state. But equally, it is a message — a story, really, of resilience and ability to achieve by not letting the circumstances in which you grow up determine your future.
“That, I hope for a lot of people, can give them optimism. Because it really is uniquely American, that someone like me could be in this position; that could only happen in this country. So I understand how a person out there who’s struggling will look at this.”
That kind of story, of long odds overcome and second or third chances seized, is one both sides of the political aisle tell ourselves to celebrate. For once, we’re both right.