Dragon Ball Senator Nathan Johnson has won his battle for the Texas senate, thanks in part to Dragon Ball fans. Now he chats with me to discuss his victory.
How did Dragon Ball fans effect the results? Did they lend him their energy like a giant Spirit Bomb against his opponent?
Now that he’s in office, will he enact pro Dragon Ball legislation?
Can he work with his republican colleagues, like Goku worked with Vegeta?!
Find out in this exciting interview with Nathan Johnson, the former Dragon Ball Z composer who has transformed into Texas’s Dragon Ball Senator!!
Q: How do you feel after your victory?
Nathan: I’m excited. It’s seeping in slowly. Also the responsibility that is resting on my shoulders.
I’m grateful to those who voted for me. Off the top of my head I believe the final tally was roughly 150,000 to 130,000.
It was a race that few people believed was winnable for a democrat in this district, and even fewer who thought that ‘I,’ a political no-one, could win it. Of course, I always thought it was winnable and I could win it—haha.
There were people who got behind me early and believed in me. I was worried for a long time about disappointing them.
I’m pleased that their early trust in me, and early investment of time and money, resulted in a big, stunning victory.
But it wasn’t until about three weeks before the election that a lot of people said, ‘Oh my gosh, this can happen.’
Q: That’s similar to how people put their faith in Goku to come through in the end. What was the turning point for you?
Nathan: It took a long time to peel away the layers of presumptions that had built up over the years. It has been three decades since a democrat won this seat, so presumption had been built up that it will always be that way. Of course it’s always false that the present is the way things will always be. But no matter how much I tried to tell people, ‘This place is not a hyper-partisan district,’ they couldn’t believe it.
So the turning point was poll numbers. Different groups ran polls, mostly private, but word got around that it looked like I was in the lead. The opposition tried to brush off the polls for a while, but it became overwhelming.
Q: Like checking your power level on the scouter, the polls changed the feeling in the community?
Nathan: It changed the feeling amongst political insiders, media, business groups, the big political players that weren’t focused on this race. They were aware of it, but I think they still felt like my victory was a long shot. Then all of a sudden they said, ‘Oh my gosh, this is going to happen.’
Then it became a big deal. The opposition cranked up the money machine, just like we thought they would, and it turned into a full-blown campaign.
In hindsight, I feel like we made some good strategy calls. I don’t think it was a ‘wave’ that washed us in. I feel like we read the district right. We communicated well, and had a good, solid message, that people in this district responded to.
Dragon Ball’s Political Power
Q: The map of Texas is still mostly red, but you’re one of the blues. So you must have done something that spoke to people. I think your approach to appeal to the Dragon Ball demographic of millennials made a difference there. How do you feel about that?
Nathan: I think it was a wild card in the campaign. Millennials have a very, very low voting record. What happened in this race is they actually were a factor.
We had a young, engaging, exciting candidate for the federal congress, named Colin Allred (winner of Texas’s 32nd Congressional District), who I think was the quickest to get the attention of the millennials.
Along the way some of them found out about my music background, and specifically about Dragon Ball Z, and they got really excited about it. I got a lot of, ‘No way! No way!’
I haven’t done a full analysis yet, but we had an unexpectedly large percentage of the population that typically had never voted before—Either because they were young, weren’t interested, or had low voter turnout—and they turned out in big numbers. And the odds are that most of them voted my way.
With the popularity we are seeing right now among DBZ fans after the victory, it suggests they were out there voting.
Q: Is there a way to find out for certain?
Nathan: There is no way to find out if a person who voted for me watches DBZ. But we already have numbers of the percentage of millennials, and we know for certain the millennial vote was higher than expected.
Q: Do you think some of that had to do with Beto O’Rourke?
Nathan: Some of it. I think the success of the Beto campaign was a combination of things. He was the most high-profile, exciting candidate, and he got people’s attention. But just getting people’s attention doesn’t ensure turn-out. So when people’s attention did come in, it was field work, ground game, campaigns like mine—We knocked on doors around the district more than 200,000 times. So you take the excitement of Beto, and you add the ground game that I’m running, and other really good candidates in my area were running, to make sure people were dialed in. Not just watching TV and saying, ‘Oh, I like Beto.’ They’re getting out and voting. They realize there are a whole slate of races that are important. That effort turned the Beto energy into something practical.
I don’t believe that Beto just carried me or anyone else into office. There was a demographic shift that carried some swathes of the electorate. My race benefited a bit from demographic shifts. It definitely benefited from Beto. But to a large extent I think Beto benefited from what we were doing on the ground to get voters out. And our message was compelling. We worked hard to get low-propensity voters, as well as republican voters, to vote for the democratic candidate.
Q: I saw on your website and social media that people were saying they have been lifelong conservatives but are supporting you because you have sensible ideas.
Also I think it says a lot about you as a person, that someone can go from being a lawyer to a DBZ composer, back to a lawyer, to a senator, all while maintaining a healthy family life and lifelong marriage. Congrats on your victory.
Nathan: Thank you.
I think that was part of the appeal of the campaign. The idea that, ‘Here’s somebody who has been serious about different things in life.’ It had a broader appeal. ‘Wow, this guy understands art, the passion for business, and he has a family. Cool. This is somebody I can believe in. I feel like he understands me.’
I’ve tried to live my life in a way where I’m serious about things, and have respect for different endeavors, different lives, and lifestyles. That should be a good recipe for politics, right?
Q: A person who is well-rounded and can relate to other human beings doesn’t sit on a gold toilet all day.
Nathan: No. Don’t want to do that!
Q: Here are some questions from fans.
Do you ever play the music you made for Dragon Ball Z, just for fun?
Nathan: I’m not sure I can find it, haha. My composing rig is very dusty. But occasionally I run across my music through somebody else, and it is fun and nostalgic to hear it. Some of it’s actually pretty good. Not all of it, haha.
Q: Will you try to be bi-partisan?
Nathan: Yes. Absolutely. It has been a central part of my campaign for a year-and-a-half.
Q: I was reading about the three-fifths rule in Texas, and the republican super majority, and they’re right on the edge of seats for controlling the senate. I guess that will put to the test whether or not democrats will work with republicans.
Nathan: Or whether we’ll be allowed to have a voice, even.
The three-fifths rule is interesting. Until a couple months ago, by flipping two senate seats we could break the three-fifths, eliminate the super majority, and force a little more cooperation. You’d still be in the minority, but if you want to get legislation passed you have to work together.
However, the democrats lost a seat a month ago when the incumbent was convicted (of running a Ponzi scheme). So the governor of the state, Greg Abbot, called a special election to be held a few weeks before early voting started. It was conducted before the real, big, general election. This confused people, and in the end they managed to take away a democratic seat with extremely low voter turnout.
So we flipped two seats, but we didn’t break the super majority because that other seat got lost in the meantime. But there’s only two years left in that term, so I think next cycle we’ll get that seat back.
I’m speaking as a democrat on the subject of bi-partisanship because by putting another democrat in there it forces a bit more bi-partisanship. The fact that I won, and the fact another democratic senator won, and that both of us beat very, very, ultra-conservative members of the legislature, suggests that taking far-right positions is dangerous. That forces a little more power back to the center.
Running as a democrat with bi-partisan ambitions, and winning, also suggests a blueprint for other democrats to get elected. Let’s focus on being productive. Let’s force the republicans to come to the center—let’s get in the center ourselves—and work.
Q: Like a functional democracy.
Nathan: Wouldn’t that be neat?
Q: What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get into office?
Nathan: Hire staff. Then I’ll try to get positions on committees where I think I can be helpful.
For legislation, we’re all going to work on school finance. That’s the top priority. Personally I’m going to try and survey the landscape and figure out where I can place myself to be the most useful.
Q: Do you plan to fund a Turtle Hermit martial arts school for kindergarteners? Or a Spirit Bomb University?
Nathan: I would, but with King Kai you have to die first to train with him, so you’d have to go to the afterlife to attend school, right?
Q: Good point! We’ll need to find a way around that.
To conclude, I wanted to see if you thought DBZ fans made a difference?
Nathan: I’ll never know how many DBZ fans voted, but I know they’re excited about it now. There’s a new awareness and excitement about politics among DBZ fans. I think that’s great.
Q: The goal was to get people engaged, right? And now they are, because of you, and they want you to represent them.
Nathan: And because of you.
Q: A small part. I’m glad to have helped your campaign, Nathan.
Nathan: I’m grateful.
Dragon Ball is a multicultural series with different religious, political, philosophical overtones and implications. And it’s fun.
Q: That’s true. Congrats on your victory!
Nathan: Thank you, Derek. It’s been fun talking to you during this journey. Thank you for being a part of it.
Part 1 of our interview, about Nathan’s life and composing for Dragon Ball Z.
Part 2, where Nathan announces he is running for the senate.
Part 3, where Nathan wins the primaries.