This morning, as I sat pondering our “stable genius” of a President, I saw this tweet from my friend Amanda Littman:
While Trump is tweeting, somewhere there’s a sharp as hell woman thinking about running for office but second-guessing her intelligence or qualifications.
— Amanda Litman (@amandalitman) January 6, 2018
And it got me thinking, because, y’know… she’s absolutely right.
We’re getting into the 2018 electoral season, and I know there’s a LOT of you (female or otherwise) who are mulling over running for office. Now, certainly, it’s not a decision to be undertaken lightly. Committing to public service is a helluva thing to consider- but it’s also the single most important thing anyone who wants to make a difference can do, because unless we have candidates willing to run for something, we cannot win. End of story.
But you can do it.
Yeah, it’s tough- “stable genius” or no, running for office ain’t easy. I know it first hand. It’s been a little over a year since I embarked on the journey of a lifetime in running for the Virginia House of Delegates. I live in one of the toughest districts in the entire state- an estimated Cook score of R+16, with an opponent who was a local institution unto himself. He’d only been challenged three times in his almost two-decade career, and regularly raised hundreds of thousands of dollars even running unopposed, starting this year with almost three quarters of a million dollars in his bank account.
Me? I was just an emergency department nurse, with no political experience whatsoever. I’d worked for OFA in 2008, but other than that, my “political experience” amounted to front-page musings from my pseudonym on blogs like DailyKos, The Motley Moose, Blue Virginia, and even MyDD waaaay back in the stone age of the Netroots.
I had no political connections. No training. No money. No idea what I was going to do. There’s nothing special about me at all, other than my wife and the three beautiful kids we were trying to do our best to raise.
But I had a burning fire in the depths of my soul to help save our Commonwealth and our Republic. And I knew that even one person standing up against all odds can make that singular difference that breaks down a barrier, flips the “conventional wisdom”… or even helps flip the political control of an entire state.
You can do it. I’m not saying it’s not gonna be tough- it will be incredibly tough. It will test you like nothing you’ve ever done before. But you absolutely can do it.
Do you know why?
- We’re here for you.
My campaign was largely built from the Netroots; it was sites like this one that helped me build our campaign. Everything from small-dollar donations to literally just people emailing and commenting on how to be a better candidate, who I became was shaped by the folks here. I didn’t take every idea or suggestion that came along, but every one we got made me think, consider, and shape the direction we went in. We were truly a crowdsourced campaign, and were all the better for it.
That goodwill and support wasn’t just for me. Step up here, and ask for help, and our community will deliver. But it’s not just here in the Netroots; it’s in the progressive community across the country. People are craving principled leaders. People authentic to their communities, who can speak to the concerns facing their everyday lives. Give yourself to them, and they’ll return the favor.
- The barriers to entry are getting lower and lower
When I called the Virginia House Caucus to ask them about running, the first question I was asked was, bluntly: “Do you have, or can you raise, $250,000?”
This is a gate the precludes almost everyone from getting into politics- and even that is considered to be “not that much” as far as Virginia goes. In one of the debates we had, my opponent (a lawyer) said shamelessly (to a nurse!) that he “wasn’t rich”, and therefore we needed no campaign finance reform, because otherwise how would people be able to run for office?
But I didn’t need $250k to run for office. What I needed was training. Experience. Advice.! And I owe our success to the support we got early on, in the nascent part of our campaign, when you “don’t know what you don’t know.” Organizations like Run For Something and the PCCC helped us with mentors. Training. Advice. Infrastructure. Tom Perriello’s organization, Win Virginia, which he chaired in the wake of losing the gubernatorial primary here last June, stepped in and did the same thing. And there are literally dozens of organizations out there, from EMERGE (geared towards helping women), Run For Something (millenials), the Progressive Campaign Change Committee, Democracy for America… the list goes on and on.
As long as you’re willing to listen, learn, and are ready to make mistakes and be able to move on from them? You don’t need inherited wealth. You don’t need establishment credentials. You can do it- and these organizations will help prepare you to do what you need to do to run and win.
- There aren’t any requirements to run, other than willingness to work hard and listen.
Look, y’all, there’s absolutely nothing special about me. The things I’ve been through, that I’ve done- deploying to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, being in the ER here in Charlottesville on 12-AUG, toting my daughter around campus from class to class as a nursing student, running for school board on an “everyone deserves school lunch” platform, etc- those are all great stories, and make me who I am… but they’re not special.
I guarantee there are literally dozens of folks reading this now who have the same stories as I do- and probably with more hardship, strife, and turmoil they had to overcome. With more experience than I have/had. And certainly more than our esteemed President, but to be entirely fair, that particular bar is so low that whale (excrement) looks like shooting stars compared to it.
But it doesn’t take anything like any of that to run for office- it just takes someone willing to stand up. To go out of your comfort zone. To listen to people- and I mean really listen, not just wait for your turn to talk. Not just falling back on buzz words and focus-group tested statements. Listening. And meaning it when you say you want to make people’s lives better.
- Progressivism represents our country
One of the biggest hunches I had, that we proved out on the campaign trail, is that Progressivism isn’t some crazy, left-wing idea espoused only by the libbiest libs that ever libbed. Progressivism is the new American center. Much in the same way that the Affordable Care Act was popular but Obamacare wasn’t, Progressive policy planks have wide support- sometimes overwhelmingly so! As with anything, the key is linking these policies to everyday people. Relating it to them. Making it make sense to THEIR lives and THEIR families.
Things like Wall Street reform. Criminal justice reform. Net neutrality. Debt-free college. Single-payer. All of those things have wide, bipartisan support- you just need to tell people how it’ll affect THEM positively. Like that Medicare-for-All means freedom for you to pursue YOUR dreams. Contrary to the BS the Republicans sneer, that doesn’t mean the government is telling you what to do or taking control of your life- just the opposite! It means we want to FUEL your ability to do it- and how many times have you heard someone say, “I would quit my job, do what I love, stay home with my kids, start a new business… but I don’t DARE lose my health insurance”?
We have the right ideas. We have the right plans for EVERY American. And Americans LIKE those plans! Approve of them! The only thing WE have to do is go out and FIGHT for them!
- We need you.
The bottom line? You can do it- and we NEED you to do it. It’s a long road ahead to save the Republic, and we need your help leading the charge. Climate change. Income inequality. The erosion of our democratic norms and traditions- these are all very serious problems that will jeopardize our lives, and our children’s lives, if we don’t tackle them immediately.
Start today. School board. Board of supervisors. City council. Mayor. State legislator. Congress! Democrats are only 17 candidates away from achieving the unthinkable and having a candidate running for every single congressional seat in 2018.
Let’s fuel a revolution, and empower a new generation of responsive and accountable leadership that will help propel our country forward!