Why You Should Run, Even Now. Especially Now.
By Jennifer Morales
It’s inspiring to see so many progressives stepping up to consider running for office after this disastrous, “unpresidented” election. I know it can be scary to consider putting yourself out there to run for election, especially if you’re wondering whether it actually matters, given the way the deck is stacked against the interests of the common people. As a former elected school board representative in the city of Milwaukee, and as a former candidate for city council and Wisconsin state senate, I want to share with you why it matters that good people run now, even if the majorities of our elected bodies are on one-party lockdown:
- You can raise issues that need to be heard, through hearings, town hall meetings, press conferences, etc. You can use these events to lift up the concerns of underrepresented communities and give them opportunities to be heard in the media and the halls of power.
- Terrible things are happening in state and federal government. Worse things are about to happen. We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of first-hand documentation of these events–for both immediate response and the historical record. We need you to bear witness.
- You can speak up for our higher values of clean and open government, for reason and fact-based decision making. You can demand public access to meetings and records. Even if you are outnumbered, don’t underestimate the power of public shaming to hold colleagues accountable. It sometimes pricks the right conscience at the right moment and changes the unfolding of events.
- You can be the “inside” of an inside/outside strategy. You can tip off activists to developments as they occur inside the halls of power and advise them on the best way to move their elected representatives.
- You can teach your constituents and others how the systems work and facilitate access to information.
- You can sometimes stop bad things from happening. This is a superpower that shouldn’t be undervalued at a time when so many bad things are going to be hurtling at us. Being a road block–or even just a speed bump–can buy precious time and sometimes be just what a vulnerable community or public asset needs.
- You can collaborate occasionally with moderate colleagues on common interests. They might not support your issue for the same reasons that you do, but a vote is a vote.
- You can be present for redistricting after the 2020 census. The extreme disenfranchisement that the billionaires have exacted on our communities needs to be reversed if we will ever wrest power back from the 1%. Redistricting isn’t just a congressional process. All levels of electeds are involved.
- You’ll be in office and ready to run when unexpected openings emerge, including leadership positions in the body in which you’re already serving. What if the school board president suddenly takes a job in another state or your city council member abruptly resigns because of scandal? As an already proven leader, you’re ready to seek these positions.
- You’ll have standing to run for higher office. This was the right-wing strategy for years: run people for school board, then state assembly, then Congress …
- You’ll be positioned for appointments to important boards, study committees, etc. Even if your colleagues are extremists, if you have a progressive or moderate in the executive office, that official can appoint you to those low-profile committees where your presence can sometimes make a big difference.
- Finally, you can use what you’ve learned to recruit and mentor other progressives to run. You can create a youth board to advise you on the concerns of the next generation, while preparing them to take charge. Lord knows, we’re going to need it.