Boston Globe: No one is coming to save us. We need to save ourselves by running for office.

Over the last few weeks, it has felt like the hits just keep coming: Supreme Court decisions rolled back progress on gun control, climate change, and access to abortion care, while the Jan. 6 committee hearings in Congress illustrated exactly how deep the Republican Party’s commitment to undermining democracy went.

In response, Democrats in Congress and the White House haveurged Americans to vote; after all, without the supermajority of votes needed to pass legislation (or even the simple majority needed to abolish the filibuster so they could do the same for legislation), there is little hope for meaningful action from the federal government that meets the urgency of the multiple crises our country is facing.

It can feel like no one is coming to save us. That’s because there isn’t. There is no superhero waiting in the wings to swoop in and solve all our problems. Instead, the way forward is both much harder and much simpler: We need to save ourselves by running for and winning local office.

That’s where people like you — parents, teachers, nurses, artists, refugees, scientists, musicians, students, and more — come in. There are more than 500,000 elected offices in the United States, and you should run for one of them. This might seem like an off-the-wall idea, but as cofounder of Run for Something, an organization that recruits and supports young people running for office, I have seen what happens when ordinary people step up todo somethingextraordinary: Putting their name on the ballot. We’ve helped thousands of people run and have elected nearly 650 across nearly every state, mostly women and people of color, all under the age of 40, all first-time candidates.

Thu Nguyen won an at-large seat on the Worcester City Council in 2021. They is the first Southeast Asian American elected to office in Worcester and was endorsed by Run for Something.
Thu Nguyen won an at-large seat on the Worcester City Council in 2021. They is the first Southeast Asian American elected to office in Worcester and was endorsed by Run for Something. HANDOUT

On nearly every issue — abortion, climate change, gun violence, and democracy itself — the path to progress (or at the very least, harm reduction) will be led by state and local leaders. Abortion access will be determined by state legislators setting the parameters for health care; municipal elected leaders can respond in kind with ordinances that do everything from decriminalizing the procedure within city limits to adjusting police budgets and priorities to funding infrastructure so patients can leave the city or state to get the care they need. District attorneys have discretion over what crimes they choose to prosecute; hundreds have already said they will not charge abortion providers or patients, no matter what state law might say.

On climate, as the federal government languishes, local leaders like Phoenix City Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari have proved they can cut greenhouse gas emissions through shifts in transit and building codes. On gun violence, every level of government can act to reduce access to dangerous weapons and deepen our commitment to keeping communities safe. And on democracy, as the Jan. 6 hearings have shown, the rot in the Republican Party runs deep — all the way down to local election administrators, who can decide what technology to use, how transparent the process is, where polling places are located and when they are open, and how easy it is for folks to show up at the polls.

Running for office may seem like an impossible task meant only for the wealthy or old or white or male (or any combination of those traits). But you can and must step up, especially if you are not what a “traditional” leader looks like. Your unique life experience is what makes you a necessary fit for office at a time when marginalized communities in particular are under attack.

Even if you lose the first time out, your work will not be wasted. The doors knocked on for school board candidates and city council races help gin up turnout for the rest of the ticket. Your campaign can help build long-term power.

The losses of the last few months can feel overwhelming. It would be easy and even understandable to give up on electoralism entirely. But the way the other side racked up these victories, especially their victory in overturning Roe v. Wade, was by running for and winning power at the local level over the course of decades. We have to take on the same strategy to fight back, and commit to it for the long haul. Run for office and be part of this fight.

Amanda Litman is co-founder and co-executive director of Run for Something.

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