There are 500,000 elected positions in the United States. I’ll say that again: 500,000. And that’s no accident. “Our political system is built on the premise that running for office is something that a broad group of citizens should want to do,” writes political scientist Jennifer Lawless.
But Lawless’s research reveals something scary — something that helps explain the political moment we’re in. Participating in politics has begun to repulse the average America. 89 percent of high schoolers says they’ve already decided they will never run for office. 85 percent doubt elected officials want to help people. 79% don’t think politicians are smart or hardworking. And when good, normal people turn away from politics, the system breaks down.
Well, be the change you want to see in the world.
Lawless is the director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University. Her recent book, along with co-author Richard Fox, is “Running from Office: Why Young Americans Are Turned Off to Politics.” Her work, which details why young people and women are increasingly turned off by a political system that badly needs their participation, has never been more essential.
This is an inspiring discussion, or at least I think it is. It’s about the steps in political participation that come after Facebook posts and even marches. It’s about how involving yourself directly in the daily work of politics is both easier and more meaningful than you might think. It’s about the myths that keep people — and particularly keep women — from ever considering running for office. It’s about recognizing that politics is much more than the presidency and the Congress, and that the opportunities it offers to make the world you live in a bit better are more numerous than you think.
Lawless practices what she preaches. She ran for Congress in Rhode Island, and her story of that race, as well as the best advice she got while running it, should not be missed.
I hear from a lot of people who feel powerless right now. But they’re not powerless. This podcast is for them.
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