God I hope you read this one.
Someone working with the Democratic Party approached me and encouraged me to run for US House of Representatives. It’s a red district in a blue state, but the district went for Hillary in ’16, and has gone for democratic presidential candidates since at least 2000.
Coke, I’ll barely be 30 by election day. I have no formal government experience, but I am politically active in small ways. The thought of running for something this big is terrifying, but the incumbent is a dick, and I keep coming back to the fact that even though it’s scary, somebody has to do it. Why not me?
I have major imposter syndrome about doing this, but at the same time it feels like the rulebook has been thrown out and everything is upside down. Since the 2016 election I’ve been thinking more and more about running for something, but didn’t think I actually would for another decade or so. It feels crazy and unattainable, and yet maybe a millennial with healthcare experience is exactly who we need in office right now. Maybe it’s time for a paradigm shift.
I guess my question is: should I do this?
Fuck yes, you should do it. Run. Campaign your face off. Win.
You’re young, but you are ready for this. I know it seems terrifying, and I get the whole impostor syndrome thing, but I promise, you can totally do the job. Not to be a dick, but a trained monkey could do the job. Congress is filled with idiots and empty haircuts. You’ll be shocked at how many grinning simpletons there are and how few noble geniuses. You can be one of the good ones. I’m serious. You really can do it.
Let me know if you need any help. If you decide to run, I’ll be there for you every step of the way. Hell, if you turn out to be cool, I might even help raise you some money.
Go on. Do it. Get on out there and fight the good fight.
20 thoughts on “On running for congress”
Real people need to run for government. Do it.
To other people who are interested but unsure at the moment – volunteer sometime to help a candidate out. It’s a really enlightening experience to see how local candidates run on the ground campaigns. It will also build you some connections to the future and possibly build a meager amount of influence. Politics seems like it’s so far away but a lot of the work is done on foot and by phone.
Holy shit, the idea of a congressperson with healthcare experience that isn’t on the dirty end just blows my mind. Then on top of it, someone who is worried about doing a good job?! Kaplow!
Do it! We are in dire need of people like you.
Please do this. What an awesome question. This gives me hope.
Do your homework. Let a trusted friend to check you so your imposter syndrome doesn’t sneak up on you through this process.
You need to start contacting people and learn more. Only make this decision when you are better informed.
Who asked you and what was their rationale? The first thing is to start asking others in the party for their take on the situation. Contact county and state representatives of the DNC and the DCCC. Work local to state. Call the county chair first, then the state DNC political director. How do they feel about your candidacy? Why you? Are they asking multiple candidates and do they expect a primary (they probably do). How do they expect you to fundraise? Where will the money come from? How much will they give you to get started? Why aren’t more “regular” and “seasoned” candidates running? Most importantly of all, do you feel as though a single person liked you and asked you to run, or do you think multiple people like you and are excited for you to run?
Find out who said no.
Look at the incumbent Republican. How much did s/he win the election by last time and how long has s/he been in?
Its probably not a good sign if they ask you to use your own money.
It’s good if you already have a base of recognition in the community. That base doesn’t have to come from politics.
There are two things to realize here: 1) you have political potential to the DNC, 2) this might not be the right race (again, don’t let imposter syndrome get you just because I said that). If this position seems like a race that no one will touch, find another position that needs to be filled. Either way, run.
There is no level of politics that I’m aware of that you are not expected to use at least some of your own money. That said, the number of people who can fund a campaign out of their own pocket is very small, so unless the OP is quite wealthy, that’s not an issue. But your steps are tremendously helpful, so thanks!
The bf is an ex-politico and its his #1 rule. Ok, maybe use your own money… for driving places and small small stuff, but otherwise, never use your own money.
Shrug. Idk, I just asked him when I saw this post.
Oh, I do hope she does it! We need more young people with drive to tip Congress blue and fight some good fights.
OP, I don’t know who you are (or what state you’re in,) but regardless, get in touch with Kamala Harris’ office (D-CA.) They’ve been reaching out to people who are considering running so they very likely have some concrete steps you can look at on building a campaign from the ground up.
Best of luck! Hope you do it! And lemme know if you do – I’ll throw a little chunk of change your way (however much I can!)
Democracy needs outsiders, left-fields, and young guns to kick the shit out and clean things up.
You don’t see any of these other corporate shills suffering from imposter syndrome as they suck hard at the teat of their various special interests. Why should you? In fact you’ll be the one who really SHOULD be there because you’re not doing it for yourself or to serve your particular cartel, but you’ll be there to make a difference. And that should be the only qualification you need.
Forget the imposter syndrome, though that may be a good sign that you’re a decent person who makes thoughtful choices. Of the many things you must consider is: Do you want to be famous? Because you will be a little famous at least for a little while.
Now everyone wants to be famous on some level, but are you willing to accept what you cannot embrace?
Yes! And let us know how to help fund your run. There is a lot of money looking for good places to land.
Do it. If a total incompetent like Trump ran for office why can’t you?
This post gave me goosebumps and hope. Run. Don’t look back.
Go! Go! Go!
I’ll vote for anyone who reads Dear Coquette. Hells yeah!
Yes, good idea to run. Monichromicon (sp?) is correct on all accounts. Get a good consultant, and you’ll need a campaign manager. Stake out a few positions, make them into short sound bites, and repeat them over and over. Run to win–not to just make a point. Learn the issues really well so that you can know the other side’s point and how to counteract it. Emotion counts–that’s what gets people to act–so be confident.
One big thing to be aware of: getting a big head, which I think is the impostor thing folks are speaking to in the above comments. Fame is vicious, even on small levels–I’ve had a taste of such, and you get weirdos trying to cash in. That, coupled with the fantasy of what it would be like to be elected and doing the job, can hit you big-time.
Here’s the big thing–you have to be all in. Having run twice before, in 2004 and 2006, for a county-wide seat, I know it takes a huge commitment and it’s a roller-coaster ride. Some days you’ll feel great, other days you’ll question your motive. Your character will be assailed, but if you can remember folks are actually talking about themselves, you’ll be fine.
But go all in. When I think about running again, this fall, for city council here in Marin, I get that heavy feeling of not being all in, so I don’t know if I am going to run, or how I’ll run. I can’t stand the idea of the two incumbents waltzing in with no opposition, but that might not be enough.
Hope this helps…
DO IT! Run! Win!
I’m happy to help on your campaign. I’m an American living abroad, so whatever help I offer will have to be remote. I’m happy to make phone calls on your behalf.
More than open to other suggestions from the broader community of Coquette readers on how I–and folks in my situation–can help out.
For starters, please add me to your mailing list.
Keep us posted!
Please do run. You are qualified to serve in the House. If you have a moral compass and read rad shit like this blog you’ll be one of the best people in the room. Your youth and idealism will work for you here.
Know that you’re not alone in this. Young people in this country are waking up in light of the current shit show. More people already have your back than you realize.
The campaign will be rough. People will be shitty to you. You’ll need lots of money and some of it will come from assholes who think they can buy you. Rise above that crap, work hard, and win.
America fucking needs you.
Please do run, we need a return to true citizen legislators. I would do it but there are issues that would cause me to fry trying. I’ll donate!
Listen to Ezra Klein’s interview with Jennifer Lawless (literally “on why you — yes, you — should run for office”) – she makes some good arguments, and lists a few resources for women in particular:
It’s me, the original poster. It’s been a year and a half, and I thought I’d give you an update:
I decided not to run for Congress.
Instead, I volunteered for multiple campaigns and initiatives to door knock, send texts, and make phone calls to get voters to turn out for progressive causes and candidates. Last year, I worked on a campaign to flip a state senate seat blue, and with that one seat we were able to completely shift the power from the Republicans to the Democrats in my state legislature. It was epic. It was my first time ever canvassing.
I organized my coworkers and we joined a union. It took months and had many ups and downs, but we were able to save 25% of our coworkers jobs. While we are still bargaining some of the details, we got ourselves a seat at the table and demanded respect for our work.
I started attending my local legislative district’s Democratic party meetings. Then I ran for a minor board position with that org. The board was a mess. But now, after 10 months on the board, I was elected as the new Chair. I am the first female Chair in over a decade.
I recently attended my state party’s committee meeting, where I got to vote on new rules and bylaws for our state organization. We voted to make our state party more inclusive by adding racial and gender parity to the executive board, and adjusted language in our charter to make everything gender neutral. We passed resolutions that support union jobs, protect the environment, and pressured the national party not to accept corporate PAC money.
Coke, I am 30 years old. I work a full time job not in politics, and while I am sleeping less and often much busier, this is where I feel I need to be. I’m slowly inching my state along, and meeting incredible people along the way.
I wanted to check in and tell you (and anyone reading this) that you don’t have to run for Congress to affect change. You don’t have to have the shiny title to get shit done. This shit starts at home. And while it’s messy, anxiety-inducing, scary grind, it’s fucking necessary.
Let’s get shit done.