This week we have an excellent guest post by Jessica Troilo, a resident of Morgantown, West Virginia. She tells her story of the post-election aftermath, considering running for office, and what being involved has meant for her.
As the election results rolled in, we shut off the TV and went to bed feeling a sense of doom. I wish this was an exaggeration, but it felt awful. I don’t think I was alone in that or in the feelings of depression, anxiety, hopelessness, etc. that followed. That made things a bit more tolerable. At the same time, people began talking of resistance. For example, many of the Pantsuit Nation Facebook pages became focused on organizing. Great. This was perfect. This kind of organizing is what gave us the Women’s March. Locally, progressives also became mobilized and focused. One of the first steps was to assess local leadership and city council. It just so happened that the ward I live in was one that was targeted for new and progressive leadership. I was so in. To be perfectly honest, I was so ready to do something – anything – to help make something good come out of the election that I didn’t fully think through what I could do. Things moved very quickly after I mentioned I’d be interested in a possible city council run. I didn’t expect that…and, also very quickly, a sinking feeling started to settle. I had, and have, zero political experience and about the same amount of knowledge of local politics. After talking to a few people and reading a bit (okay, it was googling…), I realized I was way in over my head.
Despite the fact that 45 has zero political knowledge and despite the fact that he has zero knowledge of constitutional law or of the constitution itself, I didn’t want to run for, or potentially occupy, a position of power where I perceived I had no knowledge. I believe elected officials have a responsibility to know where their constituents live, what their needs are, and what is in their best interests. You can’t do that without knowledge. So…my potential run lasted maybe a total of 2 days. The wonderful news is that not long after I ended my run, Ryan Wallace entered the race, and we’d be lucky to have him represent us.
So what should you do if you decide to run for office? Thankfully, there are many sources of advice. One Huffington Post included tips for people thinking of entering a race. Not surprisingly, many of the tips centered on learning what race is the most appropriate to enter, networking both online and off, and working hard.
New York Civic, a nonprofit created in 2002, is responsible for many different types of civic engagement, including providing advice for elected officials. They created a series of YouTube videos called Candidate College. It’s a series of short videos from elected officials about their experiences running for office.
Even WikiHow provides a thorough summary (with pictures!) of the many steps a person needs to take to run for city council. The information on this link is fairly simplistic, but provides a succinct overview of the many things to consider before considering a run.
There are many, many, many more sites that can provide information (over 30 million, based on a quick Google search). Offline, people can attend city council meetings and neighborhood association meetings to learn more about their local communities. I don’t know if running for office is in my cards for the future, but I believe that learning about the policies that impact our families and communities locally is empowering for anyone.
And I have found a way to be engaged. I am now on the executive committee of my county Democratic party.