What Can I Do?
For the past week I’ve been flooded with messages from friends on both sides of the aisle reacting to the election. The comments have ranged from elation to anger, from relief to anxiety. It’s hard for anyone alive today to recall a more divisive and polarizing election than this one. It’s also hard to remember an election that has been more analyzed and dissected. What happened here was not simple, and its complexities exist against the much bigger backdrop of the sweeping changes in American culture and America’s political paradigm. I’ve read many compelling perspectives in the last week on everything from the future of the Republican Party to the need for electoral college reform. For your analyzing pleasure, you can read my take on how Trump won here.
Everyone needs to express their feelings in their own way, and we should all respect the fact that for many people, those feelings are intense. One data point in this election, however, is getting very little attention: 2016 saw the lowest voter turnout in 20 years. 25% of all Americans cast votes for Trump, 25% voted for Clinton, 50% did not vote. We also know that this year’s candidates were the first and second most disliked presidential candidates in history. Among those who voted for the two leading candidates, a large percentage said they had concerns about them as leaders even as they voted for them.
Out of this election, one thing is very clear: there has never been a more urgent need for a new generation of civic and political leadership with innovative ideas on how to bring the country together and how to establish a new consensus to move forward into the future. Many so-called institutional political leaders have either lost their mandate, courage, connection to the national mood, ability to govern, or some combination of all four. We need people to step up to run for office, to work on new kinds of campaigns, to work at the forefront of major policy debates, and to work in government. The best way to change the system is to join it. We need a new generation to stand up and lead. We need people to run and to serve.
For the last several years I’ve run a bipartisan organization called Run for America that works to identify, recruit, train and help support a new generation of leaders to run for office. Over the past week, we’ve been inundated with queries from people asking what can I do? How can I step up? How can I participate in changing today’s bleak political realities? Today, we’re thrilled to share an answer for all of you.
We’ve been working with an extraordinary team to build a program called Pathways which launches this week. If you’re reading this, it’s probably made for you. It’s a program designed to help those who want to figure out their own tangible, actionable, and meaningful pathway to civic leadership independent of party, outside interests or organizations. Throughout the program we will bring together citizens from different backgrounds, party affiliations, geographies, interests, ideas, and experiences; no more self-reinforcing silos. Together, we will create an environment focused on addressing political and civic change most important to you. Along the way, our participants will gain new experiences and perspective while building new, but lasting relationships with a diverse peer group. Kickoff events for Pathways begin in January 2017. When the program concludes you may be ready to run for office, lead a campaign, work in government, or help change a policy that affects a community you care about.
If you want in, here’s all you need to do: click here to nominate someone (including yourself) to be a civic leader and join Pathways. You’ll hear from us very soon.
We need you to step up because the number of us who can change things is far greater than the number who can keep them the same.