My senior year of college I joined a team of entrepreneurs who would go on to run the nonpartisan, nonprofit United Leaders. United Leaders’ mission was to bridge the “service gap” between public service and political service by recruiting idealistic young people and training them to run for public office. We deeply believed that the only way to change politics was to replace the politicians with better people- idealists who would put the good of the nation above self interest and party and be willing to lose an election in order to do what was right. We worked for six years in Boston, DC and San Francisco, training and identifying young people who we thought had the potential to change the country. And, while we eventually stopped doing this work, I believe now more than ever we need programs like United Leaders. Thankfully we have organizations such as New Politics, Run for Something and She Should Run picking up the slack.
Unfortunately, as I have learned from the co-founder of Occupy Micah White, protest is broken and is no longer an effective means of political persuasion. I support Black Lives Matter as I supported Occupy, but what tangible outcomes have manifested because of those protest movements? I also supported the Women’s March, but I have come to realize that protest is no longer a sharp tool. Over time, politicians have become used to protest. Eventually, the movement goes home and all we are left with is a few, often violent, reminders of what took place. As David Frum wrote in the Atlantic, the protests and especially the violence embolden Trump. He uses the images to rally his base and paint the protestors as anti-American. We need better and more effective options for making change.
Trump is a politician unlike any we have ever seen. He threw out the traditional political playbook and seems to write his own rules. Scandals do not phase him. Protest does not shame him. When we think he is on the verge of defeat or defeated he snatches victory from the clouds. We have to admit that what we have been doing is not effective in stopping him. In the Trump age we must be more creative and find new ways to stop his agenda.
Consider for a second that in these times we must have laser like focus on effective tools to persuade the public and our politicians. We must recruit and support bold and idealistic people to run for public office. As I said, the opposition is emboldened by protest. If we want change, we must replace the opposition with leaders who we can support. We need leaders at every level who are committed to fighting Trump’s agenda. What are our options otherwise? Continue to protest? Pray for impeachment? What happens if impeachment never comes? And, if it does what will we do to then resist Pence? We need a plan to put in action now that will bring The Resistance power and also push back the opposition going far into the future.
The main difference between the Tea Party and most American protest movements is that the Tea Party was able to sustain by organizing their anger into political action. They put themselves in power. And, now, we must do the same. If you have ever considered running for political office and consider yourself part of The Resistance, now is the time to run. The Resistance needs leaders at every level of government so think as small or as big as you want. But, now is the time.
The Resistance can be a successful movement, but victory will not come through protest. We must be more strategic. How often do we wish that we had better politics in America? Better politics can be achieved through an organized effort to empower better politicians. I am sure that I no longer have to convince most of you of the importance of voting. But, I am sure that many of you are still unsure about running. We need you. When I worked on Obama’s campaign in 2008 I constantly heard the phrase “we are the leaders we’ve been waiting for.” I believe this wholeheartedly. But, it takes more than social media posts and marching in the streets. Now we need to run.