Run for Something: A Real-Talk Guide to ...
In the wake of the 2016 election there has been a wave of people who have decided they will run for office. Seats previously left uncontested, leaving the incumbent to coast to re-elections were challenged. Seats previously held by one party comfortably for years, maybe even decades, were flipped to the other party. In an off-year election, usually there is little interest in running for office. Not this time.
Author Litman is one of the people behind the organization called Run for Something. You may have heard of it as a group that helps recruit young people (although it's my understanding you don't have to be young) to run for local office. Litman lays out why people should run, how to do it (or at least a blueprint), and an overview of what to expect. There's breaking down of campaign roles. Testimonies from campaign people and candidates/officeholders who won on how and why they did it. There are explanations as to why Litman urges people to run and what both the candidate and the community (and even the opponent) can gain from running (even if the candidate loses to a long-term incumbent).
I don't want to run for office and wasn't convinced by the book to run (but I wasn't looking to be so). And while I've never worked on a campaign I've worked in supporting roles and around campaigns, so much of this was familiar to me. But I still got a lot out of it by Litman's breakdown of everything. The media tends to focus on "big" races like President, governorships, Congress, etc. Your local school board or state House/Senate probably doesn't get a lot of print or airwaves unless something scandalous breaks. I really appreciated Litman's look at these local races and breaking down how running for your local school board is going to be extremely different than a massive operation like running for president. There's a very good chance that it'll just be you and a couple of friends (one friend?) who will be helping you and I'm glad Litman was honest about that.
That said, the book is not without its problems (that might not be a problem but me being nitpicky). I really wish there had been an appendix or further reading or resources guide at the end. There's a glossary but no index, either. The book is fairly well-organized and the index wasn't necessary (especially with Google) but this guide is not (and I don't think should be) an end-all because as Litman says herself she can't break down every single thing in a campaign. She does urge the reader to Google and to get in touch with local organizations but a resource guide at the end would have been great. Also, if you're a Republican or conservative or on the right, etc. Litman makes it pretty clear she's a Democrat, despite all the problems with the Democratic Party and its members and gears her book to that audience/aligned people and groups. So you've been warned. Litman also does occasionally cuss but it's not overbearing. If that's something that *really* bothers you, though, then you should perhaps put down the book and not run for office because you'll be shocked by the language on a campaign.
I also say that as a starter guide it also doesn't really address what particular issues women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBT individuals, etc. may face. Litman does note that certain groups may have particular issues or resources that are geared towards them but beyond stating that people will sometimes be mean and/or unhelpful and not to let it get to you the book the book doesn't really address needs of candidates from groups that might need to adjust or find other resources.
So I'm also not sure if it's true that Litman says you don't need a thick skin to run for local office.While it's true they're probably not as vicious as a Congressional/Presidential (or even Governor's) race but in the age of social media sometimes you can find local races even more mean because it's local and there is a chance you know someone or know someone who knows someone, etc. This might be just me, though. And I appreciate that Litman (and others) were very honest at how brutal a campaign can be on one personally in terms of health, family, friendships, etc.
As a sidenote: I think that even if you don't want to run, don't want to volunteer for a campaign (which Litman urges people to do if they don't want to run or don't want to run right now), the book is enormously helpful in understanding campaign basics. No, you don't get a convoluted breakdown of campaign finance laws or how various groups work with each other. But I really couldn't help but think of arguments/memes that betrayed a genuine lack of understanding of campaign structures, how they function, etc. There are a lot of people who would benefit from reading this book. As Litman herself says, this has to go beyond marching and complaining. Change will only come if one runs for office and WINS. And the voters can do their part by not only showing up to vote (and helping others vote) but by actually understanding what a campaign does and what a candidate (and their staff) may have to go through.
Overall I liked it. I didn't know what to expect and I really just wanted to support her and RFS. I don't think I've read a book quite like this before but I'd say it's a good place to start if you want to run for office and want something that's not online/to keep with you. Might make an excellent gift for a potential candidate or campaign staffer too.
Decisions are made by those who show up. Good luck in your campaign.