We Must Stay Engaged In The Political Process

by Liz Hunter-Keller

Sometimes, when you put your heart into a candidate, it can feel like a personal referendum if they lose. I have anguished and seen my loved ones anguish over political losses in the last year more than I ever have in my lifetime; each loss felt so damn personal. The latest heartbreak, for many, was from Nikkita Oliver’s close loss in the Seattle mayoral primary.

When our candidate loses, who can blame us for wanting to give up and tune out? Surely it must hurt less to disengage than to feel that crushing loss. Surely taking on the forces of institutions and societal norms and big money and big business is hopeless.

To those of you who have continued to stay engaged in the political process despite feeling those crushing losses, thank you.

To the rest of us I say: the way we elect women like Nikkita is to keep supporting women like Nikkita to run. That means not giving up the first (or 50th) time we are set back, not throwing our hands up, but rather staying engaged and holding those who were elected accountable. The next election feels far away but it isn’t. Support new candidates. Hold elected officials accountable. And vote.

Supporting new candidates means working to elect not just the best politician you know, but the best person you know.

Think of the most amazing person in your life: The one that always makes time to help others, even when working full time, or parenting full time, or working and parenting full time. Maybe she’s your mom, or your sister, or your best friend. Maybe they’re the colleague you always want on your team, or the boss you always want to impress. Maybe he’s a member of your church or PTA or community center.

Now consider what it would take to get that person elected to office. Have they expressed interest? Can you do a little research, propose the subject, and walk them through initial steps? This year, dozens of organizations big and small popped up to support womxn and people of color to run for office, so you don’t have to run the campaign on your own.

Emerge Washington, part of Emerge America, for example, is actively training womxn from diverse backgrounds to run for local office. Amplify recruits, trains, and elects people for state and local office in the Northwest. Nationally, Color of Change, a nonprofit that supports black Americans, has a program called OrganizeFor, that facilitates petition and campaign building.

Or, you can start your own party. The People’s Party didn’t start with Nikkita; it started with a dedicated group of activists who had identified issues they felt were inadequately addressed by current and prior city government. Nikkita spoke for those issues, and to those people.

Meanwhile, hold the people elected accountable. Remind them who they work for—not just in the rhetorical sense, but in the literal sense—write to them, go to meetings, ask questions at town halls. Not just during election season, but every month. Remind them who you are. 

And vote. If you’re not registered to vote, do it here. And remember that local elections can be decided by a hundred people. Remember that local politicians often go on to national positions. Remember that major Federal legislation often passes or fails thanks to a single vote.

Think of the most amazing person in your life. Start talking to them about running for office now.

Liz Hunter-Keller, is the Communications Chair for the Womxn’s March on Seattle. On the anniversary of the worldwide Women’s Marches, Seattle Womxn’s March is organizing Womxn Act on Seattle: A citywide day of action. Find more about the event here: seattlewomxnmarchingforward.org

Featured image by Alex Garland