When I told people that I was running for Congress, the usual response was: “Who asked you to run?” The truth is, nobody asked me. If we sat around waiting to be asked, there would be maybe three elected women in the entire United States of America.
When people think of politicians, they think of white men. So when parties are trying to recruit candidates, they will usually seek out white men. But this isn’t a 1950’s sock hop. You want to dance? Grab your friends and get on the floor.
And, please, do not wait until you feel 100% prepared. As women, we always want to make sure we know all of the answers before we raise our hands. Well, that’s not going to happen, so take a clue from male politicians. Raise your hand. Step up. Fake it ‘til you make it. If they can do it, so can you.
Running for office is a little like becoming a parent for the first time. In the best of circumstances, you’re in a committed relationship, you’ve made the decision to have children, you talk to friends, you’ve read What to Expect and you jump in with both feet. Of course, once your children arrive you realize that absolutely nothing prepared you for parenthood, except that everything did.
Well, the same is true about running for office. You don’t need to know “how to run”. You will surround yourself with people who are smart and capable and you will do what you always do: Trust your instincts.
The single most important thing you need to do is determine why you want to run.
So before you take another step, answer the “Why?”. The “Why?” is what you will need to fall back on as you spend hours away from your family. The “Why?” will help when you ask friends to chip in a few of their hard earned dollars so you can print your first walk card.
And the “Why?” will keep you true to yourself. Voters might not be able to articulate why they favor a candidate, but it’s usually because they sense authenticity. They might not agree with all of your policy ideas, but if voters believe in your “Why?” they will believe in you.
Running for office is hard. It’s long hours on the phone trying to drum up money and support. It’s going out in the rain, cold and blistering heat knocking on doors asking your neighbors for their vote. It’s attending political events and shaking hands with lots of men in windbreakers. Your laundry won’t get done. The dog will look at you longingly. Your refrigerator will be empty. Your kitchen table will be turned into campaign headquarters.
But you will meet some extraordinary people. You will find out that your friends are incredible and you will realize how lucky you are to have them in your life. Your kids will learn how to do the laundry and your husband will learn how to cook. And the dog will love you no matter what!
So if you don’t like what you’re seeing, get off of Facebook. Stop watching Rachel. Listen to President Barack Obama: Grab a clipboard and run for something. No matter the outcome, you’ll be glad you did.