Book Review: Run for Something by Amanda Litman

Unhappy with the candidates on your ballot? Then Amanda Litman thinks you should add your name to the list. In Don’t Just March, Run for Something: A Real-Talk Guide to Fixing the System Yourself, Litman encourages readers to consider themselves for office. Don’t like the system? Change it from within!

While I am not ready to take the baton (at least not yet), reading this book was the first time I ever thought it even possible, and it certainly inspired me to become more active in the process.

Litman provides concrete ways to run for office at the federal, state and local level, though she spends the most time on state and local politics, as those are the arenas where most of us have the greatest likelihood of succeeding.

Not only are the state and local levels the areas in which you have the best chance to win, they are also the districts where you can make the greatest difference. No matter what some politicians say, states have a lot of power. If you can influence policy changes at the state or local-level, you can make a real difference on the policies that matter the most to you (and most influence your day-to-day life).

No interest in running for office? The book is still an excellent resource and a funny, entertaining read (surprising, given the subject matter).

As a voting citizen, it’s important to have concrete details about how elections work, which Litman provides. There are also some shocking revelations, such as how little state legislators make and how widespread uncontested elections are.

In fact, one of the most compelling reasons to run for office is to challenge these uncontested candidates. Even if you cannot beat the incumbent, running will add new ideas to the political conversation, and it may encourage non-voters to vote. Often, people say they don’t bother voting because they don’t like the candidates. Litman says that you could be the inspiration, the kick-in-the-pants, that someone needs to get involved.

The one criticism I had is that the book could be polarizing for readers on the right. Litman does admit that not all democrats are great, but she continually criticizes all Republicans, which is unfair. At the local level, I know several Republican politicians who are smart, caring and socially-minded people who do not want to see immigrants in cages or the poor dying in the streets because they don’t have health care (they also didn’t vote for Trump).

While I understand it is a contentious time in U.S. history, I would have liked to see an attempt to draw in rational Republicans. Yes, we should all become more involved in the system, but we should also try to once again have civil conversations with our neighbors.

All in all, though, this book brings hope in dark times and inspires all of us to become more active in our political system. I know that I will volunteer with upcoming local and federal campaigns, and I plan to do more to make sure others vote (on that note, not registered? You can register to vote here).

Even if you decide not to read the book or run, if you are a progressive, you will want to check out runforsomething.net. It is a web resource for progressive candidates, and it provides support for those running, a list of candidates in your area and tips on how you can help candidates.

Thinking about running or getting involved? Comment below! I’d love to hear your story.