Episode 96: See You on the ballot
Published June 9, 2017.
Aminatou: Ann, I want to tell you about Ross Martin's brand new podcast brought to you by Viacom. It's called Fan Club and it's about why we love what we love.
Ann: Every episode focuses on a different aspect of what it means to be a fan by talking to some of the smartest people in entertainment. This week Ross talks with the great Shepard Fairey about how he got his start and with Swizz Beats about how he shook up the art world.
Aminatou: Listen now. You can subscribe to Fan Club by going to v.viacom.com/fan club or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
Ann: Amina, let me tell you about how I got excited about compression socks.
Aminatou: Girl, tell me.
Ann: This is so real. They are like actually really cute, polka dots and argyle and things like that. They're even available in wide calf. And I wear them on the airplane and my legs feel so good when I get off the flight. Guess who makes them?
Aminatou: VIM & VIGR, and I have some good news for you. You can get 20% off your first order by using the offer code GIRLFRIEND at VIM & VIGR. V-I-M-V-I-G-R dot com. Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.
Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.
Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow.
Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman. What is on the agenda today? I know you know.
Aminatou: There is only one thing on the agenda: ladies running for office.
Ann: Oh my god!
Aminatou: Why they should, why they don't do it, and really why you should. It's like just look at all the idiots in Congress. You can do this. And we get to talk to really awesome ladies in the CYG community who are running for office.
Ann: Yeah. Okay, so this is actually going to be a two-parter. This episode is where we're going to talk about some of the issues surrounding running for office. If you're ever been electoral politics curious -- candidate-curious for yourself -- we're going to answer some of those questions, and we have some amazing special guests to do that. And then in a few weeks we're going to feature a few women who are running, many of whom for the first time, or who have recently run for the first time, to talk to them about their experiences.
Aminatou: I know. And I'm confident that all of those ladies could be president, like immediately right now.
Ann: Oh, yeah, no question.
Aminatou: Like Ariana Grande could be president just from her work in Manchester and then all the women in episode two of Run For Office CYG. It's amazing.
Ann: Ugh, yeah, I can't -- I can't even handle. I'm just smiling at the thought of a woman who listens to CYG becoming president.
Aminatou: Ugh, can't wait.
Ann: Again, oh my god.
Aminatou: I know, look at this podcast for short-distance besties.
Ann: Although everyone who has truly been in a long-distance love affair knows that you do put in the face time.
Aminatou: It's true. Illicit rendezvous in hotel rooms.
Ann: [Laughs] This is a nice hotel room.
Aminatou: It's true, but you know, I'm excited about today's episode.
Ann: Oh my god, me too. But first, wait, pause button.
Aminatou: Let's do some announcements. There's still time to get stuff in the CYG shop. Announcement two is there's still tickets to the Philly show July 16th at the Trocadero. You can find all the information for that at callyourgirlfriend.com/events. But exciting announcement. Ann, tell the people.
Ann: I think you're great at announcements.
Aminatou: [Laughs] No, I'm not even high and I'm forgetting everything. I'm like umm, this is why we have to write them down.
Ann: Okay, spoiler alert, we added another show because we're going to be on the east coast anyway in Brooklyn on July 15th. So the night before the Philly show you can catch us at the Hall at MP in Williamsburg doing another live show for the fine people of New York City.
Aminatou: That's right. Bring your besties and looking forward to meeting everyone.
Ann: It is an I wouldn't say small venue but it is modestly-sized so I would not sleep on your tickets.
Aminatou: I know. For Call Your Girlfriend it's a small venue.
Ann: Listen, we like big body, big venue.
Ann: We really -- we're big women who like a big venue. So long story short I know we can fill this place.
Aminatou: Okay. Announcement time is over!
Ann: Announcements out.
Aminatou: Announcements out. One day I'll be a professional podcaster.
Ann: I can't wait. So, okay, so we're not going to do the statistics of women being underrepresented at essentially every level of government.
Aminatou: Yeah, do a Google for that.
Ann: Do a Google. But, yeah, women are underrepresented at every level; people of color are underrepresented at every level.
Aminatou: And white men are overrepresented at every level of government.
Ann: Perhaps that's the best way to put it. [Laughs] So yeah, we're not going to get into the why, but I think that one thing that we're definitely interested in talking about is that for a long time this gap has been framed as an issue of confidence for women. There was an article in the New York Times I believe shortly after the election where Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said women are the biggest self-doubters. And it is true that women take a longer time than men to decide to run and that men are still more likely than women to be recruited as well, but is it really a confidence gap though?
Aminatou: Can we also pause button? Because here's the reason that also I don't buy into this bullshit is the simple truth that women are less likely to be asked to run for office. Most people who are elected officials, somebody taps them and tells them about it. You know, there's definitely the five sociopaths every year who are born who are like "I want to be president one day," and they live their whole lives that way. We all went to college or high school with one of those kids. You know what I'm talking about.
Ann: Shout out to all the Tracy Flicks. Love you.
Aminatou: Exactly, you know? Or the people who are like "Hmm, don't take this picture of me doing this keg stand because one day I want to be president." [Laughs] You know, I wish somebody had said that to me.
Ann: The hidden keg stand photos?
Aminatou: Girl, you don't even want to know. Hook 'em horns. But, anyway, that's also the simple truth of it is there is an entire kind of machine around how you run for politics in any office, and the truth is that women are less likely to be asked, whether it's because the myth is that they're self-doubters or maybe it's because people hate women in power. Like, you know, that's not what I'm saying but people are saying . . .
Ann: People have been saying. [Laughs]
Aminatou: People have been saying. The point is people cannot even foresee of a world where people of color can be leaders.
Aminatou: So I imagine that they're also not being asked to run for office.
Ann: Yeah. It reminds me, it's actually a parallel to lots of other industries and areas of the public sphere where even though women are still a majority of the population or even though there's been totally demonstrated involvement in political issues by people who are not white or people who are not hetero or whatever, we know that there is interest and ability. And yet it's still seen as somehow a risky bet to place a woman candidate on the ballot, or if you're in control of party money, to give her your money.
Aminatou: Yes. What's the lesson here? The lesson is don't wait for people to ask you for shit. Friend of the podcast Valerie Jarrett once said "You can't be what you can't see," and that's why it's important to have also just different people being represented at every level of leadership.
Ann: Right. So yeah, okay, there's this dominant confidence narrative which I believe applies to some potential candidates but definitely I don't see it as a universal answer as to why this gap exists. There is a money gap for sure in that we all know about the wage gap and about especially the way race and gender intersect when you talk about how much money you have access to and how much you're earning, so money is an issue. I also think that there's a thing going on with women in particular knowing what is going to happen to them once they become a public figure.
Aminatou: Oh, I mean I think that that's probably the thing that is the most or the least talked about, right? And especially for women who are kind of our age who grew up with the Internet, knowing all of the ways that you can deal with privacy issues and online, that's one thing that a bunch of women that I talked to -- that it came up a lot for, where somebody would say "I have a stalker. I don't think I can be president one day."
Aminatou: You know? Or "I'm not comfortable with people scrutinizing me in the ways that they will because I'm a woman." Or, like me, I have that keg stand photo somewhere and it will definitely . . .
Ann: [Laughs] Once that hits the message boards, yeah.
Aminatou: That's the first -- that's the first opposition research that I know people are going to hit me with. But I am proud. I am proud of my past, so it's cool. There's definitely a particular challenge that the Internet fuels for especially millennial women and younger women who are looking to run because you have a digital trail that people before just didn't have.
Ann: I also want to hit you. So when I was looking for research that supports theories other than the confidence gap about why women don't run, I found this study out of Rutgers University that says that especially when it comes to women of color it's definitely not an ambition gap. The data "suggests that women of color lack faith in politics' ability to solve problems and perceive it as a discriminatory space."
Aminatou: Say it louder for people in the back. [Laughs]
Ann: I mean, right? And the researcher goes on. "Their aversion to running is fully rational based on perceptions of high cost and low rewards involved in candidacies."
Aminatou: It's true. It's like I think about all of the black women who are in Congress and the ways that they get treated. Look at Maxine Waters right now who is a goddamn American hero.
Aminatou: Just the last week to see how the all-out right media has gone to try to discredit her, and she's the only one frankly, to me, of the people that I see in Congress, who is taking a serious stance. Like she's had it. Ugh, I love her. You know that video of her when she just goes in front of the camera and she's like "I can't tell you anything about this hearing with the FBI director?"
Aminatou: She's like "I can't give you details, but the FBI director has no credibility." She just like shrugs.
Ann: Shuts it down.
Aminatou: I'm like thank you! Our elected officials just lie to us all day long. They just like pretend that the house is not on fire.
Aminatou: And it's like the whole country is . . .
Ann: We can smell it burning, yeah.
Aminatou: Yeah, it's like what are you talking about? Your hair is on fire.
Ann: There's obviously like a terrible cocktail of things that affect people who are underrepresented deciding that they aren't going to run, but we're going to talk about people who are running.
Aminatou: Very exciting people who are running. Okay.
Ann: Do you think -- sorry, do you think Trump has changed any of these points? I could ask that both in terms of what you've read and friends you've talked to about this.
Aminatou: Electing Trump definitely has lit a fire under a lot of people's asses. I think that one thing that I'm hearing a lot from my friends too is if he can do it, how hard can it really be?
Ann: Right? Right? Yeah.
Aminatou: You know, there's a confidence boost that comes from just having a complete idiot in charge of everything.
Aminatou: Where fascism is in the land, but also what can I do?
Ann: Yeah. Someone with actually zero life skills is now the president so . . .
Aminatou: Right. It's just such a reminder of actually you don't ever need to be the smartest person to do a thing that you think is hard. What I want this to be, instead of every person saying "I want to run for Congress," is really saying "I want to participate in the full spectrum of democracy," and how that works. I want to see more people running for school board. I want to see more people running for state assembly and for a state senate and whatever. Because one of the big problems that liberals have is that we don't stack the deck in these lower races, and usually that's also how you get the national recognition to be able to run on this larger scale.
Ann: Totally. Did you read this incredible profile of Alexis Frank recently?
Aminatou: Yes, oh my gosh, in New York Magazine.
Aminatou: So, so good.
Ann: Wait, who is Alexis Frank?
Aminatou: She's running for South Carolina's 5th District and she is 26 so obviously a lot of the stories revolve around how young she is. But honestly reading this profile and the things that she has to say, she sounds more mature than -- like name any congressman right now that you hear from.
Aminatou: And just how strategic it is. And I feel, I don't know, to me seeing something like her being elected is what will actually . . . like I will feel like that was a change, because it was born out of this moment of being disappointed after the election, going to the women's march, and just carrying that energy on as opposed to "Okay, I got my selfie, this was a good moment, and then this is where the road stops for me."
Ann: Yeah, and she -- there's a great quote in that article where she says "The greatest thing that I've received from this election is the realization that I care about this country way more than I ever thought I did," which I think that a lot of people are going through this period of like wow, I'm invested in democracy in a real way.
Aminatou: I've always said America's the best country.
Ann: I know, but this moment is proving you right. It also reminds me of the sort of congressional wave of women who were elected after the Anita Hill hearings in 1991 when a bunch of women were . . .
Aminatou: The year of the woman, you mean? [Laughs]
Ann: Okay, I can't even, with that . . .
Aminatou: How many was it? It was literally like five women got elected to Congress?
Ann: It was more than that.
Aminatou: And they were like "The Year of the Woman."
Ann: Anyway, but these women who watched a black woman essentially torn apart by an all-white, all-male senate judiciary committee were like "Um, no, I'm not going to let that happen again."
Aminatou: Yeah, but you would think that that would've started a revolution, right? It's like on one hand I was excited about it, but on the other hand it's like this was not proportional to the insanity that just happened.
Aminatou: I think that we're definitely in a special moment, and I think that, you know, as I like to say it, this is not a time for shy people.
Aminatou: Not to say -- you know, I'm not talking about like introvert or extrovert or whatever. Like yes, please be yourselves. Don't come for me if you're an introvert. But it's really like if you care about something and you care about democracy and you care about this country you have to start thinking about more than just yourself and what you're afraid of.
Aminatou: Because the other side clearly is not afraid, you know? And are able to affect a change. Like it's so intense at every level, you know?
Aminatou: Everything from -- you'll hear of the tiniest race that no Democrat gives a shit about and Republicans are like plugged in.
Aminatou: They are plugged in because they know how this game works and how it's played.
Ann: And they're still winning at it. Yes.
Aminatou: Yeah, you can accuse them of a lot of things but they're pretty fucking consistent, you know?
Ann: Yeah. I'm sure everybody who listens to this -- and I know you -- have people in your life who you're just like "Oh my god, I would vote for you in a hot second. What do I have to do?"
Aminatou: There's not enough offices for the people I know to . . .
Ann: And so just planting that seed a little bit, I mean I have -- since the election, I have brought it up sometimes more forcefully than others to I would say five or six specific friends who are just nerdy in the right ways.
Aminatou: Who don't have Facebook. [Laughter] You know, like are you on social media? You should run for office.
Ann: I know. But for real. Or even like certain places you can run for like a judgeship, like I have a lawyer lady . . .
Ann: And I've got an eye out on her for -- you know?
Aminatou: Oh my god, yeah, no. Democrats need hella judges. Oh my god.
Ann: I know. And so thinking a little bit more expansively about what are the options and how do they fit with the incredible people in your life?
Aminatou: It's true. The other thing too about this whole conversation makes me realize that part of the problem is that, you know, in moments of fascism we all learn the name of even our state senators. Like I had to call my state senator this morning because I read an article about awful New York abortion laws that I wasn't aware of. I'm like I am deep into this and I didn't know that New York State had such restrictive late-term abortion laws. And so I was like who can change this? State senators. The New York state senate is notoriously conservative. And, yeah, I realized that I was like I don't know the name of my state senator. This is nuts.
Aminatou: But it also made me feel like oh, yay, I have something to contribute now. You know, being an informed citizen in this time is really hard work. But one level that you can be the most effective, and the level probably that you can make the most changes, is on your local level. It's like what is going on in your state? What is going on on your street? What is going on in your district? And I feel like that's where a lot of these opportunities will pop up.
Aminatou: Where it's like I can step up and do something here.
Ann: Yeah, or like kind of training yourself a little bit of when you read news like late-term abortion restrictions or like skyrocketing cost of housing in L.A. where there was just a totally horrific report about homelessness increases, asking questions like oh, there's a tenants association or there's this local board meeting. You know, starting there. And I think part of this too is like attending some of the stuff, being that the person at the front of the room or the official who is doing some of this is not as intimidating.
Aminatou: Yeah. You know, also hearing you say that to me illustrates one of the big problems of the way that elections work in this country because they're like too long. We focus too much on the horse race. There's two skill sets that you're talking about. There's the running for office skill set which scammers are great at, and if you're not a natural scammer you're going to be like "Can I really do this?" And then there's the actual governing part of it, right? The doing your job. And a lot of times you don't get to show that part of yourself unless you can get elected.
Aminatou: The gender divide also, like that's where that's very apparent. There's a ton of studies about women just applying for jobs, like any jobs in any industries. Women will look at the industry and be like "Man, I only fit 20 of these 21 qualifications. I can't be here."
Aminatou: And men will be like "I can read this resume. I can be this job."
Ann: I'm the chosen one.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Yeah, it's like oh, the letters make sense to me. Just realizing that it is a total package kind of thing. If you know that you can do the job, there's an entire infrastructure of people who can help you run.
Aminatou: Like that's the other thing. Like we went to one of these fundraisers together in New York for this woman named Lauren Moser (?) who we'll talk to later who is fantastic. But the thing that was really amazing about listening to her talk is realizing that oh, no, there's a whole team, right? Like there's a money person; there's a consultant person; there's your TV consultant. You can assemble a team to help you run if you can do the job. Like you don't have to know . . .
Aminatou: And that's what I loved about so many of her answers during the fundraiser because people were asking really hard like "What are the total carbon emissions?" type questions, you know? And she was perfectly honest. She's like "I'm reading up on this. I'm learning about this. Here's where I think this is going." Hearing her say that made me feel so much more at ease about myself having to take some of those questions.
Aminatou: It's that you -- like there's an entire infrastructure of people who can help you run. You just need to know how to do the job. Go ladies. Win.
Ann: Okay, wait, so obviously lots of other people have been having this conversation with their friends, with the Internet. Since the election and definitely since the women's march organizations like EMILY's List have just received thousands of requests.
Aminatou: Ann, what is EMILY's List?
Ann: Oh, it's an acronym. It stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast.
Aminatou: Oh, only my favorite ladies know that. Thank you.
Ann: Uh-huh. Yeah, I love to start with the acronym.
Ann: Like got to know what it stands for. It's an organization that raises money for pro-chose women candidates, founded as a corrective to the fact that women were good candidates. They were like "Hey, I'm like here and ready to run," and the party establishment would not kick money to their races and they would just lose. So back in the day of mail in your donation EMILY's List collected a bunch of money largely from women to support and funnel to women candidates. Historically it's not an organization that has focused on training women to run for office. It's done more to identify them and send them money after they've declared that they're interested in running. You know, it's not that they're turning away women who want to run but primarily it's about funneling money. And lately, especially after the election, I think because they were being quoted and talked to a lot in the media, women who went to their website were clicking on this thing that was like "Are you interested in running yourself someday?" And so we called Stephanie Schriock who is president of EMILY's List to talk about what they're doing with all of these thousands of women who are eager to run.
Ann: Stephanie, thanks so much for being with us today.
Stephanie: Thrilled to be here. Thank you for having me on.
Ann: I have seen a lot of eye-popping numbers circulating about how many women have indicated to you at EMILY's List that they're interested in running for office someday, and maybe you can tell me what the count stands at now and then, you know, who are these women? Where are they coming from? How has this happened?
Stephanie: You know, it is extraordinary. You're absolutely right. I mean since election day we've had well over 10,000 women contact us about running for office and getting started. They represent all 50 states across the country which is extraordinary. I was in Boston on Friday meeting with a few of our potential candidates for the cycle, and I looked up at our morning update and that day I believe it was 54 that signed up again overnight who wanted to run for office. This is happening daily. Women are stepping up. They are of all ages, all backgrounds, particularly young women, particularly women of color. And it is just a really fantastic moment here for women in politics. Now EMILY's List's job is to make sure that we actually get them to run for office and then ultimately win and serve the public.
Ann: Yeah. And so I mean I know that we thought a lot and talked a lot about women running for office in 2016 for obvious reasons. It was kind of a conversation couched around Hillary in many ways. So are these women -- do you think the interest was there before and they're just showing up now? Or, you know, I mean I don't know, what's different? What's changed?
Stephanie: Well you said something really important there as we did talk about more women stepping up and running while Hillary Clinton for president. All of last election cycle we had something like 940 women who had contacted us. And by the way, that was a good number. [Laughs] Just to put it in perspective, we were feeling pretty good about that number in 2016.
What happened in the conversations I've had with a number of women across the country, and I think happened to so many of us, is we woke up the day after the election just stunned not just that Hillary Clinton had lost but also seeing somebody who was clearly the most qualified ready-for-the-job person we had ever seen run for president and she lost to a man who was absolutely not qualified to be president and had proven over and over that he was willing to use racist, sexist language, a lot of misogyny. And it was a real wake-up call to women across this country to say I can't just let this stand; I need to take action. And one of those actions women are taking is saying I'm going to run for office. Maybe it's my city council, my county commission, my state legislature, all the way up, but I've got to change these dynamics and I've got to do it by running.
Ann: I love that. And so tell me more about what you're doing with these 10,000 women to essentially get them in the pipeline and make sure that they're running. Because maybe I was mistaken, but my impression was always that EMILY's List was there in the past for women who had already declared an intent, were already running, had already identified a race, and you guys were there to swoop in with support. And this feels a little different to me actually.
Stephanie: Well, I will say I only wish that that was our job before. You know, for three decades now actually we have been on the ground recruiting women to run. Most of our years have been spent asking who are the women who should be running? Who should we be talking to? Knocking on people's doors, sitting at kitchen tables, and encouraging women to run for office. If only they came walking in our door saying they were running we would have so many more women in office. That is the biggest sea change here. It's not so much of what EMILY's List does, it's that the women are stepping up and saying "I want to run." So much so, I think back, and I know this is sort of a major recruitment of EMILY's List, but I remember sitting with Elizabeth Warren in the summer before she announced trying to convince her that she should run for office, that that should be the next step. And she was pondering it but by no means was she a yes that day. She wasn't even a yes after I left. It took one more call and she jumped in.
And so I say this, that this is a really big moment not just for EMILY's List but I really believe for women in politics in this country. Now EMILY's List has three decades now of working directly with women, encouraging them to run, but then the next steps are teaching the basics of what you need to do. We've trained thousands of women over those years. We're excited to really jump in and train a lot more women this year but also help a lot of these women find the race to run in and then start putting together that campaign. Start putting those pieces together.
Running for office is not necessarily complicated. It's like putting together a puzzle: you've got all these pieces and you've just got to put them together so they fit. And that's a lot of what EMILY's List does. We help put together that puzzle, and sometimes we find a few pieces for them along the way.
Ann: Yeah. So maybe talk about that a little bit more. What are all the little pieces, or maybe big pieces, that need to fit together in order for a woman to get to the point where she's on the ballot, say?
Stephanie: Well a lot of what we do oftentimes is have conversations specifically with women who are thinking about running. You know, and starting the conversation of why? Why do you want to run? Why do you want to step up? And what are you most interested in? Helping women think through should I run for local office? Should I run for schoolboard? Should I run for county commissioner? Maybe you could run for legislature. You know, of these over 10,000 women that have already contacted us hundreds of them happen to be living in the congressional districts that EMILY's List is targeting for recruitment in 2018.
Stephanie: And just because you've never run before doesn't mean you shouldn't run for the United States House of Representatives. That's what we're here for, to help figure out the right place for a person to run, for a woman to run.
Ann: Yeah, and I'm still -- in a way, there's a little part of my brain that's still stuck on this detail about even Elizabeth Warren needing convincing to run, you know? [Laughs] To a woman who's listening to this and is maybe reluctant as well or maybe considers herself someone who is politically-engaged and knowledgeable about a lot of important issues but is still reluctant or who hasn't made that leap, what is that pitch that you've been giving at kitchen tables historically? And what do you say to help women overcome some of that reluctance that they might feel?
Stephanie: Well we often start with look who's serving now. Look at the folks who are serving in the legislature in your state or in our Congress. So often the voice of the woman who's sitting across the table from us is not represented, or if it is it's not represented at the number that it should be. I mean we are really about a representative democracy and if we don't have the 20-something college graduate young woman who hasn't started her family yet but has a huge student loan not sitting somewhere in a legislature then who can really speak to what it's like to balance getting started in your life, starting a family, and carrying a big student loan?
Or if we don't have the mother of young children who just is trying to figure out how to balance her family and can't figure out childcare, if that person isn't sitting in our legislature, who's carrying that torch for all those thousands and thousands of women in the same predicament? We need their voices. And everybody who's listening to this podcast, we need your voice. And maybe it's in the city council or schoolboard; maybe it's in your legislature; maybe it's in Washington, D.C. But if we've got a Congress that's only 19% women we are missing a huge number of perspectives of women's lives in this country, and you just take that on through state legislatures and city councils and it's the same.
Ann: Oh, I know. Well, I'm just picturing this alternate future universe that we're hopefully going to live in in which all these 10,000 women follow through and get on the ballot and run at some point when they're able.
Stephanie: No, I completely agree. In fact, when EMILY's List hosted our first big training this year the day after the women's march in Washington, D.C., that day was such an extraordinary moment. Then I sat and watched my staff lead this training of folks who are again just starting to think about running, maybe not sure what to do. And I thought to myself, god, there's probably a future United States senator in this room. This could be right now. We could be literally planting the seed for a future senator, a future governor, who knows, a future president. That's a lot of what we talk about when we start our trainings is just the initial things to start thinking about if you're planning on running for office, even if it's down the road. Like maybe you're not planning on running in 2017 or '18 but maybe you think you can do it five years down the road.
You know, there's just some things that make it easier for future candidates. You know, things like keeping track of your contacts; making sure you've got good contact information, emails and phone numbers and addresses for your friends, your family, and colleagues. Making sure that list, as we call it the holiday card list, is in order. That's the beginning of any campaign for anybody. And anybody can do that today.
Ann: That's so true, and I also think that there's a lot of date on how women are networked horizontally. You know, women are really good at making connections with peers. It's really interesting to think about that as politically powerful, you know? Not just like socially fun or whatever. You know what I mean? There's value.
Stephanie: Right, and we don't think about it because we socialize, we think about our friends in sort of one way. But if you sort of step back and go "Wow, I've got some really talented friends," like we may like to just go and have dinner and talk about family but then when I think about it I'm like I've got a friend who is really good at technology and web design who could help setup a webpage for me.
Stephanie: Or just all of a sudden you start realizing the talent that is in your own network, and that's really the beginning of any campaign.
Ann: I know that you haven't only been collecting email address and contact info from women who are interested in running themselves, but I understand that you've also been collecting a huge increase in the number of women who are interested in supporting women who are running for office in more direct and concrete ways, and maybe you can talk about that a little too.
Stephanie: I would love that. One of the things that we said from the very beginning here to the women who are stepping up in the marches or calling their members of Congress -- and doing a phenomenal job, by the way -- or just taking action in their communities is ultimately we have two choices: we either have to run for office or we need to help a woman run for office. And so we wanted to really build a community of those who want to help women run for office in this country. And that list includes women and men who see that it's important to have women's voices in our government at a much larger level. And what we're going to do is through a series of probably more digital platform education is teach some basic things for activists and volunteers around campaigns. How can you be most helpful to a woman who's running for office? And sometimes it's just showing up and saying "What can I do?" Other times it's maybe bringing a group of friends together and raising a little bit of money for that candidate.
You know, often when you're just starting out, helping someone go door-knocking in your neighborhood and introducing a candidate who's running door-to-door because you still do door-to-doors when you're running for city council and county commissioner. A lot of state legislative seats in this country are small enough that you're still going to go door-to-door and introduce yourself as a candidate. Well, it's sure easier if there's someone from that neighborhood with you, and those are the connections that we want to start making with the candidates and those who want to help those candidates win.
Ann: Yes! So for someone who is listening and is like "I'm that woman. I want to support that woman," where should they go? What should they do?
Stephanie: Well, go to emilyslist.org today. Go to our Run to Win signup. And if you're a woman out there who is thinking about running or would like to run, even if it's down the road and not today, please sign-up as a potential candidate for EMILY's List and frankly for this country because we need this voice. And if you're women and good men who stand with us and want to help you can also sign up right there at our Run to Win site at emilyslist.org and we're going to help start connecting all of these folks together. This is how we build a movement, and this is how we're going to change our government.
Ann: Oh, yes. Stephanie, thank you so much for all your hard work and thanks for chatting on the podcast today.
Stephanie: Any time. Thank you, and thank you to all of your listeners for all that they've been doing to help really the resistance here. There's so much energy right now and I'm hearing it from everywhere I go. Future candidates, activists, folks who are just holding their senators and legislators and everybody accountable, keep doing it and we'll get there.
Ann: Oh, yes, awesome. Thank you.
Stephanie: Thank you. Take care.
Aminatou: That was great, Ann. True story, the first time I heard Kirsten Gillibrand speak was at an EMILY's List event, and Val Demings was there also who is this really badass woman who was a cop and just really, really cool. And she was running for office as well and I remember she lost her race. But good news, she just got elected into Congress.
Ann: She's back.
Aminatou: She's back. But I think about that a lot.
Aminatou: Because I remember hearing her speak at that breakfast and just being like oh my god, you're so great, and then she lost that election and I was really bummed out. And in the nightmare election we had recently it was good to see her fight. You know, I was like you didn't give up, you came back, and you had the full backing of EMILY's List and you were able to get elected.
Ann: Totally. And also I think about Donna Edwards who had been elected to Congress I believe, yes? And was running for Senate when we had her on the podcast, who ended up losing that race. But I'm like I can't wait for the comeback. Like it's going to happen.
Aminatou: I know. Yeah, it's a journey also because this is not a career. That's the other . . . honestly, that's one of the things that drives me crazy about the state that Congress is in. It's like well, you know what? If you want a job with good benefits and job security you should go work at a law firm. Like don't run for office. It is you serve at the pleasure of people and shit changes.
Ann: I know. God willing, shit changes. Right?
Aminatou: Ugh, can't wait.
Aminatou: Ann, I heard you just bought a new mattress.
Ann: Listen to this, I was having some long-term houseguests for reasons I cannot get into right now had to stay at my house and I don't have an extra bed so Casper was the way I went. Let me tell you how easy it was. It just showed up at my door. The supportive memory foam mattress pops out of the box when you open it, so it essentially just sets itself up. And it's super comfy. It has just the right sink and a good bounce.
Aminatou: Also the good news is you can try Casper for a hundred nights risk-free in your own house. If you don't love it they'll pick it up and refund you every single penny.
Ann: Casper understands that it's important to sleep on a mattress before you commit to it, especially considering that you're going to spend one-third of your life sleeping on it or that you want to treat your houseguests right if you're me.
Aminatou: That's right. Free shipping and returns in the US and in Canada. There are over 20,000 reviews and an average of 4.8 stars so it's definitely the Internet's favorite mattress.
Ann: You can get $50 towards any mattress person by visiting casper.com/cyg and using offer code CYG. Terms and conditions apply.
Aminatou: Father's Day is just around the corner and dads are impossible to shop for.
Ann: Fortunately our friends at Harry's have a special offer that you and your dad, or dad figure, are both going to love.
Aminatou: Go to harrys.com/girlfriend and get $5 off one of their shave sets including a limited edition Father's Day set which comes with a storm-grey razor handle, chrome razor stand, foaming shave gel, three replacement blades, and a travel cover and it's packaged in a sleek, giftable box. Uh, now I want this for myself.
Ann: I mean it's already all put together. This is the best part, right? Like actually it looks all nice. It's like a complete set. You can just wrap it and give it. You don't have to figure out all these different pieces fitting together.
Aminatou: Right. Also it's a really easy way to get a man in your life into nice things.
Ann: Ugh, I know. I'm really just like men, treat yourself right, and you can gift them that way.
Aminatou: That's right. Harry's is all about a great shave at a fair price.
Ann: Yeah, and thanks to their 100% quality guarantee they give you a full refund if you're not happy.
Aminatou: Go to harrys.com/girlfriend right now to redeem a special offer for listeners of the show. Harry's will give you $5 off one of their shave sets. That's harrys.com/girlfriend for $5 off.
Ann: Do it.
Ann: So the other person we talked to for this episode is this woman Amanda Lipman who worked on Hillary's digital team and in her post-election kind of like depression decided that she wanted to put all of her knowledge of how campaigns are run and all of her skills and connections to use. So she and a few other former colleagues founded an organization called Run For Something.
Ann: Hi, Amanda. Thanks so much for being here.
Amanda: No, thanks for having me. I'm really excited.
Ann: Maybe you can tell me a little bit about how Run For Something started and what your inspiration was.
Amanda: So Run for Something is a brand new PAC launched on January 20th committed to helping young people run for down-ballot office. It got started because I was angry. So I worked for Hillary Clinton for two years as her email director managing online fundraising and volunteer recruitment and mobilization, and at the end of the election after taking a couple weeks to drink and sleep and pet my dog and clean my apartment we started talking about all the different problems that we saw with the party, with the system, with the fact that our bench was so weak and our pipeline was so old and male and white and that it was really hard if you didn't already know how to work the system of politics, how to get in the door.
Like I had these friends from high school and college who are finally engaged in elections and would ask me "Who do I ask for help?" and I didn't have a good answer for them which pissed me off because that's a failure of our system to allow new people in the door. So I found a co-founder in this husband of a friend of mine, Ross Morales Rocketto, who is the kind of guy that manages schoolboard races for fun in his spare time.
Amanda: Yeah, he's serious about it. He's amazing. And between the two of us we realized we can do this. We know the Internet. We know politics. We know the right people, and we are willing to work hard. And when you're unemployed and angry it's amazing what you can devote your time to instead of yelling at the TV.
Ann: Oh yeah, and maybe you can talk about that for one second and why did you find yourself unemployed at this particular moment?
Amanda: Well, you know, after working for Hillary we didn't have plans. We didn't know what was going to come next. I don't know what I would've done if we had won, but when we lost the future was completely unclear. And a lot of folks had been thinking about "Oh, I'll be moving to D.C., or I'll be going to the administration or the party." I didn't know what I was going to do, but I knew that once we lost I couldn't get out of the fight. It's not a choice. It wasn't even an option to do something other than politics and other than this.
Ann: Right. What is the starting point? Or if you're the person who said maybe someday about running for office and you're starting to think that someday is sooner than maybe you thought originally where do you even begin to think about starting to plug in? And how do you try to connect your experiences with the different types of roles or positions you could run for?
Amanda: So a few things to think about. One, do not wait for someone to ask you. Keep in mind that mediocre white men never ask themselves if they're qualified; they just do it. They assume they're entitled to it, and you should act with the same amount of confidence. You have to step up.
Start by asking yourself what problem you want to solve, and then ask what office gives you the platform to solve it. So if you care about education funding consider schoolboard. If you care about housing laws and zoning and liquor licenses and that kind of thing, city council. If you care about reproductive rights or voting rights or want to fix gerrymandering, the state house or state senate is a great place to start. These are races that are not that expensive. You know, 75% of schoolboard races across the country cost $1,000 or less. Your win number for the number of voters that you need to actually talk to in order to win can be as small as 500, or as big as a couple thousand or more, but in a lot of places it's really, really manageable, especially if you're willing to do the work. And the work is talking to people.
The mechanics of the campaign are not hard. So if it's what you decide to do, picking a race that is local, that is cheap relatively, that has a manageable number of voters to talk to, and that most of the people running for those races are first-time candidates or people who are not long-time elected officials.
Ann: Those dollar amounts are pretty surprising to me. And, you know, the other thing that I think about -- I don't know, when I think about reasons I'm not excited about the idea of running for office, just to use myself for an example, part of it has to do with the idea of maybe exposing myself or my family or people who I love to this sort of level of public scrutiny which we all know is slightly different for women and people of color . . .
Ann: . . . than it is for your typical man. And I don't know if you have thoughts about that and how that tends to play out in lower-level races, or whether that's a valid concern.
Amanda: It's a valid concern to a certain extent in that when you become an elected official you are then accountable to the people who employ you which are the voters and your neighbors and citizens. I'm doing a lot of interviews with elected officials right now and one of my favorite things to ask them is how do you handle dating and being an elected official? And they will tell me stories of how they sit in restaurants with their dates and people come over to yell at them about the trash pickup in their neighborhood. Which it's fair -- it means that your work matters.
But I think that for local races particularly you're running against neighbors. You're running against people you know. It doesn't get as nasty or as negative as a congressional race. It's just it's too small and too personal.
Ann: Right. So basically don't look at what happens to congresswomen you love or what happened to Hillary and assume that that's what your schoolboard race is going to be like.
Amanda: Yeah, because it's just not. The scale is not big enough for people to get that angry or to care that much.
Amanda: Which is a good thing and a bad thing.
Ann: Right. What is the first point of contact? Like you had some really good food for thought about what types of positions people could maybe start to get interested in. But is your first call to like the party? Or can you just go to the courthouse and sign yourself up? What do you actually do?
Amanda: What do you actually do? So there's a couple things. One, you should call your local party because they might have resources available to you. Some places are better than others, and I'll admit I hear from a lot of folks who tell me "I called my local party and they didn't return my call," which I share your frustration. That sucks. The best thing you can do is call your city or county clerk. The terminology varies from place-to-place so it might be your board of elections or administrator of elections or election supervisor, but they will have all the information you need to file. And in a lot of places it is either signatures you need on a petition or it's a filing fee. Sometimes it's both; sometimes it's neither.
Some places don't have this all online which is a problem but if you call them they often have a guide for candidates that walks you through step-by-step. Open your bank account, get this tax ID number, you can fundraise X days after you file, that kind of thing.
Ann: And then in general in terms of the timeline, I mean I know that your organization focuses on young people specifically. I'm an old millennial. I'm technically a millennial. But I do think that for me and for a lot of women I've spoken to in my own life who I think would be incredible in government there's this sense of well, maybe later. Well, maybe later. You know, we're young, and maybe when I'm like old and serious this will be a thing that I do. So is there something you tell people about why it's important to get involved now, or the case for getting involved right away before you feel like you have it all figured out?
Amanda: It's never going to be the right time. It's like when is the right time to get a dog? It's never the right time. It's when you decide to do it, you're then ready. Which I think is hard to admit to yourself. Most people don't win their first time out, so if you decide to do it, understand that what you're really deciding is to do it twice. The first time to get the experience and to build the team, and the second time maybe to win. And that it takes a couple years to often build up the network you need, and that's okay. You get a lot out of the act of running. You learn public speaking. You will talk to incredibly interesting people. You will have a platform with which to advocate for what you care about. Like if you're a candidate for office, when you want to talk to a reporter, you often have to listen to them or at least pretend to listen.
Ann: [Laughs] Yeah.
Amanda: It gives them a place to start from, and you then can really push for what you care about in a more active way than just tweeting or Facebook posting or protesting. All of that's really good, but when you're running for office you have a higher platform once you do that.
Ann: Yeah, so maybe talk a little bit more about what Run For Something is actually doing with all of these interested people who are getting in touch with you.
Amanda: So we have had nearly 8,000 people sign up in two months who say they want to run for office which is bananas. We thought we'd have to hustle to find 100 people based on the experience we'd had previously. What we're offering folks is a couple of things. One, we're putting together experienced guides for how to file in every state which means we'll tell you who to email at the party to get access to the voter file and in what order to do things which is really helpful.
Two, we have a network of about 125 campaign experts who are offering up free consulting time ranging from senior staff on a presidential campaign to field organizers to people who've been in this business for 30 or 40 years who have said I'll set aside a couple hours of my time to help people for free which is invaluable. The final thing we're doing is giving people money. So if you get on the ballot and you're able to stand up your campaign we'll get you from step two to step three.
Ann: Oh wow, that's so cool. Realistically what percentage of those 8,000 people do you think are really serious? Are going to like follow through and try to get on the ballot. Tell me a little bit more about what's already moving forward.
Amanda: So, you know, it takes time obviously and all those 8,000 aren't going to run immediately. We've got about 30 who are already on the ballot for this fall or this spring. You know, there's not that many races this November and there's going to be a whole bunch more in 2018. But what we're doing has already made -- it makes me so sappy, and I'm not sappy at all. But, for example, there's this young woman running for schoolboard in Pennsylvania and she sent me an email saying "I'm running. I'm doing canvasing. I want to know is there anyone I can talk to for some advice?" I said "Yes, here is a statewide field organizer from the 2016 presidential campaign. Talk to him." She got on the phone with him and then emailed me the next day, "Amanda, I talked to him. He gave me GOTV scripts. I understand now how I have to change my strategy in the final week. I feel so much more confident going door-to-door. I'm so excited."
Like that's the entire point. It's so lovely. She's 21 years old and she's running for schoolboard in a Republican district and she got advice from someone and feels better knocking on voters' doors. That's awesome. That's the kind of thing that we're able to help facilitate.
Ann: I love that. And are you doing anything with say people like me who are maybe not planning to run in the next few cycles but would love to help the kinds of candidates that you're recruiting? Or would love to pitch in on a campaign?
Amanda: Yeah. So over the next couple months we'll be rolling out lists of candidates who we're giving funding to because those are folks who've proven themselves just a little bit viable. We're not discriminating who we give money to. If you are able to run and you go through our pipeline and you stand up a campaign and raise a little bit of money we'll match it which means that we're getting involved in primaries and we're getting involved in races that people haven't tended to get involved in before. So if you sign up on our website runforsomething.net we will keep you updated on the races, let you know when there's one in your area that you can volunteer on, let you know when there's a candidate who might be relevant to you that you can give money to. We'll keep you entirely in the loop.
Ann: Okay, so what is one more thing that you want people to know about running for office?
Amanda: Well one of the things that I hear a lot from potential candidates is "Who will help me if I do this?" And the answer is your friends and family. So even if you're not thinking about running, think about who in your circle should run and ask them. Don't make it a joke; make it serious. Tell them why they should run and why you'll support them and why you'll volunteer for them, why you'll give them five or ten or fifty or a hundred dollars and mean it. Because it matters to know that you have their back.
Ann: Oh, I love that. And finally, other resources. Where else are you directing people to learn more about this?
Amanda: So you should go to runforsomething.net, take a look, sign up. There will also be a book coming out this fall titled by the same thing, Run For Something, that I'm really excited about that will walk you through how to run for office and why you should do it and what to do if you want to get involved in local politics.
Ann: Amanda Lipman, thank you so much for being with us.
Amanda: No, thank you so much for having me.
Aminatou: That was really great. Also if you do a recent Google Amanda's organization is one of the ones that Hillary Clinton is going to be throwing money at in her new PAC-building endeavors.
Aminatou: So this is coming full circle. Are you going to run for office, Ann?
Ann: Oh my god, no. Are you kidding me? Like . . .
Aminatou: Oh my god, why? What are your excuses?
Ann: I've been writing for the Internet for more than ten years. Do you know how many things could be quoted out of context in a campaign ad? I mean also . . .
Aminatou: Okay, I'm not asking you to run for president. You could run for schoolboard.
Ann: I know. I mean, here's the thing. Like truthfully I'm like I just don't want to. [Laughs] Like . . . I don't know, it's a weird thing where like, no, when I loop at the scope of what I do with my work time and my what I could get PTO for social justice and civic engagement time, I don't know. Like serving in an official capacity isn't something that I've ever wanted to do. Which is not to say never, but not right now. Which is, to be honest, I know the thing that a majority of women say when you ask them about running for office.
Aminatou: Yeah. We'll discuss this on our running for office episode because I'm very curious about this.
Ann: Okay, wait.
Aminatou: This is the number one excuse that women give.
Ann: You have to answer this question now too.
Aminatou: Um, yeah. Hell yeah.
Aminatou: I'm just like as soon as I legally can I will.
Ann: Okay. All right.
Aminatou: I'm like super -- it's on my roadmap. Hello.
Ann: Okay, great.
Aminatou: It's like I watch all of these yahoos in state assemblies, just big dummies all the time, and it's like if they can do it, one, how hard can it fucking be? And two, this is honestly like a very nice side effect of the Trump presidency for me is that if anything it has boosted my confidence in a lot of things.
Ann: Yeah. And to be clear, I mean, you're going to be incredible.
Aminatou: I'm like if this guy can be president, it's like how hard can it be? Like literally. I don't want to be president for many reasons. Also I cannot be president. But there are a lot of local offices that I'm thinking about and I'm always interested when I talk to other women about this. You're a civically-engaged person. You're smart. You could do this. There are so many barriers there, but yes, we'll explore all of those very soon.
Ann: Okay. And I just want to say it's not because I don't think I'm smart enough for it. I just want to be perfectly clear.
Aminatou: Are you kidding me?
Aminatou: If anything you are too smart. [Laughs]
Ann: That's what I'm saying, though. I just want to address the point of I totally agree with you that watching these yahoos try to govern is a hugely motivating factor. Basically no woman now can ever say like "I don't think I could cut it." [Laughs]
Aminatou: Yeah, I don't think I can do it. But also, I don't know, I think that it's also like there are the obvious offices that everybody always thinks about. It's like president, senator, congressman. And it's like you know, actually there are more things -- there's a ton of stuff to run for and there's a ton of stuff that's important. And so, you know, I'm like make comptroller sexy again. Make assembly sexy again. And so we'll see.
Ann: Yeah. So, anyway, we'll link in the show notes to a bunch of resources: the EMILY's List program for this, Run For Something, Higher Heights which aims to get more black women elected to office, Wellstone which does training. Yeah, you're totally right. Like there are experts who are lined up and ready to help. They want to meet you.
Aminatou: You have a talent. That's true.
Ann: Be the talent.
Aminatou: You're the talent. Just be the talent. Be around. We're going to need everybody's help though to stay on top of all these new candidates because there's only two of us and there are only 24 hours in the day to read the news. So if you know of an awesome person who identifies as a woman who you think should run or who is actually running or a candidate that just cares deeply about issues that affect women use the hashtag #CYGRuns and let us know about them.
Ann: And we're especially interested in candidates who are below the congressional level. So people who are running at the state and local level, if you are backing a candidate who is near you, please tell us about them.
Aminatou: And if you need our help to convince somebody that you know to run, let us know.
Ann: Oh my god, we will bring in the big guns. We will email them.
Aminatou: I know. We'll email them, voicemails. Don't you worry. It's going to be perfect.
Ann: Oh, can't wait for Sow/Friedman 2050 or whatever it is.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Dead on arrival.
Ann: We've done all the opposition work for them.
Aminatou: Yeah, it's like the opposition research. We'll just be like here's Amina in her Texas Js. The public will be shocked and appalled.
Ann: We'll be the first candidates to narrate our own attack ads. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Exactly. Don't vote for me because . . .
Ann: Okay. And so in a few weeks we'll have another special episode where we talk to several of these incredible candidates about why they decided to run. In the meantime, ask someone.
Aminatou: Ask yourself. See you in the hotel room, boo-boo.
Ann: See you on the ballot. [Laughter] See you on the ballot.
Aminatou: Oh my gosh! You can find us many places on the Internet: on our website callyourgirlfriend.com, download it anywhere you listen to your favorite podcast, or on Apple Podcasts where we would love it if you left us a review. You can tweet at us at @callyrgf or email us at email@example.com You can also find us on Facebook -- look that up yourself -- or on Instagram at callyrgf. You can even leave us a short and sweet voicemail at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. Our theme song is by Robyn. All other music you heard today was composed by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs and this podcast is produced by the beautiful Gina Delvac.