The RunTerns | They changed the outcome of the 2020 elections so why isn’t GenZ talking about local elections?
RunTerns are the group of college aged interns at Run for Something. They are bold young leaders from across the country that work with us to gain practical experience in the political arena.
It’s currently local election season but you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at my social media accounts. I haven’t seen posts about any races happening in my state and more concerningly, no one my age seems to be interested in what’s happening. I asked some of my friends if they planned to vote in their state’s upcoming elections and most of them confessed that they did not even know they were happening. Even I bitterly realized that I knew little to nothing about my local candidates. These alarming observations outline a greater issue within my generation. Although we are politically active and had a record turnout in the 2020 election, Gen Z seems to be disinterested in down-ballot elections. This needs to change.
The indifference Zoomers have towards down-ballot elections can be attributed to two myths that I, and probably many others, grew up believing: 1. Local politicians do not have the power to create social reform, and 2. Local seats can only be occupied by people from older generations. It wasn’t until I started my internship at Run For Something this summer that I was able to unlearn this. Run For Something is an organization that recruits and endorses young progressives who are seeking to get into office. RFS emphasizes the importance of down-ballot elections, and my internship has shown me how change starts at the local level.
For the longest time I believed that my mayor or city council did not have the power to create social reform but this is far from true. Local leaders work behind the scenes to better our communities and the decisions they make impact us greatly. School board members decide whether anti-racism is taught in the classroom and state senators can pass laws that prevent gun violence. Most major legislation and court cases that we hear about in the media start at the state-level and work their way up. A glaring fact that I have come to accept is that local leaders could have prevented the overturning of Roe v. Wade. If we had had more young progressives in office, Roe v. Wade would not have been repealed because controversial laws at the state level wouldn’t have been passed and therefore challenged in courts. Even after the SCOTUS decision, local leaders remain in charge of deciding the reproductive rights of people living in their respective states.
The second myth, that local seats can only be occupied by people from older generations, is probably more convincing than the first one. Most of us see that local seats are occupied by older adults so we assume that young people can’t run for them. That being said, in some states, people can start running for office at as young as 18, which means that Gen Z is now entering a phase of life where we are not only able to vote but also able to establish ourselves as community leaders.
There are many barriers that keep us from voting and participating in politics, but misinformation shouldn’t be one of them. Gen Z needs to come together and participate in politics at the local level. We need to utilize social media and other forms of communication to raise awareness about down-ballot elections and more importantly, we need to start running for office. After all, in order to get to the top, we have to start from the bottom.
Morinsola Tinubu is a proud Nigerian American hailing from the DMV. She is a rising senior at Williams College double majoring in Political Science and Spanish.