February 27, 2017

RUBASHKIN | Keep Marching, then Start Running

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Run. Not away from the issues but towards them. Do not think that just because you are young or inexperienced that you cannot make a difference if you try. And there is no more important time to make a difference than now, when the new status quo is totally unacceptable. Keep marching, keep raising your voice on the issues you care about, and then take that energy and run with it.

Pick an office — any office — and work towards it. The events of the past year have shown that no office in the nation is out of reach as long as one meets the bare minimum of requirements. And although inexperience may be a lodestone around the neck of the current White House (as evidenced by the scandal-a-day routine to which we are now accustomed), don’t let that distract you from the massive changes this administration is affecting in all governmental and cultural spheres. Despite their inexperience and casual disregard for norms, this administration is making a difference in the lives of all Americans, for better or for worse. So don’t doubt your personal capacity to make just as much change, if you happen to find yourself in a position of power.

You don’t have to run for president. If you’re under 35, you aren’t even allowed to (though who knows how much weight the Constitution carries these days). But the future does not lie in the presidency — the White House is a lagging indicator of nationwide political shifts. The future lies in local elections, not just Senate and House races but the General Assembly, in county legislature, in the Ithaca Common Council. Win those races, and the rest will follow.

In 2010, a wave of disillusionment with the Washington establishment swept across the nation and brought Republicans to power in unprecedented levels. Although President Obama won reelection two years after, that disillusionment and resentment continued to grow until it boiled over in the form of Trumpism. But Trumpism would not be possible without the success of the Republicans on the state and local levels. Aided by a horde of gerrymandering state legislatures and seemingly bottomless bench of messengers, the Republican Party executed a bottom-up takeover of the entire American political system.The Republicans had the benefit of being the opposition party — President Obama provided them with an unparalled foil agaist which to run. But times have changed. The White House is now occupied by a president with a level of unpopularity unseen in the modern era. If there’s one thing you take away from the viral videos of angry constituents confronting their (mostly Republican) representatives, it’s that the tides have turned.

Simply put, it’s our turn now, and we must seize the opportunity as it presents itself.

Joe Biden gets it. America’s favorite vice-president (sorry Walter) spent last week campaigning for a state senate candidate in a special election in Delaware. That candidate, Stephanie Hansen, won the election handily due to a massive uptick in turnout, besting Democratic margins from three years ago. Because Hansen prevailed, the Democrats kept control of the Delaware State Senate, and added another talented politician to their bench.

In under two months, the citizens of Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District will elect a congressman to replace current Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price. Running for the seat is 30-year old documentary filmmaker Jon Ossoff, a former congressional aide who has been endorsed by Congressman John Lewis (D-GA). With the help of a nationwide network of motivated Democrats, Ossoff has fundraised well past expectations, and stands as a serious contender to represent the Republican-tilting Sixth District. If the Democrats are to take back the House, they need people like Jon to run in red districts across the country.

That district could be yours, and that person could be you. Congressmen long assumed to be in “safe” districts must and will feel the heat of their constituents come the 2018 midterms.

All of us at Cornell are receiving or have received a world-class education. We possess all the tools necessary to help our communities in this time of need. Whether that community is deep blue Chevy Chase, Md., ruby red Wichita, Kan., or right here in upstate New York, you can make a difference. Look no further than our very own Mayor, Svante Myrick ’09, who ran for and won a seat on the Ithaca Common Council while still an undergraduate. Now in his sixth year in office, Myrick has revitalized the city with the Commons renovations and has positioned himself at the forefront of opioid addiction treatment with his “Ithaca Plan.”

So when you go home for spring break, take a minute to look up when your next local election is. For those of you who live here full time, there are several spots on the Ithaca Common Council up for grabs this year. Don’t underestimate the power the right person in the right place can have. Even if it’s just a town council seat. Even if it’s just county legislature seat. Find your issue, make a plan — and run with it.


Jacob Rubashkin is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at [email protected]. The Jacobin appea alternate Tuesdays this semester.