The key to motivating young voters are young candidates

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One of the most exciting parts of this year’s Democratic National Convention for me was the keynote speech delivered collectively by a group of young progressive elected officials, many of them Black.

They showed us the potential for a promising future once we have gotten past the presidency of Donald Trump.

They also showed us how to get there. One way to make sure we remove Donald Trump from the White House and his enablers from Congress is to support exciting candidates at all levels who can energize Democratic voters—especially progressive young people—to vote.

The mass mobilization we have seen in the Black Lives Matter protests is an essential tool for turning energy into political will and bringing pressure on public officials. Ultimately, though, voting is the only tool we have for putting people who are committed to making the changes our country urgently needs into positions of power.

Transforming local candidates

Many of the problems that have been with us for far longer than the current administratio —including systemic inequity in health care, education, housing, and policing- can and must be addressed at local and state levels.

That’s why transformational local candidates are a key to building progressive power and making progressive change. And getting elected and serving successfully in local office is often the first step to higher office. People For the American Way’s Next Up! project supports young candidates running at the state and local level, many of them from communities that have long been denied their fair share of political power. The enthusiasm for their candidacies can boost progressive prospects up and down the ballot.

Moving forward

Young voters have been going to the polls in higher numbers in recent elections. We must do everything in our power to keep that trend rising.

If you know a  young  community-oriented person who ought to run for public office in the future, encourage them. We need their voices and energy to keep turning citizens and activists into voters.

And between now and November, do what you can to support young candidates who have stepped up. They are running in a year when public health restrictions make traditional campaigning harder and when disinformation and voter suppression campaigns are trying to keep Black people from voting.

We can and will move this country toward a more just future—and we can’t let anyone convince us to take our eyes off that prize.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation. He is a graduate of Columbia University and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and he has taught at Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania.

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