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Campaigning in the Insurrection Age

January 6, 2021 changed American politics. When a group of people stormed the United States Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election, encouraged and empowered by their candidate who falsely claimed the election had been stolen, they not only endangered the lives of Congresspeople and Capitol Police, they also endangered our democracy.

Every election since has happened in the shadow of January 6. I don’t think that will change any time soon. First-time candidates will need to understand how the political climate was impacted by the insurrection and be prepared to campaign in that climate.

Here are three lasting results of the insurrection with which first-time candidates will need to grapple:

Extremism Is Now the Norm

We often hear that we’ve never been so divided. I’m not so sure that’s the case. But I am sure that extremism has taken hold of our politics. When I speak of extremism, I don’t mean that being a “moderate” or a “centrist” is better than holding principled progressive or conservative principles. In fact, I believe that candidates need to be bold in their convictions. The extremism I see is one that classifies any kind of compromise or cooperation as defeat. Too many people view their political opponents as enemies to be defeated and vanquished. Extremism might be a path to win elections, but it has left the electorate nearly ungovernable. And that is a serious, long-term problem for democracy. Candidates for office today need to consider how to hold bold positions with conviction without giving in to the pressure of extremism.

The Toxicity Is the Highest in Our Lifetime

Even worse than extremism, and maybe as a result of it, the toxicity in our politics is the worst it's been in our lifetimes. It is far too common for policy or philosophical differences to turn personal. First-time candidates will need to be prepared to be vilified and demonized in truly horrific ways. They will be called names. They will be lied about. They will have to endure negative campaigning, at every level. If they aren’t ready for that and have a plan to persevere through it, they ought not to run for office.

Election Results Need to Be Respected

It is hard to lose an election. But just because a candidate loses doesn’t mean that the election was stolen. Sore losers undermine the integrity of our democracy. First-time candidates have an opportunity to strengthen democracy by committing to respect the results of their election, even when they don’t turn out how they had hoped.

The best way to run a competitive campaign that could result in a victory is to be well-prepared to run. More than ever our country needs democracy-loving candidates who know what they’re doing. To help you know what to do first, we’ve put together a Campaign Readiness Checklist.

Sign up here to get immediate access to our FREE downloadable PDF - Campaign Readiness Checklist from You Could Run. Click Submit and check your email.

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