2015 | ISBN-10: 0199397651 | 232 Pages | PDF | 3 MB
A high quality, well-functioning democracy demands that the next generation hears – and then heeds – a call to public service. With more than 500,000 elected positions in the United States, the political system can sustain itself and succeed only if a large number of citizens eventually put themselves forward as candidates. But Washington’s dreadful performance over the past two decades has taken a toll on the young Americans who have come to know politics through this spectacle. The mean-spirited, dysfunctional political system that has come to characterize American politics turns young people off to the idea of running for office. It discourages them from aspiring, one day, to be elected leaders. It alienates them from even thinking about a career in politics.
Running from Office is the first analysis of young people’s political ambition, based on a national poll of over 4,000 high school and college students. In it, Jennifer L. Lawless and Richard L. Fox delve into how young people view political figures, what traits they see as necessary for political success, and how they view their own suitability to run for office. The overwhelming majority of young people have no interest whatsoever in running for office in the future. Actually, they would rather do almost anything else. And who can blame them? Most young people are not particularly tuned into politics. But when they are exposed – at home, at school, with friends, or through the media – they see derisive accounts of government inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and immorality. Lawless and Fox paint a political profile of the next generation that should sound alarm bells about the long-term, deeply embedded damage contemporary politics has wrought on U.S. democracy and its youngest citizens.
But the message of Running from Office is not one of all gloom and doom. The young women and men Lawless and Fox surveyed and interviewed want to effect change, and they have clear ideas for how the American political system can steer a new course. Running from Office provides suggestions for ways to generate heightened levels of political ambition among today’s young people, including better governance, civic education, voluntary community and national service programs, and political and media campaigns geared to mobilize young people.