On Tuesday, August 15, IVY members learned what running for office entails from Josh Thompson, a former NYC mayoral candidate and education activist, and David Burstein, the co-founder and CEO of Run for America, a “citizen-powered movement across the political spectrum to reimagine politics, reinvigorate government, and restore the promise of America for the 21st century.” In the wine reception beforehand, Chad Pollock, IVY Member and Chief of Staff of Global Operational Risk & Oversight at American Express, said he was interested in politics — he is a D.C. native — but wanted to learn more. That was also the mindset of Kristina Neoushoff, the CEO of Women Grow, an organization to promote more women in the cannabis industry.

During the hour-long workshop, which was filled to capacity, David and Josh discussed what they feel are the most important considerations for anyone thinking of throwing their hat in the ring. Specifically, they stressed that:

Our democracy is bigger — and less representative — than you think.

The United States has more than half a million elected officials, the most of any country on Earth. However, many of these positions go uncontested, and even high-profile races don’t necessarily generate high turnout. For example, in the primaries, New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio won 260,000 votes, less than ten percent of the three million registered Democrats in the city. As a result, candidates who can attract the millennial vote, the largest generation in U.S. history, will be an unstoppable force.

Values come first, and everything else comes after.

David said that prospective candidates often come to him with the best of motivations — to make a difference, to get others more involved — but haven’t yet articulated their core values. Because politicians must take a position on so many issues, they’ll never become policy experts in everything. If they know what they stand for, though, they’ll be able to form beliefs, which can then be translated into policy.

Your legislative goals and your chances for reelection may be mutually exclusive.

David put it this way: “There is no one in office, not a Democrat or a Republican, who wants a 100% vote rate because then they won’t know who to pander to.” Candidates may take rhetorical stands against gerrymandering, campaign finance, and voter suppression, but ultimately, their top priority is staying in office. “We need politicians who aren’t concerned about getting reelected,” said David.

Interested in getting more of the inside scoop on politics?