Before 2018, many of us thought that you had to be privileged, wealthy, or an established politician to run for office. Many say you should start at the bottom and work your way up, climb the ladder, and move through the ranks to position yourself as a viable candidate.
In my own experience running for U.S. Congress last cycle, I was told to dress a certain way and look a certain way if I wanted to be taken seriously. People would tell me I shouldn't run for this seat because I'm an unmarried woman, that I should not aspire to such a powerful position without a head of household. This archaic thinking is bullying, and demands that we stay silent and let things remain the way they are.
When I look at the current U.S. House of Representatives, I see a body that is mostly white and mostly male. I see representatives who don’t live in their districts or understand the needs of their community. I see outrageous sums of money pouring into campaigns representing interests that don’t align with our community values. When career politicians don’t represent the communities they serve, we have a problem. As regular working people, we are qualified to serve in government. We run as we are because our background stories come directly from the communities we wish to serve.
In the 2018 cycle, I ran with over 50 candidates from across the nation on both the Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats slates. We are working people from all walks of life: teachers, scientists, engineers, small-business owners, and nurses like me. We ran on a unified platform, refusing all corporate-lobby and PAC money. We shared a common goal, and VoteRunLead motto and training program, to run as we were and we were chosen because we actually look like the communities we serve.
As a single parent, registered nurse, ordained pastor, activist, and community organizer, there is not a day that goes by when I don’t feel the impact of a government that doesn’t work for us.
My 2018 campaign was featured in the documentary Knock Down the House. The award-winning film, directed by Rachel Lears and produced by Jubilee Films, follows four Brand New Congress candidates including Amy Vilela, Paula Jean Swearengin, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and myself through our election journeys. One of us even managed to pull off the most shocking political upset in recent American history.
The film is truly a reflection of the challenges stacked against us; a machine set to intimidate us into not running, to keep the current power structure in place. But AOC’s unlikely and historic victory is only the beginning of a new wave of politics in which everyday people can run against a machine, get outspent several times over, and still win elections. Now that we know what is possible, we won’t stop fighting for a seat at the table.
As a single parent, registered nurse, ordained pastor, activist, and community organizer, there is not a day that goes by when I don’t feel the impact of a government that doesn’t work for us. We are living in a society where leaders are not fighting for policies that will improve our lives. Working people who must live in communities abandoned by out-of-touch leaders are best suited to represent them. For me, it will always be community first, and about the future of my district and this nation.
When you #RunAsYouAre, you give people hope that no matter what they look like, or where they come from, the government truly belongs to them. True democracy is about leadership full of people who look just like us. We need truly reflective democracy: more women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, and young people to run for city council all the way up to the highest office in the land. It’s time for us to step up and run, and I truly believe that if more of us do that every election, we will get closer to true progress. Stand with us and join the #RunAsYouAre2019 team.
Cori Bush is a candidate to represent Missouri's 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House in 2020, as well as a registered nurse, ordained pastor, activist, and community organizer. The views expressed here are her own.