Episode #60: Why You Should Run for Something in 2020 (transcript)


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Quinn: Welcome to Important, Not Important. My name is Quinn Emmett.

Brian: And my name is Brian Colbert Kennedy. This is the podcast where we dive into a specific topic or a question affecting everyone on Earth right now or in the next 10 years. If it can kill us or turn us into CRISPR robots, we're in. Our guests are scientists, doctors, engineers, politicians, astronauts. We had a Reverend. And we work together towards action steps that our listeners can take with their voice, their vote and their dollar.

Quinn: That's right. And this is your friendly reminder that you can send us questions, hate mail, thoughts, feedback, hand drawn pictures on Twitter, @Importantnotimp, or you can email us at funtalk@importantnotimportant.com. You can also subscribe to our free, weekly newsletter. It's kind of an all the news you missed, except it's the really important shit, right at importantnotimportant.com.

Brian: On this week's episode we are going to tell you why you, you should run for something in 2020.

Quinn: That's right. And our guest this week is the formidable Amanda Litman. Amanda is the co-founder and Executive Director of Run for Something. Very vague. They help recruit and support young diverse Progressives to run for down ballot races in order to build a bench of those Progressives for the future. They aim to lower the barriers to entry for these candidates, which again, could and should be you ... unless you're a white guy ... by helping you with seed money, organization building and access to training.

Brian: She has worked for Barack Obama, for Hillary Clinton, she loves dogs, she wrote a book, and that's-

Quinn: The dog thing is really the thing.

Brian: ... Yeah, yeah.

Quinn: It's all, it was like, she loves dogs. Ignore the rest, we should have her on.

Brian: She does it all.

Quinn: It'll be great. Yep. We are thankful for her, we are thankful for everything she's already accomplished in all of her many jobs, and helping to save the planet just a little bit in 2018. And hopefully more, going future, and she-

Brian: In fact, this is just the beginning for her. And it's already been a lot.

Quinn: I know. One of these days, we're going to have to have a fantasy draft, of all of our guests.

Brian: Yeah.

Quinn: And just, I mean, imagine what they could do-

Brian: Oh my God.

Quinn: ... rotisserie style. Just trouble. Do you play fantasy sports?

Brian: Yeah, I just got eliminated from my fantasy basketball league.

Quinn: Perfect.

Brian: Very sad.

Quinn: Good, good, good.

Brian: But it was great.

Quinn: Keeper League?

Brian: I don't know what that means.

Quinn: Okay, great.

Brian: Yeah.

Quinn: Let's go talk to Amanda.

Brian: Let's do it.

Quinn: Our guest today is Amanda Litman, and together we're gonna tell you why you should run for something. Amanda, welcome.

Amanda Litman: Hi, so glad to be here.

Quinn: For sure.

Brian: We are very excited to have you. If you wouldn't mind, just let everybody know who you are and what you do.

Amanda Litman: So, my name is Amanda, as you said, I am the co-founder and Executive Director of Run for Something, a PAC that recruits and supports young diverse Progressives running for local office across the country.

Brian: That's so vague.

Quinn: That's so interesting.

Brian: No, obviously, you are one of the humans that helped put a stop to this Indiana Jones rolling ball of darkness that was barreling our way in the last election. So we thank you for that. I do want to, we usually don't do the whole life story thing, but I'm curious how you got to where you said, "I gotta put my foot down and do something about this," a couple of years ago.

Amanda Litman: I'm pretty boring, I'll say, I grew up in Virginia.

Quinn: Hey, now.

Brian: Hey, Virginia, cool.

Quinn: Wait, where in Virginia?

Amanda Litman: Fairfax.

Quinn: I'm from Williamsburg.

Amanda Litman: Oh, very nice.

Quinn: I have been to Fairfax.

Amanda Litman: It's a-

Brian: The perfect thing.

Amanda Litman: ... fine place to be from.

Quinn: Absolutely.

Amanda Litman: I went to Northwestern for college, specifically because I wanted to work for Barack Obama.

Brian: Awesome.

Quinn: Brian's from Chicago. This is going great.

Brian: This is wonderful.

Amanda Litman: So many connections. My senior year in college, I started interning for his re-election campaign doing online fund raising. So if you ever got an email from his campaign, or from any other down the road, that was in part because of me and my team. So-

Quinn: Awesome.

Amanda Litman: ... Sorry, not sorry about that.

Quinn: No, awesome.

Brian: Yeah, please don't be.

Amanda Litman: Went and worked there for a while, through the election. Worked for his non profit for a year, went down to Florida, worked on the Governor's race there for a year. And then moved up to New York and I worked for Hillary Clinton's campaign for two years. I was her Email Director, which is a pretty confusing title, given how often Hillary Clinton's emails were in the news. But, this was not my [inaudible 00:04:28]-

Quinn: Wait, what did you do?

Brian: Oh, God.

Amanda Litman: I had to explain to my Grandma quite a few times, "No, Granny, not those emails."

Quinn: Right, right.

Brian: Oh, God, Granny please just-

Amanda Litman: Please, it's just, oh. It's fine.

Quinn: No more.

Amanda Litman: But, so the election came and went, as you may recall. It was terrible.

Brian: I remember.

Amanda Litman: And I pretty quickly started hearing from friends from high school and college who reached out to me to say, "Hey, Amanda, you're the only person I know that works in politics. I want to do something about this. What do I do?"

Amanda Litman: In particular, I had one dude from college, who was like, "I want to run for office. And I don't know where to start, but I'm a schoolteacher in Chicago, our public school budgets are getting slashed, I, seems like anybody can run for office, so where do I go?" And I didn't have an answer for him, because there wasn't anywhere-

Quinn: Was he specific about what kind of office he wanted to run for?

Amanda Litman: He was thinking about State Legislature or City Council, depending on the timing and what he was thinking about. But ultimately, I didn't have an answer for him. Because there wasn't somewhere you could go that if you didn't want to run for Congress, you didn't want to necessarily run for Governor, you had never been in politics before but you were maybe in your 20s or 30s, you knew how to solve a problem and you just wanted to get in the door, there was nowhere you could go that would help you.

Quinn: Sure.

Amanda Litman: And that felt to me like a symptom of really larger problems within the Democratic Party, and within Progressive infrastructure. So, sent an email to a whole bunch of friends with an idea. One of them connected me to her husband, this incredible operative named Ross Morales Rocketto, we sat down. We wrote a plan, we built a website and then on Inauguration Day we launched Run for Something. And we thought, this will be a small, fun side hustle. We're gonna take full props for, "What a cool hobby." And instead, a thousand people signed up to tell us they wanted to run in the first week-

Quinn: Oh gees, damn.

Amanda Litman: ... 20,000 signed up in the last two years. And as of today, we're up to about 31,000 people that say they want to run for office.

Quinn: That's wild. So what sort of intake system did, and we'll get to what it is now, I'm sure you've learned a lot of lessons.

Brian: Yeah.

Quinn: And obviously had a ton of success, but like, for those first thousand people that came knocking down your door, what sort of intake system and process did you have set up to absorb them, to start pointing them in the right direction?

Amanda Litman: On day one? Nothing.

Quinn: Yeah.

Amanda Litman: But, by two weeks in, I sat down with some incredible organizers and what we ended up building is in some way, shape or form the same system we have today. The technology's a little different and the processes are a little tighter, but the idea being that real people are just as qualified to screen for candidates as political operatives, and are in fact, probably better. So we built out a process where if you sign up, you join a conference call. We explain the sort of basics of running for office, and then you talk to one of our volunteers.

Amanda Litman: They'll reach out to you, set up a time to have a half hour conversation, really looking for four keys things. Is this person Progressive, whatever that means, for wherever they live. Is this person authentically rooted in community? Is this person willing to work hard? And then ultimately, is this person interesting and compelling to talk to? Do they get us excited? Do they pass our fuck, yeah test? Are they passionate? From there, we admit people into our support program.

Quinn: So it's interesting, you actually ... and we'll get into all this, I'm just so curious about it ... you actually could turn people away.

Amanda Litman: We try not to, we do, I would say our first year we spent quite a bit of time talking people out of running for Congress.

Quinn: Oh, wow.

Amanda Litman: Because I don't think folks realize that there are more than half a million elected offices in the United States, and only 435 of them are in DC, in Congress. The rest are all across the country.

Brian: Wow.

Quinn: To their credit, Democrats did such a poor job of filling those offices for 10 years, that I can understand why they would maybe think those don't exist.

Amanda Litman: Totally, and it's on us to fix that and sort of reorient people to this idea that if you care about solving a problem, local government is the place to start.

Quinn: Yeah. For sure. I mean, you're gonna see an impact there. All right, we're gonna dig into all that. I'm super pumped about it.

Brian: Yeah, okay so real quick Amanda, and I think we already mentioned this, pre-recording, but this is what we do here. We are gonna provide some context, and we are going to dig into some action oriented questions that get to the heart of why we're here. And why everybody should give a shit about what you're talking about. And then we will get, yeah, figure out some actions that we can all take to actually help.

Amanda Litman: I'm excited.

Quinn: That's right, by the end of this, Brian's running for office.

Brian: I think I might be running for something by the end, yeah.

Quinn: Take down that coffee, pal.

Amanda Litman: Awesome.

Quinn: Enjoy it.

Brian: So Amanda, we do like to kick it off with one important question to set the tone a little bit here. Even though I just asked you what your life story was, which kind of negates the whole thing, Amanda, why are you vital to the survival of the species?

Amanda Litman: Oh. I'm not vital to the survival of the species at all.

Quinn: Come on, be bold, be bold.

Amanda Litman: Be bold. I look around the world ... country, and I get to travel and meet with, ultimately at this point, thousands of young people who have raised their hands and been willing to throw their hats in the ring, and say they want to run for office. And then actually do it. And many of them win, and then pass policies that have made life better for people. And if I can have some small part in that, what a cool opportunity.

Quinn: I love it, see-

Brian: I'll say.

Quinn: ... that was easy. You got it. You're making change.

Brian: I think it's awesome.

Quinn: All right, so, again, some context. Congress is still super old, and super white and super male. And clearly, those people have had their turn. And it hasn't been great. But in 2018, that did start to change a little bit. I mean we had 1992, the year of the woman. And then we made little Progressive gains along the way, but in 2018, almost 600 women ran for Congress or Governor, which is 60% more, I think, about than 2016. Before 2018, a dozen states didn't have a single female representation in Congress. And women made up just 19% of Congress.

Quinn: But in 2018, they didn't just run, they won. Women, women of color, people of color, young people, young female people of color. The place isn't brimming with diversity now, but it's a start. So there's now nine female Governors, plus DC. Which should be a state but that is an entirely different conversation. Women I believe are now 23% of Congress. And white men are now only, I think, only 60% of the House. And 71% of the Senate. And that might seem, it might seem insane to call that good news and progress, but they both used to be 95%. And considering white guys are only 38% of the population, I think we are getting on the right track.

Quinn: Many of the incumbents or the defeated not surprisingly, have not been handling it well. Old white guys. But as my friend Franklin Leonard says, "When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. It is not." So, because we are trying to keep things moving and because we like we just mentioned, there are so many more jobs than just Congress, none of those numbers include State Houses, et cetera.

Quinn: But people want to see people that look like them in office, especially the youth. Representation wasn't the only thing that changed, though, in 2018. I think we hinted at after a few years of taking our foot off the pedal, forgetting all the [deep end 00:11:29] that gave us majorities in decades past, and the election and technology efforts, like email directors like Amanda used so successfully, in 2008 and 2012. The election of Donald Trump kind of kicked into gear a whole lot of new Progressive projects like yours to get out the vote to support science, to support women and to support new Progressive faces on the ballot, right?

Quinn: So one of those groups was, is, yours. Run for Something. So, that's where I want to get to, today. So we already talked about you had your holy shit moment, right?

Amanda Litman: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Quinn: Which was the election night. But I'm curious though, just a little more back story before we move forward. What were the biggest obstacles you ran into, into both getting the organization off the ground, and then to actually execute it, at a high level? I'm curious.

Amanda Litman: Well, for a start, I had never done anything like this. I had never, you know, personally I had never been a forward facing entrepreneur, I had always been a cog in a machine of a campaign. I had never, I was unemployed. I had just had knee surgery, so I literally couldn't get off the couch.

Quinn: Gee.

Amanda Litman: I didn't have any money. I put the whole thing on my credit card, to start, and just kind of hoped money would come if I asked for it. And a lot of people told us that this was insane. We did a lot of, sort of seeding the field with, "Hey, this is an idea, tell us why this is crazy," and many, many folks especially within the political establishment were like, "I mean, yeah, it's a great idea. It'll never work. You can't work with candidates all across the country. Legally, it's very hard. Operationally, it's very hard."

Quinn: Right.

Amanda Litman: "Nobody really wants to run for office, so like, good luck. Maybe you'll get a 100 people in the first year," which was our ultimate first goal. And I think as we thought about how we wanted to push government to look more representative, we understood that we had to redefine what it means to be a candidate.

Amanda Litman: That it couldn't just be rich, old, white male lawyers. And it couldn't just be people that already knew the incumbents, or already knew how the political system worked. And it couldn't just be folks who assumed they were ready. We needed to proactively ask people to run because as it turns out, when do you ask, people will raise their hands. And when you say there is training, there is a support for you, people will jump in. But if you don't give them the on ramp or the entry point, they're not gonna consider themselves welcome. So it was sort of both philosophically and practically, really difficult.

Brian: Yeah.

Quinn: So, how much did you have to, like you said, realizing that we needed to change what representation looked like, and you were aware of that. And yet, you had so many people come in. How much did you have to paint the picture for people on that? I mean, of those thousand people for instance. Were a lot of those white guys, or was it a pretty diverse crowd from the start? I'm curious.

Amanda Litman: It was pretty diverse, right from the start, which was telling. That if you put it out there into the world and say, "You should run for office, we'll help you," more than just the white men will raise their hands. It's like, why has government been predominantly made up of white men in the past? It's because it was the only people that ever got asked, because candidate recruitment happened-

Quinn: Right.

Amanda Litman: ... in back rooms, through old boys clubs and through networks of who knew people.

Amanda Litman: But when you ask women to run, they will. When you ask people of color to run, they will. So we were really intentional about that, and it meant everything from cultivating a voice online that was approachable and accessible, to doing targeted press and working with outlets that reached young people and women and people of color. To, most importantly, telling the stories of the candidates who came to us and said, "I want to run."

Amanda Litman: And then as the organization progressed, as our folks who were running and winning, and running and losing. Because especially women are twice as likely to identify a role model as the person that gets them into the campaign, and 10 times as likely to identify training or access to training as the thing that pushes them over the edge.

Quinn: That's crazy. I mean, it makes sense, but, but, right. And it just shows you what a huge fucking glaring hole there was before.

Amanda Litman: Yeah.

Quinn: You know? If they're 10 times more likely and yet there's so few people that look like them and can have a conversation and can empathize with them. It's a little bit like, I feel like I've mentioned this before, as much as I know, no company is perfect by any stretch, but I've got an iPhone and 12 Apple products like everybody else. And I remember when they launched their health app a couple years ago, and it was really cool, and it looked nice, and it was the first way to actually, congregated all this information. And then all of a sudden, everybody goes like, "There's no way to track your period in this thing."

Amanda Litman: Yeah, because there was no-

Brian: Oh, right, right.

Quinn: Right, yeah. Because it was just six really smart white guys who'd been there a long time, and given us some really amazing products. And yet, what is the one fundamental thing that women cannot escape? And it's like, all of a sudden you could pull in health records to this, and it's like, "Guys, it's so simple. It's once a month." It's like, you know, if it's not there, then there's no way to have those conversations. So you mentioned the establishment saying, "It'll never work," and obviously the DNC has a boat load of their own issues.

Quinn: So, we've got all these new groups that built up to the most recent election, and now. And we have companies, or I guess groups, like Higher Ground Labs, that are now actively seeking out and supporting even more new organizations that could help further raise the tide. And save the whole fucking place. So I'm curious what the relationship looks like now, with groups like the DNC. and I guess incumbents that have been there for 40 years.

Amanda Litman: Well, I would say we have been really intentional about building really good relationships with all of these organizations. In part because, for us, our guiding star is candidates first. What do candidates need? If candidates need help from the DNC, then we should have a good relationship with them, in order to get that help for our candidates. If candidates need help from Emerge America or Emily's List or Higher Ground Labs companies, or what have you, then we want to make sure that our relationship with a candidate is not going to hurt them in any way.

Amanda Litman: So to that end, we ask the Chairmen or the head not to be duplicative, not to recreate the wheel, or not to recreate any good, well functioning wheels. So where other resources already exist, we will connect folks to those trainings. So, we don't actually do training, ourselves in any like, "Weekend Long, Run for Something Boot Camp." No, because other folks do that really well, and it's really expensive, and most of our candidates are not full time candidates, who can't take the weekend to go to a training. They need stuff virtually, they need stuff out there that's on their timetables. They need stuff that's free. And so, we try and supplement the stuff that other groups have done, without overstepping them.

Quinn: Interesting, so what would you say is your, I guess now going forward, is your primary role and in the intake and training and to, all the way to running process. And how has that changed, in the past year and a half?

Amanda Litman: I think our mission has stayed remarkably the same, we haven't pivoted, we haven't altered at any way. And what we've done is expand the scope and really learn from what works and what doesn't. So we learned how to better recruit people, to telling stories of candidates, to providing access, to talking about access to training, to what kind of media outlets and what kind of platforms potential candidates are, and how many times you need to ask them, and all those things.

Amanda Litman: And then what do candidates actually need, both in terms of making the decision and then actually getting on the ballot and then running successful campaigns. For example, 60% of the candidates have told us over the last two years the most valuable thing, more than money, more than training, more than volunteers, was a friendship with another candidate, because they're alone.

Quinn: Wow.

Amanda Litman: It's really hard, running for office is really fucking hard. So if you don't know anyone who's doing it, you can't complain to your staff. You can't complain to your family. You can't complain to your partner, because you're putting all of them through hell. So you, the only person you can commiserate with is another person who's going through something similar. So, we have been really intentional about building community among candidates. Things like that.

Amanda Litman: We've also learned quite a bit about the things that they don't need, like, honestly? And this is a sort of separate rant, that I'd be happy to go into. Building [crosstalk 00:19:21]-

Quinn: Please, we love rants.

Amanda Litman: Building technology for [inaudible 00:19:23] campaigns that require money or staff to use is limiting your access to the market as a company. And is honestly making campaigns feel like they're missing out on something they ultimately don't need.

Quinn: Can you go into detail on that?

Amanda Litman: Yeah, so for example, what can't ... local races, are one of the most based on candidates themselves knocking doors. Because it is very rarely a decision between candidate A and candidate B, it's vote or not vote. Especially in these local elections that are held, not like in November, whatever the first Tuesday or second Tuesday in November is. They're held in April and July and September. So it's not really a decision between two candidates. It's a decision between vote and not vote.

Amanda Litman: And the number one way we know this, the political science research, to get someone to vote is to have them to have a conversation with the candidate. Because a face to face conversation with a candidate, or with someone on the candidate's staff or a volunteer is sort of second tier but, with the candidate themself, breaks through the bullshit. You don't remember a tweet, you don't remember an email. You do remember the conversation you had with someone who came to your door and said, "Hi, I'm Amanda, I want to talk to you about your property taxes." That's meaningful.

Quinn: Sure, sure.

Amanda Litman: So what we have found is that our candidates who have the time and the ability and the resources to knock doors, which most of these races outside of major cities, it's 10,000 voters, 5,000 voters, couple hundred voters.

Brian: Right.

Amanda Litman: You can literally talk to every voter multiple times.

Brian: Yeah.

Quinn: Sure.

Amanda Litman: If you put in the time. What you don't need is some app that allows you to spam your friends, what you don't need is some app that might, you know, "Better make viral videos," like, that kind of crap is just not necessary for these races.

Quinn: Right.

Amanda Litman: For bigger campaigns, it might be helpful. For Congressional, for state wide, for Presidential even, sure. But, like I said, half a million elected offices in this country, and let's call it a thousand of them are at the scale that could use those tools. The other half a million, are not.

Quinn: True.

Amanda Litman: So to me, when you think about where we're putting our resources, the best possible place to do it is to a local race, because the volunteers and the voters that that candidate talks to will also show up and talk, and vote for higher Democrats. For Congress, for President, for up ballot. But-

Brian: Right, because they're actually in the booth.

Amanda Litman: ... They're in the booth.

Brian: As opposed to not being there.

Amanda Litman: Yeah. Because they're there. Once you get them in the booth, they're gonna vote. And if they're there because Jane Doe running for School Board got them there, that's great.

Brian: Sure.

Amanda Litman: I always think about my dad. My dad was a Republican for a long time, he became a Democrat probably in, probably did not vote for Obama in '08. But did in 2012, in part because I worked for him. He was like, "In my best interests, for you to have continued employment, I'll vote for Barack Obama."

Amanda Litman: But he always tells me, you know, my parents live in a part of Virginia's suburbs that used to be very heavily represented by Republicans, and the last 10 years, has really gone through a transition. And he said, before the November 2017 elections in Virginia, when I asked him who he was going to vote for, he was like, "Well, I gotta show up and vote for Kathy Tran. Kathy Tran is running for House of Delegates. Kathy Tran belongs to our synagogue. If I don't vote for Kathy, she's gonna yell at me at services next week. She's gonna know." I was like, "Well, she won't know."

Amanda Litman: But that personal relationship is really, really important.

Brian: Right. Right. It would be super creepy if she did know. That would flag something-

Quinn: Yeah, something would be up.

Brian: ... a whole host of problems.

Quinn: Something would definitely be up.

Brian: However.

Quinn: Yeah.

Amanda Litman: So I think if you think about the best place to use your resources, your time, your effort, it is as small of a race as possible. Which feels ridiculous to say, but you get to be a big fish in a small pond. You get to really make an impact. And the work you're doing helps Democrats across the ballot.

Quinn: Well, and especially if the federal government or whatever shambles it's in right now is abdicating so much responsibility as it is. I mean, we look at something like the coalition of US states and cities that have joined the Paris Agreement or versions of it, or are making their own regional networks for [inaudible 00:23:08] or whatever it might be. The point is, you can literally have an impact because nobody's stopping you.

Amanda Litman: I mean, Congress is playing defense, and especially the Democrats in the House are doing a pretty good job of protecting against the worst possible things that can happen, that are within their control. But you get to the State Legislative level or the City Council level, even the School Board level, Democrats who have power are playing offense, and it's fucking awesome. It's advocating-

Quinn: That is awesome.

Amanda Litman: ... it's advocating for reducing city reliance on dirty energy, it is protecting trans kids in schools, it's advocating for driver's licenses and ID cards for undocumented immigrants. It is like, really meaningful stuff. And it's playing up defense in that they're stopping things like heartbeat bills getting passed across the country. Which is ultimately how they'll fuck over Roe v. Wade, by passing these horrific bills, they get challenged all the way up to the Supreme Court, and that's it. Goodbye abortion in the United States.

Quinn: Yep.

Amanda Litman: So, for me, I think about, if you really want to make a difference, not just campaign- wise but policy-wise, local government, a hundred and fifty percent.

Quinn: Sure, sure. So, I'm curious about that. I've had this position, and it kind of drives people crazy, and now that I feel like, since we made some strides in 2018, people actually ... don't just spin around and walk away from me when I say this, but ... I felt like, and I usually use a comic book reference, like there's, where-

Brian: Perfect [crosstalk 00:24:30].

Quinn: ... Shut up Brian. Where Bane breaks Batman's back, right? And then he has to kind of like rebuild himself and come back. That, that all of these groups, and so many of these groups pre-existed, 2016, right? But then there's whole host of new ones, like your own, of people who were born out of policy or out of campaigning or whatever it might be. Or just fired up young people, maybe technology, whatever.

Quinn: That so much of this would not have come to be if Hillary had actually won. Right? The world would be less of a fucking shit show, on a day to day and overall basis, but I can't imagine that we would have ignited this Progressive fire that we have now, right?

Quinn: It's almost, it has felt like we needed to get kicked in the teeth to recognize how far behind we really were? Because it wasn't just like, Trump won three states he wasn't supposed to. Or we didn't think they were supposed to, and so he won the election. It was exposing the fact that, and again, I'm a massive Obama fan, I mean, I'm literally listening to Michelle's book for the second time in a month. And all of my siblings worked in Virginia on all of his campaigns. I'm the only one who didn't.

Quinn: But you know, we spent a decade completely ignoring down ballot races, all these extra races and local races you're talking about. And it fucked us. So, I'm curious if you have any thoughts on the idea that we needed to go through this, and that we're now executing on it, on a, well, to kind of hand it over to young people and be reborn a little bit?

Amanda Litman: You know, I would never say it's a good thing that Trump won. It's horrible. So many people are struggling-

Quinn: Yeah.

Amanda Litman: ... especially the most vulnerable communities, communities of color. Immigrants, refugees. Our healthcare system. Like, it is fucked. And, if it forced, out of that horrific catastrophe of an election, some good has come. And that makes me feel like there is hope. So I don't know if I could ever say, like, "Oh, well, aren't we lucky that Hillary didn't." No. It's fucking horrible. And, I must say [crosstalk 00:26:28]-

Quinn: Yeah. Yeah. And listen, that's why I've never found the right way to phrase it.

Amanda Litman: Yeah. I mean, I find it, it's like very uniquely American, I think, to find the silver lining of the tragedy. Of like, out of the wreckage becomes hope, I think?

Brian: Right, right.

Amanda Litman: Because I would have, I get to see all of our candidates, and it's like, they wouldn't have run if Trump hadn't won. And they're making incredible progress.

Quinn: Right.

Amanda Litman: I wouldn't trade one for the other, but I also don't have that option. So, it doesn't really matter.

Quinn: And that's the thing, is just like, it's not black or white. It's not like, "Look, okay, here's the deal," and all of the less advantaged people either newly disadvantaged because they fucking want to, or people who have been disadvantaged for 400 years in this company, because it's institutionally built that way. And now it's just making it worse. You know, they shouldn't have to suffer because of this.

Quinn: But I guess I'm looking at, and maybe this is my own way of trying to avoid, and not totally go into the darkness, which is like, I guess I'm saying I hope that groups like yours and the momentum that has started and people like AOC running and winning and her compatriots running and winning, that that's not the end of it. That it's going like, "Oh, we're, we didn't just do something in 2018, we're actually just, we're building something new."

Quinn: Like, it's fucking terrible. But thank God these people, like you said. A thousand people signed up and said, like, "I have to personally do something about this."

Brian: Right.

Quinn: And I just, I guess I'm saying, I'm glad that that was the outcome. As much as I don't think we're near the actual outcome, yet. Does that make sense?

Amanda Litman: Totally.

Quinn: I'm glad that that was everybody's first reaction, instead of like, "Whelp, I'm going to France."

Amanda Litman: And I think, for me I think it's, Trump was not the cause, he was the symptom of a decade long investment by the Republican Party and specifically, by billionaires within the Republican Party to-

Quinn: Sure.

Amanda Litman: ... seed the ground with a particular ideology that was anti women and anti communities of color and anti poor.

Quinn: Sure.

Amanda Litman: And it's not going to get turned around in two years. And that I think is actually the hardest thing to wrap my head around, now. For supporters who are, especially those very new politics, is that you don't undo decades of investment in two years. It's gonna take continued activism, because they're not stopping.

Quinn: Right, they're not stopping and it's also not like one off votes. I mean, we didn't just lose offices and seats and momentum, you know. They spent a decade literally building systems and building financial networks to override the ability to flip things in one election. I mean, you know, we have a much better Senate map in 2020 than we did in 2018. I mean, it's not even close. But it's still going to be fucking hard. You know? And we've still got horrible, all of the felons in Florida that got their voting rights back. And then you look at what they're trying to do this week. It's like, it's not fixed.

Amanda Litman: No.

Quinn: You know, Stacey Abrams didn't win because of what they were able to do there. It's insane. You know, we didn't, that felt great, but we didn't win it.

Amanda Litman: And part of that is because they've been focusing locally in a way that we haven't. Because they can do that, and I think part of this is, a Republican donor is doing it as a business investment. A Democratic donor is doing it because he or she is inspired. And you don't get inspired by infrastructure, you don't get inspired by a State Leg candidate in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas. But those State Leg candidates and those infrastructures are the things that get you access to the inspiration.

Quinn: Sure.

Amanda Litman: Especially as you think ahead to 2020, like, the Presidential campaign. Super important, obviously, it really matters to beat Trump. So, don't get me wrong. And, it will not fucking matter if we do not win State Legislative chambers in 2020. Because after the Census, they're gonna redraw the borders. And State Legislative chambers in about 35 or 40 of the States, have control over those boundaries. And if, if, if, if, Republicans maintain the control that they have, they will redraw the districts such that Democrats will lose the House in 2020, and will lose it for a generation. So it doesn't fucking matter.

Quinn: So that's the thing. Yeah. I think-

Amanda Litman: That I think, for me, is the thing that now gets me out of bed every day.

Quinn: And yeah, and I'm excited to get to 2020 here, because I think that's the thing. Like, I hope that people saw that their vote did fucking matter, because of what the Judiciary Committee and every is able to do now, because you literally put those people there. And now they're able to take action. And to describe to them and say, "Look, we said 2018 was the most important year election of your life."

Quinn: Fun fact. If they redraw the districts in 2021, that's game over. I mean, it's like, it's a nightmare. Darkness, right?

Amanda Litman: Yeah.

Quinn: So, yeah, it's, there's a number of ticking clocks there that makes 2020 super vital, here.

Amanda Litman: Well, and, it shouldn't have to be the most important election of a lifetime, to vote. It doesn't-

Quinn: No, you're right.

Amanda Litman: ... Every election is the most important, because you never know where the crazy's gonna come from. But it shouldn't have to be. You vote because that's what you do. Because that's your right and responsibility as a citizen.

Quinn: Right. I had Jury Duty a couple of weeks ago, and it was inconvenient, but I believe in civic duty, and you should do what you do. And, I've lived around the world, and I'm aware of how little this country actually asks of you, on a civic duty basis. Which is, we don't have compulsory military service anymore, in any fashion. We don't have compulsory civic duty of any sort. You know, yes, voting on a fucking Tuesday in November is kind of a pain in the ass, but, your employer's obligated to give you time off. Like, should it be a National Holiday? Of course.

Brian: Yes.

Quinn: Like, shit's broken. However, just vote. It's like, out here in California ... and it was just the primary, I gotta find the numbers for the actual election itself, but ... you know, the Democratic primaries, turn out in Los Angeles County, the bastion of the quote unquote Resistance-

Brian: Yeah, it was-

Quinn: ... was 11%. And you're like, "You're not the fucking Resistance if you're turning out at 11%." Like, let's go. This is the thing, that you've been talking about and bitching to your friends about. 11%'s not gonna cut it.

Amanda Litman: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's exactly right.

Quinn: Anyways. So Amanda, because this is the prism through which we evaluate everything, in regards to the new candidates that come through your organization, what percentage of them make climate change and clean energy or antibiotics, food security, most of the stuff we cover here on this podcast, a focus of their platform?

Brian: Why they're getting into it.

Amanda Litman: Certainly a large part of them. I mean, it varies, really varies from race to race. But we only work with people who work, who's, have as part of their values statements, that climate change is real. It's a critical urgent problem, and we have a responsibility to solve it.

Amanda Litman: My favorite example of this, we, in 2017 we worked with this guy, Scott Casey, who was running for City Council in Blue Springs, Missouri. He wanted to transition the City of Blue Springs to solar energy.

Brian: Awesome.

Amanda Litman: And it was a three way ... amazing. It was a three way race, it was an incumbent and two challengers, including Scott. He beat out the incumbent but lost to the other challenger. And in the intermediary time, he turned his Facebook group into an advocacy group, the Facebook group of volunteers he built during the campaign.

Amanda Litman: When the Town Council or City Council decided to shut down a recycling plant, he then actually affiliated into a non profit, that's fought the closure of that recycling plant. He's now running for City Council again, we just re-endorsed him, to be able to have a say in how the City processes recycling, electricity and ultimately their broader energy usage. Which like, that's awesome. Fucking awesome.

Quinn: That's so amazing.

Brian: That's fucking awesome.

Amanda Litman: And he's, like emblematic-

Quinn: Did not quit.

Amanda Litman: ... No. And emblematic of our candidates all across the country. We're currently working with a woman who's primarying, Yasmine Taeb, who's primarying Dick Saslaw in Virginia. Dick Saslaw is the Minority Leader of the Virginia House of Delegates. He's a Democrat, he's been there a long time. He hasn't faced a competitive primary in God knows when. He is the great, biggest recipient of funds from the Virginia utility companies. Which is-

Quinn: Wow.

Amanda Litman: ... is like, pretty sad. So, Yasmine's challenging him-

Quinn: Yeah.

Brian: Yes.

Amanda Litman: ... she's an incredible woman of color, she's a local activist, she's very sharp. And she's running an incredibly Progressive campaign. You know, I think it's important to keep in mind that, in places, especially in places where we feel pretty good about the likelihood of the Democrat winning in the general, we should, it is never a bad idea to primary someone. Gotta hold them accountable for the decisions they're making, and if their record is good, and they've been delivering from constituents, for constituents, they should have no concerns about winning.

Quinn: Yeah. No, everybody should be put to the test. And I don't think we need to be crazy, radical, because we also need to get some stuff done and have some people with experience, but one of our previous guests, and a dear friend of the pod, Andres Jiminez, is running for Virginia 38. And against a long time Democrat, a woman who, she is, I can't say is in the pocket of Dominion Energy, but has taken enough where he, you know, I said, "Hey man, how come you're not going after a GOP seat? In a chamber that's literally down to one fucking vote."

Quinn: And, he, you know, she, we can always be more progressive, because climate change, and I love hearing about the fella in Missouri, this is not some fucking infrastructure project that we could vote on again in 10 years and come back to-

Brian: No.

Quinn: ... and it will be, like LaGuardia Airport. And it would be great if we fixed it. It's like, "No, there's a ticking clock, and we need people who are ready to take those actions and ready to do it." And if you're, like you said. Nobody should, if you're representing your District and you're of the times and paying attention to what's going on and the momentum behind things, like, you shouldn't be worried about it. But there's no reason we shouldn't try to build an action oriented electorate, I guess.

Amanda Litman: And I think it's really interesting, you know, Quinn, Run for Something only works with candidates under the age of 40.

Quinn: Oh, interesting.

Amanda Litman: Yeah, so we only work with young people. And it's, we don't discourage older folks from running. Like, it's great everyone should run for office-

Quinn: Right.

Amanda Litman: ... and we needed to limit our scope, it's really important to increase diversity-

Quinn: Sure.

Amanda Litman: ... both in terms of age and runs, and all those things. And, millennials and Gen Zeros are the most diverse generation in the United States electorate, they're the most Progressive, they're the most directly affected by many of the legislations being passed today, and we grew up in an era where we have not seen government deliver on the promises that it's made to us. You know, I'm 29 years old, I'm right in the middle of this millennial age. I remember 9/11 being a momentous occasion.

Amanda Litman: My formative adulthood. I graduated high school into the Recession. I graduated college, and like, I was very fortunate not to have student debt. I was unusual amongst my friends in that regard.

Amanda Litman: I don't know anyone who is really able to consider buying a home. Even like, I live in New York City and I think about staying, because I can't afford to have a family here. Are you fucking kidding me? What am I going to do? I don't know.

Quinn: Oh, yeah. Fuck no.

Brian: I'm not even close.

Amanda Litman: So like, there's a very particular, when the young people take to politics given the circumstances in which you grew up, I think the most important one is that in my lifetime I have never seen a Republican Party willing to act in good faith. So why should my elected officials, why should my party, too?

Quinn: Yeah, no, I mean, they're so far past the benefit of the doubt, right?

Amanda Litman: Yeah.

Quinn: Or, there's some good among them. It's like, start another party then. Because, you've over time proven over and over and over and, that you failed to do anything to help the people who put you there. Or to help the people you represent in any way. Or the people who didn't vote for you. You're supposed to represent your entire District. Or your entire State. And they just don't care, the money is evil and it's everywhere, and it's insane to have people in office for 40 plus years. And have no ties back to where they came from, as far as how they actually use their actions.

Quinn: So. Looking ahead to 2020, which is not words I thought I would say this soon, but. We need to. It feels like, Election Day was like a week ago. So, let's talk about what's different about 2020. So, where's your biggest focus? Where do you need the most help? Where do we most need people to run? What are our weaknesses, our opportunities, et cetera, et cetera.

Amanda Litman: So I think for 2019 ... one, I should note, it's not an off year right now, we've already endorsed about a hundred candidates for 2019. And there'll be a couple hundred more this year. There are elections in at least 23 States. Including the Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate. Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky gubernatorial. Like, there are elections this year. And, everyone should pay attention to them because they matter, too.

Amanda Litman: But, as we look ahead to 2020, we're going to be recruiting specifically in the about dozen or so States identified as redistricting priorities by Eric Holder's group. So that includes-

Quinn: What's his group called again?

Amanda Litman: ... The National Democratic Redistricting Committee.

Quinn: Okay.

Amanda Litman: A mouthful.

Quinn: Yep.

Amanda Litman: But we're gonna, we will continue recruiting all across the country, and we want to make sure that in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, we're running full slates of Democrats. Meaning, every State Legislative race is contested by both a Democrat and a Republican.

Amanda Litman: Which feels like a small, tiny act. Except for that in 2016, 40% of State Leg races were uncontested, and in 2018 that number was about 33%. Which still means a third of all of the ... a third of the country didn't have a choice. Or a third of the races that we [crosstalk 00:39:41]-

Brian: Right.

Quinn: That's crazy.

Brian: Right.

Amanda Litman: ... I just saw an article this morning from AP that said they used the efficiency counter, but they're using it on some of these Supreme Court fights over redistricting. And if the country had been fairly, like, the boundaries had been fairly drawn, Democrats would have won an additional 16 seats in 2018.

Quinn: Whoa.

Amanda Litman: Additional. So the Democratic yield in the House could have been as much as nearly 50% higher.

Brian: That's insane.

Amanda Litman: So like, this shit matters. So, we're gonna be on it.

Brian: Thanks.

Amanda Litman: That's the biggest thing that we're gong to be focusing on, is recruiting candidates in those States, as well as across the country. So as you're thinking about how you can help, do you want to run? Do you know someone who could run? Do you know someone who should know someone, who should run? Then we want to talk to them.

Quinn: Sure, sure. Where do you feel like Run for Something still has work to do, as a business, as an organization?

Amanda Litman: I think for us, we scaled up very quickly. We were five people our first year, about 17 our second year. We're at about 16 now. I would like to be 27 by the end of the year, if I could afford it. My dream budget has us at 45 staffers, so both internally and operations-wise, how do you scale a company that goes from five people to 15 people over the course of basically six months, and then how do you continue to fund it, knowing that it's a really competitive market space?

Quinn: Where does most of your funding come from?

Amanda Litman: It's a mix of individual donors and major gifts. We have more than 12,000 donors at this point, our budget for the first two years was about two and a half million, but our budget for the next two is closer to six.

Quinn: Wow.

Amanda Litman: Which is a big jump.

Quinn: Yeah.

Brian: Yeah.

Amanda Litman: But I think of what matters is, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to really make a difference and you know, I will find the money if I never sleep again. So, what's [inaudible 00:41:27] in it.

Quinn: Yeah, right, exactly, the answer is, we don't have one. So thank you. So I am curious though, before we get into the specific things our folks can do, here. You said that you had knee surgery, and you were the Email Director, and you were the cog in a machine. And now you're scaling up to hopefully, six million bucks and 47 people. How do you, can you take a step back and look at where you are and feel like, "Am I on the right path? How long am I gonna do this for? What's the next step?" I'm curious.

Amanda Litman: Yeah, all the time. I mean, I've been really lucky. I will say, this is my dream job, in that I get to do something really meaningful and I'm on my own schedule and I don't have a boss. And there's some incredible opportunities out there ... I wrote a book, in 2017. Like, a side project that got published by Simon and Schuster. So as one does, and I'm really proud of all that, and it's incredible opportunity. And I never intended to start a decades long job. So, hopefully you're able to build something that is strong enough to exist without the founder. So, one day I'll step away. But I've, I love my job.

Quinn: That's awesome. What's your dog's name?

Amanda Litman: Her name is Sadie, she's currently sleeping next to me. She's-

Quinn: She gave up, huh?

Brian: She's been wonderful, yeah.

Quinn: Brian's voice tends to put dogs to sleep.

Amanda Litman: A very good girl.

Quinn: It's very soothing.

Brian: What, no, that's weird.

Quinn: All right, so, we've been building to this year. So, again, the answer for a lot of these is, Run for Something.

Brian: Yeah.

Quinn: But our goal is to provide really specific action steps our listeners can take, and we like to say with their voice, their vote and their dollar. And sometimes those overlap a little bit. So, if they're not running for something, I'm curious, what are the big actionable but sort of specific questions the rest of us should be asking of our representatives?

Amanda Litman: I think the first is paying attention to local representatives. So, subscribe to local newspapers, follow them on social media, hold them accountable for the things that they're doing. You know, you asked about climate change earlier. I just saw a story in the New York Times yesterday that municipalities get a chance to vote on the International Building Code, which they re-do every so often. And part of the Building Code indicates the kind of energy efficient and solar efficient and climate adherent policies that they're use. And countries and municipalities base their local Building Codes off of this international model. Many municipalities don't vote in that simply because it falls off their radar. So, for example-

Quinn: Fascinating.

Amanda Litman: ... one thing you could do today, I believe that the deadline is March 29th, is reach out to your local elected officials and make sure, have you paid your dues, whatever it is. So that you can vote on this, in the Fall? That's a really meaningful way to make change, effort on climate change.

Brian: Yeah. Yeah. It could be the last one ever, because then all the buildings will be under water, so, if you could do that, that would be-

Amanda Litman: Yeah, who the fuck knows? Maybe.

Brian: ... that would be great for everybody.

Quinn: Interesting, okay, that's really helpful.

Brian: Yeah.

Quinn: And yeah, digging in on the local side and standing up for, or building community in any way, in the local thing is so important. Same thing, I saw something the other day where Facebook said, it tried to highlight more local news, but it couldn't find enough local news. And it's like, "Well, it's because you fucking destroyed it." But, you know, it's like those things are essential.

Quinn: Pay attention to what your representative's are doing, ask them questions, build community, go to meetings, all of those things. And again, that's where you're gonna see the most change. Whether it's building a solar farm or putting it on people's roofs, or windmills, or cleaning up your air or water, or fixing the potholes. Whatever it might be. You will see that. And that is not the same thing as Congressional impacts.

Amanda Litman: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Quinn: What about their vote, where should they ... you talked about 2019, which is coming down the pipe. And it does matter, I mean, it got, Virginia's the perfect example. I mean, it came down to a coin flip. And 400,000 people got Medicaid. So, yeah, your vote matters, folks. Where are you really both hopeful and nervous about, I guess, in 2019?

Amanda Litman: I think for me it's really about both the elections in 2019, but also thinking ahead to 2020 and making sure we're being thoughtful about these primaries.

Amanda Litman: Voting in primaries, the best way to make sure that your opinions and your voice matters is to become a reliable voter. Because you know who politicians pander to? Reliable voters. So, be a reliable voter. Show up every time. Whether it's a special election or a local, a municipal, or like, I don't know, your housing association. Or your PTA. Any chance you get.

Amanda Litman: I like, whenever I see like, "We're running a poll," I'm like, "Great, I want to vote, I love voting, everyone should vote, all the time." And my friends are like, "Where are you gonna vote?" And it's like, she's so cool [crosstalk 00:46:13]-

Quinn: How do we get other people to think like you?

Brian: I know, voting is awesome. I mean it's-

Amanda Litman: Somebody's asking me for my opinion, I love giving my opinion. So, I think-

Quinn: And it's official.

Amanda Litman: It's official. So, anytime you get a chance to do it, building the habit of doing it is really important. And don't be afraid to ask your friends to vote with you. We know that you are the best possible messenger for getting your friends to show up.

Brian: What is-

Quinn: What was the thing, someone kept saying, in 2018. The best thing to do is to bring your most-

Brian: ... Bring your most popular friend.

Quinn: ... bring your most popular friend-

Brian: Yep.

Quinn: ... with you to the voting booth. And hopefully there's a network effect there.

Brian: Yeah.

Quinn: I brought Teddy the dog, so, that's-

Brian: Teddy's so great, I mean, he can't vote but he's wonderful.

Quinn: He's great. He abandons us on a frequent basis, but he's pretty great.

Brian: All right, and what about their dollar, what about other groups like Run for Something, who can have the biggest impact over the next two years?

Amanda Litman: I think if you're trying to decide where to spend five dollars or 500 or 500 thousand, I don't know what kind of listeners you've got here, but-

Quinn: They're, it's the full spectrum.

Brian: Across the board, yeah.

Quinn: You'd be amazed.

Amanda Litman: Shameless pitch, or, actually not so shameless pitch. Run for Something is the best bang for your buck. We spent about $10,000 per elected official. Per winner, in the last, first two years. It is incredibly meaningful. And whether you're spending one dollar or five dollars or 10 dollars, we use your money scrappily, effectively and to really make a difference.

Amanda Litman: Our yearly budget, when I said six million over two years. Yeah. That's big, for a tiny organization. And Emily's List spent upwards of close to a hundred million dollars. Some of the Party Committees are closer to 200 million. The Presidential, some of the Presidential Super PACS that they don't even want have already pledged more than four million dollars to them.

Amanda Litman: So, like, in politics, there, the scale of money is very different. It's kind of like, Silicon Valley in that sense, but I personally think that every dollar that you give to us will be used very, very wisely. If you have already given us, you're a recurring donor, God bless you. You should think about giving to other organizations that support candidates. Emily's List, Emerge, Latino Victory Project, Collective PAC, Victory Institute, as well as, I know this is kind of a hot take, consider giving to your State Party. They're doing incredible work for State Legislative races, and often, municipal elections that is always underfunded and under resourced. And can use every dollar you can. You don't have to like the Party, to think that they're better than the alternative.

Quinn: Sure, sure, we do have to, even if they're kicking ass, I mean again. All the things that we ignored for so long. We do need to rebuild those, they are an essential piece of the puzzle. And just deflecting them is not going to help do that.

Quinn: Awesome. All right, so, we're getting close to time here, I can't thank you enough. If you have anyone else, and either now or later, kick ass humans like yourself that we should talk to that are in elections, that are in climate or science or medicine or things like that, please send them our way. We have found that there seems to be a cabal of very smart people who all just, I believe you're all on the same iMessage chain. Which I'm very jealous of.

Brian: That's how that works, right?

Quinn: Very jealous, I need to just slide in there. So if you have any of those recommendations we would love them, and of course, we're always aiming for ladies and people of color, because they need the microphone.

Brian: We should slide through Run for Something's website, and talk to some of these candidates. Some of these that she's mentioned.

Amanda Litman: Yeah, take a look, we have some amazing ones, especially some back in 2018. You could do a whole day full of bad ass women who ran for, insert type of office here, and I think they're amazing, they're stories are amazing, and the effort that they are already doing to make life better for people, will make you feel good. Which is nice.

Quinn: That, well, everybody needs that. Well, we might hit you up for some of them, and do that. That sounds awesome.

Brian: Yeah.

Quinn: All right, so we have a little bit of a-

Brian: What is it called-

Quinn: It's ... thanks, Brian. It's, I, in 60 straight outlines, you're Episode 60, we call it a Lightning Round. It's not.

Amanda Litman: Okay.

Quinn: So, just a few more questions. So, Amanda, when was the first time in your life when you realized you had the power of change or the power to do something meaningful?

Amanda Litman: Sometime in elementary school, I ran a sandwich drive for a Food Bank in Northern Virginia. And got my entire school to make sandwiches, and it got a write up in the Washington Post for it. And that was very cool.

Quinn: In the Washington Post?

Amanda Litman: I think so. Maybe the [crosstalk 00:50:43]-

Quinn: Wow.

Amanda Litman: It was like, somewhere in one of the local papers. Northern Virginia local papers. But being able to do something with your hands that then makes a lunch better for someone, is kinda cool.

Quinn: Oh, that's really awesome. I've got, my kids were very involved with Alex's Lemonade Stand. Which is a wonderful pediatric cancer organization. They support both ground breaking research but also travel funds for families with cancer, because that's the part everybody neglects. Because they're too busy paying for the actual medical bills, that they can't pay.

Brian: Right.

Quinn: So my kids are really into lemonade stands, for things like that. But a sandwich drive, it seems like a really, like you said, a tangible thing that everybody can do. That's interesting.

Brian: Do you remember what kind of, what kind of sandwiches are we talking, here?

Quinn: Brian, that's not the point.

Brian: I just feel like it's important to get specific.

Amanda Litman: Ah, whatever they were, they were kosher because it was Jewish Day School. So, not ham and cheese.

Brian: Nice.

Quinn: Got it.

Brian: Into it, into it.

Quinn: Not ham and cheddar.

Brian: Check, check.

Quinn: Well, awesome. Hey, who is someone specific in your life that has positively impacted your work in the past six months?

Amanda Litman: Rebecca Traister, who is the writer for the New York Magazine and is an incredible scholar. Her work has basically shaped my entire political career. But every time I read a story from her, I come away thinking about it better and smarter. And more refined.

Quinn: Wow.

Brian: Awesome. That's always helpful.

Amanda Litman: Is that a good answer?

Brian: Yeah. That's a super answer. Man.

Quinn: Yeah, no, that's really great, that's really great. We will put that in show notes. They have, God, they have some talented writers over there, man. What do you do when you feel overwhelmed, by all of this? Specifically?

Amanda Litman: I read, I'm a prolific reader, like a hundred-

Quinn: What are you talking about?

Amanda Litman: ... 150, 200 books a year type reader.

Quinn: Get out of town.

Brian: Shit, I got to 45, and I was pretty proud of myself.

Quinn: Whoa.

Amanda Litman: I read really fast, and I read a lot trash. Like, those are important, right? I think that I love books mostly a combination of like, literary fiction, non fiction, chick lit, romance, like the smuttier the better.

Quinn: Sure, sure.

Amanda Litman: Several of them [crosstalk 00:52:47].

Quinn: What are your last couple of reads? There's no shame here, there's no judging here. This is a safe place.

Amanda Litman: I just started it this morning, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, which is like the death penalty. Yesterday I finished Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams, which is like a mix of Bridget Jones Diary and Americana, it's about a Jamaican American woman in London, Jamaican British woman in London who breaks up with a boyfriend and has a mental breakdown, and then goes to therapy, and ... it's really good. And then-

Quinn: That sounds amazing.

Amanda Litman: And then I also just finished reading The Next Year In Havana, by Chanel Cleeton, I think is her name. That's like, a woman in, during the Revolution in Cuba, falls in love with a revolutionary, her family ends up getting exiled. Fifty years later, her daughter comes back to Havana to spread her ashes, and ends up falling in love with another revolutionary. It's like, it's a little trash, but it's really lovely.

Quinn: It's historical trash.

Amanda Litman: Yeah.

Quinn: What's your, what do you rock, are you rocking paper books, Kindle, what are you ... you got Audible?

Amanda Litman: I wish I was a paper books person, but I have moved so much, I'm a Kindle person. Plus I like to read at night, so.

Quinn: Yeah, I get it. That's a-

Brian: It's so nice with that light.

Amanda Litman: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So good.

Quinn: ... It's nice, and from what I-

Brian: God, it's beautiful.

Quinn: ... it seems to have not affected, I only use the Kindle for night reading, and my wife made fun of me because the other night, the lights were all off, this is not about to get sexy.

Brian: Yeah.

Amanda Litman: Wham.

Quinn: It's about to go the other way. And all of a sudden, I yelled out, and I was like, "Ah. Something dropped from, a piece of the roof fell and hit me in the face." And she's like, "What the fuck are you talking about?" I was like, "Something hit me really hard in the face." And I looked down, and I was like, "Oh no, it was my Kindle." But it had literally given me a bloody lip. I had been holding it above my head.

Brian: Damn.

Amanda Litman: They can get dangerous, you know?

Quinn: I just passed the fuck out, and just dropped it, and it gave me a bloody lip. And she was like, "I," it's incredible that she sticks around, it really is.

Brian: She's so sweet.

Quinn: I just, gotta keep putting that stuff in her coffee, every morning.

Brian: Wait, I have a quick question before we move on to the next question. What about your book Amanda? You said you wrote a book, in 2017?

Quinn: Oh, yeah, wait.

Amanda Litman: Yeah. Which the only reason I mentioned, is because I'm sitting in my living room and it's staring at me from the other side of the room. I wrote, it's called, Run for Something, A Real-Talk Guide for Fixing the System Yourself. It is a guide on how to run for office. So, though, it's actually three parts.

Amanda Litman: The first is like a Civics 101, how does local government work, how do the Parties work, what does this whole thing mean? Second is, how do you actually run for office? The mechanics of a campaign, like message, mobilization and money. And the third part is, if you don't want to run for office, how do you get involved with a campaign as a volunteer or as a staffer.

Brian: What is this, where do I get this?

Amanda Litman: Amazon, Barnes and Noble-

Brian: Excellent.

Amanda Litman: Independent bookstores in your area.

Quinn: Brian, where do you usually get books? Yeah, independent bookstores, Brian.

Brian: Okay. I'm not going to ask any more questions. How about that?

Amanda Litman: It might be good, people like it.

Quinn: What would you change, since it was put down on dead trees?

Amanda Litman: I mean, the stats are a little out of date, because it was written in 2017. And I cursed a lot, which my grandmother was like [inaudible 00:55:34], before, she was like, "I'm so proud I taught you all those words. Did you have to use all of them?" And I was like, "I did."

Brian: Yeah.

Quinn: Wait, I feel like we should have Granny on this podcast.

Amanda Litman: Granny's a killer.

Quinn: At this point. Awesome. Amanda, how do you consume the news?

Amanda Litman: Twitter during the day, I tend to go to Washington Post, New York Times, Vox, BuzzFeed and Politico. Sometimes I do [inaudible 00:55:55] during the day, too. And then, I usually like, I really like digging on the New York Times app, I pull that up on my iPad at night.

Quinn: I don't think anybody's answered with day versus night yet, I like that.

Amanda Litman: Yeah, I try really hard, like once the work day is over, to shut my computer-

Quinn: To not, right, right.

Amanda Litman: ... But that doesn't mean I don't flip open my iPad and poke around-

Quinn: Yep. Just start another device.

Amanda Litman: ... Yeah.

Quinn: Perfect.

Brian: Yep.

Quinn: All right, if you could Amazon Prime one book to Donald Trump, what book would that be?

Amanda Litman: That's a really good question.

Quinn: We have an Amazon Wish List, with the books that all of our guests have recommended, and they can just go there, click on them, and it'll send them to the White House.

Amanda Litman: I'm not a 100% sure he can read. Like that's not-

Brian: No one is.

Quinn: Look, we get that, we gotta build that into the preface, here.

Brian: Yes, yeah.

Quinn: Yeah, assume someone's reading it for him, or it comes with a package of colored pencils.

Amanda Litman: You know, I think he would find What Happened by Hillary Clinton to be deeply entertaining.

Brian: Incredible.

Quinn: That's so funny, no one-

Brian: I know.

Quinn: ... we've gotten a couple of overlaps in 60 books, and no one has recommended with that one. That's really smart.

Brian: That's so funny.

Amanda Litman: You know, like, the Constitution I'm sure he doesn't give a shit about that, but What Happened would piss him off and that would be fun. So.

Quinn: That would be great. I mean, considering he spent the week ripping on a dead guy, you know, I feel like you just gotta dig in.

Brian: Holy Lord.

Quinn: Is it narrated by, is the audible version narrated by her? That would be spectacular, if he had to listen to that.

Amanda Litman: I think so.

Quinn: That's like the best part of the Michelle Obama book, is, I get to-

Brian: Oh, my God.

Quinn: ... She is the first thing I hear in the morning, and the last thing I hear at night.

Brian: So many mentions.

Quinn: It's really great.

Brian: It's adorable, how much you love her.

Quinn: Yeah. She's very special to me. Hey. Last question. Anything you would like, last things you would like to say to Speak Truth to Power and all the people out here, before we let you go?

Amanda Litman: Yeah, I think if you're listening to a podcast like this, you are the kind of person that should run for office. You are also the kind of person a campaign needs, so whether you're a designer, a developer, a tech person, a public policy or an advertising exec or whatever it is you do in your nine to five job, from five to nine, campaigns need your help. So, especially, local. Don't be afraid to reach out and Run for Something can help connect you, whatever your skill set is. So, reach out to us, too.

Quinn: So not just for candidates?

Amanda Litman: No, we help plug in volunteers, we have a Mentorship Network, we have resource guides that need creating and updating, so whatever your skill set is we will find a candidate who needs it.

Quinn: What's the minimum hours per week you would love to, that you feel like someone could make an effective contribution to, let's say, a local campaign?

Amanda Litman: Half an hour. I mean, but then-

Quinn: Wow. Okay.

Brian: Half an hour a week?

Amanda Litman: ... Depends what you're doing, but half an hour, and you show up and maybe you help print out walk packets for half an hour. Or put stamps on a mailing. Or, clean the toilet. Like, that, that goes a long way.

Brian: Sure.

Quinn: Sure. We've moved, we talked about it before, on the podcast, because it's like, when any time, anybody's feeling like, "Oh, I want to help but I don't have anything to offer," it's like, the thing that you're good at. Whether, yeah, maybe it's you're a graphic designer. Like, everybody needs that. Like, Run for Something needs, whoever. Everybody needs what, that thing that you have. So take what your strength is, and apply it, because you're probably needed. And greatly appreciated and wanted.

Amanda Litman: You know, a campaign office is never gonna say no to someone who wants to bring by some cookies, or wants to come by and vacuum.

Quinn: Yeah, I mean, anything, fuck.

Amanda Litman: Yeah.

Brian: Right, exactly. Everybody can vacuum.

Quinn: Vacuuming is very therapeutic.

Amanda Litman: Yeah.

Quinn: It's very nice. It's very nice. And I'll tell you, our robot one is not getting the job done.

Brian: No, we need to work on getting a robot one.

Quinn: We're gonna get back to [crosstalk 00:59:24]. Anyways, Amanda, this has been awesome. Thank you so much for your time today, and for all that you do and keep doing, and for your book, that we're gonna get immediately.

Brian: Yeah, hell yeah.

Quinn: Thank you to Sadie, I think it's Sadie?

Brian: It was Sadie.

Amanda Litman: Mm-hmm (affirmative). For being a good girl today.

Quinn: Little vocal at the beginning, but then she just really got into it, you know?

Brian: Well, she knew mama had some important shit to talk about.

Quinn: Yeah.

Amanda Litman: She has heard me talk about my rage against the machine every day of her two and a half years. Does not [crosstalk 00:59:49] anymore.

Brian: Hey did you, all those people at the beginning, when you said you were gonna start Run for Something and they said, "Oh, that's adorable, nobody's gonna take part," did you tell them all, ha ha ha ha ha?

Amanda Litman: Not in so many words.

Brian: I got it, got it, got it, got it. Okay.

Quinn: No tell, you're a better person than us. Hey, have a great rest of the day, rest of the weekend. I hope it gets a little warm up there, and again, thank you so much. We really appreciate it.

Brian: Thank you so much.

Amanda Litman: Thank you guys.

Brian: Thanks to our incredible guest today, and thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute or awesome workout or dish washing or fucking dog walking late at night, that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at importantnotimportant.com. It is all the news most vital to our survival as a species.

Quinn: And you can follow us all over the internet, you can find us on Twitter, @Importantnotimp ... that's just so weird ... also on Facebook and Instagram, @importantnotimportant, Pinterest and Tumblr the same thing. So check us out, follow us, share us, like us, you know the deal. And please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this. And if you're really fucking awesome, rate us on Apple Podcasts. Keep the lights on, thanks.

Brian: Please.

Quinn: And you can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player and at our website, importantnotimportant.com.

Brian: Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blane for our jamming music. To all of you for listening, and finally, most importantly, to our moms for making us. Have a great day.

Quinn: Thanks, guys.