Why You Should Run For Congress … Or At Least Support Someone Good Who Is Running

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OK, the title is admittedly aimed at Americans, which are just ~50% of our readers these days, but the same sentiment could be used elsewhere, so read on….

First of all, yes, I’m assuming that, because you read CleanTechnica, you would promote quicker deployment of cleantech, you are concerned about catastrophic human-caused global warming and pollution, and you would work for sensible social and foreign policies. Those are some pretty broad assumptions, based on very little info, but nonetheless….

As some of you may know, my deep academic background is in sociology (and environmental studies). Since before I even got to college, I was trying to help society help itself. As a sociology student, who also took courses in political science, I got what I think and hope was a good background in sociopolitical structures, history, and evolution. However, you don’t need any of that to understand one simple point:

For democracy to work well, the masses need access to important information and need to be engaged in the political process to a decent extent.


Yes, I prefer a direct democracy rather than a representative democracy, just as Elon Musk has said he prefers that for Mars. The bottom line is simple: the more centralized the power, the easier it is for corruption to take root. That doesn’t mean a dictator or powerful prime minister or president has to be corrupt — any individual, no matter the position, can have good morals and ethics. However, on the whole, humans struggle with these matters, and as long as powerful people can be schmoozed into tilting the coins, the sword, and the pen in favor of specific corporations and people over the benefit of the public, we will struggle with corruption in politics.

Getting back on topic, though, we do have a representative democracy in the US, and our system is particularly dominated by two parties. If you think that means that good people can’t be politicians, though, I have to strongly disagree. Good people can be politicians. And we need good people to become politicians.

ethical revolutionWhile the two main political parties and their systems/machines have huge influence, outsiders who appeal to the public can break through — that’s been no more obvious in recent decades than it is today, with outsiders Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders bringing many big surprises to this year’s presidential primaries, and with the Tea Party holding a firm grasp on many Congressional seats.

Obviously, I think Tea Partiers are misinformed and have largely been duped by GOP elites who take much more from the grassroots Tea Partiers than the party gives back to them. (Is it really that hard to see that the GOP elite are largely focused on helping the super rich to be taxed less and regulated less, allowing them to take more from the masses and legally harm the masses more?) This almost illogical dominance of the Tea Party brings me back to the headline of this article, though.

We need educated, thoughtful, and generous people in office. While I don’t know who most of you are, I think it’s a decent assumption that the average CleanTechnica reader fits that description.

You, I believe, are more informed than the average person, and more thoughtful and positively oriented than the average Congressperson.

You, I believe, would work for positive sociopolitical movement in energy, the environment, education, “defense,” and society as a whole.

You, I believe, could be a Congressperson who CleanTechnica could endorse. (Well, that’s an obvious one, right?)

Bob InglisWhile my leaning is more toward the Democratic Party for several reasons (or the Green Party in an ideal world), I am well aware that we have some Republican readers here, and I do think there’s room for those with general Republican ideology to be good policymakers (cutting out the party’s current racism, preference for the super rich, and lack of empathy for those in need of a social safety net, of course). In other words, I’m not claiming that you are all Democrats or that only the Democrats amongst us should consider running for office. I love what Bob Inglis is doing. In fact, I think it is even more important that Republican climate hawks try to shift the direction of the ship toward genuine climate action, and that Republicans are elected who understand compromise and aren’t simply going to block everything Democratic leaders propose. I think it is critical to have Republicans in office who are determined to think for themselves and not just take orders from the party heads, voting against solutions that they actually support.

Naturally, I’m not encouraging any of you to run for Congress this year! But it’s a hot and engaging political season, and I think now is a good time for good people to start thinking about such public service.

Also, although I’m focusing on Congress, there are plenty of other important offices that you can try to serve in. Consider what level of society most suits your interests and personal strengths.

The bottom line is: If we want our political system to actually be run for the people, we have to step up and do our part. Even if we decide running for office is not for us, we should be researching the candidates and supporting the ones who are trying to make our country better, not simply trying to get a powerful job that will lead to more money and “prestige.” Furthermore, if we are going to move in a positive direction societally, we need people in office who don’t just have good intentions, but who are keen to learn, adept at critical thinking, and able to understand that giving more money to fossil fuel billionaires (and other billionaires) to stick in bank accounts in the Cayman Islands is not how you improve our country or our world.

Many of us are watching the presidential elections closely, but the Congressional races routinely get neglected. They are getting neglected this year, and they will certainly get neglected in 2018. But having sensible people in Congress is critical to making societal progress — whether on the climate, in the economy, or simply funding the freakin’ government and not treating this important political body as if its purpose is to host white-collar gang wars and toss away taxpayer dollars on high salaries for people who don’t seem very productive…. The presidential elections may be exciting. But we need to channel that interest into productive changes on the equally important Congressional level.

So, that’s my push. Give it some thought.

Photos by: SUXSIEQ via Interior Design / CC BY-NCDominic’s pics via Foter.com / CC BYTheClimateGroup via DIYlovin / CC BY-NC-SA

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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23 thoughts on “Why You Should Run For Congress … Or At Least Support Someone Good Who Is Running

  • From a clean energy point of view, it’s actually probably more valuable to run for *state legislature*. There’s a lot of action there, and (in most states, not NY) the campaigns are cheaper than Congress.

    • Good call.

      I thought about rolling that in explicitly, but just to it implicitly in the end. But strong points for that.

      Btw, are you considering a campaign? 😀

  • I’m thinking most Americans at some level have concluded our political system needs a complete overhaul. That we need a system of direct representation. That this current system is a failure we want no part in. That we are waiting for the old system to fall apart from within.

    • Yeah, it does need a complete overhaul. There are still a lot of races which are worthwhile though: local-level governments are typically much more functional. Governor’s races are mostly direct elections and almost work.

    • Yes, I think that is probably the #1 message of the season. But not sure what the next steps are actually going to be… a lot up the air right now.

    • One of the issue that both parties are guilty of. Is the fact that they turn the politicians into telemarketer whores 4 to 5 hours every day to bring in money for the parties.

      • How do you run an effective campaign without money?

        • Worker bees

          • That would be worker bees willing to spend their own money.

  • You could’ve made the title less US-specific by replacing “Congress” with “Public Office” or “Legislative Office.” Also, I commend Federalist No. 10 to anyone who thinks that direct democracy is a better system than representative democracy in anything larger than a small town.

    • Federalist #10 is incorrect. Nice-sounding theories which don’t pass the test of evidence.

      For one thing the Federalists were assuming no gerrymandering (big, obvious mistake) and no political parties (bigger, more obvious mistake).

      The Federalist Papers are nice pieces of propaganda but frankly the Anti-Federalists were mostly right.

  • My immediate worry is that the Brothers K., being disappointed with both presidential candidates, will devote even more money and effort to the state and congressional contests.

    • Yeah, that’s a good point. A lot of damage could be done there. And at a time when there’s real potential to take back spaces from the Tea Party via Trump backlash.

    • I heard something about them pulling back from politics to some extent. Turns out that their high profile seems to be hurting their business.

      They also seem to be pretty unhappy with Trump.

      Perhaps they finally realized that the economy and stock markets do better with Democrats in control of the White House….

  • I have said it before here at CT: I think the largest problem with the American democracy is the two-party system which is the direct result of the district voting system. A direct voting system would not only be fairer (G.W. Bush got president although Al Gore received more votes, not to mention gerrymandering) but would also allow more nuance in politics, because more than two parties would get into Congress.

  • Kenneth Arrow proved that there is no way of mechanically aggregating individual preferences about states of social welfare that is guaranteed against the Condorcet paradox of cyclical majorities. A purely theoretical snag of vanishingly small real risk? I present an argument here (link, no fancy maths but quite hard going) that cyclical majorities are in fact quite likely if you add the requirement that means have to be consistent to ends.

    My argument is consistent with experience. Democracy does not work by simply aggregating preferences. It must involve a process of dialogue and compromise to generate workable and coherent policies. This either takes place within parties in a two-party system like the American, or in a multiparty parliament elected by proportional representation as in Israel, or some combination as in Germany.

  • That’s the problem when you educate people enough to vote, but not to fully understand why and what.

  • ‘Americans, which are just ~50% of our readers these days’
    I am curious about the other 50%, what are the numbers?

  • Zack, I think you qualify.

    • Except that I don’t think he currently lives in the US.

      • West coast I think

        • He was living in Poland but was planning to move back to the US. I don’t know whether the move is still being planned or has been completed. Last I heard there was some sort of a glitch getting immigration papers for his wife who is Polish. That was some time ago and it’s possible her immigration is still hanging fire. Obviously he’s not moving without her.

          Zach, are your ears burning?

          • Happy fathers day Zack

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