With more than 500,000 elected positions in the United States, the American political system can only sustain itself and succeed if a large number of citizens eventually put themselves forward for public service. But Washington's performance over the past two decades, with an increase in partisanship, prolonged stalemates, and numerous scandals, has taken a toll on young Americans. The mean-spirited, dysfunctional political system that has come to characterize American politics has turned young people off to the idea of running for office. In Running from Office: Why Young Americans Are Turned Off to Politics, Jennifer L. Lawless and Richard L. Fox explore young people's opinions about contemporary politics and their political ambition (or lack of it). Why do young Americans feel completely alienated from contemporary politics and express little aspiration to run for office in the future? Through an original, national survey of more than 4,000 high school and college students, as well as more than 100 in-depth interviews, Lawless and Fox find that the overwhelming majority view the political system as ineffective, broken, and unappealing. The data reveals attitudes toward the current government and political landscape, with references to the 2013 government shutdown, the election of Barack Obama, and political scandals involving high-profile politicians. Running from Office paints a complete political profile of the next generation that should sound alarm bells about the long-term, deeply embedded damage contemporary politics has wrought on U.S. democracy and its youngest citizens.
Reviews of the book
Running from Office, Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox have written a compelling - and depressing - account of how America's divisive and dysfunctional politics have turned off a new generation from even considering the possibility of running for office, depleting dangerously the future pool of bright and committed possible candidates. Using thorough and imaginative survey work, Lawless and Fox give a clarion call, along with imaginative suggestions, for finding ways to turn this around."
Norman J. Ornstein, co-author of It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism
"Running from Office is an apt - and frightening - description of America's greatest long-term problem: the practice of politics is the very essence of a democratic system of government and yet young Americans, the people we must depend on to preserve our democracy in the years ahead, are rejecting, even fleeing from, political participation. Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox have performed an invaluable service in uncovering the attitudes underlying this threat to our democracy and proposing steps we can take to correct the problem before it's too late."
Mickey Edwards, Former member of Congress, and author of The Parties Versus the People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans
"Running from Office paints a clear and often dramatic picture of what is keeping young people away from a life in politics. But there is hope! I'm confident that this generation of young people will put aside their discontent with elected office, and choose to serve. After 16 years in Congress, I know public service can be a noble, fulfilling, and life changing experience for those who are willing to participate. This book helps us all better understand what's at stake, what's behind this generation's mindset, and what it's going to take to get them to reengage."
Patrick J. Kennedy, Former U.S. Representative (D-R.I.), and Co-Founder, OneMind for Research and Founder of The Kennedy Forum