The political landscape has been widely dominated by the same social class: white men from middle class families who tend to have a background in law or business. As a result, growing up I always thought the road towards political office was through these faculties. But this assumption, as it turns out, is the very problem stratifying our current political structure. Hence why we need a political shift, and the first to lead this shift should be activists in various fields; people who are passionate about education, queer rights, civil rights, healthcare, education and so forth. Most importantly, these activists need to do it on their own agenda, rather than by following the old guards’ path.
Deray Mckesson embodies this political shift better than anyone in recent years. The 30-year-old educator gained prominence as an activist for the Black Lives Matter movement following the murders of Michael Brown in August 2014. Since then, he’s amassed over 333, 000 twitter followers, met with the President of the United States, and many notable celebrities, and not without his own political credentials. In August 2015, with the help of fellow activists, he launched an election campaign platformed on a set of policy proposals aimed at reducing police violence, called Campaign Zero. Though with a good initial response, Deray Mckesson finished 6th with only 2% of the votes. Although his election may not have been as successful as he had hoped, Mckesson shaped the conversation surrounding Baltimore’s municipal elections by forcing other candidates to address issues like police accountability, education, and transparency.
Attempting to successfully enter politics in order to hold legitimate power can also come with a fair share of criticism. Such was the case for Léo Bureau-Blouinas, who became the youngest elected MNA in the history of the province of Quebec after rising to prominence during the 2012 student protests. Bureau-Blouinas became the target of many critics when the Parti Québécois agreed to an annual indexation of 3% on university tuition - a seeming reversal of election promises. To many, this compromise appeared as the proof that his activism was a way to promote his self-interest as he rose through the political ranks, rather than a sense of civic duty.
Nevertheless, if the current political discourse is teaching us something, it’s that we need more than just business moguls and Yale law graduates running for office. If we want public policy that reflects the needs of the most vulnerable communities, then activists alike will have to be uncompromising when running for political office, and when the position is attained.