Common Sense Action (CSA), a grassroots network of college students who are working to formulate methods through which Generation Y may traverse the many onerous political and economic challenges that they will likely inherit in the coming years, is conjoining with Run for America (RFA), a nonprofit political advocacy group with a similar mission, to form Run for America Action.
With 40 campus chapters dispersed across 20 states -- from Boston University to UC-Berkeley, Michigan State to the University of Florida -- CSA has expanded tremendously since its inception in 2012. Founded by Sam Gilman, a member of Brown University’s class of 2015, CSA gives Millennials a platform to voice their concerns over the future of politics, but also aims to find solutions to the problems surrounding today’s gridlocked, hyper-partisan political system.
The group maintains an Agenda for Generational Equity (AGE) platform on its website -- devised by leaders from campuses across the country and from all ends of the political spectrum -- focusing on the key issues that will allow America the greatest opportunity to remain a premiere global power in the coming years.
Run for America, with a more tangible and immediate end-goal in mind, is currently recruiting 12 young political leaders -- from both sides of the aisle -- to run for Congress in 2016; not just promising political leaders, but solutions-oriented and future-focused educators, social innovators, veterans, entrepreneurs, and civic leaders. The group is looking for successful young professionals who are willing to give up promising careers in a number of sectors to work hard at establishing a better America, according to Gilman.
“The people we’re looking for aren’t just Millennials, or just young people, but they’re people who come with real ideas and who want to get things done. It’s not enough just to be a young person -- you have to have the vision, you have to be willing to take on the hard issues, and I think there are plenty of people within our generation who can fit that bill.” - Sam Gilman, Common Sense Action.
RFA recently posted job listings for every U.S. congressional seat to Linkedin in an effort to draw attention to the fact that these positions belong to America, not to the Democratic and Republican parties. It is seeking dedicated young political leaders to take back Washington from the current generation of representatives, who offer little but hyper-partisan squabbling, and is coordinating with CSA to accomplish this goal.
“Common Sense Action is the building block for the grassroots network within Run for America,” said Gilman. “CSA is building the movement that will also create the conditions to get this new kind of leader elected.”
While CSA began as a national coalition to grant Millennials a seat at the political table and to seek answers for why Generation Y is so disengaged from politics, it has since become a whole lot more. Each chapter has its own local mission.For example, Brown is pushing for online voter registration in Rhode Island, the University of Oklahoma is engaging in an educational campaign on energy security, and Michigan and Michigan State are working with the State House to incentivize Michigan students to stay in-state after graduation.
However, they are most formidable as a national grassroots organizing network whose mission changes based on the election, the most salient political issues of the moment, and on what the group decides as a whole. Together, they prove false the cliches of hyper-partisanship while offering strong support for local leaders who truly want to see a bipartisan America.
Both RFA and CSA have garnered national media attention in recent weeks -- CSA in the form of a Huffington Post column written by Gilman (far from the 22-year-old’s first foray into national journalism), and RFA with a column in USA Today.
Leaders from the groups will coordinate closely in the coming months leading up to the 2016 election. RFA will directly manage the campaigns of the candidates they select, and CSA will offer a helping hand in the states where the group has chapters. CSA members in states without candidates may also volunteer with phone banking efforts, and will certainly be active working on their own initiatives and registering students and locals to vote.
As both groups continue to expand at a rapid pace -- and their collaborative efforts have certainly expedited that growth -- they will reformulate their agendas as necessary. Gilman says CSA already plans to re-establish its AGE platform every two years to accommodate for changes in the political climate and to reflect the progress that the group has made.
“Of course solutions are going to be incremental, but I think it’s possible and I think the needs and demands -- the big challenges -- that we face as a country are going to necessitate young people coming together to find a solution, because our parents and our grandparents' generations are going to pass unsolved problems down to us,” said Gilman.
It is hard for him to speculate the outcome of Run for America Action's 2016 campaign, but Gilman hopes to at least draw more national attention to the problems surrounding hyper-partisanship and political gridlock as a way of preparing for future sustainability issues that America faces -- growing debt, climate change, and massive skills gaps in many industries, just to name a few.
“If we can turn out enough people to vote in primary elections for candidates in each party, who share solutions for a future-focused vision, at best we can elect new and better people, and at least we can change the conversation,” said Gilman.