Former Missouri Secretary of State and prominent voting rights advocate Jason Kander told members of the GW College Democrats at an event Tuesday to make their political case with conviction and authenticity to win over voters who might disagree with some of their views.
Kander discussed his work as the founder of Let America Vote, an organization advocating for voter rights, to a nearly-full audience in the Marvin Center’s Betts Theater. He talked about his experience running for office as a progressive Democrat in a red state, saying it’s crucial Democrats have a clear message when talking to potentially skeptical voters.
“It’s not enough to just talk about what the Republican Congress is doing wrong, what the president is doing wrong,” Kander said. “We have to tell people what our vision is and where we want to go.”
Kander told students that the everyday courage it takes to “unabashedly” make your argument in politics is what is missing in D.C. today.
“What I’m telling you is that folks are not looking for you to pander to them or trick them or make them believe you already believe everything they do,” he said. “They’re willing to look past the fact that there are things you believe that they don’t agree with, as long as they know you genuinely believe those things.”
After losing his most recent 2016 bid for U.S. Senate, Kander started Let America Vote, continuing his work from his tenure as secretary of state of Missouri and countering efforts in several states to tighten identification requirements to cast a ballot, something critics say amounts to voter suppression.
“Our mission is that if you are a politician that is pushing for voter suppression, we are going to make political consequences for you,” Kander said.
Kander’s passion for voting rights inspired the College Democrats to invite him to speak on campus, Robert Dickson, the group’s vice president of communication, said.
“Something as special as voting needs to be protected, and a person like Kander is really a trailblazer for the voting rights cause,” he said.
Kander told students that it was up to them to be as active as possible to convince Americans to put Democrats “back in charge.”
“It’s on you to spend as much spare time as you can working phone banks, spending summers and other breaks helping folks out,” Kander said. “Because we are the people that are going to have to do it, and there’s no shortcut.”
Kander closed by telling students, many of whom raised their hand when asked if they wanted to run for political office, why he got involved in politics.
“You didn’t get into politics to get elected to something, you didn’t get into politics because you want to be something, you are getting into politics because you want to do something,” Kander said. “Every time I have ever run for office, it was because there was a thing in the world that I wanted to do, a change I wanted to see happen, and there happened to be an office between me and that thing.”