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New PAC Asks Mediocre White Men Running for Office: “Can You Not?”

“There is an epidemic of overly confident, under qualified white dudes crowding out America’s elections.”

So explains the Can You Not PAC, recently created to “dis/empower and dis/incline” the powerful and privileged (“specifically straight white men”) to lose their outsized ego and swollen sense of entitlement  — and not run for office.

There is a tsunami of mediocre white men running for office.  Our self-inflating sense of ability and talents has convinced many of us to run in the face of overwhelming empirical evidence that we are in fact not the most qualified. We’re fighting back against the notion that looking like a Ken doll is a qualification for elective office.

Started “by white men, for white men,” the Can You Not PAC is meant to complement existing organizations, like EMILY’s List, that support women, people of color, and LGBTQ folks running for office, by telling white men to take a step back. The PAC’s advisory board — made up of progressive women, LGBTQ folks, and people of color — will be issuing endorsements and (dis)endorsements in the upcoming November election, with the aim of defeating mediocre white dudes and elevating candidates from marginalized communities.

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What I appreciate about the PAC — which was started as a joke but is now “100% serious!” — is its recognition that allyship/solidarity/living one’s progressive politics demands more than nominal support of a candidate from an underrepresented community. As the PAC’s creators told MSNBC, “We know of groups that are doing such great work recruiting women and people of color and LGBT people. And we know white men who will give donations to those groups while simultaneously running against them in primaries.” In a world rife with sexism and racism, in which our successes and failures are shaped by systems working for or against us, the Can You Not PAC declares it’s on the powerful and privileged to reflect on the ways in which they advance through the world — and then to do something (meaningful and substantive and probably difficult) about it. I wonder how the PAC’s thesis might apply to folks outside of electoral politics — say, in academia or law or business. What might our responsibility as mediocre white people, or overconfident, under-qualified cis dudes, look like there?

While I genuinely don’t have any easy answers here, I’m grateful for Can You Not’s intervention.

Maybe you, too, know a handsome upwardly mobile upper-middle class cis dude who is well intentioned and *super progressive.* We’re happy go buy him a locally brewed craft beer and tell him to take a step back instead. We are not the heroes that Gotham needs.

Snaps to that.

Header image via.

New Haven, CT

Dana Bolger is a Senior Editor at Feministing and the co-founder of Know Your IX, the national youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools. She's testified before Congress on Title IX policy and legislative reform, and her writing has appeared in a number of outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. She's also a student at Yale Law School, and you can find her on Twitter at @danabolger.

Dana Bolger is a Senior Editor at Feministing and a student at Yale Law School.

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