LSA senior Paris Shusterfallou and Public Policy senior Reuben Glasser founded The Launch PAC, a progressive political organization, in early 2021 with the goal of helping elect Democrats to office. Launch seeks to create a platform for young, progressive-minded political candidates by helping them bolster their fundraising networks.
Shusterfallou and Glasser are both submerged in political life, both at the University of Michigan as well as through their upbringings. Glasser founded Michigan Political Consulting in 2019, a student group on campus that provides advice and strategy to political campaigns nationwide, while Shusterfallou serves as a consultant for MPC.
Shusterfallou told The Michigan Daily his mother, Melissa Shusterman, has been a huge influence for him during the formation of Launch since she serves as a state representative in Pennsylvania. He said he initially learned about the inner workings of politics through running his mother’s campaign.
“We just ran her campaign for the first three months, going to all these events, helping her set up fundraisers,” Shusterfallou said.
Shusterfallou said his experience running that campaign pushed him to explore political consulting, which eventually transformed into creating a group exclusively focusing on electing young people to office.
“What’s going on in the Democratic Party with (groups like) Emily’s List and the Victory Fund is they’re supporting key constituencies within the Democratic Party,” Shusterfallou said. “But there hasn’t been a group that just supports young people, and that supports young people with this donor network. There’s not a lot of donors who give to these young candidates, over and over again.”
Echoing Shusterfallou, Glasser said one of his motivations for forming Launch was understanding how difficult it is for young people to win elections and implement effective policy change for crucial issues like climate change.
“A lot of the time in politics, especially for young candidates, you are sitting in an industry that is dominated by individuals that are 50 years of age or older, and with that, you get this instance where it’s so hard to compete,” Glasser said. “I think our hope is to see solutions and policy change by leaders that know that we have issues like climate change and global warming that will drastically affect our generation.”
According to the Congressional Research Service, the average age of the current members of Congress is 58.4 years for the House of Representatives and 64.3 for the Senate.
The PAC, or political action committee, is finalizing an executive board of activists under the age of 30 that will work to organize endorsements for the group. According to Schusterfallou, the board will include members such as Sam Weinberg, the founder of Settle For Biden.
“(The board members) are going to be the ones endorsing the candidates, they’re going to be the ones reaching out to their networks and across the country to build our donor network,” Shusterfallou said.
Glasser said working with younger candidates at Launch is exciting because it helps inspire more young people to get involved in the political process.
“Having individuals that know the community, are exciting to the community and really engage the community are important to have elected,” Glasser said. “I think a lot of the time, that’s young people. Truthfully, I think it’s hard to get energized about someone that’s 20 to 30 years older than you all the time, and might not be easy to relate to.”
LSA professor Robert Yoon, associate director of the Wallace House, told The Daily younger candidates bring a perspective to office that can often energize the electorate.
“I think in cases when young people are elected, it’s kind of a sign that the electorate is looking for a change and, or that they feel that the young candidate brings a kind of energy or a fresh perspective that a traditional candidate doesn’t,” Yoon said.
Shusterfallou explained that while the candidates Launch endorses will typically be progressive, the board will place more emphasis on candidate’s ability to effect change in their communities than political affiliation.
“We’re going to be endorsing the most progressive candidate in the race nine out of 10 times, especially because we’re endorsing candidates under the age of 30,” Shusterfallou said. “But we also understand the need for a candidate to match their communities.”
Shusterfallou and Glasser both emphasized that, at least in its early stages, Launch is focused on finding more local and less well-known candidates to positively impact communities.
“There’s races out there that are millions, millions of dollars for the Senate,” Glassser said. “Our impact there with the budget we’re going to have in 2022 is minimal. But competitively, there are races for city council, or for state representatives, that might have a budget of $40,000 or less, and our impact there is pretty astronomical.”
Shusterfallou agreed, saying the large amount of money poured into federal elections may limit the impact Launch can have, encouraging them to involve themselves more with local elections.
Yoon mentioned that only a couple of PACs, such as The Lincoln Project or Club For Growth, have enough impact to affect larger-scale races. He said down-ballot races, or local races, have more room for help from groups like Launch.
“Political action committees have a huge effect on the overall process, but an individual political action committee has a greater likelihood of having an impact on the race the lower down the ballot you go,” Yoon said.
At its core, Shusterfallou said, Launch is dedicated to finding young candidates that can be effective leaders for the Democratic Party in the future.
“We’re about electing the best young Democrats we can, so the Democratic Party has a strong base for the future,” Shusterfallou said.
Daily Staff Reporter Christian Juliano can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org.