Wikinews interviews grassroots political advocate Anthony Maki
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Anthony Maki has hosted "get out the vote" caucus training sessions for students of Minnesota high schools. In these sessions representatives of several presidential campaigns were present. Mr. Maki has been interviewed by Jonathan Winterview for Wikinews.
((Wikinews (Jonathon Winterview) )) What are "get out the vote" caucus training sessions?
- Anthony Maki: "Get out the vote" drives and caucus training sessions lie at the heart of grassroots politics in the U. S. Also, in Minnesota, these are important facets of my state's caucus procedures, which contrast with a majority of U. S. states that use only primaries. My view is that "get out the vote" drives are specifically designed to target underrepresented minorities in the electorate, including but not limited to the youth, the working class poor, some elderly citizens, and racial minorities. They accomplish two objectives: to register as many new voters as physically possible, and to inject a spirit of political and social awareness. The ultimate goal is to create citizens who will continue, throughout their lives, to share their opinions and to be activists for their causes. Getting out the vote has become increasingly easier to accomplish with the advent of mass media and especially the Internet.
- Caucus trainings, while similar to getting out the vote, do have a different and equally important purpose. For the states that use some sort of caucus procedures, these meetings, usually informal, explain the convoluted nature of caucuses. The caucuses generally run on Robert's Rules of Order, a system of formal and rule-based language intended to prevent any individual from wielding too much power and to eliminate time-consuming digressions.
- The event that I organized was a hybrid of both and targeted high school students specifically, though some faculty members also attended. We registered students, and I gave a presentation on the current candidates in multiple races and on the caucus procedures. This was on 23 January, about two weeks in advance of Super Tuesday, in which Minnesota participated. Given the apathetic archetype with which high school students are often dubbed, I think our turnout of approximately forty students in addition to about thirty more of faculty, the news media, the campaign representatives, etc. was spectacular.
((WN )) What do they aim to achieve?
- AM: Like I said before, these events and I as well are attempting to invigorate the populus in America about politics, and well, why not the world? Historically, my state has had high voter turnouts. However, this is not the case in most other places of the world. Too many people become resigned to the reality of politics in which they find themselves. What I think they do not realize is that their resigned state can, in fact, facilitate the corruption and stagnation that we see everywhere. It does not help to be apathetic. These things try to be the antithesis.
((WN )) Do you think the sessions are successful in getting "underrepresented minorities" to vote?
- AM: Well, I certainly believe that it does. Much of the work is publicizing it -- making voting and politics appealing. That's what I did. I contacted the local news studios, like WCCO and KSTP, and the newspapers, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Anoka County Union. It made quite a wave in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area. All of the aforementioned media outlets put their stories online as well, so the circulation gets fairly large. It's almost as if inactive individuals are hiding . . . somewhere. I make it my job to draw them out, to entice them, and so do many other activists everywhere. As we have seen already, Senator Barack Obama has had great success with the youth and African-Americans. Senator Hillary Clinton gets a lot of her support from union workers, Hispanics, and white women. Out of all the groups I just mentioned, I would argue that the youth are the individuals most hidden. They are either getting out in enormous numbers of their own accord, the efforts of people like me are helping, or some combination of both is at work.
((WN )) Have you been successful in encouraging people to register to vote?
- AM: I would like to think that I have contributed significantly to the registration of new voters, but it's impossible for me to pinpoint a number. Perhaps twenty people at the event I hosted registered there. What this is really about is unification and cooperation between all of us citizens to educate and to motivate each other. There are many other activists for which I may be a vague archetype, but I will not attempt to speak for them.
((WN )) What part has the Internet played in encouraging people to vote?
- AM: All of the media who covered my story put posts on their websites. Those are permanent. Ever since then, Googling my name has been a very interesting venture. It seems as if there are bots that automatically syndicate stories to blog directories and other such portals. Though none of this has attained what is called "viral" status, there is a viral quality in Internet stories. The contagiousness of the Internet allows individuals' voices to permeate farther than they could have before, and in some cases, individuals can trump mass media conglomerations. I think this is good, and it needs to continue. I want to see an America with the opportunity for all to become candidates and to participate fully in our democracy. Right now, I am not sure where America is at.
((WN )) Why do you consider it important to vote?
- AM: I want to effect change. It's as simple as that. To effect change is to vote. Of course, many other courses of action accompany this. If you consider the time it takes to vote in a day, it's really silly seeing some people not vote. Then again, lately they have run out of ballots. Simply put, nothing will change. Unless you participate. That goes for anyone in the world, not just the U. S. I think that it's clear that people consider important. At my city's caucus site, more than seven times the usual number of people in a presidential election year turned out.