While accompanying local politicians Mark and Christine Schauer on one of their last of many canvassing trips this election season, the dedication with which the couple reached out to potential voters became evident.
Also clear was the gratitude expressed by many of their constituents throughout the day. One man thanked Christine for being the first candidate to ask his perspective. Another pulled over in curiosity upon noticing a clipboard-wielding Mark strolling the sidewalk, and proceeded to discuss education with frequent gestures to his teething toddler in the backseat. Though encountering their fair share of unreceptive folks as well, they marched on in the faith that the successful exchanges were worth the work. As former Representative for Michigan’s 7th Congressional district and Democratic nominee for governor in the 2014 election and former Calhoun County Treasurer respectively, the Schauers have plenty of experience when it comes to getting out the vote.
“People really appreciate that you come to their door,” Christine said. “A lot of people don’t know who any of these candidates are, so having some sort of personal connection helps.”
The Schauers and various party offices encourage young people to take part in these door-to-door ventures as well as to take an active role in both local and national politics.
“To me it’s empowering for a young person to go out and actually represent candidates and articulate from their own personal experience why the election matters,” Mark said. “It’s training young people to be activists in the process, and I think it equips them with skills they can use in lots of different ways.”
“A high school student began working in one of my early campaigns, so that would have been 1998. Eventually, after graduating from college, he came back and he managed one of my later campaigns. He’s now an attorney who works for the US Senate, and this was a kid that went to Central High school. Obviously he was very interested in political science and government at that time, but that lit a flame for him, and he used that experience as a launching pad.”-Mark Schauer
Mark and Christine explained the many benefits of being politically involved at a young age.
“Getting young people involved in campaigns gives them a unique window into how elections work–how individual votes matter,” Mark said.
While millennials made up the same percentage of the electorate in 2016 as in 2012, they were, as a whole, significantly less eager to vote for the Democratic nominee-or any major party nominee for that matter. As more of the generation itself became eligible within those four years, millennials would have made a greater impact on the overall electorate if the same proportion voted. Whether due to apathy, disillusionment or the belief that single votes don’t count, this was not the case.
Although they may further suggest deeper involvement in political processes, the Schauers agreed that voting is the most basic and essential duty of an American citizen, especially for new voters.
“Elected officials make decisions that affect young people in lots of ways, from support for the schools and for universities, which impact the affordability of higher education to human rights to the environment,” Mark said. “These are things that matter to young people, and they matter to our country and our planet. And if young people don’t vote, they’re letting somebody else decide those things for them.”
In the recent election, many potential voters abstained due to their dissatisfaction with the major party candidates, as they perceived both platforms as in opposition to their own views. However, Mark and Christine stressed that voting is crucial in any case–as the perfect candidate does not exist.
“When people become fixated on one issue, such as abortion or gun rights, and they don’t agree with a candidate on that but they agree with everything else, that sometimes leads them to say ‘I’m not going to vote’ or ‘nobody aligns with me,’” Christine said. “I think that’s dangerous to decide not to vote because you can’t find the candidate that perfectly aligns with everything.”
This danger stems from the reality that every vote counts, according to the Schauers, contrary to the belief of many pessimistic potential voters. To illustrate this point, Christine brought up an occurrence startlingly close to home.When running for Bedford Township trustee, Randy Johnson won the primary with a margin of one vote.
“It could have been me, could have been Mark. It took one vote,” Christine said. “There was a recount, and he still one by one vote, so anyone who says their vote doesn’t matter, even though that’s not a huge national election, it’s a really real example that everybody’s vote does count.”
Mark also cites his run for governor as an example. In a close but ultimately lost race, the polls predicted a win for Schauer, and although the election prompted the highest turnout since the 1940s, this wasn’t enough to pull a win.
“The reality was that too many people stayed home, and 18 to 25 is such a crucial demographic,” Mark said.
Key to reelecting President Obama, this demographic tends not to participate in midterm elections.
“That’s why it’s so difficult for democrats to win tough elections like that in the non presidential years because young people don’t vote,” Mark said. “They don’t think it matters to them; they don’t think it matters who their governor is, who their congressman is, who their representative is. They get excited to vote for president, but there’s so much more.”
How can students become a part of the “so much more”?
First and foremost, even if they can’t vote yet, they can prepare to be responsible and informed voters in the future (and be prepared in schools).
“We should get back to teaching civics…not just at the national level but the state and the local levels too, because so many young people just don’t understand how any of it matters to them or relates to them personally, so it’s important to understand why your vote is important.”- Mark Schauer
“Of course reading and paying attention and not just believing everything you hear-getting real facts…being at least skeptical of anything you see, doing your own research and talking to people you trust,” Christine said of how to form opinions based off of reliable information.
If interested in volunteering within a campaign, the easiest thing to do is to get in contact with local party offices, whether Republican or Democrat, or to look into events listed on an actual candidate’s website.
Check out the actual article at the official GLHS Reflection site.