Go Vote MN wants to get more young Minnesotans familiar with the voting process and politics. And they're hoping local craft beer and music might draw them in.
We spoke with Sally Miller, the director of GoVoteMN, about how daunting politics can be, and getting people to talk. (Editor's note: GoVoteMN is owned by Go Media, which also owns BringMeTheNews – in fact, we work in the same office.)
What is Go Vote MN?
Sally Miller: There's an idea that politics can be super heavy, and electoral stuff can be kind of off-putting, or feel overwhelming to a lot of people. We created a campaign to make it fun, make it engaging, make it feel like something people want to be a part of. We're starting out on the very light, airy side of politics, where we’re focusing on engaging people and fun events.
And then once we get closer to the election, it’ll be a little bit heavier on, like, it’s time. We need you to do this, we need your friends to do this, we need you to talk to your family and have hard conversations about why voting in this election is important to you.
So what is Beerocracy, what can people expect there?
The craft brewery market is crazy here, and people love to go to craft breweries. We’re partnering with local breweries that agree that voter engagement is important. Each event will feature local music, conversation, and beverages. We really want it to be a focus on the fun, like we keep saying. But we want to introduce cool technology that will help people be engaged in the election, cool organizations that they can be a part of or share with others, and then make it as easy as possible for them to learn about how to vote, and that’s important.
If you're not paying attention every day, the election can feel daunting and abstract.
Right. A lot of people can’t figure out how it connects to them until it really does. And then sometimes it’s too late. So this idea of introducing them to issues that they care about, and then relating that to the election. Because a lot of people don’t see that, that kind of connection between the two.
Student loans, you might think it’s Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the banks are the people who are really screwing you over, when there’s a lot of decisions that are made on a statewide basis, on a national basis, on how people are treated in those aspects. Same goes for climate change, and a lot of issues that young people really care about.
So one part is connecting to those issues, and figuring out that it’s also easy to get involved with this first step, which is voting. And then maybe that might lead to you volunteering for an organization about an issue you care about, or lobbying your legislator, or you know, lead to these further actions.
The Beerocracy events are sort of like an on-ramp?
This process is not about speeches and people in suits. It doesn’t have to be that way. And in order for this sort of revolution that people are wanting and change to happen, we need to get a lot more people who wouldn’t ever think about being involved, getting them involved.
From the beginning, Bernie Sanders has really done that. And then on the Republican side, I mean Trump is, he’s doing a great job of being the un-candidate candidate to a lot of young people as well.
So now I feel like we have to figure out a way to help people see a path to doing more than just kind of armchair quarterbacking, or sitting at home talking to their buddies about it.
Like Twitter criticizing, and Facebook criticizing.
Yeah. So we want that face-to-face engagement, and really also driving people to our website, because we think that it’s a really easy way to find out what’s going on. We concentrate a lot of our content on lighthearted and issue-based things that we think young people care about, instead of really focusing on the kind of back-and-forth politics, the parties.
You've been in politics for more than two decades now. There's a lot of conversation about the polarization, and how people are more in their corners than they have been, and less willing to walk out and meet in the middle. Is that what you've seen?
Sometimes I think it’s just those polarized people who are a lot more vocal. And there’s a lot of people in the middle that are disenfranchised, that don’t have a voice, and that kind of consider themselves independents.
I mean we’ve seen this surge of people registering as independents, and considering themselves independent, or left or right of the actual parties that are out there. So in my mind, I think that the media has really brought those two platforms of the parties in much more of the forefront, and covering much more of the partisan politics.
When you go out into Middle America – I worked in the South a lot doing organizing – there’s just so many people that don’t consider the opportunity to vote like it’s their voice. They just don’t really see that it’s for them, or connecting to them. They don’t understand how they can make a difference. Because they’ve been left behind so many times.
To bring it back quick, are you guys hoping that Beerocracy is part of that, getting people from these different sides who are seeing their own side in the news to just chat?
That’s our hope, sure. Our hope would be to bring a lot of different types of people together, and have a place where these conversations could be sparked.
But we don’t want just a room full of political nerds talking about policy. You know what I mean? So that’s been part of the branding of this, is like, we want people who don’t think about these things on an ongoing basis to have a little spark of like, “Oh, crap, yeah. That’s cool.” Like, “I hear what you’re saying, I’m excited about that. It’ll be fun figuring out how my friends and I can go vote and figure out how to talk to our friends about why it’s important."
And I think this year gives that opportunity.
GoVoteMN presents Beerocracy. With Night Moves and Keith Millions. Free. 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Modist Brewing. Info.