Star-powered politics: The new era of voting

By Courtney Jones

I’m in love with Kal Penn. I freely admit that. I have no personal experience with the man other than through “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle” and National Lampoon’s “Van Wilder” (both the original and “The Rise of Taj”); all of which I’ve watched about a bazillion times. Oh yeah, that, and the fact that I got a hug and a picture with him in Cafe Mac the other day. Was I excited about that? You betcha. Do my friends understand my excitement? Most likely not. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that, despite the fact that that K-Dogg wasn’t here to specifically see me, he was here on an important purpose; and even though I was slightly distracted by his gorgeousness, I was actually paying attention to his message.

Feb. 5’s DFL caucus in Kagin was my first one, and I have to say that it was quite the experience. The line to get in stretched back to the Macalester Street side of Bigelow, and students, staff, and people from all over the district waited together to go in and vote.

Although I don’t know if the turnout was specifically due to Kal Penn and Scarlett Johansson coming to the Twin Cities to encourage people to vote, I do know that I was impressed. After leaving the Kagin Ballroom, I decided to find out what kind of issues were bringing people out to caucus.

After convincing people that I wasn’t Candid Camera or just messing with them, I got some pretty interesting answers when I asked them what brought them out to vote (the question was purposely vague just to see what they would say).

Some stated that they had concerns for the future of the global climate; others said that the Iraq War was why they were spending their Tuesday night waiting in line to put an X next to a name on a note-sized piece of paper. Others cited education, health care, the economy or interest in seeing who was going to win as the reason why they were letting their ears freeze off.

But the really interesting part was that beyond specific issues or which candidates they were supporting, each person stressed how important it was to get out and vote.

In the past, I’ve chastised movie stars and other famous people for using their celebrity status to endorse candidates. There I would be, sitting at home scoffing as P-Diddy or Chuck Norris told me who was best suited for running the country. And although I was mildly impressed with the “Vote or Die” campaign, I wasn’t sure if I felt threatened into voting or just encouraged to do so.

But lately, my cynicism toward celebrity power in getting people to vote has changed (and I promise it has nothing to do with Kal). Since the power of voting has become more and more apparent to me, I’ve come to the conclusion that whatever tools people can think of (short of kidnapping) to get the populous out to vote are worthwhile, so if that means getting Johnny Depp telling people to learn their districts, so be it.

Your voice matters, especially when it comes to voting, so make sure you vote. As candidates are chosen in the up-coming months and the Big Vote approaches, I encourage you to pay (more) attention to platforms and ideals. Come up with the issues that are important to you and compare options. Do your research. Don’t let things passively wash over you. That was Kal’s message Tuesday – get out, be informed, and vote. So do it . . . because Kal said so. And what that good-looking guy wants, he gets.