“Why do millennials love Bernie?” asked an article from The Atlantic on our Facebook newsfeeds yesterday.
This morning, the answer was clear: They like free performances from Grammy Award-winning bands (and paid maternity leave).
Ezra Koenig, lead singer for Vampire Weekend, said few things get the band out of the studio these days, but supporting Bernie Sanders is one of them. Walking with Northwestern students from the Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) fraternity house to the polls is another.
Amid banners and buttons, Koenig and Chris Tomson, the band’s drummer, performed a shaky rendition of “A-Punk.” How shaky? Well, Koenig prefaced the performance with a disclaimer that he "might not remember the words" to his hit single. And he didn't. Koenig flubbed some of the song's lyrics, and the crowd mumbled along, but nobody revolted. Soon after, the musicians led students and Evanston locals from the fraternity quad to the Evanston Civic Center to vote in the Illinois primary. Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben and Jerry's, never appeared, despite sweet, sweet promises of free ice cream from the event's organizers.
“I truly believe that Bernie is a once in a lifetime candidate,” Koenig said, referencing Sanders’ recent upset in Michigan, a state he won Tuesday, despite early polls showing Sanders trailing Hillary Clinton by as much as 20 points. “It was one of the most stressful nights of my life,” Koenig said.
Koenig confessed that he registered as an independent in the last election. “It’s the great shame of my life,” he said, because this meant he couldn’t vote for Sanders in New York. “[I’ll do] anything I can do, even if it literally means walking with some college students to go vote to help my guilty conscience.”
As Koenig and Tomson performed on the FIJI front porch, one student danced on the floor above. Behind the student, in order from left to right, you could find a Bernie poster, an American flag and a tie dye flag behind the window – hallmarks of a crucial youth demographic. Still, the latest poll from The Chicago Tribune shows Hillary leading by a two-to-one margin in her home state of Illinois before the semi-closed primary on Tuesday, March 15.
Students organized on a quick turnaround after members from Evanston’s newly-opened Bernie Sanders campaign office contacted SESP sophomore Kyle Durango who was able to organize the event ahead of Sanders’ campaign rally tonight in Summit, Illinois, where Koenig will also be in attendance.
The campaign office also reached out to SESP senior Emiliano Vera, who has been canvassing for Sanders. “It’s always a struggle,” Vera said, referencing what he called the “nitty-gritty” process of political involvement. “There’s more to the political process than just voting."
Vera said he was originally contacted to organize an event for about 40 people, but Durango estimates that between 100 and 150 people attended the rally and walked to the polls. Durango thought the turnout was excellent for one day’s notice. “I’m impressed by how politically active the campus is,” he said. Although some students were turned away from the polls for registration issues, he said he's still proud they came out and tried to register for the primary.
Looking back, Vera said that he would have liked to have seen more work explaining rules of voting. According to Vera, both he and Durango had to remind voters that shirts, pins and banners supporting any candidate are not allowed in the polling station.
“There are plenty of resources on campus and in Evanston for students trying to vote,” Durango said. And there is certainly no shortage of opportunity. For Sanders supporters, this could include contacting the Evanston Field Office at 516 Dempster Ave. Former President Bill Clinton visited Evanston last Tuesday to campaign for his wife, and Donald Trump has scheduled a rally at the UIC Pavilion this evening. “Regardless of your political opinions, it’s great to be active,” Durango said, a view Koenig and Tomson seem to share.
But, like Robert Frost once said, and Ponyboy once repeated, nothing gold can stay.
As voting finished and Koenig walked back to his large silver van, away from the questions and admiring stares of dozens of students, he left a final message: “Good vibes for Tuesday!”
Good vibes indeed.