Raw footage for "None of the Above," a documentary on non-voters. In this tape, John Callaway and Tom Weinberg speak with non-voter Michael Johnson outside the United Center in Chicago. This is followed by an interview with political consultant David Axelrod in his office.
00:00Copy video clip URL Bars and tone.
00:20Copy video clip URL People taking photos in front of the Michael Jordan statue outside United Center.
01:00Copy video clip URL Cut to Michael Johnson standing in front of statue. John Callaway starts the interview by asking him to explain why he doesn’t vote. They are interrupted a few times.
03:45Copy video clip URL Johnson finally gets to respond, “To tell the truth, I haven’t found anyone worth voting for.” He comments that the electoral college technically gets to vote for president. He also criticizes the improvements that have happened only around the United Center for the 1996 Democratic National Convention as “just for show.”
04:35Copy video clip URL Callaway asks, “What do you want?” Johnson responds by saying that he’d prefer an everyday person who is free from corruption as president.
06:35Copy video clip URL Callaway asks him if it would matter if a black man was running, to which he responds, “No. Corruption doesn’t come in any particular color.” He claims that of all presidents, he feels that Bill Clinton is the closest that he’d vote for, but that he still hasn’t shown him enough. He also claims that nobody has ever asked him to vote, either, even though it wouldn’t make a difference.
09:30Copy video clip URL Callaway reiterates, “What would it take to get you to register and vote?” Johnson replies, “To tell you the truth, it would probably take another Messiah–another Jesus Christ or something…” Johnson challenges the notion that voting is the definition of “good citizenship” and points out many other ways of being a good citizen.
11:40Copy video clip URL Johnson comments that every day is a struggle, that he deals with a lot of negativity around him in the environment, and that he feels like he won’t live to be 65 because of the violence and “crazy stuff.” He says that this has been on his mind his whole life. He agrees that his life is better than before, and that he is going up “all the way to heaven.”
15:10Copy video clip URL Callaway asks what he’d do to show the candidates of the reality of life in the inner city. Johnson replies that he’d bring them to Cabrini Green, where he lives, because “there’s a war going on over there” and that he’d like them to “feel the tension in the air.”
16:00Copy video clip URL Callaway asks him about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the fact that he gave his life to advance the rights of black people. Johnson says that it still is his choice not to vote, and that King died for all people, not just blacks.
17:55Copy video clip URL Callaway asks, “Michael, what turned your life around?” Johnson reflects on his mother’s death as the catalyst and also reflects on her life as a minister on the west side of Chicago, and the fact that she meant everything to him. Callaway asks him, “Tell me about your father.” Johnson jokingly says, “Maybe you can tell me about him.” He goes on to explain that the last time he saw his father he was about 5 years old, that he dealt with that growing up, and has moved forward.
22:12Copy video clip URL Johnson characterizes the political parties, saying “Some Democrats seem to be Republicans. Some Republicans seem to be for the people. It’s hard to tell now. You’ve got a donkeys with an elephant nose.” He goes on to state that he feels that a woman would be a better president.
23:20Copy video clip URL Callaway asks whether Johnson would fight for the right to vote. Johnson notes that he’d still choose not to vote, but that he would fight for the right to vote.
26:30Copy video clip URL Callaway tells Johnson that he holds politicians to a standard of perfection. Johnson agrees, saying “Why not? You’re running the whole world, the whole country, why not get closer to perfection?”
28:10Copy video clip URL End of interview with Johnson. Cut to bars and tone, followed by political strategist David Axlerod sitting at his desk. John Callaway sits with him as they prepare for the interview.
29:15Copy video clip URL Callaway begins by asking him what he makes of the “None of the Above crowd.” Axlerod says that he’s disappointed by that but that he is understanding of the factors that prevent them from voting. He goes on to highlight these perceptions, such as the lack of difference between the parties, the belief that politicians don’t have any direct impact on citizens, the lack of free time and convenience because people are working more.
31:50Copy video clip URL Axelrod notes, “We have to live in the world of the possible,” highlighting the fact that there’s not much outreach to non-voters. He points out that the basis of campaigning is research, starting with asking people if they’re registered and if they’re likely to vote. He calls himself a “pragmatic realist” in that approach, which allows him to take that stance.
36:20Copy video clip URL Callaway asks if it’s true that political strategists really are not interested in promoting more people to vote, that they want it the way it is. He responds that the bottom line is doing whatever it takes to win, so if that means avoiding getting out the vote in certain areas, then that would dictate the strategy.
38:40Copy video clip URL Callaway questions whether the problem is more structural and the proof of that may lie in the motor-voter registration. Axelrod agrees that access to polling places and registration is without question a part of the equation.
42:08Copy video clip URL Axelrod compares voting in our country to those in other countries. He calls ourselves “victims of our own success” in that we have confidence that democracy will continue whether people vote or not. Axelrod says that this is true, but the question of power, where power lies, and how much money is connected to power comes into play.
45:50Copy video clip URL Tom Weinberg again questions the power of people to make change in our own lives. He points out the difference between us and other countries, and questions what does this mean?
47:00Copy video clip URL Axelrod recalls the flood of voter activity when Harold Washington ran for mayor of Chicago, which resulted from their feeling that there was a lot at stake for those who turned out for that election. He points out that we have lost our sense of stake, urgency, and and that even people who do vote are ambivalent. Axelrod expresses his surprise that they did not ask whether the process of political campaigning leaves people disillusioned about voting. He points out that he feels that campaigning has not changed much over the years, but that the way it’s reported and the “gigantic magnifying glass of television” is the difference. Callaway notes that, “To some degree, we’re spoiled” to which Axelrod responds, “There’s no question.”
53:50Copy video clip URL Weinberg points out that most of Axelrod’s time revolves around television, and questions whether we should make voting as easy as watching television. Axelrod says that people are so busy and voting is inconvenient for people, and that if we do so through television or the internet, or on weekends, we may have higher participation.
55:34Copy video clip URL End of tape.