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Punk voter and Fat Mike.

FOR A TINY MAJORITY of this country, November 2, 2004 was likely a bit of a relief. For this country's massive minority, however, Election Day was an incredibly frustrating experience. And for Fat Mike, leader of punk rock institutions NOFX and founder of Fat Wreck Chords, the day that the president was re-elected was no doubt a mix of both (though Mike would likely lean toward the more painful and frustrating side of the spectrum than the relief side). For most of the election, Fat Mike spent a great deal of his time helming Punk Voter, the grassroots political group who was most often sited by the mainstream media as "mobilizing" the 18- to 24-year-old voting set through large-scale benefit shows, the release of the Rock Against Bush compilation, and keeping the tuned-in masses up to date with the latest news and information on But with both the election and inauguration now in the rearview mirror, does Fat Mike go back to just being another punk rocker? Without another presidential election for another four years, what is the future of Punk Voter?

So what was Election Day for you? Give us all the dirty details.

November 2nd was kind of hectic but not too crazy. My wife and I walked to our voting station, voted, and went home to take care of our two-month old. At 6:00pm about 25 of my friends and Punk Voter people came over to my house and we started drinking and watching poll results. As results turned bad, we drank more. I had obtained some party favors and was planning on giving them out depending on which way the election went. I had a bottle of Valium and a bottle of another homemade-type pill. The plan was to pass out the Valium if Bush won and pass out the other pills if Kerry won. Well, most people ended up taking the Valium and going home, but about 10 of us took the other pills and stayed up until four having a really fucking good time. It was like being the Bad News Bears. We lost the big game, but we gave it our best and it was time to celebrate, not commiserate. Yeah, things were bad, but shit, things in this country have been a lot worse (go see the Fog of War).

A variety of news sources reported a less than overwhelming turnout by the 18-to-24 age group. While there is evidence that more 18- to 24-year-olds voted this election than any other, how much more work needs to be done before this group is as politically active as, well, everyone else?

The 18- to 24-year-old turnout was great. We accomplished everything we wanted. In fact no other group of voters voted for Kerry in higher numbers. We did get the kids out to vote, but the problem was that their right wing Republican parents voted too. I don't think our generation needs to be coaxed anymore; they just need to convince their families to pay more attention to what's really going on in the world.

Despite not winning the election, I imagine you consider Punk Voter a success. In this case, how would you measure success?

Yeah, I consider Punk Voter to be a huge success. A bigger success than I would have ever thought. We originally set a goal to get 10,000 punks more politically active, and we ended up with over 100,000-200,000. It's hard to get exact numbers, but the website was getting over 500,000 unique visitors a month.

A lot of celebrities and musicians caught a lot of grief from the talking heads on the news channels. Do you think that people are tuning out the celebrities like Dave Mathews, Barbara Streisand, Springsteen, Puffy and his "Vote or Die" thing?

I don't think people pay too much attention to celebrities when talking politics but that doesn't mean we should not speak out, because it's everybody's responsibility to speak out. I just think it's funny that people especially don't listen to musicians when we are the ones that travel the world and see other cultures more than anyone. We are the true ambassadors of this country and not many people realize that.

If you were the top strategist for Kerry, what are the two or three things you would tell him about communicating to the youth of this country?

I think Kerry's message was just fine; the problem is that Americans are just too ignorant to pay attention to the issues. People voted for Bush because of fear; fear of terrorism, fear of higher taxes, and fear of homosexuals. People voted with their hearts and not their minds, which is actually worse than it sounds because you shouldn't make rational decisions based on irrational fears.

Punk has always struggled with its politics trying to navigate between facilitating real, tangible change without participating in a larger, often more corporate system. Can the scene ever achieve a balance or will the pendulum just continue to drift back and forth?

I don't know. All I know is that for the first time the punk scene actually united and accomplished something on a national level. Besides church groups and labor unions, we were one of the only groups in this country to accomplish that feat.

What is next for Punk Voter? Does it focus on the 2006 elections, supreme court nominations, and the revamping of the social security system or focus on more youth-related social issues like suicide prevention, for example?

Right now we're taking a bit of a break, but we'll continue to fight any battle that we feel we can make a difference with. I think we will be concentrating on smaller local issues more than national ones. We now have a somewhat united community and we're not going to throw that away.
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Author:Teich, J.W.
Date:May 1, 2005
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