By Natasha Butler-Rahman
In winter 2023, I sat down with fellow Swing Blue Alliance media relations intern Eli Kanner. Eli is a senior at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a future UChicago student, and a Democrat. I had the pleasure of interviewing Eli and learning about his background, volunteer work with Swing Blue, and future plans. Keep your eye on Eli — he is a talented social media intern with a knack for political organizing, and has an incredibly bright future.
NB-R: I’m curious: did you grow up in a politically involved family?
Eli: I did! I have campaigned my whole life for various politicians like Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden.
NB-R: Those are all solid Democratic leaders. Are there any differing political opinions in your immediate and extended family?
Eli: I’d say yes. Sometimes my uncles or grandfather will have different opinions on equity and equality and economics, or they’ll say something politically incorrect. That always sparked debates in my family, which were interesting to listen to.
NB-R: When did you start forming your own political opinions?
Eli: I must’ve been eight or 10 years old, and I was walking to a school near my house to get vaccinated with my mom, and we were talking about politics, as we do. And I asked her: “am I a Republican or a Democrat?” And she replied, “Well, if you go to the hospital, would you want to be able to get medical care regardless of if you had money or not? If you didn’t have money, would you want to be refused medical services?” And I said, “I think I should be able to get help even if I don’t have money.” And then she asked me, “What about education?” And I said, “Probably the same thing.” So she told me, “You’re probably a Democrat, then.”
NB-R: What initially drew you to Swing Blue Alliance?
Eli: I saw a post in my high school’s email chain for parents about Swing Blue, and I thought: “Why don’t I try my hand at politics?” I didn’t know how political organizations worked or functioned, so I thought a cool way to learn would be to be a part of one.
NB-R: What have your responsibilities been like at Swing Blue?
Eli: I’m a social media manager, researcher, and creator. So, a lot of my job is in research and watching TikTok trends to find the ones that I can modify into TikToks for Swing Blue. Usually, in the TikToks, I’m advertising for the internship opportunity or promoting democratic ideals.
NB-R: What is the most interesting and/or challenging thing you’ve done at Swing Blue so far?
Eli: Phone banking was very interesting and challenging! There were names on the lists of people who were supposed to be Democrats, and were definitely not Democrats. It was definitely a challenge, talking to so many people who did not want to talk to me and trying to get them to register to vote or sign up for Democratic events and causes.
NB-R: How will the skills that you’ve cultivated at Swing Blue help you in your future?
Eli: I think that having to speak to people with all political identities will be a rite of passage in college, which would have been a difficult transition without Swing Blue. Cambridge, Massachusetts, is definitely a bubble. Having done phone banking has given me the necessary skills to conduct good, respectful, and productive conversations with people with opposing views.
NB-R: What is a political issue that is tops for you? Have you been able to address it through your internship at Swing Blue Alliance?
Eli: Yes! An issue that is tops for me has got to be the lack of gun control in our country. With Swing Blue Alliance, I helped in the March for our Lives protest, where I got to hand out signs for people to hold and march with. I heard so many speakers who inspired me at the poetry readings. I want to continue to support the fight against gun violence in schools, a fight that I am very passionate about.
NB-R: What do you plan to do at the University of Chicago?
Eli: Probably [study] political science. I also hope to start my own smaller political organization, inspired by Swing Blue. I feel like I’ve built up the skills here to have some good political discourse during my time at UChicago.