“Democratic Party tries to help all socio-economic groups, not just rich people”. Interview whit Ms. Sharon Mannita



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Photograph retrieved from: http://zurich.democrats.ch/

During these last two months, I have informed myself and working on all that was happening in North America. My news always finished by focusing on the domestic and foreign policies of the United States. In consequence, I have decided that this interview will be oriented on those subjects and what better that the own party of the actual president, Obama, to do it.

She works on communications strategy of U.S Democratic Party Abroad from U.K. Setting up a “point person” for each country committee, training them in dealing with press, receive information from the White House and distribute it as necessary. She is the representative on weekly Conference calls to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Press Office. Theseare some of her internal responsibilities. On the other hand, her external responsibilities consists in preparing press releases or help country committees prepare their press releases. She also sets up press interviews and monitors those on an international level and directly for the U.K. committee. For her, “one of the most important aspects of my job is figuring out if a story can hurt us and prepare for that. Hopefully, it won’t happen! “ Behind this amazing works is Ms. Sharon Manitta, who I had the pleasure of interview.

I won’t deny that at the beginning it felt like a difficult challenge to reach. That wasn’t due to the km that separated us, since the technology will solve this problem. Instead it was trying to convince her to dedicate some time in answering those questions coming from a simple student without any experience in journalism. But thanks to her kindness and my perseverance, I will be able to share with you all the knowledge that I have learned about this organization through my interview with Ms. Sharon Manitta. But before I could begin my interview, I made my first mistake as a “novice” in this field. The Democratic Party Abroad aren’t allowed to talk about internal and foreign affairs due to protocol. Nicely, Ms. Sharon informed me that the only ones who can answer on those subjects are the White House and the State Department. In this moment I realize that I had the wrong idea about this organization, this is why my interest on the USA politic was revealed by curiosity to know “What is exactly this organization?”

Democrat Abroad is the official overseas arm of the U.S Democratic Party. This organization has different main goals like let American voters know that they still have the right to vote, even if they live overseas; inform and help if anyone have problems on the voting process; to inform Americans of the issues their country is facing; and to register voters. In this last point, Ms. Sharon stress that they register all Americans who are eligible to vote, not just Democrats. Also, like all political parties, they raise money through contributions but she explain me that they can only take money from U.S citizens or green card holders resident in the U.S.

Democrats Abroad was founded in 1964 by American citizens in London and Paris, and they wanted to continue being very active in U.S politics, like when they were in America. Currently, this organization continues giving the opportunity to keep the involvement in American Politics to American citizens, who have moved to others countries for different reasons. For Ms. Sharon, to offer them that opportunity is the  main reason why Democrats Abroad is important.

But a question still keep on my mind; and it was how such a big organization organizes itself on a global way and how they relate to the Democratic Party on a national level. First of all Democrats Abroad is treated as a state party by the Democratic National Committee (DNC). They hold seats on the DNC and send a voting delegation to select the candidate for the Presidency. They divide the world into three administrative regions – The Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe, Middle East and Africa.  And currently have 53 full country committees (for example Spain) and have members in over 160 countries around the world. The organization has periodic yearly meeting in a global administrative regional level, as well as more meetings and activities monthly or even weekly.

In this point of the interview, I could see the importance of Americans voters living abroad for them. They are the driving enginesof the organization, but I need to know how they contribute to the political life of the U.S if they are living outside its borders. Sharon stated that the most important tool of contribution to the political life of any citizen is the use of their right to vote. Therefore it is really important to let those living outside their borders that their vote still counts, and that it is as important as those who live inside the borders.

Once I knew more about Democrat Abroad, I was wondering if they have the same difficulties managing a campaign on an international level. She told me the main problem they have to face is to find voters. Indeed, there is no “master list of Americans living outside the U.S”. As consequence they have to use several off the box resources the capture them. As an example of this, Sharon states that Obama’s campaign was so successful mainly because it made full use of social media which help approach those living abroad, it was well organized; and also because (of course) their candidate won!

Finally, I wanted to know my interviewee in a more personal level, so I decided to ask her two very important questions: the first one was what she liked about her party, for what she answered that “it tries to help all socio-economic groups, not just rich people”. She recognizes that it’s not perfect, but considering the options she likes it a lot better than the Republican Party.  The second question, was one I would like to ask to many politicians and random people in my country, and it was to describe with five words her country, and why she used those words. Her response was poetic and passionate:

 Opportunity: My paternal grandfather came from Sicily when he was fifteen years old.  He built up a construction business that I doubt he would have been able to do if he had stayed in Sicily. Optimism: It is a cliché but we usually feel the glass is half full rather than half empty.  Helpfulness: even if you disagree with your neighbour’s politics, if they needed help you would give it.  Problem Solving: don’t just complain about something – sort it out! make a plan!. Patriotism: This often has a negative connotation but to me it means being a vigilant citizen and doing what you can to make America better. I want to stress that I don’t see these characteristics as exclusively American.

After this interview, I can firstly conclude the importance of this organization to their domestic and international political life. And second and most relevant, the importance of the right to vote every citizen in a democratic nation has.

Madrid, 9th June 2014

Tatiana Lozano López

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