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Sunday Spin: Appealing to the geeks

Politicians are always looking to expand their base, even when they divide the electorate into different groups. Business owners. Union members. Blue collar workers. Soccer moms. Seniors. College students.

John Waite is offering some political training next week to a segment he believes is generally uninvolved, and as such, often underrepresented in politics.

Geeks. . .

. . . As in techies or trekkies, guys and girls with a fondness for sci-fi or fantasy or comic books or computer gaming or math bowl or chess club or any of a number of activities that tend to make them deficient in Vitamin D from sunlight.

Waite, a sometime candidate and longtime owner of Merlyn’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Store, is holding a forum Tuesday he’s calling "From Star Wars to the State House: Getting geeky with politics". He’ll be joined by Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder, who has a dual interest in connecting with whoever shows up. They could be his constituents; they also could live in central Spokane’s 3rd Legislative District, where he’s running for an open state House seat.

Himself a confirmed sci-fi and fantasy fan from way back, Waite likes to look at politics as a way to see different possibilities, which, after all is what the masters of those fiction genres have done for decades. He worries that his fellow geeks don’t pay much attention to politics and generally don’t participate enough in it. When they do, they’re often out of their element.

They may not be as far out of the mainstream as they think, or as far as the rest of us believe, he adds, when one considers the popularity of things like HBO’s "Game of Thrones" or the movie "The Hunger Games".

Like any other interest group, geeks need to understand how things at City Hall, in Olympia or Washington, D.C., affect their lives, Waite said. They need to understand where jobs come from, and what has to happen to help them if they don’t have one.

"When you want something to happen, you just can’t sit back and watch. You have to be pro-active," he said.

It’s a lesson that many other groups who do influence politics – some might argue too much – learned long ago. The session, which starts at 7 p.m. at Merlyn’s, 19 W. Main, is being held a week before the deadline to register to vote in the Aug. 7 primary. It may be the first in a series.

"I interested in bringing politics to regular people. I’m just starting with this group," he said.

They’ll be welcoming nerds, too, since Waite says the distinction between nerds and geeks is a term of art that changes from time to time.

Doofuses and dorks may have to wait for another session.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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