Wednesday morning, actor Wil Wheaton discussed mental illness and the importance of state and local level races with fans at an Ann Arbor comic book store event, affectionately referred to as a “Nerds for Hillary” by some crowd members.
Wheaton came to the Vault of Midnight comic book store, which drew approximately 100 people, to campaign for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The actor — who is known for his roles in “Star Trek,” “Stand By Me” and his recurring spot in “The Big Bang Theory” — said he's fond he appeals to this sort of audience, noting it is often forgotten.
“Everybody has that group of people that tends to listen to them, and we are in a comic book shop,” he said. “We are a demographic that I think is missed a little. People tend to treat us as just nerds who don’t matter.”
Nick Yribar, a co-owner of the venue, said the campaign had reached out to him about hosting Wheaton, adding he was enthusiastic about the event as a fan of Wheaton and a supporter of Clinton.
“The stakes are huge for this election, and we want to be involved in any way that we can,” he said.
For a large portion of his remarks, Wheaton focused on mental health policy, an issue he said has personal significance for him as someone who has suffered from severe depression and anxiety for most of his life. He emphasized that mental illness should be treated with the same level of seriousness as any other health issue.
“There’s a lot of people that I’ve encountered who think that if I was just a little stronger, just worked a little harder, just fought a little more it would be OK,” he said. “You would never tell a person with a broken leg to just walk on it until it didn’t hurt anymore. You wouldn’t tell a person with diabetes to just stop having diabetes, be tougher. But that’s the way we treat mental illness in our society.”
Wheaton also encouraged the audience to vote for Democrats down the ballot during the event, emphasizing the importance of lower-level elections along with the presidential election.
“The road to the White House starts at your school board level," he said. "The way that you shape your counties and you shape your states is through the local elections. We have to plant the seeds for Democratic voters in the future.”
The most recent Michigan Daily election poll of a sample of students showed steady support for Clinton on campus, with 70.3 percent of respondents favoring the democratic nominee.
Michigan as a whole has leaned toward Clinton for the past several polling cycles and is not considered a swing state, though Trump and Clinton were previously close in Michigan’s polling numbers. The most recent RealClearPolitics polling average showed Clinton leading Republican nominee Donald Trump by 10 points.
Nonetheless, Wheaton stressed the importance of encouraging people to vote for Clinton come Election Day because of the contrast he sees between the two candidates.
“You just turn on the TV, and you see this despicable and disgusting man being awful to women and awful to immigrants and being awful to basically everyone who is not him,” he said. “Then we have this amazing woman who has literally spent her entire career fighting for women and children. That’s why we have got to get out and we have got to cast our votes for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.”
Engineering junior Austin Dumm who said he is a supporter of Clinton and Wheaton, echoed Wheaton's sentiments on getting out the vote.
“I’m a big fan of Wil Wheaton and a big fan of the Clinton campaign,” he said. “I think he’s entirely accurate in everything he’s saying. If we get out there, we are going to win this. I think it speaks to the community of Ann Arbor that he is here and that we have this much support for him.”
Ann Arbor resident Gregg Briggs also said he enjoyed Wheaton’s remarks on the importance of voting in local and state elections, saying he hopes it will aid in creating a more bipartisan legislature.
“I really appreciated his ability to speak about the real issues out there,” he said. “And all of the other effects that go beyond the individual Trump or Clinton, but down ticket races and how it is going to spread out and hopefully bring back our democracy into something that is going to work across differences instead of just screaming at each other.”