Episode 8: Battling on the Issues
References and resources
Pablo Rodriguez (00:00:01):
I think that what we’ve demonstrated over the last 10 years is that we definitely have electoral power when we’re able to flex our muscle, right? As voters of color as a whole. As an organization, the voters who we engage are consistently between 4% to 10% of the vote share in any given election. Our work that we do as an organization may not be the reason that you win, but it definitely can be the reason that you lose.
Solana Rice (00:00:31):
Hello. Hello. I’m Solana Rice.
Jeremie Greer (00:00:34):
And I am Jeremie Greer.
Solana Rice (00:00:36):
Welcome to Racism is Profitable. Today, we have a great guest on, Pablo Rodriguez, of Communities For a New California. We are so excited to talk to him about what he’s seeing in California in electoral races. But before we do that, we should probably just catch up Jeremie. You were on vacation.
Jeremie Greer (00:00:58):
Yeah, I was on vacation. People are going to laugh because I was on this really white ass vacation where I went to Maine and I realized that going to Maine, how few Black people there are in Maine because people told me it’s beautiful in Maine. It is beautiful.
Solana Rice (00:01:19):
Jeremie Greer (00:01:19):
People should go if you want natural beauty, but there’s a lot of white folks in Maine. But it was very relaxing and very good. But then while I was there, I was trying not to look at my phone. I was trying not to look at Twitter. But I did. And this Inflation Reduction that passed. And I was watching all this stuff come across. It was like the IRA. The IRA. And I was like, what the is happening in Ireland? The IRA, the IRA and this act passed. So first thing I did when I got back to work on Monday was I need to read up on this. Something big happened. And it’s this bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, which is $433 billion for energy and climate change. And for the Affordable Care Act extension, which is good. Good stuff in there. And then some tax revenue. 15% corporate minimum tax, prescription drug reform, so it’s good stuff.
Jeremie Greer (00:02:31):
But then I was reading on in the articles. I was like, “Oh, this was supposed to be… This is what Build Back Better has become.” So now I’m like, “Maybe isn’t a good thing. Maybe I should be [inaudible 00:02:48].”
Solana Rice (00:02:48):
When you go past your favorite store and the letters still look like it’s the old store and you’re like, “Wait. Huh? This is now a dollar store. Is that good?”
Jeremie Greer (00:02:59):
Yeah. What happened to the Fuddrucker’s?
Solana Rice (00:03:01):
Jeremie Greer (00:03:05):
The sign’s still there, but it doesn’t look open. Yeah. That’s what I was feeling like. So one, I was confused, of course, like many people, because this is called the Inflation Reduction Act.
Solana Rice (00:03:18):
Jeremie Greer (00:03:20):
Do you know why is it called the Inflation Reduction Act?
Solana Rice (00:03:22):
I can only guess. Well, what the Democrats are saying is that people are really feeling inflation. So we got to do something about inflation, but they’re acting like we don’t know what inflation is.
Jeremie Greer (00:03:37):
I know. It’s the gas in the car. We know what it is.
Solana Rice (00:03:44):
So let me get this straight. I get climate change is real. And I get that we need to address it. There’s a whole lot of stuff that we need to do. But people are feeling a housing crisis because that’s actually our largest expense. Those are the things. That cost is going up. Gas and oil prices are going up. But from what I can tell, this doesn’t actually directly get to let’s stop lining the pockets of oil barons. The folks in the gulf, for example, they’ve been doing social and climate justice for a long time and Rachel Justice for a long time. And they’re like, “This does carbon capture and all this stuff after people have polluted.” This doesn’t actually get the big oil out of their backyards.
Solana Rice (00:04:40):
As a matter of fact, a lot of these places, they have leases. The oil folks have leases on the land, and before renewable energy can be put on that land, those oil leases have to be up. So it’s like, wait, what did we really do? And not to mention, this was a big… I was like, “Why were we able to do this? We couldn’t do Build Back Better and we couldn’t do voting rights.”
Jeremie Greer (00:05:18):
But we could do this.
Solana Rice (00:05:19):
But we could do this. What’s different about this?
Jeremie Greer (00:05:23):
The victory lap is… So Build Back Better was $2.2 trillion. That was what was put forth and it had all the stuff you just mentioned. Housing, childcare, stuff that would matter to Black and Brown folks immediately. And in my research coming back, I went to one of my go-to people on climate, which is Rihanna Gunn-Wright from the Roosevelt Institute. And one of the things that she said in this Twitter thread I read, that’s how we research now, is that actually a lot of the investments that are going to be made will actually harm Black and Brown communities.
Jeremie Greer (00:06:07):
So one, we’re not doing any of the things that we said we were going to do for Black and Brown communities. And two, we’re going to do this thing that in the long run will actually probably harm Black and Brown communities. And what gets me is it’s like, “Oh, so you couldn’t get all that stuff before and this is the thing you’re going to pull Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema into the… Chuck Schumer’s going to pull into the offense and twist their arm to make happen. It’s going to be for this, but not any of the other stuff that they got pulled out.
Solana Rice (00:06:43):
Exactly. Well, and we kind of know why there’s a great article on Atmos by a great author, Yessenia Funes, and I’m probably saying that wrong. Just sorry about that. But who talks about all of the terrible things. There are some great things in this Inflation Reduction Act, but there are a lot of things where we’ve just said, “Hey, a lot of the good stuff really outweighs some of the bad stuff.” But I think the bad stuff is the stuff that we had to give to Joe Manchin. Right. Joe Manchin was like, “I got this pipeline to build, y’all. It’s got to go to West Virginia.” Hello?
Jeremie Greer (00:07:28):
This is going to help Black and Brown community, but we’re going to keep running pipelines through indigenous communities and make investments like that. I mean, that’s it. But we’re supposed to be excited about this.
Solana Rice (00:07:39):
Yeah. So there has to be a time where we can make these major investments and we’re not making them at the cost of Black and Brown communities. We can’t keep operating this way. And the Medicare thing-
Jeremie Greer (00:07:56):
But the white progressives will get their tax rebate on their Tesla. So we’re doing something.
Solana Rice (00:08:07):
Even the prescription drugs, there was a carve out for insulin. It was like, let’s make sure that insulin does not go above $35 a month. The people who need insulin are folks with diabetes, folks like Black people, indigenous people who have high rates of diabetes. Not their fault. That’s a whole other episode. But there was a carve out. People that are on private insurance. We can’t cap the insulin rate. So we constantly see that again, racism is profitable even in this back and forth around this great Inflation Reduction Act that doesn’t seem to actually be reducing inflation. Did you see the piece that the congressional budget office did a quick summary?
Jeremie Greer (00:09:07):
No, I didn’t. What did they say?
Solana Rice (00:09:08):
The Republicans are like, “This is going to increase our deficit and going to harm inflation. It’s just going to increase inflation.” And the devs are like, “This is going to reduce inflation.” And it’s like, “Who? Huh? Huh?” And the CBO is like, “It’s not really going to do anything.”
Jeremie Greer (00:09:26):
It’s not going to do anything because what the CBO knows is that the size of deficit has jack shit to do with inflation. That’s the reality. So if the Inflation Reduction… Because that was my confusion. What is going to reduce inflation [inaudible 00:09:47]? I guess lowering prescription drugs. But, “Hey, fuck it. Can we put insulin in there?” Like come on.
Solana Rice (00:09:55):
Jeremie Greer (00:09:56):
But that aside, yes, that’ll do it. But inflation, the deficit has nothing to do with inflation. Nothing. So the idea that because they’re raising more taxes than they are doing spending in this bill, which then means that Delta, the one’s attracted by the other creates the Delta. And then you can put that towards deficit reduction that in some way that’s going to affect inflation and it’s not. Most economists will tell you it’s not. So it’s hilarious to me that this is what this centered around and really it’s about people have inflation on their mind because they’re paying higher prices. So we’ll just throw the name in a bill and get the bill passed.
Solana Rice (00:10:42):
And get the bill passed. Right.
Jeremie Greer (00:10:45):
Another thing is [inaudible 00:10:45] as a tactic, but can we get some housing relief? Can we get some basic income, some childcare relief? Can we get some of that too? [inaudible 00:10:55].
Solana Rice (00:10:55):
But also actual corporate accountability. I mean, let’s be real. This inflation that we are seeing is price gouging. It is essentially price gouging.
Jeremie Greer (00:11:06):
Robert Rice who’s a friend of show has a great video about the actual connection between corporate greed and inflation and that being a real thing. And if we’re talking about, we want to fight inflation, let’s fight racism. We’re here. Talking about racism is profitable. People making money off of the high prices of insulin, the high prices of things in Black and Brown communities, all this stuff. Let’s address that and then you’ll address inflation. That’s essentially the part of the argument that he’s making. We want to do that. Let’s go in that direction and not do this Kabuki Act that they’re doing right now. I don’t want to crap on the bill too much because there is some good stuff in there. Yes, we all live on earth and improving the earth and improving environment is a good thing. There are things that are going to make a difference in that, but let’s stop doing this thing where it’s like, “Oh, but in order to do environmental climate change policy, we have to ignore Black and Brown communities.” Because that’s what it feels like right now.
Solana Rice (00:12:21):
You mentioned electric vehicles. And I think this just goes to the point that this is about corporations still making money and not being harmed. The ink isn’t even dry as it goes over to the house to get voted on and Ford Motor Company.
Jeremie Greer (00:12:48):
Getting signed with a feather pen.
Solana Rice (00:12:53):
Ford Motor Company is like, “We’re announcing that we have to increase the costs. Our materials costs have gone up on our electric vehicle production. Sorry y’all.” So in anticipation of more people buying electric vehicles, Ford Motor Company says, “Oh, look at that.” Just coincidentally, material costs go up as well.
Jeremie Greer (00:13:26):
It’s like $4, 000 rebate for a used electric vehicle and $7,500 for a new one. Last I checked, the things were like 50 grand. So I don’t know many low modern income people that can afford a car for 50 grand. And I’ll tell you $4,000 ain’t gone move them far in the direction of buying them. So even on that provision, I have a lot of hesitation to believe that it’s actually going to matter much to many people.
Solana Rice (00:14:04):
But I think Jeremie, the takeaway here is that we can make big changes. We can do big things. We can pass major legislation when there is political will we can, and we need people in these positions that aren’t going to use us as pawns and the political calculation.
Jeremie Greer (00:14:32):
Which is why it’s so important that we get in gear for this election, which is why we’re talking to Pablo Rodriguez. So I’m looking forward to that.
Solana Rice (00:14:44):
Yeah. Wonderful. Hello Pablo.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:14:51):
Hey you all. It’s good to be with you both.
Jeremie Greer (00:14:52):
How you doing?
Solana Rice (00:14:52):
You too. Last time we were in person. Not too long ago.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:14:58):
Yeah. Right at the base of the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. It was nice.
Solana Rice (00:15:01):
It was lovely. It was really lovely. It was great to see you. Thanks so much for joining the pod today. Why don’t we just start with, what do people need to know about Pablo Rodriguez?
Pablo Rodriguez (00:15:14):
Oh my God. Well, again, my name is Pablo Rodriguez. I’m the founding executive director of Communities for a New California education fund, which is a 501C3 charity. I’m also the director and funding director of Communities from the California Action Fund, which is a 501C4 social welfare organization and an officer within the 527 communities from the California Political Action committee. All of that, to say that those were entities that we needed to create to be able to navigate federal and state tax law so that we could do work advocating for Brown and Black folk and working class families in California and the rural area specifically.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:16:02):
I think that that’s the baseline of what people should know about who I am and a big part of what it is that we do is that we run and we track many levels of local government to federal government. But in this case, I thought that we would highlight as I was invited, to talk about the congressional races and what’s happening especially in rural California, where there’s six districts that we are tracking that could potentially have a really big impact on the control of Congress with the upcoming election in November.
Solana Rice (00:16:37):
Yeah. Last time we were together, we were talking about all of the conversations that you all at CNC are having across the San Joaquin and Coachella Valleys in California. I wonder, can you share with the audience just a little bit about those conversations, who you’re talking to, what they’re telling you.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:17:00):
Yeah. So thank you for bringing that up. So CNC as we just go by-
PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:17:04]
Pablo Rodriguez (00:17:00):
Yeah, so thank you for bringing that up. So, CNC, as we just go by those three organizations that we highlighted, actually does work or implements work in 17 counties in California. So, they’re in the San Joaquin Valley, the Sierra Foothills, and the Coachella Valley. And so overall, what we do, there’s an array of work that we do. We are a multi-issue organization. And so we are working with people who essentially are facing the economic fallout of the pandemic, bleak job opportunities, a housing crisis that is leaving people behind and pushing families out of their homes, climate change in the form of toxic drinking water, pervasive health issues, which are specific. More specifically, I want to talk about… We’re talking about the impact of climate change specific to wildfires, drought, and pesticide use is another health outcome that ends up impacting families. So, that’s broadly what it is that we work on with the committees that we work with and volunteers.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:18:10):
CNC builds neighborhood committees to finish unfinished neighborhoods and address these issues. And since meeting you all a couple of years ago, I’m happy to say that we formed these committees as a way to address that we need to end the profitability of white supremacy and end the theft, exploitation, and exclusion of brown, black, indigenous, and families of color across California. And so for us, we just focus on the rural areas of California, which are now battle grounds in congressional races across the country. So, I was trying to be as short as I could, and there you go.
Solana Rice (00:18:55):
No. No. No, no. No need to be short. I noticed that you emphasize battle grounds. You want to say why you… Isn’t it just a swing district, Pablo? I mean what-
Pablo Rodriguez (00:19:08):
So, what’s happening, and I think that we’ll talk about it more of what’s happening, but swing district makes it seem like it’s only Democrat versus Republican in [inaudible 00:19:21]. It could swing one way or the other. And in the six districts that we are talking about, which go from Stockton, California down to down past Bakersfield, right into the high desert in Palmdale. There’s four districts there, which are congressional district 9, 13, 21, 22. And then in the high desert is 27. And then in the Coachella Valley, there’s a new district, which is Congressional District 41. And so I think what’s really important to note about each one of these districts is nearly 30% of registered voters in each one of these districts are registered as independent voters. So, there are independent voters who feel strongly that neither political party nor candidates representing those parties are doing enough to earn their votes.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:20:17):
So, we’ve seen an increase. It’s not enough just to say like, “Hey, there’s now 30% independent voters in each one of these districts.” There’s been an increase, on average, in all of these districts since 2008, between nine to 14% increase in party affiliation as independent voters. And so again, we know that the parties are not earning their votes. And what is really clear to see, you all were talking about this, is that corporations have too much of an influence on what is happening with the political parties. So, I think what it’s also important to state is that we did a lot of work on making sure that there was a complete count with the census. And the census, which triggers redistricting, has resulted, in the San Joaquin Valley, the battle grounds that I’m talking about, which were formally thought to be conservative strongholds. There are now three new Latino majority congressional districts, congressional district 13, 21, and 22. More than 50% of the voters are Latinos.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:21:32):
But I want to be really clear, when you hear new majority Latino district, you need to think about Latina women and Latina women voting power, because consistently, Latina women outvote Latino men by a margin of 54 to 46%, which is the vote share. Whenever you see latino turnout was… In this district, women are outpacing their male counterparts 54, 46, consistently across all of these districts. And so the path towards victory, if a candidate wants to win, and I’ll talk about some of these folks that are running, needs to address issues that are being faced, the ones that we just mentioned, by Latina women. And you need to center that in order to ensure victory. Otherwise, you are doing yourself not only in disservice, but you’re on a path towards defeat. And yeah, I’ll stop right there, but that’s broadly, I think, what it is that’s really impacting these battlegrounds that formally… We need to end the myth that in the Central Valley, that it is a conservative stronghold. That is no longer the case in the census, and redistricting proof through data that the region and the demographics have changed.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:22:52):
Unfortunately, there are some candidates that haven’t got the memo.
Solana Rice (00:22:55):
They didn’t get the memo.
Jeremie Greer (00:22:59):
Well, Pablo, you mentioned… So, you mentioned these independent voters, people coming in and recognizing themselves as independent. And in a national context, that’s usually signaling towards that they’re maybe center left or center kind of people, that they may be attracted to conservative issues, or they may be center left, but that means that they would never support progressive kind of ideas, like $15 minimum wage, for example, or things like that. That’s the kind of conventional wisdom. Do you think that applies with it? Because what I also hear you saying is that these are largely Latino voters that are recognizing independent. So, does that logic fit based on the research and data y’all been looking at?
Pablo Rodriguez (00:23:50):
No, period. And I wish I could do it with the way we do it on online, where it would be a period with a T at the end.
Jeremie Greer (00:24:02):
Solana Rice (00:24:02):
Pablo Rodriguez (00:24:02):
Yeah. So, let me dig into that a little bit. So, what’s happening is that there are many people who are like me, who… I’m a Latino male, Mexican, in this case, but there are many other Latinos. So, that I live in the San Joaquin Valley and the Coachella Valley, in the Sierra Foothills as well. And what we have seen in the workplace, where we grew up… We have seen our families struggle as we grew up in these valleys with not making a living wage, not receiving benefits for work, whether it be health benefits or seniority or vacation pay, whatever. Depending on where we live, we not may not be able to drink the water that comes out of our tap.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:24:56):
We have toxic drinking water in both the Coachella Valley and the San Joaquin Valley, and many areas of the Sierra Foothills. The air is now toxic to breathe, depending on where we’re at, because of the use of pesticides. Or in the Sierra Foothills, because of now rampant wildfires, where the fire season last about nine months out of the year. And that didn’t used to be the case. We are going into what we used to call fall. And fall used to start in September. We don’t have fall anymore. We will have 100 plus degree temperatures right before my birthday in October, and those used to be days that were very cool. That doesn’t happen anymore. So because we are able to see the reality of what’s around us, inherently, not just Latinos, but many young people who are growing up in these regions, and so I’ll say Latinos and generation Z, are not necessarily buying into the party politics, that there’s one good guy versus a bad guy.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:25:58):
Democrats, for the lack of results on issues related to climate change, and Republicans for denying that COVID is real, that climate change is real, they’re not the good guys either. So, to go to your question, inherently, what I argue is that if you grew up in these regions and you’re a young person or a Latino, you are inherently a progressive person. And that maybe does not apply into other regions of California, but again… And maybe just add to that. If you’re a family, you’re from a family of color in any of these regions, inherently, there are things that your family has experienced that will say, “That resonates with me. That makes total sense to me. I am behind that.” And then when we deconstruct it, of saying the theft, exploitation, and exclusion of people of color are the reasons why these things are happening, then we change the conversation completely.
Solana Rice (00:26:59):
Yeah, yeah. And Pablo, I just want to make sure that folks understand the size of the areas that you’re talking about, because we’re just talking about, oh, congressional district, this conditional district this and that, this valley, that valley, but we’re talking about millions of people, right?
Pablo Rodriguez (00:27:17):
Yeah. So, if you were to combine the regions that we’re talking about, the Coachella Valley and the San Joaquin Valley, and the Sierras, we’re larger than Georgia. We’re more than 10 million people.
Jeremie Greer (00:27:29):
They’re spending a lot of money down to Georgia right now.
Solana Rice (00:27:34):
They’re spending a lot of money in Georgia.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:27:37):
It’s wild. And in of these places, maybe just give it down to the state level, where state senate… There’s 40 state Senate districts in California. Each district has 1 million people. There’s 40 million total people in California, so 1 million people in each one. Pick your state, we’re larger. Many counties are larger than some states. The county of Fresno by itself has over 1 million people. So, what we’re really talking about is not county level work, when we mentioned some of the counties that we’re talking about, it really is high density, many people impacted.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:28:16):
It’s a myth to think that the inland region of California is rural. It just may be geographically, but there’s high density of families that are now living in these regions, well, for a lot of reasons. One of them, the latest ones being, “I can’t afford to live in Southern California, and I can’t afford to live on the coast, whether it be San Francisco, San Jose. Let me go inland.” And that’s what’s happened. So, I think that there are many things, yes. And I appreciate you bringing up the fact that these regions are very big. And I said Georgia, but we’re bigger than Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and I believe Washington State as well. But yeah, if even if you just take San Joaquin Valley, if it was just San Joaquin Valley, we would be the 14th largest state in the United States. So, these are very big regions.
Solana Rice (00:29:14):
And it also talks about what the stakes are in these congressional races. So, you mentioned some of the districts at the top, but tell us more about what we’re seeing. I guess, which battleground are you most hype about, like, “We got to do the thing in this race”?
Pablo Rodriguez (00:29:37):
That’s a hard question to answer. I think that what I’m hyped about is that in previous cycles, there was always only one seat that was just like, “Oh, that’s where we need a fight. That’s the opportunity.” We’re talking about six that could really impact who controls Congress after November.
Jeremie Greer (00:29:59):
We’re talking about [inaudible 00:30:00]
Pablo Rodriguez (00:30:00):
I think that that’s [inaudible 00:30:02]
Jeremie Greer (00:30:01):
Cedar too could flip the house.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:30:03):
Jeremie Greer (00:30:04):
[inaudible 00:30:04] could flip the house. You’re talking about six. Yeah.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:30:08):
Yeah. And so I think that I’m really hyped. Let just start with this. I think that one of the seats that I’m really hyped about, because it confirmed some of my projections and that I’m good at math maybe was the race that’s happened in Southern California and the new congressional district 41 of Ken Calvert versus Will Rollins. The challenger, Will Rollins, is now being viewed as a viable contender or challenger to Ken Calvert that’s been in Congress for over 30 years.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:30:40):
But Will Rollins is a gay man who has done a great job about building a coalition that is doing great fundraising that just may… Well, right now, for sure, he is given Ken Calvert a lot of heartburn, right? Because Ken Calvert’s never had to raise money in [inaudible 00:31:02], and now that [inaudible 00:31:04] has to go like fundraise and actually run a campaign and talk to voters, things that he is never had to do. Meanwhile, Will Rollins has… Oh, by the way, now that the district includes Palm Springs, which has a very large LGBTQ community, Kim Calvert has decided to say, “I’ve rethought and I’ve evolved on my positions towards LGBTQ families, and so therefore, I regret all of my votes, magically.”
Solana Rice (00:31:32):
Oh. Oh. Oh.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:31:34):
He got the spirit and [inaudible 00:31:37] his values. But Will Rollins, I think to his credit, has really done a really good job of building a strong field campaign, building a coalition of voters who are progressive, who just may shock Ken Calvert and the establishment in Southern California, where this district is. On the flip side, I think that the districts that I’m really excited about is Congressional District 22, where Rudy Salas is poised to potentially, if everything were to go his way, be the first Latino elected into Congress from the San Joaquin Valley ever. And so that’s significant. In spite of the fact that, because of his position, because he lives in Kern County, he has bad votes in regards to issues related to climate change, which is what ends up making him a moderate. I know him personally, and I think he’s a really good guy.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:32:33):
If you meet him, he’s a really likable person. So, I’m not saying anything that’s bad about him, but to know me is to know that if I call somebody a moderate Democrat, it’s kind of a diss. So, we’ll see. When I see Rudy again, be like, “Yo, bro, you got to get right on climate change.” But let me take this opportunity to highlight the path of what you should not do.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:32:58):
So, there’s a candidate in the new district 13 whose name is Adam Gray, who is doing everything possible to lose a seat that should be safely Democrat. And if you go to his page, and I was just going through it today, and I was banging my head. And actually I lost so much time because I was just in disbelief, right? I’m like, I followed it as a tier B race about what was happening, but then I was like, this can’t be right. And after looking on his website, it was just like, this district is 50% Latino, but if you go to his website, all you see is endorsements and pictures of him with other white folks. And then I was just like, where’s the message to… He has to know math. There has to be messages for Latina women, or women in general. There’s nothing there. His first endorsement is endorsement by a sheriff, who, again, they’re all fine people. They’re likable people when you meet him, but the reality-
PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:34:04]
Pablo Rodriguez (00:34:00):
… when you meet him, right? But the reality, if you guys really want to shake your head, is to go to his Instagram page. The very first picture on his Instagram page is of a group of six or seven Black youth at a Dr. King March. He’s not in the picture, but there’s a picture of young, Black people in his Instagram page. But as you go through all of his media, they’re overwhelmingly is a lack of presence, as if you were to not know this district. You would think that this district was not over 60 or 70% people of color. You would think that it’s not that at all.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:34:49):
He had a dismal showing in the primary where the Republican that is running against him is got more votes than him, and it just now has made him be a priority to defend, and people are going to have to spend money to defend and help keep this seat where just because he’s not doing a good job about expanding the electorate and engaging people of color to earn our votes. I was texting some folks, I was just like, “What’s going on? Who are these folks?” General consultant, and it seems to be that they’re stuck in this mindset that the path towards victory is middle left, and that’s not the case. I’ll go into more about that. But yeah, I want to get an example of a mediocre candidate doing his best to lose control of Congress. You don’t need to look any further than Adam Gray.
Jeremie Greer (00:35:51):
Yeah, I’m looking now. There’s this picture of him on a lawn with a sheriff and not just any sheriff. A sheriff wearing in a cowboy hat and some boots. And then there’s another one. Looks like a fundraiser of some kind that he’s hanging around. There’s like beers in this little… Yeah, it’s all right.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:36:17):
Yeah. So then there’s this myth that the San Joaquin Valley is a conservative stronghold. This is also home where he lives in Merced, is home to UC Merced, which has really changed the dynamics of the region. If Adam Gray ends up winning, ironically, it’s going to be because Anna Caballero is a candidate who’s the incumbent candidate for Senate, State Senate. And Esmeralda Soria, who is a president city council member who’s running for assembly, they are doing, and they have robust field campaigns where they are engaging a coalition of voters who we are talking about. Right?
Pablo Rodriguez (00:36:57):
Very likely, they will engage the voters that Adam Gray needs to win. Will those voters vote down ballot for a candidate who has not earned their vote? That is the outstanding question. They definitely will vote for Anna Caballero and Esmeralda Soria, but will they vote for Adam Gray because he is not showing up? There was an event that happened in South Merced, I understand just recently. South Merced, so you know, is the half of the city and the city of Merced where there’s high density of working class people and people of color. In spite of the event being for him, he didn’t show up. So, there’s just like every red flag that’s going on, and my mind is just like, how is this happening?
Pablo Rodriguez (00:37:51):
Why are you not even just looking at the basics? It’s such a stark contrast to the way that Rudy Salas is running this campaign, and it’s such a stark contrast in the way that Will Rollins is running his campaign. It’s such a stark contrast in Christie Smith in the high desert who’s running her campaign. Everybody, all of them. Who did I miss? Jim Costa. Jim Costa’s a moderate, right? But they all have done very, very, a much better job of outreaching and engaging voters of color to earn their votes and expand the electorate than Adam Gray has, right? And it’s just amazing to me.
Solana Rice (00:38:31):
Pablo, the stakes are fairly high in these races. And as you mentioned, some of the candidates aren’t our ideal candidates and we need to support them. How do you balance those two when you’re talking to folks and how are you also rooting out the folks that just really, we should not be supporting?
Pablo Rodriguez (00:39:00):
That’s a really difficult question, because I think that what we’ve demonstrated over the last 10 years is that we definitely have electoral power when we’re able to flex our muscle. As voters of color, as a whole. As an organization, what I share with people is that, I may not be able to bring you to 50% plus one so that you could win as a candidate, but we consistently, the voters who we engage are consistently between 4% to 10% of the vote share in any given election.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:39:34):
And so what that means is that, you may not be the reason that you win. Our work that we do as an organization may not be the reason that you win, but it definitely can be the reason that you lose. That’s the way that we frame our work. That’s why you need to take it seriously. The challenge is the recruitment of candidates. The funding of campaigns is incredibly hard because, although we’ve had people who we were hoping who would run again, as an example in Congressional District 13. The reality that you need to raise over $2 million just to be viable.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:40:16):
In 2008, if you could run, raise 2 to $300,000, you were viable in Congress. But since the decision of this Supreme Court on Citizens United, that’s completely changed. And the money in politics is obscene. Governing power, meaning that there are people and there’s a bunch of people who are elected to school board, city council, county board of supervisors, is not there. We have electoral power, but the lack of governing power and representation, especially for women, nevermind just people of color, is not there in spite of the reality that this district or these three districts that we’re talking about really should, and have the opportunity maybe in the next 10 years to reflect… If there were districts were to reflect who the electorate is. these three districts should be represented by Latina women, but how do we root them out is really ended up being a… There’s a big pitfall because I don’t have rich friends. I don’t have like-
Solana Rice (00:41:26):
Pablo Rodriguez (00:41:26):
… we’ll recruit you. We will show you the tactics of a campaign. We will help you build all of these things. And then, yes, I will help you fund all of this by ourselves. We’re a part of coalitions where we do have… And I shouldn’t say I don’t have rich friends. We have people who we know, who know other people that are wealthy, and we’re part of some coalitions and there’s really incredible work that’s happening through the California Donor Table under the leadership of little big [inaudible 00:41:55].
Pablo Rodriguez (00:41:55):
Molly Watson, Rebecca Hamburg, all of those folks are doing incredible work of helping to bridge that gap. We are receiving attention and funding in the way that we haven’t for these battlegrounds. I can’t say that enough for our work, when in partnership with the California Donor Table, because that goes across the San Joaquin Valley and the Coachella Valley, where before nobody else was paying attention until California Donor Table did. What will happen next is up in the air, because I wish I could give you a more solid answer about how we have our pipeline, how we’re doing all of these things. And that’s the challenge for the next 10 years, going from electoral power to governing power and representation at all levels is I think the next challenge.
Jeremie Greer (00:42:46):
Well, what’s interesting, I’m going to flippantly ask the question that I think I know the answer to, but you talked about these six races. We’re talking about a house majority that is probably going to be decided on a razor thin either way, either for Republicans or Democrats. We just talked about at least one candidate that you’re worried is probably fucking it up. But you all have real insight into what the community cares about because you’ve talked to these people and you’re collecting this data, you talk to people. But the way we know politics are done is they send these consultants in that bring these kind of analyses around what they think is happening.
Jeremie Greer (00:43:36):
They look at the place you are. They think like, “Oh, it’s rural, it’s a lot of folks of color, so voter turnout’s going to be low,” all the tropes. And the question I ask, what do you think is there? Why are they talking to you? Or people, why are they bringing in these consultants from Washington or New York, or even from Sacramento, but not where you care about Sacramento, but the capital? Why are they not talking to folks like you who absolutely know what these people are concerned with?
Pablo Rodriguez (00:44:17):
I think that, that’s another one of the myths that we need to dispel, that there is, and there has been a complete vacuum left because on the Democratic side, that’s not by accident that the myth was the San Joaquin Valley and the Coachella Valley are conservative strongholds, we’re going to lose there, let’s put our money elsewhere. In 2008, you could go up and down the Highway 99, you could go down through the Coachella Valley on Interstate 10, you could go down i-5 in the middle of California. You are not seeing Barack Obama signs. That’s a system wide thing. That’s a [inaudible 00:45:08] thing that there was no investment.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:45:11):
As a result, it’s by no accident that these districts now have 30% independent voters. The parties have not earned their votes. So then, what was happening? Organizations like ours had to be born because there was a vacuum and there was nobody speaking for us and we were not being represented by the Democratic Party because there’s too many people like Adam Gray who are indifferent to us or don’t understand the power that we bring.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:45:45):
There’s a self perpetuating thing that ends up happening where you will say, “Look, in the primary, the highest propensity voters are white families and white voters, they’re homeowners. I’m going to focus on them, and then in the general election, when there’s more people of color, then I’ll focus and change gears.” But that doesn’t even happen because what ends up happening is that you might end up getting a subscription to Political Data Intelligence. If you’re a candidate and it’s hard to raise money, so you might pay to get one of their pre-created voter universes. And those universes eliminate right off the bat, even if it’s the one with the lowest propensity voters, tens of thousands of voters of color. In these districts, each one of them, just Latino voters, there are over 10… Well, consistently, 10 to 15% of voters who are Latino, who are identified as inactive voters who are not included in those pre-create universes.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:46:58):
If you have a subscription and you’re wise and have some experience, you know that you have to create your own universe and not just go buy a list from PDI, right?
Solana Rice (00:47:09):
Pablo Rodriguez (00:47:10):
But there’s not enough of those candidates that have general consultants that are telling them, “Let’s go expand the electorate.” Instead, what they’re saying is, “Here’s the list of the highest propensity voters that PDI has already given to us. Let’s just call them and let’s pull them.” And there’s another pitfall in what it is that I’m saying, because if you have money for polling, we’re asking who do you poll? If you have enough money in your campaign to poll, who are you calling?
Pablo Rodriguez (00:47:42):
Again, the voters that I just mentioned are not included in your list, so the things that are important to voters that are majority of these districts are not getting engaged and as a result, you’re not earning their votes. And then you end up having to be like the people that are flat earthers, or just like, “Well, I can’t tell why this is happening, therefore the earth is flat.” Because they don’t understand science, and in this case, because some of these candidates and their consultants don’t understand voters of color, then they don’t reach out to us.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:48:24):
I think that the other thing that I would say is, in a good way or [inaudible 00:48:31], these are the folks… And we’ll see how this is received, but we know too many people who are candidates who are not candidates of color. I don’t want this to be one of those things where I’m like, “I’m anti-white,” because that’s not what’s happening. Will Rollins is a good example of a progressive candidate who I’m wildly excited about. The part where I have trouble [inaudible 00:48:57] is the candidates that are like, “I’m not a white supremacist, I’m not racist. I have Black friends, I have brown friends.” And the reality is that Black and brown people, but you’re not friends with them, because if you really were friends with him, they would be like, “Yo, this, what’s what you’re doing wrong. Get it together. You’re not reaching out to our fold and you’re lacking.”
Pablo Rodriguez (00:49:22):
And it’s clear that he doesn’t have those people around him. For whatever reason, the Democratic congressional campaign committee has not gotten through to him to be like, “Yo, get it together. Your district is more than 50% Latino, almost 70, 80% voters of color. What are you doing with all of your social media that has zero representation of 80% of your district? What are you doing?” And that hasn’t happened. Why? The same thing at the federal level, I would guess, of just being like, I don’t know it. That doesn’t make any sense to me as I see it.
Jeremie Greer (00:50:02):
Yeah. No, it’s frustrating. Well, what I heard you say was so important is that even the data that they’re using to make these decisions are racist, Black and brown communities that are present. Again, it’s like if you got these types of districts and you’re not working with people who know what these voters are talking about, what matters, and you mentioned a bunch of them in the beginning. Water, clean air, all these things, then it’s going to be really hard for Democratic Party to win in these places because they’re operating on old assumptions that don’t match anymore. And that’s why I think it’s so important that you’re doing the work that you’re doing.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:50:49):
Yeah. I mean, for us, we work our list to exhaustion, right? Where we will be phoning and going door to door, leaving door hangers, but we’re working. And maybe what it is, a better way to answer your question before, is-
PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [00:51:04]
Pablo Rodriguez (00:51:00):
… and maybe what it is, that better way to answer your question before is, what is the difference of what we are doing is that we’re actually knocking on their doors. What we find is that many of the folks will just say, “I’ve never had a candidate come to my house. I’ve never had an organization come to my door, other than you all that have been bugging for the last 10 years.” But they still are not necessarily showing up. So, the challenge for CNC is to move voters from being for the people… And let me just be clear about this. I want to make sure that I don’t give the impression that Brown and Black voters are not voting, because that’s not true. So, in the primary election turned out in… For example, in District 13 that we’re talking about, Adam Gray, while 62% of the voters were White, 31% of the vote share were Latinos. 6% were Asian and 2% were Black voters.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:52:06):
As much as you can tell, because PDI and the databases have a really hard time telling who are Black voters. But across the board, you will see in Congressional District 21, 34% of the voters were Latino. 8% Asian, 3% Black. In District 22 where Jim Costa… I’m sorry. Where Rudy Salas is running, 41% of all voters were Latino, and only 52% were White. 4% Asian and 2% African American. So, we are showing up in large numbers to be considered, to be taken seriously. Just like we were saying, even if you were to take a small percentage and say, “We can’t get you to 50% plus one, but together we can definitely decide whether you lose,” is really significant. But we haven’t had that opportunity yet. So, there’s some big challenges of the erasure in this case, exclusion of the theory that it is that you all introduced me to, that makes it profitable to recruit candidates that are indifferent to our needs, because the status quo rewards these relationships. As you see where our families are excluded. That goes across party lines, because what you see in the Adam Gray social media across Twitter, Instagram, and his website, is probably half of his endorsements are from Republicans. Which is cool, but where are the people of color? You definitely are working to bring together people who you want to say are historically not working together. But how are you excluding voters of color? There are candidates again like Christy Smith in Congressional District 27, Will Rollins in Southern California against Ken Calvert, and Rudy Salas in the Southern San Joaquin Valley, and Jim Costa, who are doing a really good job. Again, in his backyard is Esmeralda Soria running for assembly, and Anna Caballero running for Senate. Our doing this, so it’s political malpractice to be running a 2004 campaign in the year 2022.
Solana Rice (00:54:36):
Pablo, I feel like you’ve dropped some really important gems throughout. My question to you is going to be, this is obviously California. We’ve talked about these districts, big districts, important districts. My question to you is, what do you want folks in other states to know about how these outcomes might affect them? But I also just want to do a recap of what I’ve heard you say, what I think are so important for anybody to know that is in the electoral space and trying to enfranchise, and make sure that people of color, Black, Latino, indigenous people, are part of our process. I mean, I love the idea and the fact that you all are claiming your power, day in, and day out, as an organization. That idea of, we might not help you get that plus one, but we sure will… We sure do have some accountability on the other end and some sway in you losing. I think that’s so important. But you also have the data to back it up, and it’s not numbers that you’ve run just from lists, and just from pixels on a screen.
Solana Rice (00:56:01):
It’s because you have shown up, day in, and day out, and you’re in community and in relationship. You’re actually in relationship with people in your communities across these huge, huge districts, which is a feat unto itself. I think it also just speaks to the type of infrastructure that is necessary to do the work that you do. You already mentioned the California donors table, not every state has a donor’s table. There are many organizations that are thinking about it and trying to push it forward. But that’s huge in terms of money. You talked about census outreach, and being able to really use the census as a way to continue the relationship building. But also to get real numbers and to actually change the electoral calculus. So, it strikes me that there is an amount of infrastructure that folks can be advancing in their states possibly, if they don’t have it. But I’m curious about, from you, other things that you’re seeing that you feel like are important from your experience and from these races in particular.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:57:20):
I want to be clear that my admiration, of my admiration for Georgia and the people who work in Georgia, even though I may come across differently. I just want to say, there are so many people who I’ve met from Georgia who I admire, because of the work and the work that they do. At the top, the first person that I’m going to say is the leadership of Stacey Abrams, because I think that what I would say, what I would be, would just echo what she’s already said. I said earlier, we’re in battle grounds. Stacey Abrams has said repeatedly, when we battle on ideas, the choice is clear. There’s too much of a mistake when we have into races, where Democrats want to say, I’m not a Republican, therefore I’m a good guy. Vote for me. That’s just not-
Solana Rice (00:58:11):
Ain’t cutting it.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:58:12):
And on ideas-
Solana Rice (00:58:16):
Not cutting it.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:58:17):
There’s a lack of [inaudible 00:58:19]. Then, what I admire from the people in Georgia, one, it’s hot in the San Joaquin Valley. I’ll give it to you, it’s just hot. It is incredibly hot in the Coachella Valley. Annalisa, who’s our organizer in-
Jeremie Greer (00:58:38):
Georgia in August. Have you been to Georgia in August? Because it’s pretty hot out there.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:58:43):
Annalisa in the Coachella Valley where it’s 120. Pedro and Fresno, where it’s 110, with our students in [inaudible 00:58:53]. Samantha Cassandra, and Sunni, all of them, ask them to go to Georgia with the humidity. Everybody was like, “No.” The way my checking account works… [inaudible 00:59:14] joke about that, but I’m not volunteering to go canvas in Georgia. No. It’s just hard.
Solana Rice (00:59:28):
So, no shade to Georgia, all love to Georgia.
Pablo Rodriguez (00:59:31):
I admire all the people that are able to do that. Mad respect for them working their list to exhaustion. They placed an emphasis on door to door, they placed an emphasis on face to face conversations. So, what I think is really important to say is, text messaging is not going to get you there. Phone banking is not going to get you there. You need to be doing the work year round. I think that there’s many of us who have learned that lesson years ago. What I look forward to is just being able to continue to come together nationally, to keep on banging that drum, so that whether you’re independent or whether you belong to a political party, that we are battling on ideas the way that Stacey Abram says. And that at the end of the day, we are actually being engaged, because maybe the other thing that I would say is that the San Joaquin Valley and the Coachella Valley feed the world.
Pablo Rodriguez (01:00:36):
If there are crops that don’t grow, or somehow fail to yield what they were expected to yield, whether it’s grapes, oranges, cotton, almonds, any of those things, we don’t blame the crop. We take a look at the environment, and then we investigate what our process was to identify our mistakes. Then we make changes that are needed, but we don’t ever blame the crop. The same thing needs to be applied to voters of color, to voters that historically have been erased and ignored, because it’s too easy of a cop out to be like, “Oh, you can’t trust those voters.” Or, “They just don’t turn out,” this and the other. You can’t blame, in this case, the voters of color for not turning out for candidates that don’t do the work to earn our votes.
Jeremie Greer (01:01:32):
Solana Rice (01:01:34):
Pablo Rodriguez (01:01:36):
Jeremie Greer (01:01:38):
Hey, thanks so much Pablo, for joining us today and sharing the great work that you are doing. I am personally just so grateful that you are where you are doing that work. Not just for the Central Valley in California, but as you said, for the rest of the country, because it’s a critically important part of the country. So, thank you for all your work.
Pablo Rodriguez (01:02:03):
Well, I really appreciate that, Jeremy. I just want to say that I feel like we are just over 10 years old. This is officially our 12th year. Well, kind of officially. Before we actually were official on paper, it’s been 11 years. But I feel like we’re ready for the before picture, because we started with no money. We started just being able to piece things together. I quit my job at that time, and didn’t get paid a full salary for almost two years, just so that we could make the organization work. But I feel like we are now at a place where we’re getting ready to really go full speed.
Pablo Rodriguez (01:02:40):
The lead up is just to say, and we’ve just started working with you all just over a year ago. We’re developing our policy platform. I get text messages from Hudson all the time like, check this out, and there’s excitement. So, I feel like just wait. We’re just now getting started. This is the before picture of the weight loss venture, or the path, whatever it is. It is barely the before picture. So, I’m really excited about the next 10 years, partnering with you all. I’m super grateful for you all inviting me to be on your podcast. I continue to look forward to working with both of you and your team, because it’s been nothing but a pleasure every step of the way.
Jeremie Greer (01:03:23):
Shout outs to the Samantha’s, to [inaudible 01:03:27], to Cassandra, Pedro, Annalisa, and the whole team, the whole crew at CNC.
Solana Rice (01:03:34):
Thank you, Pablo.
Jeremie Greer (01:03:34):
Solana Rice (01:03:36):
Take good care.
Pablo Rodriguez (01:03:36):
Thank you all.
Solana Rice (01:03:40):
Thanks for listening. For more information, check out our list of episode resources and visit us at liberationnagenerationaction.org. Shout out to our producer and audio editor, Nino Fernandez, the design team at Trim tab, and the Lib Gen Action Communications Team. Like what you heard? Help us make some noise by telling two friends about the Racism Is Profitable Podcast. Until next time y’all, peace.
PART 4 OF 4 ENDS [01:04:08]