Episode 13: The Midterms and Beyond
References and resources
Maurice Mitchell (00:00:01):
The elite are aggressively mediocre people, right? But because they are the designers of the structures and they run the structures, they could tilt it towards their mediocrity.
Solana Rice (00:00:16):
Hello. Welcome to Racism Is Profitable, the podcast where we talk about race, racism, and the economy. I’m Solana Rice, co-founder, co-executive director of Liberation in a Generation Action. I am here with Jeremie Greer.
Jeremie Greer (00:00:37):
What is up, y’all?
Solana Rice (00:00:41):
We’re recording this Monday after the election, so we know a little bit more than we did last week when we talked to Moe Mitchell of the Working Families Party, so more with him later. But let’s jump into what we do know as of Monday after the midterms. The Senate had locked in, looking like for the Democrats.
Jeremie Greer (00:01:13):
For the Democrats. Yeah.
Solana Rice (00:01:14):
We do have some leftovers though, right? We got some leftovers.
Jeremie Greer (00:01:20):
Fucking Herschel Walker, man. Fucking Herschel Walker, we still have to live another month of Herschel Walker, the Senate candidate. And all of my Viking fandom is just pissed that I still have to deal with this man and see this man. Yeah, fucking Herschel Walker. Yeah.
Solana Rice (00:01:45):
Yeah. Leftovers, sometimes they’re just not tasty. Some things we’re just not supposed to keep eating.
Jeremie Greer (00:01:53):
I want to know what goes in the mind of a person that goes to the polls and has heard everything that Herschel Walker has said and says, “You know what? That’s my guy. I want him to represent me and the Senate. I want him to vote for.” I just don’t understand it. I don’t understand it.
Solana Rice (00:02:11):
Yeah, my heart goes out to the folks in Georgia. People are organizing day in and day out and it’s rough. It’s rough. Is this victory lap that we’re seeing from the administration warranted? Yes. The House is still contested as of today. There might be a small Republican majority.
Jeremie Greer (00:02:44):
Really small. As of now, MSNBC is predicting 219 and they need 218. So one seat in the House is what they’re predicting right now.
Solana Rice (00:02:55):
Yeah. It’s not the trouncing that I think we all were-
Jeremie Greer (00:03:02):
Solana Rice (00:03:02):
I mean, I don’t know, does it feel good?
Jeremie Greer (00:03:02):
No. No, it doesn’t.
Solana Rice (00:03:02):
Should we be like, “Yeah, [inaudible 00:03:09].”
Jeremie Greer (00:03:09):
No, it doesn’t feel good. I don’t feel good. I guess the pundits feel good, the spin people feel good, but I don’t feel good. When you play basketball, you lose by two or you lose by 20. Still lost. I mean, we lost. Still, we lost. And I don’t see how you can walk away from this feeling good. You can take some moral victories out of it, but we’re going to lose the House. And that means that nothing is going to go through Congress that is progressive. Very little was going through before, but it’s really not going to happen now because you have the House. And you’re going to have to just defend a lot of bad fucking policy because the House is going to be in control and they have the wheels of governance. And that’s not good.
Solana Rice (00:04:11):
From where we sit, it felt like this was more of a denouncing of fascism than it is Democrats are the way forward. This is just a better path, this isn’t the path.
Jeremie Greer (00:04:27):
No, I mean, what, Joe Biden’s approval rate is 40%. So it’s not like people are like, “Oh, I think Joe’s doing a great job. I’m going to vote for the Democrats.” That’s not what was happening here. What was from my step, hey, people were worried about democracy. Rightfully. They just coming off an election where the city president tried to steal the election by force. There was a direct threat to women’s reproductive rights that they have held and believed that was there for 50 years. And-
Solana Rice (00:05:03):
It was swift. It was swift.
Jeremie Greer (00:05:04):
Yeah. It happened quickly. I think it was more repudiation of a direction that the country was going in than it was about any vision for the future that Joe Biden was, or the Democrats were presenting. Because again, his approval rates are like 40%. People are not feeling what he’s offering either. And I think-
Solana Rice (00:05:31):
So it feels like to me-
Jeremie Greer (00:05:31):
That’s why I think progressives are so worried we’re going to get trounced. Because even progressives were in love with what Biden was putting forward as the bet.
Solana Rice (00:05:42):
Yeah, yeah. I mean, for me it’s like, okay, we’ve got to really look to 2024 and what our real options are going to be and who is… Right now I think everybody’s like, who is going to go up against Trump? And is that going to be Biden or Harris that’s going to be able to pull out a win over Trump?
Jeremie Greer (00:06:12):
I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, I think the middle of the row candidate, we’ve been there, done that. We did that just to cycle. Tim Ryan ran Ohio and got slaughtered by JD Vance. Val Deming’s, a moderate Democrat black woman, but moderate Democrat, ran in Florida, got slaughtered by Marco Rubio, one of those within the hour, Kornacki was calling it at the board kind of stuff. So we’ve done this whole moderation thing and I don’t understand. And we’ve done the whole, let’s not talk about race thing.
Solana Rice (00:06:48):
Jeremie Greer (00:06:49):
Don’t talk about race. And then again, in our final thing, I just frustrates me as all of the victory lap stuff is just not acknowledging who are the true champions and what happened last week. And that’s again, black women organizing people to the polls. The only reason Raphael Warnock is even competitive in a state like Georgia’s because of black women organizing. Fetterman, going to be the biggest dude in the Senate. Black women in Philadelphia, Mandela Barnes showed out a lot better than people would’ve thought in Wisconsin. Black women look at-
Solana Rice (00:07:32):
Black women. Not the party. Not-
Jeremie Greer (00:07:35):
Not the party. No. Organized-
Solana Rice (00:07:37):
Jeremie Greer (00:07:38):
And then in place, and with no party money, they had written Wisconsin Senate race off. And then you look at Nevada and Arizona, and it’s again, largely Latino women. They’re organizing and won two more senates. So it’s the true champions here are organizers that are organizing in community, but that’s not the story. The story is like, oh, Joe Biden’s a good politician. It’s like, okay, let’s see how far that goes.
Solana Rice (00:08:13):
It’s organizers of color holding the line in their communities, talking about a vision and not necessarily stumping for all these candidates that proposedly hold our line. I think we saw that in the ballot measures too. Because when people can actually vote on issues, we see where people are standing on issues. We see that abortion rights are strong, reproductive rights are strong.
Jeremie Greer (00:08:42):
Kentucky. Kentucky all.
Solana Rice (00:08:44):
Jeremie Greer (00:08:46):
Voted to secure abortion rights.
Solana Rice (00:08:51):
Yeah, we’ve got Michigan approving abortion rights, we’ve got Vermont, we’ve got California putting it in our constitutions, Michigan, Vermont, and California, putting it in our constitutions. So if it’s left up to some states, we’re going to protect those rights. Kentucky and Montana, rejecting anti-abortion. So still five states coming out in the affirmative for reproductive rights. That’s huge. Also, I guess this was actually news to me. Slavery was still on the ballot.
Jeremie Greer (00:09:30):
Solana Rice (00:09:31):
Yeah. Yeah. In five states.
Jeremie Greer (00:09:31):
In five states.
Solana Rice (00:09:33):
Yeah. Sometimes I wonder, did I read this on the internet or is it on parchment paper that I learned this? It actually was-
Jeremie Greer (00:09:47):
With a feather pen.
Solana Rice (00:09:48):
Jeremie Greer (00:09:48):
Yes or no with your feather pen?
Solana Rice (00:09:49):
It actually was on the internet. So Alabama says in their constitution, no form of slavery shall like exist. Oregon also took out slavery and involuntary servitude, again, Vermont.
Jeremie Greer (00:10:09):
Four stars for Vermont.
Solana Rice (00:10:13):
Unfortunately, oh, there was one state that just was like, no, we need a backup plan. That slavery thing. That slavery thing was, that was a good, just in case. Just in case.
Jeremie Greer (00:10:28):
Just in case.
Solana Rice (00:10:28):
Jeremie Greer (00:10:28):
What state was that?
Solana Rice (00:10:31):
Jeremie Greer (00:10:31):
You’re doing so good Louisiana.
Solana Rice (00:10:40):
So the voters, they said no. Now I guess there’s some nuance there. The person that put it for us said it-
Jeremie Greer (00:10:50):
Nuance for slavery. There’s so much nuance in slavery, forcing people to work against their will. There’s nuance in this that needs policy language.
Solana Rice (00:11:05):
The person that put it for us said that the language that actually ended up on the ballot wasn’t the language that they wanted. And the language was, do you support an amendment to prohibit the use of involuntary servitude? Except as it applies to the otherwise lawful administration of criminal justice. So I guess in theory you could say like, hey, we shouldn’t make an exception for basically prison labor in this amendment. So maybe.
Jeremie Greer (00:11:37):
I can see it now. So I take it back Louisiana.
Solana Rice (00:11:41):
Although, how hard is it going to be the next time when this is on the ballot?
Jeremie Greer (00:11:46):
Yeah. Yeah. But it just shows that there’s always a white supremacy rationale for even something like slavery. And that’s what’s happening here. Because honestly, even if they pass that amendment, it doesn’t change anything from what’s already in the US Constitution, which would be mean that they would just be in line with the US Constitution, which means that slavery is allowed as long as it is within the criminal justice system, which is why we have a lot of forced labor today in our criminal system.
Solana Rice (00:12:22):
That’s right. That’s right.
Jeremie Greer (00:12:26):
It’s like yes. But still be with the US Constitution, at least. There’s the minimum bar. At least be a lot with US Constitution.
Solana Rice (00:12:38):
Well, on a bright note, we talked to Moe Mitchell from the Working Families Party about what it takes to get some of these wins. And it’s really a testament to one, how much time this work takes. I mean, I think we’ve seen it with Stacy Abrams. We’re seeing it, and he talks about Pennsylvania, but it comes from local races and it comes from local organizing and people going door to door and then considering all the different ways that we can operate in the system, so we can do election reform. He talks really about all the changes that Republicans often make in order to pivot and keep control. But there are some bright spots. So we’re so excited to chat with Moe Mitchell about what we did see, what it takes and some of his favorite rituals for staying in the long term arc despite having all of these hectic, hectic election.
Jeremie Greer (00:13:55):
And Moe’s got bars, y’all. Bars.
Solana Rice (00:14:00):
So why don’t we hop in and just tell us a little bit about Working Families Party for folks that don’t already know and what you’re hoping to do at Working Family Party. What are you working on?
Maurice Mitchell (00:14:15):
Okay. Well, the Working Family Party is a national political movement that seeks to ensure that our politics are for the many and not the privileged pew. So that’s the core piece. And how we do that is by organizing and recruiting everyday people because we believe that you have enough sort of expertise just based on living your life and dealing with the challenges and contradictions of living life in this crazy society to know how to translate your experiences into policies and into laws. And you should be in leadership because you know what’s best for your community, because you live in your community. We really believe that. So we recruit organizers like labor organizers, educators, activists, parents to run for office on the hyperlocal, all the way to the national level so that the people can govern instead of corporations and the wealthy. And that’s what we do.
Jeremie Greer (00:15:26):
And well, we’re talking to you literally the day after the election. And I just want to know, was it a party last night? What was happening last night? What was the vibe around the party?
Maurice Mitchell (00:15:42):
Well, as with everything in America, the results are complicated and require nuance to fully understand. But I would say from an historical standpoint, I’m very, very pleased with the outcome. And for folks to understand historically, after you vote for the President, there’s another election what we call the midterm election that’s between presidential elections. And historically what tends to happen is the party in power, the party of the President, tends to get rebuked in that midterm election. So maybe folks remember Barack Obama in his midterm election, he famously said he got a shellacking, right? Because a lot of the people in his party in Congress lost their elections, right? And Barack Obama’s considered to be historically one of the most popular politicians, one of the most dynamic politicians. Even him, he got the shellacking. And I don’t think most people think of Joe Biden as being historically one of the most dynamic, popular political figures.
And so with Joe Biden and with inflation, and you have to remember, a lot of the pundits were like, inflation is through the roof and crime, crime, crime and all this other stuff. This is going to be a disaster. And the party in power, the Democrats are again going to get shellacked and MAGA Republicans are going to take over. That’s not what happened. There wasn’t this red wave. That’s actually not what happened. In fact, we’re still counting votes. And there were very close elections that we came up a little short. And for example, my comrade and friend and brother Mandela Barnes, who we at Working Families Party, have had a long relationship with him. It looks like when all the votes are counted, he’s going to come up just a little short. And I just have to imagine if a number of people in the Democratic Party establishment really embraced and doubled down on Mandela’s race, where we might be today, we might be saying something very different about what happened.
So there’s elections like that. But then on the flip side, there’s Pennsylvania where we did the damn thing, on multiple levels. Did the damn thing on multiple levels. There is New York, actually what’s interesting about New York, New York is considered a blue state. However, by most standards, people would say that the Democratic party infrastructure in New York did not operate in a very effective, efficient, or impactful way. So you had this guy, Lee Zeldin, who was challenging the incumbent democratic governor, Kathy Hochul. And he was building steam, he was building momentum, and he is truly a MAGA Republican. So in a blue state, this MAGA very far, very extreme Republican. He was building momentum. And when all the dust was settled, most people would argue that the Working Families Party. And in New York we have a ballot line. So we’re independent political party in New York with our own ballot line that our ballot line and the organizing that we did was the standout star of what happened in New York.
And Kathy Hochul won. What’s great about our ballot line, and we don’t have it everywhere, we have it in Connecticut and New York, is that people could vote on an independent party’s ballot line, but that independent party can cross endorse the candidate of another party. So we cross endorsed Kathy Hochul, even though she’s not the homey. We’re strategic and we understand that whatever differences we might have with Kathy Hochul, and they’re real and they’re meaningful differences, they far outweigh the differences that we have with the MAGA Republicans. So we join in a united front with people that we have serious disagreements with in the Democratic party in order to defeat the far right using that ballot line. That’s basically how we think about things. We believe that working people should have their own political party. And currently in the rigid two party system, they do not, right?
But we live in a world as it is where we have a rigid two party system. And so most of our work during the year is to push against that two party system, to challenge it, to advocate for structural changes in the law like fusion voting or rank choice when multi-member district in order for there to be more democracy. Because we don’t think the rigid two party system works for our people. However, under that… And the other thing that we do is that we really challenge Democrats in the Democratic primaries and we run our independent Working Families candidates like Summer Lee in Pittsburgh, who got hit with a deluge of right wing dark money from APAC and other nefarious sources. But they should have just burnt their money on fire because we secured a win there. We secured a win there.
Solana Rice (00:21:01):
And tell people what APAC is before.
Maurice Mitchell (00:21:05):
So APAC is a lobbyist group and they present this face like, hey, we’re concerned with the interest of Israel and we’re just out here raising and spending money in order to advocate for the interest of Israel. What they’re really about, they’re a machine in order to raise dark right wing money to advocate for the most extreme right wing positions of the most extreme right wing parties in the state of Israel. And basically their position is whichever right wing party happens to be running Israel, it is the job of the United States to just support whatever they’re doing. And some of those parties, the current governing majority right now, includes explicitly racist genocidal parties. So APAC is like, don’t worry about all that. Keep on supporting those folks. Just keep on supporting them. But in actuality, in effect, what they’re doing and what they do. So they argue that they’re this like, hey listen, we’re this totally legitimate operation, but they actually are supporting insurrectionist on the right wing, many of whom happen to be blatantly antisemitic.
Because the other thing that APAC argues is that they’re also going to spend money in order to challenge antisemitic and anti-Jewish elected officials. That’s kind of their back. But when it comes to the right wing, they take this position where it’s the more right wing, the better. And they’ve supported all of these insurrectionists. So they have this really incoherent line and what actually their function, their actual function is a way for wing political actors to funnel their dark money in order to attack progressives. That’s their actual, but they use a lot of language around like, oh, we’re defending Israel and oh, we’re challenging antisemitism and oh, whatever. And if that was true, then your ads against Summer Lee, for example, would have something to do with foreign policy. Their ads were just like sometimes borderline, sometimes very, very explicit, explicitly playing to white racial grievance and paranoia, arguing that she’s not sufficiently loyal to the Democratic party, which is something that’s leveled against black political actors often this lack of loyalty, all of these things.
So they spent a lot of money this election generally against us. And we have a pretty good track record against their money. I mean sometimes when they spend six to one or eight to one or 10 to one against us, it’s really hard to beat them. But when they spend two to one or three to one, we figure out how to make it work. And so I’m really proud of our record there. But it’s been a fascinating cycle because more money has been spent in Democratic primaries this cycle than any other cycle. These folks have finally recognized it’s, at first they ignore you. So I don’t think they really took our sides seriously. And they wanted to believe that the AOC effect was a fluke. The cycle after cycle after cycle, more and more independent grassroots candidates have come through these pipelines and organizations.
It’s not just us, we definitely play a role, but just as Democrats and other organizations are recruiting independent minded grassroots candidates, many candidates of color like Corey Bush, Jamal Bowman, to run and win against either incumbents or in these tightly contested primaries. And our whole thing is like, look, let the best organizer win. And folks APAC are like, no, we’re going to lose that game. So how about we just flood it with why we just flood the zone with dark money and tens of millions of dollars on political ads. It’s like Summer Lee, does she like kittens? These are the questions we need to go down to. So yeah, anyhow, so that’s a little bit about that.
Solana Rice (00:25:37):
Yeah. Well you mentioned some bright spots. I want to go into Pennsylvania because I want to understand what leads to those bright spots from your perspective, what does it take to have those kinds of wins up and down the ballot, right? We’re not just talking about at the federal, national level.
Maurice Mitchell (00:26:02):
So at the Working Families Party have a whole perspective around how we get to those bright spots. And some who are listening may have heard the stories about Georgia and how Georgia flipped to becoming a purple state. And a lot of the story has to do with all the organizing over a very long period of time in order to do that. And Stacey Abrams and other, mainly black women, but other folks and organizations like New Georgia Project and other organizations had to till and had to organize and had to engage and had to register people and mobilize people over years in order to get to a point where we could actually be in striking of winning statewide elections. And that’s true everywhere. So what we do at Working Families Party is like we try to build durable power. We’re not just trying to win elections.
That model we don’t think works. It’s kind of like the sandcastle model. And if anybody has ever been involved in an election deeply, you’ll understand how this works. So a lot of money gets raised and spent on elections. You have the mail that costs money, you have paid field, by that I mean paying individuals to go out and knock on doors that costs a lot of money. You’re paying for people to call, people to phone bank, paying phone banks, you’re paying for all those dials, all of those things. The minute the election is over, they’re gone. Those folks, they lose their jobs. No more flights of mail. The campaign offices, those leases are over, they’re short term leases. So all that infrastructure in the community where there’s campaign offices that become almost little organizing hubs, the day after election day, it’s like a ghost town. So you build this massive organizing infrastructure and sometimes this organizing infrastructure is building real and deep connections with people, and then it just magically goes away.
And so for us, that boom and bust is not how you build durable power. And ultimately you need durable power. You need something to hold onto in between elections, and you need what you’re building election after election to build on top of something rather than you build this elaborate castle, a sandcastle and have a wash away, and then next election, you have to build the elaborate sandcastle. It’s like, man, that doesn’t seem like an effective and efficient use of our resources as organizers. So what we try to do is think about what could we leave behind, what could be durable, which is why one of the things that we focus on, we do paid field, we do pay all those things, but we lean into volunteer organizing. So what that means is we train people in the community on how to run elections.
We train people on how to be masterful canvasers, masterful phone bankers, how to be phone bank captains, how to eventually be campaign managers. Win or lose, those people are reintroducing their communities much more sophisticated, with more skills, more clarity and win or lose their position directly after the election to build on the lessons and the power that was secured during the election. And so cycle after cycle after cycle. In Pennsylvania, for example, we’ve been doing that. I’ll give an example with the Working Families Party, we decided long… I decided long ago, we decided long ago, many-
Solana Rice (00:29:49):
Never to walk in anyone’s shadow.
Jeremie Greer (00:29:51):
Maurice Mitchell (00:29:55):
Oh, this is deep though. If we fail, if we succeed. This is that thing. Bar. Okay, okay.
Jeremie Greer (00:30:00):
Fire, fire, fire.
Maurice Mitchell (00:30:07):
Man. So we decided years ago that we were going to make deep, deep, deep investments in the city of Philadelphia. So the city of Philadelphia is a black city. It’s a working class city. And the votes that come out of Philadelphia are essential to any democratic victory because there’s Philadelphia, there’s Pittsburgh, those are big cities, very diverse cities. And then outside of, there’s the suburbs, but many places in Pennsylvania are not as diverse. Many of those places outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh tend to swing to the right. So it makes those cities really important. It makes Philly very important. So we’re like, all right, we want to make deep investments in Philly. And the politics of Philly also must be transformed. And what’s unique about Philly, which isn’t true with every city, but it’s true in some cities, is that on the municipal level, they’re set aside city council seats for the minor party, which historically in the rigid two party system is the Republican party.
And so what that means is that in places like Philly and many cities and Connecticut and DC, all the Republican needs to do is raise their pinky finger in a race and they will win these city council seats. They just need to show up and be like, we’re the minor party. And they get it. And so we had a theory, we were like, look, Philly’s a very, very blue town. We think that more people in Philly believe in our values. And if they had a choice between the Republicans, the Democrats and Working Families Party, they would choose Working Families Party over the Republicans, which means we should buy for those seats. There’s no reason why this is not very democratic, like Republicans are getting more representation than they deserve in a place like Philly. Whereas progressives are getting underrepresented because we’re getting clumped in with all the Democrats.
And we don’t believe a lot of the things that Neoliberals and the Democratic party believe. So let’s actually run our own people, and reran Kendra Brooks, who’s a working class mom, a true progressive, an amazing organizer. And she ran and won not as a Democrat, not as a Republican, but as an independent Working Families Party candidate. And she won her race at large. So she represents all of the city. And the theory that we had had is those voters, that voting block, if we could consistently deliver and grow that voting block of independent Working Families Party voters, it will have a huge impact on the politics of Philly. And in presidential elections and statewide elections, it’ll have huge impacts on our ability to move Pennsylvania in the right direction. And this voting block is critical because then we could demand for transformative progressive change. And our voters can’t just get lost in the sauce because no, no, no, no, no.
We have proof, we have receipts. We could actually enumerate who our voters are based on the amount of voters that voted for the Working Families Party candidate in Philly. These are our voters. It’s the same principle that we use in New York with our ballot line. And so that was a play that we made in the municipal race in 2019. We won that race in 2019. Kendra has gone on to govern expertly and has been able to caucus with progressive Democrats in order to hold the line around policing, around housing, around a number of issues. And then we’re bringing the band back together. And next year, so we brought the band together and I think we’ve done expertly up and down the ballot in Pennsylvania, winning the Senate race, winning the gubernatorial race, but also winning other races. We might even flip the legislature in Pennsylvania, which is wild.
Remember what I said? So midterm election things are supposed to swing, we might actually flip the legislature when all the ballot, we’re still counting ballots, right? But it just shows what organizing can do. And now we’re moving into the municipals where we plan to run more at large candidates, more independent working families, progressive candidates, and then we’re going to use that momentum in 2024 so that we can ensure that a fascist doesn’t enter the White House again.
Jeremie Greer (00:34:39):
Yeah. You mentioned we spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania. Because I do think it’s a real interesting kind of microcosm of how black folks get treated in electoral process. Because it’s like you wouldn’t know Philadelphia was politically relevant until election night and they start highlighting the city of Philadelphia like, oh, Kornacki at his board and like, oh, we need more votes from Philadelphia. What is it that folks should do? And I’m not just talking about Pennsylvania, but across the country, how do we as black folks or other people of color make ourselves relevant outside of election night? Because it seems like that’s when the attention is on folks, but what do we need to do to work? Because we’re about to move into that phase where we need to start thinking about that, because the election’s over. So what are the things that we should do to stay relevant to build?
Maurice Mitchell (00:35:37):
Oh, absolutely. So yeah, the sandcastle. So a lot of folks, unfortunately, this is my critique of the Democratic Party, they’re all about that sandcastle. So right now they’re striking the, it’s like a Broadway set where, strike the set, let’s knock everything down right? Today, right now that’s happening. But we at the Working Families Party, we’re strategizing and we’re having conversations about what’s next. So I would say for people who are interested in transitioning this momentum win or lose. Because some people right now are listening in a place where there’s some hard fought losses, right? Win or lose, you should find an organization unbiased. I would say holler at the Working Families Party, family Party. We’re in a number of states, and even in the states where we don’t have a presence, you could get involved with us virtually, find a electoral organization, check us out if for whatever reason we’re not your cup of tea, there’s other places to go and do the organizing.
So this is a time where governing is important and there’s a relationship between governing and politics. And we saw that this year, right? So we saw the emergence of dark Brandon. So we saw the emergence of a more strident working person administration, and the Biden administration. And even though we as progressives did not secure everything that we wanted to, we secured a significant amount out of this president. And we have to take a few steps back because historically it’s actually a big deal that more than $4 trillion of government resources went to state government, local government, and everyday people through the American Rescue Plan, through the Inflation Reduction Act, the bipartisan infrastructure plan. All these bills are imperfect, but in the bipartisan infrastructure plan, there’s enough money there to totally redo every single lead pipe in every single city that is in that bill.
So as much as these bills are imperfect, there’s meaningful investments in those bills. Similarly, the Inflation Reduction Plan Act is imperfect. However, there is $379 billion of resources for climate, and a significant percentage of that is earmarked for black and brown and underserved and tribal communities. It’s a big deal. The student debt, right? 10,000 to $20,000 of student debt relieved. All these things happened. And surprisingly, to some people, not to many of us, Biden and Democrats saw their chances improve electorally because policy and politics are linked. This is our theory as progressives, our theory as progressives is it’s actually really simple. Just give people stuff.
Solana Rice (00:38:49):
Just give people stuff.
Jeremie Greer (00:38:52):
People like getting stuff.
Maurice Mitchell (00:38:55):
Solana Rice (00:38:56):
And tell them that you gave it to… And tell them.
Maurice Mitchell (00:38:58):
And remind them, be like, I gave you this. Like child tax credit, alleviating 50% of child poverty. Turns out people notice that. Yeah. And it turns out that people don’t want to be poor. And it turns out that when people think about their government and how they might want their government to show up, it’s in alleviating things like poverty, right? It’s in addressing really big things like climate change that are scary and existential. And so when government does more of those things and people in a very real material way could see government show up that it’s good politics, that people are more friendly to the people in power. And don’t just give people stuff, but give people stuff and remind them, repeat. And it will be good for our economy. It will actually be good for the people if you care about people, if that’s your bag, caring about people and it will be good for you politically.
That’s what progressives believe. I feel like sometimes people try to make less clear and much more unnecessarily academic. The basic principle of what progresses believe, give people money. People are poor, give them money. People are homeless, give that person a home. Give them shelter. It’s very basic. And it turns out the most elegant and straightforward solution to these problems are the most obvious answers. Yes. The way that you alleviate poverty is not some sort of weird broke tax credit followed by then you got to go to AmeriCorps and then just give somebody money that doesn’t have the money. Give somebody shelter that doesn’t have the shelter. That’s basically what we believe. It’s the most simplistic, straightforward, practical solutions. So I just went on a rift there because it’s like, I remember, I will bring up the candidate, but I remember during the presidential, there was a candidate that was talking about their solution for alleviating student debt. And it was so ridiculously complicated.
I was like, why are you making, it’s like… And then after three years and you volunteer at a boys and girls school and then you make a blood oath to this and that and the other, you promise to be a good person. And it’s just like, why are we doing this? And there needs to be a mean set. So you have to make for couples over $80,000, but under 400,000 and then below and then you have to file taxes for the past three years. It’s just like what are you doing?
Jeremie Greer (00:41:54):
What are you doing? Yeah.
Solana Rice (00:41:54):
You could’ve just said, we will cancel it.
Maurice Mitchell (00:42:00):
Yeah, totally. I just find all the neoliberal solutions to everything are just way too complicated, way too cute, smart and complicated. And often have less impact for less people and less people notice it. It’s like the worst of all worlds.
Jeremie Greer (00:42:19):
Yeah. I love what you’re saying because it’s really about creating a vision for the world that’s different than the awfulness that people are living in and say like, we can deliver that for you. And if we participate in this way, right?
Maurice Mitchell (00:42:37):
And the thing is, the right wing actually understands that. So my belief is that what the right wing is not actually afraid of is our ideas not working. They’re afraid of our ideas working. They’re desperately afraid because I think many of them, not all of them, many of them actually have some inkling that our ideas are both popular and effective. And if we were actually able to execute many of our progressive ideas, people would like it. People will love it, and people will fiercely defend it. I mean-
Jeremie Greer (00:43:10):
They just found out that women are going to fight for their reproductive rights. They found that out last night.
Maurice Mitchell (00:43:15):
Oh yeah. They learned. They learned. They learned today. They learned. Yeah. Yeah. Turns out, we’re not into the whole lessening our freedoms thing. Introducing our rights. People aren’t really into that. Yeah, absolutely.
Solana Rice (00:43:35):
Well, I’m curious about how do you keep the long arc in perspective when you’re working on campaigns and in the cycle you’re in the trenches, you’re in the data, you’re in the door knocking, all of that. How do you personally keep that long arc and perspective?
Maurice Mitchell (00:43:57):
Yeah, that’s a really good question. Just so to get into my own personal practice, the way that I do that, because the way that I do two things. I believe that my job is to make a connection between the proximal crisis and the long arc vision. There’s always these proximal crises that we need to figure out how to get out of. Right? And it’s one of the arts that the right wing sort has perfected is manufacturing proximal crises in order to make it harder for us to stay.
Jeremie Greer (00:44:38):
The caravan, the caravan, caravan.
Maurice Mitchell (00:44:44):
Not too long ago there was a caravan invading from the southern border, and at the same time there was Ebola coming in from Africa and it was just like, oh God, what should I be afraid of? I don’t even know. There’s so many things to be afraid of. And then it was funny, directly after the election, it was like they weren’t even talking about Fox News.
I was like, it didn’t exist anymore. It was like, wait, what happens in that caravan? Should we be concerned about that? I know if the election’s over, but shouldn’t we focus on that? Wait, Ebola was coming to kill all of us. Why is that not something we’re talking about? I was like, don’t worry about that. We’re done. It just, I don’t know. So they perfected it to a science, and what happens is we jump from one crisis to another and often have to unravel the crises that they’ve created and put all of our energy there. And we hardly ever get focus on the North Star, hardly ever focus on building for the long arc. That’s kind of part of their strategy. They, on the other hand have a singular laser-like focus on their long arc revolutionary mission, right? And what that does for them, I’ll get to what that does for them.
And they’re very ideological. So it’s interesting, a lot of the words that we use are so filled with meaning. So when people say ideological, they often aren’t talking about neoliberals. They’re not talking about “centrist”. They’re not talking about people on the right. When they bring up ideology and say that people are too ideological. They’re almost always talking about people on the left, progressives. So it’s like progressives that have ideology, but somehow people who are deeply committed to neoliberalism as an economic order and as both the economic order and as a framework for logic. These people aren’t ideologs.
It’s just the strangest thing. Okay. Saying all that to say the right wing is deeply ideological what that allows them to do. And they’ve made investment in political education over generation, and they have a lot of infrastructure. So they have a legal infrastructure. That’s where people like Brett Kavanaugh come from, the Federalist Society and other things like that. They have a political infrastructure, they have a deep bench, and all of these, they have right wing sororities and fraternities and all these things.
Solana Rice (00:47:23):
And research institutions.
Maurice Mitchell (00:47:25):
Yes. And a lot of what those research institutions do is they produce the legitimacy for the crazy stuff that they believe in.
Jeremie Greer (00:47:38):
Which is just made up shit.
Maurice Mitchell (00:47:40):
You just make things up.
Jeremie Greer (00:47:41):
Yeah. And just put a [inaudible 00:47:45] behind the… Yeah.
Maurice Mitchell (00:47:50):
I mean there’s so much there. The elite are aggressively mediocre people, but because they both are the designers of the structures and they run the structures, they could tilt it towards their mediocrity. And I’ll give a good example. A significant percentage of the people that go to Ivy League schools don’t go there based on merit. A significant percent.
Jeremie Greer (00:48:15):
Solana Rice (00:48:22):
Jeremie Greer (00:48:22):
[Inaudible 00:48:23] school.
Maurice Mitchell (00:48:22):
Either they’re legacy people. They just go there because they’re granddaddy or their great granddaddy or their dad or mom went there and they just get, great. It’s pedigree. Or as we learned, they commit crimes to get in. Right? I mean, that’s not a small percentage. It’s like, oh, I have money. So yeah, I’ll manufacture this lie that my student, my son or daughter is a student athlete so I could get in and I’ll pay the coach of the rowing team and this is what they do. So saying all that to say, the right wing, they just make stuff up and somebody will endow a chair at a university. A wealthy person who has been seduced by an insane right wing ideology will spend several million dollars so that there’s a endowed economics chair and which allows space for somebody to get a doctorate.
And when you have a doctorate, it means that the stuff that you say and the books that you read are legit. So that you could produce the intellectual demand for some crazy theory that makes no sense, but then it’s legitimate. And then somebody on TV gets to reference what you said, well, Dr. So and so from university or whatever, whatever said this, and here’s this chart and it looks smart and legit. And there’s numbers, and look, there’s an X and y axis. And look at all those words. All of this stuff is super legit. It’s just made up stuff. So they invest in all of that because they know that made up stuff is really important. And they have this ecosystem that is based on this ideology. They do a lot of ideological education and political education. The left is mainly tactical and doesn’t invest in ideological political education.
Jeremie Greer (00:50:24):
It’s a sandcastle. They build the sandcastle.
Maurice Mitchell (00:50:26):
Yes. Tactic after tactic, whack-a-mole, whack-a-mole. And so I’ll give you a good scenario to describe what I’m talking about. So for example, when Tony Evers the current Democratic governor, and thank God he won reelection.
Jeremie Greer (00:50:44):
He won Wisconsin, right?
Maurice Mitchell (00:50:45):
Yeah. When he won, the Republicans they fought hard for him to lose. They were very disappointed. They didn’t unravel after that loss because they’re traveling on an ideological sort of journey. They’re traveling on an ideological sort of trajectory. So when that tactic didn’t work for them, which was to ensure that a Republican was in office, they were able to immediately pivot like, oh, that was a unfortunate loss. However, what do we have here? How can we respond to this loss in best way we can? Well, we have a majority in the legislature. All right, well, let’s actually change what it is a governor can and can’t do during the lame duck session of the legislature.
The ability for them to seamlessly pivot like that and to be able to consolidate seamlessly and then be ruthless like that with their power, that ability has everything to do with their ideological sort of coherence. Something that the Democrats lack. So people are like, well, why can’t Democrats get their stuff together? Because there is a lack of ideological coherence. Democrats actually are unclear about outside of tactically, we need to get more Democrats and very specific policies here and there, and we need to defeat Republicans or we need to stop this big scary fascist thing. Democrats are generally unclear about what it is, the long arc thing that Democrats are actually fighting for. And Republicans get that. And if you’re clear about that win or lose, you make the adjustments that you need to make in order to get closer to that North Star.
And I really didn’t answer my thing. So the quick thing with me is I wake up every day, I meditate every day. I work out every day. I try to set at least 30 minutes for reading and writing so that I could study. I could constantly be a student, not just of current events, but a student of ideology. So I try to spend time to actually read historical about either in the context of the US or other countries, historical analogs of where we might be. I try to actually read what other party leaders in other contexts were thinking about and doing.
I try to brush up on ideology, I don’t got a fancy PhD. So I try to brush up on that stuff and I try to do a little bit of that every day. So I don’t become a political hack and so that I’m able to see the long arc. And I feel like when we talk about political leadership, the job of the leadership is to be able to pair above to see what’s coming next. And the way you do that is through study. And I think we all always should be students. Yeah.
Jeremie Greer (00:53:54):
Well you’ve been working hard for the last few months. You got to get some time to do that, I hope coming up.
Maurice Mitchell (00:54:04):
My hack for that is just do a little bit of it every single day. So when I meditate every day, it’s just a 10 minute meditation. But I have a 267 day streak. I do it every single day. No matter what’s going on. Election day, whatever.
Solana Rice (00:54:16):
Hey, 267 days.
Maurice Mitchell (00:54:20):
Yeah. Listen, I’m out here doing, listening. Yeah. I’ll feel… And it matters and it compounds over time. And so you do a little bit of it every day. So I was actually talking about this, I was having this conversation about self care and work and capitalism and it’s like I do think we need to have a sharper analysis of some of the ways that we talk about these things because work is not, work exists under any economic model. Work itself is not capitalist. Right?
Jeremie Greer (00:54:56):
Yeah, that’s right.
Maurice Mitchell (00:54:56):
Hard work is not capitalist in itself. Commerce and or profit are not capitalists in itself. These things exist in any economic model. And I was talking about how we could talk in our movements where we’re trying to challenge our system and think about a new way of being. How could we talk about work? How could we talk about hard work in a way that isn’t replicating the sort of neoliberal paradigms? Right? And part of that to me means talking about work and rest at the same time. Because I think we kind of overcorrected and we’re like, let’s just rest. I’m like, we can’t rest our way to transforming. We got to put in work.
But we should take both seriously. We should take work seriously and then rest and the requisite rest seriously. And it’s like the analogy I was using is poetry. There’s periods, it’s not just a bunch of words. Both are important. And sometimes rest is not just important because it gives you time to process and heal and recover so they can do more work. Rest in of itself is valuable and leisure and pleasure. We have limited time on earth and just enjoying our time. That’s actually valuable. And what makes us different is that we value human potential and we value that over production or overgrowth. So we want to figure out how our rest could do multiple things. How our rest could give us time to recover, but how our rest could be used for any work, anybody. Not just the very, very privilege how we could create a system where anybody could have time and space to just be, time and space to be able to derive pleasure from their reality, from their communities and from their labor.
And so that to me, I think is more interesting than the overcorrection of leisure, leisure, leisure, pleasure, pleasure, pleasure. Because there is something about that that is actually replicating some of that capitalist paradigm where it’s like, it’s about my pleasure and my leisure versus what is our collective responsibility for us to get free and for us to, if we choose work for that work to be done where we’re respected and if there is profit for us to have a say in how that profit is directed. That’s something very different than I think sometimes the over corrections that we get into. I know I kind of deviated, but I think it’s important. I think it’s relevant to our conversation.
Solana Rice (00:57:56):
Absolutely right. And our last question, I know you like music. What did you play? What did you listen to today?
Maurice Mitchell (00:58:05):
Oh, that’s a great question. Okay. Wow. What did I listen to?
Solana Rice (00:58:11):
I wake up every morning and I listen to something, whatever’s in my head. Last night it was that song, Heartbeat. You make me feel so weak, you know that?
Maurice Mitchell (00:58:21):
Oh yeah, yeah. Oh, Kamasi Washington. I played some Kamasi Washington. And what I love for him at least, I just feel like he taps into a wavelength where I feel like I’m in the future. I really feel like I’m in the future. I mean, I think it has to do with all his aesthetics. He has this kind of sunrise energy with him. You know what I’m saying? But yeah. And then also his instrumentation is just so expansive. So it makes me feel like when I’m listening to it gives me the soundtrack. I feel like the soundtrack of possibility. So Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Solana Rice (00:59:01):
Well if you’re not on his liner notes, you need to be me. The soundtrack of possibility.
Maurice Mitchell (00:59:14):
Soundtrack of possibility. Bars. I’d just be like, I just drop bars. That’s what I do. I drop bars, I keep on moving.
Jeremie Greer (00:59:18):
And it’s recorded. We’ll always have to quote you. If we use it.
Maurice Mitchell (00:59:26):
Soundtrack of possibility.
Solana Rice (00:59:32):
Maurice Mitchell (00:59:32):
Solana Rice (00:59:32):
Thanks so much Moe.
Jeremie Greer (00:59:32):
Thanks Mo. It was great talking to you.
Maurice Mitchell (00:59:37):
All right. Thank y’all. Appreciate you.
Solana Rice (00:59:41):
Yeah, take care. Thanks for listening. For more information, check out our list of episode resources and visit us at liberationinagenerationaction.org. Shout out to our producer and audio editor, Nino Hernandez, the design team at Trim Tab and the LibGen 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.