Midterms Special: The Blue Wave Has Begun

The midterms are over and the results are…decidedly mixed! Sarah and Andrea discuss the historical night from their perspectives in Andrea’s blue trifecta of New York and Sarah’s red nightmare hellhole – er, trifecta – of Missouri. If you are a happy progressive living in a newly blue state or a frustrated progressive living in a newly red state or anything in between, this is the show for you! 

We discuss the issues at stake: voter rights, civil rights, climate change, the Mueller probe, the balance of power in Congress, and more. Andrea jubilantly discusses the power of political organizing and sees positive prospects for 2020 so long as we don’t get complacent; Sarah bleakly discusses how the GOP manipulates outcomes and her fears for the future. It’s like Leslie Knope and April Ludgate have a podcast on rising authoritarianism!

But regardless where we live or what we see coming, Andrea and Sarah both are thrilled to see such massive civic engagement, especially among our audience. Thank you to everyone who participated in our canvassing challenges and who helped get out of the vote! We discuss the historical wins of candidates from marginalized communities, new ballot measures that support human rights, and Democratic control of the House. This is a tumultuous time and no matter what happens, we are here to cover it for the long run.

Speaker 1: I’m a straight party-line Democrat for the first time in my life.

Speaker 2: First time in your life. Tell me about that. Why?

Speaker 1: I’m a registered Republican, but the Kavanaugh hearings really did me in.

Speaker 2: So even though—obviously that’s a, a federal, but you feel like that kinda spills down for everyone.

Speaker 1: Changed everything for me.

[End Audio Clip]


[Theme Music]

Sarah Kendzior: Hi! I’m Sarah Kendzior. I’m a journalist who studies authoritarian regimes and the US gradually turning into one.

Andrea Chalupa: And I’m Andrea Chalupa, a writer, activist, and filmmaker, and I’m so excited!

Sarah Kendzior: [sing-song] And I’m so not!


Andrea Chalupa: And that’s why we make the perfect team!

Sarah Kendzior: Yes.

Andrea Chalupa: No, so I had a really great night in New York. Sarah had a terrible night in Missouri.

Sarah Kendzior: Yup.

Andrea Chalupa: [I’m] thinking that sort of reflects the country in what a kinda night it was. But we’re going to keep everything in perspective, because the blue wave came. And it, it came. So we’re going to break down what exactly that means and what’s ahead, and what people need to pay close attention to if we want to continue fighting for our lives and really wipe them out and protect our country and protect our communities from this kleptocratic corruption. So we’re gonna start the discussion in a very historic district, politically speaking, given what happened last night there. And that’s Georgia’s 6th District. It voted overwhelmingly for George W. Bush, twice. It voted overwhelmingly for John McCain and Mitt Romney against Barack Obama. It voted for Trump over Hillary. The Congressional seat was held by Republicans since 1979. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who was a founding father of turning the Republican Party into a terrorist group. He represented the district from 1979 to 1999. Tom Price held it for 12 years. Trump picked Price to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services, thinking that district was safe, and you all remember Tom Price. He had a habit of chartering private jets with our tax money, so we got rid of him. We, we, we, we made a lot of noise, and he was forced to resign. In the special election to replace Tom Price, there was a Republican Karen Handel, she thought she would just sail right in, an easy win in Georgia’s 6th District. Instead, along came a young documentary filmmaker, and a former Congressional aide by the name of Jon Ossof, and he wasn’t gonna let her do that. The race was close, they had to have a runoff election. That alone is extraordinary. In that runoff, Handel won by only 4 percentage points. Four percentage points. My friend who volunteered for Jon Ossof, she worked her heart out. She was driving people to the polls, she invested everything she could into that race as a volunteer. She was devastated when, when he didn’t win the runoff. She was devastated. And I said to her, “Are you kidding? That’s the blue wave. The blue wave is coming.” Last night, for the time in 40 years, the 6th District was won by a Democrat, a black woman, Lucy McBath, whose child was killed by a racist who yelled at her son and his friends for playing their music too loud. Just like that, her child was taken from her. And so she devoted her life to fighting the gun lobby and creating sensible gun control. So she won last night on gun control and healthcare and exposing the GOP’s tax cuts, which, you know, of course benefit billionaires and hurt the middle class. That’s what she ran on in a historically conservative district. And Jon Ossof and his army of volunteers who worked so hard in 2017 and lost, they helped her. She had that army on the ground. That is what the blue wave is about. It’s about creating a progressive political infrastructure that’s going to transform our country over time. So as a community organizer, in 2004 I was sent to work in Oregon, because Oregon was a battleground state. Today, Oregon is dominated by Democrats. The state government is a blue trifecta. That means the entire state government is controlled by Democrats. Colorado, another swing state, is now a blue trifecta. New Mexico, another swing state, is now a blue trifecta. Nevada, another swing state, is now a blue trifecta. Democrats had eight trifectas going into this election. Now they have 14. We turned six state governments blue last night. 2018 was—we have to look at it as only the beginning. We have to work hard, we have to stay engaged, we have to challenge ourselves and fight for our lives, because the groundwork is laid, like it was in 2017. I’m really, really thrilled. I barely slept last night. You have to understand that I am just completely juiced now on excitement because of, you know, examining all of these numbers as they’ve been coming. When you see the close races of unapologetically progressive Andrew Gillum, for governor of Florida, unapologetically progressive Stacey Abrams for governor of Georgia, unapologetically progressive Beto O’Rourke in Texas, what you’re seeing is progressive political infrastructure being built. That means canvassers are being trained, young people are being inspired and brought into the political process. We have experience and networks on the ground that didn’t exist before. And that’s the same recipe that turned Nevada blue, into a blue trifecta, turned Oregon blue, and so forth. These are slow-moving revolutions. They take time. They take hard work. They take smart organizing and smart fundraising, but let’s be clear: these are revolutions, and they’re growing a new generation of activist leaders. That’s how I’m feeling.

Sarah Kendzior: Yeah…

Andrea Chalupa: What about you, Sarah?

Sarah Kendzior: [Laughs] I mean, I’ll just say I’m really glad for our audience’s sake that you went first. And I actually, I agree with everything you’re saying, you know, I mean, you’re speaking about facts, you’re talking about places that are changing [and] that we have tangible proof for those changes. And you’re talking about a feeling, I think, among voters and among citizens who refuse to take their rights for granted. Who are fighting for change. Who want a different kind of system. Who want real representation. But, you know, I mean, I’m in Missouri. And we don’t have a representative government. And we don’t have a functioning government. And we have a state that is so dominated by dark money, by corruption, and by propaganda and lies, you know, we are a state that Trump has visited, either in Missouri proper or over in western Illinois in order to draw in the Missouri voters, and just assaulted us with endless rhetoric, you know, about the migrant invasive caravan that doesn’t exist, and how Claire McCaskill is a bomb-throwing, Antifa radical. I mean, it’s just, it’s an alternate reality that’s proposed to a state that is just seeing incredible hardship in every corner of the state, whether in St. Louis, where I live, out in the Ozarks and small towns and big cities. We’ve had a tough 10 years. We’ve always been a state that’s hard to define politically, but historically, Missouri has been the bellwether state. What happens in Missouri reflects the state of the nation. You know, they called us that because we tended to vote in the same direction as the presidential race every single time. And we only broke from that pattern starting in 2008, when Obama lost by about 3,000 votes and then lost much worse substantially in 2012. And there are many for that. You know, a major one, obviously, is racism, and what goes hand in hand with that is corruption in politics by white, racist Republicans, and tactics of gerrymandering, voter suppression, propaganda, and unlimited dark money. We have no restraints on that. And, you know, I mean, I, I, I can go on and on about these structural conditions, but I just—I have to speak from the heart, that as much as I’m happy, you know, for the fact that the Democrats have the House and that, you know, historical barriers have been broken down for candidates from marginalized communities, when I wake up here, you know, and I look around in my majority black neighborhood, and I look at my state and the struggles that people are facing and the absolute apathy and contempt expressed by our legislature to us… You know, I, I fear for our lives. I fear for the future of our kids. You know, I, I don’t know where we’re headed. You know, we’re kinda the new Kansas. We’re not, we’re not voting for our best interest, and I’m not sure we’re even able to. You know, one unusual thing that happened in Missouri last night is that we had a lot of progressive initiatives on the ballot. We had campaign finance reform, we had raising the minimum wage, we had medical marijuana. And back in August, we had an amendment passed to protect unions. They just passed overwhelmingly. It was something like 75 percent of the state voted for this. The Republicans that were voted in, especially, my new Senator, Josh Hawley, are actively against all of the amendments. So what we have are voters who vote for people who are shooting down the amendments that they voted for. It makes no sense. You know, my whole [Facebook] Timeline is just people saying to me, “Missouri makes no sense.” And, you know, there are a lot of potential reasons why this happened. I think some of it is a sea of misinformation. You know, a lot of folks like to say, you know, “We’re all stupid over here, we’re all a bunch of yokels, we’re low-information voters.” We’re not low-information voters, but we do have a lot of bad information voters. We have a lot of people who are, you know, listening to Fox News, or, you know, Rush Limbaugh, the son of Cape Jurado, like, you know, they’re getting bad, inadequate information about candidates. And then I also have to say, and this will be mildly controversial, that I have some suspicions about election integrity in Missouri. And I’ve had these suspicions since the 2016 election, when Jason Kander lost, and immediately started a[n] anti-voter suppression group. And Eric Greitens won, and all this defied the polls radically. These wins had ridiculous margins in places that you wouldn’t suspect to see them. And the same thing happened this time, where the polling for McCaskill and Hawley was off by something like 8 points. And so we’re having this happen over and over and over again. You know, in a, in a very, very corrupt state. And so, I just think all of this should be investigated. I think the Democrats need to be more aggressive at investigating regular, domestic voter suppression, tampering with machines, foreign interference. I’m not accusing anyone of anything, I’m saying these things necessarily happened, but a common sense approach is to investigate it through audits, through recounts, through legal contestation. And I hope that that happens in Georgia. I’m sad that Beto conceded already and it won’t happen in Texas, because I think he’s entitled to a recount. And I don’t know, man, I mean, you know, I’m, I’m frustrated. And it’s good that we’re in the show together, cause, we need you to, [laughs] to keep everyone’s spirits up after that horrendous monologue I just did.

Andrea Chalupa: Yeah, you know, you had a really rough night in Missouri. But I’m not trying to keep people’s spirits up, to be clear. Like, the numbers speak for themselves.


Sarah Kendzior: Oh, yeah. You keep them up accidentally. You’re just telling the good truth.

Andrea Chalupa: [Laughs]

Sarah Kendzior: You’re telling things accurately that are true.

Andrea Chalupa: I’m suddenly good at math when there’s an election.

Sarah Kendzior: [Laughs]

Andrea Chalupa: But yeah, no, so it’s the numbers, it’s the numbers screaming out, saying, “This is historic.” We have progressives that are so close to becoming governor of Florida, a deeply flawed—in terms of how they vote—Florida. Same for Georgia. Same for Texas. Like, that’s insane. So I think, you know, progressives are realizing that they win when there are—they stand for something. And that’s for values. Because the people we’re up against—we’re up against the armies of death. [Laughs] That’s really what it comes down to. America—people get depressed when they just expect America to be this great beacon on the hill, when it’s not. Like, America was a country that was founded on genocide. We’re all here because of genocide. And the people that ideologically inherit that, inherit being pro-genocide, having benefited directly from genocide, the ideological heirs to that, like Ann Coulter, they’re proud of that. They call themselves “settlers.” [Laughs] And, you know, you have Andrew Jackson. Trump made sure to put up Andrew Jackson’s portrait near him, that’s who he admires, bloody, bloody Andrew Jackson. And so, I think we have to really take stock of the immense progress that’s been made in the last few years alone. I remember, you know, when I was working on the presidential campaign in 2004 as a community organizer and trying to save the world from a second term of George W. Bush, the war criminal, I remember Karl Rove and the Republicans very strategically put these gay marriage initiatives on the ballots of, of the key states that Bush needed to win, and the moment I realized that they were winning because of this was when a lesbian couple that was volunteering in our campaign office, I saw them sitting—[getting choked up] oh, I’m going to cry if I talk about this—but I saw sitting close together, watching the results come in, and like holding, just like shocked. Like the look on their faces—in 2004. [Crying] And, and now last night, in Colorado, we have a gay governor. That’s huge. We have to take stock of that. We have, you know, two Native American women now. We have two Muslim women, when our environment has never been more hostile to, to people of, you know, of, of that faith. We have two Hispanic women to Congress. Like, you have to take stock of all that [getting choked up] because America wasn’t founded on those principles. We were founded on genocide. So we’re making great strides. [Teary] I’m so afraid I was going to cry this episode because I’m so happy, I am so freaking happy. I was telling Sarah before we started recording, I was like, “This is one of the best days I’ve had in such a long time.” And, you know, and not only like the, the strides we’ve made for greater equality, but also, you know, if, if, if they—if Devin Nunes held control of the House, they’re were gonna come after my sister. They had a whole list, an enemies list, that they were going to go after, like authoritarian style. And my sister was on it. So thank God we stripped them of their power, cause they were gonna just get worse [laughs] if we didn’t at least take the House.

Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. No, I agree with all of that, and, you know, I am heartened by the fact that there is more representation of groups that have historically been discriminated against, you know, in government. And not because of some sort of quota system—you know, everyone will go on and accuse us being identity politics, whereas, you pointed out, like, the defining narrative of America has been white identity politics, making others subservient to that.

Andrea Chalupa: Yeah, they’re the ones making it about identity politics—

Sarah Kendzior: —yeah!

Andrea Chalupa: —by saying white genocide and “you will not replace us.” I mean, we make it about human rights.

Sarah Kendzior: But what I’m happy [about] is not just that people can, can see people from different backgrounds in government, but that the concerns of these communities will actually be heard, that they will have [a] representative that they can turn to, that will, you know, present their concerns to a broader body politic. And so, you know, that’s, that’s a really great thing. You know, that’s, a, a practical toward greater rights and, and greater equality. And I am glad, cause America is not one thing. You know, it’s this constant battle between the precepts we have in paper and the way that we enact them in real life. You know, that tension has been there since, you know, our Founding Fathers, you know, wrote our founding documents. We’ve never lived up to our own expectations. And we still didn’t last night. But you do see progress, and you do see it in unpredictable ways. You see it in unpredictable people. And that’s the thing, you know, that, that does give me, you know—I’m not big on hope, but, yeah, it gives me hope. You know, people always say to me, like, you know, “How did you predict this or that in regards to the Trump administration?” And it’s really not that hard, in part because Trump announces his intentions blatantly and then just follows them, but also because this is textbook autocracy. He’s going by the numbers. What you can’t predict is what the public will do. And I do think that the American public turned out big, and they came out strong, and they did their best to try to lift up really excellent candidates, and we have structural impediments that were much more of a force in keeping these folks down than actual, you know, kind of—I, I don’t know. I don’t want to play down the racism and xenophobia, you know, that, that’s a major factor, but you know, had, for example, the Senate been decided by popular vote, the Democrats would hold of the Senate. Had Georgia not had rampant voter suppression for years, Stacey Abrams would be the governor of Georgia. You know, those are just—those are just facts. And so, it is heartening to see change coming in these places, but it’s also maddening that the people who have control over removing these structural barriers are the ones who are going to try their damndest to keep them in place in order to preserve their own power.

Andrea Chalupa: Yeah. No, for sure. And—no, we had a lot of victories last night that were just incredibly, incredibly important steps in the right direction, and they’re gonna have such a huge sea change effect. And, you know, I have caution Americans, because what got us into trouble in the first place was thinking that all of our problems were solved in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected. You know, one of the great things about America is our optimism. That’s really—[laughs] I’ve worked with a lot—

Sarah Kendzior: —your optimism, dude.

Andrea Chalupa: [Laughs]

Sarah Kendzior: [Laughs] Alright?

Andrea Chalupa: No, I’ve worked with, I’ve worked with a lot of, I’ve worked with a lot of different European groups on various projects, and I come home to American optimism, and it’s just, like, I wrap myself around in a blanket, and it’s, it’s something that really helps define us. And it can also be a curse, because America did not invent filmmaking, but we certainly invented the Hollywood ending, where we think that there’s just one clean, happy ending where we can all cheer and then go home. And that’s what we did in 2008 when we had our Hollywood ending with Barack Obama being elected, and we treated it like ending. So we have to treat 2018 as a beginning. We’re up against a generation of a far-right strategy, where they were chipping away at our rights for so long, so it’s going to take a generation at least to undo that damage. And to, you know, clean up our voting systems, to clean up our voting rights, to clean up our environment, to repair the damage we’ve done around the world with this Trump regime representing us. So it—so all of us have to be in it for the long haul. There’s this famous passage in the novel Fight Club, where he says, “We are the middle children of history. We have no great war.” Well, now we have a great war. Like, we’re no longer the “middle children of history.” We’re—we are the generation that is going to defend our country, defend human rights, defend the people we love from a far-right takeover. We have to continue fighting. In 2019, there’s gonna be elections. In 2020 there’s gonna be the presidential [election]. And we have to expect that Trump, being as vain as he is, you know, talking about wanting to get rid of term limits, and teasing with that idea, like, we have to expect him to run again. And if he doesn’t run again, then he’s gonna make sure that, that the Republicans put up somebody who, who can win, and protect him and his family from being prosecuted for their crimes. So, we have to continue the fight of our lives now. Like, this, this activism that we’re all engaged in, this blue wave—it’s a lifestyle now. It’s brought a lot of new interesting friends and associations into my life that have transformed me. And so all of us have to consider this a lifestyle. And if you live—if you’re lucky enough to live in, in one of the 14 states in America with a blue trifecta, meaning the, the government is all yours, you need to treat like a blank canvas and start pushing through, start, you know, start educating yourself: how to ballot initiatives work? Cause yeah, YOU—you who is listening in a blue trifecta state, you and your friends, you and your group, you can create a ballot measure and get it on the ballot. So imagine the progressive paradise that you wanna create in your own backyard. What do you want? Do you want to protect net neutrality? Do you want more aggressive laws to combat climate change? Do you want automatic voter registration? Do you wanna legalize marijuana, because it’s less harmful than alcohol, and it brings a lot of much needed revenue into classrooms. My—one of my closest friends, who—she’s a school teacher, in Colorado, and when Colorado legalized marijuana, she suddenly started getting money coming to her classroom. New school supplies and furniture. And if Republicans are set on giving tax cuts to billionaires and exploiting the deficit, then we need to makeup that revenue elsewhere. And so legalizing marijuana would—is, is obviously common sense. So take advantage of the blue trifectas you have, if you live in one of those 14 states. Take advantage of them while you have them, because all of the wins we made last night, they’re vulnerable. We have to defend these seats in two years. We have to show up and fight our hearts out again in two years. Our lives are still very much on the line. It’s gonna take a generation to create such a sea change that the GOP’s going to really have its work cut out for it and, and, and have to really sort of retool itself if it wants to survive.

Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. I agree with all of that, although, whenever I hear about anything taking a generation, my mind always goes to climate change. You know, and the urgency of that situation and that we can’t leave it in Republican—

Andrea Chalupa: —oh, we’re gonna have, we’re gonna have coastal refugees. We’re gonna have serious damage that we can’t stop that’s coming towards us. And that’s why it’s more imperative than ever to elect really smart people to positions of power so they can be equipped to handle those crises when they finally hit us. Cause yes, they are coming. So now more than ever, we need the scientists running for office, for instance. We need people that are, you know, Democrats coming back from service in the military that know how to stare disaster in the face. We need all the good people to step up now. And everybody needs to consider themselves as candidate material, no matter who you are. If you like to blog, if you like to be Twitter, if you like to speak out and fact check things, and really get your ideas out there and fight for what you believe in, consider running for office, whether you stand a chance or not, whether you’re known or not, consider that as creating a platform for yourself to get the ideas out there to inspire change, to plant important seeds of change that are gonna be sprouting years from now. Cause that’s what this is all about.

Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, and I think in reference to what you said before about ballot initiatives, about these blue trifectas state that have a, a blank slate and the ability to push ideas and amendments forward, I would recommend very much focusing on climate change. You know, both because we are running out of time and the urgency of the issue, but, you know, you’re going to be going up against states like mine, like Missouri, which people like to think is, you know, controlled by a bunch of, you know, Trump-loving elderly, impoverished former manufacturing workers, you know, living in the Ozarks or something, but it’s actually controlled by the NRA, by billionaires, by Republican corporations and by people who have no problem destroying our environment. And, you know, we’re the—Missouri is a, a conservationist state. You know, we have a, a great state parks system, that’s free. You know, people value the preservation of land and, and clean water, but we’re not one of the states that’s gonna fight this. And there are other states that are not going to fight this. And, you know, I think environmentalism, conservation, and common sense approach to climate change, which considers these impending political crises, things like climate refugees that—you need to put your attention on that. Because people in, in red states like mine, we will back you. You know, we have national causes, we just don’t have representation that reflects, you know, these national causes. But, you know, if there’s an issue to work together on, I think it’s that one.

Andrea Chalupa: Yeah. That, that definitely, most definitely.

Sarah Kendzior: And then meanwhile, we still have the man-made crisis of looming autocracy, the erosion of checks and balances, and maybe a change in that. You know, I feel like we should talk about the future of the Mueller probe because now the House is controlled by the Democrats. That means changes to the House Intel committees. That means that they can start, you know, demanding things, like Trump’s tax returns, they can start looking into other issues of corruption and into potentially issues of treasons, and—well what are your thoughts on where this is going to head?

Andrea Chalupa: Yeah, Mueller had a great night last night. [Laughs] For sure. I’m sure he, he breathed a huge sigh of relief. I think the FBI, as we’ve always been talking about, this slow-moving purge that’s been going on of the DOJ and the harassment of members of the FBI, I think Mueller has, rightfully so, had to be calculated in the moves he makes, and he’s, he’s very thorough, of course, to being with. I do think we’re going to see some interesting indictments now. [Laughs] Now that the House has his back, finally. Because the way the House behaved the last two years, it was just beyond the pale. It was just—it was a banana republic. I remember in, in—when they first came to power, one of the very first things they did was to try to get rid of the ethics watchdog in the House. And they spun it with this Orwellian language, saying, “Oh, this will improve our government.” And that was like a Kavanaugh moment. You just felt like someone was trying to kidnap your child. And we screamed about that, and the resistance was in place by that point. And they just backed down, finally. But these guys, like Nunes and, and Gowdy, they just acted like Trump’s attack dog, and, and just did not care about the rule of law, or checks and balances. It was just bizarre behavior, and just so vulgar. And now there’s gonna be dignity and decency returning to the House. And Mueller’s going to take full advantage of it, I’m sure, why he—while he can, these two years.

Sarah Kendzior: I hope so, although I think the next eight weeks are going to be total and utter hell. Cause we’re gonna see the last gasps of the Nunes House Committee and the Republican domination, and attempts to shut down the Mueller probe. You know, and I am, I am worried they’re going to try to do that. I think that, you know, one would hope they’ve thought of a contingency plans should that be the case. But I still am—I’m still apprehensive about this. I’m apprehensive the slow speed at which it’s going. You know, in many ways it was wise, I suppose, to wait to indict, in some cases, because, you know, of the, the makeup of the House, because doing it up against a GOP-dominated Congress, along with the packed Supreme Court is not going to yield the best results. But the way I see is basically—it’s like that Leonard Cohen line, like, “the crack is where the light gets in.” You know, it’s, it’s a crack of light. It’s not a means to an end. It’s not a guarantee. It’s a start. It means that we can have conversations and try to push in bills and try to just shift the balance of power in a way that’s favorable, not just to the Democrats, but to the broader concepts of justice and accountability. But we still are facing off a GOP-dominated Senate, we’re still facing off against a Supreme Court that has Kavanaugh, who was selected because of his refusal to indict Trump, regardless what the crime is. We still have all those obstacles. And I so I feel like we’re, you know, we’re headed for brawl. And I hope that the Democrats are ready. And I’m not saying, you know, break the law, or act like an asshole, you know, cause, the Republicans got that one covered, but you‘ve got to be persistent, and loud, and clear, and inform the American public about what is going on, and do not mince words. Like, this is not the time, you know, for civility politics. This is the time to represent constituents and to fight as hard as you can for our democracy and not shy away from calling a lie a lie and a crime a crime. I hope that that, that that’s what they bring to the table. Cause I still feel like even with, you know, so much of the Trump administration’s corruption, you know, and his campaign’s illegal action, as much as that’s in the public domain, the weight of it, the sheer magnitude and horror of it, has not been adequately conveyed to the American people. I think there’s just still this sort of distance, like, we’re, you know, living in some strange spy novel. And they don’t necessarily connect it to things in their daily life, to the effect of kleptocracy, and, you know, this nexus of criminality and corporations and politicians, to their daily life. And that this isn’t something they can just be like, “Oh, that’s the Russia thing that doesn’t concern me.” It does. And I hope that Democrats are able to bring that home.

Andrea Chalupa: Yeah. No, absolutely. And don’t get me, like this is—as I said at the start of the show, 2018 is just the beginning. So I, I believe it’s just gonna get worse before it gets better. Cause what we have here is what you have in horror movies, where you think the monster’s dead, and then monster grabs ankle, and it’s not dead. And so, the monster here is still very much alive, and they’re going to be fighting and trying all new tricks. And so what you need to really prepare yourself for is that—we’re up against people that have zero shame, as we’ve seen. They, they, they—we—part of the shock and the terror that we live under is, like, is there no bottom to them? No, there’s no bottom. So just prepare yourself for that. So they’re going to be fighting tooth and nail for survival and really seizing any power they have and just ramming things through, and it’s gonna continue to be shocking and, and emotionally devastating for decent people. So prepare yourself now, like, for that. So, it, it is going to get worse, and 2018 is the beginning, and we have to really take the longview here. And what Democrats who won, what the opposition, what every Democrat now in power has to keep in mind—you were there because of groups like Indivisible. And what Indivisible did was they learned from the opposition. They learned from the Republicans Tea Party movement. And they took that playbook and they flipped it. What groups like Future Now and Every District did, was they learned from Karl Rove’s playbook, and they flipped it. They—you know, Karl Rove in 2010 or so, he wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed saying, “The Republicans are going to takeover state governments.” And that’s what they’ve done. And they, they’ve become so dangerously close to calling a constitutional convention. They have that many states under their control. We of course are pushing that back, and now have to continue to keep pushing that back. But what we’re doing—we’re winning by taking their playbook and using it against them. So what Democrats in the House need to do is take that playbook and use it against them. Yes, you’re gonna vote for impeachment. Yes, you’re gonna be nailing him with investigations. Yes, you’re gonna be naming and shaming. Yes, you’re gonna expose Ivanka and Jared for the grifters that they are. You are gonna issuing subpoenas left and right, because that is what you were elected to do. And every single one of us who got out the vote for, for these Democrats now in the House, you need to hold these people accountable, cause they represent us, and they promised to fight for us. So, you know, send them tweets, send them emails, make phone calls, get in their faces, and say, “What are you doing? I need you to fight.”

Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I hope that the timidity that some of them has shown is gone. Cause this should just be basic, common sense. I mean, this is fighting, you know, justice against injustice, and accountability versus corruption. These are things that all Americans should get on board with. I mean and honestly, you know, I, I talk to enough Trump fans that I hear the same rhetoric, the same desire for accountability, the same desire for justice and clarity and representative government. They just have it completely flipped. You know, where they think the Democrats are the machine of corruption, you know, funded by George Soros, working for foreign interests. You know, and that’s part because they’re responding to this barrage of propaganda designed by Republicans that, you know, do the classic move of accusing your opponent of what you’re actually doing. And decades and decades of this, has, has convinced people that this is the truth. And I’m not saying the Democrats are flawless, or that there’s not, you know, corporate influence and sometimes corporate crime, you know, within the Democratic Party, but, I mean, comparatively, you know, come on! And I wish that we could just break through on this level, you know, if there’s an issue that binds the whole country together, it’s a desire for corruption and white-collar crime to end. Cause the vast majority of us are not benefitting from the situation in any way, including people voting for the Republican Party. And I don’t know whether that, that breakthrough will ever happen. You know, I feel often like I’m, I’m just talking to folks who are, you know, they’re so flooded with this, with misinformation, and they also realize that institutions are broken in the US, you know, that injustice is truly happening in the US, that they are worse off than they were decades ago, but their rationale is for why is either flawed or it’s overtly xenophobic and racist, you know, and that’s, that’s something that Trump and the GOP is stoking. But I do wish that we could get that change through.


[Theme Music]

Andrea Chalupa: So, we had a Staten Island miracle last night, which I was very lucky enough to witness, living in, in—so close, on the edge of southern Brooklyn. So Max Rose, a guy in his early thirties, he’s a war veteran, he worked in healthcare, he saw the healthcare crisis up close, he serves in the National Reserve, he’s incredibly charismatic and strong, and he’s not afraid to be tough, and to factcheck, and to call out his opponents. He’s a fighter. And that really drew a lot of support to him. So he was running for New York’s 11th Congressional District, which includes Staten Island, which is deeply red and parts of southern Brooklyn. So just to give you an idea of, of what he’s was able to achieve, which no one saw coming, last night: John McCain beat Obama in 2008 on Staten Island. Obama barely, barely beat Romney in 2012 on Staten Island. Max Rose, a liberal, won by over 10,000 votes. That’s 6 percentage points. And I saw how he did it. Because I was volunteering for his campaign. I knocked on maybe, you know, over 200 doors for Max Rose. And I’m telling you, the Cinderella story, the surprise upset of Max Rose, is a[n] important reminder that knocking on doors is the number one way to get out the vote. There’s no substitute for it. Yes, you can send postcards, you can do text messages, you can do whatever you’re comfortable doing, cause every little bit helps, that certainly makes a difference. But it’s the campaigns that knock on more doors that really make a difference on the ground. Because that is just the powerful way—it’s, it’s a such a statement to show up on someone’s doorstep, and say, “Hi, I’m here to talk with you and connect with you, human to human. What do you care about?” And I had so many interesting conversations and encounters doing that for Max Rose on Staten Island, that I showed up again and again to do it. Because I was learning so much. And I think a lot of people are intimidated by knocking on doors, but that is really where the power lies in winning these close races. What’s also significant about this race is that his Republican incumbent opponent, Dan Donovan, as District Attorney, he’s the guy that failed to prosecute the cop who killed Eric Garner. Remember Eric Garner? “I can’t breathe.” He was choked to death. That was a really important race to win, not only to help Democrats take back the House, but also just to take a stand on human rights and against police brutality. So that was a huge, huge win there. The important thing for everyone to understand is that Max Rose’s campaign, they did this by having a scorched earth strategy. They had volunteers flooding their offices, doing multiple shifts, saying, “OK, I just walked my turf, I need another shift, I’m happy to do it again.” People were energized, and they understood that the name of the game was knocking on doors. And they went with it. And they were relentless. It was to the point where the, the apartment buildings and the people that I was talking to, they’re like, “Stop coming around, this is annoying. You guys have too many Max Rose signs everywhere.” Like, people were genuinely annoyed in the community. But guess what? He won. Because that is how you win. So, you know, last night, they had me out in some, like, like no-traffic polling station, just holding up a Max Rose sign with another wonderful volunteer named Lea. Hi Lea! She’s a listener of the show, so that’s exciting. So Lea and I were just out there on this—what felt like a little desolate corner outside of a polling station, all alone in the rain, chatting about the power of unions, cause she works in organizing unions, which is really fascinating work, that’s she talking about. And it was just the two of us out there with this sign, and there’s late voters trickling in, and the reason why it was so important for us to be out there is to show that we care enough to be out. And that alone has its power. So, again, the lesson of Max Rose is you have to have a scorched earth strategy, even if you annoy some people along the way, but that’s what brings in the votes, and—because people are busy, and so you have to grab their attention, no matter what it takes. And you will not win by money alone. You will win by volunteers. The power is in the grassroots, and the number one way to get out the vote is by knocking on doors, and there’s no substitute for it. So if you did not knock on doors in 2018, really challenge yourself to try it in, in 2019, 2020. Because, it’s just—just the thought of it is scary, but the actual act of doing it is really interesting and engaging and opens you up to a lot of interesting new experiences and people, and I really loved it. And I learned so much from the, from the—a lot of the conversations I had. So, thank you to everyone who voted for Max Rose, thank you to everyone who showed up for Max Rose to get out the vote, thank you to his incredibly inspiring campaign staff, which made everything so easy, and also, you know, had smiles on their faces. I was moved so much by just the massive volume of traffic going in and out of those campaign offices and just seeing parents walking with their kids, young people, you know—people from all walks of life just showing up and saying, “How can I help?” And we have to do that again in whatever races are up in 2019, and most definitely in 2020. We have to even push ourselves harder in 2020, cause they saw what we did this year, and they’re going to be ready for us in 2020. They’re gonna try, they’re gonna throw everything at us. You know, the Krem—the Kremlin’s coming back, the Kremlin never left, so I think those—they’re going to be developing some sort of playbook to do what they can to protect themselves in 2020 and to steal from us in 2020. So, again, this, this isn’t activism, it’s a lifestyle now. We’re all in the fight of our lives. And we’re all engaged, and we have to stay engaged, and push ourselves to do whatever we need to do to protect our country and protect the people we love, cause that’s really what this is about. It’s about human rights and moving America forward in a—finally, in a progressive direction. Cause that’s the direction she’s been going in, it’s just taking a lot of sacrifice and taking a lot of work to get there.

Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, absolutely. And I have to say, I’m delighted that Trump has now lost the support of his entire hometown. Because Staten Island was the one holdout in that regard. You know, one thing I want to say in response to what you said about the success of campaigning and, you know, feeling the satisfaction of a win, which, in, say, Missouri is an unfamiliar experience to me. You know, I, I just wanna say something for all the, you know, red state folks who are going through what I’m going through today, especially Florida, Ohio, Nebraska—you know, we are all states where there’s obviously a drive for progressive policies, because they keep passing when people vote for them. We are states that are facing voter suppression, I’ll add Georgia onto this list. And we’re states that, you know, in some case, you know, have very good candidates, you know, and I’ll say again Florida and Georgia as examples of this, who, who should’ve won, who got people very energized, who got people out on the streets to canvas them, for them, who helped bring people together. You know, you can be left with a sense of like, well what was this for? Like, this was all in vain. You know, I worked so hard, I gave up years of my life, I put everything out on the line, and look at where we are. We’re stuck with gerrymandering, we’re stuck with voter suppression, we’re stuck with a population in some parts that simply won’t budge in their political perspective. And, you know, what I’ve learned, not just from living Missouri, but from studying authoritarian states and their dissidents movements for years, is that it’s never about one day, and that even an unsuccessful campaign, in terms of the electoral result, matters. It has long term ramifications for building community, for getting people mobilized, for getting people organized, for teaching people how to organize, for creating greater awareness of issues, for creating greater civic obligation. And so if you were one of those volunteers, you did that. And even if your candidate lost, even if you’re like me, you know, sitting in a state that now has one Democrat left in state office, you know, a total reversal of years ago, what you did mattered. Cause you were trying to help your community. You were trying to preserve democracy and integrity of the ballot in your state. And that matters to people. So don’t give up. You know, it sucks, you know, be honest about that. I think it’s fine to feel like shit—I’ve got a whole bunch of people in my mentions today telling me not to feel bad, and I’m just like, “Dude, you know, you don’t have to live with the day-to-day of this.” And the day-to-day of this is excruciating and stressful and sad. But there is something, you know, to be salvaged from that, and that’s the strength for upcoming battles. You’re gonna have to, you know. toughen up. I suspect a lot of you are already tough, you know, if you’re out participating in this kind of political activism in a majority Republican area, you have my respect. And just, just keep going. It’s worth it for so many reasons beyond just one election day.

Andrea Chalupa: Yeah. And we had some really key victories last night, especially when it came to criminal justice reform. So I’m gonna read off a couple of those, just a couple of them. So keep in mind, there’s just—we don’t have time in the show to go over all the big progressive wins last night. There are just so many. And it really shows a progressive surge and progressives finally coming out of the closet and being being proud of being progressive and not being afraid of anything anymore. The establishment, or however they’re being labeled on the propaganda over at Fox News, it’s like we are now—this is how we’re gonna win, is, is through our values. So I’m gonna be quoting The Appeal, which is a non-profit criminal justice publication: “In Massachusetts, black and brown residents make up approximately 17 percent of the overall population, but account for approximately 50 of those currently incarcerated. The new Suffolk County DA, Rachel Rollins, campaigned on reducing these racial disparities. And in Illinois, Democrat J. B. Pritzker wins the Illinois governor’s race. He campaigned strongly on marijuana legalization. In Florida”—this is huge—“voters have approved Amendment 4, automatically restoring voting rights in the state for people previously convicted of felonies. The victory means more than 1 million people will regain the right to vote!” So Florida is gonna be super interesting because of this in 2020. “In North Carolina, advocates said that Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison wasn’t fit for a fifth term. Under his leadership, black residents consistently bore the brunt of aggressive policing and his office cooperated with ICE. He was voted out.” So you saw a couple people in, in the local government who were aligned with ICE being voted out. So it, it is a strong platform to say, “No more ICE.” ICE has been effectively acting like a domest—like a Gestapo, you know, asking people for their papers, and searching them. So that’s, that’s unconstitutional. So, again, this is hitting the establishment on the—in the face, and saying, “Be progressive. Lead with your values.” And a lot of these key races, they were running on small contributions, and saying no to big money. And, and that’s, you know, the, the—what Beto—the miracle Beto O’Rourke pulled off in Texas, that—his huge numbers in Texas—that was—he said no to big money. That was a big part of what drew people to him. So if you show up, and you lead with your values, people will show up for you. And the most loyal, effective power you can have is that grassroots power. I’m, I’m telling you, I saw that on the ground, when I was, when I was out there for Max Rose, cause he stood for that as well. And, you know, he’s not a perfect candidate, there are no perfect candidates, but people are really inspired by, you know, a lot of the good things in his message, and, and the grassroots protected him. The grassroots, that’s the, the power. And, and we cannot let them forget that over, over—next year and the year after. We have to hold them accountable for what—why we elected them.

Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, absolutely. And I think Beto is an, an interesting example of this because he galvanized people in so many ways. He galvanized people who lived in other states. And, you know, he helped, I think bring lower level candidates, Democratic candidates, into office in Texas, even though he lost. Because people were turning out for him, and then, just, you know, voting a straight party ticket down the line. At the same time, though, man, I’m sad about Beto. I don’t like to—I don’t know, be like a fan of a politician, I feel like politicians are there to serve the public, you know, they’re there for us to judge and to, to push forward and to represent us. But you know, I, I really do like him. I, I think he just seems like a sincerely good person. He would have made a great Senator, and I’m very sad that he’s out. But one thing I have to bring up before we forget is: Dana Rohrabacher’s gone, so, you know.


Sarah Kendzior: A celebration of Rohrabacher’s reign of Kremlin-funded terror has finally come to end. So…

Andrea Chalupa: That’s worth a bottle of champagne, right there.

Sarah Kendzior: [Laughs] Yeah.

Andrea Chalupa: Oh, man, that guy was the absolute worst, and I’ve, I’ve—yeah, he’s, he’s totally in the pocket of Kremlin. I mean, it’s just obvious. And then people close to him have told me that, and, you know, people who’ve had to work with him have told me that, and people who’ve known him for years have told me that. That guy was the Kremlin’s man on the inside, and he loved it. He wore that on his sleeve. [Laughs] He was so patriotic for the Kremlin,

Sarah Kendzior: Oh, he’s very patriotic! [Laughs]

Andrea Chalupa: Not Russia, not Russia, cause Russian, Russian—regular Russians are suffering under, under the Kremlin. But no, the Kremlin.

Sarah Kendzior: A dictator lackey!

Andrea Chalupa: And he can go to Moscow, and stay there.

Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, he, he should. He should be all, like, you know, Gérard Depardieu, Steven Seagal, Dana Rohrabacher chilling in Moscow, because—I don’t know, but he’s sort of like an all-purpose dictator lackey. Like, I remember him, back from when I was in academia, focusing on Uzbekistan, because he was, like, the sole guy in Congress who had come out and stand up for Islam Karimov, the brutal dictator of Uzbekistan, like really, one of the most brutal dictators in the world would be—would be regularly engaged in torture, and he would defend him. And you know, he, he showed up once at a talk that I gave in D.C. At the time I didn’t know it was Dana Rohrabacher, I just thought it was, like, some random asshole. You know, but people filled me in later, and they were like, “Yeah, he’s like an all-purpose, post-Soviet dictator lackey.” And I’m kinda curious, you know, what is going to happen to him. Cause you may recall, he was accused on tape by other Republicans of being paid off by the Kremlin. He hasn’t really tried to hide his ties, but he’s never really faced any kind of legal consequences. And now that he’s out of office, he would not need to be removed from power, perhaps there will be an indictment. Because I do think he played, you know, a role in 2016 and in Russian interference into the US election. And I’d like to know the full extent of what that role was. So hopefully, if Mueller really has been saving indictments for after the midterms, and of course we have no proof that that’s true, it’s just speculation, but if he is, I would think, you know, Rohrabacher’s a good candidate. I, I, I highly recommend him to Mueller, as somebody to indict and prosecute, and, not to get, like, too schadenfreude about it, but, yeah. That would be like a very, very special Gaslit Nation episode.

Andrea Chalupa: [Laughs]

Sarah Kendzior: The, the indictment of Dana Rohrabacher, so, thank you [claps] thank you, Harley Rouda.

Andrea Chalupa: Yeah, no, a lot of the toxins got flushed out last night. Scott Walker, yes! Thank God. Kris Kobach, who’s like mini-Trump—

Sarah Kendzior: —oh, yes—

Andrea Chalupa: —with his voter suppression and claims of phantom voter fraud.

Sarah Kendzior: I’m so happy about that, although Missouri is now the new Kansas. We basically just like switched—

Andrea Chalupa: —right—

Sarah Kendzior: —places. But, you know, I’m, I’m telling people, people who are feeling horrible in Missouri, like, look to our neighbor. You know, they became a symbol of nation dysfunction, which now we are, and, and they are now pulling themselves out of this mess, and hopefully we don’t have to go through what Kansas went through in order to reach this moment of clarity, but if Kansas can do it, anybody can. So good job, Kansas.

Andrea Chalupa: Exactly right. I mean that’s the mantra if your state did not have a good night: if Kansas can do it, so any, any state can. There’s always hope. I wanna talk about a proposition outta California, that I am so proud of—my home state of California. Prop 12 in California passed. Thank you, everyone who voted for that. That is just an important beacon of empathy. So Prop 12 is the most progressive animal welfare legislation in the nation. So right now, the animals we eat are crammed in cages that—sometimes are barely the size of their bodies. And that’s, you know, that’s largely how our food is produced. Prop 12 changes that. It gives animals that are, are being farmed more humane, livable cages. And that improves their quality of life. And that matters because empathy, values, living by our values, that matters. And that has an effect of spreading in all that we do. We have to take a stand for empathy now more than ever, cause it matters, it simply matters. And it, and it, you know, raises our awareness, and it benefits all of us, when our awareness is, is raised. And so, what I love about—the best part of, of Prop 12 is, not only is California, which is, you know, a—obviously a huge producer—not only is California requiring their, their farmers now to provide more humane cages for their animals that are farmed, the legislation also requires any out of state vendors selling meat or eggs to adhere [to] the rules as well. I love that. That is so aggressive, that is so ballsy, that is so brilliant, and that is why California tends to lead the country on progressive legislation, because, because they just go there. They take it there, and that’s the example we need to all use in our states now. We need to take it there, especially if you live in a blue trifecta state, one of the 14. You’ve no excuse now. So, I, I highly urge people to read up on Prop 12 in California, and try to pass something similar in your state. Take a stand because empathy spreads. Our values—we need to lead from our values. That’s what protects us at the end of the day. And, so yeah, I was really proud of California for that. Thank you so much.

Sarah Kendzior: I agree. [Laughs] I’m like just thinking—

Andrea Chalupa: [Laughs] You big meat eater!


Sarah Kendzior: I mean, yeah, there’s like the whole, like, “I love meat, I’m like the Ron Swanson of podcasts on authoritarianism and just love, like, a big mountain of meat,” but, you know—

Andrea Chalupa: —you would do a meat episode if we could.

Sarah Kendzior: Oh, God!

Andrea Chalupa: I would not, I would boycott that show. I would call in and harass you.

Sarah Kendzior: Yeah [laughs]. I’m also just thinking, like, this shit would neeever fly in Missouri, cause, you know, I’m not unique in this respect. And I’m just thinking about what I voted on yesterday, which included an amendment about church bingo rules. I mean, we, you know, we’re just—sometimes we really are kinda living in different orbits…

Andrea Chalupa: [Laughs]

Sarah Kendzior: But, but not completely. You know, I, I think diversity of interests is good, and there are some things that of course all Americans should be embracing as I said before, you know, good environmental policy, anti-corruption policy etc. etc., but it is funny, though. It’s funny to me, as a Missourian to sometimes hear about what, what folks like, in, in California get to vote on. I’m sure they—well, maybe they [don’t] find it as amusing as we do, but we do. They, they seem to find it horrifying, so I don’t know. I basically live in a giant Pawnee.

Andrea Chalupa: Well, I, I have faith, I have faith that it’s, it’s gonna spread to the rest of the country, that that’s—you know, I—we’re becoming a more progressive Union slowly but surely. That’s the benefit of studying history. You see how bad it was a century, two centuries ago, and you’re like, things are, you know, on the, on the—slowly, gradually—on the up-and-up. But we have to be vigilant and stay engaged and fight for that. It, it—progress doesn’t make itself. We have to fight for the country we want.

Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. Although I sometimes look at what’s going on, and I feel like we’ve taken every American crisis, and we’ve put it into, like, a two-year span. Like, we have the internal corruption of Watergate, we have the racial and geographic strife of the Civil War. We have the rising fascism of World War II. We the anti-immigrant sentiment of the, you know, the early 20th century and the white mob violence of early 20th century. And, you know, we still have ongoing wars that were started, you know, by the Bush administration—I mean, I could go on. But sometimes I’m just kind of amazed—oh, and the economy, you know, where we, in my mind, do not have a good economy. I know everyone says we do, but I sure as hell haven’t seen it. So we have—

Andrea Chalupa: —income inequality.

Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. We have, we have incredible Gilded Age-level income inequality. And so sometimes it’s all kind of built up in my mind, and I’m thinking, like, what a time to be alive, briefly, at least. But then I try to remember, you know, every one of those battles had the people who fought on the right side, who eventually won, who eventually brought people to justice, who eventually enacted measures that benefited society instead of harming it, that brought in protections, that, you know, helped my family when they came to America, helped other families. And so, you know, we just start—we’re fighting a giant battle on many, many, many fronts. So, again, kind of in, in reference to what we said before, that means, as Andrea said, this is a lifestyle choice. You’re engaging and to fight this battle, it’s not just about an election, it is an ongoing political crisis that requires your civic participation in order to retain your own rights, in order to ensure the rights of others, and just to bring a better quality of life. I mean, we can have it so much better, and I’m not even referring to the past here, like we had some glory day past, because honestly that’s something I’ve never seen with my own eyes either, but, you know, we can build a big—a better future. You know, people have ideas of what kind of country we could be and where we could go. You know, we saw some of those people win yesterday. So, you just gotta—I don’t know. Just gotta keep up the grind, don’t get too existential about it. Be pragmatic, and I think that that’ll serve you well.

Andrea Chalupa: Exactly. And the grind is everything. That’s, that’s how you win. Making this podcast—if you enjoy it, guess what? It’s a grind for me and Sarah.


Sarah Kendzior: Yes it is!

Andrea Chalupa: We actually—we lovingly refer to it as “the grind.” So if you have benefited from this podcast in any way, it’s a grind. So the grind is what makes the difference. The grind is the secret sauce, the grind is everything.

Sarah Kendzior: Yes. You can make it less of a grind by donating to our Patreon—sorry, had to throw that in.

Andrea Chalupa: Yes, please. And… [Laughs] and I will tell you, there’s—you do get rewarded by showing up. And I felt that way on, on this Max Rose campaign, like, from, like, just the conversations I had with people on Staten Island and south—you know, southern Brooklyn. I, I learned so much, and I was so inspired, and, and it was therapy for me. It is therapy. There were times when I, I didn’t want to go. I was like, “There’s no way Max Rose is gonna win. I, I should stay home and watch The Good Place, like screw it.” But I forced myself to go, even though I, I, I knew—I thought it was a losing cause, I just felt I had to do something. And it, and it did help me stay—feel sane. And then we had a huge upset, which no one saw coming, and now everyone today is talking about Max Rose, that’s huge. That’s because of everybody that chose to show up, even if they didn’t want to, or they were too tired, or they didn’t believe. They still showed up. So no matter how you’re feeling or what you’re thinking or how you’re anticipating how anything’s going, still show up. There—that’s what matters. Is showing up. And you get rewarded. And I’ll tell you, last night, it was really cool—was this volunteer, Lea and I, we’re buddies, we’re soulmates, we discovered last night hanging out outside this polling place, holding a Max Rose sign—I mentioned to Lea that I had a podcast, and then when she, when she realized it was Gaslit Nation, she, she was, like, “I listen to Gaslit Nation! I was just thinking about you guys all day,” and she started saying all these nice things about the show. And so I started, like, calling up my sister, and so Lea and I talked to my sister on speakerphone for a while, we called up Sarah, and we talked to Sarah. So Lea, a fan of the show, who did not feel like showing up that night but went anyway, she ended up getting an exclusive, private—

Sarah Kendzior: [Laughs]

Andrea Chalupa: —live podcast. [Laughs] Gaslit Nation, including special guests like my sister. And, and, and we were laughing about that. So, and I got a special surprise, cause I got to connect with Lea, and learn so much from her about how she helped organize post-docs into a union at Columbia. So in academia, they’re unionizing, and that’s really exciting, and they’re—I learned a lot from her on that, and I hope to continue that conversation on the show. And so, show up, no matter how you feel or however you think it’s gonna go, because there’s a—that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s everything. Showing up is everything. And I wanna say that I feel really excited about the next two years because Democrats have control now in New York. That is right! New York state is now a blue trifecta. That is huge. New York State Senate is now Democratic for the first time in 70 years. So what that means is, the pressure is on people like me, people who care, people who are paying attention, to start educating ourselves about ballot initiatives, how they work, how you create them, and passing them. And doing what they did in Michigan. Michigan just passed a ballot initiative to end gerrymandering in Michigan. They legalized marijuana, which is gonna bring some much needed revenue to Michigan. They just voted on and passed last night automatic voter registration. So my mind is so excited and racing over all the things I wanna do now in my wonderfully blue, blue trifecta New York state. And I’m—I wanna get together with like-minded people to help make that happen. And I’ve two—we have two years to do it, and we have to figure this out. And, you know, let’s spend the next couple weeks relaxing, eating chocolate, applauding ourselves for a job well done, and dreaming big for the kind of country we wanna create, and then getting—educating ourselves and getting to work, and, and, and not letting the moment slip by, cause, again, this is a lifestyle now, and we’re in the—we’re still in the fight of our lives, and we can’t take anything for granted, not even our victories, because it—a lot of these blue trifectas, the 14 we have now, they’re vulnerable—some of them are very vulnerable, so we have to hold on to them. And you know, it took a generation for the far-right to have this one-party rule takeover of our country, it’s gonna take a generation to wipe out their damage. But we’re gonna do it, and we’re gonna fight for human rights, and we’re gonna, we’re gonna expand visibility of a lot of people that never imagined they could be in power before, or have a voice in Congress before, and we’re going to put them out there, and they’re gonna inspire the next generation of, of Muslim girls and boys, of trans girls and boys, and all types of people are going to be brought into the process and see that they belong, and that, that, that this is their country.

Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, I—so it’s, like, I’m—I’m glad for you, and it’s, it’s great listening to you, and I agree with you, but my God, I sometimes feel like I’m talking to somebody, like, on another planet. Like, when you talk about the blue trifecta of New York and, you know, dreams and aspirations and getting to kick back—you know, cause people here, in St. Louis especially, I think have a lot of those same dreams, but we’re in reactive mode. You know, we’re trying to preserve the rights we have left. You know, we live in a state where our governor, you know our former governor, tied a woman to his basement, half-naked, to exercise equipment, photographed her, blackmailed her, committed campaign crimes, got expelled from office, got replaced by another hard-line Republican. We live in a state where the minimum wage was lowered, where the NAACP gave a travel warning because it was too dangerous for black people to visit, where our candidate got—I think something like $700 million dollars from the NRA in order to win an election, that’s Josh Hawley—where we passed a campaign finance bill that is not going to be enacted because it would damage the government, the Republican legislature in place and threaten its power. I mean, we are in, we are in crisis mode. So for all of those who just, like, feel like shit [Laughs] and, you know, maybe a little bit envious of Andrea—I don’t know. I feel like, you know, we are, we are tough people in our states. We are fighters in our community, and our fight is going to be different than those who live in “blue states.” You know, I honestly do feel like we are a, a purple country, like we are mix, I feel like we are a lot of disillusioned people and a lot of people who swallowed a lot of propaganda, bad information, and have just kind of thrown their hands in the air. You know, things aren’t so cut and dry as red and blue, but I gotta give, like, a shoutout to all my red folks, red state progressives, and unaligned individuals who are, who are feeling cautious or frightened or frustrated today to—I think those understandable feelings even as we have had the great gains that Andrea mentioned. So, yeah. Stick with the two of us. [Laughs] On this podcast. We’ll give you both sides of the story, from my now blazingly red legislature, and Andrea’s paradise, apparently.

Andrea Chalupa: I’m so happy.

Sarah Kendzior: Over in the great state of New York that produced Donald Trump, so I’m just gonna remind that you, that you did that.


Andrea Chalupa: But I do wanna say that Sarah, in your pain and your grief, which I am, I am so sorry, and, and—but I also—it inspires me to have no excuse and work harder and take advantage of everything that I now have access to, which I had before, but it’s just better now. It’s just, it’s—we’re, we’re in the trifecta club, which is so awesome. So there’s no excuse now, for any of us, so if you are in New York state, fight your heart out for Sarah Kendzior and all the others who aren’t feeling so great today in their blazing red states. We, we owe it to them to set an example to show, to show leadership in the hope that, that the propositions we pass can trickle over to these other states, and we create a—cause we’re everywhere. Progressives are in every single state. And we create a network of, of education, of organizing that benefits us all. And so that’s we really need to do, is, is, is—I’m going to work my heart out for you, Sarah, here in New York, and I hope to God that some of the things that we work can eventually come to Missouri. That’s the, that’s the hope. And I believe we’ll get there.

Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. No, and what I like about what you do, you know, both as an activist and just as a human being, is that you listen to me. You know, when I say what Missouri’s actually like, and you come out and you visit me here, and you don’t have this kind of blue state, you know, elitism that unfortunately I do sometimes see—where, you know, I especially saw this in Ferguson, where folks just showed up, and they just said, you know, “This is what you need to do, and we’re gonna put some money here, we’re gonna prop up this guy.” And, and you know, it was enormously frustrating because people in Missouri, especially black folks in Missouri, have been fighting these battles for generations. And they’ve been underfunded or unfunded, they’ve gotten no acclaim. It’s  been a constant uphill climb, you know, every day is a new challenge, and it’s enormously frustrating when people from the coast come in and just think that we don’t know our own state, or we don’t know our own city, or we don’t know our own needs or values. And sometimes those values, you know, are a little different, or they’re curbed by, you know, different expectations or shaped by different experiences. So, you know, if you are a, you know, a good-hearted and sensible blue state activist, you know, please hear us out in all of our red states, and of course, we are not a monolith, you are not a monolith, nobody is. You know, every state is different, every community is different. And we need to work together, and I think that part of working together is really listening to each other, taking concerns seriously, not blowing off the kind of, you know, “here’s the worst thing that can happen” perspectives, cause for a lot of us, including me, like the worst happens on a daily basis. The worst case scenarios are just scenarios. And it’s sometimes hard for people who don’t live in a place like this to kind of envision that. And I think we’ve made a lot of progress over the last two years in creating a better dynamic of mutual understanding. You know, and of course that, that applies to, you know, “red state perspectives” of people in blue states too. And it’s not just a bunch of, you know, soy-swilling, limousine liberal whatever. I mean, you know, we’re all going through a lot of the same crises and problems. We all need to mutually help each this other. This is a two-way system, but yeah. You know, it’s good. I mean, listening to you gives me some contagious excitement about what could happen, about what our country could potentially be. You know, which I definitely needed to hear, and I which our audience definitely needed to hear, because I think if, you know, they are just listening to me [laughs], it would be, like, a lot of calls to crisis hotlines right now.

Andrea Chalupa: [Laughs]

Sarah Kendzior: So yeah. Thank you, Andrea, for being a good friend, a good activist, and a good role model for blue states.

Andrea Chalupa: My soul feels like it’s on fire. No I, I love this stuff. I honestly could not sleep last night. It was like Santa Claus was hanging out in my living room [laughs] with all these gifts. But no, I feel really, I feel suddenly, like, really creative this morning, really relieved, I’m, like, reassessing my next two years, I’m connecting with other people who are brainstorming already, and I just feel so energized. And the thing is, I will feel energized through the ups, and I will feel energized through the downs. Because I have a long view, and I do believe in, I do believe that as you have reminded me, Sarah, especially with incredible examples coming out of Missouri itself, there have been a lot of men and women who have given their lives, sacrificed so much, just to get us here. So we owe it to them. We owe it to them. They’re, they’re a part of us. And so, you know, we have no choice. We have no choice. And this is—like I said, we’re, we’re all in it for the long haul, and, and this is gonna take a generation just to get us to safety. I really, believe that. So with that, let’s announce the winners—this is a huge moment in the history of his very short lived podcast.

Sarah Kendzior: [Laughs]

Andrea Chalupa: It’s only been around for a couple episodes. But it’s a huge moment. So, we’re gonna announce the winners of the Gaslit Nation 1,000 Doors Challenge! You guys are all fabulous. So Sarah and I had a very rough couple months, as you can understand from the Helsinki hell show, where Trump and Putin just said, “Yeah! We did it!”

Sarah Kendzior: [Laughs]

Andrea Chalupa: To, you know, everything in between, and of course the Kavanaugh—we had three episodes just for Kavanaugh alone. Oh my gosh, I can’t even list those shows anymore. So, we want to tell you, every single person that sent us a picture of themselves canvassing, anywhere in America, you gave me and Sarah so much joy. We excitedly share, share those photos with each other. We looked you up. We’re like, “Who is this person? Where are they from? What are they working on? What do they care about?” So every single photo that we received of you canvassing, that made us feel less alone, and you fed our spirits, and we’re so grateful for all of that, and we could have not gotten through these midterms without you. Thank you so much. When I saw those photos coming in, I got off the couch, and I went and knocked on doors for Max Rose, cause I knew that I was doing it with you. We’re doing it together. So you helped me through that, thank you. So we’re gonna announce the three winners that we picked because we, we thought, you know, some interesting work. Everyone was doing some interesting work. There’s a bald eagle specialist that I really wanted to have on, maybe for a future show. But we chose these people cause it’s an interesting—it’s sort of, corners of the country. We have some questions for them, and we wanna have them on, and just talk about their dreams for the country. And it doesn’t mean we won’t have the rest of you on at a future date. We’re gonna continue these contests every time there’s an election coming up because we want to encourage people to go out, we wanna to force ourselves to go out. So we want—we wanna do this together. And so, there’ll be plenty of opportunities. Especially if you’re working on ballot initiatives for the first time or 30th time. If you’re working on ballot initiatives, like, let us know. We want to hear about that. What you’re gonna—how you’re gonna take advantage of ballot initiatives in the next year or two, like come tell us about that, and we’ll be, you know, we’ll possibly invite you on, or do something with that. So the winners now of the Gaslit Nation 1,000 Doors Challenge. They are: ValerieAnn, a feminist Vermonter and lover of literature, politics, and cooking. She’s a former candidate, and a circulation librarian, a military wife, a proud Democrat. We are excited to hopefully have you on, ValerieAnn. Thank you for all your photos of getting out the vote. Then we’re also gonna have on @hidvorak [laughs], a tech-support manager a software company, foul-mouthed SJW of questionable effectiveness.

Sarah Kendzior: [Laughs]

Andrea Chalupa: Well, we thought you were quite effective in how often you were tweeting us photos about getting out the vote for Yes on Prop 1631, to help protect the important clean air and clean energy ballot initiative in, in Washington. This is really exciting. So we wanna have you on, as well. You in Seattle, thank you, for, for all your work and the photos you sent us. And then finally, we’re gonna have on, hopefully, if she accepts, @catherinecritz. @Catherinecritz is in Arkansas, so she—”Love is love, never again,” that’s what her Twitter says. And “moms demand.”  And what we like about @catherinecritz is that, you know, she sent us photos of canvassing with her her kid, and she—her, her Twitter profile is—she’s getting arrested while wearing a “Believe Women” sash, so that’s really cool. So, thank you, @catherinecritz, for all your work. So that is gonna be our panel, we’re figure out how to do that [Laughs] and have everybody on and basically just turn into one big slumber party, and it’ll be fun. And yeah, we’ll just see where that goes. [Laughs] And that is our election special, and we’re all so proud of you, and, and whether you’re in—you know, feeling like you’re hiding in the darkness in a red state or beaming in the, in the light of a deeply blue state now, it’s, like, the fight is all the same and we’re all in this together. We’re gonna get through it together, and, and, Sarah and I are committed to doing this podcast through 2020. We’ll somehow figure that out.

Sarah Kendzior: Yes.

Andrea Chalupa: So in order to keep us going, definitely check out our Patreon, donate what you can, and that will allow us to go and create more content for you and give voice to a lot of these key issues that are gonna get us through this. And do you remember that young man who stood up for his two mothers and spoke out for their rights? Well guess what, he’s now a state rep now. So we’re gonna—just to remind you of how the long view matters, we’re gonna go out with playing some of his audio standing up for his mothers, standing up for human rights, standing up for love.

[Theme music]


[Zach Wahls]: I guess the point is our family really isn’t so different from any other Iowa family. You know, when I’m home we go to church together, we eat dinner, we go on vacations. Ah, but, you know, we have our hard times too, we get in fights…you know. Actually my mom, Terry(Terry Wahls) was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000. It is a devastating disease that put her in a wheelchair. So we’ve had our struggles. But, you know, we’re Iowans. We don’t expect anyone to solve our problems for us. We’ll fight our own battles. We just hope for equal and fair treatment from our government. Being a student at the University of Iowa, the topic of same sex marriage comes up quite frequently in classroom discussions…you know, and the question always comes down to, well, “Can gays even raise kids?” And the question, you know, the conversation gets quiet for a moment because most people don’t really have any answer. And then I raise my hand and say, “Actually, I was raised by a gay couple, and I’m doing pretty well.”  I scored in the 99th percentile on the A.C.T. I’m actually an Eagle Scout. I own and operate my own small business. If I was your son, Mr. Chairman, I believe I’d make you very proud. I’m not really so different from any of your children. My family really isn’t so different from yours. After all, your family doesn’t derive its sense of worth from being told by the state: “You’re married. Congratulations.” No. The sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each other. To work through the hard times so we can enjoy the good ones. It comes from the love that binds us. That’s what makes a family. So what you’re voting here isn’t to change us. It’s not to change our families, it’s to change how the law views us; how the law treats us. You are voting for the first time in the history of our state to codify discrimination into our constitution, a constitution that but for the proposed amendment, is the least amended constitution in the United States of America. You are telling Iowans that some among you are second class citizens who do not have the right to marry the person you love. So will this vote affect my family? Will it affect yours? In the next two hours I’m sure we’re going to hear plenty of testimony about how damaging having gay parents is on kids. But in my 19 years, not once have I ever been confronted by an individual who realized independently that I was raised by a gay couple. And you know why? Because the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero effect on the content of my character. Thank you very much. [claps]

[End Audio Clip]


[Theme Music]

Andrea Chalupa: Gaslit Nation is produced by Andrea Chalupa and Sarah Kendzior. If you like what we do, live us a review on iTunes. It helps us reach more listeners. And check our Patreon. It helps keep us going. Our editor for this was Karlyn Daigle. Original music in Gaslit Nation is produced by David Whitehead, Martin Visenberg, Nick Farr, Demian Arriaga, and Karlyn Daigle. Our phenomenal logo was designed by the genius that is Hamish Smith at the New York-based design firm Order. Thank you so much, Hamish. Gaslit Nation would like to thank our supporters on Patreon at the Producer level: Andrea Channavey, Anne Marshall, David Porter, Ari LaGuardia, Ethan Mann, Janet Cox, Jennifer Slavic, Laurence Graham, Lindsay Hayden, Mike Tribicco, Peter Case, Rhoda White, Stephanie Roskum Holtz, Timothy Michael Wilson. Thank you so much, we could not make this how without you.

Andrea Chalupa