Carlos Ramirez-Rosa tells Paul Jay that the corporate media won’t take this message to the people, so we have to bring it directly to them
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. We’re in Chicago at the People’s Summit. We’re continuing our discussion with Carlos Ramirez-Rosa. He’s the alderman for Chicago’s 35th Ward. He’s also going to be a delegate at the convention for Sanders. Running for city council, you’re kind of in the trenches every day with people in the city. I know the district you’re in was very progressive. It voted for Sanders. But sections of the working class clearly are supporting Trump. What’s your experience with that, and what do you make of it? CARLOS RAMIREZ-ROSA, ALDERMAN, CHICAGO’S 35TH WARD: People are tired of the Washington consensus. That means the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And unfortunately what people don’t have a clear analysis of why that Washington consensus exists, they blame poor people, they blame immigrants, they blame Muslims. They blame the other. And that’s exactly what we see in Donald Trump. Obviously, Donald Trump himself as the leader, he doesn’t want to say, hey, it’s the billionaire class that have rigged this system in their favor. So instead he points to Muslims, he points to Mexicans, and says they are the problem. JAY: He’s sometimes treated as sort of an aberration. You know, there’s a lot of debate. Who created Trump, and so on. And there’s a lot of discussion that he’s sort of an outgrowth or product of prejudices among sections of the working class. I actually don’t think that’s quite a fair analysis. He’s a legitimate representative of where finance capital is. And it is–they’re essentially snake oil salesmen. They are speculators. But I think what’s important, I guess you can speak to this from Chicago very much, the enablers of that are people that protect the system that enrich speculators. So when you’re out there, are you able to have some success, when you’re talking to working people that support Trump, in sort of connecting these things? RAMIREZ-ROSA: I was elected by knocking on thousands of doors. I did that with the help of a grassroots political group here, Reclaim Chicago. When we have conversations with people at their doors, with our neighbors, we talk to them about this rigged economic system. We talk to them about how the billionaire class has been able to buy politicians by making very big campaign contributions. People get it. People understand that this system is not rigged for working people. It’s rigged for the billionaire class. It’s about having that conversation, right. Unfortunately we can’t count on the corporate media to have that conversation with the American public, to be truthful about what’s really going on. And that’s why the way that we found to get around the corporate media is by knocking on doors, is by taking the message directly to working people. When you knock on somebody’s door you say, hey, what’s impacting you? What’s wrong in your community? And they talk about divestment from schools, they talk about crumbling infrastructure in their cities. And you then connect that back to an analysis that says, hey, there’s money in our local government. There’s money in the state house. But it’s not being invested in our neighborhoods. It’s being doled out to big campaign contributors. They understand it. They know that that is what is going on. And they reward you with their vote if you say, I’m going to fight against that. So unfortunately the corporate media isn’t going to spread that message, and we have to take it directly to the people. JAY: It seems to me that you can kind of segment the Trump support, kind of working people who could even flip between a Sanders and a Trump, because they kind of, on the outside, the messages sometimes don’t look so differently. But there’s a core, it seems, of what we’d call, you know, you would call more fascist, more consolidated racist core. The kind of sections that real fascist movements get built on. Do you get any sense of that from your door knocking? What’s, how much of the movement is that? RAMIREZ-ROSA: You know, I think because Chicago is seemingly a progressive city, people are afraid to actually come out and say, I’m a Trump supporter. You may pick up something here and there, a hint, maybe a comment about people of different faiths, or immigrants. JAY: And where you run, what percentage of the population is white? RAMIREZ-ROSA: My district is 67 percent Latino, about 25 percent white. But on election day more than half of my voters are white. The other half are Latino. We had a generally fairly liberal white base there living in that area, then. You know, people overwhelmingly supported Bernie Sanders in my district. And that happened because we knocked doors, right. The same group of people that helped collect me, we didn’t stop after election day, right. We organized a group to, one, hold me accountable. They said, Carlos, you promised to be this progressive champion in City Hall. We want to make sure you continue doing that. We’re going to organize ourselves. But secondly, to make sure that we can continue to deliver votes in our district to progressive candidates. So we delivered this majority Latino ward to Kim Foxx, the candidate for state’s attorney, that defeated Anita Alvarez who of course, you know, was assisting in hiding police misconduct. So that was a great thing. We also delivered the greatest percentage of any district to Bernie Sanders. And that’s because we kept knocking those doors. JAY: And in terms of your relationship with the movement, in what way are you accountable? What are the mechanisms of how you are accountable to the people who elected you? RAMIREZ-ROSA: Right. In my ward, we have an independent political organization. It’s neither Republican nor Democrat. They named themselves the United Neighbors of the 35th ward. There is a board, there’s membership, they pay dues. And they come up with policies that I should support and that I should champion. So through a series of popular education and community meetings, they engage hundreds of residents in our ward, talk to them about income inequality, talk to them about corporate Democrats. And through those conversations, they came up with a platform that I have now agreed to govern off of. JAY: So you ran, essentially, as an independent. You weren’t in a framework of the Democratic Party. RAMIREZ-ROSA: Exactly, right. So, elections in Chicago are non-partisan. In my materials, you know, I made it clear that I was going to fight the billionaires that were running City Hall. I was going to fight the corporate class. That’s the message that I ran on. And as a result of that, we won, and now this organization in the 35th ward keeps me accountable. So we have quarterly membership meetings, we have monthly board meetings. The board is elected from within the membership. And it’s not just only a mechanism to keep me accountable, but it’s also a way to show Rahm Emanuel that hey, the people in my community have my back. When I’m picking these tough fights in City Hall, I know that I can count on hundreds of people in my community that are organized and that will go to bat. JAY: All right. Thanks for joining us. RAMIREZ-ROSA: Thank you. JAY: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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