Black, Latino & Progressive Candidates Rise; Deep Divisions Exposed in Both Parties

Andrew Gillum wins in Florida; African American & Latino candidates win in Arizona and Florida; Progressives and Trumpites win, while deep divisions erupt in Republican party

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Story Transcript

MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Marc Steiner, good to have you with us once again.

There were three more primaries held yesterday in Arizona, Florida and Oklahoma. One of the key upsets was that Tallahassee Mayor, Andrew Gillum, won the Florida gubernatorial primary. The only nominee now in the race backed by Our Revolution is also the third African-American to win a Democratic primary for governor here in the United States, the others being that Ben Jealous in Maryland, where we broadcast from, and Stacey Abrams in Georgia, where our guest is from. Oddly enough, all Southern states with a legacy of legal segregation, Gillum was not supposed to win. But he did.

What can we learn from yesterday’s elections? As intense and hard to call races for the Senate, Governors’ Mansions and a lot of House races were set into motion. What does it mean? these Primaries also showed an increase in racial and ideological divisions within the Democratic Party. Can they survive that? Can they win with that reality? Deep divisions were also dividing the Republicans. They came to light in all these races as well in these primaries, with Trump allies winning or nearly winning, and the establishment Republicans feeling a bit disoriented and in disarray.

To help us parcel all this, we once again are joined by Anoa Changa. Anoa is an attorney and is Director of Political Advocacy for Progressive Army. She’s also host of the podcast, The Way With Anoa. And now she has her way with us. She’s here. Anoa, glad to have you with us.

ANOA CHANGA: Thank you for having me back.

MARC STEINER: So, we’re going to play very quickly here a piece from last night’s primary election win by Andrew Gillum in Florida. And listen to this, or watch this I should say, and we’ll be right back with our conversation.

ANDREW GILLUM: This race is about every last single one of us. Those of us, those of us in this room, those of us outside of this room, those of us who voted for me, those who did not vote at all, those who couldn’t vote for me because they may be Republicans. But you want to know something? I want to be their Governor tpp.

MARC STEINER: Well, that was interesting. This whole race was interesting. One of the things you said before we went on the air together here, Anoa, was that there is this- how did you put it?

ANOA CHANGA: I said there’s a pretty sweet Black progressive corridor now being established between right here, Georgia and Florida. It’s really exciting stuff.

MARC STEINER: But let’s parcel what this means. Both people running at this moment, both Stacey Abrams running in Georgia and Andrew Gillum running in Florida. And I’m using the word actually because it’s almost stunning and amazing to me this is happening, that both actually have a chance of winning. I mean, what do you think is the political dynamic here that’s happening in the South, in Georgia, in Florida? I mean, a quick digression. I always remember, as a civil rights activist, a lot of us always knew that the most dangerous battles were in the South. But the racism inside the North was very real and took a different kind of tone, right?

ANOA CHANGA: Yeah.

MARC STEINER: But something’s happening in the South. What is going on in Georgia and Florida?

ANOA CHANGA: I mean, what we’re seeing in Georgia and Florida is this coalition building that Stacy Abrams has talked about, that Andrew Gillum has talked about, and Ben Jealous and countless others who are also running and recognize that there is the rise of the new American majority, that that we do actually have the values, right, we have the values, we’re right on the values, right on the issues. And we have demographics, we have the numbers to actually win on those values. We don’t have to run to the right and try to peel off Romney Republicans. Because if we stand strong on issues like at least here in Georgia, Medicaid expansion, Fight for Fifteen. Andrew from the jump has been strong on issues involving sanctuary cities, immigration. I mean, he was outspoken on Stand Your Ground involving the Markeis McGlockton case.

I mean, when you have people who are standing on their convictions but also speaking to the needs of communities across multiple racial, whatever that does the different communities lines are, you’re going to be able to build a coalition that will win. And we’re also seeing a shift from heavily investing in media and mailers and that traditional Dem thinking of how you win elections and investing heavily instead shifting that engagement to voter contact and directly engaging and working with voters, as well as empowering staffers of color to lead things like data, like these other non-field oriented aspects of the campaign that can help inform, power engaging and building people. So, you’re seeing those who are maybe white voters who are amenable to progressive values and issues, you’re seeing a surge in Black, Latino and AAPI voters as well in both Georgia and Florida.

This is kind of this genesis of we’re definitely in the right time right now and it’s definitely a moment where people feel like we either go big or we go home. Because why else would we continue trying to appeal to people who are content with placating Trump Republicans versus actually getting out there and standing for something. And one thing I will say. I like what Andrew had to say about he wants to be the governor for everyone, even those who either can’t or won’t vote for him. Because that’s a testament to just who he is and the type of leadership we’re seeing. They’re not trying to just talk to a specific segment, they’re about governing for the greater good overall. And that doesn’t happen by trying to run right and being a moderate on issues when communities are actually struggling and hurting.

MARC STEINER: Let me kind of wrestle here with you with some different questions.

ANOA CHANGA: Yes.

MARC STEINER: One of the things we saw in this primary and also in primaries in Arizona and some in Oklahoma, but specifically in Arizona and Florida, is that where progressive candidates won, like Andrew Gillum for Governor of Florida, they won with a little bit more than a third of the vote. And Ms. Graham, who was running against him, who’s the daughter of the former governor, came within a hair’s breadth of winning as well. And I wonder what you think that sets up in terms of what the possibilites are for a broader coalition. Because what you’re seeing, it seems to me, are that progressive Democrats and now progressive Democrats including some black Democrats, because there’s been this strange divide in there is well around the Bernie Sanders campaign which we don’t have time to really get into in-depth-

ANOA CHANGA: That’s another conversation.

MARC STEINER: Another conversation, right. But what does that portend? I mean, because somehow, Gillum will have to unite all the other Democrats and others to come in and vote for him while maintaining what he believes in in terms of his progressive beliefs. So, how do you think that’s going to play out? And the same dynamic in your home state in Georgia with Stacey Abrams.

ANOA CHANGA: Absolutely. I think what happens is that it’s what we’re told every election cycle. When you lose, you get behind the nominee. So, just need to get in line behind Andrew and make this win happen. I mean, when you look at the fact that voter turnout in the primary increased, I believe it’s seventy percent over 2014 and any seventy five percent- forgive me guys, if my math is a little bit off, I’m doing this from memory right. But seventy percent from 2014 and seventy five percent from 2010, I think that people need to realize, they need to re-evaluate the conventional wisdom that they have been following about big name recognition and big money and look at who is exciting and turning out and engaging the base and who is engaging potential voters.

Because we’re too busy focusing on likely voters and these general, traditional metrics that pollsters use, which in this scenario were absolutely wrong. Because the polls cannot account for nonvoters, cannot account for low propensity voters and generally can’t account for voters of color. When you have an engaging and exciting candidate, I mean, the potential for Andrew to be the first Black Governor of Florida is an amazing historical thing. That’s great, historical firsts cool. But Andrew is also going to be the first Democratic governor in about twenty years and he’s also absolutely right on the majority of issues facing Floridians right now.

Plus, in addition to that, you have a very popular ballot initiative in Florida in terms of restoring the rights for those who were formerly incarcerated under felonies. So, returning citizens. So, you have a life that’s going in the right direction for Democrats and hopefully people can put the hubris aside. It was really cool to see that Gwen Graham immediately, basically last night, put out there that she would be working to get behind get Andrew and pull things together. And that’s what we need to see in these moments. We need people to put their own personal ego and humility and stuff aside and actually do the work that needs to be done. Because ultimately was it’s about is changing the course of the state for the betterment of everyone.

And we’ve seen happen here in the Sunny State as well as in Georgia. People understand that look, this is the way that we need to go. The way we’ve been doing it has not been working. We’ve been coming up short the last several cycles. We need to do something different. And that difference is actually investing in the people that we need to turn out and vote. We can’t win, we can’t defeat Republicans in any of these cities and in any states. When we’re talking about the South, the South has the demographics because this is where you have your larger population of voters of color compared to a lot of the North and Midwest, et cetera.

So, like Georgia is on track to be I think the first majority-minority say in the South, not the Southwest or out West. But Florida is not far behind. The numbers are there to engage in building people. So, I mean Democrats will have to get in line. They’ll have to put aside whatever it is they thought they were doing with- I believe was like five or six people in that race. I mean, that was the split. That’s why the split broke down the way it did. And people really believed in those polls, that Andrew was was struggling in third for a long time per the polls. He recently jumped into second place last weekend. But people underground, people actually doing the work knew that this was possible. And so, we need to trust the organizers, the grassroots folks, the community members who are on the ground in these districts who are doing this work.

And the same is true in terms of investing in our down ballot races. It’s great that we have these amazing people who are running at the top of these ballots in Georgia and Florida and Maryland. Also, we have Mandela Barnes running for Lituenant Governor in Wisconsin. And the excitement around Mandela in Wisconsin can also help push Wisconsin forward in terms of finally getting a Democratic governor back in as well. So, we see this happening and the time is to invest and support local organizes, grassroots folks, local media, independent media. Because this is how people are really getting their their start. It’s not because of the mainstream media and the mainstream regular rhetoric. And that’s something I think that has lot of folks scared because they’re becoming obsolete.

MARC STEINER: You’ve said a great deal and I think there’s a lot of power in your analysis here and I want to kind of probe a little bit more. I mean, we are going to be talking a little bit later with- there’s a man who works here at The Real News, Oscar de Leon, who has been covering some of the stuff in Arizona for us. And you’re seeing in Arizona a lot of Latina and Latino, but candidates at lower level offices running and building this kind of grassroots movement in the Latino community in Arizona. And you’re seeing the results of that coming there. But I wonder what you think.

Two very quick things before you have to go. I mean, A, what do you think about this divide, the growing divide in the Democratic Party? And I’m calling it a divide, maybe you look at a different way, between the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and the establishment Democratic Party which have being playing itself out in all these primaries. But where we’re broadcasting from in Maryland, Ben Jealous won the primary, again with not a majority of votes but a plurality of the votes. And the Democratic establishment, including Barack Obama, have distanced himself from Ben Jealous’ campaign. So, there’s a lot of weird dynamics here with all this and I’m curious what your analysis is, how that plays out, also juxtaposing that to the somewhat dynamic inside the Republican Party, which is being really divided between right and further right?

ANOA CHANGA: Right. I think that’s a really great question. One thing I will say, even though I won’t give Republicans credit for much. But they will stick to their guns and they will stick to their party, right? And basically, look at who pulls the strings behind the Republican Party, dictates how they move and how strategic they move. The Democrat Party, unfortunately, you have like you said, a progressive wing that is not beholden to any funders or financiers in the same way the establishment and they’re going to push and pull and build with the masses of the people to get things, for once, finally on track I suspect.

I know in our last conversation we talked about how movements occcur in waves. And we are in now a very interesting, I won’t say it’s exactly the same, but we’re in another interesting political and social movement moment here I think fifty years post ’68. And I think it’s time to kind of just really evaluate where we are but continuing to do this work. But I think that in in terms these divides, I mean, part of the divide that is happening in the Republican Party is because they have emboldened this very racist, often unhinged, unintelligent extreme right fanaticism to get people excited and they can’t control it. It’s a monster that they can’t control. It’s like whoever created the AI in Terminator, right, it’s out of their control. So, they either have to get in line to self preserve or they they’ll be consumed or they’ll become extinct.

Conversely, it’s similar on the Democratic Party side, except for this is due to neglect. The party has neglected large segments of our population and ideologically turned its back on the issues and values that it claims it is supposed to stand for. And you have people who have risen up and said, “No, we’re not dealing with that anymore.” So, the Democratic Party has a choice. They can either adapt or they will become extinct. And they could put up a fight, they can do whatever they’re going to do. But as we see now, three years post Bernie Sanders launching his race, this very concerted effort that is still building and going strong and that will continue to be building into to 2020 and beyond.

And so, I don’t think that we should spend our time as progressives hand wringing about how do we get Democrats to like us or agree or get in line and vote because, ultimately, those people, if they’re going to choose to do what 2008 PUMAs did, I mean they do themselves more of a disservice. What we know that we need to do is, the numbers exist and if we build a coalition of voters of color and those white voters who do align with progressive values, we will win. And that’s not saying that we exclude or isolate or don’t talk to anyone, but that means that we don’t compromise on our values in terms of being able to get those votes.

MARC STEINER: Very well said. And I just, finally, just this last point. It’s an interesting- maybe we can probe next time together in a greater depth. But when you look at history and you look at what happened after the Civil War and Reconstruction and the Black political power that grew, that actually did what you said and what we said in the piece earlier, where African American new political leaders reached out to everybody to say, let’s build a new South and then were destroyed and crushed in 1877.

We can also take lessons from that. We can also take lessons from what happened in the early 1970s when civil rights leaders and civil rights activists, Black and white, went to the U.S. Congress and more. But what happened was when many of those people get sucked right into the average period of years to control that kind of radical push that was happening at the moment. So, there’s a lot of them for us to look at in terms of what these elections might be telling us today.

ANOA CHANGA: Yeah, absolutely. And I think as we close out, I mean part of that is the built in accountability. I mean, we definitely we see ourselves in what, a second or third reconstruction period? And we’re actually going to take advantage of the landscape we have right now. And we see people building a lot. I got to do a bus tour with a group, Black Voters Matter, last week through southern Georgia and middle Georgia. And we did interact with folks down in Randolph County where there had a polls closure attempt. And that same group then went to Mississippi and they were in Florida for the final “get out the vote.”

So, there is this cohesive work that is happening very intentionally with a lot of different groups that are trying to work outside of traditional Dem spaces to make sure that we do what needs to be done. What I will say though is in terms of people getting sucked into the establishment, this is why we need to build accountability into our process of supporting candidates. We cannot just- whether it’s similar to what’s happening in Spain with Podemos, we need to build that ethical, that accountability into the process and actually make sure that people know that we’re not just here to vote for you, we’re here with you for the long haul.

Because I’m pretty sure a lot people go into these places with good intentions, but then voters check out on them and they don’t have that backup and support so they can stand strong on those issues of values. Now, they also need to know that if you do what’s wrong, we’re going to vote you out or we’re going to primary you, whatever needs to be done to hold them accountable. So, I think that we also as a collective movement space need to also work on what does it mean to hold our candidates accountable, and not to say, “Oh give them time or make excuses, as we unfortunately have done over the last several decades.

MARC STEINER: A fascinating conversation, as usual, with you Anoa. And I think next time I really want to also probe the role that people don’t think about right now, that the new Puerto Rican population, growing population, because of Trump’s mishaps in Puerto Rico. They’ve moved to Florida and they all like this huge voting bloc that nobody’s paying attention to.

ANOA CHANGA: Absolutely. Got to give a special shoutout real quick to Johannah Lopez down in Orlando who won Orlando’s School Board District 2 seat. She’s originally from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico and has done a lot of organizing around displaced Puerto Rican families, undocumented students their families, a lot of stuff. So, you’re absolutely right. That’s a whole other untapped area that people aren’t talking about. So, yeah.

MARC STEINER: Well, Anoa Changa, thank you so much once again. It’s always great to talk with you.

ANOA CHANGA: Thank you, I like talking to you as well.

MARC STEINER: Appreciate it. And I’m Marc Steiner for The Real News Network. Good to have you with us, we’ll continue covering these primaries and getting under the issues, not just what’s on the surface. Thank you so much for joining us. Talk to you all soon. Take care.