Race and Class Struggle Sharpening as Insurgent Democrats and Trump Supporters Win Tuesday’s Primaries
MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News Network. Good to have you with us. I’m Marc Steiner.
Yesterday, primaries were held in Connecticut, Vermont, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. In Kansas, the candidate supported by Donald Trump defeated the establishment Republican candidate. It was the second such Midwest win for the Trumpian wing of the Republican Party. On the Democratic side, the first transgender person was nominated to run for governor in Vermont; the first African-American woman will likely represent Connecticut in Congress, who won her primary; Ilhan Omar will probably become the first Somali-American ever to sit in Congress.
Democrats from outside the party’s establishment are winning and changing the nature of the party. What’s being set up here for the future of our political world in our country? Both major parties seem to be transforming, being potentially redefined by the rebellions within their ranks and from new outside political movements. What would that mean for the next general election? But more importantly, how will this momentum redefine our political worlds?
We are joined by Anoa Changa. Anoa is an attorney. She’s the director of policy advocacy for Progressive Army. She’s also the host of the podcast The Way with Anoa. Anoa, welcome. Good to have you with us.
ANOA CHANGA: Thank you for having me.
MARC STEINER: So what do these primaries mean to you? I mean, it seems to me that both inside the Republican Party and inside the Democrats there’s a huge shakeup going on, that no one is happy with how the established order is running; at least, a huge number of people are not happy with how the established order is going in America. Very different perspectives. How do you read all this?
ANOA CHANGA: Yeah. I just first need to note, like in 2016, despite the outcome of the presidential election, how frustrating and upsetting it was for so many, we had a really bright spot. And I was Ilhan Omar, who ran in Minnesota; ran a very, you know, grassroots amazing progressive campaign, and became the first Somali American to serve in the Minnesota state legislature. And now here we are two years later, and with Keith Ellison deciding to step down from his congressional seat, we now have her running for Congress and winning a resounding victory last night. Which is another bright spot for me, because I think about, you know, my post-2016 political life, and we have had some amazing moments, right.
But I think last night, when we look at the wins, and also you look at, like the district, the First Congressional District with Randy Bryce and Cathy Myers; you know, both progressives. Both ran really hard-fought cases. But when you look at the total, you know, of their turnout in terms of Democrats or Republicans, we’re seeing people are being engaged, people are being reached, and people turning out like they haven’t in prior midterm cycles. And so when I think about this entire moment, when I look at these bright spots, when I look at people who are willing to stand on values and issues and fight for them, and not just the party establishment or donor line, I think that, you know, people are going to force the Democratic Party to change in part, whether it wants to or not.
And you know, we’ve seen some support or embrace from Tom Perez and others of some of these folks, but I really think people are waiting. And it doesn’t matter to them whether they get the Democratic Party’s stamp of approval. They’re going to run on that ballot line because of the issues we have with ballot access in this country, and they’re going to win where they can. And I think we also redefine winning for progressives and the left looks like. I mean, yes, it is amazing to win this initial election cycle that you’re running in. But it’s also amazing to have that fortitude and sustainability to build that long-term multicycle change machine that is necessary to remove some of the deeply entrenched power that we see in various districts across the country.
So in terms of the Republicans, I think they’re just showing- they’re showing their true colors. I mean, for the longest time we’ve had this mask of civility, right, and this pretense that oh, they’re just nice people, they’re just more conservative. And just like, you know, I think about Lindsey Graham and Joe Biden talking about their friendship, or even with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former Justice Antonin Scalia, and how it was reported that they were friends despite being so diametrically opposed on every issue basically under the sun. And so I don’t think that people, with the current direction Trump’s Republican Party is going in, I don’t think people can have that pretense any more, like, oh, these are just my friends and they just have these different views, because in many instances their different views are actually undermining our right to exist as human beings. And there’s no rationalizing that.
There’s no- like the calls for civility some weeks back, I mean, really, I think the backlash to that drove home that we can’t sit here and negotiate with people who want to negotiate or just take away our rights as, you know, women, as people from marginalized backgrounds. You know, regardless of what the -ism is, we can’t negotiate with people who want to just do us harm in economic or physical ways. So I think the Republican Party is becoming who they have been, just there’s no pretense anymore.
MARC STEINER: So in some ways what you’re setting up is almost, how can I put this, a political war, and a war for the soul of America and where it might be going. Do you see it that starkly?
ANOA CHANGA: I think that we’ve always been in a political war for the soul of the country.
MARC STEINER: I don’t disagree with that.
ANOA CHANGA: No no no, I get it, I get it, I get it. I get where you’re going. I’m getting there. Because my thought is that we’ve always been in a political war. I mean, ever since my ancestors were brought to these shores, ever since land was stolen from, you know, native people. And we’ve always been in a political war. But I think where we’re at right now, we are at a moment that we saw, maybe in the ’60s. I mean, movements happen in waves, right. And so you’re in another moment that I think we really have these very stark contrasts in thought. And it’s not OK just to stand in the middle and hold your thumb out to, or hold your finger up to see which way the wind is blowing. Because it’s not hyperbole or being exaggerated. People’s lives are literally at stake. We have kids who are being detained and abused, and whether they’re undocumented or they’re just children who are being incarcerated as juveniles, right.
So we have so much going on in so many different levels of society right now, it’s really demanding that we take action. Now, it might not change in our specific lifetime, but we’re definitely charting a course right now in these moments for the next several decades, or at least the next generation to come.
MARC STEINER: You know we had other races- it’s just a really interesting moment I think we’re in politically. It is, in some ways, akin to the ’60s in the same way the ’60s were akin to the ’30s. Nothing’s exactly the same. But there’s something bubbling and moving in a very powerful way in this country. And I agree with you completely. I mean, ever since Africans were enslaved and indigenous people were annihilated, they attempted to annihilate them, that we have seen a war in this country. I think that’s absolutely true. But I think that we’re in- it’s interesting to see we’re in that place again, it seems.
So you have people like Jahana, I’m not sure how to say her first name, Hayes, who will probably become the first African-American woman to represent Connecticut in Congress, who had been homeless, who-.
ANOA CHANGA: [Inaudible] of the year. She’s an amazing person.
MARC STEINER: Yeah. And so there’s all these new voices coming there. And even, even- the progressives supported one person, last week Sharice Davids won in Kansas, a Native American woman who is a lesbian and also an MMA fighter.
So I mean, to me it’s just fascinating to watch this take place. The people outside the establishment spectrum are just going, to hell with it. We’re running and we have something to say, and we want to do things in a different way. You know?
ANOA CHANGA: Yeah, it’s very amazing. I was just sitting here last night watching returns and thinking about how I’ve met people in passing at, like, Net Roots or somewhere, or I know people, or whatever the case, I’m like, wow, I’m about to know a lot of people in elected office all over the country. And not because I’m somebody so powerful or important or in certain circles, but because these are real people who have been accessible their entire careers, who have not spent time trying to figure out who do I kiss up to to get to the brass ring, but really have been doing the work in whatever their chosen field has been.
You know, we have Randy Bryce, who’s been an ironworker. I mean, that was a hard-fought race in District 1 in Wisconsin, because you had a union ironworker versus a union teacher. And so that was just really tough all the way around, and the district would have been great no matter who won that election. But we’ve seen in some instances with some of these wins, we’re really getting, like, there’s really a stark contrast between the people who are running. And I think that it is exciting. I also caution progressives and leftists who get caught up in who’s establishment and who isn’t based on what people did for jobs, or who supported who. One of the things that we really need to understand is that there is a pecking order of how, who gets support, who gets lifted up, and who doesn’t. And just because the people that we like, they may also get some of that attention, that doesn’t make them automatically wrong or somehow not the person we should support. But at the same time, if someone we’re not supporting maybe was a White House fellow, I think was the case for Sharice Davids, that doesn’t make her establishment. That’s an opportunity that she, that she had. And I’m sure she’s proud of the work that she did.
So we need to, like, really look at who we have and support the people that are coming into the fold, saying I’m ready to step up and do the work and stand hard on these issues. And I think even when we’re supporting people it’s absolutely fine to expect and demand accountability and want them to do better. And want them to move further. Like, there’s nothing wrong with that. And I think that’s how we actually keep people true to our movement spaces and our issues once we get them elected in office.
MARC STEINER: [Inaudible] with the Republicans for a minute, while we have some time together. And I’m curious what that means for you, as well. When you look at Kobach winning, clearly there is a huge divide inside the Republican Party, as well. For want of a better term, the radical element inside the Republican Party surrounding Trump is actually squeaking through and winning races around the country, throwing fear into the hearts of the establishment Republicans who don’t know how to handle this, nor how to control it. So how do you analyze that politically in terms of what that sets up for the political dynamic as we face the future?
ANOA CHANGA: I think you bring up a really good point. And we have our own version of him here in Georgia, Brian Kemp, you know, who CNN just profiled. And also he does, he’s another Trump Republican who thwarted the establishment pick, who is our current lieutenant governor. Who was endorsed by our current governor. I think what’s happening is something similar, is the fact that people, the elites in both parties have been out of touch with the general population as a whole.
The problem, I think, on the Republican side is they definitely benefit from building on people’s personal animus in particular instances, as well as the-. I’ll never say lack of education, because there are actually quite a few quote-unquote ‘textbook educated’ people who support Trump. So I’m not going to just brush off that all people are just poor and uneducated, because I think that’s a big mistake that we do as well. I think what’s happening within the Republican Party is that you’re either seeing people like they, once they get past a certain point they can’t choose they’re Republicans, and they’re not going to stray Democrat, but they can’t support what’s happening right now. Like, anecdotally I’ve had friends with Republican parents tell me, like, my parents are like, we can’t vote for our party right now. We’re not going to vote Democrat, but we just can’t vote. Which I was like, oh, that’s interesting.
But then I think that we also have an untouched, like, how we combat what we’re seeing growing in the Republicans. And again, I think it’s because these folks are coming up, they’re bold, they’re brash with what they’re saying, and they’re standing on it regardless of whether they’re right or wrong. I mean, Trump just lies sometimes. Well, a lot of the time. And he’s just so bold and stern. And people, people say they respect that. Which is interesting, because it’s like, it’s not they respect him for a lying, they respect him for being so stern and strong on his position. And that is something that a lot of Americans have a thing about. You know, people appearing strong on stuff. Whether it’s the right stuff or not is a whole other issue. But that matters. And if people feel like this Republican leadership is not strong enough, or they’re too weak, or whatever, whatever it is, like it seems like whatever is coming through with this new wave, or this newer wave that still seems to kind of be building on that Tea Party energy we had from several years ago, like, this has been happening.
This is, this has been set up in both parties to happen. Because like I said, both parties are out of touch with the masses. But what I do think, how we kind of combat this, is that we really look at the percentage of people who are supporting these ideas and supporting these people. In terms of the overall population, there are a smaller percentage, right. There’s still a majority of people who are not actively endorsing or supporting, you know, things that are- voter suppression, and things of that nature. However, the big issue is it comes back to who can actually activate, mobilize, and build those coalitions to actually overturn and combat what we’re seeing rising to the Republicans. And that’s why I think progressives and leftists will come in; if not, you know, in a big landslide in this cycle, definitely by the time we’re going into 2020.
MARC STEINER: Well, Anoa Changa, this has been great. I really enjoyed talking with you, and the refreshing power of your voice and the clarity of your thoughts here. I look forward to a great many more conversations. Thank you so much for being with us.
ANOA CHANGA: I appreciate you. Thank you so much.
MARC STEINER: Thank you. And I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network. Thanks so much for joining us. We’ll be talking to you again soon. Take care.