The Fight for the Future of the Democratic Party Comes to Missouri

Community activist, nurse, and minister Cori Bush is challenging 10-term Congressman William Lacy Clay, son of the Congressman who preceded him. Cori Bush, who is part of a wave of progressive challengers to the established Democratic Party became a major community presence and leader in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson

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Story Transcript

MARC STEINER: Welcome The Real News, folks. I’m Marc Steiner, good to have you with us today. We’ll be covering the elections around this country a lot over the next several months, and today we’re about to talk with Cori Bush. Cori Bush made a name for herself in St. Louis as a pastor, as a nurse, but also when she spoke out in the wake of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. She’s a noted community leader and she is taking on William Clay, a ten term veteran in the U.S. Congress. His father was a congressman, and she is making a huge dent in this race.

The race is coming up tomorrow, on Tuesday, and she joins us by phone in the midst of her dashing around St. Louis in her district, the 1st Congessional District, getting ready for the primary tomorrow. And Cori Bush, welcome. Good to have you with us.

CORI BUSH: Thank you for having me.

MARC STEINER: So, let me just take- let’s go back, just quickly for a moment, to 2014 and the death of Michael Brown and the role you played then. Well, you were already know your community, but it really launched you out even further. Talk a bit about that moment and what that had to do with your run now for the U.S. Congress.

CORI BUSH: Okay, so as someone who didn’t set out necessarily to be an activist, I really just set out on the ground just to see change in the community and just to see justice happened. And what I ended up seeing was a lot of people being hurt. I saw people, innocent people being treated like terrorists in their own community. And the people that, I believe, that we were supposed to look to for help, that were supposed to represent us, we really didn’t get to see them actually represent us on the ground. So, we were looking to our elected officials to be there and we didn’t get that. And so for me, seeing the photo ops, that thing was hurtful.

You know, we’re out there on the ground, some people had been beat, people have been chased with dogs, rubber bullets are flying, real bullets are flying, tear gas. We’re looking to people to say, “Hey, that’s not right, you can’t do that.” And that didn’t happen, but the photo op did. And so for me, it was more of, if you have the heart for the community, the people that actually have the heart for the community and that are on the ground in that community need to be the people that are running for these seats.

MARC STEINER: Well, what is it about this particular district, you are the 1st Congressional District in Missouri. There’s a ten-term congressman. It’s part of a familial legacy for him, obviously as well, since his father was one of the first Black congressmen in the latter part of the twentieth century, this class of young men and women who came into Congress. So, what is it about his service that you thought needed to be challenged?

CORI BUSH: Well, because, first thing, I don’t accept corporate PAC money. My campaign is totally people power and it’s small dollar donations from people that are pushing us along. And that’s important because I’m one of those people that can’t afford to be pay, put out a lot of money for my favorite candidates so I can get into the luncheon. I can’t do that. So, I’ve always felt left out of the conversation. And I believe that people with lived experience- so, these policies are made in D.C. and then there are people here in our district that have to walk those policies out. And so, to me, having that lived experience, I’ve been homeless, I’ve been uninsured, I’ve lived off of minimum wage trying to care for two children. I’ve been through so many things, sexual assault and domestic violence.

So, I can speak for some of the issues that we’re walking through and we’ve been able to build coalitions here on the ground, but nothing is going to happen if the people that represent us aren’t in the mix with us, because that’s how change happens. So, it was important because this particular district, to me, out of any other district in the country, I believe, should be represented by a fighter. Because this is the district that houses Ferguson, this is the district that houses St. Louis, where the ripple effect of the work that we did in 2014 and 2015 is still being still being felt today. So, I believe this is a place where we should have that advocate.

MARC STEINER: What do you think is happening in your district and around the country when women like you, like Alexandera Ocasio-Cortez, who ran and won, Ocasio-Cortez in New York and you’re running and women are running across this country who are working class women. What do you think is afoot here?

CORI BUSH: Well, it’s about the fact that we are a huge voting bloc, it’s the fact that people look to make sure that we’re stepping up to vote and that people look to us to make sure that we’re taking care of our families and taking care of the community. But then, we’re not good enough to go and to seize a power. We’ve learned that that can’t continue, and the only way to make that change is to actually run it. And so, that’s what we’re doing.

I think that we’re seeing that just having 20 percent of Congress being women is not necessarily what we should be seeing in our country, because the thing is, our Congress should be just as diverse as our country is. So, there should be Women of Color. There should be just women in general seated in those positions, because one thing about it is, not saying that a man can’t advocate for a woman, but I believe that a woman can advocate probably differently than a man, speaking about what happens to her own body. That’s just one, one instance.

MARC STEINER: What, for you, are the core issues that you’re running on in the 1st District in Missouri? So, education, quality, affordable education in every zip code. Medicare for all, making sure that people understand that health care is a right, it’s not a privilege. And making sure that we have economic opportunities for our community. Definitely, fighting crime, and the way to do that is through those other things that I just spoke of. Also, criminal justice reform. We have to have criminal justice reform in our communities as a “right now” issue that we have to tackle.

MARC STEINER: So, couple of different things before I know you have to launch right into your last minute-campaigning the day before the election. I’m curious, first, what is it about the representation that the 1st District has had over the last ten years fifteen years, whatever that number is, that you think you and other people are dissatisfied with? What you want- how do you want to see it differently, how do you want to perform it differently?

CORI BUSH: Well, what I have been able to do over the last few years is show up, is to be present. I’m out as much as I can, I’m putting my feet on the ground, I’m connecting with people, I’m checking in on them about their needs and trying to push that forward. I’m using my small platform to make people’s issues, to put that awareness out. So, I think as a congressperson, that is something that’s a great thing that you have, is your influence, being able to speak to those issues to make sure that your community is educated, to be on the ground making sure that people know that you actually represent them, because that’s the title, representative.

And one thing, so, with the event- Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez came to St. Louis and e had this big event for my birthday, the GOTV rally, and with that event we had several speakers from all walks of life. We had people from our disabled community, we had our Latinx community, we had our Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, we had LGBT, we had community leaders, we had just all kinds of different people, business owners. And the point of that was to show that this is a coalition, this should be about everyone and not just about people that can pay large sums of money to be able to have a spotlight.

So, it’s about all of our issues. And because I work with all of those groups now, and many more groups, that who should be a representative in Congress, someone who is a person what people feel like they are represented. And that’s what we have now. So, I think that’s the change that we need to see there.

MARC STEINER: So, let’s talk for a moment, a larger picture here about the Democratic Party and the future of the Democratic Party. I mean, you and many men and women younger than you and around your age are really making a major push in this country to be heard. There’s also a big push inside the Democratic Party now among certain people to end superdelegates’ power so that the other actually choose who’s going to be the presidential nominee. I mean, how do you fit into all of that?

CORI BUSH: Yeah, I believe that we should do away with superdelegates. I believe one person, one vote and I believe that that’s how our voices are heard. I don’t believe that we should be giving all of this power to people that we can’t even touch for the most part. They shouldn’t be able to speak for us. It should be our vote should speak for us. So, I think that we can do away with it. And I know that’s not a popular thing, but those are my thoughts.

MARC STEINER: So, if you actually won, you would no longer be a superdelegate, if you had your way.

CORI BUSH: Yeah, you know what, because this is the thing. I have to remember to represent my people, and that’s the problem. So, if they don’t feel represented, then what am I sitting there for?

MARC STEINER: Well, we’re all looking forward to seeing what happens tomorrow. And I know, Cori Bush, your’re dashing between places. I deeply appreciate you taking up time with the today here on the Real News Network, and we look forward to talking to you Wednesday when you wake up.

CORI BUSH: Okay, all right, you all have a great one. Thank you for having me on.

MARC STEINER: You too, take care. And we’ve been talking with Corey Bush who is seeking to become the Democratic nominee in the 1st Congressional District of Missouri, which is also the district where Michael Brown was murdered and killed. I will be covering many more races coming up. I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network, we’ll be back very shortly. Thank you.