Progressive candidates who attended the Mobilize88 Summit in Ohio say their ideas can connect with the people, the Democratic Party just needs the guts to embrace them
Taya Graham: Throughout our coverage of the Ohio 88 conference this month, a consistent theme emerged. The traditional conflict between Democrats and Republicans has little to do with policy, and that’s part of the problem. Portia Boulger: Believe it or not, I know progressive Republicans and we got a whole lot of progressive Independents, so this isn’t about party. This is about issues. Taya Graham: Activists and candidates we spoke to say contrary to conventional wisdom, progressive ideas have widespread appeal, and that they key to change and winning elections was to make the ideas, not partisanship, the point. Michael Millicent: I think that if we go out and appeal to people throughout the districts, we can convince people that we have a better plan with progressive policies that are going to help everyone. Taya Graham: Medicare for all, living wages, and racial equality. During the convention, which was held to help progressive candidates mount successful campaigns, we spoke to one woman who has put this argument into practice. Her name is Tara Mosley-Samples and she is a Democratic councilwoman from Akron, Ohio. We caught up with her during the proceedings to discuss politics, the progressive movement, and how the leaders from both parties have misread last year’s election. I wanted to know if you think that the progressive message can reach Trump voters and change their minds? Tara Mosley-Samples: I think it’s already started reaching his voters. I think that what they thought they were getting with Mr. Trump is not what they’re getting, and so they’re looking for someone who is speaking to their hearts and to their wants and to their needs, and I think that they are already moving more to a progressive side of things. Taya Graham: Do you think that progressives should challenge primarily conservative Democrats, and should they take the same strategy the Tea Party used to target moderate Republicans? Tara Mosley-Samples: I think everybody should have a primary if you’re not doing your job. That’s just my personal belief, is it’s part of our Democratic system. People have a right to run, and if you feel that you can do a better job and you think that your platform meets the wants and needs of those constituents, I think everybody should have the opportunity to run. Taya Graham: How is the progressive movement going to avoid the cooptive influence of campaign financing, which is often overwhelmingly controlled by the richest corporations and super PACs? Tara Mosley-Samples: Right. I think we are now entering a stage within our voting system where they’re putting people over money and over politics, because they want people who are actually going to do the things that they say that they’re going to do. We’ve had millionaires run for office before and not win seats, so it’s been done. And I truly believe that eventually the people will outweigh the power of the money, absolutely. Taya Graham: Do you think that Democrats should push for a single-payer system now that the Obamacare repeal has failed? Tara Mosley-Samples: Absolutely, yes. Taya Graham: Simple. Tara Mosley-Samples.: Yes. Taya Graham: Fair enough. Fair enough. Black women have the highest voter turnout of all women and they consistently vote Democratic. What is this new progressive movement going to offer women and black women, in particular. Tara Mosley-Samples: Well, my hope is that it will allow them to see that their voices matter and that their voices count, and that vote matters and their vote counts, and to not just follow someone blindly just because of a party affiliation. Because just because someone’s a Democrat or a Republican doesn’t mean they speak to your wants and your needs, and I think having this new, progressive movement there, it will allow a lot of them to shift from there, because you have a lot of women, African American women, who will say, “Oh, no. I only vote Democrat.” But then if you ask them, “Well why? Why are you supporting this candidate?” And they’ll say, “Because they’re a Democrat.” And I think this will allow them to transition from, I think this election cycle, because of all the things that have happened and us watching our country unfold the way it has, I think it is allowing a lot of them to shift to being more independent and actually taking the time to actually look at the candidate and not at the party affiliation. Taya Graham: There is growing sentiment that the Democratic Party takes the black vote for granted. Some critics even say that Democrats have failed black voters in cities like Baltimore. What’s your response to those critics? Tara Mosley-Samples: They do and they have. They have for quite a long time. And when you have a party, and I’m a Democrat, but when you have a party that relies on the vote of the African American community, when the election cycle rolls around and then they’re gone again, at some point we as the African American community have to wake up. Stop being dated and then broken up with after November. We have to do better than that. We have to demand some things. We should say, “We want some things. We want some jobs. We want to now, what are you going to do for us? You want us to come and vote for you? What are you going to do for us?” Taya Graham: Some say the problems facing our country are class issues, that it’s based in unregulated capitalism. Others say it’s a race issue, first and foremost the exploitation is based in racial bias. What’s your take? Tara Mosley-Samples: Absolutely. I think it’s based on race and class. Absolutely. And I think it has to do with because people are in these silos with one another, patting each other on the backs, and that good old boy network never helps, but racism in this country is something that no one ever wants to talk about until something really bad happens and then we talk about it for a hot second and then it goes away and then we go back onto our everyday life, but until racism in our country is tackled and having an honest dialog and conversation and a plan of how we are going to address it, it’s going to continue. Will racism every go away completely? No. Absolutely not. We have to be honest with ourselves as it relates to that, but when you have a system built on you win these seats because of minorities, but it’s the very same minorities that you won’t even speak up for or defend or do things for, we have some issues that need to be addressed and some things that need to be changed. Taya Graham: Do you think that there’s a new groundswell of progressivism? Do you think that there really is a change happening? Tara Mosley-Samples: Oh, absolutely. And this is just piggy-backing off of the People’s Summit. And just to watch Senator Sanders name off all these individuals who are part of the revolution, people who are progressives, who are grassroot people, who have won seats. It’s a revolution I think is going to take over, and come 2020 you’re going to see a lot of Berniecrats, Ninacrats sitting in these seats, absolutely. Taya Graham: So what do you think about the idea of a Turner/Sanders or Sanders/Turner ticket? Tara Mosley-Samples: Either way, I’m good with it, either way. Absolutely. All for it. Taya Graham: This is Taya Graham and Stephen Janis for the Real News Network reporting from Deer Creek, Ohio.