A Breath of Fresh Mondaire | Crooked Media
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July 10, 2023
What A Day
A Breath of Fresh Mondaire

In This Episode

  • Former U.S. Congressman Mondaire Jones is once again running for Congress in New York’s 17th district, a seat he previously held and lost after redistricting changed his reelection plans. We’re joined by the former congressman to talk about his comeback bid and his connection to New York’s Hudson Valley.
  • And in headlines: intense rain and flooding across the globe has left dozens of people missing or dead, the New York Times has announced plans to shut down its sports desk, and trans people in Kansas can no longer change the sex listed on their driver’s license.

 

Show Notes:

 

 

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TRANSCRIPT

 

Josie Duffy Rice: It’s Tuesday, July 11th. I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson and this is What A Day where we are already gearing up for the Oppenheimer Barbie double feature weekend.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Tre’vell, are you going to see Oppenheimer first or Barbie first and then Oppenheimer? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I’m going to go with Oppenheimer because I think it’ll be a little heavy. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Mm hmm. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And then you come with Barbie as the campy palate cleanser. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Me too minus Oppenheimer. I’m just going to see Barbie. [laughter] [music break] On today’s show, intense rain and flooding across the globe has left dozens of people missing or dead. Plus, the New York Times Sports Desk is no more. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: But first, last week, former U.S. Congressman Mondaire Jones announced that he’s running again for a New York House seat. But not just any seat. He’s running for the seat he previously held representing the state’s 17th district. You’ll likely remember Mondaire’s name because when he was first elected back in 2020, he, along with Ritchie Torres, became the first openly gay Black members of Congress. And Mondaire specifically became a rising star of sorts in the Democratic Party. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yes. Also, little known fact about Mondaire Jones, graduated from law school the same year as me. For some reason, that doesn’t make the headlines like being in Congress. But you know [laughter] it’s a big deal. Okay. So you mentioned that Mondaire is running for the seat he was initially elected to, tell us why that is a big deal. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] Yes. So remember all of the redistricting that was happening in states before the last midterms? 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Mm hmm. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Well, Mondaire’s seat was caught up in that. After New York redrew its districts, Mondaire would have had to battle with the then chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney. But you can’t really have, you know, the freshman going up against the stalwart, you know, on the Democratic side. So he was basically elbowed out and had to run in a different district. Mondaire ended up losing in the primary in that district, though, the seat did end up going to a Democrat. As for Representative Maloney, though, he lost his election, and that seat is currently held by Republican Representative Mike Lawler. Now, this is where the importance of Mondaire running for the seat again comes in. Not only was it believed that if Mondaire had run in the last cycle in this district, that he could have won against Lawler. This is one of those pivotal seats that, if flipped, could give Democrats the majority in the House. And we all know how desperately that is needed, because if Democrats don’t get a majority, things like abortion access or student loan relief will never be codified by Congress, and the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is going to continue to dismantle our rights. So yesterday I spoke with Mondaire Jones about why he’s running again. I started by asking him to recap for us the redistricting foolishness that led to him losing his seat in the first place. Take a listen. 

 

Mondaire Jones: The redistricting shenanigans in New York are a prime reason why Democrats don’t have control of the House right now and why Kevin McCarthy and Marjorie Taylor Greene are running the show down in Washington. I never imagined waking up one day and not being able to continue to represent the community that raised me here in the lower Hudson Valley, the community that elevated me all the way from poverty to the halls of Congress. I was put in an incredibly difficult situation last year where the chair of the D triple C got drawn into the same district as myself. And this was at a time when abortion rights were unraveling. Democracy itself was and continues to be, by the way, under assault by an increasingly fascist Republican Party. And so I wanted to avoid a bruising primary that would make it less likely that a Democrat, someone who cared about democracy and basic freedoms like the right to have an abortion. I wanted to make sure someone like that would be most likely to continue to represent the district. Unfortunately, Sean lost, and now we’ve got Mike Lawler, who won by 820 votes, opposes the freedom to have an abortion. He opposes an assault weapons ban as our babies are being gunned down in schools across the country. Now he wants to cut Social Security and Medicare. He has voted to gut the IRS so that billion dollar corporations and extremely wealthy people can more easily cheat on their taxes and so much more. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Talk to us a little bit more about why you decided to run for Congress again and specifically why you want to represent, again the 17th District. 

 

Mondaire Jones: I’m running for Congress because for me, policy is personal. Unlike most of the people we’re used to seeing in our politics, I don’t come from money or from a political family. I grew up in section eight housing and on food stamps. Raised by a young single mom who still had to work multiple jobs to provide for our family. And my grandmother cleaned homes, and when daycare was too expensive, she had to take me to work with her. And so for me, so many of the challenges that people are experiencing economically are familiar to me. It’s why I’ve fought so hard with great success as part of the most productive Congress in modern history, to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars for schools, housing and health care for my community here. And by the way, when I watched my grandmother work well past the age of retirement just to pay for the high cost of prescription drugs not fully covered by Medicare. I wanted to do something about it. And when my constituents gave me the ability to do that, I passed the Inflation Reduction Act. And now soon, no one on Medicare is going to pay more than $2,000 annually for the cost of prescription drugs. I want to continue fighting to lower costs for working people. I want to protect basic freedoms. All of the progress we have made is unraveling. I mean, chief among them is democracy itself, right? I mean, the Republicans are waging the greatest assault on the right to vote in this country since the last Jim Crow. And time is running out and Mike Lawler is part of the problem. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: We cover so many stories on this show about how conservatives, Republicans, etc., are, you know, wreaking havoc on many of our lives. I’m wondering for you, though, like what keeps you activated? What made you say that after, you know, being kind of a direct victim of the redistricting, you know, shenanigans, as you call them, of, you know, losing the election because you had to run in a in a different district. And then seeing the ways that, you know, Republicans and conservatives um are continually eroding the rights for many of us. What keeps you going? What keeps you wanting to do this particular work? 

 

Mondaire Jones: These are horrifying times. Progress must be fought for and protected. And ten or 15 years from now, if we are still fortunate to have history books in this country. I want all of us to be recorded as having done something in this moment to stand up to this attempted fascist takeover of our country. I want us to be recorded as at least summoning a fraction of the courage that people like my hero John Lewis summoned. You know, we are not called to sacrifice in the way that he sacrificed. I mean, this man was literally bludgeoned to the point of unconsciousness as he crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge and we got the Voting Rights Act of 1965 out of that, the crown jewel of the civil rights movement, which, by the way, has been gutted in decision after decision beginning in 2013 by the far right majority on the Supreme Court. I cannot sit on the sidelines. I never imagined not continuing to serve in Congress. And I know I know the power and I know that people are jaded and I get it. But I have also been vindicated. And my feeling and my belief that government can be a powerful force for good. And I’ve seen that in the 117th Congress in which I served. And I want to continue that legacy and continue that track record I have of improving people’s lives. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Before I let you go, you mentioned, you know, the Supreme Court, um which is also getting on my nerves. Let’s just put it that way. You previously expressed your support for expanding the Supreme Court. I’d love to hear you talk a bit about the recent rulings that we’ve seen from the High Court and can you explain what expanding the court would do? 

 

Mondaire Jones: So it turns out it is the prerogative of Congress to determine the size of the Supreme Court. In fact, the size of the court has changed on a number of occasions throughout the history of this country. And so it is not a novel idea. Um but I was the leader in the Congress on this subject and would be, if I’m fortunate enough to return and I have been vindicated in my advocacy. You know, when I introduced that legislation with Jerry Nadler and Hank Johnson on I believe it was April 15th of 2021, there were people who scoffed. But now a majority of Americans, according to a poll done last September, support adding seats to the Supreme Court. This isn’t a partisan power grab. That was what Republicans did when they left a vacancy open for 14 months following the death of Antonin Scalia, only to go back on the rule that they had invented by rushing through the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett. As millions of votes had been cast and an election was underway for the presidency of the United States in 2020. This is about restoring balance and integrity to a corrupt, far right super majority that is hostile to democracy itself and basic freedoms that does not care about its own precedents that dines with and goes on junkets sponsored by billionaires with business before the court. And so I have legislation to add four seats to the Supreme Court. And I think that people have come around to that idea and understand the urgency of that. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: That was my conversation with former U.S. Congressman Mondaire Jones, who is running to reclaim his seat representing New York’s 17th district in Congress. For more information about his campaign and to financially support, check out MondaireforCongress.com. We also will have that link in our show notes. That’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]

 

[AD BREAK] 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Let’s get to some headlines. 

 

[sung] Headlines. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Disgraced gymnastics doctor and serial sexual abuser Larry Nassar was stabbed multiple times at a Florida federal prison on Sunday afternoon during an altercation with another inmate. The assault happened at the United States Penitentiary Coleman, where Nassar is serving out his decades long sentence for sexually assaulting young gymnasts, including high profile Olympic medalists. The correctional facility that Nassar is housed in has reportedly been struggling with staff shortages and vacancies, leading to a lack of oversight. Sarah Klein, a former gymnast who was abused by Nassar as a young girl, said in a statement about the incident, quote, “I absolutely do not support violence because it’s morally wrong, and death would be an easy out for Nassar. I urge the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Prisons to see that Nassar is not allowed to escape his sentence and the consequences of his horrible crimes.” 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: A weekend of intense rain across the globe caused flooding that has left dozens of people missing or dead. And India and New Delhi experienced its wettest July day in 40 years. And heavy rain in the northern part of the country caused flooding and landslides that left 22 people dead. In southwestern Japan, nearly 2 million people in vulnerable areas were told to take shelter on Monday after the area was hit by torrential downpour. At least two people were killed and at least six others are missing after resulting floods and mudslides. In southeastern New York, intense rain that left one person dead has yet to cease. These floods may seem like isolated events, but guess what? Atmospheric scientists say they are part of a much larger phenomenon. Storms are increasingly forming in warmer atmospheres. These scientists also predict this trend is here to stay as temperatures around the world continue to rise. In response to the floods in her home state, New York Governor Kathy Hochul tweeted, “make no mistake, this is our new normal. We are the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change and the last generation with a shot at doing anything about it.” I’m not so sure she’s right about the first generation to feel the impacts, but she is right about the last generation with a shot to do anything about it. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: That part is correct. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. The New York Times yesterday announced plans to shut down its sports desk, opting to instead rely on sports coverage from the Athletic, a website The Times bought last year for $550 million dollars. The move will impact more than 35 reporters and editors in the department, though the company has said that no layoffs are planned and journalists on the desk will be offered other roles in the newsroom. The decision comes after a group of nearly 30 members on the sports desk sent a letter to management on Sunday criticizing The Times for leaving its sports staff, quote, “twisting in the wind for 18 months.” In response to Monday’s move, members of the New York Times Guild, the union that represents the newsroom, said in a statement that they are, quote, “baffled and infuriated by the company’s decision to disband the sports desk.” Calling the announcement a, quote, “profound betrayal of our colleagues and of Times values.” The statement continued to explain that staffers were given practically no notice of the change and many learned about the move through a Times news alert on their phones just before getting called into a meeting about the decision. The union has said they will, quote, “fight this flagrant attempt at union busting with every tool we have and we will work with our members in sports to defend their rights under our union contract.” 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Trans people in Kansas can no longer change the sex listed on their driver’s license after a state court judge ordered officials to discontinue the practice. District Judge Teresa Watson issued the order on Monday, arguing that allowing Kansas’s motor vehicle division to continue providing such services would cause, quote, “immediate and irreparable injury.” Because– 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Hmm. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: –are you ready? It would make it harder for law enforcement to use ID cards to identify criminal suspects and other people of interest. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: That doesn’t even begin to make– 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: It doesn’t even make sense. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: –any sense. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Right? 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Literally not. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: It doesn’t. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: The move is part of a larger legal standoff between the state’s Republican attorney general, Kris Kobach, and Democratic Governor Laura Kelly over trans rights. So to catch you up to speed, Kobach sued two members of Kelly’s administration last week after she said that the state would continue allowing sex marker changes on IDs. Judge Watson’s order is part of that lawsuit and will stay in effect for the next two weeks. Though she does have the authority to extend it, Kobach has said a law which took effect on July 1st requires the reversal of any previous sex marker changes in their records as a result, which is simply bananas. If you’ve already had your sex marker changed. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Now you got to go back. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Now you got to go back. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Right. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Because criminal indentification or something. Watson’s ruling deals a huge blow to trans people in Kansas who have had the ability to change the sex markers on their IDs to match their gender for the past four years. Over 400 people have already done it, and now they may be forced to change it back. I just want to remind everybody that these people told you it was about children. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Right. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: And it was just about waiting until children were adults. We said they were lying. Lots of people said they were lying. And they’re liars. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: They actually are not worried about criminally identifying anybody. That’s a lie. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. This is wild. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: That’s a lie.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Right. Because I’m sure they do just fine identifying the people who they need to identify. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: They’re fine. Don’t worry. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Right. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: They have your eye scans. They actually don’t need your I.D.. They’re good. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Huh yi yi yi yi. Employees at a Waffle House restaurant in Columbia, South Carolina, went on a three day strike Saturday over unsafe working conditions and unfair scheduling, according to the Union of Southern Service Workers. The strike comes after employees said they read a list of demands to Waffle House management on July 1st, including better scheduling and security, higher pay and repairing broken equipment like a malfunctioning air conditioning system. According to The Post and Courier, a South Carolina newspaper who spoke with several workers, employees cited feeling unsafe on the job, being faced with violence and threats from belligerent customers, and that staff shortages, coupled with extra long shifts, have meant there is little time to eat or use the bathroom. Here’s Waffle House employee Marshawna Parker out on the picket line. Take a listen. 

 

[clip of Marshawna Parker] We have a meal deduction that comes out of our check every week. Whatever shift that you may work, you may work a double shift. That money stills comes out of your check whether you get to eat or not. It is unfair. A lot of times we’re too busy to even eat and it still comes out. 

 

[clip of protesters and workers striking against Waffle House] Waffle House, you’re no good. Treat your workers like you should. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: The workers took to the picket lines over the weekend with the support of the Union of Southern Service Workers, a union that describes itself as, quote, “built by and for low wage workers across the service industry” and helps with writing demand letters and supporting strikes. WAD solidarity with the Waffle House workers. I can definitely say, as a patron of the Waffle House across this country, okay, that they definitely need security. Okay. Because I know you’ve seen the videos of the fights that break out at Waffle House at 3 a.m. in the morning. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: As a once regular attendee of early morning Waffle Houses [laughter] in where but Atlanta, Georgia, where 70% of those fights are filmed. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I have to say, community security? What’s the abolitionist security? Can we as a community. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Show up and defend our local– 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] Sure. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: –Waffle House workers? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Sure. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I’m ready. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I’m down with that.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I’m ready. I will be there for the very small price of food. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, I’m here for that. Some, you know, community folks to, you know, help make sure that the folks who are coming from the clurb at 3:00 in the morning. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. De-escalation. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: De-escalation. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: De-escalation. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Because many of those fights are avoidable. Many of them are avoidable. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Oh, absolutely. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Like just go home. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Oh, absolutely. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Just go home, baby. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: But, you know, sometimes you need something to soak up all the alcohol that you’ve had and, you know– 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: You do. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: –a bacon, egg and cheese on– 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: So what if we did shifts? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: –Texas toast is great to do that for you. If I say so myself.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: It’s great. And honestly, if you could get one for the small, small price of community being a de-escalator for an hour, I would do that. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: That’s a great deal. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Why not? 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Why not? I’m going to be there anyway.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I love it. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Might as well de-escalate while I’m there. [laughter] And those are the headlines. 

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Josie Duffy Rice: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Get your Boppenheimer tickets and tell your friends to listen. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading and not just about labor organizing like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 

 

[spoken together] And leave trans people alone. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Come on now. Jesus, have mercy today. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Kris Kobach. Get a hobby. Get into pickleball. Do whatever you need to do. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Pickleball, though?

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I don’t care what he does. [laughter] Whatever. Aerial gymnastics like ribbon dancing. I do not care. Do something else. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Just do something else. Absolutely. [music break] What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers. Our intern is Ryan Cochran, and our senior producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.