In This Episode
- President Biden on Wednesday made his closing argument to voters ahead of Election Day. In a speech delivered near Capitol Hill, where violent extremists attempted to overturn the 2020 election, he warned that America’s democratic traditions are on the line this midterm cycle.
- For our final installment of WAD The Vote, Rep. Sean Casten, the first Democrat to represent Illinois’ 6th Congressional District in decades, tells us how he entered politics, and why he’s running for a third term.
- And in headlines: a surprise ceasefire was reached to end two years of civil war in Ethiopia, the Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate by another 0.75%, and hospitals are reporting an alarming surge in R.S.V. cases among young children.
- Sean Casten for Congress – https://castenforcongress.com/homepage/
- Vote Save America: Every Last Vote – https://votesaveamerica.com/every-last-vote/
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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, November 3rd. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What A Day where we’re offering jobs to anyone who is let go from Twitter’s content moderation team.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, we don’t think that we’re going to spread COVID misinformation, um.
Juanita Tolliver: Mm hmm.
Priyanka Aribindi: But we just want to be extra careful.
Juanita Tolliver: Keep us honest, moderators. We respect your judgment. We promise some of the time.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, well, we’ll think about it. [music break] On today’s show, far right politicians celebrate big victories in Israel’s latest election. Plus, the Federal Reserve ushered in another dramatic interest rate hike.
Juanita Tolliver: But first, last night, President Biden made his closing plea for democracy just steps away from Capitol Hill where violent extremists attempted to overturn the 2020 election. We’re only five days away from Election Day. And in the wake of the violent attack on Paul Pelosi. Reports of voter intimidation and Republican election deniers preemptively stating that they won’t accept the election results. President Biden has deemed now as the right time to make an appeal to Americans about the state of our democracy and to draw a clear juxtaposition between Democrats who have been ringing alarm bells for months and Republicans who have flooded the 2022 midterms with election denying candidates.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I’m glad he made this call. Now is absolutely the time to be making this point.
Juanita Tolliver: Right? And even with the contrast front and center. President Biden’s speech was a genuine appeal to all Americans as the president spoke about unifying and taking collective action to protect our democracy. With each vote cast this midterm cycle, he was inclusive and clear and intentional in his language as he outlined the need to vote, quote, “Knowing what we’re at risk of becoming.” The president was also illustrative in describing the active threats of political violence. And he started his speech by aptly calling out Trump for the role his lies played in creating the extremism and election threats we’re experiencing.
[clip of President Joe Biden] You know, American democracy is under attack because the defeated former president of the United States refused to accept the results of the 2020 election. He refuses to accept the will of the people. He refuses to accept the fact that he lost.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it really is one sore loser that has, like, pushed the dominoes. And that is why we are where we are.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: So what else did the president mention during his speech?
Juanita Tolliver: Two additional big points the president emphasized were the extremist violence recently experienced by the Pelosi family and the fact that election deniers are wasting no time threatening the results of the midterms. When speaking about the attack on Paul Pelosi. Biden painted a clear parallel between the attacker who broke into Speaker Pelosi’s San Francisco home and fractured Paul Pelosi’s skull last week and the January 6th attack on the Capitol. He even seemed somewhat emotional talking about the fact that the assailant screamed, “Where’s Nancy?” just like the insurrectionists did on January 6th.
[clip of President Joe Biden] It’s hard to even say after the assailant entered the home, asking, “Where’s Nancy? Where’s Nancy?” Those are the very same words used by the mob when they stormed the United States Capitol on January the 6th. When they broke windows, kicked in the doors, brutally attacked law enforcement, roamed the corridors hunting for officials, and erected gallows to hang the former Vice President Mike Pence. It was an enraged mob that had been whipped up into a frenzy by a president repeating over and over again the big lie.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, just listening to that description kind of took me back to January 6th, and watching that on TV. And it was terrifying then and it’s still terrifying to this day.
Juanita Tolliver: Look, it’s terrifying. It’s vivid and it’s visceral. And it emphasizes how real and how present the threats and domestic extremism have grown since the days of Trump in office. Regarding the election deniers, the president didn’t mince words as he called out the fact that Republicans have spent years spreading lies and conspiracy theories. And that’s why we see so many election deniers up and down the ballot. The president said that extreme MAGA Republicans are trying to succeed where they failed in 2020. They’re already questioning the midterms before the election is over. Listen to how Biden described election deniers who are filling Republican slates on the ballot and the impact that their presence has on democracy.
[clip of President Joe Biden] It’s estimated that there they’re more than 300 election deniers on the ballot all across America this year. We can’t ignore the impact this is having on our country. It’s damaging, it’s corrosive, and it’s destructive.
Juanita Tolliver: The president closed by emphatically stating that this wasn’t about him, but it’s about America and that we can’t take democracy for granted. And based on his framing and delivery, this speech will undoubtedly have an impact on Democratic and independent voters, as well as that teeny, tiny margin of Republicans who refuse to support GOP election deniers.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right. That’s something I really appreciate about President Biden, something that you brought up earlier, too, that he’s speaking to everybody. He’s not just–
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: –Speaking to his supporters. He’s not just speaking to his party, like he is talking to all of us about why this is harmful, why this is scary, why all of us shouldn’t be okay with this. That might not be something we always have. So–
Juanita Tolliver: Yikes.
Priyanka Aribindi: –We might appreciate that while we still got it.
Juanita Tolliver: That’s exactly right. Especially considering that Biden ran on being a unifying leader in 2020. He’s delivering on that. And I hope it’s not the last we see of it.
Priyanka Aribindi: No, me either. And, you know, speaking of the election, with just a few days left until the midterms this coming Tuesday. Please vote if you haven’t already. Make your plan. All of that. We have one final special edition of our WAD the Vote segment.
[WAD the Vote theme music] WAD the Vote.
Juanita Tolliver: Shimmy times two this week. I’m a lucky girl. What are we talking about today, Priyanka?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I’m really excited about this one. So I had the opportunity to speak with sitting Congressman Sean Casten. He represents Illinois’s sixth district, which happens to be the district where my parents live. And I got to know him a little bit back when I was home during COVID. So my parents, neighbors at the time had put up a sign in their lawn for his opponent. Naturally, I was not okay with this, could not take this lying down. So I took matters into my own hands and made sure that my parents got a Casten sign and a Biden sign. Those neighbors have since moved. We bullied them up the block. We love it. [laughter] Anyways.
Juanita Tolliver: I love a sign battle and a front yard showdown. Yes.
Priyanka Aribindi: Love one. And Congressman Casten actually came over himself to deliver the sign, which was very cool for my parents. So, you know, I figured he knows where they live. Why not have him over again and ask him a few questions for our show? So he and his team very graciously agreed, and we did this interview at my parent’s kitchen table back in September. I’ve never done an interview like this. It was [laughter] really fun. It was great. So I started by asking him what made him run for office the first time back in 2018.
Sean Casten: I’d had a, I don’t want to say a full life. I was 46, but the [?] company had sold a company. I had worked as an engineer. I wasn’t looking to get into politics. I’d been focused on climate change. And I had a theory as a voter that there is so much more about Americans that unites us than divides us. Trump gets elected on this message of utter hatred and division. My representative basically did nothing about. I mean, this seems like naive in 2016. Oh, like a Republican who didn’t stand up to Trump like we didn’t know that was going to lead to January 6th and all this other stuff.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Sean Casten: But it was the sense that, like, you got to do something about this. And I was trying to figure out what I was going to do next in my life. A good friend of mine, she said, you know, if we’re going to get the country under control, we have to flip seats like the one you’re in, and in order to flip seats like the one you’re in, you need somebody who can tell a story about themself that is honest, that will appeal to Democratic primary voters, and then also tell a story about themselves that’s honest, that will appeal to the general electorate. And she said, you can tell primary voters that you dedicated your life to climate change and you can tell the general electorate that you’re a successful entrepreneur. And those both–
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Sean Casten: –legit stories. And she said that she’s found that people in Congress who are the most psychically centered and happiest are the ones who know what they want on their tombstone. You know, they know where their North Star is. Having now served for four years, I think there’s just tremendous wisdom in what she said, because I’m here for climate.
Juanita Tolliver: I appreciate that he knows what he wants to accomplish. I also appreciate that authenticity and honesty were guiding lights for his campaign.
Priyanka Aribindi: Totally.
Juanita Tolliver: And if he were on The Bachelorette, they would most definitely say that he’s there for the right reasons.
Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely here for the right reasons. So obviously, he wasn’t coming from the world of politics. So I was really curious about whether he knew what to expect from the job, what happens after you win an election to Congress. He shared a story that I thought was really funny about his first day. Take a listen.
Sean Casten: There’s no training for it. You know, all of a sudden, like I’m sworn in and there’s John Lewis, like, hey, brother, this is crazy. So we get sworn in in ’18 and we were immediately pulled into a classified briefing. Classified briefing is because Secretary Mnuchin announced he was going to lift sanctions against Oleg Deripaska and specifically Rusal, this Russian aluminum company. And remember, we have 80 new freshmen in the Congress–
Priyanka Aribindi: Right. [laugh]
Sean Casten: –Who never held this job before in their life. And so we have to go and have this classified briefing on everything that we know about Deripaska, about Rusal, about the economic structures of what they’ve put into place.
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh my god.
Sean Casten: And so I’m sitting there and thinking like, holy smokes, like, what the heck do I know about any of this stuff? And I’m listening. And I’m, you know, of course you read about Russian involvement in US politics and everything that we were talking about in ’16 and ’18. And I’m sitting here thinking like, this is way worse than I thought. I’m furiously taking notes, trying to keep speed on everything. And I look over to Elissa Slotkin, who, you know, she’d come into my class as well.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Sean Casten: And I sort of raised my eyebrows to her to signal that this is insane. She raises her eyebrows back at me. And at that point, I’m like, yeah, I’m cool now. Like [?] [laughter] the CIA. You know, we’re sort of we’re deducing let’s [laughter] [?] read between the lines. So we walk out and I say to Elissa, I was like, boy, that [?] crazy, didn’t it? And I’m like [indistinct].
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Sean Casten: [indistinct] I’m talking to CIA people. They’ve got some crazy– and Elissa says that’s not why I gave you that look. And I was like, Why did you give me that look? And Elissa you know, with a F-bomb because that’s Elissa. She goes, why the f– are you taking notes in a classified briefing? [laughter] [indistinct] –like you know, what’s weird like, I don’t even know how I got a security clearance. And they never trained me how to do this until like one of the realizations is that there are 537 people in this country who get a security clearance without a background check. That is insane.
Juanita Tolliver: Okay. As someone who used to have a security clearance, that is insane. No, no one should be getting that.
Priyanka Aribindi: Vote wisely people.
Juanita Tolliver: What?!
Priyanka Aribindi: Vote wisely.
Juanita Tolliver: Your vote has implications for national security if you did not hear.
Priyanka Aribindi: Really does.
Juanita Tolliver: But also, he would make a horrible spy. Representative Slotkin was like brah, stop. And he took that as keep going, keep going. [laugh] Okay. Right. So he’s not a freshman in Congress anymore, though. I know you asked him a bit about what he and his colleagues have accomplished so far.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, and I really wasn’t expecting this answer.
Sean Casten: The first bill that I got through the Science Committee became a $500 million dollar program that the DOE is now running out to basically deploy technologies in the [indistinct].
Priyanka Aribindi: Not bad for your first bill.
Sean Casten: Uh. Jigar Shah, who’s a really good friend who runs the loan program office, was talking to him about how we could accelerate the retirement of coal plants in this country. And we came up with this idea that we could slightly tweak the rules of the loan program office so that they essentially use Treasuries to securitize um outstanding debt on coal plants that are out of their money. It’s a complicated thing. We got that in the Inflation Reduction Act, there’s now $240 billion dollars of authority that the Department of Energy has to accelerate the transition to clean energy. We did that. And so I find myself now like, why do you want to continue the job? Because what else could I possibly do in my life that was bi– as impactful?
Priyanka Aribindi: I know sometimes people like I am guilty of this too, think things in government move really slowly. But it was really cool to hear that he had accomplished something so big in like a short amount of time like this and a very proud moment for me as a former constituent of his district.
Juanita Tolliver: It’s a true flex.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Juanita Tolliver: And that’s a rare outcome. So shoutout to him for achieving that.
Priyanka Aribindi: Totally.
Juanita Tolliver: I think he sounds great. And when it comes to his race this year, what do we know? How is it looking for him?
Priyanka Aribindi: So according to the Cook Political Report, the race leans Democratic. Casten seemed pretty confident back in September when I spoke with him, but he made a larger statement about his opponent and some of the other right wing candidates running around the country that really stuck with me.
Sean Casten: What’s tragic to me is like I’ve had these conversations with a lot of my colleagues, as a Democrat who wants to win an election. I love having this guy as an opponent.
Priyanka Aribindi: Mm hmm.
Sean Casten: Because he’s not that bright. He doubles down on the base. He’s not going to persuade anybody to follow him.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Sean Casten: And he’s going to get his butt kicked at the polls. As an American, I would like to run in an election where I feel like if I lose, we’re not going back to the Stone Age.
Priyanka Aribindi: That shouldn’t be the choice that you have to make when you go to vote. But it is for so many of us, so many of all of you listening, like really scary.
Juanita Tolliver: And I know you also talked to Casten about how he’s only been in office while Democrats had the House majority. And I feel like he’s potentially in for a rude awakening. So what happens if Republicans take the majority back after the midterms?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I asked him about that, especially because he has achieved so much. So here is what he said.
Sean Casten: Like, let’s be honest, like a big part of that, because I’m just so amazingly talented. [laughter] And another part is I have always served when we’ve been in the majority.
Priyanka Aribindi: Mm hmm.
Sean Casten: Right. You know, I’m on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. Does anybody think that committee would continue if the Republicans got the House? Like they might have a select committee on Hunter Biden’s laptop. But there’s just not going to be a prioritization of what matters, you know we’ve had the ability to effectuate big change.
Priyanka Aribindi: Totally.
Sean Casten: Not because we’ve elected Democrats, because we have elected people who give a damn.
Juanita Tolliver: That is the truth. Anything of substance will be replaced with an agenda of vengeance, which Republicans have been explicitly clear about. That’s what they want to do. They want to investigate Hunter Biden. They want to start fraudulent impeachment proceedings against Biden. They want to call Fauci for hearings. Right. They’ve already made that clear.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Juanita Tolliver: It’s about undoing everything Democrats did. And then revenge, revenge, revenge.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. It’s like if they want to turn it into a political circus like, I don’t know why anybody who has an issue with how things are going now thinks government isn’t getting things done for them, would ever think–
Juanita Tolliver: Ever!
Priyanka Aribindi: –that the alternative is like going to get them better results. Like it’s going to be theater. Like a mockery of of I don’t know, everything. But anyways, that was my conversation with Democratic Congressman Sean Casten. He represents Illinois’s sixth district. We will link to his reelection campaign in our shownotes. Perhaps more kitchen table interviews to come. It was really fun. Hope we do one again.
Juanita Tolliver: I hope your parents join next time. I was waiting for like your–
Priyanka Aribindi: They weren’t home.
Juanita Tolliver: –Mom to jump in.
Priyanka Aribindi: They weren’t home.
Juanita Tolliver: Okay. That’s a missed opportunity, friend.
Priyanka Aribindi: I know it was a lot of schedules to coordinate. It was mine, it was his, it was the campaign. And my parents like a lot of moving parts. But anyways, we’ll have more on the upcoming midterm elections in the days ahead. But that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: The Ethiopian government and leaders from the breakaway Tigray region agreed to a permanent cease fire on Wednesday, ending a nearly two year civil war that has claimed thousands of lives. The conflict began in late 2020 when Ethiopia’s prime minister accused Tigrayan officials of attacks on army camps. The government launched an attack against Tigray in retaliation, and the violence has continued ever since, displacing millions of people from their homes and leading to a widespread famine in Tigray. Formal peace talks started last week in South Africa and Friday would have marked two years since the fighting first broke out.
Juanita Tolliver: CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart three of the biggest pharmacy chains in the U.S. have tentatively agreed to pay a combined $13 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits, accusing them of fueling the nation’s opioid epidemic. Most of the opioid lawsuits we’ve covered on the show have come from states that have been hit especially hard by the crisis. But this deal would resolve thousands of lawsuits filed by state and local governments nationwide, accusing the pharmacy chains of filling opioid prescriptions that they should have flagged as inappropriate. The settlements haven’t been finalized, but once completed, billions of dollars will be paid out to local communities impacted by the epidemic. Opioid painkiller overdoses have been linked to over half a million deaths in the U.S. over the past two decades.
Priyanka Aribindi: The Federal Reserve raised interest rates again on Wednesday by three quarters of a percentage point in its ongoing effort to fight inflation. The benchmark interest rate is now a whopping 4%. That is the highest it has been in 15 years. Fed officials will meet again in December and are expected to hike interest rates again before the end of the year, though many economists believe that the central bank will opt for smaller increases down the road.
Juanita Tolliver: Israel is poised to turn even further to the right, with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set to lead a government formed from an alliance between his conservative Likud Party and the far right ultra nationalist religious Zionism party. The ballot count is expected to wrap up today and the conservative bloc Netanyahu has assembled is on track to secure a majority in Israel’s 120 seat parliament. Netanyahu himself built his career by taking a hard line stance against Palestinian statehood. Not to mention, he’s currently on trial for corruption. But his new partners on the extreme right make many of his policies seem mild by comparison. Many of the lawmakers coming into power are well known for their racist, misogynistic, and homophobic views.
Priyanka Aribindi: And an unfortunate reminder that no matter how much progress we make as a society, viruses are still the ones in charge. The country is currently in the midst of a surge of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, which is most serious for infants and children under the age of five. The symptoms of RSV infection in adults are similar to those of a common cold. But while RSV definitely isn’t new, it is worse than usual this year, with patients overwhelming pediatric hospitals nationwide, even before the typical winter spike in infections. Scientists attribute this year’s surge to a lack of exposure to RSV over the last two years for infants born during the pandemic. The good news, which will definitely be received well on all sides of the aisle, a vaccine could be on the way. Pfizer said this week that its RSV vaccine effectively prevented hospitalization and it plans to submit its drug to the FDA for approval before the end of the year, which naturally means before the end of the year there will be several babies uh ingesting ivermectin.
Juanita Tolliver: Hate it. I hate it. I hate it so much.
Priyanka Aribindi: We all hate it.
Juanita Tolliver: Shout out to Pfizer for the quick work though. Like help is on the way to all the parents of children under five years old, help is on the way. And wrapping up with a story of people with perfectly symmetrical faces finding love, two international pageant stars, a former Miss Argentina and a former Miss Puerto Rico announced their surprise marriage this week on Instagram. Mariana Varela and Fabiola Valentin met at the 2020 Miss Grand International Competition where neither of them took home the crown, but they each still found their queen. Ooh, love to see it. Still–
Priyanka Aribindi: Love.
Juanita Tolliver: –until now, they never let on that they were anything more than friends. They captioned their post this week, quote, “After deciding to keep our relationship private, we opened the doors on a special day.” I love love. I love this for them.
Priyanka Aribindi: Love this.
Juanita Tolliver: I love that they found each other doing something they love, it’s all the love.
Priyanka Aribindi: It really is. Like this feels like a perfect plot for a Hallmark movie. Where are they?
Juanita Tolliver: Yes!
Priyanka Aribindi: Like, sell the movie rights to this too, and then you’ll have a blissfully cush married life.
Juanita Tolliver: I just know you’ll have at least two viewers, in me and Priyanka. So make that movie.
Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. And those are the headlines.
Juanita Tolliver: One more thing before we go. We just launched a ton of new merch inspired by your favorite Crooked podcast, reminding you to unplug, reconnect and get festive ahead of the holiday season. Oooh, I love the holidays. Head over to Crooked.com/store for gift ideas that are 100% guaranteed to annoy your conservative relatives. And every order placed this holiday season will support Vote Save America’s every last vote fund to make sure every voice can be heard in the face of unprecedented voter suppression. [music break] That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, find your Miss Argentina or Miss Puerto Rico and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading and not just expertly content moderated podcast scripts for me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe.
Juanita Tolliver: I’m Juanita Tolliver.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
[spoken together] And there’s still time to WAD the Vote.
Priyanka Aribindi: Not much though.
Juanita Tolliver: I just want people to shimmy.
Priyanka Aribindi: If you want to shimmy, you got to vote, so you better do it.
Juanita Tolliver: She said, shimmy your ass to the polls, y’all.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes!
Juanita Tolliver: You got five days left. Vote early where you can and know your rights when you head to the polls everybody. Plenty of resources are at VoteSaveAmerica.com. [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.