In This Episode
DeRay, Kaya, Sam, and De’Ara dive into recent overlooked news including jail deaths, public school enrollment, Upper West Side NIMBYs, and pandemic poverty. DeRay sits down with pollster Terrance Woodbury to discuss representation in research, and why Trump is winning over Black men. Then, a quick check-in with Joyce Elliott, who is the House Democratic nominee for Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District.
DeRay [00:00:00] Y’all, make a plan, a vote. You’re gonna hear us talk about our plans to vote. There are less than 14 days left to Election Day and there a lot of options. Vote early. Vote safely. Get out there. But you’ll hear us talk about it in a minute.
Kaya [00:00:10] We’re gonna talk about our plans. But I want you to visit, VoteSaveAmerica.com/PLANS to make your plan to find your voting location and to vote as soon as you can and tell all your family and friends to do the same.
DeRay [00:00:25] Hey, this is DeRay. And welcome to Pod Save the People. In This episode it’s me, Kaya. Sam, and De’Ara as usual, talking about the news that you might have missed in the past week. And then we’re joined by Terrance Woodbury, one of the best interviews we’ve had this year. He is a partner at Hit Strategies, a polster. And he is here to help us understand a part of what’s happening with Trump’s allure with black men. I learned a ton in this conversation. My advice for this week is indulge a little bit. I have really just been wanting cake recently and I have just indulged just a little because I feel like I’m so focused on like the meals and the calories and I’m working out and ddd. And it was like I actually just need to indulge a little bit. Don’t become gluttonous. Don’t go overboard, but just indulge a little bit. We are gearing up for an election that will be something to remember in a host of ways. And like, you know, just take a lot joy. Indulge. Here we go.
De’Ara [00:01:21] Welcome. Welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. I’m De’Ara Balenger.
De’Ara [00:01:26] You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @DeAraBalenger.
Sam [00:01:30] And I’m Sam Sinyangwe @Samswey on Twitter.
Kaya [00:01:32] I’m Kaya Henderson @HendersonKaya on Twitter.
DeRay [00:01:36] And I’m DeRay @deray on Twitter,.
De’Ara [00:01:39] Y’all.
De’Ara [00:01:39] We are 16 days from Election Day. I can’t believe it. Sixteen days. I think about four years ago. And what I’d be doing now actually working on a campaign, actually, I don’t want to think about it.
De’Ara [00:01:53] I’m sending all the good vibes to folks who are working on the Biden campaign in the Senate races, the local races, who are now just operating on fumes at this point, I’m sure. But let’s talk about our our Election Day lead up and our plans and what we’re doing. I’m gonna do some poll observing in Pennsylvania. I like to get real involved when I’m doing poll observing or working in a caucus.
De’Ara [00:02:20] I get I get right up to that line. So it’ll be interesting to see what I observe. Right. I don’t wanna get myself in any trouble.
Kaya [00:02:32] I was trying to decide, do I want to vote in person? Do I want to vote by mail or in person by mail, sort of. If you wanted to do poll stuff on Election Day in states that really count, how do you find out about those opportunities? How do you sign up to poll watch in Ohio or Pennsylvania?
De’Ara [00:02:51] The team actually has an app. If folks don’t know about that, that you can download. That’s pretty cool and easy to use. But you can also just go to Biden’s Web site and by your zip code, they’ll send you all the different things to do so you can phone bank. Phone banking is actually super easy now you do it all on your computer. So it’s not like you have to use your own cell phone and number, etc. It’s very, very high tech these days. So, yeah, there’s any number of things that you can do and you can go all on a JoeBiden.com to do so. Also, check out folks like Jamie Harrison, like the you know, not the great thing, but the thing is that everyone’s at home and texting and making phone calls from home so you can call anywhere in the country on any given race. So that’s definitely a bonus. And like this time, like we are in Geo TV. So all, you know, these days are critical. I’m gonna vote in person in New York. I’m thinking about voting early, actually.
De’Ara [00:03:43] But yeah, there’s just something to me about being in person. I also love just the community aspect of like going to the polling location and like talking to everybody, even though I’ll be in my mask. But that that’s my plan.
DeRay [00:03:56] The group that has been leading on poll workers for a long time, not just this election, it is WorkElections.com WorkElections.com. They are the central database about poll workers that everybody else pulls from. WorkElections.com. In terms of my plan, I will be voting in person in Baltimore. So I’m excited about that. There’s a crew of us that will be taking a field trip together. So, you know, we know that one of the only things that we do know about people voting is that being in a social group actually matters. So I’ll be doing that. And then I’ve been doing some phone bank stuff, so I’ve done some pump up calls for some phone banking weekends and just did one this last weekend.
DeRay [00:04:36] And Lord knows I’m on every list for texting. If I get another text it’s like y’all, I am voting.
Kaya [00:04:41] Me Too!
DeRay [00:04:41] They are texting me. I’m like, I get it. So I feel a little bit like Obama when Obama ran. Do you remember all those e-mails we got? I feel like I got e-mail every twelve seconds when Obama ran and I couldn’t wait till he won so I was like, thank you. That’s how I feel about these text messages. I’m like, no more text, but. It’s working. I’m getting them, so I’m spreading the message and the interview on this week’s pod is probably one of the most important we’ve done. It’s about black men being wooed by the Trump administration. And I learned a tons of that is our collective contribution.
Sam [00:05:14] I’m vote by mail. Team vote by mail. Requested.
Sam [00:05:18] And looking forward to voting as early as possible.
De’Ara [00:05:21] Sam still ain’t left the house, still ain’t left the house.
Sam [00:05:22] Yeah, still not leaving the house. But voting as early as possible, like not letting USPS or anything else get in the way of my plan to vote in this election.
Kaya [00:05:33] I already have my vote by mail ballots, but here in D.C. they’ve set up a bunch of boxes all over the city. And so I plan on taking my ballot in this week and then trying to make myself available to support the elections on Election Day. My friends and I are actually trying to figure out whether we want to watch the election together or if we’re gonna be home by ourselves. So we’ll see what happens. Last election, we were all hyped. It was all going well. We’re at a great restaurant. And as the returns came in, we decided halfway through the night, maybe we should go home.
Kaya [00:06:10] So although, you know, the two previous elections we had watched and it had been a great group experience. So we’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do this go round. We’ll see.
DeRay [00:06:22] You know, I read today that Bannon said that he I don’t know if you all saw this. Bannon said that Trump is just going to declare victory that night. Like the moment he’s up, he’s just gonna declare victory, too like, sow confusion like, that will be, that’s part of the strategy. And you’re like, whew! This man. Let’s get him out of here.
Sam [00:06:39] Well, I mean, you know, if things are, keep going the way it looks like they’re going,.
Kaya [00:06:41] I’m also super worried about what is going to happen election night. You’ve seen the Tic Toc videos of supremacists who are saying that either way it goes, there’s gonna be violence. And I’m really, really worried. I’m not usually anxious in this way, but I’m very worried about what happens on election night and what happens in the ensuing days afterwards.
Kaya [00:07:02] I’m having a little anxiety about this.
Sam [00:07:04] Yeah, it’s definitely worrying. You know, thinking about what happens on election night, if, you know, Trump doesn’t play by the rules, which we know he doesn’t play by the rules, declares himself a winner, says like the election is invalid for X and Y conspiracy reason. What gives me a little bit of hope and confidence heading into the election is just seeing some of the early returns because so many people are voting by mail. You can actually see like millions and millions of ballots that are being returned. You can see who’s voting early and who is not. It seems like Democrats are more so than Republicans voting early, voting by mail, getting the ballots in, which makes it harder for Trump on Election Day to then say that anything’s wrong or for it to look like he’s winning on Election Day because just so many ballots will have already come in from Democrats that will be counted in some cases even before the election is over. But, you know, all of that all that being said, it depends on us continuing to vote early, voting by mail, getting the ballots in makes sure there’s no confusion whatsoever about the outcome of the election. It needs to be a landslide.
Sam [00:08:04] And not only do we need to defeat Trump, but win the Senate, too.
De’Ara [00:08:06] Was actually looking for this organization, it’s called Ballot Ready, because I I think the other thing that is oftentimes difficult to figure out, especially for local races and like, is like who’s on your ballot? So that’s just what, it’s called Ballot Ready. You can go there and figure out and do your research ahead of time. I’ve already gotten so many text messages from people like who are all these New York judges and do you know anything about them? So hopefully Ballot Ready will have that information instead of me having to do it this time. But in terms of like where, I don’t think I’m going to watch. I think I have way too much PTSD from 2016. Like it’s still vivid memory in my head, like Marian Wright Edelman, like pulling like posters off the walls. And I was like, oh, this black woman is cleaning up. This is over. It’s a Wrap City. So I think I’m just going to drink a whole bottle of wine and go to sleep and hopefully wake up. I know I’m going to wake up to foolishness, but I think, and Sam you bring up a good point.
De’Ara [00:08:59] I think everyone should just be prepared that, like, this is going to be a long couple of months. And I know actually my mom who’s in D.C., was telling me that she’s been hearing about folks already renting a ton of AirBnB’s on the right because they are about to camp out. So I think we need to be as prepared as they are because I think it’s gonna be a long road in terms of getting an answer on who is the president and now the news.
Sam [00:09:25] So my news is a massive, massive new database and investigation that was released this week by Reuters looking at deaths in jails across the country. So nationwide, there has been very little tracking of people who die in jails. As you may know and as we’ve talked about in the past, there’s very little tracking around a whole range of things in the police and criminal justice system, broader criminal justice system, namely people who were killed by the police. Other forms of police use of force, but there has been even less infomation available historically on deaths in jails, in part because there are less likely to be reported. You know, the sheriff’s department or the state has so much control over what information can get in or out of jail. It makes it very difficult to track what’s going on without the federal government playing that role. And they historically have failed to collect comprehensive data on this issue. So this week, Reuters, after submitting 15 hundred public records request, over 500 jails across the country, released their findings. They found that between 2008 and 2019, over seven thousand five hundred people died in jails across the country and that about 5,000 of those people, nearly two thirds of the total number people who die in jail die without even being convicted of a crime. Die pretrial. You know, again, this is a massive amount of data. There’s a lot of information in here that still needs to be unpacked that we need to learn more about. What is clear is that America’s system of jailing people, detaining people, particularly pretrial, people who can’t afford to pay bail. Folks are dying because of those policy decisions, not to release people, not to give folks the support that they need, especially in those early days after being arrested. And what is also interesting about the data when you do a deeper dove, is that the data is not uniform across the country. The outcomes aren’t uniform, that there are particular counties where people are much more likely to die in jails. Places like Oklahoma County, places like St. Louis and East Baton Rouge Parish have among the highest rates of deaths in jails per population of the counties with more than 250,000 population in this database. So there are a set of counties that just are where people are much more likely to die in jails. There are also a set of counties where people are more likely to die by suicide or homicide in jail. So you look at places like San Diego County, which has both the largest number of people who die by suicide, 29 people between 2013 and 19. And also the largest number of people who died by homicide. Eleven people during that timeframe. So I think this is the start of a much broader investigation and what needs to be intervention into America’s jail system, which, again, as we’re seeing here, we’re learning more and more about it in terms of the damage that is causing in people’s lives, in many cases fatal.
De’Ara [00:12:23] I think the other thing, Sam, is it’s like how folks are dying or being killed.
De’Ara [00:12:30] And so I think what this data does for us, too, is actually do some storytelling and really bring to life like what’s happening in a number of these cases and how folks who have mental illness are, you know, getting into altercations with corrections officers and then being beaten, then being left where their bodies are twitching. They’re not responsive for who knows how long. Then they’re found to not have a pulse. That’s what I’m really struggling with in terms of like how do you get to a point as a professional, as a corrections officer, as someone who provides medical support in a jail where you’re actually watching someone on video die or watching someone on video suffer. So I think, again, it’s just I keep thinking in examining where we are as a country culturally, how far we are from dignity and decency and taking care of folks that are vulnerable because for a whole host of people, black, white or otherwise, who these folks are supposed to be in their care for them to treat them in this way. That’s the struggle for me. That’s what I don’t like. I can understand the fact that, like, there are no systems in place, we don’t have the data to make the corrective action. But the fact that some of these cases are happening in this way, I’m glad there was a UN piece and a human rights piece about this, because it’s torture. And that’s that’s what’s happening in these jails to these folks.
Kaya [00:13:55] I was also struck De’Ara by the whole connection to mental health. How many of these deaths are people who have mental health issues and substance abuse issues and how we don’t intersect these systems in any kind of a way? And that’s one of the jails that was referenced in the article, I can’t remember, which talked about being the largest mental health facility in the state and the largest detox facility yet not equipped for those things. We haven’t tended to our mental health infrastructure. And so mental health issues and substance abuse issues then just roll into jail. And those people are not equipped, not resourced and clearly not compassionate enough to figure out how to deal with this. And so it ends in death. And I think one of the things that troubles me is the lack of connection, how that we when we fail to make these connections between these systems and the consequences that come when we don’t actually appropriately connect.
DeRay [00:14:59] I was struck by a lot of things that I didn’t know, and I think that this data poll from Reuters is actually one of the better ways that reporters can help activists like this is a lot of work to do. You know, we know from our own FOIAs that it takes a long time. And thankfully, Muck Rock has been an incredible partner with us. But like this, the process of just getting the data is cumbersome, then getting it from a million different sources. Sam can tell you takes forever to put together, like that’s not nothing about that is easy. So shout out to Reuters for this. So there are a couple of things. One is just to note the horror of the Trump administration. So the federal government has never outlined jail by jail death data, but they at least used to put out aggregate data. And the Trump administration has said that they do not plan to do that ever again, that the 2016 report is gonna be the last report and it’s never coming back out. So you see this administration, the aggregate data is helpful just because we can see what’s happening at the national level, but they aren’t even going to do that anymore. Like, he really is hiding this information because he knows that people would use it to take action or at least ask questions to roll up to that. The other thing that was really surprising to me is there’s a quote from a guy who’s like a jail inspector. What he said was fascinating to me. Justice Department consultant Steve Martin, who has inspected more than 500 U.S. prisons and jails, said that in all the cases he’s investigated, he recalls only one homicide being reported accurately. The others were categorized as, quote, “medical respiratory failure or whatever” he said.
De’Ara [00:16:31] Or whatever.
DeRay [00:16:32] That’s wild. So, like, even as we try and figure out which true, the only thing that we know is that the person died. Can we rely on this to tell us why? The other thing that I hadn’t even thought about is how they keep the deaths off the books. So what they will do is, and Reuiters notes this is that somebody who’s been hospitalized in a grave condition or perhaps a suicide attempt, they will actually release them early so that by the time they die, it actually isn’t on the, on sort of the rolls of the prison. Or they will put them somewhere like do whatever so that they’re not in the jail, they’re not in police custody when death is occurring. That was wild to me. And then the last thing is that at best, this data can help us ask a lot of questions at the local level. That we’ve talked a lot about that like mass encarceration is mostly a city and state thing, and that we should use this data to press and to fight at the city and state level about what’s going on, about the power of sheriffs, about who is logging and coding these deaths. The article also does a really good job. And I looked at some of the data in states like I looked at Maryland, I looked at New York, and I was shocked that the number of things coded “illness,” because what I know to be true and I’ve been to jails both here and abroad, is in America.
DeRay [00:17:46] They’re like no rules inside the jail. There are a lot of rules to get into jail. Right. Whole lot of things that can get you into jail. Whole court proceedings. Once you’re in jail, it is really the wardens game like it is not there’s not a lot of rights that you have with regard to medication or medical, like if it is real loose but loose in a way that hurts people. And when I saw this, I’m like, wow, just a mess. This feels very much like the police data that like the death data is bad. Imagine all the people who are harmed and survive like that has to be, I don’t know, two, three, four times what this data is.
Kaya [00:18:22] My news comes from NPR, which reports this past week that enrollment is dropping in public schools across the country. And this is what I have been worried about, what I have been saying. This is the first set of numbers that I’ve seen which actually puts some meat on the argument around how many of America’s children are missing school and what that is ultimately going to mean for public schooling in the United States. This is also a place where reporters have been incredibly helpful because comprehensive national data is not actually available. But NPR, using their member stations, reached out to 60 of the largest school districts in the country and heard from many of them about what their enrollment was looking like. Even though this is happening actually in in large and small, rich and poor urban and rural districts across the board, people are seeing a record decline in the number of students who are enrolled in schools. And so we see numbers like Orange County, Florida, which has 8,000 students missing this year. Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second largest school system, is down nearly 11,000 students. Miami-Dade County Public Schools has 16,000 fewer students. Charlotte Mecklenburg in North Carolina has 5,000 missing. These are thousands upon thousands of kids who are literally not in school this year. And when you dig into the why of it all. There’s a myriad of answers, of course. It’s a complex problem. And so for a number of these students, access to technology is a real issue. They don’t have computers or laptops or Wi-Fi or headphones or whatever it is that they need. There’s also been a large reaction from families about confusing school plans, whether we’re starting in person or not starting in person, what the hours are and what have you. And I think many districts have not been as communicative and as thorough with families. And so families are literally opting out. There, of course, are the concerns about safety with many families. In fact, many African-American and Latino families opting to keep their kids at home even when school is offered in person because they are concerned about disproportionate Covid rates, of course. And one of the interesting things I think that this article highlights is that a lot of of these enrollment declines are being driven by early childhood unenrollment or disenrollment where we’re seeing families keep their children out of kindergarten in some cases because they can send their kids to daycare.
Kaya [00:21:24] They can’t send their kids to kindergarten. They’re zooming and they can send their kids to daycare and keep kids out. We also are worried, many families are worried about their littlest one’s ability to, you know, engage in distance learning and even when they can engage in distance learning.
Kaya [00:21:42] You know, people have really clear feelings and righteous feelings about not wanting your five year old on Zoom all day. And so you’re seeing precipitous declines in kindergarten enrollment, in fact, in Washington state, which is seeing a overall 2.8 percent decline in enrollment. That’s being driven by a 14 percent decline in kindergarten enrollment alone. So what? Why is this important? Besides the fact that kids are missing out, massive numbers of kids are missing out, the real thing that I’m most worried about is what financial implications this has on public schooling. Most schools in the United States are funded on a per pupil basis. That means for every kid that shows up, you get a certain amount of money. On average, it’s something like 10,000 dollars per student. And so if you’re looking at 8,000 kids missing in Orange County, that’s 80 million dollars that is not going to hit that school’s budget. And, you know, in cases like Miami-Dade, that’s, you know, one hundred and sixty million dollars that their budget will be impacted by. And, you know, we have states that are talking about holding school districts harmless this year. But unless there is significant federal stimulus, there’s no way that states are going to be able to hold anybody harmless when many state budgets are also getting hit tremendously as a result of this pandemic. And who, of course, will be hit the hardest? It’ll be the poorest kids in the poorest districts. Those are the districts that will see the largest impact. Those are the places that need every single dollar, not that anybody doesn’t. But this current and continuing enrollment crisis will not just be this year or next year thing. This is going to have an impact on our public education system for years to come unless there is some solution that is generated with significant contributions from the federal government. Our kids are just getting crushed with this pandemic and we’ve got to think about what we’re going to do differently.
De’Ara [00:23:54] I mean, Kaya, I haven’t seen the numbers on this, but I can only imagine this is also going to be the case in higher education, too. Right. And so I think that’s also going to impact particularly young folks of color, just the fact that they won’t be entering into college. Obviously, you were right. But I think also like what is the ripple effect going to be for the, you know, older young folks?
Kaya [00:24:15] It’s actually worse in a higher ED space, De’Ara, and the section of post-secondary that’s getting hit the hardest is community colleges. And we know for so many of our low income students and our black and brown students, community college is a gateway for them into higher education. And we’re seeing precipitous drops in enrollment in community colleges, in addition, with, you know, traditional four year institutions. And so maybe we’ll cover that an upcoming pod.
Kaya [00:24:44] But it is serious.
Sam [00:24:46] You know, we talked about this last episode and I think a little bit the episode before that, how there’s this ripple effect and we’re still at the very beginning stages of really understanding the full impacts. We’re in the short term impacts, we’re starting to experience with the medium term impacts in terms of school funding down the road and like how institutions might have to be restructured so that folks can access them virtually. But like the long term, like what does it mean when school budgets are cut because of this? When kids who are three, four or five years old are not getting the early learning resources that they need to be successful in this critical early period of their development. And how does that affect the development down the road? How does it affect them in, you know, in college? How does it affect them beyond that? How does it affect us as a society when you have so many people who are not getting access to the resources that they need, educational resources for kids, basic resources in terms of food and income and health care, and all of that’s getting exacerbated and sort of stressed right now in the context of the pandemic, in the context of the refusal of Republicans to provide the resources and the aid that people need in this moment. And we’re just like at the very beginning of really fully appreciating and and dealing with those long term effects that are going to be with us for a while.
DeRay [00:26:16] There are a lot of things that I thought about this. One is it was a reminder that we actually don’t know where the kids go. Right. That like we know they’re not in public school. We don’t really know. Like, nobody really knows where they’re going. And the article at least is honest about that. I’m working in the district and we knew they weren’t to coming us. We didn’t know if they were using other addresses and going outside of the city. We didn’t know if they actually were enrolled in private school. So, like, we don’t really know what is happening to these kids. We just know they’re not coming to our schools. And that’s important because there are going to be a set of kids to go to private school. They’re going to set a kids to go to parochial schools. There’ll be a set of kids who are like pod schooled at home or whatever. Then there’s a whole set of kids who are just home and like we have no clue who those kids are. There’s a quote we hear where like the moms like I’m going to download the curriculum and I’m going to sort of teach my kids. And while that is noble and while that is emotionally, I get it as a sixth grade math teacher, I hate it when parents try to teach their kids because they would teach them the wrong thing about a fraction. I’m like, oh my goodness. They get the school having half learned the thing and then I’m trying to teach it. But not saying your mother is wrong. They’re like, she said, yeah I think you just misunderstood her. It’s like that is not how you add fractions. It’s just there’s no version of that. I never forget having a fight with this, one of my students about scientific notation. She’s like Ms. Adams told me to. And I’m like, I don’t know. I think you were asleep today. Like, Ms. Adams is wrong. I don’t know. This is not that’s not a scientific notation. You know, I didn’t teach elementary school, so I won’t make any claims about what it is like to teach first, second, third and fourth grade. But I certainly know what middle school is like. And it’s not plug and play like. It’s not easy enough for you to, like, download something on the Internet and then just like start delivering instruction. So what that says to me is that if we think this is really a problem, we need to start amping up these resources for parents so that they can actually deliver it in a way that like they can call somebody when they’re confused. Because I will tell you, I spent so much time unteaching the wrong thing so that I could teach them the right thing. And that was a killer like kids who become to be dividing wrong. You’re like, if you can’t divide algebra as a wrap, if you can’t do that, you know, like. Yeah. So. So that’s one. The other thing is these enrollment these drops are going to lead to layoffs. And we talk about layoffs almost exclusively about the impact to the person being laid off. I think we don’t talk about the strain on the system. Nobody likes layoffs. Like the people doing layoffs don’t want to lay people off. The people being laid off don’t want to be laid off like. But the other thing is that when they’re layed, when people get laid off, that means that we’re redistributing work to the not laid off people.
Kaya [00:28:51] That’s right.
DeRay [00:28:51] So those people are stressed.
Kaya [00:28:53] That’s right, that’s right.
DeRay [00:28:54] They’re doing. They were already doing three jobs. Now they’re doing seven jobs. So when we get the money back, we are the district people are in crisis because we’re trying to make sure those people who are stressed don’t quit because they’re like, I had 10 jobs. We’re trying to get the laid off people to come back and put them in some capacity where they can do the work. But like, they’ve been laid off so they don’t love the district. You know, that’s hard. And then kids still suffer in all of it, you know. So it’s like what I hope is going to start to happen is that and I saw this in Baltimore is that briefing starts to happen between the school system people and like the larger government people. So everybody is putting their good foot forward about what the strategy is and like we’re either finding the kids or certain like something because it’s the poor places that rely on state money, because it’s low property taxes. They are going to get hammered. And six thousand kids is a lot of kids. Hundred kids. Cool. I can go find 100 kids. You know, we can split up the whole office and go find 100 kids. Six thousand, hard.
De’Ara [00:29:54] You know, my news comes from New York Magazine. And I’m just, over it already.
De’Ara [00:30:00] So I’m just going to start with the quote, my favorite quote from this piece. So someone, this artist who lives on the Upper West Side, who’s lived there for two decades, said that about the Upper West Side now that she saw hookers and pimps on the streets and almost stepped on a needle while wearing her flip flops. Oh. Oh, oh. Upper West Side. What’s going on up there? So essentially a few months ago, because of, I don’t know, a pandemic. Two hundred and eighty some homeless individuals were moved into the Lucerne Hotel, which is on the Upper West Side. These folks are losing it over this. Right. And so the Upper West Side, for folks who don’t know, supposed to be this liberal bastion of New York City where, you know, they were out there protesting after George Floyd. You know, their kids are making T-shirts. They’re putting up their sign. Black Lives Matter signs in their apartment windows.
De’Ara [00:30:58] But when the need actually comes and when homeless folks arrive.
De’Ara [00:31:03] Now all of a sudden, they are turning to Fox News and The New York Post to get these people out of their backyard. OK. So how did this all start? You ask? Well, there is a woman from Upper West Side who also was seeing needle, like just the whole note, like we’re seeing needles and the pimp, like you all don’t even know.
De’Ara [00:31:23] You’re seeing. How if you’ve been living on the Upper West Side for two decades, how do you even know what a drug needle looks like? Ma’am, how?
De’Ara [00:31:31] Anyway, so this is going on until a basically a group of Upper West Side residents get together and, you know, organize in the best way they can. They start a Facebook page. So on this Facebook page, this is really where everyone starts to get worked up. And there are thousands of people that end up joining this Facebook group. And On it. They are taking pictures of feces on the streets. They’re taking pictures of black men. And it’s all around this, like trying to scare everyone into these homeless men are ruining our neighborhood. So the residents, they also were alarmed to learn that some of the homeless men had mental illness and were substance abusers, but also surprise, surprise there. So the Facebook group that they ended up starting was called Upper West Siders for safer streets.
De’Ara [00:32:15] So I think this is the interesting thing, too. And just the race dynamic. So they never wanted to say we don’t want these black and brown people living here. It was always like we wanted to be safe. But really, the underlying you’re saying the same thing.
De’Ara [00:32:28] What ended up happening is that, of course, New York Post and Fox News like seized onto this Facebook group because so much foolishness was going on the Facebook group, including the appearance of Qanon symbols and all of this other wildness. And so Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson like devoted full segments of their shows to discussing how this nice, expensive corner of the city was descending into homeless anarchy. This rose to getting national news. On the other side. There are some West Upper West Side residents who are opposing the Safer Streets Facebook group, and they’re calling themselves the Upper West Side open Hearts Initiative. And they’ve organized a series of events in front of the Lucerne Hotel in terms of getting donations, providing the men there with clothes for job interviews, art projects. They’ve been chalking messages on the on the sidewalk saying “All are welcome here” and, “yes, in my backyard.” And the other thing that has also been a result of this, whatever this thing that is happening, it’s reignited the Guardian Angels. Well, I won’t say all of them, but just one guardian angel that allegedly was one of the founders.
De’Ara [00:33:38] And so he has been and he’s been recruiting folks to walk around the neighborhood. But again, it’s like it’s policing folks of color. That’s actually what’s been happening. So he he was able to enlist 70 new guardian angels. What’s happening? This is a lot of people that are now feel empowered to walk around and intervene into who knows what. And so who knows what will happen from this piece of the episode. The other thing is Mayor de Blasio, obviously, since this was the city, kind of created this madness. And so de Blasio took a evidently took a ride on the Upper West Side and said what he saw was unacceptable. So then he promised everyone that he would take the folks out of the Luc, Lucerne Hotel, and then in the meantime, displaced a whole bunch of like 70 families that were staying somewhere else where he was going to move the men from the Lucerne Hotel to this place, and then basically went back and said, no, we’re not going to do anything. We’re going leave them there. Good job, de Blasio. So all that to say, I’m just bringing this to the pod because I feel like this is something.
De’Ara [00:34:41] When we talk about we’re we’re talking about just liberal folks and progressive folks and how quick they are to say they are ready to be in the movement, they’re ready to change their behavior and commit to changing their behavior as soon as something that shows up that actually requires that intentionality. Somehow that goes out the window and you are basically espousing the same vitriolic and hateful rhetoric that this dude in the White House is spewing.
De’Ara [00:35:09] So just wanted to bring that. I’m just it’s just I’m sweating, thinking about this, reading about this and talking about this. It’s so upsetting.
DeRay [00:35:18] So my news is from The New York Times, and the headline is “that eight million people have slipped into poverty since May as federal aid has dried up.” Now, I don’t know how you slip into poverty. I think people were shoved, pushed and dragged into poverty by inaction by the federal government, said New York Times fiction headline, because people don’t slip into poverty. But it is sort of wild, is that. There are two studies. One notes that the number of poor people has grown by eight million since May, according to Columbia University, which is really surprising because it fell by four million at the start of the pandemic because of the two trillion dollar emergency aid package known as CARES Act. And then using a different definition of poverty, researchers from the University of Chicago and Notre Dame found that poverty has grown by six million people in the past three months, particularly impacting black people and children. Now, I bring this up here because one of the things that I realized as we do this “get out the vote stuff” is that people keep saying to me, like I don’t know, that the government doesn’t impact me. It feels the same under all the presidents. And it’s like you a lot of people don’t know that they deserve some aid right now. A pandemic happened. You paid taxes. You deserve for the government to do something to alleviate the impact of a pandemic. So if you are one of these people who is was forced into poverty by this, your government failed you. That was Trump. That is the Republicans holding a hostage like people failed you. The pandemic was not the result of, like, your bad decision. The loss of your job was not you like not being able to go into the office, like the government should have done this. And I think that this is you know, I worry about these numbers being so big and then sort of some of the shame around poverty that people don’t realize that like that this is not only them, but people around them. And when I think about Get Out the Vote, it’s like so much of this is reminding people that the world we live in today does not have to be like this and it can be better. And when I saw it, I’m like, that’s a lot of people. That’s. And, you know, if you think about the number of adults, that is, think about the number of families impacted. Right. I mean, this is like far greater than eight million. It was something I didn’t expect.
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DeRay [00:40:14] Polls have a huge influence in nearly every level of America, from businesses to advertising, to how billions are spent in elections.
DeRay [00:40:21] But who is responsible for that information? How have their biases or blindspots impacted the state of our country. And what’s going on with black men and Trump? That’s what I’m here to talk about with terrence Woodbury, a partner at Hit Strategies who dedicated himself to reexamining everything that we know about polls and the information that traditional data sets are missing. This is a must hear. Let’s go.
DeRay [00:40:42] Terrance, thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People.
Terrance Woodbury [00:40:44] Thanks for having me, DeRay.
DeRay [00:40:45] I feel like it’s long overdue that you’re here. But this is like the time that we need you it’s like the eleventh hour. I know you because you have worked in polling and focus group world for probably as long as I’ve known you. But can you talk to us about how you even got, you’re ar black pollster or do you consider yourself a pollster? Whatever you consider yourself, can you talk about how you got to this work?
Terrance Woodbury [00:41:07] Yeah. You know, so I’ve been interested in politics my entire life, and I started work in electoral politics while in college at Morehouse, I worked for a little known state senator named Kaseem Reed, who was running for mayor at the time. And on that campaign, I had the opportunity to work in a few different capacities. But I noticed that everything kept on deferring back to the poll, whether it was in finance or in field or in producing commercials.
Terrance Woodbury [00:41:32] Everything referred back to the poll, and I always wanted to know who is the man behind the curtain with the poll numbers. Turns out that man was a guy named Cornell Belcher, who was one of the few black pollsters in the country. And so when I decided to pursue a career in this, I pursued Cornell. I asked him to mentor me and he ended up hiring me. And so I got into this world and I mean, it’s the best decision I could have made, man. Representation in research is so important DeRay. And too often we are underrepresented. And that’s how those end up being wrong and not representing all of the right people. So I’m glad to be in this work and glad it’s making an impact in this cycle.
DeRay [00:42:07] Now, are you still with Cornell or you? Are you doing something else now? So I left Cornell last year.
Terrance Woodbury [00:42:12] I started Hit Strategies, which is a full service research firm that does polling and focus groups. I mean, at this point in the cycle, I have the luxury of sitting in now Zoom focus groups every single day. So I’ve talked to voters and what I like to call ‘Murica where where it’s really happening every day, understanding how their positioned, how they’re reacting, what their attitudes towards the election are and what type of behavior they’re willing to take in this cycle.
DeRay [00:42:40] You know, most of us know polls, if not only because we’ve seen polling numbers on TV, but what is a focus group like? What is it? Is it truly just like you find some people put up in a room, ask us some questions and record it like, I don’t know, what does that? I feel like that’s like one of the things we don’t have. I don’t think I’ve ever seen like it in a TV show depicted or things like that.
Terrance Woodbury [00:42:59] Yeah. So I’m going to start with polling because people don’t understand what polling is because it’s typically presented on TV as who’s going to win and who’s going to lose. As a crystal ball, that’s it. But there’s so much more to and I like to compare it to, like tasting soup, you know, like I don’t have to eat a whole bowl of soup to know what the soup tastes like. Well, that’s kind of how polling works.
Terrance Woodbury [00:43:19] As long as you have equal representation of all the parts of the soup. Then in theory, you know what all of the soup tastes like by tasting one spoonful. But what happens when we don’t have representation in polling is that you get a scoop of the soup that has way too much tomato in it and not enough salt in it. Way too many white people in it and not enough black people in it. And, you know, black people got flavor. So if you don’t get enough of us in your soup, then it ain’t going to taste right. And that’s why a lot of our polls haven’t tasted right. And I’m glad I can add a little bit more flavor to this industry. Focus groups work pretty similarly in that, you know, we screen in the exact type of voter that we want to talk to. And so I would create a screener DeRay, I say, for example, one focus group I’ve been doing quite a bit of are black voters who are considering voting for Donald Trump. And so what, Colorado actually screen them in based on a series of questions. Would you consider voting for Donald Trump? On a scale of zero to 10, how do you feel about Donald Trump? And kind of finding the sweet spot of the Trump sympathizer and then creating a room for them, which now all of those rooms are on Zoom?
DeRay [00:44:24] And what are you finding actually, when you sit down with black voters, which is I’m fascinated by this. What are you finding to be their reasoning for supporting Trump or being inclined to support Trump or or what is the thing that they’re so pissed off about with the Democratic Party that they are willing to support Trump?
Terrance Woodbury [00:44:41] The overwhelming majority of black voters are not supporting. Trump would never consider voting for Trump, but typically Republicans get about eight percent of the black vote. That’s pretty representative of the eight percent of black voters who are Republicans. But what Donald Trump is doing is expanding this to now 14 percent of the black vote supporting Donald Trump. And as high as 18 percent among black men under 50. You know, it’s very concentrated. His support is concentrated among younger black. And there really is, DeRay, there’s a frustration and a cynicism towards not just Democrats and not just Joe Biden, but the system and systems of injustice, the political system, the criminal justice system. And you are very, very aware of the frustration that is felt by a lot of young black folks right now. And the way that black men are expressing that frustration and a lot of ways is by clinging to a candidate who doesn’t represent the system, who claims to be a disruptor of the system. That’s what they want. They want this system disrupted. And for better or worse, Donald Trump is a disruptive force that they are finding some voice in.
DeRay [00:45:51] Now, Terrance.
DeRay [00:45:51] The thing that just doesn’t make sense to me about that is that how do they square that against, like, all the real things he’s done and said it be? That would make more sense to me in 2016, where, like, he’d never been in office before. So if he’s like, I’m the disrupter, I ddd, then you’re like, okay, like that wasn’t the choice I made. But but I can understand that a little bit better. But this is like he is calling for the death penalty for drug dealers. He is like wholly in line with the police about so many things. He’s locking kids in cages. I mean, the list, “Coronavirus is a hoax.” How do they square that? Like, what’s that? What am I missing?
Terrance Woodbury [00:46:23] I’m not sure I would have understood these voters in 2016 either. Because because I think I think Donald Trump is a wholly disqualifying figure that has disqualified himself from black votes all across the board. But for these particular voters, and this is what my job is to understand, to give some voice to their grievance, you know, a part of it is punitive towards Democrats. A part of it is we’ve been doing this for so long and not getting enough. In fact, there was one quote from a young black man I spoke to in Philadelphia who said “my hood didn’t get any better under Obama and it hasn’t gotten any worse under Trump. So what do any of these presidents got to do with me anyway?”
DeRay [00:47:02] Fascinating.
Terrance Woodbury [00:47:03] You know, for a voter like that, he hasn’t felt like he’s gotten his end of this transaction. And so he’s willing to just try something different. And they are willing to not forgive his racism. And it’s not that they deny his racism. In fact, they just kind of equate his racism to what they see as the racism that that’s built into the system. He’s just honest enough to talk about it. And so another quote from another young black man in Florida who said, “I don’t give a damn that he’s racist. Every president is racist. At least this one tells me where he stands. And I can always trust a man when I know where he stands.”
DeRay [00:47:39] Terrance. That is it. We just got to pause for a second.
DeRay [00:47:42] And like, wow.
Terrance Woodbury [00:47:45] I’m not saying I agree with these men, but then every time I do media, DeRay, I tell folks I’m not here to give you my opinion. I’m here to tell you the thing that I’m hearing in focus groups. This is what they’re telling.
DeRay [00:47:53] So do you push the I like how does that work? So when they say things like that, focus groups and I’m asking earnestly because I dunno, is it like you challenge them, see what they say? Is it like do they like what happens after somebody says something like that?
Terrance Woodbury [00:48:04] In academic research and academic polling and observational research, they don’t push. You’re just there to learn and observe. We do what’s called push polling.
Terrance Woodbury [00:48:13] You know, our goal is to change the way you think, change your behavior, change your attitudes towards Joe Biden or towards Democrats or towards whoever the client is. And so, yeah, we push them. You know, we want to see, we want to present them with more information. And we would literally give them a list of information about Donald Trump. All of the things that he has done that we consider disqualifying in order to determine which of these things is most disqualified. So what we find, DeRay, is that there are things about Donald Trump that are very disqualifying for them.
Terrance Woodbury [00:48:46] One is that even screening in black men who have supported Trump or would consider supporting Trump, they will lie to me and say all of them in a room, all eight of them will say, I have never supported them and I would never support. And I’m like, But this is how you got in the room.
DeRay [00:49:01] Right, you’re like, we know this!. That’s fascinating.
Terrance Woodbury [00:49:04] I already know, you know. And so that’s interesting, DeRay, because what that tells us is that they are under reporting their support for Donald Trump, the same way that white women under reported their support for Donald Trump in 2016. So when we see 18 percent of young black men supporting Trump, the number might be higher than that because they are incentivizing fact to lie to us.
DeRay [00:49:26] That’s interesting. So when they get in the room and, you know, clearly, you know how they got there, you present them with this list. Can you sway them? OraAre they just. Are these a lost, is this a lost crew?
Terrance Woodbury [00:49:37] There is not a deep support for Donald Trump, which means that it’s not hard to move them away from him. But what I think a lot of Democrats and the Biden campaign and a lot of progressive campaigns have missed the mark on is that his racism is not disqualifying enough.
DeRay [00:49:53] Interesting.
Terrance Woodbury [00:49:54] They equate racism to all politicians.
DeRay [00:49:56] Interesting.
Terrance Woodbury [00:49:56] To all politics. So racism alone isn’t enough. But the impact of his racism, the consequences of his racism. Because of Donald Trump, violence against black bodies has increased. Because of Donald Trump, Police brutality has increased because he’s encouraged them to be more harsh in the execution of their duties. Because of Donald Trump, you know, hate crimes has increased against black communities. Those things for black men are disqualified because of the responsibility that black men fail to defend the community. That when you present them with the impacts and the consequences of his racism, they do, in fact, move away from it.
DeRay [00:50:38] That is interesting. This idea that his racism is not disqualifying. That’s sort of like this privilege that whiteness has.
DeRay [00:50:45] Like a lot of people, your racism actually would be enough, right? The racism or sexism or homophobia or trans. like that would actually be like enough. Just uttering the words would be enough, right. Why does he get a pass? Do we have any sense?
Terrance Woodbury [00:50:59] A lot of it is because he’s so bombastic about it. Right. It’s when they say I can trust them because I know where he stands. This idea that at least he’s not smiling in my face and then passing legislation behind my back to hurt me. At least he tells me where he stands. And the perception is that a lot of politicians and for these black men, they feel the same way about Democratic politicians are in fact, just smiling in their face.
Terrance Woodbury [00:51:29] And I think that’s where we have a messaging problem, because, you know, Democrats do have a story to tell about how they’ve improved the lives of these black men. But what we have to tell their story. And until black men know why a Democratic Senate would make their lives better, then why would they be incentivized to ensure a Democratic Senate?
DeRay [00:51:47] Let’s talk about that. Can Biden win without black men? Or is this like a crisis? And if he can win without black men, then why does it even matter outside of sort of just being like an interesting data exercise?
Terrance Woodbury [00:52:00] The truth is, Joe Biden has put together a very different coalition than the 2008 2012 Obama coalition, which was fueled by younger voters and by voters of color. What Joe Biden has assembled here with a commanding lead and nine out of 10 battleground states with a lead of double digits nationally, that is fueled largely by older voters. Joe Biden is winning a majority of seniors, DeRay. Democrats don’t win a majority of seniors. He’s winning a majority of white women. Democrats don’t win a majority of white women. So he’s really assembled a different coalition that, in fact, could propel him to victory without increasing support among black men. But the reason that this drop off of support from black men is so important is because Democrats down ballot cannot win with 75 to 80 percent support among black men. Gary Peters in Michigan, he’s going to need 90 to 95 percent support from black men. Jamie Harrison in South Carolina. He’s going to. Ninety five to 100 percent support among black men. He’s got to get to Barack Obama levels when Barack was when a 97, 98 percent. Well, that’s what James Harrison is going to need in South Carolina to be successful. And so a Democratic Senate relies heavily on increasing support among black men, even if a Joe Biden White House doesn’t.
DeRay [00:53:26] Is this subgroup of people linking their support of Trump to these Senate races? Are they not? Like, do you think that it’ll, it’ll flow down ballot? Or is Trump such sort of an aberration that people sort of feel about him one way and then they feel about their local Senate race and their local governor differently?
Terrance Woodbury [00:53:42] It is having a down ballot effect. You know, we see Senator Thom Tillis out of North Carolina also getting 14 percent support among black men. That’s the same 14 percent that Donald Trump got. But Thom Tillis didn’t give 14 percent among black men when he ran six years ago. He had five percent. The support that black men are giving to Donald Trump is having a down ballot effect. Another race in on a very close attention to is in Michigan, where Gary Peters is running against a black man named John James, who is from Detroit and comes from a very prominent black family in Detroit and who is currently getting 17 percent support among black men. I could tell you this right now, Gary, and I don’t make a lot of predictions as a pollster. We try to stay out of the prediction game. But I can tell you right now, if John James gets 20 percent of black men’s votes in Michigan, Gary Peters is no longer a senator. And if Gary Peters is no longer a senator than Democrats, probably do not control the Senate. This is a strategic imperative. Black men are the only way to win, for Democrats to win the Senate.
DeRay [00:54:47] Now, the other thing I wanted to ask you, and I don’t know if you get to this in the focus groups. What’s the best way to influence black men’s votes?
DeRay [00:54:55] Is it like and I ask because I think about Kamala and I think about that one New York Times op ed literally shaped everybody’s view of Kamala. It was like people went from being like, oh, she’s the black woman from California, used to be prosecutor to being, like, all these wild narratives about Kamala, like that. Overnight, it happened. To try to figure out, you know, people hear this podcast before, they like to hear our conversation before the election and say somebody is like ready to fight this fight. They call you like, let’s fight, Terrance, ddddd,is it, is it too late? Like, is it a dope article? Is it a YouTube video? Is it some Instagram infographics? How do we turn the tide?
Terrance Woodbury [00:55:31] You know, it’s not too late. We still have some time to turn this around with younger black voters. The first thing we have to do is give them something to vote for and not just someone to vote against. When I ask black men in focus groups, how has voting ever made your life better? And they cannot answer. They cannot name one way that their lives have improved because they voted. There’s a messaging problem. We have to start connecting the power that they have when they vote. To the impact that it can have on their lives. The second thing we have do is give them some validating messengers. The truth is for this particular segment of the black electorate, they don’t trust Joe Biden. Frankly, they don’t trust Kamala Harris either.
Terrance Woodbury [00:56:15] A lot of misinformation and disinformation has been used to shape Democratic candidates in this cycle.
Terrance Woodbury [00:56:21] And so we have to use a more validating voices and we see, this week, Barack Obama is hitting the campaign trail. That is a validating voice for a lot of them. But for other voters, they need to see people that are more reflective of their lived experience.
Terrance Woodbury [00:56:34] We have seen athletes, particularly athletes, who have become activists, as very, very validating. And then the final about any message are, of course, the actual activists, people that are leading the movement, the protest that’s sustained throughout the summer have such a shaping impact on this election. They have changed the psychology of America and black voters feel optimistic and inspired because of those protests. And so the activists that led those protests, people like you, DeRay, are in a unique position to speak to the pain and the frustration that these voters have and to connect them to the power that they have by voting.
DeRay [00:57:16] Now, you brought up Kamala. Does this group feel a certain way about Kamala, too, like does her being a black woman? Does that matter to them? Is that, like, able to switch them from supporting Trump or no?
Terrance Woodbury [00:57:27] Yeah.
Terrance Woodbury [00:57:27] You know, we asked this question, does Joe Biden choosing Kamala Harris make you more or less likely to support Joe Biden for president? And overwhelmingly, black voters are more likely to support him because he chose Kamala. We look we like to go down into the crosshairs. We like to look at some subgroups and not just look at black folks as a monolith because we know that there is no profile of a black voter.
Terrance Woodbury [00:57:49] And so when we look a little bit closer into the crosstabs, it’s that same group of younger black men who are disaffected and frankly have pretty unfavorable views of Kamala Harris. And when I’m in focus groups and I start to act and well, what is it about her that you don’t like? A young black man in Georgia said to me, I can’t vote for Joe Biden because he chose a top cop as his V.P.. And that tells him that he just wants to lock up more black people. I don’t know about you, Dre, but I’ve never heard a young black man use the word top cop. They were repeating that directly from misinformation ads or someone who says to me in a focus group, I just don’t trust Kamala because you know something about her being a judge or a cop. It was something I saw. And when you can’t even articulate what it is that you don’t like about her, it is a signal to me that you are being fed information and fed reasons to not like her. There’s a lot of work you do around telling Kamala’s story. There are things about her profile, about her record in the Senate and even her record as a prosecutor that are quite impressive to these voters. They just don’t know it. And we do still have time to tell her story better.
DeRay [00:58:58] Do you know what are the mediums that matter the most?
DeRay [00:59:01] Like, if you had to decide?
Terrance Woodbury [00:59:02] This is this is where Donald Trump is really is really kicking ass is on social media. You know, he is delivering a very distinct message, right to the palms of their hands. Social media is still a very, very powerful tool to spread a message to young voters. We see Joe Biden’s campaign leaning in there. But more broadly, the entire progressive apparatus has to lean in and get more creative. Find some validating voices and try to close this gap with our final argument.
DeRay [00:59:31] Now, one of the things I also wanted to ask about is two things. One, do you think the presidential campaign just doesn’t get it, that they need to woo black men? And two like, what’s the ice cube effect? Does that actually matter, like it? And I ask because it clearly was like the talk. Everybody talked about it. It was the news cycle, blah, blah, blah. But I am always conscious of like the Internet conversation and real life conversation are not always the same. Right. So is the Ice Cube effect real?
Terrance Woodbury [01:00:00] It’s not that the Joe Biden campaign doesn’t get it. I think that they have made a strategic decision that his path to victory does not require him to get the.
Terrance Woodbury [01:00:10] Ninety five ninety six percent support among black men that Barack Obama had. He was just put together a very different coalition that doesn’t require it. But in the first debate, Joe Biden said something that really stuck out to me when he declared, I am the Democratic Party. That comes with a burden and a responsibility, which means that even if he can win the White House without black men, he’s now responsible for every one of those candidates down ballot. He is responsible for bringing those black men along so that Gary Peters can win, so that Jamie Harrison can win. And Cal Cunningham in North Carolina. I would like to see the campaign make a more concentrated effort on wooing these voters because our down ballot candidates need it. The Ice Cube effect, man. Oh, Ice Cube. You know, a lot of black rappers are leaning into this cycle. And I think it’s a beautiful thing, you know, Diddy’s the Black Party and and Ice cube is negotiating contracts.
Terrance Woodbury [01:01:06] But the one that I’m most concerned about that keeps me up at night is Kanye West. I mean, I don’t know how we just like left Kany West out of this conversation. He is on the ballot in 13 states. Whether Kanye West knows that he’s still running for president or not. Republicans are installing him on the ballot every day in states where he can make a real difference. And in most of those 13 states, I’m not that worried, DeRay, but in Colorado and Minnesota, we’ve got to pay attention there. Kanye West could determine the outcome of those two states.
DeRay [01:01:36] You know, one of things I have heard consistently from people is Biden’s sorta, you know, this whole moment of protests, again, for people. And Biden is not as far to the left on the police as I think a lot of us would like. Have you seen that come up in your conversations with people?
Terrance Woodbury [01:01:52] Absolutely. It’s not as parts of the left when a lot of issues that that a lot of young voters would like him to be.
Terrance Woodbury [01:02:00] But, you know, this is where we introduce the idea that, of course, your vote has electoral power, but your vote also has punitive power to fire people and your vote has negotiating power to move people from where they are. And we give them examples of how the LGBTQ community was able to move Barack Obama on same sex marriage. He did not support same sex marriage when he was elected. By his second term he, he, he had, you know, with his full throated endorsement, the entire country moving and Supreme Court decided. Or how the Latinx community was able to negotiate with Barack Obama, who was considered the deporter in chief, his first term, because he deported more people than any other president. By his second term, he had established the DACA program. And so, you know, it is moving their power beyond just who they can elect to what they can actually achieve. And I think that’s where, you know, a lot of voices like like you and folks in the movement that have actually negotiated, been at the negotiating table with presidents and heads of state, are going to be important as validators.
DeRay [01:03:06] Is there anything that we are not talking about that we should be? You know, the first half the podcast is always news that you don’t know, like we spend all this time on news, like it hasn’t made the national conversation for some reason. So I’m interested. Is there like some random thing that you find in the poll or focus groups that like just isn’t a big topic, but you’re like, we promise you we talk about this.
Terrance Woodbury [01:03:26] Yeah.
Terrance Woodbury [01:03:26] You know, recently we’ve been doing a lot of exploring around the outcome of the election. It is concerning to me how many people expect the results of this election to end in violence. It is concerning to me that people are preparing for a violent uprising. Black people in particular are preparing for a violent uprising, but preparing in self-defense. Right. That they expect Trump’s crazy as white supporters to actually break out in violence if he loses them for him to actually incite that violence. We can’t normalize that. That is something I’ve never seen in research. Peaceful transition of power is something I think we take for granted. And I’m starting to pay a lot more attention to it, to what we should expect. How do we mobilize our folks into action and what are we going to have to do to end the uncertain period when we’re still counting votes?
DeRay [01:04:19] OK, before we go, I do want to ask because I I’m still, like, confused. Do they not know that he locked kids in cages? Do they not know that he’s asking for the death penalty for drug dealers?
DeRay [01:04:31] Do they just not know those things or do they not see him on TV lying about Coronavirus, like. I don’t know. I feel like he’s on the news so much.
Terrance Woodbury [01:04:38] They don’t watch the news, DeRay.
DeRay [01:04:40] I know. But he’s he’s he’s so. He’s ever present at this point, and people are like this. He is lying.
Terrance Woodbury [01:04:46] The truth is, they don’t know. It is breaking news to them when I tell them about the impacts that Jeff Sessions had or Betsy DeVos had. They are not following the impacts of their racism. Right. They know that he’s racist, but racism has impacts when Betsy DeVos implements it, that is disqualifying to them. Wait, She did what to black kids? And so they’re being punished harsher because she removed restrictions that those are the things that they don’t know and that are very disqualify.
DeRay [01:05:17] Got it. Got it. Got it.
Terrance Woodbury [01:05:18] Just Knowing that he’s racist is not going to disqualify him.
DeRay [01:05:20] That’s not Enough.
Terrance Woodbury [01:05:21] That’s not enough.
DeRay [01:05:21] That Is fascinating to me. Wow. OK. So two questions to ask everybody. The first is, what’s a piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that stuck with you?
Terrance Woodbury [01:05:29] If you want what other men don’t have to be willing to do what other men won’t do. Be willing to make the sacrifice, be willing to dig a little bit deeper and go a little bit further. That sticks with me, every time I ever get tired in our, in our seven day a week work cycle that way. And right now, I’ve got to remind myself to dig a little deeper into a little more.
DeRay [01:05:48] And the last question is, what do you say to people who in this moment have, like, lost hope right there? Like I e-mailed. I called. I protested. I testified. I did that thing in the world has not changed. What do you say to those people?
Terrance Woodbury [01:05:59] It is changing. You know, it’s working. There is progress from our protest. You know, police are being held accountable, not nearly as much as we want to, but more of them that that would have been. Our cities are beginning to rethink their public safety budgets. You know, we are actually making progress here. Pennsylvania has two ballot initiatives, one, and in Philadelphia to establish a police oversight board and the other to repurpose their public safety budget. I mean, these are things that aren’t that are direct results of our projects of us standing together. Some of the most important progress that we’ve made the protest is just to stand together. I’m sure you’ve seen it, DeRay, and everyone that’s listening that’s participated in the protests. The complexion of the protest has changed. Fifty four percent of protesters are white, but 85 percent of protesters are under the age of 39. This is a young people’s movement. It has evolved from black people vs. the police to young people versus racism. And that is a fight that I do think we can win even if we just got outlive the rest of them.
DeRay [01:07:04] Well, thanks so much. And we can’t wait to have you back after the election.
Terrance Woodbury [01:07:07] Thank you so much, DeRay, talk to you soon.
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DeRay [01:10:12] Finally today, we have a check in with Joyce Elliot, who is running as the House Democratic nominee for Arkansas’ second congressional districy. Get out and vote for her Between now and November 3rd.
DeRay [01:10:22] So, Hey, thanks for joining us on Pod Save the People. If you can start by telling us why this race matters and why you’re in the race, why is this a big race?
Joyce Elliot [01:10:30] It’s a big race for a number of reasons. Let me start with the idea that representation matters. We are in a state where we have four congressional seats. All of them are occupied by Republicans at this moment. And all of them are white men. We Are we are in a state that is the only one of the old Southern Confederacy states that never elected a black person. And of course, I’m asking people to like me for just for that reason. But we certainly will change history that’s important to us. Our representation looks nothing like the people, you know, back here in the state. And the other thing are the issues. Um, health care, just as it is in so many places. Health care and the cost of health care is huge here. And of course, that’s been made worse by the pandemic. And I’ve lived the story of living without and, you know, having to struggle because I did not grow up with health care, not understand what’s happening with people and what’s happening their real lives, which seems not to be a connection that our present congressman is able to make. Because I grew up in Arkansas, but I grew up in a tiny little town in Arkansas, DeRay, Willis Bill. One hundred and fifty two people. And, you know, it wouldn’t be unusual to say it was a tough life. It was. I mean, we lived in poverty, but we weren’t the only one. So I don’t want to make it. It’s not a crybaby story. But I learned so many things about what it means when you’re scratching and doing everything we can. And you still don’t get ahead. And part of my life, I’m old enough that I went to a schools that were segregated and then [01:12:01]lots of hard up for some segregation [1.5s] and lived that life of not being wanted at that school and having to make my way through that. But it taught me a lot of things, and one of which is that it is really important that teachers that you have, because that was not you know, I didn’t have that good experience in an integrated school. And so I decided to become a teacher. And that is when public service really just became the through line of my life because I thought it was important for public service to do everything it could and should do to help people have an opportunity. So I taught for 30 years. And from there, I saw that I could have an opportunity to help even more as a state legislator. And so I did that and that these are just the big things that I saw right away that we could do with help people. We changed our education system. But I was a part of it because I was a teacher. We actually were able to start a first class pre-K system, something that we really needed in our state. And we were going to cross party lines. In Arkansas, we were the first southern state to expand Medicaid, to cover 300,000 more people in our in our small state. And, you know, we have done a really good job in this state of working together, trying to get things done. But the divisiveness and the demagogery has even begun to set us back in Arkansas. Because I’ve had all these experiences and I see what’s what’s on the line. Like whether or not we’re going to have a decent criminal justice system or at least to work at it, whether or not we’re going to maintain or and make better the ACA and make sure people’s preexisting conditions are protected. You know, I’m a walking preexisting condition myself. I’m a kidney donor to my sister. I immediately became a preexisting condition. So all of these things are on the line and how we come out of the pandemic as we are not we presently are not seeing that kind of work that our current congressman should be doing to help people. But he constantly prioritizes the cooperation of other people. So for him, it’s all about Wall Street. For me, I’ve lived the life of being about trying to help people get a leg up.
DeRay [01:14:12] Got it, that makes sense to me. Can you just give us the lay of the land of Arkansas?
DeRay [01:14:16] What is, what’s going on in Arkansas?
Joyce Elliot [01:14:19] Arkansas Was like many of the southern states. We were a Democratic state for all these years and up until 2012 when we became totally red. And people tend to think we have been red for a long time, but we haven’t. We were the last of the states, you know, to turn totally red. You know, when all of the constitutional and legislation pushed us to the left. So it’s not as deep as people think. It’s white. But it’s not as deep. And but my district is located right in the center of the state. We’re about three point one million people in our state. And my district lies right in the center state, includes the capital city of Little Rock and the surrounding suburbs. And this district is more democratic than the other three districts in the state. We are the one considered the most progressive. And the county I live in that one of the most progressive counties in the whole state. What happened with us is kind of like what’s happened with a lot of the districts that were flipped in 2018. We’ve had huge demographic shifts. Obviously, people tend to think about having a larger black population in the urban area where I live. But that black population has grown exponentially out in the outer suburbs and counties. Same thing is true with more college educated folks that have moved in.
Joyce Elliot [01:15:41] So in essence, the demographics have changed. That gives us a chance to win this district if we have a great set up to go after them. And we do. The polls right now have us neck and neck. We are at 48,48 with the incumbent Republican. And that’s a big thing, especially as we are poised to change history as well, because when we move this district back to the Democratic column, we’re going to be doing it with electing an African-American and African-American woman at that, because we’ve only had one woman ever represent this district. So there’s so much hope across the state on this race because it is really clear that if we flip this district, you know, that’s going to give a lot more hope and a lot more intensity to the desire of others to push in the other districts and do the same thing.
DeRay [01:16:34] When you talk to voters, what are the issues that are top of mind in your vote.
Joyce Elliot [01:16:39] The biggest thing right now is, is health care. And, of course, that’s been amplified because of the pandemic. Since Arkansas expanded the ACA, so many people who felt they were against it and really liked having it. And the fact that we see our congressperson who voted against the ACA over a dozen times, you know, you’ve seen that number of times Republicans have voted against this and our congressman has been a part of that and voted against, you know, protecting preexisting conditions. That has people, you know, just apoplectic. The thought of losing that coverage. But the big part of that is that cost is really a big issue and that the pandemic, you know, that’s become even more of a problem because some people who were not on the ACA have lost their health care coverage because of their jobs. They lost their jobs. Another big thing that has happened in our district, just like across the country, you know, the whole Black Lives Matter movement and the idea of justice is something that is meted out to everybody fairly and equally. And this district has changed so much that we have a county by the name of a county is White county. I’m not saying it’s a white county, but it is a very conservative, mostly white county. We didn’t just have the marches here and the Little Rock in this city area. It happened out in a very rural county called White County. People there recognized, you know our justice system is so twisted. It’s just not defensible with some of the things you know that have gone on. And so they were willing to stand up and fight back against it. We actually had a rally, DeRay, right in the shadow of a Confederate statues [01:18:22]that many of them were records and, [1.6s] you know, and it’s they never even thought about before. So folks from all backgrounds have been kind of a mirror like across the state. Folks from all backgrounds have participated and wanted things to change. And it’s, you know, the justice system is one of them and what’s happening there. But so many people recognize that if we’re going to be better, we’re just gonna have to do better at being more inclusive. That has really been something that’s been very heartening and encouraging.
DeRay [01:18:50] And what can people do to support you?
Joyce Elliot [01:18:53] The big thing they can do is tHey can go to JoyceElliot.com and there’s a button htere that says “get involved.” And of course, they can make a contribution to the campaign. We absolutely need that because this is a seat change that we’re about to make in this state. So we we have lots of negative ads coming at us as would be predictable. So contributions are definitely needed. And I don’t want anybody to think just because they are getting closer to the end, we don’t still need help. We do. But there are other ways people can help, no matter where you live, you can participate in phone banking, because that is one of the major things we have to do now for outreach since we’re in a pandemic and can’t get out there and campaign the way we normally would. Phone banking is something that people participate in from all over the country. As a matter of fact, you know, I just said hi to a group here, one evening we were working and that was a group of students we know from a university not even close to us. But you can go there and you can sign up and you get like about 45 minutes or an hour of training and participate that way. If you know people who live in our district hope you know people who will be helpful in making this change in the South, because if the Democrats are going to do well and sustain it, we absolutely have to start to make These changes in the south. It’s important whether people have thought about it or not, that we hold the house and increase it because the way this election is going, there’s no telling how the House might have to be a part of some kind of resolution. And we need to think through and listen to what people are saying to us, the Republicans primarily what they are willing to do to make sure they win. That could come down to an issue of a vote in the House. I mean, I really want people and ask people, and I would love for them to be able to help us make this history, but also help the election, because it could be important across the country, although people don’t think Arkansas on that radar. It could be big time.
DeRay [01:20:50] Well, thanks so much on Pod Save the People we consider for the pod and we can’t wait to have you back.
Joyce Elliot [01:20:54] OK. Thank you so much, DeRay. I appreciate it. Goodbye.
DeRay [01:20:59] Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning into Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out. Make sure that you rate it wherever you get your podcasts whether it’s Apple podcasts or somewhere else. I’ll see you next week. Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by Brock Wilbur and mixed by Bill Lancz, our executive producers Jessica Cordova Kramer and myself. Special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger, and Sam Sinyangwe. And our special contributor Johnetta Elzie.