In This Episode
- The first official Democratic primary of 2024 taking place this Saturday in South Carolina. President Joe Biden has seen a decline in support among Black voters in early polls, so this early primary date is a chance for the Biden-Harris campaign to rally support in South Carolina and make a broad appeal to Black voters nationally. We’re joined by Jaime Harrison, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, to dig into the significance of South Carolina’s Democratic primary and how it plays into the party’s agenda at large for 2024.
- And in headlines: Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized to the families of victims during the Senate hearing into online child safety, President Biden is set to visit East Palestine, Ohio later this month, and Utah’s Republican Governor Spencer Cox signed a bill banning trans people from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity.
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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, February 1st. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver. And this is What a Day, the podcast that won’t make the mistake of asking how everyone is doing.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, unlike Elmo, we know the vibes are bad out there.
Juanita Tolliver: I mean.
Priyanka Aribindi: We don’t need to ask.
Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, clearly everyone’s dialed in to everything happening in the world today. But my favorite response to Elmo was Elmo. I’m broke bruh. Like period. That’s it.
Priyanka Aribindi: Elmo has not left Sesame Street for a while and it shows.
Juanita Tolliver: Right. Right. Come on. [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, the CEOs of several major tech companies went before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, and it was tense. Plus, President Joe Biden is in Dearborn, Michigan today, but some residents aren’t exactly greeting him with open arms.
Juanita Tolliver: But first, we’re kicking off Black History Month with an historic primary in South Carolina on Saturday, February 3rd, the first official Democratic primary of 2024. Yes, we know New Hampshire had a fit when they lost the top spot, but we’re not really mad about this move.
Priyanka Aribindi: No, we are not. So remind us what prompted this shift in the Democratic primary calendar?
Juanita Tolliver: Well, after Black voters in South Carolina effectively resurrected President Biden’s 2020 campaign.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Juanita Tolliver: Biden and the Democratic National Committee thought it was high time to prioritize more diverse states, recognize the voting power of Black voters earlier in the primary process, and shift the early primary focus away from states like Iowa and New Hampshire, which are both about 90% white.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yep, it felt like an overdue change, and one that is exciting to see.
Juanita Tolliver: [laugh] Right. Now going into 2024, it’s no secret that Biden has seen a decline in support among Black voters in early polls, including a 36 point drop, according to a recent AP poll. So this early primary date is another opportunity for the Biden-Harris campaign to invest in voter engagement and mobilization efforts in South Carolina and make a broad appeal to Black voters nationally. This primary is going to be a good preview of how enthusiastic or unenthusiastic Black voters are feeling about Biden. I caught up with Jaime Harrison, chair of the Democratic National Committee and former chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party. I started by asking him about the importance of South Carolina’s February 3rd Democratic primary this election cycle, both for him personally as he’s a South Carolina native and for the Democratic Party as a whole. Take a listen.
Jaime Harrison: It is my home state, my beloved home state. But this was a state where 40% of enslaved people came to this country through the port of Charleston. It is a state where uh the National Geographic had this statistic that said 90% of Black folks in this country can find and trace one ancestor back to South Carolina. And so now this state, you know, the state where people were brought in shackles, who picked cotton now are going to be the very first people to pick presidents. That’s a big deal. That’s a big transformation. And so for folks who have been relegated to the back of the bus, like my grandparents for so long, who were voteless and voiceless, are now driving the bus. And so we’re going to start hearing about the issues that are impacting the Black community, issues like support for our historically Black colleges and universities, support for our Black farmers, tackling issues like the Black infant mortality rate, or how the disproportionate impact that diseases like diabetes have on the African-American community. And so that’s a big deal to be able to shape those policies, to get commitments from folks who are running for president so that we can see more progress within the Black community.
Juanita Tolliver: And what does a successful primary look like on Saturday? What are you hoping to see in South Carolina?
Jaime Harrison: Well, we’re already seeing tremendous success. When we changed this primary calendar for the first time ever, three of the four early states will be chaired by Black women.
Juanita Tolliver: Oh, come on, name it.
Jaime Harrison: Think about that.
Juanita Tolliver: Yes.
Jaime Harrison: Think about that in South Carolina. The [?] state party chair, Christale Spain, is the first Black woman. So I want folks to understand that this is one of those glass ceiling breaking moments. And it happened because of Joe Biden. No other president ever tackled this issue of fundamentally changing the order of these primary states. The president, the vice president, the first lady or the second gentleman have been in South Carolina every week this month. So it’s bringing a lot of energy. People are trying to figure out now what it means to be first in the nation. And it just lays the foundation for doing things even bigger and better in South Carolina moving forward.
Juanita Tolliver: I definitely agree with that. Look forward, because this also means more investment in political infrastructure in the state, more attention from national press and energy. So I agree with you on that point. I also appreciate you emphasizing a lot of the issues that are rising to the top with South Carolina and Black voters front of mind, because it’s no secret there’s been a decline in support among Black voters for President Biden since the 2020 election. Is there anything that you specifically attribute that trend to?
Jaime Harrison: I don’t put a whole lot in polls, and I think one of the things this president understands is he’s not going to take anybody for granted. He understands he has to work for the support.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Jaime Harrison: And when you think about what he has been able to do and the impact that it’s had on the Black community, I think one, we got to make sure that the story is out there that people are actually given. I mean, from the very first moment that he became president of the United States, think about the American Rescue Plan, put shots in people’s arms, actually put money in people’s pockets. Many, you know, people talk about the stimmy. Well, let me tell you, it was Joe Biden–
Juanita Tolliver: Come on.
Jaime Harrison: –who got the $1,400. And for those of us who had kids, you got an extra bonus for each one of your kids. This is a president that was the first president to tackle the issue of student loan debt. It’s been a big issue in South Carolina. This weekend, I was at the Pink Ice Gala, and a young women came up to me and told me, I’m riding with Joe Biden. I said, why tell me more? She said, because $100,000 of my student loan debt gone.
Juanita Tolliver: Wow.
Jaime Harrison: Done.
Juanita Tolliver: Wow.
Jaime Harrison: That is transformational. I can tell you, one of the biggest applause lines in South Carolina is going around um when the president says that we have capped the cost of insulin at $35 a month. So many Black folks in South Carolina are either diabetic, pre-diabetic, or know somebody in their family that’s diabetic. And the cost of insulin has been a huge weight on so many families. But now that it has been lifted because of this president. It’s been talked about for forever, but it was this president who actually got it done.
Juanita Tolliver: How is this message being spread in a way that actually is resonating with individuals at the state and local levels?
Jaime Harrison: Well, starting at the end of last year, the Biden campaign started pumping out more resources, going into communications specifically to our communities of color. What you will see over the course of the next few days and weeks is this Democratic Party, led by this president, going around the country, letting people know what we have done, how we have done it, despite no help from many of the Republicans, and also what we intend to do in the next four years. I think that’s really, really important. It’s also important for us to paint the contrast with a disaster that is on the horizon with Donald Trump. Donald Trump thinks our best days are behind us, but we under Joe Biden know our best days are ahead of us. And that’s what we have to make sure that we give people hope, so that they know that we are fighting for a better future for them and their families and their communities.
Juanita Tolliver: And you mentioned the president was on the ground in South Carolina. He’s going to be across the country. But I understand why he was addressing the South Carolina Democratic Party a few days ago. There were a few protesters who stood up to call for a cease fire in Gaza, similar to what we’ve seen at a number of Biden-Harris campaign events lately. So what role do you expect the war in Gaza to play in 2024, especially when it comes to youth voters who have been a key demographic of voters for the Democratic Party?
Jaime Harrison: Well, you know, the president is very aware and respects the right of folks to protest. I mean, it’s a fundamental right in this country. It’s part of what makes America America. But in the end of the day, this president is going to just do what he believes is the right thing to do. I mean, I often say the president has exposure to information that most of us will never know. I know that this president has a big heart. I know that he always wants to do the right thing. And I trust him to do that. Unlike the other guy who we know who believes that, you know, day one, he wants to be a dictator. So uh, you know, folks have to understand this is going to be a contrast. And the question is, where are we going to stand?
Juanita Tolliver: It’s clear that this reelection campaign is going to be an all hands on deck type of campaign, as there have been reports of a powerhouse fundraiser that would feature potentially former President Clinton, former President Obama and President Biden. It’s like a Democratic Marvel movie moment, right like it–
Jaime Harrison: Avengers assemble. Avengers assemble.
Juanita Tolliver: Like, what’s the intention here? Why are Democrats planning such a blockbuster fundraiser so early in the cycle as well?
Jaime Harrison: Well, listen, the political junkie in me is just like, I got goosebumps [laugh] to be there with three of our superstars in our party, and I’m sure we’ll be joined by others as well. So I’m really, really excited about it. I’m excited about the energy that it’s going to bring early on into this campaign, and it is all hands on deck because people have to understand what is at stake. We have a man in Donald Trump who does not believe in the constitution of this country. So no hand wringing is I tell folks all the time, if you’re a woe is me hand-wringing in this neck. Take all that energy and transfer that to picking up a phone. Make some phone calls, knock on some doors, get some people registered. Take your family members to the polls. Turn that energy into how you help elect somebody from the bottom of the ballot to the top of the ballot, so that we can transform this nation.
Juanita Tolliver: That was my conversation with DNC Chair Jaime Harrison, and he couldn’t stress that call to action enough. So if y’all are pressed about 2024, then you can get involved today by visiting VoteSaveAmerica.com. Channel that energy right now. That’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: Starting with an update on the Senate hearing into online child safety. The CEOs of several major tech companies went before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, and the tense hearing went on for four hours. Senators did not hold back in their questioning. Family members of victims were in the audience, and some held up photos of children who they lost to suicide. Some of the family members cheered as senators grilled the CEOs. At one point, Senator Lindsey Graham said the companies had blood on their hands. But one of the more memorable moments came when Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said sorry to the families of the victims. It happened when Republican Senator Josh Hawley pressured Zuckerberg to apologize. Take a close listen here.
[clip of Senator Josh Hawley] Let me ask you this. Let me ask you this. There’s families of victims here today. Have you apologized to the victims?
[clip of Mark Zuckerberg] I–
[clip of Senator Josh Hawley] Would you like to do so now?
[clip of Mark Zuckerberg] Well.
[clip of Senator Josh Hawley] They’re here, you’re on national television. Would you like now to apologize to the victims who have been harmed by your product? Show them the pictures. [applause] Would you like to apologize for what you’ve done to these good people? [applause]
[clip of Mark Zuckerberg] I. [applause] I am sorry for everything you all have been through. No one should have to go through the things that your families have have suffered.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s a little hard to hear, but what Zuckerberg says is, quote, “I’m sorry for everything you have all been through. No one should go through the things your families have suffered.” He then added that Meta will keep investing in industry wide efforts to make it safer for kids to be online.
Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, I feel like this apology was clearly not something I predicted would happen, but it’s absolutely welcomed clearly by those families. But I also got to say, y’all. Folks like Lindsey Graham and Josh Hawley are not good people.
Priyanka Aribindi: No they’re not.
Juanita Tolliver: So while they did a decent job of asking appropriate, important questions, look at their whole record.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Juanita Tolliver: Period.
Priyanka Aribindi: Broken clocks is all–
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: I will say–
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: –about that one.
Juanita Tolliver: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade have been subpoenaed to testify at a hearing over whether or not the two can be disqualified from the election interference case against former President Donald Trump. We’ve talked on the show before about the drama with Willis and Wade over the past few weeks. Michael Roman, one of Trump’s co-defendants, alleged that the two were romantically involved and that Willis violated ethics rules by assigning Wade to the case against the former president. Roman provided little to no proof other than some credit card statements, and Wade was set to be questioned about the alleged relationship yesterday during a hearing for his divorce case with his estranged wife. But Wade settled the case temporarily on Tuesday, canceling the hearing. The subpoenas don’t necessarily mean that Willis and Wade will have to take the stand. They may fight the order so they don’t have to testify at a hearing over the misconduct allegations on February 15th. But for what it’s worth, legal experts think it’s unlikely that Willis and Wade will actually be disqualified from the Trump case over these claims. Look, the claims are salacious. The claims are not good, but they are a distraction from the reality that Trump called the Georgia secretary of state and asked him to overturn the will of the voters and find 11,780 votes. And so I don’t want us to lose sight of what this is all about.
Priyanka Aribindi: No, no. We should not. And now to the campaign trail. President Joe Biden is planning to visit Dearborn, Michigan, today. He is there to meet with United Auto Workers members after the union endorsed his reelection bid last week. Michigan is also home to one of the nation’s largest Muslim and Arab-American populations. Many residents in the city have called on him to endorse a cease fire in Gaza, and some Michigan Arabs and Muslims have even launched a campaign against President Biden, though they also oppose Donald Trump. Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud and other Arab American elected officials turned down a meeting with the president’s campaign last week. Here is what Mayor Hammoud told PBS’s NewsHour when asked why he declined to meet with Biden’s campaign manager.
[clip of Abdullah Hammoud] We chose to decline because I don’t think this is a moment that calls for electoral politics.
Juanita Tolliver: Come on.
[clip of Abdullah Hammoud] You know, Palestinian lives should not be measured in polls. For us this is a moment for our concerns to be heard, listened to and for us to draft a new course together in terms of changing the direction of what’s happening overseas.
Juanita Tolliver: I just also have to add that Democrats absolutely need to develop a reasonable, humane response to the issues being laid out right now.
Priyanka Aribindi: 1,000%. These are very real, very valid concerns that are held by a lot of people who want to see answers. And–
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: This is a way to hold elected officials accountable for the answers that people want to see. Back in 2020, Michigan’s Arab and Muslim community overwhelmingly supported Biden, and he won Michigan by 154,000 votes. So he is going to need this community’s support this time around as well. Meanwhile, the White House announced yesterday that President Biden is set to visit East Palestine, Ohio, later this month. The visit comes one year after the Norfolk Southern train derailment released toxic chemicals into the community. The White House says that the president will meet with residents who were impacted by the train derailment and discuss federal support to the community. It is not yet clear when he will visit, but we will keep you updated.
Juanita Tolliver: In another blow to trans rights across the country, Utah’s Republican governor Spencer Cox, signed a bill this week banning trans people from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. The rule applies to public schools forcing trans kids to use the bathroom or locker room that aligns with their sex at birth. It also applies to government owned buildings like state universities. Violators of the law could be charged with loitering or required to pay a fine. The only exception to the rule applies to trans people who can prove that they have had gender affirming surgery and have had the sex on their birth certificates changed. I feel like this is just gearing up for more crazies to serve as bathroom monitors and harass LGBTQ people, right? Like I feel like that’s what this is.
Priyanka Aribindi: That’s a lot of shit to prove to go into a bathroom.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: Excuse me. That’s insane.
Juanita Tolliver: It’s unclear how the state plans to track and investigate reports of violations of the new law. And according to Human Rights Watch, at least ten other states have passed similar legislation in recent months. Meanwhile, in Florida, officials will no longer allow trans folks to change the sex listed on their driver’s licenses. According to a report from the 19th, the state’s DMV sent out a memo last week saying that it will no longer update trans people’s IDs to match their gender identity because it constitutes fraud. I mean, come on. And that trans people who try to update their documentation could be subjected to criminal or civil penalties. Yet another example of systematic harm targeting trans people and the broader LGBTQ community. Because they’re not going to stop here, I assure you.
Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely. I am really just struck by just how frequently on this show we have stories like this from–
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: –all over the country. That is how pervasive this is in so many places. You listen to stuff like this and you’re like, this is absurd and disturbing and not okay. There are many people who share that opinion, but we need to speak up and do something because clearly there are a lot of–
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: –people trying to do the opposite. And finally, a new government study shows that military personnel who were at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina during the mid ’70s and ’80s had a higher risk for a number of cancers than those at other bases. Federal health officials had been working on this long awaited study into the base’s contaminated drinking water, calling it one of the largest studies ever of its kind. But the people who got sick after being at Camp Lejeune in that period say that this is far overdue and have accused the Marine Corps of failing to protect their health. The base’s drinking water was polluted with industrial chemicals from the early ’50s to the ’80s, before the contamination was detected and the wells were shut down. That water had been piped into schools, barracks, houses–
Juanita Tolliver: Oh goodness.
Priyanka Aribindi: –and the base’s hospital just absolutely everywhere. Think about how you turn the tap on in your home and get water, and use it for everything you do.
Juanita Tolliver: Yeah.
Priyanka Aribindi: That is how these people were doing it because they thought it was fine. People drank, they cooked, they bathed in that water. And the study found that personnel stationed at Camp Lejeune were at higher risk for some types of leukemia and lymphoma and cancers of the lung, breast, throat, esophagus, and thyroid. In August 2022, President Biden signed a federal law that addressed concerns of people who believe that they got sick from the base’s water contamination and gave them just a two year window to file claims.
Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, I’m really struck by a lot of the details here. A two year window to file claims, even though this was going on for 30 plus years. I am also the–
Priyanka Aribindi: This has affected generations. At this point.
Juanita Tolliver: Ugh, entire generations, because it’s not just the veterans themselves, it’s their children, grandchildren in some cases. And let’s be real.
Priyanka Aribindi: Totally.
Juanita Tolliver: I was born on a Navy base. I went to school on Navy bases. Like, I understand how this can affect entire families, so they need a bigger window and more awareness building around this issue.
Priyanka Aribindi: Entire families, entire communities, and of people who do the highest service for this country.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: We are failing our veterans here. And those are the headlines. [music break] That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, get out the vote and tell your friends to listen.
Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just tweets by Elmo like me [laughter], What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/Subscribe. I’m Juanita Tolliver.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
[spoken together] And Happy Black History Month.
Priyanka Aribindi: We gotta turn it around for Black History Month.
Juanita Tolliver: I feel like I need to call out whoever this person was who tweeted, oh, February’s amazing. It’s just hearts and love. I was like, bruh, it’s Black History Month. Get yourself educated, get it together everybody.
Priyanka Aribindi: Black History Month with a side of Valentine’s Day that is a one day aside everybody. [music break]
Juanita Tolliver: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers, and our showrunner is Leo Duran. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.