Progressives Explain What They Want Out Of Biden's Big Speech | Crooked Media
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March 06, 2024
What A Day
Progressives Explain What They Want Out Of Biden's Big Speech

In This Episode

  • President Biden delivers his third State of the Union address Thursday night ahead of this November’s election. Part of the challenge for Biden is to show voters that he’s still got the energy for another four year term. But he also has to motivate his base, including progressives who are following his campaign with varying amounts of enthusiasm. Activists and organizers across the country told us about the issues they’re most concerned about, and what they want Biden to say when he steps up to the podium.
  • And in headlines: Nikki Haley cedes the Republican primary race to Trump, a Russian missile hits near the President of Ukraine, and a Texas company says it’s one step closer to bringing back woolly mammoths.


Show Notes:





Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, March 7th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What a Day where we’re officially strapping in for the reboot of the 2020 presidential election. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I am usually not a fan of the reboots. We are just going to have to make sure that this one ends the exact same way the last one did. 


Juanita Tolliver: The same ending would be good minus, you know, that little bit of uh insurrection on January 6th? You know, we can go without that part. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right you are. That is the update I will accept. [music break] On today’s show, Nikki Haley and Dean Phillips suspended their presidential runs. Plus, scientists apparently learned nothing from Jurassic Park because they say that they are getting closer to reviving the extinct wooly mammoth. 


Juanita Tolliver: But first, tonight, President Biden delivers his third state of the Union address ahead of this November’s presidential election. And his audience isn’t well, exactly all in on his vision for the country. It’ll include the Republicans who are trying to impeach him through his son, Hunter. Axios reports that Republican House speaker Mike Johnson asked GOP members to maintain decorum, but it’s almost like he doesn’t know who’s in his conference. Like, have you seen these people? Have you met– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Laughable. 


Juanita Tolliver: –these people? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Truly laughable. 


Juanita Tolliver: The state of the Union is a huge platform with enormous stakes. 


[clip of Cody Keenan] Because it’s the one time where you get a big audience and you can take like, however fractured the country is, or however frustrated people are, how confusing things are. You can tell a story that tries to get everyone kind of on the same page. You’re setting a course for the country. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That was former Obama speechwriter Cody Keenan, who recently joined Inside 2024. That is the exclusive series for friends of the pod. Part of the challenge for Biden tonight is to show people that he has still got the energy for the job. And as Keenan says, he also has to convince the public that he’s the right choice.


[clip of Cody Keenan] For the people out there and there are a lot who say, why should I vote? Why does it matter? Well. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


[clip of Cody Keenan] What do you care about? Because I guarantee you, you care about at least three things. And on those three things, I will bet you there is an enormous difference between the two candidates. And there’s a way to set that all up in a way that’s not partisan, not political, but that just makes it super clear. And that’s the type of thing that I would expect to see. 


Juanita Tolliver: Contrast, contrast, contrast. That’s exactly what President Biden is going to be trying to do with his state of the Union address. But Biden’s also got to get his progressive base bought in and energized. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: And there are several key issues where activists will be listening closely to what the president says, from immigration to the war in Gaza and more. And we wanted to know what they were hoping to hear tonight. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely. We started first with abortion, which is a topic that we’ve covered extensively for the past few years on the show. Ever since the fall of Roe in 2022, abortion advocates on the state level have been fighting to protect and maintain a person’s right to choose. In the audience for Biden tonight will be Texas OBGYN, Dr. Austin Dennard. In 2022, just after Roe fell, Doctor Dennard found out that she was pregnant. But during a checkup at 11 weeks, this happened. 


[clip of Dr. Austin Dennard] I was looking at the ultrasound screen and realizing that our baby had a catastrophic diagnosis of acrania or anencephaly, which is the most severe form of neural tube defect that a pregnancy can have. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That is a fatal diagnosis for a fetus. And Doctor Dennard found herself needing an abortion, but because she was in Texas, she needed to travel elsewhere to get that kind of care, and she described how careful she had to be given the state’s criminal penalties for anyone who assisted her. 


[clip of Dr. Austin Dennard] I worried about whether or not we should be buying airplane tickets on our family credit card, because does that mean that my husband’s aiding and abetting me? 


Juanita Tolliver: Oh my God. 


[clip of Dr. Austin Dennard] I didn’t want to go alone. He wanted to come with me to support but was that considered aiding and abetting? Um, we were concerned about the safety of our family, too. If someone found out that I was going out of state for an abortion, were they going to come after my family, my children, would they try to take my license away? 


Juanita Tolliver: On top of getting a fatal diagnosis for her fetus, now, she had to deal with the ridiculous, harmful laws that Texas has around seeking abortion care. No one should ever have to think about this stuff. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Her experience and the experience of helping her patients who struggle to get important reproductive care pushed her to become more politically active. And tonight, she’ll be at the state of the Union as a guest of her representative, Democratic congressman and Ted Cruz’s new Senate challenger, Colin Allred. Here is what she is hoping to hear from President Biden tonight. 


[clip of Dr. Austin Dennard] We’re at a time now in Texas where we’ve just hit rock bottom. We have no access to care. We are unable to get any sort of reproductive support. Abortion care is essentially abolished in our state. I hope he spends a significant amount of time talking about reproductive care, and that there can be change on the federal level, um because really Roe was just the beginning. So hearing him talk about reproductive care and how important it is for us to have support is going to be key. 


Juanita Tolliver: Key and a very relatable topic considering the number of states in this country who are trying to push forth abortion bans like we’ve seen inTexas. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Abortion bans and these continued attacks, I imagine Alabama and latest IVF rulings there have even more people interested in this. So certainly something people will be watching for. 


Juanita Tolliver: Another issue progressives are watching is the war in Gaza. You may remember that the Listen to Michigan campaign was wildly successful on Michigan’s primary day. More than 100,000 voters cast uncommitted ballots as a way to pressure the Biden administration to take action to prevent more deaths in Gaza. Layla Elabed is the campaign manager for Listen to Michigan. She’s a Palestinian-American and longtime community organizer. She also happens to be the sister of Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. She spoke about what it was like seeing the campaign exceed their original goal of 10,000 votes. 


[clip of Layla Elabed] Just seeing that number rise up more and more throughout the night. I mean, it felt really exciting. It felt really surreal and it felt really, really emotional especially, it’s making me emotional now. [laugh]


Juanita Tolliver: And the movement gained more momentum this week. On Super Tuesday, the uncommitted campaign pulled in 19% of the Democratic vote in Minnesota, earning 11 delegates at the Democratic National Convention and a similar movement to vote no preference got 13% of Democratic votes in North Carolina on Tuesday and 9% of the vote in Massachusetts. Elabed says that she hopes that tonight, Biden will at least acknowledge the uncommitted movement and the strong numbers of these protest votes. But she also wants him to take it a step further. 


[clip of Layla Elabed] I would hope that at the state of the Union, President Biden would no longer take the stance that risks our democracy, but take the stance of what is right morally and ethically, and be on the right side of history and call for the end of our military aid for Netanyahu to carry out his war crimes and to demand that we have a permanent and immediate cease fire now to save as many lives as possible. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, it seems like half measures aren’t going to appeal to the Listen to Michigan or other voters who voted uncommitted. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. Another issue that has become very important to so much of the electorate is immigration. In a Gallup poll released last week, Americans actually said that it was the top issue facing the country, and immigrants themselves face some of the biggest stakes here. Here is Bruna Sollod, a recipient of DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. That is the Obama era program that protects undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children. 


[clip of Bruna Sollod] There’s a very real chance that DACA could go away. That’s the reality that we’re facing when you have right wing attacks on programs that are so important to so many people. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Sollod is the political director at the immigrant rights group United We Dream Action. Right now the legality of DACA is stuck in the courts. And last September, a federal judge in Texas ruled it unlawful. That decision is being appealed, and eventually the case could make its way to the Supreme Court. In the short term, Sollod is looking for President Biden to implement administrative policies that would help immigrants continue to support themselves here. 


[clip of Bruna Sollod] There are things the Biden administration can do. Administrative policies to ensure that people are getting their work permits. A delay in a work permit can mean people are fired. That’s a very real thing that DACA recipients deal with when their renewals don’t come in in time, a lot of their companies have to let them go. And so what does that look like when you don’t have a job and can’t pay your bills, can’t support your loved ones. So there are administrative things that the administration can do to be supporting immigrants. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But she also says that when she hears the president speak tonight, she doesn’t want him to get roped in to talking about immigration in the way that Republicans have painted it, as just this crisis at the border. 


[clip of Bruna Sollod] We know that oftentimes presidents who are running will go to the middle. They’ll try to go out after those voters. Especially when you think about President Biden, I’m sure he’s thinking about what who are the Never Trumpers, right? Like, are there folks that would vote for Biden? And so I think his strategy sometimes he’s like, okay, well, I can look tough on immigration. The reality is that he actually needs to speak to the progressive voters on the left, the voters who time and time again over the last few years, whether it was 2018, 2020, 2022, turned out for Democrats based on a progressive agenda that actually excited people. Those were the same people that turned out and took to the streets when the Muslim ban came out under Trump, when DACA was being taken away by Trump, there were a lot of allies, a lot of voters who came out in support of pro-immigrant policies. And so for him to just focus on the border or to just use, again, talking points from the Trump administration, it doesn’t work for the voters, the multiracial class of voters that he actually needs to turn out in November and needs to win. 


Juanita Tolliver: Hey, don’t forget about the ones who brung you, right? Like, I think that– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. 


Juanita Tolliver: –was the tone of this entire segment. So I appreciate her for saying that. One last issue that we heard from activists on, student loans and the economy. President Biden promised to cancel the debt of millions. The Supreme Court blocked plans to make it universal, but Biden has canceled nearly $140 billion in student loans. And Braxton Brewington from the nonprofit Debt Collective said the president should tout that tonight. 


[clip of Braxton Brewington] President Biden has really started to clean up the mass of student debt, public service loan forgiveness, income driven repayment. These types of programs that were not working under the Trump administration and were being held up even under the Obama administration. 


Juanita Tolliver: But Brewington hopes that the president says that he’s not done, and that he’ll continue to fight to end student debt despite obstacles from the court. On top of student debt, however, Brewington said that it’s important that Biden speaks to how America has become unaffordable for so many and that he pledges to address that. 


[clip of Braxton Brewington] The truth is the economy doesn’t work for working people. Wages are stagnant and way too low. We have a health care, housing and education system that riddles people with mountains of debt before they are able to do things like start a small business, or start a family or get a home. And so it would be great to hear an affirmation of the economy not working for working people. And then people are gaslit into thinking that this economy is great, when truly people are working 2 or 3 jobs to get ahead. People aren’t going to want to hear that. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, definitely something he will be needing to address because there are a lot of differing feelings about numbers and figures that we see versus how people feel in the real world. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Those are the voices of just some of the many activists who we talk to about the issues that they are passionate about and what they are looking to hear tonight. President Biden will give his state of the Union address tonight at 9 p.m. eastern, 6 p.m. Pacific, and then right afterwards Katie Britt, who is a Republican senator from Alabama, will give her party’s response. You can join the whole Crooked crew and chat on the discord tonight if you are a friend of the pod. And tomorrow on the show, Tommy Vietor of Pod Save America and Pod Save the World joins us to break down his take on the president’s address. That is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]




Juanita Tolliver: Let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Juanita Tolliver: Super Tuesday delivered what we all expected. Donald Trump widened his lead over his former U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, who bowed out of the race yesterday morning. In her farewell speech, Haley did not endorse Trump, who has routinely belittled her campaign, her husband, her identity and so much more. Speaking of which, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did endorse Trump after years of Trump lovingly calling McConnell names like a, quote, “old broken down crow.” Yeah, I feel like that’s something out of Game of Thrones, right like? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Like it’s a little creative. I got to give that to him. I’ve never heard that elsewhere. 


Juanita Tolliver: So Trump mostly zipped up the nomination on the Republican side, and President Biden did the same on the Democratic side. Representative Dean Phillips suspended his ultra long shot campaign, but his tone towards Biden was much warmer in his concession remarks, and he endorsed the president. And finally, in one of the night’s most watched Senate primaries, California Representative Adam Schiff and Republican/former Major League Baseball player Steve Garvey advanced to the runoff in November. That race will decide who will fill the Senate seat vacated by the late Dianne Feinstein. 


Priyanka Aribindi: A Russian missile strike yesterday landed several hundred feet from the motorcade of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Zelensky was in Odessa, which is a port community on the Black Sea, and he was visiting with Greece’s prime minister. Neither of the two leaders were injured, though five people were killed in the strike and more wounded, according to a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Navy who spoke with CNN. The Russian military claimed credit for the strike in a statement, but they didn’t say that they were targeting Zelensky. 


Juanita Tolliver: And another strike just under 2000 miles away, a missile launched by Houthi militants in Yemen hit a commercial vessel in the Gulf of Aden yesterday and killed three people. That’s according to the U.S. military’s Central Command. Four others were injured, with three in critical condition. The deadly attack marks the first known fatalities of the rebel group’s missile strikes on shipping vessels, which began in the wake of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza. Following the attacks, Iran stated that they will seize the $50 million shipment of crude oil that was meant for Chevron Corporation. 


Priyanka Aribindi: New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced yesterday that she will deploy 1000 members of the state police and National Guard to patrol the already overpoliced New York City subway system. This decision follows a 13% year on year rise in transit crime through March 3rd. Take a listen to what she said at her press conference yesterday. 


[clip of New York Governor Kathy Hochul] There’s a psychological impact. People worry they could be next. Anxiety takes hold and riding the subway which should just simply be part of your everyday life, is filled with stress and trepidation. 


Juanita Tolliver: She thinks that stress and trepidation will decrease with a thousand police officers and National Guards people like stopping and frisking individuals on the subway. Like what? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Make it make any sense? But we can’t forget about the role November 2024 plays here. Hochul’s decision precedes an election in which state Democrats worry about coming across as soft on crime. 


Juanita Tolliver: And lastly, a Texas based company is building on the pioneering work of Doctor Frankenstein and attempting to bring a giant back from the dead. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Great. 


Juanita Tolliver: The company, Colossal Biosciences, calls itself a, quote, “de-extinction company.” Okay, if you never saw Jurassic Park, this is the moment you should be afraid of. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: What in the world?


Juanita Tolliver: It claimed yesterday it made progress towards this goal of resurrecting wooly mammoths, or at least making hairy elephants that look like mammoths if you squint real hard. Here are the details. In a paper that has not been peer reviewed yet, Colossal scientists say they managed to make what are called induced pluripotent stem cells of an Asian elephant. These cells can theoretically differentiate into any animal cell type, and that’s a key element to Colossal’s plan, which is essentially to create modified Asian elephants with wooly mammoth like traits, ie. lots and lots of hair. Many, many steps remain in between stem cells and the 12 foot tall furry monsters roaming the icy tundra. Colossal thinks its so-called mammoths could help fight climate change by stomping down permafrost in the Arctic and stopping it from thawing. Well I don’t think that–


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m sorry , what? 


Juanita Tolliver: –works the way they think it works. 


Priyanka Aribindi: No. 


Juanita Tolliver: Also, this is in Texas and they’re doing stem cell research in Texas? I’m like. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Is that allowed? 


Juanita Tolliver: Why haven’t they been shut down or criminally charged or you know, what Republicans love to do. So. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I don’t know. 


Juanita Tolliver: Well, those are the headlines. 




Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, leave Frankenstein’s legacy alone. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And tell your friends to listen. 


Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just the genomes of wooly mammoths like me, because I’m super smart. [laughing] What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Juanita Tolliver. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


[spoken together] And enjoy the reboot of 2020. 


Priyanka Aribindi: No pandemic please. No pandemic.


Juanita Tolliver: Oh no pandemic. But also to the 25% of voters who Data for Progress said didn’t know this is what was happening, wake up people. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Juanita Tolliver: Wake up! [laugh]


Priyanka Aribindi: I wonder have they had themselves a rude awakening today? I don’t know. [music break]


Juanita Tolliver: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Jon Millstein, Greg Walters, and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Leo Duran, and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.