The Stakes Of Election Day 2021 | Crooked Media
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November 02, 2021
What A Day
The Stakes Of Election Day 2021

In This Episode

  • It’s election day, again! We are following major gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, mayoral contests in Cleveland, Buffalo, Atlanta and Boston, as well as ballot measures, city council, and more. Amanda Litman, co-founder and co-executive director of Run for Something, joins us to break everything down.
  • And in headlines: the COP26 UN Climate Conference began in Glasgow, Scotland, the Supreme Court heard challenges to the Texas abortion law, and COVID-19 has now killed more than five million people around the world.


Show Notes






Gideon Resnick: It’s Tuesday, November 2nd. I’m Gideon Resnick.


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What A Day, where we would never tell you it’s too early to start playing Christmas music.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. We might think it privately, but we are not going to say it to your face.


Josie Duffy Rice: You know, everyone’s on their own timeline and to some people, that means December starts in November, and that’s fine, kind of. On today’s show, the latest from the climate conference in Scotland. Plus New Zealand voted for its bird of the year, except the winner—spoiler alert—wasn’t a bird.


Gideon Resnick: Huh. Okay. But first it is Election Day once again in the US.


[clip of Terry McAuliffe] Virginia, we are so much better than the politics of hatred. And in the next three days, we are going to prove it. Let’s get out, let’s vote and let’s keep Virginia blue. Thank you very much.


[woman] I feel a big sigh of relief finally, after all of these months of hard work the moment is here, and I look forward to the results on Tuesday night.


[clip of Michelle Wu] Tomorrow, we will push until the polls close to make sure the energy that we see out in community matches the turnout and matches the excitement for where we’re headed in Boston’s future.


Josie Duffy Rice: Those are just some of the candidates on the trail, some of whom you’ve heard right here on What A Day.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And one big race that we’re watching is the contest to be Virginia’s next governor. That’s where a lot of eyes are. Polls say that it is a close race between Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic governor of the state, running for another term.


Josie Duffy Rice: And among the other major races are a gubernatorial election in New Jersey, mayoral races in Cleveland, Buffalo, Atlanta and Boston—not to mention ballot measures, city council, state legislatures and more. There’s a ton happening today. Our own listeners shared the issues that they are thinking about today as well. One wrote to us that they’re focused on the Boston Mayoral and City Council races. Another in New York said they were invested in the voting rights ballot measures and that they were going to quote, “vote yes on all five.”


Gideon Resnick: Nice. So we wanted to talk about the climate of today’s elections, the issues that are at play, and candidates up and down the ballot. So we have with us. Amanda Litman. She is the co-founder and co-executive director of Run for Something, an organization that recruits and supports diverse and progressive candidates in down-ballot races across the country. Welcome to What A Day.


Amanda Litman: Thank you for having me. Happy Election Day!


Gideon Resnick: Yes, indeed. Off-year elections, as we know, often tend to have lower turnout. Sometimes people are not necessarily keyed into everything that is going on. What is your sense of the mood of voters right now?


Amanda Litman: Well, I think we don’t really know what today is going to look like. I mean, if Terry McAuliffe is able to win the Virginia governorship, which the numbers say he probably should, I think that’s a good sign that Virginia is firmly blue. But we have seen that when education becomes a really salient issue, which is something the Republicans have done a lot of work to do, is top of mind for voters right now it makes it really tough because they have turned education into this really messy partisan political process, to turn what was a sort of abstract conversation about critical race theory and masks that suffocate our kids and all of this into a genuine rage on: Democrats are trying to teach your white kids that they are lesser inherently and they’re trying to kill them by covering their face. That conflates things like equity and history and race and science and facts and masks and vaccines all into one clusterfuck of a conversation.


Gideon Resnick: Yes, that’s a good way to put it for sure.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, we were just thinking about Virginia and in Virginia, both the governor’s race and the races for state legislature are being seen as this really important litmus test. So what do you make of that, and what do you see when you see these races? Do you really think it’s a reflection on Biden and the Democrats more broadly? Or do you think this is kind of a specific Virginia dynamic?


Amanda Litman: Well, I think it’s a little bit of both. You know, it’s certainly a reflection of how Democrats and Republicans are feeling about the party. It’s a reflection of how energized they are. It’s certainly a reflection of what Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin are. Terry McAuliffe is very much a Biden Democrat. Glenn Youngkin is very much a Trump Republican. But I’m not sure it dictates what’s going to happen in 2022. In no small part because we now have a year between then and now to make a difference. You know, it gives us some important facts on what kind of tactics will work and what messaging seems to resonate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a predictor of what we’re guaranteed in a year to come.


Gideon Resnick: Right, right. And what is your overall assessment of negotiations that people are following over bills in D.C., for example, as being something that we tend to assume is going to resonate or impact with voters?


Amanda Litman: What’s happening in Congress and what’s happening in the Virginia gubernatorial and state legislative elections have little to no relationship. I think Congress shouldn’t take any cues from it, either. Like, maybe if a Democrat wins, they should be fired up to pass legislation. Maybe if a Democrat wins, they’ll feel complacent and like they don’t have to. So I don’t think we should assume that voters are taking into account, I don’t think we should assume what Congress is going to read into it.


Josie Duffy Rice: We’ve talked about several local races on the show with different candidates and India Walton is one of the, I think, the most interesting and kind of surprising races that we’ve. So, if she wins today and becomes the mayor of Buffalo, she’d be the first self-identified socialist to lead a big American city in decades. She struggled to get the backing of some in the Democratic Party at first, but what does the momentum behind her candidacy really tell you about people’s desire for leaders like her?


Amanda Litman: India is just the best kind of candidate. She so genuinely understands her community, and she’s able to speak in a way that makes these abstract concepts, like, yeah, like what does socialism mean, what does justice mean, what does equity mean—in a way that really connects to specific issues that matter to people in Buffalo. It’s not just about safety or justice, it’s about like, how do you feel on your street and what can the mayor do to impact that? She’s such a star and I think win or lose today, she is going so far, if she wants to.


Gideon Resnick: And to stick with mayoral candidates for a second, another candidate we’ve talked to before is Michelle Wu. She’s running for mayor in Boston. And both of the candidates there are women of color, so whoever wins, it’s going to be the first time, I think ever, where the city is not led by a white man. What does that tell you about the diversity of people who are out there, that feel compelled to run for office, that are getting into the arena? And what does that mean for what we see in politics in the future?


Amanda Litman: I think Michelle Wu is an incredible example of a woman of color who came up through the City Council who was not willing to, you know, quote unquote “wait her turn.” You know, following in the footsteps of Ayanna Pressley, and running and sort of claiming her space. And the thing I’m really pumped about for her is, assuming that she wins today, which seems pretty likely, she’s going to be joined by a bunch of amazing folks on the City Council. You know, Kendra Hicks in District 6, who will be the first Black woman to represent her district. David Halper, who’s running for an at-large seat. Ruthzee Louijeune, who’s a Haitian-American running for an at-large seat.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yay Ruthzee! We went to law school together. She’s a friend of mine from college too, so I’m super excited about her.


Amanda Litman: She’s amazing! I got to talk to her for the Run for Something podcast because we have endorsed her as well, and she’s just like, so sharp. And it’s just like these incredible, especially like women of color, candidates of color running for City Council in Boston. It’s just, and we’re seeing this down in Atlanta, too. There’s Liliana Bakhtiari, who’s a young queer Muslim activist running for Atlanta City Council, really redefining how you talk about these big, abstract issues in a way that so clearly can make, I think, makes sense to voters.


Josie Duffy Rice: So you brought up Georgia. I’m in Atlanta. In states like where I am, and other states, right, Republican officials have tried so many tactics to restrict or limit people’s right to vote and I think to even further just reduce trust in any outcome at the ballot. So what concerns do you have about that today?


Amanda Litman: Well, I think it’s something we have to be on the watch for and call out when we see it, you know, name that they’re trying to sow distrust, they’re trying to make you not believe in this. We haven’t seen too much of that yet, at least in Virginia, on the top of the ticket race but it’s certainly, I’m sure, running rampant in a lot of these local races. I think that’s why it’s really important that we pay attention to who we’re electing for city and county clerk and these local election administrators. Run For Something’s working with Denzel McCampbell, who’s running for city clerk in Detroit. It really matters to have someone who will stand up for democracy and really engage voters and communicate with them in a way that’s trustworthy, to hold these positions where we have a chance to elect them.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and we’re talking about so many different people in so many different parts of the country. I know Run For Something has close to, I think, 300 candidates on the ballot?


Amanda Litman: 271.


Gideon Resnick: There you go. Yeah. So what are some of these other down-ballot races and candidates that people should be paying attention to that maybe are getting obscured by some of these other bigger headlines?


Amanda Litman: I could do this for hours. So [unclear] we’re really pumped for: Sophia Garcia-Jackson is running for coroner in Pennsylvania, in I believe Chester County. Coroner’s are so important. They’re elected in, what, 1,300, especially when you think about the pandemic we’ve been living in and what goes on death certificates and the way that it affects what kind of statistics we report out.


Josie Duffy Rice: And all the criminal justice stuff.


Amanda Litman: Yes!


Josie Duffy Rice: Were they killed by a cop? Was it natural causes? Was it excited delirium. All of this really, really is affected by coroners.


Amanda Litman: So excited for her there. Also in Pennsylvania, Dr. Tyler Titus, who’s running for Erie County Executive. Erie is like one of those swingiest counties in America, in Pennsylvania. Dr. Titus is a social worker, they are trans, they’re non-binary. They talk about in their campaign story and when they were 16, having suicide ideation, like going through a horrific depressive episode and explains as part of their campaign story, like, I started from that and now I’m here and part of the reason I’m running is to show kids who have that same experience that it does get so much better and you cannot just grow but thrive. If they win they will be one of the only a handful of non-binary elected officials in the country and the first trans County Executive. So it’s awesome to see.


Josie Duffy Rice: So there’s so much. We’ve named a ton of stuff that brings you hope, stuff to focus on today. But if you had to name one thing that you’re excited about on Election Day, what would it be?


Amanda Litman: The coolest thing about doing this work is that it compounds on itself. So after every single Election Day, when we talk about all the people we’ve helped elect, the folks who’ve broken ceilings, made history, we always then hear from dozens of people or in some cases, hundreds of people, who share those characteristics, who look like them, who live like them, who say, I didn’t know someone like me could do this, I want to run, will you help me to? So the best thing that happens after Election Day is a spike we see in candidate recruitment of more young people who like are getting inspired.


Josie Duffy Rice: That is Amanda Litman from Run For Something, giving us all we need to know about today’s elections.


Gideon Resnick: And for more on Run For Something and the work that they do, we’ll have a link in our show notes. We’re also going to have some resources for voters there as well from Vote Save America. And we’re going to be monitoring all the results and get back to all of this very soon. But that is the latest for now. We’re going to be back right after some ads.


[ad break]


Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: The COP26 UN climate conference began in Glasgow yesterday with a series of dire and appropriate warnings about the state of the global climate crisis. Here is U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres.


[clip of UN Sec. Gen. Antonio Guterres] It’s time to say enough. Enough of brutalizing biodiversity. Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. The point of the conference is to get better commitments from countries to avert the absolute worst outcomes of the climate crisis, namely by curbing emissions enough to keep global warming below one and a half degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Now, currently, the world has already warmed 1.1, and projections that are based on currently promised emission cuts have the planet warming a whopping 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100, which would be nothing short of calamitous. President Biden spoke at the conference as well, talking about the climate measures in the proposed Build Back Better bill, which is yet to pass, and was already stripped of its most important part, which would have imposed a penalty on companies that didn’t transition from fossil fuels. Also on Monday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a new promise to reach quote unquote, “net zero” emissions by 2070 and to make massive investments in renewable energy. India is the world’s third largest greenhouse gas polluter. There is a lot more from day one that we did not get to, but we’re going to keep following as the conference goes on.


Josie Duffy Rice: The US Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday on the Texas law that effectively bans abortions after six weeks, which is before most people even know that they are pregnant. Abortion providers and the Justice Department brought forth two separate cases exactly two months after the justices allowed this law to go into effect. Technically, at issue is not the future of abortion rights, but instead the court considered the legality of the law’s design. But of course, whatever the court decides will have a major impact on the future of abortion rights, particularly in Texas. The unprecedented Texas law gives anyone the right to sue anyone who helps a person get an abortion. After three hours of fiery oral arguments, a majority of justices indicated they may allow the suit brought by abortion providers to go forward. As for the challenge brought by the DOJ, several justices expressed reservations because the department’s argument could potentially give the federal government unprecedented power to intervene in other state policies. That may not actually be the case, but that’s what the conservative justices seem to think. Looking ahead in December, the justices will hear a separate abortion rights case dealing with a law in Mississippi, a case which will potentially signal the end of abortion rights as we know them. Yeah, it’s terrifying, terrifying news.


Gideon Resnick: The world hit another grave milestone yesterday: the COVID-19 pandemic has now killed more than five million people. That’s according to data released from Johns Hopkins University’s COVID tracker, and many experts think the number is likely even higher. The US leads the world in the number of confirmed deaths, with nearly 746,000 people. Meanwhile, vaccine mandates are still facing pushback throughout the country. In New York City, a total of 2,300 hundred firefighters called in sick yesterday morning in defiance of a November 1st deadline to get at least one shot. But city officials assured people that public safety is not compromised, and any given day 800 to 1,000 New York City firefighters are out sick. Kind of news to me. Overall, an impressive 91% of city workers are vaccinated. And in Chicago yesterday, a county judge paused the vaccine requirement for the police department. The officers’ union filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming that the mandate was against collective bargaining rights. And Chicago is just one of many US cities, including Los Angeles, where police unions are fighting mandates, even though COVID was the leading cause of death in the last year for law enforcement officers.


Josie Duffy Rice: There’s a new Tik Tok trend, and it’s called “not overworking your employees.” We’ll see how it catches on. ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, as well as its Chinese version Douyin, put new rules into effect Monday in an attempt to prevent employees from working beyond regular business hours. This move makes ByteDance one of the first Chinese tech companies to push back on a dangerous work culture widely known in China as “996” referring to the expectation that employees work 9am to 9pm six days a week. Not ideal. Despite China’s top court declaring this practice illegal in August, the industry standard still dominates much of the culture of Chinese tech companies. Under ByteDance’s new policy, being referred to as 10-7-5, employees will work 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. 5 days a week—still a 45 hour workweek, but hopefully this step encourages other major Chinese companies to follow suit. Maybe this news from TikTok’s parent company will encourage you to shave a few hours off your TikTok viewing in solidarity. Cute videos of little animals do not count, though, because that’s just medicine.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, about two to three hours should be taken off my weekly screen time because it’s devoted to that, and that’s a net zero.


Josie Duffy Rice: That’s a net zero. It’s true.


Gideon Resnick: I’m offsetting my screen time with it.


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s like carbon, you know?


Gideon Resnick: Yes. A New Zealand Bird of the Year competition ran afoul Monday when the long-tailed bat, a land mammal flew away with the top prize.


Josie Duffy Rice: Oh, man. The jokes. The jokes.


Gideon Resnick: Everyone, take this moment to breathe that in. Every year, New Zealand’s conservation charity, Forest and Bird, runs a two-week campaign to raise ecological awareness about the island country’s hundreds of native species. This year, allowing two native bat species to compete. Nearly 57,000 voters globally cast their vote in the instant runoff -style election, the most in the contest’s 16-year history. Now, the bat led by a large margin for most of the competition, despite most New Zealanders having never encountered the mammal. The long-tailed bat is a shy nocturnal creature—but enough about me—roughly the length of a thumb, able to fly at top speed of 35 miles per hour. The Bird of the Year election is no stranger to controversy. Last year’s prize went to the kakapo, a large, flightless parrot, after a hacker slipped over 1,500 fake votes into an election database. Wow. Despite some voters questioning whether the bat famously not a bird, should have been included at all, after seeing a picture of the newly-crowned champion, that little guy is getting the official WAD stamp of approval.


Josie Duffy Rice: I can’t believe they had to hack the contest ti have the kakapo win.


Gideon Resnick: Messed up.


Josie Duffy Rice: How could the kakapo just not automatically win? That’s a great name. Flightless parrot. Love everything about it. I would have voted 1,500 times for the kakapo myself.


Gideon Resnick: The only election audit that we need is of this specific election, because there’s something that is strange happening in terms of the results here.


Josie Duffy Rice: If we can hack the New Zealand Bird of the Year contest, what is sacred, you know?


Gideon Resnick: Exactly. Our infrastructure is crumbling, if that is the case. And those are the headlines. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, vote in your local elections, and tell your friends to listen.


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading, and not just bat stats like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Josie Duffy Rice.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And bats are the new birds.


Gideon Resnick: We didn’t say so, New Zealand said so.


Josie Duffy Rice: Honestly, I’m just learning today that bats are not birds. So, a lot is happening


Gideon Resnick: Exactly.


Josie Duffy Rice: In my adulthood. You never stop learning, guys.


Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lance. Jazzi Marine is our associate producer. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and myself. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.