S02 E05: Get Out The Count, Get Out The Vote
Ashley Allison: Welcome to Pod for the Cause, the official podcast of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Leadership Conference Education Fund, where we expand the conversation on the critical civil and human rights challenges of our day. I’m your host, Ashley Allison, coming to you from Washington DC. Like we start off every show, we got the Pod Squad where we discuss pop culture, and social distance topics, and bring our issue areas into the conversation. I have some amazing guests joining the Pod Squad today. They’re also my friends, Ashley Bryant, principal of AB Partners and Gabby Seay, political director of 1199 SEIU.
Today we are talking about getting out the vote, getting out the count, and really making sure that everyone exercises every right they have by living in this country. Let’s go right in. It’s going to be like old times.
Ashley Bryant: Yeah.
Gabby Seay: Let’s do it.
Ashley Allison: Okay. So first, I’m a hypochondriac, if you didn’t know that. I don’t think I have coronavirus, but I think everybody has coronavirus.
Ashley Bryant: You better not have coronavirus.
Gabby Seay: Well, I hate to tell you, but if everybody else has coronavirus, you got coronavirus too. But let’s just take it back a second. So 1199, the organization I work for is a healthcare union. Right? So we represent healthcare workers from Massachusetts to Florida.
Ashley Allison: Yeah.
Gabby Seay: And everywhere in between. Coronavirus is a real thing, but there are some pretty simple things you can do to prevent it like washing your hands for 20 seconds.
Ashley Bryant: Let it bubble up like you’re a little kid.
Gabby Seay: Yeah, let it lather. You know?
Ashley Bryant: Or lather.
Ashley Allison: Bubble up, bubble up, bubble up.
Ashley Allison: Oh, no.
Gabby Seay: It’s definitely something that we should be concerned about, and all the health officials are telling us it is going to get worse before it gets better. But what’s important is that folks don’t panic. Like if you’re exhibiting some of the symptoms, you see a health professional right away, and that you try to quarantine yourself. You know?
Ashley Bryant: Mm-hmm.
Gabby Seay: So if you feel sick, and you experience the symptoms, you should immediately go see either a medical professional in real life, or if you have like tele-medicine, a lot of insurance plans offer it right now. You can do that as well. It is scary, but there are real steps we can take to like diminish the threat of coronavirus in our personal lives. Encourage all your friends to do so. When our mommas told us to wash our hands and say the ABCs song, like just do that.
Ashley Allison: Don’t wipe your nose. Cover your mouth when you sneeze. I heard recently that 19,000 people have already died from the flu this year alone.
Ashley Bryant: Exactly. That’s what I was going to say. I feel like there’s this pandemonium, but everyone that’s scared probably didn’t even get a flu vaccine. You know? But it’s so true. These things are there, and they’re preventative measures. Now, we’re so afraid of this coronavirus, but it’s like half of the country is walking around with the flu, which is just as deadly, to your point.
Gabby Seay: Yeah, yeah.
Ashley Bryant: Everything the CDC says is like sleep. If you have a strong immune system. If you take some rest. If you wash your hands. If you take all the steps to stay healthy, you know?
Ashley Allison: Wash your hands. Cover your mouth when you sneeze.
Gabby Seay: With your elbow, not your hands.
Ashley Bryant: Goosebumps, goosebumps. All these conferences and travel.
Ashley Allison: Get some hand sanitizer. Try and be as safe as possible, and if you’re sick, stay home. Now, I have a privilege because not everyone has sick days, which is another reason. But if you do have that privilege, don’t fall into that vicious cycle where you’re sick, and you just go to work because you want to be a martyr. We don’t want your corona.
Ashley Bryant: Right, but and for like businesses that are listening. You know? This is our responsibility, at AB Partners. We put out a note of like if you have a tinge or a twitch or anything, do not feel obligated to come into this office. Stay home. Businesses should be able to do that and look beyond just the benefits of do you have a sick day. I mean it’s protecting your entire environment.
Ashley Allison: So this has been the longest election cycle I can remember. I’m exhausted, and I haven’t even voted at my primary. We just had Super Tuesday. What do you think?
Gabby Seay: So we just saw the ranks essentially narrow to two white men in their 70’s who have very different visions for what the next step after Donald Trump is. I think it’s so interesting that in 2020, we still end up here. But as a person that’s done this like you all for quite some time, it’s like it’s not surprising either, and it’s not the end of the world. We can build a better America with both Senator Joe Biden … Lord, have mercy … Vice President Joe Biden or Senator Bernie Sanders. We’re okay. A lot of the immediate reaction that we saw, “Oh, my God, everything is a wreck!” No, we’re fine. We’re showing the world, hopefully, that there’s a path that democracy still exists, at least through our Democratic nomination process. The whole other thing is something else. They’re cancelling primaries left and right. But at least on the Democratic side, there’s still a process that allows voters to say who they think the best nominee is. So that has to make us feel good, even with what happened in Iowa. We’ve still got through it to go a little bit longer, but we’re still here.
Ashley Bryant: Yeah. I think you’re right. I always have to kind of combat you.
Ashley Bryant: But I think some of our concerns are real. To look at, does this process actually represent who is actually the base of this country. Who does make up our United States? So I think that what we’re seeing is it took us to get to the South Carolina. It took us to get to the southern states where you’re actually seeing a black electorate, a brown electorate as we’re talking about California. I do think that, yes, we should feel like we’ll be okay whether it’s Biden or it’s Bernie. But I do think this is a moment where we should be talking about how do we change this because we should make candidates but all these resources into an Iowa caucus that doesn’t represent the real electorate. We lost good candidates because of that. Right? So I think that’s a real concern that we should uplift that because it’s a disservice that we did lose some very qualified folks. We’re here now, but it could be different.
Ashley Allison: I sent a Tweet-out right before New Hampshire that basically said when black people show you what they want after South Carolina, are you going to listen?
Ashley Allison: And actions speak louder than words. Everybody is like, well, don’t call it out just yet. Don’t call. The story is being written before us, but people are not listening to it. You can’t say one thing and let your actions say another. Look, I’m a competitive person. I’m going to fight until the end, but I have never heard so many people talk about black and brown people in an election cycle than I have this year. I’m like, okay people. You trying to see me. You don’t completely see me, but you’re trying to. And yet when black people are saying what they want, it doesn’t seem to matter.
Gabby seay: Yeah. As long as it doesn’t fit into what people think black people should think about something or the candidacy they support, they’re completely dismissive. I mean we’ve seen on Twitter that low information voters are disconnected.
Gabby Seay: I mean the one thing that came out of Super Tuesday is that we dismissed Michael Bloomberg and the idea that he could buy his way into this election and be competitive. Like black people are going to support him because we like shiny objects. You know, if you give us enough ads. It shut that down, but I think you’re absolutely right. Folks aren’t listening to what black folks OR, they’re listening but saying you’re wrong.
Ashley Bryant: Really.
Ashley Allison: You don’t really mean that. Yeah.
Ashley Bryant: Maybe they need some more education.
Ashley Bryant: I also think that this is a year where voter suppression is a thing now. It is not just, now that it’s hurting you all. Now that it’s hurting the white community or the majority, quote, unquote, now it’s a real thing. Now we’re ready to talk about it and put resources towards it. But it’s also like we know that black and brown voters lead the narrative. They lead the electorate. So when we talk about the interference of 2016, we talk about GOP operatives that are working hard and spending millions and millions of dollars to misinform and disinform black voters and discourage black voters from even showing up.
Ashley Bryant: And so, to your point, the most I’ve heard, pundits or anyone talking about the black and brown community when this oppression has been happening for hundreds of … since our founding. But now, it’s a real thing. Super Tuesday, a man had to wait seven hours. Seven hours.
Gabby Seay: Yeah.
Ashley Allison: Who has seven hours. I was like where did you go to the bathroom? Did you eat? Seven hours to vote at Texas Southern actually.
Ashley Bryant: Yes.
Gabby Seay: Yeah.
Ashley Allison: There’s no confusion on what’s happened. And if we think voter suppression is bad in just a Democratic primary, imagine what it’s going to be in the general.
Gabby Seay: I mean it’s really, really scary. I struggle a lot with this because you all both work in voter suppression. You, in real life, and in the courts, Ashley Allison and Ashley Bryant [laughter], you know, digitally, but it’s more pervasive, and it’s not just voter suppression, it’s misinformation that leads to people just not trusting in the systems.
Ashley Allison: Yeah.
Gabby Seay: I struggle in talking about this a lot because like the more we talk about it, the more afraid people will be, and the more likely they will be to just sit it out.
Ashley Allison: Yes.
Gabby Seay: But it is happening, and we should recognize it when we talk about solutions. So like what’s the right balance between like not scaring the you know what out of people from voting that already don’t trust the systems, but also reporting to people what they should say or do if they feel like they’re being targeted by it.
Ashley Allison: Thank you Ashley Bryant and Gabby Seay for joining me on the Pod Squad. Coming up, we have a very special guest, the one and only Stacey Abrams. Don’t go anywhere.
Ashley Allison: Welcome back to Pod for the Cause. Today we are talking all about getting out the vote and getting out the count. We have a very, very, very special guest with us today. She was the Democratic candidate for Governor in the State of Georgia. She’s the founder and chair of Fair Fight. She’s the founder of Fair Count. She does it all. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Stacey Abrams to the show. How are you today?
Stacey Abrams: I’m well, thank you so much.
Ashley Allison: We’re going to jump right into it. We just had Super Tuesday. Big wins for Biden. Big wins for Sanders. What do you think the country is telling us coming off of Super Tuesday? South Carolina, Nevada, New Hampshire, Iowa, all of the above.
Stacey Abrams: I think they’re doing what the primaries are made to do, which is to signal one, the enthusiasm that was seen around the country to have a nominee who can defeat the current president. But more importantly, we’re seeing people say that we can’t predict what they want.
Ashley Allison: Yeah.
Stacey Abrams: They want to actually be heard. They don’t want to be told what they’re going to do. That’s how primaries should work. It’s the president’s primary for a reason, and we need to let people tell us who they want, and if we have an answer by the convention, that’s great. If we don’t, that’s also in our favor.
Ashley Allison: We need to listen to the electorate and the people. What do you actually think it does take? Like this is the most important election of our lifetime. What do you think it will take to beat Donald Trump in November?
Stacey Abrams: I think first, we have to actually turn our attention not on defeating Trump, but on winning America. Rather than trying to counter-program for his bad behavior, his meanness, his demonization, his authoritarianism, we have to plan for what people actually want to see. The challenge with running against someone is that you’re, by the very nature of making them the center of your strategy, you’re playing their game. We cannot afford to do that. We have to run a campaign that turns out people who did not participate in 2016, who are prevented from participation because of their suppression. Those who were disinformed because of the Russians and the Republicans. Those who did not even fall in the conversation. The candidate who effectively does that is the candidate who wins the White House, and as a happy consequence, defeats Donald Trump.
Ashley Allison: You started Fair Fight and Fair Count. Fair Count is focused on the census, and people start getting their census forms March 12th online, in the mail. They can fill it out all in the Census Bureau. Why did you, instead of perhaps maybe running for President yourself, which I was hoping would happen, but everyone has their chance to make a choice. I told everyone I would change my whole life to work for you if you ran for President. So just know that.
Ashley Allison: But why did you decide to start Fair Count after such a historic run for Governor of Georgia?
Stacey Abrams: Well, Fair Fight and Fair Count came about at the same time, so between election day and my non-concession date. I really had to think about the work I wanted to do, but I also wanted to think about the role I could play in making it flow. Fair Fight was because we have to fix the infrastructure of democracy. Fair Count is because we have to understand the inputs that decide what we get and how it’s distributed. So if we aren’t counted in the census, we lose access to trillions of dollars in a decade, we lose the power to reapportionment, and redistricting. In March, I made the final decision about what I was going to do. We had an extraordinary slate of candidates in the running, and the greatest addition I could make to the conversation was actually building the infrastructure and ensuring that we have a census that works. So Fair Fight 2020, which is in 18 states, making sure that we have voter protection across the country, and Fair Count, which is designed to make sure that hard-to-count populations are seen and heard in the census bureau.
Ashley Allison: The census feeds … it’s going to dictate what happens to us for the last two years, and in several shows, our listeners have all been well-versed on that. As a black woman in this country, you had an historic run as Governor in the State of Georgia. The election was unfairly stolen from you, and yet you go back to work to fight to save our democracy, which is what black women do all the time. What do you think people should be doing to earn the vote of black women in this election? What would they need to do to earn your vote?
Stacey Abrams: I want to know what they would do with the power of the Presidency, and that is best evidenced by the kind of campaign they run. Are they investing in communities of color, especially in black communities, or are they waiting until the last week of an election, and then suddenly showing up to stay mobilized? Cause if you believe in our community, you invest early to grow the capacity of this community to participate. Number two, are you giving us an authentic understanding of who you are and what you will do if elected? I don’t want to hear about what you think I want to hear. I want to hear what you believe and intend to do. I can decide if I share, but I don’t need you to pander to me pretending something you don’t actually believe to be true. Number three, I need to see you competing everywhere. I don’t want to see only competing for the white working class or only competing for Latinos, or only competing for the black vote. I want to see you competing for America, and that means you understand the complexity of America and you’re challenging yourself to show up in all of those spaces and engage all of those [indiscernible] [0:16:27].
Ashley Allison: I mean you did that as a candidate running for Governor. You went to every county in the State of Georgia. Some said they had never seen a candidate come there before unless they lived in that area. And while you were doing that, what was the biggest lesson you learned that you would want to share with other people who are thinking about running for office?
Stacey Abrams: It works. We raised money in Georgia and around the country to fund our campaign, and we spent that money on the field, talking to voters, reaching out to them, listening to them, and as a result we tripled the Latino turnout. We tripled Asian-Pacific Islander turnout. We increased Black participation rates by 40%, which that meant rather than the 1.1 million voters who voted in 2014, 1.2 million Black people voted for me. We increased youth participation by 139%, and we actually increased the white share within the electorate for the first time in a generation. If you do this work, it will happen. We will win elections when voters believe we care about their lives. And that’s what the investment is about. That’s what authenticity is about. That’s what showing up is about. It’s letting people know that you actually want to see them, and you’ll actually serve them in your office.
Ashley Allison: I learned that in 2018, you were the most Googled person in the world. Did you know that? I’m sure you did.
Stacey Abrams: I did. I did hear about that.
Ashley Allison: I added several contributions to that Googling throughout the year and following your candidacy. You became not just a candidate in Georgia, you really became a candidate for America. You put hope in my hope of what politics could look like, and so many other people. Anybody would be lucky to potentially have you on their ticket. What would somebody have to do to convince you that they deserve the one and only Stacey Abrams? Cause let me tell you, they should have to work hard to get you, sis. Okay?
Stacey Abrams: Well, I appreciate that. But they would have to do a lot. Service as Vice President, as a running mate, and a lieutenant to the leader of the free world is an extraordinary honor. One I think I’m fully prepared to take on. I’ve built the capacity and management. I’ve filled in a bit of an eye-to-eye background policy. I’ve done the work of fighting for our democracy. I am a formidable legislator. I’m also a really good campaigner. So I think I could do the job, but I also recognize that the nominee has to see the potential value, and I hope that what I’ve done through my life and through my work is emblematic of what service I could provide if asked to be someone’s running mate.
Ashley Allison: I just would be overwhelmed if I got the chance to do anything to help elect you to be President, Vice President.
Stacey Abrams: One of the ways you could be helpful, your incredible enthusiasm. It’s kind, but I think it’s also emblematic of what we can do. Part of my life, not just me running for office, but the way I live my life, either by heritage or by intention, is, remember, I’ve been in lots of different spaces where my responsibilities should not only navigate, but to engage and improve. That’s my strong suit. I believe in service as a way of life, and I believe in inclusion as the only way we achieve success. I think that is a youthful attribute, not only in a campaign, but certainly in an administration and I hope folks will pay attention.
Ashley Allison: We have Stacey Abrams, Black Girl Magic, the candidate of America that we all want and can’t wait to support again if and when you decide to run. All the candidates need to be having her as number one option for Vice President. I’m saying here. You heard it now on Pod for the Cause. But you have had such a breadth of experience, and I’m a millennial, I’m a black woman, I’m an active voter. And so, I’m interested as I’m learning in my career and so many of our listeners are millennials of color, what’s some advice you would give us as we are thinking about working in social justice and exploring careers of public service.
Stacey Abrams: One of the reasons I answer so forthrightly when asked the question about possibly serving as Vice President is not arrogance. It is that people, especially communities of color, women of color, need to see an ambition for more. If you are in the work of social justice, everything we do is so often about triage, making sure that things don’t get even worse. But we have to have the ambition for what more to fight, what better to fight, and how we can be part of it. We are taught sometimes that if you are in service, that not only means sublimating yourself, it means hiding yourself. But success for others comes when people believe that you can help deliver. And so I encourage women like you to make sure you don’t hide yourself. There’s a difference between humility and self-effacement. When you erase yourself from the narrative, you give people permission to do that not only to you, but to those you serve. Humility says I’m the one. Not the best, but really good. So if the statement says I have nothing to do with it, that doesn’t cut it. If you ask someone else to cut it, you also give them the authority to set the agenda. So I would just urge everyone to think about who they are, how they fit in that space, and then they are the person to lead and to serve. Because if you don’t believe it, why should anyone else.
Ashley Allison: Last question. We like to bring culture into social justice. You are doing the work that is going to change people’s lives, save our country. When you need that one theme song, that one get you while I get in the car, I’m on my way to work, what is the song that you put on to just change the way you are feeling about what might be happening in the White House or in our country? What’s your theme song?
Stacey Abrams: I’m going to disappoint you. Really, I don’t have a theme song.
Ashley Allison: What’s your soundtrack?
Stacey Abrams: I have a soundtrack. It has a mix of Estelle, Ludacris, Beyonce, Lizzo, but also Dolly Parton, Jars of Clay, anything from Moana or from Hamilton. Yeah, so I have a full soundtrack that gets me going.
Ashley Allison: Well, we are so honored and thankful for everything that you do to help black people, to help all people, to help this country. We need a leader like you. We need Stacey Abrams now more than ever. Thank you for joining Pod for the Cause. We love you. We have your back. And keep fighting, sis, cause you are doing it so well.
Stacey Abrams: Thank you so much. It has been delightful, Ashley.
Ashley Allison: Thanks again to the incredible Stacey Abrams for joining us on Pod for the Cause. Coming up, I’ll hit you with some real talk during our Hot Take segment, where I get a few things off my chest in three minutes or less.
Ashley Allison: Welcome back to Pod for the Cause where we’ve been talking all about getting out the vote and getting out the count. And between the Pod Squad and Stacey Abrams, I have a few things to say. You know, one of our first episodes for Pod for the Cause was about civic engagement. It was May of 2019, and the Democratic field was just starting to populate with candidates. Throughout the whole summer we saw one of the largest and most ever school of candidates for the Democratic Party. We had a white man who was gay and was a Veteran. We had a black woman. We had a black man. We had an Asian Pacific Islander. We had a couple of Asian Pacific Islanders. We had an older white man, a younger white man, and everything in between. And we had more women running for office that we have ever before. Fast forward to now, and the field is a little less diverse, and I know that that might not be as exciting for everyone. But it doesn’t actually matter how diverse this field is right now, it matters about what you’re going to do when you have a chance to vote. What are you going to stand up for? If you’re listening to this show, I believe you care about education, criminal justice reform, and policing reform, and economic justice. So I believe you will vote for a candidate that stands for those things. For a fair judiciary, for a fair and accurate census to stop voter suppression. But I need you to pay attention to more than just who’s on the top of the ticket. There’s Senators. There’s Governors. There’s House Members, State Legislatures. There’s so many people on this ballot, that we need to get educated. We need to find out the candidates who care about the issues that affect us the most. It’s more than just the President. So you can’t be upset that really the field now is basically going to be either Joe or Bernie against Donald Trump. So we have a choice of older white men. Because there’s a whole diverse slate of candidates down that ticket that can really affect change. So we just had Super Tuesday. The outcome is what it is, but you have a chance when your primary comes, and when the general election comes in November to really make an historic vote. So don’t forget to register. Don’t forget to go vote. Vote early. Vote by mail. Go vote, and make your voice matter.
Ashley Allison: Thank you for listening to Pod for the Cause, the official podcast of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Leadership Conference Education Fund. For more information, please visit civilrights.org. And to connect with me, hit me up on Instagram and Twitter at Pod for the Cause. Be sure to subscribe to our show on your favorite podcast app and leave a five-star review. Until then, for Pod for the Cause, I’m Ashley Allison. And remember, a cause is nothing without the people.