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[00:00:06]

Hello, Stacey. Hello. Oh, it's all echoing how's that? There we go. I'm so excited you're doing that, Stacey. Thank you.

[00:00:16]

I will. I want to tell you, some of my sisters and I are all huge fans, and I've told them about different exciting things I've gotten to do. But yesterday, I because I'm a petty person, I sent them. On tap for me tomorrow, Doctor Who podcast with David Tennant, my youngest sister, said, you shut your lying mouth. No way. My oldest sister said, now you're just being ridiculous. And my middle sister said what you all said.

[00:00:49]

Plus, I screamed in her ear and then I got just streams of David Tennant gifts from my siblings because they all adore you. Think the world of you. And I've been told to tell you you're just amazing, awesome and wonderful.

[00:01:02]

I'm so touched. Thank you. We're like this close to stalking you, but you live too far away for it to be effective. And we're all locked in our houses for the moment, so it'd be useless.

[00:01:14]

David Tennant does a podcast with Stacey Abrams. Thank you so much. This is great. I can only imagine you're one of the busiest human beings on Earth, so I'm not going to keep you for any longer than I have to, but I'm very pleased that you're here.

[00:01:31]

So listen, 9th of February, 2019, you were chosen to give the response on national television to Donald Trump's State of the Union speech. Is it true, Stacey, that to prepare for your speech, you watched old episodes of Doctor Who? Absolutely. Is this true?

[00:01:47]

I can't believe it. I watched the tenth doctor, actually. You did? Yes. Oh, that's the correct answer. What were you watching? Do you remember? Oh, I watched.

[00:01:56]

So I did the last few episodes of Martha Jones and the first few episodes of Donna Noble.

[00:02:03]

A beautiful transition. Fantastic. Yeah, I'm very touched. And that was just to kind of get yourself in a Zen place.

[00:02:10]

Yes. So I began watching Doctor Who when Tom Baker was the doctor. So. Right. We only had two channels where I grew up. ABC or PBS and PBS ran all of the Tom Baker doctor who episodes. And so I loved it. And then my sisters got me reconnected to it a few years ago. And I was in this space where I needed to get my head clear. And doctor, who does it for me?

[00:02:32]

Oh, I'm delighted to have been any small part of your very extraordinary success. But you're more of a Star Trek go, right?

[00:02:39]

See, I don't believe that you have to fight about these things. I believe should be a Jeep aficionado and can name all of the doctors of the modern era. And they can do the same thing for all of the Star Trek shows. I think that they should peacefully coexist in my universe and they all make me very happy.

[00:02:56]

You see, this is why you succeed as a bipartisan politician. Thank you.

[00:03:03]

When you are called upon to address the nation like that on television.

[00:03:06]

I mean, do you need things to Xenu? Does that terrify you on some level? I mean, that's quite a big deal.

[00:03:11]

I wouldn't say I was terrified. I will say that it's easy for too many voices to get in your head. And there were all of these prognostications about how I would fail because so many people before me had you had gas or slip ups. And, you know, there were a number of think pieces about just how this could make or break my entire future. So I just needed to escape. And there is you know, the TARDIS is a great place to go if you need to get out of somewhere.

[00:03:40]

Oh, tell me about it wholeheartedly. Yeah, because one of the I mean, one of the I'd say the terrifyingly effective things that Donald Trump has managed to do when he's been in public office is undermine sort of the very idea of what truth is really, you know, the idea that it should be it should be a binary thing. And yet he will fluently tell whatever lie he needs to tell in whatever moment he needs to tell it. He will never be consistent in his arguments.

[00:04:09]

And he's he's sort of impossible to shame. So that makes him quite a particularly difficult person to respond to. Is that fair?

[00:04:18]

Well, I think he's he's difficult for those who believe that there has to be this binary notion of what reality is. And in my approach is that the goal is not to shame him. He is not capable of shame, as you point out. But we can remind ourselves of why shame is a part of who we are. We can remind ourselves of what we are willing to accept and what costs we're willing to pay for whatever progress we think we're gaining.

[00:04:47]

And so this notion that either he has to be ashamed of himself or not be ashamed of himself, that's the binary I reject. I don't care how he feels about who he is. He occupies a space as the leader of our country. And it's not about what he sees. It's about what we see and what we receive and how poorly he does his job. And so if he's not capable of holding himself accountable, that doesn't absolve us of the responsibility to remember what we were before his infestation and to project what we can be when he's gone.

[00:05:17]

Right.

[00:05:18]

Infestation, what a great way of putting it.

[00:05:20]

And another of the features that was this whole last decade, really, we've seen encroaching it, but particularly the last four years has been this real entrenchment of ideologies and the chasm between right wing and left wing. It never seems to have been brought. It's true in this country as well, actually, in the UK post Brexit, I think it's something we're all struggling with. But in that in that State of the Union response you talked about, as we've already mentioned, you talked about bipartisanship.

[00:05:46]

You talked about reaching across the aisle. But Thomas, do you find that's almost an unfashionable idea these days?

[00:05:53]

It can be. It people are. I wouldn't say that we are more polarized than we ever have been, but we are more aware of that polarization. Prior to the last 20 years, there was a mitigating force, either we were compelled by single sources of information to at least unify around where we got our knowledge. So back when the BBC and, you know, the networks here in America, when those core networks were the truth tellers, then we all at least.

[00:06:22]

Have the same information, we may have responded differently, but we at least got the same truth or the same shadings, right. And with the advent not only of cable news as a 24 hour cycle, and then you add on top of that social media that allows you to curate your own truths. I think our polarization has just become hardened and we forget that we were never able to do things without working together before that slavery didn't end simply because of one moment.

[00:06:53]

It happened because there were requirements of us all to take action that the civil rights movement required Democrats and Republicans led by Republicans in some fashion and sometimes by Democrats. And so I grew up in the south of American South, where nothing is done if there isn't some degree of cooperation for that progress. And I bring that with me into what I do because I know I'm never going to get everything I want. When I when I stood for leader of my caucus, when I became the head of the Democrats in the Georgia House, I told them I've been a minority for a very long time.

[00:07:28]

I am really good at it. And one of the features of being an effective minority is that you've got to learn to navigate the majority. And that means you've got to learn to navigate ideologies and behaviors that are not your own. And is that an exercise in biting your tongue sometimes you have to choose your moments? Yeah, I wouldn't say biting my tongue. I think politics works best when you don't say everything you're thinking. You can't take back what you call somebody as mama.

[00:07:56]

So you do your job. Your job is to instead be very thoughtful about what needs to be communicated and why. If you're making a point simply to make yourself feel better, it's probably not a necessary point. But if it advances the cause or if it opens up dialogue, my my approach has always been to know what I believe and why I believe it, but to also investigate what my opponent believes and why they believe it. And that doesn't necessarily mean that I bite my tongue as much as it is.

[00:08:28]

I don't talk as much until I know what I'm talking about and who I'm talking to. Right.

[00:08:33]

Good distinction. Yes, you are minority leader in the Georgia House. By definition, being the leader of minority means you're not.

[00:08:40]

You're always going to be on the side that has to strive. I mean, just constant pushing of pushing a boulder up a hill to where you don't you know, I mean, how do you keep going? We're still in the minority, guys, but we got to keep pushing on.

[00:08:54]

Well, one is that I, I set the terms of engagement. I used to joke with my colleagues that minority leader was Latin for lose. Well, like, that was my job. Right. We weren't going to win outright unless we were able to peel off from folks from the majority. And so, yes, there is this sort of, you know, Sisyphus moment where you're pushing the rock up the hill. But there's also the realization that the rock is moving.

[00:09:23]

And I refuse to concede that I wasn't going to reach the top of the hill. But I always acknowledged that it was going to be harder, that there were going to be moments where I slid back down. And if we don't prepare ourselves for that, if we think that there's just going to be this great literary arc where we go from victim to hero, you're doomed to disappointment. Instead, my responsibility was to set the metrics of what success could look like, not on the terms of the victors and not certainly on the terms of majority, but where do we begin, where we trying to go?

[00:09:55]

And then what were the interstitial moments we could use to mark our progress or to reevaluate our approach?

[00:10:02]

And indeed, in that very sense of keeping pushing on twenty eighteen, you resigned from the House to run for governor of Georgia and you came very close. You came much closer than had happened before. You came within 50000 votes.

[00:10:17]

Were you surprised that the result. Now, not surprised, I you know, when you are running against the person who is both in charge of the process, in charge of the scorekeeping, in charge of removing people from the playing field, and that person is also the contestant, you can't be surprised by the outcome. I was I was dismayed and I was angry and I was sad. But surprised was never in the litany.

[00:10:47]

Because you believe you should have won the election. I believe that had the election been fair and had the hundreds of thousands of people denied the right to vote been able to make a choice, I think there's a credible argument that I could have won. I think that when, again, when you're running against the referee, the scorekeeper and the contestant and they win, it does call into question the legitimacy of the outcome. Yes.

[00:11:09]

Well, quite an unusual that, of course, going into you knew the uphill struggle you were facing and you fought a strong, tough, aggressive campaign. You came so close. When you wake up the day after a vote like that and you've given it everything and you've rung yourself dry, do you allow yourself? A moment of despair. So do you have a weak cry? Well, yeah. So we we announced the night of the election around 1:00 a.m., the Associated Press said that they couldn't call the election.

[00:11:45]

I gave a speech to all of our friends who were crowded in the ballroom that we were going to keep fighting to make certain that every vote that was cast got counted and that every person who tried to vote would be, you heard, and that then I went upstairs, probably fell into bed around 2:00 a.m. to 30. I woke up. We had to have a meeting with my team, with my campaign manager, Lauren, and with our lawyers.

[00:12:11]

And we sort of mapped out our next steps. And then I crawled back into the hotel bed, watched sorry to sorry to bother you. And I did I, I cried a little bit. I talked to I talked to my older sister and my youngest brother who had been he wasn't able to be there because he was incarcerated. And it was when I talked to him that it really sort of my equanimity or at least my, you know, Starlite, my stoicism broke.

[00:12:37]

And, yes, I had a weak cry. Sure.

[00:12:41]

Of course. Because of course, because the fight is public, but the cost is personal in some level. Of course it is exactly. Because you have to give of yourself to to make that to. That's what makes it kind of course, doesn't it? That's exactly it. And Brian Kemp, who is now the governor of Georgia, the man you've been referring to, used to be secretary of state and was responsible for some.

[00:13:03]

I would describe them as pretty shocking decisions with regards to purging electoral rolls, rejecting help from the Department of Homeland Security to make sure that a fair election I mean, when you've got that kind of institutionalized corruption working against you. Do you just feel overwhelmed? I mean. Do not have a constant fury at the injustice of this, I like to so you'll notice I do a lot of referential descriptions. So my way of describing my anger is that I'm like Bruce Banner and the first Avengers movie where Captain America says, you know, Bruce, whatever you do to become the Hulk, we need you to do to to do it right now.

[00:13:45]

And he says, Oh, that's my secret. I'm always angry, like I'm always in the Hulk, as always. And I'm always angry about what happened. I'm always deeply infuriated by his theft of, you know, citizens rights to be heard. I am. Livid that this man who took an oath to protect the right to vote, spent eight years being the architect of voter suppression in our state in such a singular fashion that the reverberations continue through, you know, the debacle of an election we had this year.

[00:14:18]

And so, yeah, I'm always angry, but what I've always tried to do is make sure my anger is constructive and not the destructive anger of a hulk, but the constructive anger of using it to fuel the next thing I need to do because I refuse to let evil win. Like, that's that's the bottom line.

[00:14:35]

I'm glad you say that because I'm angry and I'm not you know, I'm miles away and I'm angry all the time, so.

[00:14:41]

And I appreciate it. Yeah, sure. But it's interesting the way you describe it, because it is hard and maybe I'm just coming from my own very particular perspective.

[00:14:51]

But it's hard not to see this as a battle against the good guys and the bad guys. Is that but presumably presumably Brian Kemp doesn't wake up in the morning and think I'm a villain.

[00:15:01]

Presumably he thinks he's doing this for some greater good or for some I mean, I, I I'm the daughter of not one but two pastors. And their their work is the soul of the souls of people. I presume he has one. I'm not sure how it's constructed because this is the same man who just yesterday in the United States, in one of the states facing a surge of covid, overrode mayors across 15 cities and told them that they cannot mandate masks despite the fact that their populations are facing a rise in covid crises of rising covid deaths.

[00:15:42]

I cannot speak to whether his issue is that he has some singular notion of what should be good and that's what he's following. Or if he's just deeply incompetent and malevolent, I don't know, because he makes choices that cause harm to the very people he's supposed to support. And I do not know how to reconcile that with someone who believes that they are actually serving a greater good. Yes. Yes, quite.

[00:16:11]

And yet is it important, you think, to try and get inside the mindset of of your opponent to try and understand that?

[00:16:19]

Or is it just impossible to do well to to do another reference? It's like trying to get inside the mind of the master when the fracturing is happening, like you could get lost in there and. Right. And while there may be some tragic story that explains the bad behavior, the reality of leadership is that you don't get to lean into that. You don't get the luxury of living out your troubled past or your emotional infirmities by inflicting harm on others.

[00:16:48]

When you are in charge, your responsibility is to sublimate your personal needs on behalf of those that you have been called to represent and to serve. And it's that failure, that breaking of trust that infuriates me. I as a human, I wish him well. And I hope, you know, as I said about Donald Trump in the State of the Union, I pray for them. I pray that they become better versions of themselves. But that doesn't absolve them of the perfidy and bad action and the way they create harm for so many so often.

[00:17:25]

Hey, Georgia, hi, David. One of the best things about making this podcast is getting to hang out and learn from some very inspiring people.

[00:17:31]

When you say, are you talking about me? Well, obviously, I'm always learning from you. But also, you know, people like Stacey Abrams and Judi Dench and Gordon Brown and, you know, some very inspiring individuals.

[00:17:44]

OK, I'll give you that. Actually, really interesting to hear how professional creative people help each other develop and grow, isn't it?

[00:17:51]

Yes. And something has been really important for many of my guests and something that Skillshare can help listeners with as well. It's an online learning community with a whole host of amazing classes. Actually, you can explore new skills, deepen existing passions and get lost in creativity. Oh, and what sort of classes do they offer?

[00:18:09]

Oh, Skillshare is everything from illustration, design, creative writing, marketing, freelancing.

[00:18:14]

They have classes in animation and love to learn how to be an animator when you would actually be creative writing.

[00:18:21]

They've got skills. Your members get unlimited access to thousands of classes with hands on projects and feedback from a community of millions they are sponsoring.

[00:18:29]

David Tennant does a podcast with them. Yes, and offering our listeners two months free membership at Skillshare dot com slash tenent, which is even nicer of them. I think that is really good.

[00:18:41]

I think lots of your curious and creative listeners will love that. Exactly.

[00:18:45]

Explore your creativity at Skillshare dot com slash tenent and get two free months of premium membership. You've written a book called Our Time is Now, which is all about what needs to be done to to swing the balance of power in the US to achieve a fairer society. And it's it's very positive and optimistic and and also pragmatic. I was very struck by the by the way, you acknowledged that the legislative victories or shifts in public perceptions don't necessarily lead to overnight changes in how things happen and that that journey to a better place is a slow one.

[00:19:18]

And you have a phrase winning doesn't always mean you get the prize. It's a you know, it can be an incremental thing, which strikes me as very, very, very true and very perceptive. But also the moment we're in right now, I'm talking to you, mid-July, 2020, the election that is less than four months away in your country now is urgent and is now unless the prize really is needed this time, isn't it? Absolutely.

[00:19:46]

Is Joe Biden going to win? Yes, but we have to work. And that's the whole point. The point is. There is an exigency to this moment that is unlike anything that preceded it, but there's also the benefit and the harm of having institutions, of having systems that systems don't change just because you will. It's so. The world doesn't reorganize itself around a moment, it takes time because even if you get a flash of of transformation, there will always be something that pushes it back and so is as ignominious as the behavior of Donald Trump has been.

[00:20:26]

There have been correctives all along the way, not enough to undo what he's done, but enough to mitigate his harm and the same thing happens with the pursuit of good. There will be mitigation of that good because evil doesn't go away simply because you defeat it on one front. And my view my admonition is we've got to remember we've been fighting these battles in the U.S. for more than two centuries and there is no savior coming for us. There is no moment of salvation where all will be well and we will lock arms.

[00:20:55]

We've seen and even the most idyllic countries these moments of retrenchment or the surge of wrong. And so I believe Joe Biden will win. I believe we can make certain that happens. But there are so many things we have to do to make that so. So it's not enough that people want him to when it's not enough that we want Trump to go, we have to do the work to get there. And that was the point of the book.

[00:21:19]

We have all the tools. Our time is now. We've got all the things we need. But if we don't use them, then we don't win.

[00:21:25]

And what happens to America if Biden doesn't win in November? I mean, how scared should we be of what Trump will do next?

[00:21:33]

I have a vast and vivid imagination. I cannot predict. But I will tell you what I know. I know this is a man who has done his best to weaponize almost every facet of our democracy, to serve his personal ends and the ends of his cronies. I know this is a man who idolizes strongmen and authoritarians and has done his best to undermine the democratic values and processes of our country. I know that his allies in every stage and every level of government have abandoned their allegiance and fealty to democracy in pursuit of their own private ends.

[00:22:13]

And some of it's driven by avarice for money, and others are driven by avarice for power. But what terrifies me is that if we do not thwart their advance, we have not seen a sufficient number of people willing to actually do good to believe we can survive with the 50 year history of American leadership that we have seen and that we will succumb, unfortunately, to the same fates that have befallen other strong democracies that have just crumbled in the last 20 years.

[00:22:49]

So you do fear for the end of democracy in America. And it's this is the moment we're facing.

[00:22:54]

Yeah. And I know it sounds hyperbolic, but we have to do something. But I think we have to remember Turkey was a was a an enviable democracy. Sure. A decade ago, Hungary was, you know, a shining star of how you emerged from communism and embrace who you are. We just want to do to get re-elected in Poland. And the likelihood that they will become a full fledged strongman state is huge. And so this notion that we are impervious because we're America is deeply problematic to me, because authoritarianism doesn't care about your continent.

[00:23:31]

It doesn't care about your history. It cares about your willingness to block its progress and when it's driven by this kind of illiberal populism. Our urgency has to begin last year and the year before that, and we just haven't seen it happen, and how much of what you do and the passions that you have was learnt from your parents?

[00:23:55]

My parents raised us to believe that if you see problems, you fix them. They raised us to believe that poverty is wrong and that we have a personal responsibility to tackle it, that justice is right. And your role is to interfere and intercede and do what you can. There was always a narrative in our household that here's what good looks like. We would watch the evening news. We would talk about the news of the day or you would write, oh yeah, we.

[00:24:22]

And they would take us with them to vote. They would take us to protests. We you know, we protested apartheid and we did soup kitchens and homeless shelters. And this is all while we sometimes had no running water, sometimes let's get put off. We were working poor. So their commitment wasn't purely selfless. It was you don't just do for yourself. You do for others. Because there but for the grace of God go you. So we're going to do things for everybody else.

[00:24:45]

And my dad's very terse way of saying it was, you know, having nothing is no excuse for doing nothing. So you got to be a part of it. And. Right. It worked at my indoctrination was complete. Right.

[00:24:58]

And you're the second of six children. Did you love being part of a big family? Was that good or was it did you enjoy that community or did you want your own space or both?

[00:25:06]

I mean, I'm an introvert. So, you know, growing up in a house that was not designed for eight people, certainly not six children, was you know, it required that I carve out my own space. Sometimes I would go and sit in a closet so I could read and just not have to talk to any people. We had this very like my parents told us, your job is to take care of each other. And we are all still very close.

[00:25:29]

We have a monthly book club, right? We we we we believe in one another. And so I could not imagine not having them as siblings. I mean, look, I would like to say I was about 15 before I realized a Snickers really could satisfy because I didn't have to divide it up with everybody. And like having a whole candy bar to yourself was a revelatory moment. I am I am truly, truly grateful for having the siblings that I have.

[00:25:56]

I think I mentioned to you earlier, you know, my it was my sisters. We all fell in love with Doctor Who and then my youngest sister. We indoctrinated her later. And it was one of our family traditions, the kids we would watch Doctor Who on Saturdays when PBS would run it. Right. And it was like one of those moments where we could all just sort of be together, no matter how hard the world was outside.

[00:26:18]

There was a space in this place we could travel to and this fun adventure we could engage in. And being able to do that, not simply by myself, but to have, you know, come comrades who travel with me in these moments was extraordinary. Yeah.

[00:26:33]

I mean, looking after six kids is a lot where your parents where they they started extraordinary. But were they strict? Was it it or. They were right.

[00:26:40]

So we had three rules. Did a church go to school, take care of each other? We were each assigned. Each of the older three were assigned a younger three. So I was assigned my brother Richard. Andrea was assigned Janine because she was the baby. And, you know, she would be the least likely to drop her. And Leslie was assigned to Walter, who was the the fifth. So we were each assigned a child. That meant you made sure they got up in the morning.

[00:27:00]

They did their homework, they got dressed, they got in trouble. You had to be sure that they survive that trouble. So if you got into a fight, make sure you win it because you were both going to get in trouble when you got home.

[00:27:11]

Oh, that's great. I have five kids, so I could almost get that. You can't that's not a bad idea.

[00:27:15]

And I'm sure there's one kid who probably needs two people assigned. Yes. And it's probably the eighteen year old who probably would have to buy all the young ones.

[00:27:25]

Oh, that's great. Yes, I might I might look into that as a way of working things is very efficient.

[00:27:31]

And you were born in Madison, Wisconsin. You moved to Gulfport, Mississippi. And what kind of communities were those? You said you were working poor, so there wasn't a lot of money. No.

[00:27:41]

So when we were in Wisconsin, my mom was finishing up graduate school. And so I think things were modestly OK. My dad worked full time. My mom was in grad school. She had fellowships. She worked at the library. And then we moved back to Mississippi when I was three. And we did we lived in this modest community called the College Park subdivision. We lived on Twenty Twenty South Street. And it was those little postage stamp house that was not designed for eight people.

[00:28:10]

But my parents made it. Right.

[00:28:11]

Yeah. And then you moved to. To Georgia and both your parents became ordained in the ministry. Yes, at the same time, they both sort of retrained or.

[00:28:24]

Yeah. So my dad had been ordained as a Baptist preacher when he was in his early 20s, but he never meant he never had a church. And in the Baptist tradition, it was much more just the acknowledging is calling. My mom really resisted for a long time because she was raised in the Baptist tradition in the South, which said that God doesn't call women to be ministers, even though all of her life, what we watched her do, both in terms of her social engagement, but also in our religious upbringing.

[00:28:55]

And I'd say this my parents may not become ministers until they were in their 40s, but they were always preachers. And so when they both accepted their call, we moved to Methodism. We become Methodist and converted my dad. He'd grown up in both the Methodist and the Baptist Church because his parents were a mixed denomination family. So we became Methodists when I was 12 and then by the time I was 15, they both accepted their calling. But because they believe in education so much, they refused to just go into the ministry.

[00:29:28]

They said we need to we need to learn. And so they both applied to Emory University and were admitted to the camera school of theology. And we moved there when I was 15 and they were both 40.

[00:29:37]

Right. I was a child of a minister, too. I didn't do that with the Church of Scotland Presbyterian. Yeah. Did you feel as that? Well, having both parents as as ministers, did you feel that you were expected to behave in a certain way? Were you scrutinised by the community as the. Oh, as the child of the of the ministers?

[00:30:01]

We were scrutinised before that, so it just finally formalized it. OK, my parents were very strict. They were not not in a. Puritanical way, but in a very like, their expectations of our behavior, their expectations of our our comportment, we were never going to be the children that they had to go and check on at school. Like if mom and dad got called to the school, it should be to get an award for you. It should not be because they have to explain their behavior.

[00:30:28]

And we know we all have perfect attendance. We were all pretty, pretty good academically. And then when we moved to Georgeann, they became pastors. You know, again, there was there was a sense of obligation. I was actually out of school. I was in college by the time they were practicing ministers. So my younger siblings really experienced that more than I did. But their indoctrination, again, indoctrination is the word I'm using apparently today.

[00:30:52]

But they're they're they're molding of my character. It pretty much set. So by the time I got to college, I behaved like a double piqué, whether, you know, it was official or not.

[00:31:01]

How much of a parallel do you recognize in the life of a preacher? In the life of a politician?

[00:31:07]

I am sorry. I will say this. I think I think the church is one of the most political organizations in the world. And as you likely know, and so this notion that there is some distance is a bit of a farce. Right? It's just, you know, if you're on the political side. It's a much clearer set of rules that are broken, right, right, and and the expectations are different. I teased my parents when I became a politician, I said, you know, I want to get as far away from them as I could.

[00:31:41]

I'm a tax attorney and a politician. I've done all the things you're not supposed to do. Do you did you always have, do you think, one eye on a public life in the future that meant. The choices you were making growing up would be scrutinized. Or did it come out of the blue? No, I'm I was a nerd by nature. I was introverted, which meant I didn't stray too far from the rules. I was frustrated by watching my parents who would take us with them to do this good work.

[00:32:14]

And my frustration was, how were two people and their six kids going to fix the broken economics of Mississippi? How are they going to fix poverty? And my parents, when I would inquire, they said, look, that's what government is supposed to do. So probably the most forward thinking moment I had was I need to understand this government thing because it's clearly not working here. And that was really much more of my driver than this notion that one day I would run for public office.

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So what did you think you would do when you were growing up? What did you imagine? You'd imagine you'd end up.

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I want to be a psychologist. I wanted to be a physicist. I want to go to space. I want to be a writer. I want to be a singer. I want to be an actor. I had like multiple lives laid out for me. And when I got to college, I tried most of them out and realized, no, not so much OK. But the one that stuck was my my focus on political science and economics and sociology.

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And that really shaped my realization by my junior year of college that I was going to pursue a path that involved being in government. I didn't know what job it would be, but I knew I wanted to be in government. I thought I'd be mayor of Atlanta. That was probably that was the highest that was the highest job I'd ever seen a black person hold other than write two women in Congress. And I didn't want to go to Congress. And so that was about as big as my ambition was.

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But I was always open to more running for any kind of public office.

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You do have to surrender a little bit of anonymity and privacy, don't you? Did did that give you pause? OK. Oh yeah. Because you describe yourself as an introvert, which is. So that's an interesting choice, isn't it.

[00:33:49]

It's a terrible choice. It is. There's nothing more Ensenat than being an introverted politician. And I called my two closest friends when I got ready to run for office. And my friend Barling laughed for like five minutes straight. I think she just paused to take a breath. And my friend will just sort of said, You do know what that job requires. You know, you can't run in secret. And my sisters all, you know, they they were skeptical, but they understood that I was going to do it and they agreed to support it.

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But they also recognized that I was just going to need loads of downtime. And we just I sort of had to figure out how to have a public persona. Yes. But maintain my privacy.

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How are you on work life balance? I think it's a lie. OK, I describe it as work life. Jenga work life balance is a lie told by someone selling something because it doesn't happen. Instead, you're just balancing all these pieces and you're hoping the whole thing doesn't come tumbling down and you're carefully trying to pull out the piece you need at that moment and restacking it and hoping that equilibrium saves you and that you know. But the reality is the whole thing's going to come crashing down and then you just have to build it again.

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Yes, I think that's very honest. You've actually you've been you've been uncharacteristically honest for a politician, someone you talked to.

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But I think you've talked about things like, well, you've already mentioned that your brother spent some time in jail, that he struggled with some issues. You've talked in public about having been in debt, not something that politicians often do. And yet something I imagine would connect with an awful lot of people because it's such a common experience. Was that a very conscious decision to go there or did you just think, I'm going to get this out there before other people do?

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It was both.

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I mean, so I never talked about most of these things during my tenure as leader because it didn't come up or it wasn't relevant. I don't believe in using my personal information or my family's information to make a point, but just for the sake of it. So I could have used it to, you know, tug at heart strings to get things done. My responsibility was to exhaust every other methodology before I brought them into it. But when I got ready to run for governor, two things collided.

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One was that I needed people to trust me. I did not look like what they were used to. I did not share the characteristics of anyone who had ever done this job. And it is disingenuous not to acknowledge that sometimes people need you to let them know why it's going to work. So there was one piece and the second was a lot of the challenges I'd face. We're going to be weaponized against me and or my family and in particular my brother.

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So I talked to Walter and said, look, I'm going to be doing this thing. I think there is a like a high likelihood they're going to try to use you to shame you and to shame me. And I'm not ashamed of you, but I also recognize that this is your life. So can I tell your story? And to his credit, he said yes. And I said, I'm going to talk about all of it. And he said, yes, you can do that.

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And that meant a lot to me. When it came to my dad, I talked to my parents because to explain the debt, I would have to talk about their lives. And so I got their permission to talk about the role that I played economically for them for about 20 years. And they were kind enough to say, OK, that's that's something we know you need to do so you can do it. What are they making of all this?

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What do your parents make of you running for governor and all the all the stuff that you're doing?

[00:37:18]

They're very proud in their different ways. Like, my dad is very gregarious and extroverted and but he's also he's he's got the sort of Hulk message from him, like my dad, always angry about injustice that has driven him. He was arrested at the age of 14, helping register people to vote because Jim Crow made him mad. And so I get that from him. I get the equanimity and the stoicism from my mom. But she also she's always angry, too, but she's always more cerebral about how she's going to process that anger.

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And so I think for both of them, they are excited for me, but in different ways. My dad gets mad for me. My mom worries for me.

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And what are your ambitions as you because right now you're not in an elected office. You decided not to run for a Senate seat. Right. Why did you decide that? Because that in some ways that would be the obvious next step, wouldn't it?

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Yeah, if my ambition was to be in successive political offices. That's next step. OK, that's not my goal. My goal is to tackle these problems. I really think poverty is the defining issue of our society, both U.S. and globally, that hamstrings the kind of progress we like to speak about. You address poverty, you address environmental crises, you address poverty, you address health care. Poverty is this fulcrum around which so much goes wrong. And if we tackle it and address it, justice becomes much more viable and persistent.

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And so that's my mission. What I've always done is try to find the best place from which to address it. And when it meant being in the legislature, that's what I did. When it meant running for governor, that's what I did. When it meant starting organizations. That's what I do. I, I don't necessarily care about the title. I care about being able to do the work. And for me, the Senate is an indirect way to address the issues.

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I see I, I believe in building systems. I like I like the direct action of an executive. But I was in the legislature because I don't think you can be good as an executive if you don't understand how the legislative process works. Having been in the Georgia House under a Republican dominion and particularly under Southern Republican Dominion, I believe I've learned what I needed to learn about that branch of government. I think it's a scalable issue. So I don't think I have to be in the Senate to learn how to be president, to put it that way.

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But I've learned enough about the legislative process that it really is about understanding the process, understanding of relationships and knowing how to navigate those spaces, which I think I became pretty adept at. So one day I will run for president, probably. Right. But I'm not going to run because that's the title I want next. It's that's a if I want to tackle these issues, that is the job that has the broadest scope of capacity for the work I want to do.

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The Senate does not have the it doesn't it doesn't do the things I need it to do for it to make sense for me to do that job. And by not running for the Senate, I may have hamstrung my ability to one day run for president, and I'll deal with that when it happens. But in the interim, I've started the organizations I needed to start to continue to tackle the issues I care about. If I want democracy to be persistent, I'm doing the work of your fight.

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If I want the census to provide the appropriate inputs to support communities, I start an organization for that. And I started the Southern Economic Advancement Project so I can continue to work on the policies that matter to me, especially building economic power for the disadvantaged.

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You have let it be known that you're very willing to be considered as Joe Biden's running mate for for vice president this this November. By the time this podcast is out, we may know how that's worked out, but presumably that involves a sort of fairly intimate vetting process that you go through.

[00:41:12]

What's happened?

[00:41:13]

Like, I will leave all questions about vetting to Vice President Biden and his team. OK, OK, very, very different. You are a politician, aren't you? I see that. That's very good.

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I'm presuming I'm hoping that you might be interested in any. Well, perhaps not any, but you might be interested in in a role in a potential Biden government if please God, it comes to pass.

[00:41:36]

I, I am interested in the roles that will help me continue to do the work I need to do. But I, I am always skeptical about taking positions because they are the next rung on the hierarchy. That to me is an irrelevant reason. To do something so you'd be choosy? Well, I'd be particular because sure, because I don't love I don't love politics. I am not one of those people who. I don't get my identity from that, which is why do so many completely disparate things I'm a writer.

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I love writing, but I'm not a writer. If that if you said if you were to ask me what my profession is, I would never write down writer. But I've written I've written 11 books. Yes.

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A range of books. I Zerlina Montgomery. Yeah. If you were to ask me about my profession, I say I'm a serial entrepreneur. I mean, I've started a products company and a fintech company and I was a consultant on complex infrastructure projects like desalination and reclamation of water reservoirs. But I wouldn't tell you I'm an infrastructure expert like I. I do the things I think I need to do to advance the causes I care about. And I use the platform that is the most feasible for that moment.

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So if in that moment there is a a position within the Biden administration that makes sense for the work I think I need to do, then I would be honored to be considered. But there may not be one that makes the most sense for me. And if that's if there isn't a natural fit, I'm not going to take it simply because that would be a great thing to tick off on my resume.

[00:43:13]

Right. And do you find it an organization called Fair Fight 2020 to fight voter suppression to drive previously on Registered Voters to the ballot box. I mean, how worried are you that the the presidential election that's coming could be stolen from the Democrats by nefarious means?

[00:43:32]

Is that a real threat? Absolutely, I mean, Mitch McConnell refuses to acknowledge the threat of foreign interference and thus has not authorized the the scope and scale of response that we need, given how vicious cyber insecurity and foreign interference can be. Donald Trump is spending all of his time trying to scare people about the utility of vote by mail, which in the midst of a pandemic is the safest way to cast your ballot. But he's even poor at that because he has claimed that he doesn't trust mail in ballots, but does trust and support absentee ballots, which are exactly the same things.

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It's the way you mail in your ballot is by receiving an absentee ballot, which demonstrates again the the ratio of incompetence and malevolence are just almost even. What's different this time is that they are desperate and they're desperate because they can count. They know the demographic changes happening in the country, the failures of a Trump administration, the. Just the sheer exhaustion of the last four years does not bode well for them, but they also understand that this is not just about Donald Trump, that if you go all the way down the ballot, if you go to the lowest levels of government, there is a seepage effect of this distaste.

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And it can, when coupled with the demographic changes, can change the entire political profile of our country. And they will do anything in their power to stop it, because the only alternative they have is to alter their ideology, which they are refusing to do. And I understand if you have a fealty to an ideology, you would rather block access than change belief. But that's not right. And so what we do on our side for the first time, Democrats have organized ourselves to actually understand, investigate and address what this what is to come.

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It's the first time, I would argue, in 20 years that we've had a valuable conversation about voter suppression, not a whispered conversation where we say, well, don't say it too loud because you might scare people. My mission has been we're going to shout it from the rooftops because you can't fight an enemy. You don't know what's coming. Sure. How much do you allow yourself to dream? How much do you dare yourself to be optimistic? How much do you allow?

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I mean, I'm not an optimist. I consider myself an a militarist. I my job is to mitigate harm. My very crass way of putting it is the glass is half full. It's just probably poisoned.

[00:46:12]

Oh, that's bleak. Well, but it's still half full. So my job is to find the antidote. I believe we can win this election. Yeah, but I believe they're going to cheat. That's the poison. So my job is to find the antidote, not to worry about whether it's poisoned or not, but to assume it is, but to also assume I'm going to get thirsty. And so I'm going to have to solve for that problem.

[00:46:31]

And that means that I do dream. I just dream recognizing that it is a dream and that it's my responsibility to do the work to make that dream reality. So you've got to you've got so much to do. We've got to let you go. You're remarkable. And I'm so glad you're out there fighting the fight.

[00:46:48]

We all watch from this country, crossing all our fingers and taking a very deep breath as we can, that that you and people like you are going to save America and bring it back to something that resembles democracy. Thank you for all you're doing. Thank you for taking the time today. It means so much to me. Really appreciate it.

[00:47:06]

Well, on behalf of myself, Andrea, Leslie and Janine, we love you. We think not just not just you as the tenth doctor, but love. Good omen. Thank you. Wonderful. And I'm just honored to have been invited to share some time with your sisters.

[00:47:21]

They're brilliant. They have such good taste. I will do so. Have a fantastic day out there. Thank you so much for taking the time.

[00:47:45]

David Tennant does a podcast with his Are Something Else and No Mystery production produced and edited by Zooey Edwards, additional production from Harriet Wells, Sarah CamNet, Steve Akerman and George Tenet. The sound engineer was Josh Gibson. The executive producer is Christina. Next time you've been very candid over the years that although it was a wonderful time, there were tensions within your group of actors, now it got more and more intense.

[00:48:22]

David, how do I put it?

[00:48:24]

It began from the TV series. There was one character whose charisma and who is mystery was like a magnet. It was Spock, the strange alien with pointy ears, and that intrigued the audience and women thought. I'm the one who can rouse him and his fan letter count soared, but the titular star, Captain James T. Kirk, his fan letters were this many and Leonard's was that many. And that created a tension, right.