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This is Jenny Garth and Tori Spelling, and we're doing a podcast, and it's called to o m g. You believe it's been 30 years, 30 years since what? Since we started.
Now to another. Oh, man. Since I graced you with my friendship. That means you're old. She's a year older, by the way. Listen to nine to one OMG on the I Heart radio app, on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcast.
Welcome to Had a Citizen with Baratunde, a show where we reimagine the word citizen as a verb and remind ourselves how to wield our collective power.
This year, twenty twenty, the name Ebrahim Ex Candy has become very popular, you might remember that period this summer when the top selling books in the US went from How to Bake Salado Bread to how to be an anti-racist. Dr Kennedy wrote How to be an Antiracist.
But before the coronavirus landed in the US way back on January 7th of this year, I was focused on another piece by Dr. Kindi, an article in the Atlantic called The Other Swing Voter. Here's an excerpt. The common conception of the swing voter is one who shifts between voting Republican and voting Democrat, the center right or center left voters are typically white and older. Meanwhile, people of color and young people, and especially young people of color, are more likely than white people and older people to swing between voting Democrat and not voting or voting third party.
These are America's other swing voters, others, because they are typically young and not white, other because they are hardly recognize that the table of political agency. Others, because they are primarily recognized at the table of political shame when they don't vote. Other because Americans refuse to recognize how voter suppression and depression affect their agency. I wanted to talk about these other swing voters, and since twenty sixteen new infrastructure has allowed grassroots organizations to engage these voters or non voters in new ways that include building long term relationships and investing in the political education of people we all too often ignore, this election could see the largest percentage of voter turnout ever, and that's due in large part to the work of organizations like Voto Latino, run by Maria Teresa Kumar, who we had on this show in Episode 10.
It's also due to the work of smaller groups, local groups on the ground, groups like Black Leaders Organizing Communities, a.k.a. Block in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I got a chance to speak with Angela Lang, bloc's executive director, who's been laying the foundation in Milwaukee since twenty seventeen. I wanted to understand what has changed between twenty sixteen and today, why Block has had such success in engaging with nonvoters in their community and how they're preparing for November 3rd and beyond.
My name is Angela Lange and I am the founder and executive director of Black Black Leaders Organizing for Communities based in Milwaukee, and we are a year round civic engagement organization, making sure that people understand the political process and how they get involved and understand the agency that they have to make a change in their own community.
Can you tell me the story of why you created Block, why whatever existed didn't feel like enough to you?
Yeah. So in 2016 it was a heartbreak for us, one, the outcome of the election. But then also in the weeks afterwards, everyone was pointing the finger at us, specifically black folks. And if, you know, if those blacks would have just shown up, we wouldn't be in this situation. Those were exact quotes of what we were hearing, the micro aggressions, the problematic language.
And it was very frustrating to hear when you say that you saw those blacks in Milwaukee specifically or in Wisconsin or Milwaukee specifically.
But I think people generally were targeting the black community and the black vote in the state of Wisconsin. But a lot of times people know that they're they're using code for specifically Milwaukee, which is the largest concentration of black folks in the state of Wisconsin. And so it was incredibly frustrating and hurtful to know that we are some of the most disenfranchised and least engaged. But yet we were to blame for the outcome of this election. And it was important for us to not wait for a candidate, a party or an elected official to engage us.
We were going to do that work ourselves and that we were going to train folks from the community to have conversations about political process, how to get involved, what's the difference between a state senator and a US senator and the difference between city government and county government? And how can we actually make a change based off of the issues that we care about? And so we wanted to really kind of build something that I think was missing a little bit in 2016.
And so we've been working, you know, the last almost three years for this moment. But we're so much more than elections. We want to make sure that we're engaging people in between election cycles, caring about issues, bringing community members together. Last summer, we were able to do a lot of cookouts, a lot of barbecues just to bring neighbors together to talk about their issues, just to do something positive in the community.
How did you get into this work? Angela, what's your background? I didn't intend to. I will say that my family knew long before I did. I always thought I was going to be a doctor. I said I wanted to do Doctors Without Borders. That's what I entered college. As in my undergrad. I was like, I'm going to be a premed major. And I've always been fond of politics. I always been, like, more active.
I was the nerd. I was class president and middle school. Right. I was that like nerdy person is what is like a middle school class president's duties. Oh, you organize the dinners, you organize the canned food drive, you do that type of stuff. And I was always really interested in it, but I didn't think I would make a career out of it and I didn't know what organizing was. And then I was doing a lot of nonpartisan work on campus.
A lot of you know, no, you're right. Making sure that students have the correct I.D. to vote a lot of just nonpartisan voter registration. And then in 2010, when Scott Walker was elected governor, that really kind of shifted things. If folks remember, there are lots of protests in the capital. We slept over in the Capitol. I still remember that cold linoleum floor in Madison. I remember protesting not just for student rights, but for rights of workers and collective bargaining and seeing the student movement kind of really converge with the labor movement.
And that's really where I got a crash course in organizing. My first job out of college was for the Service Employees International Union. When I was at SEIU. The whole goal was to get in the door, have a conversation and to learn how people view themselves politically, too. And I learned a lot that people were like, oh, I'm not political. But yet we had just had a forty five minute conversation about how child care should be free, how, yes, we should raise the minimum wage.
I want to talk about black folks and assumptions with elections because my observation experience has been, you know, a politician rolls through every four years, maybe every two in this sort of church plate passing mode. And you'll deposit your votes here, please. And you have been using this phrase of year round engagement. How is Bloks model different from the type of voter mobilization we're used to seeing, experiencing or reading about in terms of the black community?
Yeah, I think in a lot of senses, our level of engagement is incredibly different. We're trying to switch this model on its head. I think a lot of times candidates, as you mentioned, come in a couple of weeks or a couple of months before an election and say, hey, vote for me. And we haven't seen you since the last time you said, hey, vote for me. We don't know what you did. We don't know why you actually deserve our votes.
And so we're trying to flip that model and say, you want our vote, come get our vote. We want to make sure that you're talking to us. You have an understanding of our issues and you are engaging in. And having a deep, meaningful conversation and building that trust in our community, and that's not something you can do a month or so before an election. And so what we try to do is that we want to kind of center that community power in something that we also try to note as well, is that there are people who haven't had their voting rights restored yet, unfortunately, but they deserve a conversation.
They deserve listening to their issues just like anyone else should. And so I'm proud to say that in twenty nineteen we had three presidential candidates visit us and knock doors with us. We had folks engaged with us in 2019 because they understood that you cannot just come in in October of twenty twenty making your first rounds of introductions to us and thinking that's going to be enough.
What is it like for the black Milwaukee resident to have a full year before an election or even more someone knock on their door and ask them what their concerns are, what their dreams are, what their fears are?
I think it's a huge difference. There are times that people don't even get that Dornoch, let alone if they do one that ask them what they care about, what their hopes are, what their dreams are, what it looks like for our communities to thrive. There are folks shortly after we've started knocking in twenty eighteen that said, I've lived in this house five, 10 years and you're the first person to knock on my door. We exclude people so much because they're not seen as the regular voter and they just don't get that touch at all.
And we want to make sure that we're spending our time talking to the folks that are being left behind, being able to have those conversations on a year round basis. I tell folks that we have to have three separate conversations. On one hand, we want to turn a non-voter into a voter after, you know, we have that really big conversation. That's not an easy conversation. Then we want to make sure that people understand the political process and where they fit in.
They understand why they're voting for someone for the state Supreme Court, because they understand what the state Supreme Court does. We want them to understand the broader process. And then lastly, we want them to vote for the candidates that we think are advocating the most for our communities. So these are three separate conversations that we can't start to have around this time. Know three weeks before an election, it takes a lot to move people from being a non-voter to a voter.
There are people that say that they are skeptical. They don't think that their voice or their vote even matters. Those are big conversations and we don't believe that you should shame people for not voting. There is a reason and we want to get to the core of that reason. Let's have the conversation. Why are you a non-voter? Why do you think it's not important for you to have your voice heard? Are there other ways that we can get you to be civically engaged so you see how the process works and hopefully at some point that process for you does include voting.
And so we want to meet people where they're at and have those honest conversations. And I think that's something that a lot of times organizations don't have time to do or just don't prioritize how they're having those conversations.
What have you learned as the main reasons people remain in that non-voter category? And what have been some of the more effective ways of helping move them into the voter category?
Yeah, I think the biggest thing that I've learned over the last several years, even before I joined Block, is that people aren't apathetic. And I think there's this idea that if you don't vote, then you must not care. You must be apathetic. And there hasn't been a person that I talked to that said, I'm apathetic, I just don't care. They have issues that they care about. They may not see how those issues relate in a broader political sense of voting, but everybody cares about something.
And it's on us to make sure that we're getting to the heart of what that is. And I think, you know, that's something that's very beautiful and special. And I tell people all the time, this is my favorite part of the job, is that I get a chance to be able to bear witness and play a small role. And that light bulb going off on people, understanding the agency that they have in a political system that often tells us that we don't have any to have people understand how to make their voice heard in the city budget hearing, for example, or to sit in front of a presidential candidate and said, what are you going to do for my community?
You need to listen to me. And they may not even have their voting rights restored yet, but they still have that power and are able to claim and take up that space. And I think that's really what's super important for us. And I think that's something also, too, that I'm very proud of as well.
What's on the minds of the people in the black Milwaukee community? What are the issues? What are you learning when you knock doors and engage with folks? Yeah, I think what's the most fascinating about this particular cycle is that people are experiencing the effects of the federal government and know that the federal government is to blame for some of the issues that they're experiencing right now. If people are having a hard time dealing with the effects of covid, whether that's financially or that's due to mental health, they know who to blame.
And I think a lot of times the federal government feels very far removed from our issues. We don't always feel the impact right away unless you're paying attention very closely and watching C-SPAN all day, every day. But people know now. When those benefits ran out, they knew it was Congress that was stalled and not able to pass another package to extend those unemployment benefits, if there's another, you know, stimulus and people are able to get another 12 hundred dollar check.
People know it is their congressperson that is doing these negotiations in addition to this current administration. So we're actually watching things play out in real time and in ways that we haven't really seen before. So a lot of the issues, whether it's financially or anything that's related to covid, I think is immediately on folks minds. And also, you know, people care about things like health care. You know, I think a lot of times people don't think of health care as a black issue.
And I tell folks all the time, like, yes, you know, mass incarceration is something that is intimately connected to our community in ways that are different from other communities. But we also care about education and things like health care and those, quote, mainstream issues. We also care about them as well.
You use this phrase earlier, and I think maybe it's a question you ask people. What would it mean for your community to thrive? Mm hmm. Could you tell me about the origin of that question? I've done door to door just for some context. I've been sent out by campaigns and I've got a checklist. And it's like, what do you think about this? How would you rate your feelings? Like a door to door pollster? And I've never been asked to ask someone, what would it take for their community to thrive?
So what's the origin of that question and what are you learning in terms of the answers?
Yeah, we knew immediately based off of twenty sixteen that we wanted to do things differently. And one of those things was really digging deep and building trust. And that also means getting to know what people care about. I think there's a lot of times we run polls, you know, we think that we know we're making these assumptions. Oh, we know the black community. They only care about criminal justice because half of them are locked up. Right.
Like we make these assumptions all the time without actually asking people what do they care about? We try to sell them on things. We knock on their door and say, hey, you know, vote for this person and sign this petition, come join me doing X. But how many times do we knock a door and say, hey, what do you care about? And so we knew that we needed to build trust as a new organization and we wanted to establish those relationships.
So we started when we knock doors in November of twenty seventeen and we just opened up with that question, what is it look like for the black community to thrive? And people were looking at us crazy. They were skeptical. They were like, what do you really want and why are you really here? And we said, no, we want to hear about what are the issues that matter to you the most. And people struggle because they weren't used to even thinking about thriving, let alone ask that question from a stranger.
A lot of times in our community, we're trying to survive day to day, hoping that interactions from the police don't end up in us being murdered, that we can, you know, like last that extra one hundred dollars to provide for our family. And so we get paid on Friday. You know, those are those things. And so it provides us an opportunity to to think about our dreams, to think about the world that we want to live in.
And there are times people say, well, I think we need a speed bump and we're like, OK, let's get you to speed bump. I don't know if that's driving, but let's get to that speed bump and let's have a conversation that you feel that your community isn't being invested in the same way that other suburbs are. Maybe that's a bigger issue. Let's have that conversation as well, in addition to getting you that speed bump. So we've heard everything from really micro level issues to really macro level issues and how people really want to get involved and advocate for their neighborhoods, too.
And once you unlock that, once you've got people sharing their dreams and their hopes and their thrive manifestos, what happens with all that energy?
Yeah, so one of the big things that translated out of that was there are now black agenda. So we had been having these conversations in the field for so long. Last year, we said we wanted to make sure that we're consolidating what we're hearing. So we started to kind of hear some different themes around health care, around transportation, education. And last fall, almost about a year ago, we had a series of people's assemblies. And there are ten different issue areas and themes that we've heard.
And we had butcher paper everywhere. We had our team facilitate small group discussions on the Saturday. And we said, OK, as it relates to education, what do we want to keep? What do we want to amend? What do we want to make better? What do we need to protect? And we just captured as much of the conversation as we could. Our political director went back, compiled it into a draft agenda, and then we came back with the same group a couple of weeks later and said, hey, it's now on paper.
What does this look like? What does this feel like? Does it feel good? Do we need to make any edits? And we ratify it as a community. And it's meant to be a living document to grow and change as the needs of the community change. But that was one step. And that was really kind of is how we're centering our policy work.
Block started knocking on doors in November twenty seventeen, which is well ahead of the typical timing for a twenty twenty election cycle. What position are you in now, how does Milwaukee and black Milwaukee look from a voter engagement perspective versus four years ago?
I think that we are in a better position. There's infrastructure that exists now that didn't exist in 2016, whether that is, you know, groups like ours, leaders igniting transformation. A lot of other groups are doing that work. And we also used the last four years as different benchmarks and tests we played in every single election, whether it was the state Supreme Court that no one really, you know, paid attention to in 2018 or whether it was the sheriff's race that was getting overlooked in the midst of a really crowded gubernatorial primary.
We wanted to make sure that we were talking about the down ballot races that seemed to be forgotten. And we've had fellowship programs. We're able to train hundreds of people between then and now about the deeper political process and having folks turn out in ways that they haven't turned out before to see, you know, so many people will turn out and testify at a Senate budget hearing that typically are overlooked, you know, was a testament that more people are paying attention and more people are pushing back and asking questions and and making sure that their voices are heard.
So I think a lot has happened in the last four years just in our world and our city. And then I also think that there's just a lot of infrastructure that has been working very, very hard to connect with our community to make sure that people are active. We are really excited. Shameless plug. Last week, MSNBC actually did a profile on two of our lead ambassadors who did not vote in 2016 and not only are voting this year, their whole job now is to organize other people to vote.
You use the word ambassadors to refer to people who work with the organization. What is your training model? How do you get done, what you get done and and how different is it from the other groups you've been a part of or seen?
Yeah, we really, really value leadership development. We want to make sure that we're digging deeper, having quality type of conversations. And I've worked for organizations where someone will come in, apply for a job, fill out an application, get interviewed, do a brief training, and we send them out on doors within an hour from applying to being out on doors. We're pushing people out because we need to hit as many doors as possible. I know some folks that would even pay for our chairs in their offices because they wanted people to be in and out so quickly.
We are very different. We wanted to make sure our team is fully educated. We wanted them to have more meaningful conversations on doors. So instead of saying, hey, vote for the sheriff, we're saying, hey, do you know what the sheriff does? Do you know their jurisdiction? We're able to do some of that political education on training, which means we're constantly role playing. We're constantly workshopping any issues that we're having over hearing in the field.
We're constantly educating ourselves. If there is an ad that came out, we talk about it, we analyze it. If there's a poll that comes out, we analyze it because we want to raise everyone's consciousness as well. And so we put our team through at least 30 hours of training before they even knock a door.
I'm sorry, did you say 30 hours, three zero, 30 hours, three zero. And like I said, I've been a part of campus programs where you're in and out within an hour. You know, you're trying to get people to vote for your candidate. But we're not talking about the issues. We're not talking about the jurisdiction, the roles and responsibility of that office. Why should I just tell people to vote for a US senator if they don't have any concept of what the US Senate does and how it directly impacts their lives?
And so we want them to be able to have those types of conversations because we want to be able to build the awareness and the analysis in this culture of civic engagement in our community and that an election is a tool to do so. But really it is is just one pathway. We want to make sure that people understand their civic engagement rights and how to be a part of it on a year-round basis, whether it's the city budget hearings or its voting or anything in between.
And so we take that extra time. I think that's something that we are really proud of by digging deep and having fellowship programs. We've been doing civics jeopardy via Facebook lahav. That's one of the ways we train our folks and there's different categories, you know, legislative, judicial, black history. And that's how we kind of keep our stuff fresh and keep it fun. So it's not just dry trainings, but we're constantly able to keep each other on our toes.
I want to know more about civics. Jeopardy! How often do you do that?
So every Friday in October, we've been Facebook living it. Last week was our first week and we're going to be having some special guest as well, some local elected officials to kind of help out and to be, you know, a guest host and to read some of the issues and some of the questions. So it's something that we do on a regular basis, and it allows us to be able to have fun as well as kind of, you know, stay fresh on some of the dates and everything that keeps changing.
Civics is not easy to keep up with when they constantly keep trying to change the rules. So this is a good way to stay on top of it.
Is that open to the public? Anybody can tune in to your Facebook page and watch the game.
Yes, every Friday I say around noon, but we're. Give us to like 12, 15, we're running a little bit behind a little bit on some days, but yeah, check out our Facebook Live. We had the first one just air, and you can still check out our live video. Thank you for that, I was reading Milwaukie magazine the other day, as I do some sometimes, and I saw a quote from you in there where you said, I tell people all the time, Milwaukie breaks my heart and inspires me every day.
Can you expand on that?
I've never lived anywhere else. I'm born and raised in Milwaukee. I was one of those teenagers that wanted to move far away. Full disclosure, as much as I write Milwaukee, there is a point in time where I wanted to leave. I wanted to be that 18 year old that went to the big city that once and moved to New York and became a doctor and went to Columbia. And that did not work out. I had a rude awakening.
I was humbled greatly that Columbia, being my dream school, I didn't get into and I didn't know what to do. I was really devastated. That was really banking on going to New York. And I stayed in Milwaukee and it was the best decision that I made. And it is now a conscious decision of why I stay here. And I think it's because are so many resilient people and I tell folks all the time, like I could leave, but I don't know if I would feel as comfortable organizing somewhere else.
It's very intimate. It's very personal. All the the challenges that we're experiencing, it it's different when you're born and raised in the same place that you're doing your organizing and to see all the challenges, you know, home to one of the most incarcerated zip codes, Wisconsin being the worst place to raise a black child. All of those things, I'm like, why do I still live here? But at the same time, there's so much work to be done.
I'm not arrogant enough to think that I'm solely the sole person to fix those issues, but I want to do what I can because I feel like Milwaukee helped raise me. And I feel like there is just a lot of resilience and a lot of beautiful people and there's a lot of potential that I think is untapped in Milwaukee. And I want to make sure that it is the best place that it could possibly be for everyone, including the black community.
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So when I went to that basic camp for the Army, I was told that my voice did matter and that I needed to use it. So from that day on, I had to rebuild myself, really? And it was those members of the military, my friends, the drill sergeants, who really helped me regain my voice and regain my confidence so that I could be a voice for others going forward.
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My name is Lowell Berlanti and I created the podcast Prodigy to find the answer to a very complicated question. Can genius be created? I asked academics, researchers, scientists and the prodigy's themselves to gain a better understanding of intelligence, skill acquisition and expert performance. So disregard all simple explanations because complex questions require complex answers. Listen to Prodigy every Thursday on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcasts or ever you get your podcasts. So meanwhile, groups like Block, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and others in cities across the country have been doing the very hard work to turn nonvoters into voters.
They're helping people see how the political process connects to things they care about. And I loved that they started on this election three years ago, going door to door, asking people what it looks like to thrive, creating a community vision and manifesto. While groups like Block invite more people into the political process, others are working to make sure they can actually cast those votes and have them counted. We had the fortune of speaking with Quentin Palfrey about efforts to protect our right to vote.
He's the chair of Voter Protection Corps, a grassroots organization that was founded after twenty sixteen by data scientists and lawyers to help protect and defend people's rights to vote, especially communities of color. So the Voter Protection Corps was launched last year, and this is my fifth presidential cycle, working on voter protection issues, and over the last few cycles we've learned some things about some of the problems that can come up in elections.
And so last year, a bunch of us who were involved in the Obama campaign and the Kerry campaign and the Clinton campaign got together and said, you know, maybe we ought to get out ahead of some of these problems. Maybe we ought to try and solve the things that can be solved in advance. And maybe we ought to combine some of the legal expertise that we have in the voter protection community with some data expertise. So we formed a partnership with the Carnegie Mellon University and tried to look at the places where voters who faced the most obstacles and started to target some of our activities towards the places that were most likely to be a problem in the 2020 election.
So essentially, what the Voter Protection Corps is, is a network of lawyers and data scientists who are trying to identify the obstacles that voters face to registering, voting and having their votes count and then try to head off those kinds of problems.
You mentioned protecting people's registration, their sort of voting activity and the count. Can you dive into what exactly you're trying to protect? In our country, we have a shameful legacy of racial bias in our elections. Communities of color, younger people, people who tend to move around a lot, tend to run into problems in our system that aren't faced by other people in the system. So think about this spring. Voters waiting for four or five hours in a number of African-American communities during the primaries.
That's been endemic to our system for a long period of time.
Voters of color have faced voter purges for many years, faced voter suppression, have faced legislation that aims to make it harder for them to register and vote. And so we've got these really shameful inequalities in our system. Some of them are caused by intentional voter suppression.
So unfortunately, we now have a president and some allies who have weaponized the lies about voter fraud in order to make it harder for people to vote and particularly communities that the president and his allies think will not vote for them in the election. So they're using voter suppression as a campaign tactic.
So your organization is a network of lawyers, of data scientists. It's a neural network. It's an extremely powerful network of thoughtful people. And you're on the ground in a bunch of places. What are you seeing on the ground? Where are you seeing it that concerns you the most?
Well, I think that you have to understand that people are voting in a bunch of different ways. And so the challenges come up in different contexts. So I'm very interested in making sure that in-person voting works well, because we've seen that African-American students, the homeless and Native Americans, have a tendency to use in-person voting options at a higher rate and to be disproportionately impacted when there are long lines or when their polling place closures. So one of the things that we've spent a lot of time doing is making sure that there are enough poll workers because we know that when they're poll worker shortages, there are long lines.
We know that when they're long lines, the vote is suppressed. So making sure that there are enough poll workers to avoid the kind of debacle we had, for example, in the African-American communities in Milwaukee during the primaries or that we've seen repeatedly in Georgia that we saw in Nevada that we saw in Philadelphia, we need to make sure that there are enough election officials so that people can wait in shorter lines. We need to make sure that they're not shutting down polling places.
I mentioned Milwaukee in their primary. They went from one hundred and eighty polling places in the 2016 primary to five in this election. And you saw people waited in really long lines. Some people may have contracted coronavirus as a result of voting. Those are very bad outcomes. We need to make sure that we keep the polls open on the vote by mail side vote by mail is an extremely effective way for people to vote. Every serious scholar who's looked at this from the Brennan Center, the Bipartisan Policy Center, from the Voter Protection Course has concluded that this is a safe and effective way to vote.
But not all of the states that are ramping up their vote by mail system know how to do it well. Yet so the states that have done it well historically are really good at it. But some of the states that are starting for the first time are rejecting a lot of ballots for really stupid reasons. And a lot of voters who are casting valid ballots are running into rejection rates that are much higher than they ought to be.
What's a high rejection rate?
Well, so in the states that do a good job of administering elections, vote by mail, the rates of rejection can be less than one percent. And we have this tradition in the voting. A community of honoring the intent of the voter and not rejecting a validly cast ballot because of some minor procedural requirement in the New York primary, almost one in five ballots were rejected. So almost 20 percent of ballots were rejected. What we're seeing in Philadelphia and in Pennsylvania, rejection of ballots, because they're called naked ballots.
People didn't use the proper envelopes. And we're worried that more than 100000 people could be disenfranchised because of a really foolish question around like which envelope did you use?
So I think those are the kinds of things we need to teach election officials how to do better over time. But to your initial point, you know, some of those things are no longer fixable. And so what you have to focus on now is teaching voters how to do it and making sure that we bring down those rejection rates just by making through voter education.
What has you the most excited or hopeful in terms of our ability to preserve the legitimacy of our electoral system? I'll say two things. The first is the one that I started with, which is this notion that we actually are starting to have new candidates, new voters, new people involved in our elections. It's been really exciting to see an emergence of much more diverse voices, younger voices, more gender balanced candidates, new voters. There's a real energy.
And if you sort of think about where our country is going, you know, the views of younger people, even in the reddest states, if you look at the demographics of some of the states that have been traditionally, I think the future is progressive and the future is more diverse and more gender balance. And I think that that's really exciting.
We are in a election period where people are already voting. So the idea of Election Day is more like election season. And I think of November 3rd as a voting deadline, not a voting day. What is your advice for how we can prepare ourselves, what we should expect at the end of November 3rd? I think you're entirely right that because of the pandemic and because of this some of the changes that we've made to our election system, we should be thinking about this as an election period, not an election day.
And one of the things that I think we ought to do is change our view of what election night is going to look like. So we have this picture that somebody is going to stand up in front of these maps on cable TV and we're going to watch it. And then we're either going to be very happy or very sad by the end of the night, but we're basically going to know how the election is going to turn out. And that's not the way it's going to be this year, because there are a lot of states for good reasons that are going to accept ballots that are postmarked on Election Day but received a couple of days afterwards.
And I think it's going to be really important for us to shift our view and say, actually, we should wait, we should be patient, we should not declare victory or defeat until all of those ballots are counted. I also think that there's good reason to suggest that a lot of the Trump voters are going to vote in person and those votes are going to be counted earlier and that the Biden vote is going to be a little bit more spread out.
And so some of the votes that are going to be counted in the days after Election Day may well be for Biden and Harris. And so the narrative across the week may shift a little bit. I think that we should be very vigilant against Donald Trump and Attorney General Barr and some of their allies saying actually election results are final immediately if they look a little bit more pro Trump than the polls have looked, because that's actually to be expected. And there's been some some talk of this notion of red mirage.
But I think that the way to think about that is that we ought to be patient and count all of the votes that's important in a democracy and wait until all of the votes are counted before we form an assessment as to who won. What can someone do who hears this isn't a lawyer or an election lawyer or a data scientist? To leave it all in the field in this area, what does that mean? So, first of all, there are lots of ways for you to get involved with our organization, its Voter Protection Act, or we'd love to have your help.
But more broadly, I think that you should think about using your time and your money to make sure that this election reflects your values. And using your time, I think means helping to get out the vote. It means helping to recruit poll workers or to monitor at the polls. There are opportunities within both the non-partisan sector. There's the Election Protection Coalition and within the campaign, within the Biden Harris campaign to to work as a poll monitor. And if you have resources, I do think that this is the time to dig deep and contribute those resources to organizations or campaigns that reflect your values.
Oh, that is a simple and hard ask, but very important one. Quentin, I want to thank you for your time.
This has been a terrific conversation and I really appreciate you having me on. Yo, this is urban philosopher, philanthropist and the host of the Recession podcast, a production of the Black Effect podcast network and our radio, I'll bring you real conversations about systemic racism, mental health, life on the streets and much more. My guest will include influential figures like Charlamagne, God, Dr. Gest and Tony Robbins.
You know, Martin Luther King said, you know, a man or you could say today a person who hasn't done something they're willing to die for isn't fit to live. It's pretty strong words. But I really believe in my soul that what changes people is when you find something to serve more than yourself.
So join me on the Recession podcast by Jeezy as our ESV is out in podcast. That's right on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or whatever you prefer. Your podcast.
Hello, Earthlings, it's Kasher here, bringing you the devilish sounds and twisted treats of my new podcast, Kasha and the Creepy is where I, your host Kesher, bring you into my twisted universe, where the supernatural as well, quite natural. Kesha and The Creepy's explores supernatural subjects and alternative lifestyles with today's most exciting pop culture guests and experts in the occult. You may know me from my party jams like Tic-Tac.
We are who we are, but it's my curiosity for the unexplainable and mystical that drives these fascinating conversations that span non-traditional spirituality, psychedelic art and all things creepy. Listen and follow a question that keeps on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast, or wherever you listen to podcast. Many of the voter suppression tactics and scenarios that Clinton and Voter Protection Corps are fighting exist at just one level in the system, but this is 20 20. And as we know, there are many levels, which means Angela and Block have found themselves preparing the black community for things she never thought she would have to consider.
A lot of us are seeing headlines and images of what the situation on the ground is in Wisconsin and in Milwaukee. Long lines.
You read about various efforts to make it harder to vote this time in particular. What are you seeing in terms of the challenge of voting in the pandemic especially? And how are you all trying to overcome any of those new obstacles?
We're anticipating, you know, any potentially long lines. So we want to make sure that folks are early voting or voting absentee. We also just don't know what's going to happen on Election Day. We've seen in presidential elections, if there's long lines, people have to wait a while. But we're also preparing for any voter intimidation that's going to happen at the polls. Realistically speaking, we heard the president talking about having his supporters poll, watch and poll observe.
We also know that his supporters can be incredibly violent, incredibly dangerous. So we're preparing for those things. But ultimately, people are asking, hey, you know, we have five polling places open in April. Are we sure that's not going to happen in November? People have been making plans since our disastrous election in April. And people are like, OK, basically come hell or high water. I couldn't vote in April, but I'm going to vote in November.
And we saw people starting to make plans since then. And I think people are really fired up and people feel very, very strongly about making sure that they make a plan, they make a backup plan, and they're making sure that their voices are heard.
It's like disaster prep kind of motion.
Yeah, that's that's a really it shouldn't be that way. But to deny it is to not be prepared. Yeah. I want to touch on this political violence point with you, because you've got Kenosha, which the country is very familiar with in terms of Rittenhouse. You got Wauwatosa and recent incidents with the police killing someone and folks going out to protest and being hit with more violence from the police. And then you mentioned the president and his supporters being willing to use violence.
How do you prepare your communities to protect themselves in a political environment that often goes beyond tough talk to actual violent action?
Yeah, that's a really good question. One I didn't anticipate to have to do what I was making my New Year's resolutions and preparing for the year. You know, the amount of meetings and conversations I've had about white militia folks has been astounding. It's 20, 20, and I didn't expect to be having these types of conversations. We're working with our folks from our national affiliate, the Center for Popular Democracy, to do what we're calling voter gardian trainings, making sure people understand the basic ins and outs, casting a provisional ballot in case there's any, you know, logistical issues that come up with people casting their ballot, but also being prepared to de-escalate if any conflict arises, making sure that if there is a conflict, the first line and defense isn't to call the police.
Is there a way that we can de-escalate, you know, internally so people can stand in line and to make their voice heard safely? We're talking about all those things. We have those trainings, our team and I know I myself personally have gone through easily 10 hours of digital security training, which can be kind of frightening and kind of triggering to think about how do you keep yourself safe, understanding that white militias and the proud boys are on standby and to do this work, you know, you don't want to freak people out, but you want to be honest that this work goes in, disrupts the status quo.
And anytime you go against the status quo, we've seen what that looks like in history. So trying to prepare our folks and saying, you know, we're on the right side of history. But that also means it comes with some challenges and sometimes it feels like there's a target on our back. And it's been really tough, you know, honestly, the last couple of months. And thinking about those things have been incredibly difficult. And it's strange to know that there is a, you know, a threats on your organization or there's a threat to you personally, just given the fact that you just want to empower people and just make sure that their voices are heard.
So it's been a challenge and one that we're trying to navigate, I think, in real time. And, you know, everyone's priority is making sure that we're keeping everyone safe and we're still, you know, doing the best that we can to speak truth to power, to just like our ancestors have done in our civil rights icons as well. We have a view on this show that the word citizen is less useful as a legal status than it is as a verb and a set of actions that we citizen to citizen is our purpose here.
How would you define the word citizen if you were to interpret it as a verb?
Yes, I would define citizen as a person without boundaries. Right. I think a lot of times people who are citizen and I always think of geographical boundaries, but what does it mean to be a citizen of this society and as a citizen of this world and want to contribute in a way that you are able to be liberated and free and live your true and full self while also being able to participate in a representative participatory democracy without any challenges or barriers.
You want your voice heard. Your voice matters just as much as you know, a billionaire who builds their wealth off of the backs of the working class. At the same time, you are able to make your voice heard and live freely and in a way where your rights, your body, who you love, how you express yourself isn't regulated through the government. That doesn't look like you, that doesn't represent you, but decides to tell you what you should do with your body and your expression.
To me, that's what it means to be a citizen of this world and of the society.
People want to help. Angela, I get asked a lot. I live in New York or I live in California. What can I do? How can I make sure that every vote is counted? How do I support Wisconsin? What do you say to people who want to help? Do you have specific things you need people to do, whether they live in Wisconsin or not?
Yeah, so there's a couple different ways we tell folks that they could be helpful. One, I would be a bad executive director if I did make a fundraising pitch. There is ways that people can support us on our website. We have both nonpartisan and partisan capabilities and we divide up our donations appropriately in that way, too. You know, are there folks that you think that we should get to know? Do you have a rich uncle? Does your brother make a podcast or do you think I'd be a great guest?
Or are there other organizations, you know, either locally or nationally that you think that we should be collaborating with? We'd love to be able to get connected to other folks. And then lastly, is that in this time where everyone is having difficult conversations or I hope everyone is having difficult conversations, being able to center and amplify the work and lived experiences of our community, and so being able to amplify and share our content one so more people can hear about us.
But to I think we're all being collectively, GasNet, about some of these situations that we're in. People think that racism is still not a problem in our country and people respond. But when you say black lives matter, and so by being able to really center and amplify the lived experiences of our community through our social media is also helpful. If people want to to help out specifically on Election Day, you know, we want to make sure that we have enough voter guardians at polling places to de-escalate where possible.
So feel free to send us a message. We're putting all those plans together so people can time us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or you can send us a note through our website at Block by Block Dog.
And that's blowsy. Yep, booie. Blowsy dog. Is there anything else you want to make sure to mention or to address with this moment?
I think the only thing that I would mention is that we're living in these really dark, troubled, unprecedented times and we just need to show up as real people and allow ourselves the grace to feel what we're feeling, to know that twenty twenty is not normal, to have conversations about white militia folks are not normal. To have people openly killing and shooting protesters at 17 years old is not normal. And we should never get used to this. We have a choice to really decide who we want to be as a country and how we show up in this work.
You know, I think shortly after the murders of Brianna Taylor and George Floyd, people were buying the book White Fragility. People were buying all these books. And I hope that people are reading them. They're doing the work and they're not just collecting dust after they posted them on Instagram claiming to be WOAK, what are actually doing that tough work? Because this moment that we're in is what happens when privilege goes unchecked for years and decades. And this is our moment to really create a vision of a world that we want to live in.
And we get to start over. We get to reimagine, you know, what safety is maybe without the police. And we get to really kind of dream without any limitations. But that means that we have to do that work as well internally. All right, in terms of that contest, I know I'm checking out civics Jeopardy! Thank you, Angelo, for the time. Thank you for the insight and thank you for the work that you're doing and that you're a part of.
I appreciate it. Thanks for having me on to tell our story to.
Thank you to Angela Lange and Quinson Palfrey for joining us. You can follow Angela and block by block on the social she is Angela Underscore Langue. The organization is block by Block NKE that's blowsy by Blousy ECMC. That's on Twitter. You can also find them on the regular free and open Internet at block by block dog. Again, that's blowsy. By blowsy. Follow Quinson and the Voter Protection Corps on Twitter, Kuis, Palfrey, and protect the vote or the respective handles.
And again, you can visit that website. Don't forget about websites, your voter dash protection, that. Org. As always, we post this episode, Extra Notes Transcript developed by robots and How to Citizen Dotcom. And as always, we ask you to leave a rating or review wherever you are listening to this podcast because it helps introduce people to us. Here are the actions the moment you've been waiting for. What is Baratunde going to ask us to do?
First up, internal actions and by internal as a refresher, we mean that these are actions that help you reflect on yourself, explored your emotions and your experiences or their actions that are personal and don't necessarily involve other people. Got to up for you this time. First answer this question. It's the block question. What does it mean for your community to thrive? Could be speed bumps, probably more, think about it, write it down, think about it some more.
The second internal action we want to return to June. Remember when we were all Black Lives Matter and Hashtag and turn my square black, we bought a lot of books on anti-racism. Have we read them now is a good time to check back in doing some of that internal work to make this land more free and more fair, read those books, support the organizations. You said you would support the black community in the way you said you would. This is a good time to revisit and re-engage.
On the external actions these are public facing, for the most part, they involve other human beings, interactive three for you here, one just support block in Milwaukee, block by block dagget donations. This is the sort of group that actually makes change happen. And I, for one, am very frustrated and annoyed at certain elements of the nonprofit political philanthropic world that just pile money and resources on the people who are not in the community, who do not know what they're talking about.
But because they worked on some campaign eight, 10, 12 years ago, they still get all the goods. Let's support Angela and her team a block again, block by block dagi donations. In Milwaukee, if you are there or no people there, encourage them or you yourself become a voter guardian again. This is that Bloks website. These are people who are going to monitor the polls for intimidation and they're trained to de-escalate situations instead of calling the police.
So it's like a twofer. We know that the president is out here encouraging a level of nonsense and tomfoolery at the polls. And we don't want to encourage conflict around that. We want to de-escalate again, I trust. But to do this the right way, so support them in their efforts in Milwaukee to do the same. Finally, volunteer to be a poll worker. We've asked before we will ask again. You literally can't have too many in a pandemic.
More poll workers means shorter lines and also shorter shifts for poll workers, reducing everyone's exposure. Voter Protection Corps is running a program to encourage people to do this. So check out voter dash protection dagget. Be a poll worker.
If you do any of these things, let a brother know. Show me an email action that had a citizen dotcom mentioned in the subject line voting or making our presence felt, which is the title of this episode. And whether you tell me person or not, tell somebody, tell a friend, tell a family member, do that old school chain email. Have you voted yet? Send it on to ten people and tell them what you did in this particular episode.
We encourage use of the hashtag How to Citizen. If you take it to the social's and you can email us broadly comments at how to citizen dotcom. If there's an organization, a person, an effort you think fits in this show, we want you to let us know. You can visit my website, sign up for my newsletter, find out about upcoming events, it's all about US Citizen Dotcom and I'm on Instagram at Baratunde, I'm on Patreon, Baratunde.
And you can even text me right now. Two or two, eight nine four eight eight four four, drop the word citizen and I text out. They're the first people to learn about the upcoming tapings of the show. They get the zoom link a little earlier because honestly, it's just easier for me to text it out than speeding up the whole email list thing, which comes, you know, a day or a few hours later. All right.
That's it. How does the citizen with Barazan Day is a production of I Heart Radio podcasts, executive produced by Miles Great. Next, Elizabeth Stewart and Baratunde Thurston, produced by Joel Smith, edited by Justin Smith.
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