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Zip recruiter dotcom slash crooked zip recruiter is the smartest way to hire. Welcome to Save America, I'm Jon Favreau. I'm Dan Pfeiffer on today's very packed pod. We've got two interviews for you. Dan talks to Manny Garcia and Cliff Walker, the leaders of the Texas Democratic Party, about what it will take to turn the state blue. Tommy talks to Ben Rhodes about his brand new crooked media podcast, Missing America.
And before all that, Dan and I will break down Tuesday's election results, Joe Biden's big new ad buy and the debate over the presidential debates.
But first, a few quick housekeeping notes.
Check out this week's parts of the world where Tommy and Ben talk about the horrifying explosions in Beirut, the criticism of V.P. hopeful Congresswoman Karen Bass, whose views on Cuba and much more. If you're around later today at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 p.m. Pacific votes have America is hosting a special virtual screening of Good Trouble, the new documentary about John Lewis's life, along with a panel discussion about voting rights featuring Crooked Media's own political director Shaniqua McLinden and me. Five dollars from each ticket will go towards getting people out to vote in the fall.
So get your tickets at Dotcom. Good trouble. Also, check out the new episode of Campaign Experts React with Dan and crookedest chief content officer Tanya Eliminator. It's hard to get time to do anything public. She is brilliant, funny. It is a fantastic episode. I'm so glad she did it.
Yeah, she was very hard to get. We have we have had this whole time.
I basically had to beg her to get to do it. She finally agreed. But before we move on, anything else.
Hey, how are you doing, Dad. Oh, I'm.
I'm good. I'm good. We are Charlie is just a wonderful baby. Emily is completely crushing it. And and we have Ms. Mom here to help us for the month, which has been amazing. Marnie is here. So we are all doing well, quarantine in our house and just doing fantastic.
So I keep saying so far so good because I'm waiting for, like, you know, some bout of too much crying or not sleeping or whatever else, but so far so good.
That's good. But it went and knock on wood for that. You should know, you know this our listeners do not that every Thursday when I go do the podcast, when I leave the house, go to my office, which is in my garage, Kylah says, good luck on your podcast. Are you going to talk to John? Will you see Leah? And this morning she said, will you see baby Charlie and Emily?
So that's kind of the kind of issue to jump in and guest host one of these.
Also also this morning, while I was sitting next to her when she was sitting on an Elmo shaped potty, she said we must vote for Joe Biden so we have a new president. So which is something no one's ever taught her. She is just picking these things up in the ether.
I can't believe you. You weren't going to bring up the video that you and how they sent me an Emmy last night where she said, let's win North Carolina. Yeah.
We have to win North Carolina. How he's been teaching her that for months. It will probably have some sort of social media debut at some point when we have appropriate gear.
Elijah right now is just making the meme. It's right. I'm going. I'm going.
I'm going to coordinate with a Michael Bay of Political Videos. Elijah, come.
OK, so catch the latest episode of campaign experts react on YouTube, dotcom slash crooked media. And we're having a big sale at the crooked merch store, up to 70 percent off to go to crooked dotcom store. Biggest sale of the year.
All right, Dan, let's start with some good news for once. We had another round of primary elections this week, and one of the biggest headlines of the night came out of pretty red Missouri, where over the opposition of Republican politicians, voters approved a measure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act by 53 to 47 percent, which means that another two hundred and thirty thousand Americans will now have health insurance.
Missouri is now the sixth state to expand its Medicaid by ballot initiative, joining Idaho, Utah, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Maine in a special shout out here to the Fairness Project, which is a pretty small organization that has been absolutely heroic in getting these Medicaid initiatives on the ballot. Dan, what is the success of these Medicaid expansion efforts in mostly red states where statewide Democratic candidates are mostly losing, say, about the politics of health care?
Well, it says that Republicans made a decision 10 years ago that they were going to oppose all things related to Obamacare, which was one of the most morally indefensible decisions in recent American history.
Thousands and thousands of people have been sick and not gotten coverage because of it. People have died because they've had access to coverage in these states like Missouri that have refused to expand Medicaid.
And this also shows that they've been on the wrong side of the politics the whole time. Right. Which is people, even in red states, want access to quality, affordable health care and are willing to vote for that. And so we, like all of this, has been such a gigantic, stupid Fox News fueled waste of time. We could have been helping people for for a decade. And it's just the stubbornness of Republicans have put us in this terrible position and.
They are continue to be on the wrong side of the issue and maybe we have to win a ballot initiative at every available state to get them on the right side. I think that's right. I also think it says something about how not just the politics of health care have changed, but the politics around Medicaid as a program. Medicaid is a program for low income Americans, for parents with children who have disabilities. And it has often been thought of politically because it's a program that targets low income Americans.
Maybe it is not as broadly popular as a program like Medicare, which helps seniors across all income groups.
And the fact is, Medicaid, as we have seen since the Affordable Care Act passed and in all of these ballot initiatives, is extraordinarily popular across party lines, across income lines, like it is not their traditional safety net program for low income Americans that, you know, even some moderate Democrats back in the 90s would say, oh, you have to be careful about, you know, championing programs for the poor. It's just it's very, very popular.
And it's interesting. Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report made an interesting observation about how this expansion passed in rural Missouri. Medicaid did only slightly better than Claire McCaskill did in her twenty eighteen Senate race, where the ballot initiative made huge gains over McCaskill's race was the middle and upper income suburbs of St. Louis and Kansas City. What's your explanation for that? What do you think happened there?
Well, I think it's it shows that the suburban realignment post 2016 is about something bigger than Trump. The election of Trump may have sparked that, but this was not this was a policy related ballot initiative. This was not framed in the way to stick it to Trump. This was not about voting for a Democratic House to check Trump or to vote for Joe Biden against Trump. This was about moving a group of voters, many of whom supported Mitt Romney in 2012, to vote for a progressive policy issue on health care.
And I think it bodes very well for the long term realignment in American politics. Now, it'll be incumbent upon Joe Biden, the Democrats, if they win, to continue to hold that group of people over time. But seeing a vote like this on something that is unrelated to Trump shows that Trump started the realignment, but it's not entirely about him.
Yeah, I also think it shows that a coalition, a Democratic coalition that has a disproportionate number of college educated, increasingly more well-off individuals within that coalition.
I think people both I've seen people on the left and I've seen more centrist Democrats both assume that will mean that that coalition will not be for sort of economically progressive policies, that maybe that is a more socially and culturally liberal coalition, but that on economics, maybe because these voters are more educated and specifically more well-off, higher income, that they will want more like centrist economics or centrist fiscal conservatism matched with social and cultural liberalism.
And we are just not seeing that with. And this Medicaid expansion is a perfect example of that. This is a Medicaid expansion passed not by rural Americans in Missouri who probably would economically benefit more from the Medicaid expansion, but by wealthier suburbanites who want to expand Medicaid for poorer Americans.
And it does it does go to show, as you said, sort of the totality of the realignment that when you have a coalition that's made up of, you know, more college educated voters, there's still going to go for more progressive economic policies, which, you know, I think a lot of Democrats should take to heart.
The failure of the initiative to do better among the pro Trump rural areas is, I think, something we should note, because, as you point out, would would massively benefit from this. And we have been in a steady erosion among rural voters since 2008. Really. And. I think there's several things we have to think about, there is Democrats are going to if we want to have political power nationally and all levels of the government, we're going to have to figure out how to do better.
Right. There had been this thought that Obama in 2012 was going to be sort of the nadir of Democratic support with real voters because. You know, black guy from south side of Chicago, Barack Hussein Obama, then Hillary Clinton in 2016, misogyny at play there. Hillary Clinton sort of a a often demonized figure among Republican voters or conservative voters. That would be a problem. But what if Joe Biden. Old moderate white guy does does as poorly as Clinton and Obama there, and that that is what we have to worry about because those voters have disproportionate political power in the House of Representatives, in the Senate in particular.
And we have to think about how we're going to stop that slide and improve our position as Democrats because we have the policies that help them. And part of it is this separation.
We sometimes separate cultural issues and economic issues in a world where people's most important identity is their political party.
Yeah, every economic issue is a political issue and every political issue is a cultural issue. So there's a lot of work, long term work to do that may end up not being particularly consequential in this presidential election, or at least we hope. But over the long term, we're going to figure out how to do better there.
Yeah, I think there's no universe where Democrats can write off rural America. And, you know, this Medicaid expansion also shows, you know, Medicaid did do slightly better than McCaskill in these rural areas. So I think the key is to hold the margins are cut down Republican margins in rural areas, knowing that Democrats are probably not going to win those areas, but they can hold the margin down and then rack up big margins in these growing suburbs that are closer to the cities and, of course, in the cities themselves.
Another big headline from Tuesday was also out of Missouri, where Democratic Representative Lacy Clay, a 10 term incumbent who represents St. Louis, was defeated in a primary upset by a nurse and progressive activist, BLM activist named Cory Bush.
In twenty eighteen, Bush lost to Clay by 20 points on Tuesday night. She beat him by three.
If she goes on to win, the General Cory Bush will be the first black woman in history to represent Missouri. On Capitol Hill, Dan Bush is the latest progressive challenger to knock off an older, longtime Democratic incumbent. We just saw Jamal Bowman beat Eliot Engel. How did she pull this off and what does it mean for the future of the party?
I think that it's very fitting that Corey Bush won this race in the middle of the conversation about the legacy of John Lewis, because, as you point out, Corey Bush came to politics through activism.
She got involved in in Missouri after after Ferguson five or six years ago. And I think Corey Bush is the future of the Democratic Party. And I say that not because of her policy positions, although I think her progressive policy positions probably almost certainly are the future. I say that because the next generation of Democrats are going to be the people who've come out of the wave of activism of the last five or so years. Right. It is Black Lives Matter activists.
It is the people who got involved after Trump won, whether it's the women's march or the grassroots groups that formed up, people who got engaged should have been protesting in the streets. Certainly the kids in the Sunrise movement who've been fighting on climate change, the students fighting on gun violence. And obviously, you know, sort of most recently the people in the streets of America after the murders of George Floyd and Brown and Taylor and so many more, is is that the next iteration of the Democratic Party activists just like John Lewis went from fighting for civil rights to serving in Congress?
I think we're going to see a lot more of this. And I think it's a very, very encouraging sign.
It's a such an important point because, you know, I remember when Jamal Bowman won, you know, we talked about part of what fueled his victory.
Part of it fueled Aoki's victory before him and so many other progressive challengers is something more than just ideology and policy positions. And, you know, some lefty folks on Twitter get annoyed when you mention this because they think that we are diminishing ideology in the wind, which I don't want to do because the policy positions are incredibly important to all these progressive challengers winning. But in this race, you know, Lacy Clay ended up being for Medicare, for all for the green New Deal.
What Cory Bush represented, though, was something bigger than just policy. She was an activist on the streets where he was not and he was in Washington. She refused to take corporate money where he did. Right. So there is sort of an entire there's something much bigger going on in these races than just ideology. It is an old versus young divide here. It is inside versus outside Washington. And in Cory Bush's case, it's someone who has sort of been on the front lines of this new wave of activism versus someone who's been in Washington for a very long time.
And and I think sort of and and there's just sort of an authenticity.
And, you know, these a lot of these progressive challengers, they don't go by the rules of Washington and how they talk and carefully constructed talking points and the same old consultants and all that kind of stuff. Like there's just a newness to this generation of challengers that I think for voters who are tired of what they're getting out of Washington, some from both parties, this gives them an alternative. These these challengers give them an alternative.
And the other one reason I think this victory is particularly significant is in the context of both Jamal Bowe and Mandir Johnson's victories in New York last month. We, you know, made the point that a lot of this is happening in New York. Right. And when you talk about Ayanna Pressley, we are talking in some cases those races have been about.
The district's changing demographically and politically under the feet of long term incumbents, right, whether that's Capuano or Crowley or Engle, but here you have it in the districts are becoming more demographically diverse and the candidates running are represent those districts better than the the older establishment white candidates. This is different, right? This is this is Missouri, not New York. This is a black challenger against a black incumbent. It is.
It's I think it speaks to all the things you said. And they are all tied together. Right. It's like it is not only the policy, but you can't have, I think, the generational divide, the insider outsider divide, the activism ties without the progressive policies. Right. Like, they're all part of a they are all representative of this next generation of Democrats. And they, like John Lewis when he ran, are coming to power before the establishment is ready to invite them in.
It also shows the success of a very specific strategy that, you know, the just as Democrats have undertaken and and Sean Makkawi, our friend from Data for Progress, has talked about this before.
You know, in twenty eighteen, you saw a number of progressive challengers in primaries in more red or purple districts lose to lose their primary challenge.
And, you know, Sean makes the point that it is much tougher to sort of run a progressive challenger in a swing district because then, you know, that person might actually not be the best fit for the district when it comes to the general. And they might have a tougher time winning that district. And the real strategy is find long time Democratic incumbents that have been entrenched in Washington in safe blue districts where we know that whoever wins the primary is going to win the general anyway and run young progressive candidates of color against these older establishment Democrats in these safe blue districts.
And that way, you know, you're sort of guaranteed in the general or not guaranteed, but pretty close to a win. And so now you have a bench of very progressive Democrats in the House who can sort of push legislation and push the debate. And you don't have to worry as much about, you know, someone running in a purple district or a red district. And then, you know, maybe the progressive challenger wins and then they have a tougher time in the general election against because the district is just more conservative than some of these safe blue districts.
So it is a very smart, concerted strategy that the that some of these progressive challengers, backed by the Justice Democrats, are running.
It's an important lesson of politics that the most innovative campaigns tend to come from insurgents. Right. That was what fueled Obama in 08 is what fueled Bernie in 2016. And you're seeing a lot of really interesting, smart strategies from these from these candidates, beginning with AFSC Ayanna Pressley all the way up to Cory Bush as they are because they do not have access to the same set of consultants who have been because if you work for a primary challenger, you still get blacklisted by the sea, which is an incredibly crazy policy that you would not want people who elected Jamal Bowman helping to keep the house.
You don't have access to the same amount of money. You have to you have to think much more creatively. And that is manifesting themselves in these races in ways that have led to a lot of success.
And and it also pushes a lot of these Democratic incumbents to embrace some of these more progressive policies if they want to keep their seats. Right. Which is why, as we've said a million times, primaries are healthy.
So one more headline from Tuesday that contains good and bad news was out of Kansas where Republican Kris Kobach lost the Senate primary to Republican Congressman Roger Marshall. The good news is here, a racist, xenophobic vote suppressor like Kobach lost an election and won't be going anywhere near the US Senate.
The bad news is Kobach probably would have made it easier for Democratic State Senator Barbara Boyer to pick up this Kansas Senate seat.
Dan, what do you think about Kobach losing? And is the Kansas Senate race still competitive?
I think with one of the lessons of 2016 for everyone is you shouldn't ever root for a racist to win a primary because you think I'll be easier to beat them in the general, because sometimes they win and then your country gets angry because before.
Yes. So that's why all of us in 2016 we should avoid it.
Was this out of gas to come back and easier to beat? Obviously he ran in twenty eighteen, did a terrible job and Democrats had a pickup because of that.
The question here is, is Kansas still on the map? And we don't know the answer to that. But Kansas has been the really the case study of Republican economics for the last few years and there's been a lot of rejection of that. So I think my understanding I don't I don't know Barbara Boyer. Meyerson is she's a very good candidate. And we should keep looking at that race because you would need as many. Paths to 50 plus one as possible.
Yeah, I think a Democratic polling firm put out some numbers right after the race, and it's still like a single digit race, she's within the margin of error. So it very much could still be a race. I also think people should realize that Kobach didn't lose a Republican primary because Republican the Republican electorate is coming to its senses and doesn't want to vote for a racist xenophobe.
He lost because he's a loser, because he lost in twenty eighteen.
And Republicans thought to themselves, do we want to nominate this guy again who just lost in twenty eighteen in the governor's race for the Senate. And so I think the image of him as a loser probably helped seal his fate more than his right wing policy positions, unfortunately.
But that's that's what happened there. All right. Let's talk about Joe Biden's campaign, which just announced the largest ad buy in history.
Two hundred and eighty million dollars in ads for the fall in 15 different states, including not just the six swing states where Trump's margin of victory was closest, but states like Iowa, Ohio, Georgia and Texas.
Of that, two hundred and eighty million dollars, 60 million will be reserved for digital advertising. And in a memo, campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon said the buy will include, quote, an immense commitment to Latino, African-American and AAPI targeted media, as well as discrete tracks of programming geared towards youth and senior audiences.
Dan, did the breadth of this by surprise you? And what do you think the strategy is here?
It did. It did surprise me pleasantly. I am pleasantly surprised by it in the sense that, look, we presumed for a very long time that Joe Biden was going to be massively outspent in this election.
And while I still think the Republican side of this between Trump and the super PACs, everyone else is going to have more money than the Democratic side. Joe Biden has narrowed this gap in a way we did not see as possible, where he has the ability to compete in a wide array of states. I'm very pleasantly surprised by that. I am pleasantly surprised and curious about some of the state choices.
And there's a lot of information, more information we need to know about it. But I think we should feel good about the fact that Joe Biden is on is winning and on offense.
What do you say about the argument from I noticed from some pundits, DC pundits that, you know, forget about Texas, forget about Georgia.
If you're in a position, you know, put all if you have all this money, great. But put it all in Florida and Arizona and Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, you only need Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan to win.
Shouldn't you put all of the resources you have into those three states until you're absolutely sure about the margin there in your organization and everything else? And then if there's leftover money, you put it in some of these rich states?
Well, I think that that is a legitimate question when it comes to your overall campaign budget in terms of staff, organizers mail that sort of thing.
But there's only so much talking about television advertising now. There's only so much inventory you can buy in each state. And at some point you get to the point of diminishing returns. So I don't not know this, but I can't imagine it is not true. The Biden campaign has done a very sophisticated analysis of how much money they need to spend on TV to win Wisconsin. Right. How much they really need to spend in Wisconsin and to Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, the states, they need to get to 270.
And now they've had this this other money. So what are you going to do with it? And the advantage of spending money in the other states is you don't know what's going to happen a month from now or two months from now or three months from now. Right. You want to give yourself the appearance as many paths to 270 as possible. And that is particularly true in a world in which we don't know what's going to happen with the pandemic.
Right. Let's say you're betting huge in Arizona and then there's a there's a resurgence in the fall that makes voting very challenging or means that we can't get our registration goals in that state. So you want to have some backup plans and they clearly have the money to do it.
Discipline matters, right, like there is a great press release from saying you're going to be in Texas, in Georgia. Like that, like we're excited about that, the Internet is excited about it, it could help us help bring the Senate, can help foot the Texas state House, which is something I talked to the Texas State Democratic Party about later in this podcast.
But you have to you have to very carefully track and be willing to take the press hit to pull out. So in 2012, this seems crazy to imagine, but we had significantly less money than the than the Republicans because the Republicans had these giant super PACs that were spending a ton of money.
And so we made a decision in that campaign that we would not run ads. And this is also seems crazy, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, because if we were losing any one of those states, we were going to lose the election.
Like we figured out what our tipping point state was, is we needed Ohio. Ohio was starting to put us on the map. And so we did not have the resources to compete in all of those states. So we picked a very narrow batch.
Now, at the very end of the campaign, we went up in Wisconsin and potential, I think, Wisconsin, maybe Minnesota to just close the deal there.
But we were willing to back away from that public red line because we needed it.
And I think the reverse has to be true here for for the Biden campaign, which is if in a month or six weeks, Georgia does not seem to be in reach, if you take those resources, put them elsewhere.
And so, like that level of sort of tough minded resource allocation is going to be key to success here.
So Jen and Biden, chief strategist Mike Donilon did a call with reporters to announce the ad buy and they previewed some of the messages in the campaign. In the ad campaign, according to The New York Times, Donilon said that Biden offers stability compared to an erratic Trump, that he represents core American values compared to walking away from them, and that Biden is someone willing to, quote, bear the burden of leading. Then Mike said, quote, There's a great value in being able to positively speak to the central concern of people's lives.
The Trump campaign is in a very difficult situation where they're unable to speak to the central issue in this country. And their entire campaign is really an effort to distract people's attention.
What did you think of that? I do think that last summary of sort of the challenge of the Trump campaign, which is that the central issue facing voters right now that people care about the most, their whole campaign is trying to distract from because he has failed on the pandemic and he doesn't want to talk about it.
Well, yes, that's right. The single most important issue in American life is the pandemic. And Donald Trump is, at least as of earlier this week, running zero ads on it and hasn't running ads on ads on it in weeks. And so he is specifically trying to say, hey, look over here at this other thing. And people are very focused on the pandemic. And that's in part because his response to it is indefensible, right? Like that.
That is the challenge they have. And people are so convinced of how indefensible response is that they have responded poorly to his ads, according to some of the stories we've read, and that is to the Biden campaign's great advantage. And that is why you're continuing to see them focus their ads on that like Trump is. It's sort of insane that he's not defending himself on it in some way, shape or form or trying to muddy the waters because he's giving the Biden campaign this free land and this very powerful ad out in Florida with these two with just just going to mention this, you know, with this couple that is talking about the impact of senior couple.
And so talk about the impact of covid in their lives and their community. And Trump has no response. Romney is not responding for it. And I think he is suffering greatly. You know, the biggest thing is that he has fucked up the pandemic. But from a political point of view, to try to ignore the biggest issue can't possibly be a good strategy.
And, you know, it's a it's a couple that lives in the villages in Florida, in central Florida. It should be these should be Trump voters in so many ways. And I think the most effective part of that ad is, you know, the woman talked about she hasn't been able to hug her grandkids for months and months. Then she says, you know, I don't blame Donald Trump for the pandemic coming here in the first place, but he hasn't done anything to solve it.
And you see a couple like that.
You see an ad like that and you think they will probably have some success in the Trump campaign at driving up Joe Biden's negatives in various ways, giving people doubts about Joe Biden. And, you know, that's why we may see the polls tighten as we get closer to November. But you're you're probably going to have I mean, we already do a lot of people who voted for Donald Trump or didn't vote at all who think I do have some doubts about Joe Biden.
But this guy who's president right now dealing with the worst crisis this country has ever faced in my lifetime, isn't doing anything about it.
And I got to try something new, you know, and I think if the Biden campaign can sort of narrow the entire campaign down to that question, to that issue, it's going to be very difficult for Trump to counter that unless he starts paying attention to the pandemic in a way that doesn't it doesn't involve, like shouting conspiracy theories about it.
If Donald Trump's re-election to. Ends on him doing his job well, he will lose because that is something that is not that is not a strategy that is available to him.
Circumstances around him could change the electoral impacts of the pandemic in terms of who gets to vote and how those votes counted could benefit him.
But there's just not a world in which he is going to wake up tomorrow, adopt a new tone and do his fucking job because that he has never done a job in his entire life. He's not going to start now with the hardest job in the world. Right.
You know, also, if the pandemic could get better, there could be fewer cases like you could see an improvement in the pandemic improvement in the economy that could potentially help Trump. But you're right, if if this depends on him doing better at managing it, then that's not going to work for him. What do you think about the size of the digital spend in this ad by our friend Terry McGowan?
An acronym tweeted an advertising blitz in twenty twenty that invest nearly four times more in traditional media than digital, which suggests to me that ad campaigns use their path to victory through an incredibly traditional lens and electorate, or they're counting on groups like Packenham to make up the difference. You know, you've been concerned. We've all been concerned about sort of digital strategy, digital advertising since during the primaries of this campaign. What did you think about the size of the digital spend here, which is bigger than most other campaigns have ever spent?
I mean, it's the it is it is the size of it is incredibly large. The the proportion of the overall spend that is digital is, I think, less than some people expected. We need to know more about this. Right. This is not the full they can spend more above this. We need to know about the whole number. We need to know how they're spending that 60. What is it? What is it on? And we need to know we actually need to know more about the state spending to truly know what is going on.
Like, we don't know how much money they're spending per state like Ohio is mentioned in there, but we don't know which markets in Ohio are. The places where they've been up in Ohio to date are markets that are designed to reach Michigan in Pennsylvania, not win Ohio. So we have to wait till they go up in Cleveland to know if they're going to be up in Ohio. Similar thing with Iowa and some and some other states.
So I think it does say that I think the TV to digital spend says something about what Joe Biden sees as his targets. Which is older voters, because if you were trying to jack up turnout among GenZE millennial voters, you were not doing that through linear television, you were doing that through a digital spend. And it's very it's very possible that they have maybe even likely that they have a very like a very smart, unique way of spending that those TV dollars to reach younger people.
That is very, very challenging, but potentially can be done. So we need to know more. But I think it says a lot about Joe Biden seeing his path to the presidency with a more traditional set of the electorate than maybe Barack Obama needed in 2008.
Yeah, and I think if you read Jen's memo closely, there are hints of that in there. I mean, they say that this is a spend about activating and mobilizing the Biden electorate, the Biden coalition, which is going to be different than an Obama coalition or a Clinton coalition. I mean, every campaign's coalition is different. And they also specifically mentioned, you know, targeting youth audiences and seniors, audiences. You don't usually hear Democratic presidential campaigns talk about their spend ads, ad spending plan to target seniors specifically because seniors really haven't been in play for most Democratic presidential candidates since, I don't know, two thousand maybe.
And so, you know, it is going to look like a different coalition.
And perhaps, you know, we're still you know, we've talked about this before, seeing some weakness with Biden's campaign among Latino voters. He's running a bit behind Hillary Clinton in some polls there, potentially a little bit with young voters as well. But he is so far making up the difference.
And then some among seniors and among some of these suburbanites, these things are not written in stone.
They can be adjusted over time. But the piece of information I am very interested for and could be potentially coming to a message box near you is how many ads?
Are they running? That is a much more interesting number than total spent. Mitt Romney spent more on TV than Obama or Mitt Romney, plus the Republican side than Obama has Democrats.
But Obama ran many times more ads because we had a we had a very sophisticated way of understanding how to efficiently reach voters. Right. While they were just running like the most expensive. And Trump seems to be I need to look at some data on this, but seems to be spending ads in the most expensive way possible. It's why you see those ads, NFL football games, 60 Minutes, local news, the most expensive piece of TV real estate.
There is a lot you can do with targeted cable, with addressable TV to get right at voters in a much more efficient way. And so I, I want to know how they're going to spend that money as much as how much they're going to spend, both digital and television was.
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All right. Let's talk about negotiations over the presidential debates, which start next month. Holy shit. The Trump campaign this week asked the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates to add a fourth debate to the schedule. And if they won't add a fourth, they want them to move up the last debate to early September to account for the early voting that begins that month.
In his letter to the commission, Trump campaign lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Unbelievable.
He's he's just fucking still kicking around here, causing trouble. Also proposed a list of acceptable moderators, which is not something campaigns have ever had any control over. That include various Fox News personalities and right wing talk radio hosts. The Trump campaign is also pushing a bizarre conspiracy that Joe Biden will try to skip the debates, despite the fact that the former vice president has already agreed to the original schedule while Donald Trump has not.
Dan, what is the possible strategic value in making up a conspiracy about how your opponent is too afraid to debate when that opponent has already agreed to do so?
There is none. What are they doing? What are they doing?
I think this is a fascinating example of how the right wing media echo chamber works, which is they are creating the reality that they want, that Donald Trump wants.
Is this symbiotic relationship where they they they want content that Donald Trump's approve of and Donald Trump is likely to share. And so they create that. So they create the alternative. The problem is, is. Donald Trump and a lot of Republicans operatives and elected officials are not in on the game, right? So they then create a campaign strategy that reflects that altered view of reality. Right. They are getting dressed in a in a fun house mirror every single day.
And so in this world, you turn on Fox News and it's like Joe Biden is hiding in his basement. Joe Biden makes gaffes all the time. The virus is going away. School should be open and the economy is getting better. Donald Trump is not a moron. And so then you then you message like that. And this is why they are sort of this is a particularly dumb tactic. But this they are doing this tactic for the same reason that they are running ads about antifa taking over cities, which is something that only Fox News viewers understand, because even though it's not true.
The oldest and maybe silliest tradition around presidential debates is to set expectations as high as possible for your opponent, right?
Like I remember the two in the 2004 campaign, Bush's campaign had a really funny line where they said that John Kerry is supposed to be the greatest debater since Cicero, which is both a backhanded attack on John Kerry and trying to say that John Kerry is this great debater and George W. Bush is this, you know, this dumb Texan who we don't know if he's going to be able to keep up with John Kerry because you're supposed to lower expectations for yourself and raise expectations for your opponent.
The Trump campaign, by saying that Joe Biden is so afraid to debate, he's hiding in his basement and he's lost a step and all that kind of stuff.
If Joe Biden shows up on the debate stage at this point and doesn't drool on himself for the next several hours, he has surpassed all expectations that the Trump campaign has set for him. He's now a big winner.
Like what? What are they doing?
If you were to try? I'm not saying there is strategy here. Let me be very clear.
I'm not saying if you were trying to reverse engineer a strategy to this stupidity, you would say that they look at this and say they are losing. They cannot solve the pandemic problem. The economy is out of their control. And so they're going to take all of their chips and put it on. Joe Biden debate gaffe on the on the roulette wheel.
And so they're just going to say that the the way we're going to win this is we are going to set the pretext that Joe Biden is cognitively incapable of being president. And we're going to hope like hell that he screws up in a way that will convince voters who have some skepticism him that we were right and they had like this is a 2016 redux, which is that they are living in their gross echo chamber in 2016. They, like Trump, constantly made an issue of Hillary Clinton's health and fitness for the job, which was, to be clear, just thinly veiled misogyny.
It was just the fact that a woman he was trying to say with even a modicum, a more subtle way than Donald Trump would really have, that a woman can't do the job. But then Hillary Clinton had a health, a very public health scare not long before a month or two months before the election. And that gave then credence to everything he had said before him, which seemed ridiculous up until that moment. And so this is I guess what they are possibly trying to do is set it up so that if Joe Biden screws up in a debate, something that did happen in the primary debates, that they could weaponize that in a way that could change, potentially change the dynamics in this race.
Yeah, and let's be clear, they are they are priming the media to.
You know, jump all over even the slightest gaffe from Joe Biden, like and like you said, Joe Biden will absolutely garble his words at some point over the course of three presidential debates, like, I can't predict too much, but I can predict that will happen at least a couple of times. Right.
And it may not look very bad to most voters or to us, but I guess they think that if they can get the media to be on the lookout for the Biden gaffe, then they will profit from that once Biden just screws up. Whereas, I mean, we know that Biden has struggled with a stutter throughout his life. We have seen him in the primary debates also just sort of fumble his words even beyond a stutter.
And so that's something that's going to happen probably in these debates.
And they're going to turn that into a big deal, just like they do in this now, where they, like, selectively edit videos or they jump on anything Joe Biden says wrong to sort of highlight the problem.
Now, the Trump campaign, you know, per usual, has lied about the fact that Biden or anyone in his circle has even entertain the notion of skipping the debates. But there have been a few suggestions of the sort from some folks in the media. Former Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart wrote a CNN piece telling Biden, quote, Whatever you do, don't debate Trump. It's a fool's errand to enter the ring with someone who can't follow the rules or the truth.
I think this ends, you know, Joe's a very smart guy, but I think this sounds completely crazy to me that the Joe Biden would ever want to skip a debate with Donald Trump or could could get away with it.
Yeah, I like Joe is a smart guy. He's been in politics a lot longer than we have. I have to say, this seems like the political version of the Atlanta Falcons second hat strategy against the Patriots in the Super Bowl, which is like you don't get to just it all.
Just get to try to hold the ball and hope for the best, like he's got he has the debate to not debate would give credence to everything Trump has said.
The press would rightfully go insane if the challenger decided not to debate.
It would be a very compelling piece of prima facie evidence that he is not up to the task of president. Like, I can't even imagine that case. Now, it is possible, given that insane list the Trump campaign put out of acceptable moderators, including just Fox News panelists like Real WordStar, Rachel Campos, Duffy, like that. They want to create an environment where Donald Trump looks like he wants a debate, which is why he proposes fourth debate.
But then they are unable to come to an agreement on format and moderator, and therefore they can then try to convince people that Joe Biden was the one who walked away from the table. That also seems like a little bit of a lark to me.
But I mean, here's here's the problem with this strategy, too. So the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates, right. They are now like like the Trump campaign is now making demands of the commission. You must use these moderators. You must give us for debates. You must move up one of the debates. So they're making all these demands of the commission. Yet they're also letting it be known that their campaign really wants to debate. So therefore, all the leverage in the negotiations is with the commission, because if the commission tells the commission knows that if they tell the Trump campaign to fuck off with all these demands, the Trump campaign still going to come debate anyway because they're running around saying how much they want to debate.
I feel raw bursting your bubble on this one right here on Zoome. But the art of the deal is not a real book.
And Donald Trump is not a master negotiator. This is not real. I don't think this a particularly well thought.
Through what incentive does the commission have to meet any of these crazy demands by your campaign?
I'll tell you what it does. One is there aren't debates. The commission will go away. And two, there was a commission all play leading roles and the both sides play that is Washington.
And so I know. I know.
I know if they're OK. If they're smart. Yes, yes. Listen to us members of the Presidential Debate Commission.
All right. The other thing the other thing I'd love to understand here is why the Trump campaign thinks that they will benefit from an additional few hours of the American people hearing stuff like this from their candidate. And, you know, there are those that say you can test too much, you do know that? Who says that? Oh, just read the manuals, read the book manuals, read them and read the books. What books? What testing done.
Be sorry. Wait a minute. Let me let me explain. Some Americans are dying and they are dying. That's true. And you. It is what it is. I did more for the black community than anybody with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln, whether you like it or not. You believe he did more than Lyndon Johnson, who passed the Civil Rights Act. How does I help personally? Judicial reform done. And I do wish you well.
I'm not looking for anything bad for her. I'm not looking bad for anybody. And they took that. I mean, she's a child. Let's try.
Big deal. We had the ability to test, OK? Because we came up with South Korea, Jonathan. We weren't even when I took over, we didn't even have a test. Now, in all fairness, why would you have a test test? Fires to resist were lower than the world, low the lower than Europe.
In what? In what?
Take a look right here. Here's case death. So we have a new phenomena. It's called in. It's called Mail in voting, where you send word it's been here since the civil war. In terms of, look, Mr. Great, let's look at this. Sending out applications, download millions of ballots. No, they're not their applications. There's no way. OK, thank you. Thank you very much.
My favorite part of that is Jonathan Swanage is saying lower than the world. So that was there was a supercute from our friends at Packenham of Jonathan Swan's Axios interview with Trump last week.
Was it last week or was this week? I don't know. They're all blending together.
Look, between a pandemic and you have a newborn time lost and it'll start meaning something years from now. I'm not there personally.
So some at some point floating in time, there was this axis interview. What did you think of the interview?
I mean, what did you think? What specifically what did you think of how Jonathan one did?
You know, I I was one of the many people who praised him on Twitter because I think he, you know, followed up with Donald Trump, said something fucking crazy.
I mean, he did great like it was he took no bullshit. Right. Which people tend to do in interviews with Trump.
And there's an interesting couple of interesting things about it.
One is Trump, both in this in the Swan interview and in the Chris Wallace interview of a few weeks ago, Trump went in thinking he was having a conversation with his friends at Fox News with a friendly interviewer.
And it's been so long since he's done an interview with someone who is not a friendly interviewer that he doesn't know how to do them anymore. Right. He is not taken live pitching in a very long time. And he was completely flummoxed.
And I take nothing away from either Jonathan Swan or Chris Wallace.
I think both did incredibly excellent jobs, but it says more about the other people who have interviewed Trump than Swapna Wallace with how much yeah, how much praise they've got, because being prepared, knowing the facts and asking follow up questions and just like doing little film study to see what you know, how the Trump typically tries to get out of telling the truth is not fucking sorcery, right? It is journalism. It's good journalism. But like David Muir, if David Muir were to watch either of those interviews, he would he should just resign from journalism at that point because he did such a terrible job.
They actually got him.
Oh, by the way, we should say that he got himself on the list. He did some of that moderator list. He was right below Rachel Campos Duffy on the list.
So, no, I totally I mean, it made me think about these White House briefings that we've seen lately, both with Kelly McInerney and Donald Trump, where, like I have come to now, I think they're just useless at this point because Donald Trump has a strategy and so does Kelly McCann.
McInerney, where you get asked a question, you just lie, you say something fucking crazy, and then you move on to the next question, because no one challenges you. Because if you if a reporter tries to ask a follow up, you say, no, I'm going to call on someone else.
You call in the next reporter and the next reporter just decides to ask something completely different, doesn't follow up for their colleague, doesn't say, hey, my colleague just asked a follow up. You said something sort of crazy. This doesn't seem right. This doesn't seem true. I want to go back to what my colleague just said. They don't have any strategy and I get it. They're all competing against each other for scoops.
But what it what it does is it makes the briefings, these briefings completely useless. And it gives the it gives Trump and the Trump White House just an easy way to get out of it.
And the proof is Jonathan Swan and Chris Wallace. Every time Donald Trump or his White House is challenged and someone follows up on one of their lies, they complete. Fall apart, they completely fall apart and like the other reporters haven't figured out how to coordinate strategy to make sure that happens when they're asking questions during a briefing. So I don't I don't understand the purpose of them anymore.
I feel like for three and a half years I've been having a similar conversation with you and my wife about these briefings, which is like, why are the questions so terrible? That's all. Whenever there's a press conference, why are the questions so terrible?
And I think it's not it's never going to get better. It's not a solvable problem. It is, as you point out, the power dynamic and we know this from your work in the White House, the power dynamic benefits the person behind the podium. It's just it's very different than interview. It is very hard to interrupt a president or a press secretary in the middle of their remarks with they're saying something. Yeah. And they they get to control.
Who asked the next question? Reporters. There's a collective action problem among reporters. They have no incentive to strategize, which is why the White House Correspondents Association is a toothless organization and has no power because they do not have each other's interests. And and this is critically important is that briefing room is filled with conservative safe spaces.
So Jonathan Karl or Caitlin Collins or someone else is hammering Trump or Kayleigh McEnany. They just go find the Fox person, the Breitbart person, the end person. Right. And there are no progressive organizations in that briefing room right now. Right, at least like I don't know why you guys haven't sent Brian to the White House, he lives like a mile away, like that would be helpful. But in all seriousness, you applied for a press pass.
I can't remember.
But I mean, it's actually there's a lesson for the Biden White House about the advantage of nurturing a progressive media infrastructure. But that's a different conversation. But like, it's just impossible. You're never going to succeed in that. There can be a moment where one reporter really, like, nails the president, the press. We've seen that happen a couple of times, but they have a huge advantage and there's no incentive for the reporters to ask. Every once in a while, you see someone do the right thing.
Like I think I think this happened like a day or two ago where someone followed up on someone else's question that had come up. And that does happen periodically, but that's usually because the person behind the podium is screwed up and not move directly to one of their friends. So interviews is where and we got all this crap for all the interviews Obama did. But interviews with objective journalists is the best, most revelatory way to hold a politician accountable, much more so than these press conferences.
And look, and the reason we're talking about this, it goes back to the conversation we're having about the debates, because that's why it's so important for the commission to not give in to the Trump campaign's demands for a safe space moderator, which that list of people largely was not completely. Yeah, there are some fair journalists on there, but by and large, that was a bunch of safe spaces for the Trump campaign. And these debates cannot be moderated by people like that.
And I do think, again, the Trump campaign wants the debates. So either get a real moderator and you show up to debate Joe Biden or you're the one who doesn't want to debate because you didn't you weren't guaranteed a safe space on the debate stage.
The inclusion, we joke about it, but the inclusion of David Muir and Norah O'Donnell, who I think is a good interviewer and an excellent journalist, I was surprised by including Norah. Norah was like the one that I was like, oh, I'm wondering why they because I think she's a pretty good journalist. That's evidence that they actually want.
The debates you have to put there have to be some Biden would, I think, agree to Norah O'Donnell in two seconds as a debate moderator.
David Vitter, for as terrible as he was in his interview with Trump, it's not a pro Trump journalists. He's just a bad interviewer. And Biden could not and would not reject David Muir, I think, either, if that's who the commission proposed. So, like buried in there is the admission, like they throw a lot of red meat to all of their right wing friends. But in there is the path to some potentially to some number of debates.
I do think also this is what happens when you like you sort of ask question is if you watch Trump speak in public, why would you possibly think your your victory depends on him speaking in public? And part of it is because no one ever tells him he does a bad job. And I sometimes joke that, you know, the saying about George W. Bush, that he was born on third base and thought he hit a triple. Right, for Donald Trump is someone who comes up to bat, strikes out swinging and every single time walks back to the dugout thinking he hit a home run.
And so he he looks at and everyone thinks he did great. Right. He watches this Fox and Friends performance the next morning and thinks he did great. So he thinks he's smart and no one around him has the ability to tell him otherwise so that they run this strategy that like I said, it's based on a funhouse mirror version of Trump.
I also think the Trump campaign has probably strategized that right now we are in a campaign environment where like. Donald Trump says crazy shit every day that gets the lion's share of the coverage and once in a while a Biden gaffe slips through, but it is mostly about how many crazy things Donald Trump says every day. If you get into a debate stage where Donald Trump continues to say crazy shit for three hours up on stage in front of a national audience, that's nothing really new to people.
Yeah, that's fine. But if you can get Joe Biden to make a number of gaffes that the media focuses on, because everyone is inured to the fact that Donald Trump is always saying crazy shit, then that is a marginal win for the Trump campaign.
It's an inspiring strategy de strategy. Right.
When we come back, we will have Dan's conversation with many Garcia and Cliff Walker, the leaders of the Texas Democratic Party. And stick around after that to hear Tommy talk to Ben Rhodes about his brand new America media podcast, Missing America.
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I'm now joined by the executive director and deputy director of the Texas Democratic Party, Manny Garcia and Cliff Walker. Hey, guys, thanks for joining the show. Thanks for having us. All right. I want to start with what is a question that Democrats have been asking for a very long time. Is this the year that we can turn Texas blue? Hell, yes. All right, good. You know. Yes.
I mean, we like we've been having this conversation for, you know, since really since 2012 about when Texas would finally be to what we believe its destiny to be, which is a purple to blue state. You know, we came tantalizingly close in eighteen with Beddows race against Ted Cruz. What is different in two thousand and twenty?
Look, the first thing it's it's all about the people, right? I mean, we have a wonderful, talented team. We're very excited about them. We have nearly one hundred people, nearly one hundred talented operatives at the Texas Democratic Party and great partnerships with all of our candidates. But at the end of the day, Texas is just there. I mean, for a long time, we've had the raw population to be a blue stronghold, but there had been held back on whether to really invest or not.
You know, Republicans have obviously put obstacles in front of our way to obstruct people's ability to have their voice heard at the ballot box.
But what we've seen over the trajectory of the past several years is in 2016, for the first time in two decades, we became a single digit state. And a lot of folks just told us, well, that's just because Donald Trump was on the ticket and then Breteau came within three points. And then they're like, well, that's just because better work was on the ticket. And that was just like a unique campaign. Well, now we're back to Donald Trump and we got all these state house.
We're just nine seats away from flipping the state house. We have more congressional targets here than any state in the country. We have a US Senate race that's within single digits already. And Joe Biden is consistently polling up over Donald Trump over and over and over again.
And I think it's just because of Texans, they've wanted a massive change. They've been frustrated with what the Republican Party has given them. And when you look at our population, we are fast growing and we're incredibly diverse. Texas looks like the Democratic coalition. And if we just speak to them and we're proud about who we are and we make sure that we get them in the information to come out to vote, we went just to piggyback off of that a little bit and dive into some of the numbers.
We came within about hundred 250000 thousand votes from carrying the state in twenty eighteen, but there's still two point four million Democrats who did not vote in a midterm election. Not terribly surprising, although we did have an incredibly hard up, fired up turnout in large part thanks to the better on the down ballot candidates. But going into a presidential year, we think we have an excellent opportunity to mobilize folks. We're seeing high turnout not just across the country, but here in Texas in our primary, in our runoff.
And then when you layer on the confluence of opportunity, it's a perfect storm for Democrats in Texas. And Republicans get this. They know that the Texas House is virt to flip their in-state investors. There are out-of-state investors that are coming in big to really get the job done to the Texas House where nine state House seats away. We were within 20 within single digits in twenty two seats in twenty eighteen. The congressional opportunities are expansive and expanding. We had seven targeted seats at the beginning of the cycle when the seat at the Texas was the focal point of the offensive strategy in the country.
That list you would expect it to whittle down as the cycle continues. But it is growing potentially. In the last week or two, there have been very encouraging. Polls have been publicly released and three additional congressional seats are not yet on that target list. We've got a U.S. Senate seat where John Cornyn is alone by two thirds of people and the ones who do know him don't like it. And then you're right, Texas is a jump ball at the presidential level.
We I checked the five thirty eight.
Right. That every morning, man, it gives me grief. We all live on the roller coaster here. It's OK.
But it's not just I mean, you pick your roller coaster, it's not just five thirty eight. You know, we see the economist that is now listing us as a tossup. I think NBC this morning, or at least that we were a tossup state as well. And this is new territory for Texas. So when you layer in all of these opportunities, about a third of our congressional states will be competitive. And let's even talk about the new Democrats, we've got a bunch of folks that have moved in, we're poaching Democrats, some other states, that's what we're going to get, another three or so congressional districts after reapportionment.
But the folks that are moving in, we're registering those people in droves in spite of the fact that there's been a pandemic, which is, I think, impacted everybody across the country. We are still, as we estimate right about now, closing in on about two hundred thousand Democratic voters registered since the last presidential election.
I wanted to ask you about that, because, you know, around the country, we have seen because of the pandemic, we've seen dramatic drops in voter registration rates goes up a seventy five percent in some states. Are you guys having success registering new voters in this? You know, obviously very challenging environment. And if so, what are you doing? Well, we've got we we have to get creative in Texas, but we've had to be scrappy and creative, right?
We we have never been the darling of some of the the larger money in the state. So we've we've had to, for instance, raise a lot of money online. We raise more money online than any other state party by double in February. This last virtual convention that we have, which is the first big virtual convention in the country, raised a million and a half dollars from forty thousand people across the country who went to thirty eight, four thirty eight dotcom and contributed thirty eight bucks.
Right. But it's actually a very to question. You know, I think what is is a little bit different about what we are doing on the voter registration front is we identify those Democrats who are moving into the state. This is something that we engineered in twenty eighteen. We just did a pilot project. And this is what the partnership of a better word. So we funded we mailed 700000 applications to register to vote. The Democrats had moved in the state.
We pre Felton with the voters information and we included an envelope that was stamped and addressed to the clerk. So while we do not have online voter registration in the state, we have to get creative in finding ways to get applications that are that will be filled out in front of people. We know that emailing them a PDF isn't really enough to get them to actually. I mean, who has a printer in their home? I mean, I know many millennials, Jency voters do.
Right? So we've got to get creative. And that's the thing that we're doing now. We have a couple hundred thousand more applications that are about to hit mailboxes in ten days. And since we do not have online voter registration, we created a website called Register Texas Dukkha. If you go to register Texas dot com, you can check your registration status, but you can also plug in your information.
We will download it. We will print out the app, mail it along with the envelope and an addressed envelope with a stamped envelope. And so that's what the voter all they have to do is review it, it pop it in the mail, and then they're on their way to be registered. So we know we have to eliminate hurdles in anything that we can do to just shave off a few minutes or seconds from the process means that you get a higher yield.
So those are things that we're doing anyway. One of the big questions that's hanging over the presidential race is how how much is Joe Biden going to play in Texas? Right. They made an announcement about an ad buy which says they're going to spend in Texas. We don't know yet how much in you know, this is a 50, 60 million dollar investment. Right. How essential is it for all for your congressional races, the Mgahinga race against Cornyn and the down ballot stuff that Joe Biden played big in Texas?
Look, I want to say one of the lessons I think Democrats have learned over the past several years in particular is that when you run everywhere, you've got a local Democrat who increases turnout in your district. Right. In the twenty eighteen cycle, we ran nearly 100 percent of our state legislative seats for the first time ever, and we ran 100 percent of our congressional seats in this cycle. We were matching those numbers again. So there is both a, you know, uplift effect and it goes vice versa.
Right. And you're running a true coordinated campaign. And one of the things we we tend to get, you know, the media covers everything like a horse race. It's this bank account versus this bank account. And as if voters experience the world that way, you know, they don't just experience Joe Biden commercials and Donald Trump commercials. They experience all this slew of, you know, mail and conversations and text messages and digital ads and then TV commercials layered upon it from all sorts of different people within a certain message that they consume and feel with and whether or not it responds to their lived experience.
And when you have a state where our state House districts are competitive, state House districts overlap with our competitive congressional districts, both of which are going to be fully funded endeavors with massive amounts of resources, both from very well-funded campaigns as well as as well as outside organizations coming in and supporting these efforts from across the country.
Then you layer in a U.S. Senate race and MJ Hager, who's just a kickass candidate and is working with us and fully integrated with us and doing a just rockstar job.
The proposition to the Joe Biden campaign is no longer to take, you know, the hundred million dollar endeavor that it would take to take Texas on your own. There is already tens of millions of Democratic mobilization dollars in the infrastructure that our state party is larger than it's ever been.
You got better O'Rourke's operation. You've got those statehouse races. You've got the congressional campaigns. You've got the U.S. Senate campaign. All of that is going to bring out Democratic voters, too. And so the proposition for the Joe Biden campaign is really how do you integrate with all of those efforts? How do you best complement those efforts? And it turns out that we also have a very, very, very popular candidate. And Joe Biden, who's very well liked while the Donald Trump polling has had him, you know, pretty horrible here and not just in this election, but in the 2016 election.
He was quite weak here to. And you know, we know obviously we you brought up the state House races, can you help our non Texas listeners, maybe some of our listeners understand the importance of flipping the house in Texas and what that means going forward, particularly in a redistricting year?
Yeah, I'll briefly say both Cliff and I are like housetrained. We both came up through Texas state House races and worked in the Texas capital. And, you know, we're leading into a redistricting session here. And when when you take a chamber like the Texas House of Representatives, you're able to set representation really for a generation. You can really make some massive change here. And, you know, some of some folks might remember the name Tom DeLay who who gerrymandered congressional districts in Texas in the middle of a decade and, you know, tried to break the rules on the process.
This is big. And it's not only for, you know, what kind of what electoral representation looks like for the next decade. It's also the effect of Texas on the national and world scale. We're one of the largest economies in the world. And what policymaking happens in Texas ends up affecting many of the states across the country. So when you can flip a chamber here, you can completely grind. The Republican effort can be completely stopped. And you not only bring real change to millions of people from health care to education, but you also just completely stop the Republican agenda in its tracks in the biggest place in the country.
I mean, this was considered the stronghold of the Republican Party. And it's the one that I think flips on a dime for our listeners who want to help support your efforts to turn Texas blue.
Where do they go and what can they do either both financially and in terms of volunteer opportunities?
Well, you can actually do both by texting votes to two one three three three, make it very easy. Texting votes two to one three three will put you in the queue to make sure that you see what volunteer opportunities that we have up and running. One quick note. You know, I think we all had our best laid plans at the start of the year for very massive field campaigns and shortly after we announced ours, which was right after our primary and Super Tuesday, a week after that, we went to remote working in all of the staff that Manny just mentioned are all working virtually.
So the plan to have a bunch of canvassers and organize on the ground was was put. We had to get creative and think of something different. So we launched a platform that we call Connect Texas, which is a site platform, but we've got thousands of folks on there. Originally, we launched it as a sort of mutual aid society. So people who are identifying needs and their communities, resources, volunteer opportunities, they could connect with others and learn from what people are doing in one region and apply some of those lines across state.
Now, we've reoriented that towards voter communication. And I've been looking at the Connect Texas sign ups today, and there are people from all across the country. And I think that's in part thanks to to what we're doing today, what we're doing here. That is an excellent place to connect and join the distributed voter contact team. But we do have a weekend of action that started a little earlier. We can start on Thursday and in Texas this week.
And we're going to text this week and dial a million voters across the state. And that is tremendous for us. Just just one last quick note that I'll share to give you a sense of the scale that we have to do things in Texas. Just last week, we held we call our Black Voters Matter a week of action. And your listeners may not know this, but Texas is home to more black people than any other state in the country.
And as we know, black voters are the backbone of the Democratic Party. And we often hear that too often candidates and parties and whatnot get religion the Sunday before Election Day. So we want to live our values and start by reaching out to our base and last week, over the course of the week, we mobilized candidates, our local party committees, our Texas coalition of black Democrats, our Black Caucus, and crucially better words powered by people. And collectively, we called and texted a million times to black voters across the state to really kick off our coordinated campaign in a way that was reflective of our values.
We fixed voter registration, vote by mail and opportunities to volunteer, and we're excited to do that again, keeping up that pace. That was the biggest voter contact week that we had. But I think we are in. I'm seeing the shift numbers grow on my screen right here. And I'm pretty convinced that we're going to expand beyond that this week. So that's going to help. As many mentioned, those congressional the state House races and we didn't speak much about the state board of Education, which sets education policy and determines curriculum in the state of Texas, since we buy so many textbooks that impact schools across the country.
So when we do it, when we have a Democratic led state board of education, which is very possible, there are three seats that were within single digits this past election in twenty eighteen. And we are, guess what, three, three seats shy of flipping the state board of Education. That's a that's a big darn deal. We've got four seats on the Texas Supreme Court. We've got three seats on the Court of Criminal Appeals that are up statewide.
These are hugely impactful. And the impact all of these folks and lest I forget it, the Railroad Commission, which has nothing to do with railroads in Texas but regulates our oil and gas industry, of course, working with them, but it regulates oil and gas industry.
Right now, it's through Republicans. You can guess the kind of policies that are coming from there. We'll have a chance to get a Democrat on that board, which would make this, I would argue, the most important environmental race in the country as a presidency. So everything is bigger in Texas. And I know that that has made folks nervous in the past.
But given the confluence of opportunity. We can get it all done in one fell swoop. There's great stuff, you guys, we made a great case for playing in Texas. Cliff, many thank you guys so much for joining us on parts of America. And good luck with everything you were doing this election. I'm sure we will talk again before Election Day.
Thank you. Great to be with you. On the pod, we have Ben Rhodes, you know him, you love him, he is the host of Pod Save the World. He is also the host of the brand new incredible podcast, Missing America. Ben, it's great to connect with you for through the same fucking zoom for this very different show. Yes.
And I haven't crossed over to play in a while.
Tell me, this is this is how we're going to rant about like Mike Pence or something at some point in this just to get into the domestic field. Is it. I'm just so I know.
Is there a different vibe now than to w I mean, I you know, or do I have to like, become more sober?
No, I think the opposite. I'd like to think that we're the high minded version so you can you can really dumb it down for me now that we're on the side of the house. So, Ben, I'm excited to talk to you because missing America is out. I've gotten to listen to the half of the episodes. It is incredible. Your reporting from the before times from around the world. Can you give listeners like a sense of what missing America is about and why you wanted to do this show now?
Yeah, so it's basically about what has happened to the world in the absence of America. Like, we have not been the country that historically we've at least tried to be around the world in the last three and half years under Donald Trump. So we've literally gone missing.
We're not present in the covid response shows the most acutely.
But it's not just that what's happened to the spread of nationalism, the spread of disinformation, the spread of climate change, all of these kind of problems, diseases that have been spreading around the world have gotten much worse in the absence of America trying to do anything about them and in some cases, America being a part of the problem here.
So I wanted to both show people a global perspective on just what has happened around the world in the absence of American leadership and also get insights into, well, what do we need to do about that if we're able to get past Trump and have an opportunity of a Democratic administration?
Yeah, I mean, that's what I think is so cool about the show, right. Because you're talking about these are these global systemic challenges facing countries around the world and how they aren't getting addressed, in part because traditionally America's leading that effort to solve them. But obviously, Trump looms large here and is a big reason for that absence of U.S. leadership. But he's not the root of all these problems.
And I thought one really fascinating example, an illustrative example, was what Facebook has done to Burma's democracy. Can you talk about that story? Because I thought those activists that you that you interviewed for that that episode were just incredible. Yeah.
Well, first of all, it speaks to a bigger thing that I was traveling a lot and talking to a lot of people, meeting a lot of interesting people. And then I even started recording those conversations before I even tried to do a podcast. So when I first met the guy who told the Burma story, I didn't even know I can do this podcast.
And I went back to him to record it. And what I found to me is that I could actually understand better what was happening in America by looking at what was happening in other countries, because the same shit is happening everywhere. So the Burma Facebook story is an extreme version of what's happening here. And the story that this guy walked me through in each episode is basically the first half of each episode is just a story. It's not a bunch of interviews.
It's it's telling a story about what happened in one place with one problem. And he described to me there was no Internet in Burma. It was a closed country. So North Korea style country, there was almost zero percent Internet penetration. And then because of the opening up that happened there over the last decade, within a year, it went from zero percent Internet to 95 percent Internet coverage. But the entire experience of the Internet in this country was on phones and through the Facebook app because people didn't have computers, because Google didn't even have Burmese script.
So imagine going from getting no information. Maybe all you get is like state run media for a hunter.
And then suddenly you think you have all the information in the world. And it's Facebook.
I think, like at the beginning, Facebook see Myanmar as a new market that hasn't been explored. Right. So they came to the country without thinking of what are the impact of Facebook for the population. Like if you look at the data around 2014, Facebook has only about two or three content moderators for the country, for the whole country, for the whole country.
Two or three people with two or three people. Country of 60 million people. Yeah, two or three people who monitor hate content, review the content on Facebook.
And of course, what it became was virulent disinformation and hate campaigns. And the people consuming it had no reason to think it wasn't true. So if they're reading about Muslims rampaging or raping Buddhist women, they think it's the Internet, it's Facebook, it's trusted news. Right. And the result in part is it contributed to the ethnic cleansing that took place there.
But it's a window into what's happened here. Right. Which is that people consume. Facebook, and they think it's shared by their friends, they think it's credible, they don't know what's true and what's not, and so the same lack of antibodies against disinformation and the same Facebook platform that turbo charges hate speech. And since sensational images and stories contribute both to the Russian intervention, our election and to what happened in Myanmar, we're all in the same boat here.
And that that's something I want people to take away from this podcast. Is it what's happening in these other countries is the same shit that's happening here.
So we need to learn from each other. You're right that that connection really does come through. It's just like, you know, imagine the problem of your your mother or grandmother thinking that every Facebook post is accurate and magnify that by the entire country. And then imagine what Facebook has done to gut local newspapers around the country or any media, frankly, in the US, and then magnify that by having no independent media to check the disinformation that's spreading on Facebook.
I thought that was like I thought one of the most tragic and preventable examples of this, like systemic growing problem that that we face right now. Yeah.
And what I like about what we arrived at in the format when we got the cricket team around it and a team of folks around it is OK, like we'll tell the story and it's like, oh shit, this is a big problem. But then in the second part of that episode, again, the same format for each episode we hear from a whole bunch of people about what to do about it. So we've got leading European thinkers and politicians. We've got people who are going to be in the Bush administration.
We got tech activists around the world talking about, well, how should we regulate social media?
How should we approach platforms like Facebook? So we want to lead people with a sense of like just how bad things are, but also like, hey, here's what we can do about it. And here are all these smart people around the world who are thinking about this. So it's not just Americans. It's something we have to solve together as progressives globally.
Yeah, you really did a good job of like looking around the world for solutions to problems. And, you know, honestly, my favorite part of the show is that we go with you around the globe to meet, like, all these unbelievable, like mostly young, inspiring activists.
How did you get connected with with all these people? Were these like Obama affiliations? Because like every every country in the globe, you tend to know the like 30, 40 year old, like, inspiring MP that is the future of the country.
Well, yeah. I mean, some of it is Obama Foundation people. So the Obama Foundation has networks of young leaders that are generally civil society leaders around the world. And I've gone in some of the interviews I did. We're kind of on the margins of these Obama Foundation convening in Johannesburg and Malaysia. In Germany. Some of it is I ask people so, you know, I asked for references. I go to Human Rights Watch, you know, hey, who who should I talk to about China?
Right. And people want to tell their stories, particularly at this moment in time in Hong Kong was an interesting piece of this, because I met a tremendous young person who is in an Obama Foundation program. But then I also met the Human Rights Watch people. And then I asked them for references of people to talk to and then we talked.
So if you listen to the show, you know, we've got as the Hong Kong protests are unfolding and tragically, ultimately, you know, run into the Beijing's repression, you have different Hong Kong voices of people I've met in different venues, in different parts of the world who are involved in these protests at different junctures. And you hear how they're wrestling with and how they're dealing with it. One of them even had to, you know, obscure his voice because he obviously feared for his family's safety, not just his own.
So I was able to tap into that Obama network. I was able to tap into other civil society networks. I was able to tap into some of the political leaders I've met over the years. David Lammy, a remarkable rising Labour politician in the UK, we've had on parts of the world, kind of walked me through, well, how did we get to Brexit? I mean, what happened inside of the UK that brought back this form of nationalism, you know?
And so I think one of the cool things about the project is over the course of a couple of years, really, I was just taking my recorder with me all over the world. And so these interviews are literally taped, I think, on every continent except for Antarctica, I guess is kind of get there. But everywhere else, you know, with voices from all these places, from former prime ministers like Kevin Rudd down to like like you say, whoever the most interesting 30 year old activist is, I could find.
Well, and the other thing that's cool about this is like, again, this was mostly done in the before times before covid. And you could travel a lot of the times you were in countries where interviewing an activist about their concerns about the current government is a risky proposition. I mean, were there times you were having to be furtive, cover your tracks, communicate covertly? Like how did you pull this off?
Well, you know, what's interesting is and a bunch of the most extreme scenarios I. Things in third countries, so, you know, one of the prominent Hong Kong interviews I did in Malaysia because the person was traveling there and, you know, you find increasingly that that that something you to do. You know, when you get inside Europe, you get to a place like Hungary. You know, Hungary is within the EU. Right. And so it's not as if it's hard to get in and out of Hungary.
I did at times recognize I wasn't facing any risk. But some of the people talking to me were. And and I you know, I always ask people like, what are you comfortable saying and doing?
Are you comfortable taking this risk? A good example is one of the activists I talked to who was from China, lived in Hong Kong. I think it was basically kicked out of Hong Kong and is now in New York. Right. So her risk ultimately let her, I think, to have to be in some form of exile. But but other activists, you know, take they know the risks that they're taking and talking to you and they take it anyway.
The India story I tell is entirely through the prism of runnerup, who's a remarkable journalist who's had massive amounts of death threats, had fake pornography circulated about her, has had massive disinformation campaigns against her. And she she sticks it out and she accepts all the risk of being a journalist in Mumbai and reporting what's happening in under an increasingly nationalist Indian government. And that's just that's what she's taking on. Right. So I think what's most extraordinary is that all these people are willing to to raise their voices despite the danger they face.
Yeah. Runner up is like a truly heroic journalist.
And that is one of my favorite episodes because of the way you connected the current nationalism under Modi in India with India's history of Gandhi fighting for for freedom and universal rights and how he inspired Martin Luther King. And I was all tied into U.S. history and our civil rights movement. It's just an incredible, incredible experience to sort of go abroad to learn about our own history in the way that you did in that episode.
Yeah, one of the best things that I liked about this project is, you know, it's always good when you end up somewhere that you didn't start, you know. Yeah, right.
And so for me, I learned a lot. And one of the things I kept picking up is there was a lot of commonality in terms of the far right groups in the world learning from one another. Right. And so when we get to to India, you know, Modi has a citizenship law that is basically a Muslim ban. And it's not a leap to think that he might have picked something up from Trump. And and there's this kind of symbiotic relationship between what Modi and Trump have been up to in terms of having these kind of ethno nationalist conceptions of what the nation state is at the same time and talking to people about the history of India.
I started to learn more and revisit what used to be the symbiotic relationship between Gandhi and the Movement for India's independence and the American civil rights movement, and I was thinking, well, how do we go from a place where progressives used to coordinate across borders and you could have a Gandhi inspiring a king to make this enormous change in both countries to the the wrong people learning from one another. And right as I was kind of, you know, in that space, BLM exploded in the US.
And then you saw all these protests around the world in support of BLM. And one of the basic conclusions I came to is what we need around the world is a massive progressive mobilization. You know, it's going to take a global Black Lives Matter movement. It's going to take global support for Hong Kong protest or for Indians who are facing repression or people in European countries that are drifting towards dictatorship to all stand up together.
Right. And I, I, I got there by visiting all these places and hearing from these people and having them tell me, hey, the right has been well organized. The left has not been we got to get our stuff together inside our own countries, but across borders as well.
Yeah, I'd love that episode. I didn't listen. Part of it is run. I was just someone I could listen to talk for four hours on that. Totally inspiring, but it was just such a cool turn of our history. Last question for you. I mean, you ended up interviewing a ton of people who are now the most senior individuals on Joe Biden's foreign policy team on the campaign. And it will probably take up like the most senior positions in his administration.
A lot of these conversations were before they were officially involved in the campaign, which I think led them maybe to speak a little more freely than they might have. Did anything they say surprised you? Do you think anybody wants to take something back that's going to wind up in the show? Because I was very candid stuff from senior sober people.
Yeah, well, look, I think what you get what's so great about this is like you and I have been there, Tommy, like we when you enter into a campaign, what you can say, like suddenly shrinks and government and you're just a spokesperson.
Right? Even if it's if you totally agree with.
And what was great about this I reporter over a couple of years and, you know, got to talk to people, you know, who we worked with. Right.
Like Jake Sullivan and Avril Haines and Susan Rice very prominently, obviously, and Samantha Power and others who might play these critical roles in the administration and just kind of get their world view and get their sense of what does the United States need to do about China? What does United States need to do to regulate social media?
Like what is U.S. leadership on climate look like and from their own perspectives? And so I think people will get a window into what the people who end up working for a Biden administration, what do they think? How do they think about these issues? And, yeah, in some cases, very concrete ideas about what U.S. policy should be. But I think most valuable is just this is maybe the last time you get to hear them just talk as human beings.
I know. I know they have to become campaign spokespeople or surrogates and then government officials. And I say that with humility.
I was once one of those people and we were we were both robots. We were not allowed to say anything. Yeah. So I don't to put any one person on the spot. I will say, though, there's a collection of people that I think you would expect to be making up the kind of inner circle. And because I was talking them into that, an 18, 19, early 20, I do think you'll get a sense of how are these people wrestling with the same problems that we wrestle with in the series?
And what might that mean for for a Biden presidency and foreign policy?
Yeah, well, listen, it is such a great show. I don't think any of them will regret the things they said. But I do think it will be incredibly instructive for people who want to know how they'll govern in areas like tech regulation. Like you have Jake Sullivan talking in great length about how he thinks technology companies should or could be regulated. And I think that's fascinating and instructive because it's probably not an area where Joe Biden has the most deeply developed views, you know?
Yeah, no. And what I hope people take away from the interviews with these folks is that we're all human beings. You're right. And we're all wrestling with these things. We're wrestling with our own experience and what we're seeing. Right. And so, like, yeah, someone like Jake spent a lot of time thinking about tech, in part because in twenty sixteen he was working for Hillary and. Right. And he saw how Facebook was manipulated to essentially defeat his then boss.
And so he really wrestled with it and he really thought deeply about it. You know, what is the responsibility on these tech companies and what is the role of government?
They don't meet those responsibilities. And I think that's true. Of all the government voices, John Brennan is in there talking about how to demilitarize our approach to terrorism, you know, and how to how to emphasize other aspects of US leadership in the Middle East. You know, Susan Rice is in there talking about the connection between social justice in this country and our leadership around the world. You know, amidst, you know, Black Lives Matter movement.
Samantha Power reflecting what she learned during the Ebola response and what that means for how the US needs to think about international cooperation. And so what I love about it is it's both those people kind of putting out policy positions that they think are important. But but even more importantly, like it shows you how they've been informed by their experiences in government. And I frankly try to do that myself and are multiple places in the podcast where I say I wish we'd done something different in the Obama years, or if we'd known then, you know, what was going to happen, we would have thought about it differently or, you know, I think we got this right.
But here's how you build on it. And I think showing all this is a human endeavor is something that you can do in a podcast and you can't do in a lot of other formats.
Yeah, none of these issues are simple. None of the answers are simple. It's nice to hear people sort of think aloud about the problem, the range of possibilities and everything in between. Ben, people should subscribe to Missing America.
Right now. The trailer is up. You can find it on Apple, you can find it on Spotify. When is the first episode going to hit their their inboxes once they subscribe to so Tuesday.
So next week, Tuesday smashed the subscribe button. Give us that five star rating like. No, I mean I to say it, this has been like kind of a passion project and it's great that cricket got behind it because the opportunity bring all these voices, particularly the global voices. I think I think folks will think it's hopefully worth checking out. And it's really great that they have that opportunity.
It's an incredible show. And I also can confirm that Ben has put blood, sweat and tears into this thing. There have been hours and hours a day of him sitting in a closet with a blanket over his head trying to record voice over with little kids running around the house. It's not easy to do this stuff remotely, man.
Let me tell you. Like, so when I signed up to this as it got this great, I'll take these interviews and and first of all, like, none of the cricket people really, I think, level with me about how much work is scripted podcasts, this shit ton of work.
And there's a great team of people that that get you from like a bunch of interviews to script. But then I was like, oh, this will be great. Every Tuesday I come in, I tape parts of the world, Tommy, and I'll record all my stuff there.
And boom, then the pandemic is right when I start doing this.
So I have to build a pillow for it in my closet downstairs where all my kid's toys are, by the way, that the toy storage closet.
So sometimes they're like banging on the door trying to invade the closet. Like I've got people in my ears telling me that I'm not speaking like the people do this American life or whatever.
And I'm like, oh, come on, man.
Like, just this is not how I saw this going.
But but I'm glad it turned out that you're like sitting on a Lego is just avenue.
I'm sitting on a Lincoln Logs. I literally recorded the whole thing on a giant bucket of Lincoln Logs in my closet. So thankfully, cricket has access to tremendous sound designers.
That's true. That is very true. Podcasting, it is glamorous. I say this as I had to escape from my bedroom where there was a lawnmower to my office or someone has a different lawn mower. I'm so sick of this quarantine shit.
But missing America will get you through it. Subscribe. It is incredible. Ben, great to talk to you over on this side of the house. I guess we talk about foreign policy anyway, so whatever. Yeah.
Glad to be on the Senate House.
I think it's like once a year I get over here and then you say back, well, we just got to find something to rant about and just come on. It's like pre-record something just to shout about Marco Rubio. Yeah, yeah.
We can do that. We can we can get back to that. Thanks to Manny Garcia and Cliff Walker and Ben Rhodes for joining us today and everyone have a good weekend.
We'll talk to you next week by everyone. God Save America is a crooked media production. The executive producer is Michael Martinez. Our associate producer is Jordan Waller.
It's mixed and edited by Andrew Chadwick. Kyle Soglin is our sound engineer, thanks to Tanya Nominator, K.D. Lang, Roman Papadimitriou, Caroline Reston and Elisa Gutierrez for production support into our digital team, Elijah Konar Melkonian, Yael Friede and Milo Kim, who film and upload these episodes as videos every week.
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