On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Democracy Now! will air a 3-hour election night special from 9 p.m. to midnight ET.
We’ll be covering the key congressional races which will determine the balance of power in Congress, as well as gubernatorial races and ballot initiatives from around the country. Join us to hear the voices of activists, analysts and grassroots leaders discussing how the movements on the ground will go forward following these important midterm elections.
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AMY GOODMAN: From New York, this is Democracy Now!
CAROL ANDERSON: What’s at stake is American democracy.
PROTESTERS: Pro-life is a lie! They don’t care if women die!
LT. GOV. JOHN FETTERMAN: Roe v. Wade, that was the law of the land for 50 years.
DR. MEHMET OZ: I don’t want the federal government involved with that at all. I want women, doctors, local political leaders.
REP. TIM RYAN: You were calling Trump “America’s Hitler.” And then he endorsed you.
ROMONA OLIVER: Oh my god.
POLICE OFFICER 1: Do not move.
POLICE OFFICER 2: So you have a warrant. It’s for voter fraud. OK?
DONALD TRUMP: The election was rigged and stolen, and now our country is being destroyed.
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal.
AMY GOODMAN: Tonight, a Democracy Now! election night special. For the next three hours, we’ll look at results from this pivotal midterm election, which will determine the balance of power in Congress and 36 governorships. We’ll hear from many guests, including Bishop William Barber in North Carolina, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich in California, four-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader in Connecticut and Becca Balint. She has just become the first congresswoman to represent Vermont, as well as the state’s first openly LGBTQ member of Congress. All that and more, coming up.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, for our 2022 election special. I’m Amy Goodman in New York, joined by Democracy Now! co-host Juan González in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Hi, Juan.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Hi, Amy. And good evening to all of our viewers and listeners across the country and around the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, polls have now closed in all but seven states in this critical midterm election that will determine the balance of power in Congress. Republicans need to net just one additional seat in the Senate to take control of the body for the rest of President Biden’s term. Many of the most closely watched Senate races are too close to call.
In Georgia, with 53% of the vote counted, Democratic Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock is leading his Trump-backed Republican rival Herschel Walker 50 to 49%. In New Hampshire, Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan has an early lead over her far-right Republican rival General Don Bolduc. In Florida, Republican Senator Marco Rubio has been reelected, defeating Democratic Congressmember Val Demings. In Ohio, Democratic Congressmember Tim Ryan has an early lead over Republican J.D. Vance, 54 to 46%, with about a third of the vote counted. In the Pennsylvania Senate race, Democrat John Fetterman has a sizable lead over Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz, but just 8% of the vote is in. In North Carolina, Democrat Cheri Beasley has an early lead in the Senate race over Republican Trump ally Ted Budd. Beasley is the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Altogether, 35 Senate seats are being decided today, as well as all 435 seats in the House of Representatives. Republicans need to have a net gain of at least five seats in the House to take the majority. The Republicans have picked up their first seat in Florida’s 7th District. That’s Republican Cory Mills, who has won in the race to fill the seat held by Democrat Stephanie Murphy. The district had been heavily gerrymandered to favor Republicans.
In other races, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has won reelection, defeating the Democratic candidate Charlie Crist, who once served as Florida’s Republican governor before switching parties. In Maryland, voters have elected Democrat Wes Moore to become the state’s first Black governor and just the third Black governor in U.S. history. In Georgia, the race between Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams is too close to call. With 47% of the vote, Kemp has 53% with Abrams’ 47%. In Massachusetts, Democrat Maura Healey has been elected the first woman and first out LGBTQ person to serve as governor of Massachusetts. In Florida, Democrat Maxwell Frost has won the state’s 12th Congressional District. At just 25 years old, Frost has been described as the first member of Generation Z elected to Congress. He’ll also become the first Afro-Cuban congressmember.
But we begin our show in Vermont, where Democrat Peter Welch has been elected to replace Patrick Leahy, who is retiring after nearly 50 years in the Senate. Meanwhile, Democrat Becca Balint has made history by becoming the first woman and the first openly out candidate in Vermont to be elected to Congress. She’s joining us now from her election party, her victory party, in Burlington, Vermont.
Welcome to Democracy Now! Am I the first broadcaster to be saying “Congressmember-elect Becca Balint”?
REP.-ELECT BECCA BALINT: You are, Amy. You are. Thank you so much.
AMY GOODMAN: So, how does it feel? Talk about the significance of your victory as the first congresswoman to represent Vermont — you could ask why did it take so long — and the first openly LGBTQ+ person to represent Vermont in Congress.
REP.-ELECT BECCA BALINT: It is an incredible honor. I have been having a tough time today juggling all the feelings that I have. It is such a happy day for so many parents who have brought their kids to meet me over the course of the campaign, people feeling like they can finally see themselves in elected office. I know I felt that way when I was growing up; I didn’t have a lot of role models. So, it’s just an incredible honor. And to be also the first gay person to represent Vermont in Congress is, again, just a tremendous honor, knowing that I am going to be a role model for so many folks across Vermont who never saw themselves represented in elected office. So, I don’t know if you can hear my grin through the radio line here, but I’m —
AMY GOODMAN: We can see you. It’s not just radio; it’s TV.
REP.-ELECT BECCA BALINT: Yeah, OK. Got it. Got it. So, it is — what a night!
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I’d like to ask you — you campaigned on a platform to get big money out of politics and to protect voter rights. But a lot of the exit polls are not showing that these were big issues for a lot of the voters. What you’re hoping you can accomplish if there’s a distinct possibility that Democrats could be in the minority in the House?
REP.-ELECT BECCA BALINT: Yes. Well, I think we’re all waiting to see what happens tonight, and we’re going to have to regroup no matter what. And one of the things I’ve been saying to my constituents in my senatorial districts — I was state senator for many years — is that whether we are able to hold the House or whether we lose the House, the work is the same. We still have a democracy to save. And it was one of the most resonant issues that I ran on in the campaign. Vermonters are deeply concerned about the health of the democracy. They see the rise of authoritarianism across the globe. And pretty much everywhere I went, people said this has got to be issue number one, is making sure that we are protecting the democracy.
So, I’m so proud, as somebody who lost — you know, I think about my own family’s experience in the Holocaust, and my dad lost his dad at the very end of the war, that we have to start turning towards each other as Americans again. We have to start engaging with people that disagree with us in our communities. And Vermont is a very community-centered state. So I feel like if we can’t do it here, then we probably can’t do it anywhere. But I have faith in us here.
AMY GOODMAN: You have an interesting state, where you have the Republican governor reelected, Phil Scott, but you also have the, to say the least, very well-known independent senator, Bernie Sanders, who also endorsed you. Can you talk about that spectrum in Vermont? Very different from the rest of the country. But also, at the same time that you have become the congressmember-elect, you also have a constitutional amendment that you were very involved with, because, before this, you were the first openly LGBTQ, what, state Senate president —
REP.-ELECT BECCA BALINT: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: — and involved with the Reproductive Liberty Amendment, an abortion —
REP.-ELECT BECCA BALINT: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: — constitutional amendment that just got passed.
REP.-ELECT BECCA BALINT: Yes, we were just celebrating here, because that was an incredible repudiation of what happened in the Supreme Court at the federal level. Vermonters felt so strongly. We wanted to codify those rights in statute but also make it liberty and freedom that was enshrined in our constitution. So, to get that word tonight that that passed, it feels so good for me personally, having worked on that issue for so long. But I know it’s going to be something that other states look to over the coming months to see if they might be able to do a similar thing.
And, you know, to your earlier question, how is it that we can have such a broad spectrum of politicians that run statewide from different political backgrounds, Vermonters really vote for the person. And what I mean by that is we are a small enough state that people really do get to know their elected officials, and they feel a sense of kinship with them. They feel like they understand them personally. And I think that speaks to how we can elect Bernie Sanders and Phil Scott, the Republican, and also to elect me as the first woman to represent Vermont. It’s very exciting.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And speaking about voters knowing their candidates personally, could you talk about your Republican opponent, Liam Madden, an Iraq War veteran, and how the race between you two might be different from what we’ve seen in other parts of the country?
REP.-ELECT BECCA BALINT: Well, what was really interesting about that race on the Republican side is that he ran on the Republican ticket, but he was an avowed independent. So, he is running as a Republican, but in each debate, he would say that “I’m actually not a Republican,” which I think got him some votes but also confused other voters. And the woman who was hoping to get the Republican nomination ended up running as a libertarian. So, it’s been an interesting campaign season, to be sure.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’ll let you go back to your victory party as you continue to celebrate making history, Democrat Becca Balint, the first woman and first openly gay person to represent Vermont in Congress, speaking to us from Burlington, Vermont.
Yes, this is Democracy Now!, our midterm election special. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we go now to Austin, Texas, where we’re joined by Greg Casar, another newly elected Democratic congressmember. He’s a former labor organizer, and he was the youngest member of the Austin City Council.
Greg, we welcome you back to Democracy Now! Can you talk about the significance of your victory? When it comes to the governorship, it’s too close to call. Greg Abbott leads Beto O’Rourke, but it is definitely too early to call that race. Talk about what happened in Austin with your race for the open seat.
REP.-ELECT GREG CASAR: Here in Texas, our election shows that the progressive movement is alive and growing in the state, where we actually have long-standing progressive roots. And so, in my district, which is in East Austin but also through Hays County and into San Antonio, it’s an overwhelmingly working-class, majority-Latino district, where folks want to see us get back to our progressive roots. Actually, Roe v. Wade was a Texas case against Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade. And a 20-something-year-old lawyer named Sarah Weddington and reproductive rights organizers won abortion rights here in Texas. And people want [inaudible] and bring those back. In San Antonio, in my own district, workers’ rights — and some of the most important strikes in American history, like the pecan shellers strike, were here in Texas. And so, what we saw was, in my primary, winning over four times the votes of any other candidate; tonight, nearly an 80% of the vote, because there are real progressive organizations and organizers growing in Texas, just like we’re seeing across the country.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Greg, Austin is one thing, but other parts of Texas are something else. And, of course, we’ve been hearing a lot in the last couple of years how voters in South Texas have supposedly been turning more Republican, more toward even Trump MAGA supporters. I’m wondering your perspective on what’s happening with Latinos along the border as the border becomes more and more militarized and more and more Border Patrol agents being hired to work there, what the impact of that is on how people see elections.
REP.-ELECT GREG CASAR: Well, the fact of the matter is Texas is not a red state. And we’re not secretly a Democratic state. We’re an underorganized state and a voter-suppressed state. It is harder to vote in Texas than anywhere else in the country. So much of our union movement has been crushed. And so, when I talk to folks, overwhelmingly, they aren’t necessarily voting, because this system has failed them, time and time again.
And so, what we have to do is organize those communities, keep our promises to working-class voters and to Latinos, and then they will actually show up for those candidates, that don’t care so much about whether it’s a Republican state or a Democratic state. They want to see a state that works for them instead of just for big corporate interests and the status quo.
And so, I was just in South Texas along the border campaigning. I helped bring Senator Bernie Sanders down to the border, where actually Senator Sanders was the top vote-getter in the presidential race in 2020 along many parts of the border. That’s not very Republican or right-wing. It just shows that people in these working-class and Latino areas want to see candidates that are going to deliver and fight for working people as opposed to big corporate interests.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I’m wondering — your governor, Greg Abbott, has gotten a lot of attention in recent weeks for shipping more and more migrants onto buses to Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., and other areas. What do you think the impact of this high-profile attempt of Abbott to force the federal government to deal with immigration at the border has had on Texas voters?
REP.-ELECT GREG CASAR: Well, just before some of that news broke, right outside my district, in San Antonio, which is part of the city that I will represent as congressman-elect, there were dozens and dozens of people found dead in the back of a tractor-trailer, scorched to death, migrants searching for a better life. And the governor immediately just started talking about Joe Biden. And so, it is clear to so many people that he doesn’t care about immigrants. He doesn’t care about the lives of everyday folks. And what we need to be able to prove, as Democrats, is that we can deliver something different. Basically, we’ve seen this play time and time again, where when people are economically in a challenging place, when we’ve been through the pandemic, that the far right, and the corporations that pay them off, try to fill that vacuum and that void through racist division, through distraction, and that has some real power.
And that means we have to organize people power. And that’s what’s been important about tonight’s election, is that there’s more and more young organizers that want to lead the country being elected across America. You see Maxwell Frost being elected, as you mentioned, in Florida. I heard Becca Balint just before me in Vermont. Delia Ramirez in Illinois, Jasmine Crockett in Dallas, Summer Lee in Pennsylvania. You have a new crop of people who recognize. Instead of just playing on the defense or instead of trying to outcenter the Republicans or try not to show that we are for immigrants, for example, instead, we should help organize communities, stand up for our values. And we can see that people respond to that.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re a former labor organizer. And once one, you will always be one, Greg Casar, even as a congressmember, I am sure. And I’m wondering your thoughts on a fellow resident of Texas, Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, the billionaire, now owner of Twitter, who just fired half his workforce, almost 4,000 people. I’m wondering your thoughts on the significance of him owning this massive platform, firing all these people. He’s been sued by workers saying such a large company cannot fire that many people without notice. What you think needs to be done now, as a congressmember, in regulating a company like Twitter, not to mention Facebook and others, but the significance of what he’s done?
REP.-ELECT GREG CASAR: I think that we see, in finally people talking and pushing their members of Congress on some key issues that were a key part of the New Deal and of when Democrats were trying to work more for working people. And we have a history here in Texas of LBJ going to school here in my district. And so, we have to talk again about corporate monopolies and make — and recognizing that we have to make sure that companies don’t have more power than governments, that it is wrong that a small number of billionaires made $2 trillion during the pandemic while workers saw a rent increase. And so, I think we need to finally start grappling with corporate monopolies.
And then you also mentioned the labor movement. We see the labor movement growing like never before. Just here in the last few months, we have our first-ever union hotel in Austin. We have our first-ever union hospital with nurses organizing here, our first-ever union mental health authority, our first-ever union independent restaurants. And we see this happening all over the country with what workers are doing at Amazon and at Starbucks. And so I think we can finally start pushing for a politics which is a politics that will take — work much greater than any one election cycle, but really a movement to tackle massive income inequality, to hold billionaires accountable. And so much of that is through the labor movement, where everyone needs to organize in their workplaces to build that long-term power, because that really is the way we challenge big money in our democracy, is — has always been through organized people, especially through organized labor. So I am going to continue to use my platform, be it in a majority or minority or what have you, to stand up for workers in their workers’ struggles. And I think that’s how we make long-term change in this country.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Greg Casar, we just — we understand that Governor Abbott has been declared the victor over Beto O’Rourke by Fox News. I’m wondering your thoughts on having Greg Abbott for governor for another term.
REP.-ELECT GREG CASAR: Governor Abbott has been just absolutely horrible here in Texas. You know, while we froze in our homes during the winter storm, he went onto Fox News to blame the windmills. You know, right after we had children and teachers slaughtered in Uvalde, he stayed at a fundraiser for hours and then said things could have been worse.
And so, we have lived under a right-wing regime here in Texas. We have learned to survive that. And Beto, what he has continued to build, through years of campaigning and organizing, is something that you can’t take away. You can win and lose elections, but you don’t lose or disappear a movement of millions of Texans who have been inspired. We, in the past, in past governor’s races, have lost in landslides or not even had candidates. But what not only Beto has represented, but the entire infrastructure he is continuing to build, is what’s necessary for us to eventually change this state.
Again, we know that our work is on a much greater horizon than any one given election. It took them 50 years to undo Roe v. Wade, something won in Texas. It’s going to take us years of work that we have been doing to finally take our state back, and we know we can do that in Texas. You can see it with the election of Jasmine Crockett, a new progressive. You can see it with my election. We are continuing to build that infrastructure and stop leaving Texas behind.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you, Greg Casar, for joining us, Democratic candidate in Texas’s 35th Congressional District, former labor organizer and was the youngest Austin city councilmember ever elected.
Well, from labor organizer to former labor secretary, we turn now to Robert Reich, yes, to the former labor secretary under President Clinton, now professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, co-founder of Inequality Media. His latest book is called The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It. Robert Reich is joining us from the Bay Area in California.
Welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. Throughout especially the last few weeks of this campaign, Democrats were wringing their hands. You had Bernie Sanders saying well before that they should focus on the economy, that they should talk about what the Democratic agenda is. Instead, it was the Republicans who told this story, in their own way, framed the narrative. Robert Reich, talk about these midterm elections, how significant they are and where you see them going.
ROBERT REICH: Enormously significant, obviously, Amy. And Democrats should have learned their lesson. Obviously, they have to talk about the economy, and Democrats have a much stronger case to be made about the economy than the Republicans, even on inflation. One of the major causes of inflation has been big corporations raising their prices higher and faster than their costs. Democrats should have been talking about this all along. And, you know, the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, as the late Paul Wellstone used to call it, needs to be stronger and louder and more powerful than it has been.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Robert Reich, I wanted to ask you — some of the key, burning issues that many progressives feel are important, at least if we are to believe the polls, the voter surveys today didn’t seem to resonate — the climate crisis, the war in Ukraine. Immigration was only a big issue, and not as big as expected, among Republicans, but not necessarily among Democrats. I’m wondering your sense of these broader, bigger issuses. Are the American people becoming more and more insular, only concerned about their situation and their condition, and the heck with the rest of the world?
ROBERT REICH: I don’t think so. I do believe — and this is based not only on surveys and focus groups but on conversations across the country — that people are worried about their own jobs, their futures, the kind of kitchen table economics that we’ve talked about for years. But the here again is where Democrats can be, should be, should have been really excelling at making the case the Democrats care about these kinds of issues, jobs and wages. I mean, if there’s anything that Democrats ought to be talking about, it’s jobs and wages, the corporations reaching the highest profitability, the highest level of profits in 70 years up through the last quarter. Well, you know, wages have gone absolutely nowhere. Adjusted for inflation, wages have actually dropped in this country over the past eight months. Well, Democrats, again, need to talk about that. It’s not a matter of people being more selfish, I don’t think. I think it’s a matter of people being simply concerned about the direction that their own jobs, wages and kitchen table economics are going.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And how do you think that the voters did or did not register the accomplishments of the first two years of the Biden administration in terms of the actual achievements, given how thin a margin there was in both the Senate and the House, that Biden did accomplish quite a bit but somehow is not getting the credit for that?
ROBERT REICH: Well, again, I think that — and I’ve been at this game a very, very long time — the economy is the number one issue, almost always. And it is true that the economy, particularly when it’s not going well, when there’s something wrong, like inflation or recession or something else, the party that’s in power, the party that has the White House, gets the blame, or, if the economy is going well, gets the credit, even though that blame and credit may not be appropriate. I think that it’s very difficult for, and it has been very difficult for, Democrats to make the case that the economy has been very good. And in many ways, it has been. I mean, job growth has been extraordinarily good.
But in the face of inflation, the kind of inflation we are seeing, it has been and is important for Democrats to make the case that, again, it’s not Joe Biden, it’s not excessive spending that has caused inflation. One of the major factors behind inflation has been corporations raising their prices, corporations that have monopoly power, corporations that are having pricing power. People see it. They understand this. They know it. Joe Biden began talking about this last week. He even talked about a windfall profits tax. Well, you know, I hate to criticize Democrats, but I think the Democrats should have been talking about this six months ago.
Look, the problem for many, many Democrats — and I don’t want to extend my criticism too broadly, because I am a Democrat and I believe in the Democratic Party. But the problem is that too many of them drink at the same trough in terms of financing their elections as the Republicans. I mean, corporations give equally now to both Democrats and Republicans. A lot of Democrats are reluctant to criticize corporations for their corporate welfare, for their corporate power, for their monopolistic practices, for their anti-labor practices, because they don’t want to bite the hands that feed them.
AMY GOODMAN: And let me ask you something. You were the former labor secretary, the secretary of labor under Clinton. The current labor secretary is Marty Walsh. He said, in the face of an oncoming railway strike, Congress will have to take action to avert a strike in our country. Now, the unions don’t want Congress to prohibit a strike, hurting their leverage. What do you think of Walsh and the Biden administration taking this stance? Do you think they’re out of touch with working Americans?
ROBERT REICH: Look, I think Marty Walsh has done a good job. And I know how difficult that job can be. He staved off a strike that could have been a crippling strike. But if you look at what has happened in the railway industry, you see that there’s been a great deal of consolidation. Workers desperately need more not only job security, but more advanced notice of when they’re going to be demanded, when their work hours are going to be demanded. And I think that it would be inappropriate for the administration to get in there and get Congress to require that those workers continue to work under working conditions that are very, very difficult.
And this has been, in my view, the most pro-labor administration in years. But having said that, let me also say that it could be even more pro-labor. The PRO Act, which really was an attempt to make it easier to unionize, never really got through Congress. It never got the kind of priority treatment, in my view, it should have gotten from the administration. Maybe — maybe — who knows? Maybe there’s going to be another chance, but the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party does need to be stronger.
You see, let me just say one more general point about this. There are some who say that the Democrats need to compromise more with Republicans. Well, you know, the days of compromising have to be over. There’s no compromising with authoritarianism or protofascism. There’s no halfway point between democracy and the authoritarianism we are seeing with the Republican Party now, which is becoming the party of authoritarianism. I don’t think the Democrats should attempt to compromise.
And I think the Democrats have got to stand for labor, jobs, working people. The abandonment of the working class by the Democratic Party, to a large extent over the past 40 years, has been a huge problem, not only for the Democratic Party but for the country as a whole.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Robert Reich, if, as seems likely, although we don’t know for sure, that the Democrats lose control of the House, possibly even the Senate, what do you envision that President Biden should do in the next two years to be dealing with opposition control of the Congress?
ROBERT REICH: Well, his veto pen is going to be very, very active. I think he’s going to be — if the Republicans take control over Congress, or even if they take control over one house of Congress, he’s got to be very careful to push back as hard as he possibly can.
What I expect, the first thing we are likely to get if Republicans control the House is an attempt to use the raising of the debt ceiling as a way of forcing the administration’s hand to do a lot of things that the Republican Party would like to do for its patrons in corporate America and in the moneyed interest class, such as reducing taxes further, such as providing even more rollbacks of regulations. And I think that what the administration has got to be very clear about is that there is going to be no compromising on the debt ceiling. We’re not going to have a repeat of 2011. We’re not going to allow the Republicans to use that debt ceiling fight as a way of gaining leverage, when they know they’re not going to have the ability to override a veto.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Robert Reich, the former labor secretary, now professor of public policy at University of California, Berkeley. You tweeted today, “Billionaire midterm spending: 2010: $32 million, 2014: $232 million, 2018: $611 million, 2022: $881 million and counting.” Talk about the significance of this.
ROBERT REICH: Well, the significance is that we’ve got a politics in which big money is playing a larger and larger role. I mean, 25, 30 years ago, when I was in Bill Clinton’s Cabinet, it was a problem that everybody recognized, but it’s a much bigger problem today, obviously. And it’s not just the Citizens United case of the Supreme Court that opened the floodgates, because the floodgates were already being opened. Both parties are guilty of taking big, big money. You’ve got billionaires now who are exercising more influence and more power over Congress than ever before, big corporations exercising more influence, more power over Congress than ever before. Getting big money out of our politics has got to be, if not the highest priority, then one of the highest priorities.
Rescuing democracy is critically important, not only rescuing it from the election deniers and the Trumpists, but also rescuing democracy from big money. You see, it goes together. There are so many people out there in America today who have decided to vote Republican because they don’t believe in democracy anymore. They say, “Well, democracy hasn’t helped me. I’m a working person, and I’m on a downward escalator. Let me try something else.” Well, to the extent that big money in politics is driving that cynicism, well, that’s another argument for why we’ve got to do everything possible to get rid of it.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about the issue of immigration. I think there was about $100 million spent by Republican candidates on television ads basically depicting the immigration crisis as fueling drug trafficking and crimes in the United States. And yet, even in the exit polls, immigration wasn’t a very high concern even for Republican voters. Your sense of how the Democrats and the Republicans have dealt with the issue of fixing our broken immigration system?
ROBERT REICH: Well, badly. And, unfortunately, you know, I’m old enough to remember a time when it looked as if we were going to have a bipartisan agreement on immigration, on regularizing the status of many people in this country who were undocumented, who were — and making them — instead of second-class citizens, making them people who really had an opportunity here in the United States. We have a population that is getting older and older, becoming more and more elderly. We need new immigrants into this country simply to maintain the economy. These are arguments that we ought to be hearing more about.
And in terms of immigration and crime, that is just baloney. You know, there is absolutely no evidence linking immigrants and/or the increase in immigration with increases in crime.
And finally, one additional point: The so-called crime wave we are seeing is very much related to the easy availability of guns. And which party is it who has made it easier and easier to get guns? What we see is the rate of homicides in places that have voted for Donald Trump is higher than the rate of homicide and the increase in the rate of homicide in places that have been Democratic, that have been trying to control guns and the access to guns.
So, these issues of immigration and also crime have been turned topsy-turvy by Republicans. Democrats have got to be much more aggressive in not only correcting the record but in making sure people understand what’s at stake and selling the proper policies.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Robert Reich, you wrote a piece in The Guardian, “The results of the midterms may determine if American democracy endures.” I’m wondering if you could elaborate on that. And also, when you talk about hypocrisy, what about the insurrection, January 6, with the Republican Party continually saying they are the party of law and order? The number of police officers who died, who were attacked, who were viciously beaten — why didn’t the Democrats make more of this in this election? And the whole issue of the insurrection itself, of the attempted coup here in the United States, with President Trump now poised to reannounce his candidacy for president?
ROBERT REICH: Amy, you’re raising something that I — not a day goes by that I don’t ask myself that same question. That is, if the Democrats lose the House or if the election is even as close as it seems to be, why is it that we have that kind of a close contest, when we had an attempted coup and when a majority of Republicans running for office have taken this treasonous position that Donald Trump won the 2020 election, without any basis in fact, when you have 60 federal courts that have found exactly the opposite, when Trump’s own Department of Justice found exactly the opposite? I mean, we have had in this country an attempted coup by the then-president of this country, and the Republican Party has been co-conspirators in this coup. Why — you know, the fact that the Democrats didn’t make more of this, haven’t made more of this, is absolutely remarkable.
And this goes to the heart of the issue we’re talking about, and that is the question of whether democracy can endure. I mean, Donald Trump is poised to run again. Now, as I read the Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, nobody who has held public office and sworn an oath to the Constitution can run for public office again. The Constitution is very clear on this. Read the 14th Amendment, Section 3. Why is Donald Trump poised to run again? And why aren’t — why isn’t the Justice Department — why hasn’t the Justice Department already indicted him for a variety — for his attempted coup, for stealing documents from the White House, for all of the other things we know that he is certainly alleged to have done and with a great deal of evidence that he did do it? I can’t answer that. You know, again, somebody — I was in a president’s cabinet. I’ve watched politics and participated in politics very closely. But why the Democrats are allowing the Republicans to get away with this, I simply cannot answer you.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you so much for spending this time, Robert Reich, former labor secretary under President Clinton, now professor of public policy at University of California, Berkeley, co-founder of Inequality Media. His latest book is The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It.
This is Democracy Now!'s special midterm election three-hour program tonight. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González. It looks like Brian Kemp is poised to become governor of Georgia again. And J.D. Vance, with 52% of the vote in Ohio counted, is ahead, 52% to Tim Ryan’s 48%. Just a few of the results that are in so far. And Vermont — we just were in Burlington, Vermont, at the beginning of our broadcast — has become the first state to enshrine abortion in its constitution.
Yes, this is Democracy Now!, as we go now to Boston to speak with Julio Ricardo Varela, president of the Pulitzer award-winning Futuro Media Group, co-host of In the Thick podcast and founder of Latino Rebels. As this night wears on, we have some results and not all. Among those who we know is reelected, but this wasn’t even a question, is Joaquin Castro, who is once again going to represent his hometown of San Antonio and the suburbs. At this point in Georgia, it looks like Reverend Warnock is ahead of Herschel Walker, though not by much, and, of course, that is way too close to call. Julio Ricardo Varela, your thoughts on the election so far?
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: Yeah, no, I think the issue of it not being a complete slam dunk for Republicans, but not being, you know — I think Democrats are — they’re going to be able to say that, you know, “We kind of survived this,” which I think a lot of people were expecting that there would be more of a — I think, more of a loss for the Democrats. I mean, I feel like the House still would probably go Republican, but the Senate is probably too early to call, but that might be — you know, might stay the same. But it’s interesting.
There was a lot of attention in South Texas. And right now two of the three races — I was just checking the results right before I joined, and both the male Latino candidates, Henry Cuellar and Vicente González, are leading, and then the one progressive, Michelle Vallejo, who lacked, I think, Democratic national attention, although Bill Clinton showed up a couple of days before, she’s the only one trailing in those three districts in South Texas where people were saying that Republicans were going to sweep that.
So there is a little bit of a reset in a couple of places. You know, I’m looking at places like Pennsylvania, where I think the Puerto Rican, sort of Dominican vote is definitely playing a role in how well Fetterman is doing, even though that race is definitely too close to call. We did have some initial polling at Futuro Media that would indicate that there was going to be a split with Latinos when it came to Stacey Abrams and Senator Warnock. And that seems to be playing out.
And, yeah, I’m still looking at places. You know, Colorado is a place that I think Latino voters are — they’re starting to establish sort of a blue presence. I also believe that a lot of the allegations, the unfounded, conspiratorial allegations that are happening in Arizona today, are a result of the fact that the purpleness of Arizona might be getting — might be switching a little bit to the blue side. And then you have a state like Nevada, which, to be honest with you, I don’t know what’s going to happen, considering that the first Latina senator, Catherine Cortez Masto, is having a tough race there, even though the traditional support from the culinary union in Las Vegas seemed to at least be more present in the last week.
But, yeah, again, it could be one of those nights where Democrats can claim some victories, and Republicans can clearly claim some victories. And, you know, I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about Florida and Latinos, because everyone kind of saw that coming. And I’ve written about that for MSNBC, that that’s more of a problem with Democrats sort of losing the Obama coalition and, you know, to — and Juan’s there — you know, and also I think missing the Puerto Rican vote since Hurricane Maria. And that’s not just me; that’s a lot of senior political operatives in the Democratic Party that — and especially that worked campaigns in Florida, have been saying. So, again, a wide array, and I don’t think there will be one major headline. I think there will be several headlines tonight.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Julio, I’m wondering if you can step back a little bit and go a little deeper into this issue of how you think Latino voters in Georgia might have broken differently between Stacey Abrams and Raphael Warnock, because all of the major — the networks are commenting on the fact that Stacey Abrams has considerably fewer votes —
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: Yeah.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — than Raphael Warnock. If you could explain what you think the basis of that is? And also, if you could talk somewhat about this — it appears to be that Governor DeSantis is making significant headway in the Latino vote in Florida, but —
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: Yeah.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — more in Miami-Dade than the rest of the state, but still much more so than previous candidates.
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: Yeah, let me start with Georgia. You know, I think the Stacey Abrams situation comes from a lot of factors. You know, it’s hard to tell. But we did polling at Futuro Media that focused on Pennsylvania, Georgia and Florida, three swing states. And there hasn’t been a lot of polling about Latinos in Georgia and Pennsylvania, so it was something that we wanted to do. And we noticed quite quickly that support with Latino independents was swinging more towards Warnock and not necessarily with Stacey Abrams. And it raises some questions, right? You know, you can’t ask the reasons why people vote in a poll, although we did interview some people after who responded to our poll. But you do wonder the issues of whether it’s a gender issue, it’s a race issue — she’s running against a white man — in the sense that Warnock at Herschel Walker — you know, Herschel Walker is not that strong of a candidate, and I’m saying that as an understatement. And I think Kemp is sort of — you know, it’s the second time Abrams and Kemp have ran against each other. You might give a little bit of credit to Kemp for understanding that he nearly lost four years ago, and probably took Stacey Abrams much more seriously. I was a little bit surprised, given all the inroads that were done in Georgia in 2020 in that situation, that Latinos and, you know, other communities, underrepresented communities in Georgia, were kind of blossoming. And it’s hard to tell right now. You know, I’m not going to, obviously, make any major sweeping conclusions, but we did notice that in our polling.
Over to Florida, that doesn’t come as a surprise. And I think DeSantis and the Republican Party, in general, really, you know, since 2012, really looked at the Obama coalition and said, “How do we begin to break it up?” And there are a lot of reasons. I mean, I think Florida Democrats, you know, in the case of the governor’s race, probably didn’t have the best candidate. I also think that someone like Val Demings was not someone who was recognized amongst Latinos maybe in southern Florida, although, you know, she is — you know, Central Florida is her home district.
But I think when it comes to Florida, one of the things that people tend to forget is the 2018 election, the governor — the senator election between Bill Nelson and Rick Scott. And if you recall, Juan, you know, post-Hurricane Maria — and I have family in Florida, so I even saw it flying in to Orlando — there were these sort of welcome centers, storm center, you know, welcoming Puerto Ricans coming from Hurricane Maria. Rick Scott sort of laid the basis of how to outreach the growing Puerto Rican community in Orlando. And I think something was lost with the Obama advantage. And I’ve had too many conversations with campaign operatives who are Latino who really, really believe that Democrats dropped the ball in Florida. So, it’s not necessarily just Republicans like Ron DeSantis sort of appealing to whatever policies appeal to Latinos, but I do think Democrats did drop the ball, and for that reason, there’s a lot of — there’s going to be a lot of soul searching going on in Florida.
And it’s a lost opportunity, because what the Obama coalition did was literally create history in Florida. You know, the fact that Obama did better with Cuban and Cuban American voters tapped into the Puerto Rican community, and to see — and there’s no other way to say it, if you look at the numbers tonight — DeSantis and Rubio won, won overwhelmingly. And that’s going to be something that Democrats either come to terms with and realize that Florida still is an opportunity if you do it right — and I still argue that Central Florida, with the Puerto Rican community, is still an untapped electorate that is waiting. Even though they do vote predominantly Democratic, I don’t think they vote at the same level as, say, other communities in Florida. So, in the end, lost opportunity.
I got too many texts from people sort of trying to Monday morning quarterback the Democratic nonresponse to these two races. And it’s going to be hard for them to admit it, but I really think it’s a huge loss for Democrats. And to just say that Florida is a red state is too easy. And that’s why I think we should be focusing on other places. You know, I’m looking at Arizona. I’m looking at southern Texas, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, you know, Ohio, and places like that where I think Latinos are still going to be making a difference tonight.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And quickly, in just 30 seconds or so — we were talking to Greg Casar, who appears to have won congressional seat in Texas. The young Latinos that are coming up running for office and with a much more progressive bent, your sense of their impact in the future?
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: Yeah, no. One of the things that I get today when I was blogging for MSNBC, and I get texts from all people over the country, and they told me to say, you know, we’re seeing young Latinos coming out today, young Latinos and Latinas, and that’s noticeable. And I really hope that once we get past the horse race and the results tonight, we really look at that and see that these issues, whether it’s abortion, climate change, the things that people have been talking about, that young Latino and Latina voters are making a difference and continue to make a difference. So, I think this is a new trend, and I think that that’s going to be a big headline once we get past, you know, election night and whatever, when the races are all called.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, as we’re speaking, Julio, let’s see, Maryland voters have just legalized cannabis. Any thoughts on this?
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: You know, that — I think that’s just the reality of the country. You know, I think that’s where it’s going to be. I think this is — you know, you talk about young voters. You know, I have some young voters in my household. They’re both — you know, one’s in college, and one’s a young professional. It’s just part of the culture now. I think it’s important to realize that this country is changing. And, you know, cannabis, given its racialized history of sort of targeting communities of color, criminalizing them, I think it’s a great development. And I hope, you know, eventually, there will be a national law that makes cannabis legal federally.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Juan, as we have you and Julio on, and you’ll be leaving us at the top of the hour, your thoughts on this election and where we stand today? You’re goinog to be giving a series of speeches as you leave the New York area and move to Chicago, a very interesting move in your life and for the people of Chicago. Your thoughts, and we don’t have all the results in, but as you watch what is unfolding tonight?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Amy, my sense is — and obviously, the votes still have to be counted. And normally in a midterm election, the party in power loses an average of about 30 seats. The Democrats may be able to reduce that number to some degree, but I do think that the winds seem to be indicating that it’s going to be a good night for the Republicans.
And I think as I raised question to former Secretary Reich, I do believe that I’m not as optimistic about the American electorate. I think that too many Americans actually know what they’re doing when they’re voting for some of these extreme-right candidates. And it’s been my sense for several years now that this country is moving more and more in support — a significant sector of the electorate in support of more authoritarian, chauvinist and imperialistic types of politicians. And I don’t see that changing very soon. Even though we have a vibrant and developing the progressive movement, there’s too many Americans who have bought into the empire. And so I don’t have a whole lot of optimism for the ability of electoral politics to change the direction of the country right now.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to encourage people — the first of Juan’s three talks that he’ll be giving in New York will be happening November 18th at Pulitzer Hall at Columbia University, reflections on 40 years of fighting for racial and social justice in journalism — to show up for that. Juan, thanks for co-hosting for this hour. And, Julio Ricardo Varela, president of the Pulitzer award-winning Futuro Media Group, co-host of In the Thick and founder of Latino Rebels, thanks also for joining us from Boston. We’ll be back at the top of the hour for the next two hours. Stay with us.
[End of Hour 1]
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!'s three-hour midterm election special. I'm Amy Goodman.
Polls have now closed in all but a handful of states in today’s midterm elections that will determine the balance of power in Congress. Republicans need to net just one additional Senate seat to take control of the Senate. Many of the most closely watched Senate races are too close to call.
In Georgia, with about 70% of the vote in, Trump-backed Republican rival Herschel Walker has a small lead over Democratic Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock. Walker has 49.2% of the vote, while Warnock holds 49% of the vote. If neither of them goes over 50%, there will be a runoff on December 6th.
In New Hampshire, the race between Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan and General Don Bolduc is also too close to call. Hassan has an early lead.
In Pennsylvania, the Senate race between Democrat, the current Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz is also too close to call. Fetterman leads Oz 51 to 46% with a little over a third of the votes counted.
Here in New York, the Senate’s current majority leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, has won reelection easily.
In Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott currently holds a significant lead over Democratic challenger and former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. Fox News has called the race for Abbott.
In more governor’s races, Democrat Wes Moore has been elected Maryland’s first-ever Black governor, after Republican Governor Larry Hogan retired. In Massachusetts, the Attorney General Maura Healey has been elected as her state’s first woman governor and the only openly lesbian governor. By the end of the night, she could be joined by Oregon Democrat Tina Kotek. Polls in Oregon close at 11 p.m. Eastern, where Kotek faces a tough race from Republican challenger Christine Drazan. In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Josh Shapiro is leading Republican Doug Mastriano, the retired colonel who was central to efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania’s 2020 presidential election. He also chartered buses to the insurrection, January 6, 2021. Earlier tonight, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis clinched reelection.
Polls have closed in Arizona, where a judge denied an emergency request from Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters, Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and the Republican National Committee to extend voting by three hours in Maricopa County, the state’s largest county, after vote-counting machines malfunctioned at dozens of polling sites.
Several Republican incumbents have been projected to hold on to their Senate seats, including Tim Scott of South Carolina, Todd Young in Indiana, John Boozman in Arkansas, Chris Sununu in New Hampshire, Rand Paul in Kentucky, Jerry Moran in Kansas, John Thune in South Dakota, John Hoeven in North Dakota and James Lankford in Oklahoma.
Republican Congressmember Markwayne Mullin has won a special election for Oklahoma’s second Senate seat. He’ll be the first member of the Cherokee Nation to serve in the Senate since 1925.
In Alabama, Republican Katie Britt has easily defeated Democrat Will Boyd to become Alabama’s first woman elected to the Senate.
Several Democratic incumbent senators have won reelection: Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, Chris Van Hollen in Maryland and Richard Blumenthal in Connecticut.
For more, we’re joined in Atlanta, Georgia, by April Albright. She’s legal director for the Black Voters Matter Fund. And in Washington, D.C., we’re joined by Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! So, we don’t know the results right now in Georgia, April Albright. We know that Herschel Walker, the football star, has a very slim lead over Reverend Raphael Warnock, the incumbent senator by two years. Neither of them has hit 50%, and they have to get more than 50%, or there will be a runoff December 6th. Can you talk about this race and the significance of how close it’s been?
APRIL ALBRIGHT: Yeah, I can. You know, we are sitting and waiting and watching what the results are, like everyone else is. It is close. We know that there are still outstanding votes in a lot of Democratic base center counties. So, as the night progresses, we expect that Warnock at this point will take a lead. And we’re not sure whether or not that lead will take him over that 50%. We certainly are hoping for that, you know, in the state of Georgia. But we are watching. And we see — you know, watching how this unfolds throughout the night. I’m surprised by the large number of votes, unfortunately, for Herschel Walker, but we are watching these results come in, and we know that there’s a lot of Democratic center counties left to submit their tallies tonight.
AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, that’s not the only close race. There’s Brian Kemp, who’s trying —
APRIL ALBRIGHT: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: — to become governor again of Georgia. He is ahead, at this point, of Stacey Abrams. Can you talk about the significance of this race? Like you, she is a longtime voting rights advocate in Georgia. There hasn’t been a lot made nationally of the fact, though Brian Kemp stood up to President Trump trying to steal the election in Georgia, in fact, so many people were thrown off the voter rolls, particularly —
APRIL ALBRIGHT: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: — African Americans in Georgia.
APRIL ALBRIGHT: And we have a — and, you know, African Americans have not forgotten. You know, majority of African Americans or Black people in the state of Georgia are voting against Kemp and other candidates who, you know, did, on the one hand, deny Trump his 11,000 votes, but, on the other hand, signed and authored and advocated for one of the most regressive and oppressive and suppressive voter laws in the country immediately after that election, even though he and then-secretary of state, who’s on the ballot this year, said that this election in Georgia in 2020 and 2021 was one of the most safest elections that happened in Georgia history.
So, we understand who Brian Kemp really is to Black voters. We understand that, you know, when he moves his legislative pen, he does things like sign off on gerrymandered racial — racially gerrymandered lines in the state of Georgia that have taken away representation for African Americans in the state. We also understand that when he decides whether or not to close down hospitals, those hospitals tend to be in counties that disproportionately serve African Americans.
So we understand that, and African Americans largely supported Stacey Abrams. And we’re watching throughout the night for those final results, but that’s what’s happening. And those are the strong implications. We are very concerned about a Brian Kemp second administration and what he will continue to do that will work against the Black community in the state.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, I mean, I should say Walker and Warnock are so close. Now, apparently, Warnock is up by 0.1 percentage points.
APRIL ALBRIGHT: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: So it is way too close to call. Rashad Robinson, what are you looking at right now, what races around the country?
RASHAD ROBINSON: Well, I’m looking at a number of races that just haven’t been called, what’s happening in North Carolina, what’s happening in Ohio. I’m obviously focused on Georgia. Both the Color of Change PAC and our partners at — April, my friend April, and her team at Black Voters Matter, New Georgia Project, so many groups on the outside really threw down as much as we possibly could — Care in Action folks — so much outside infrastructure and inside infrastructure, to put Georgia on the map.
I remember, you know, sitting down for breakfast with Stacey Abrams about 12 years ago and her talking about the vision for putting Georgia on the map, and the work that has had to happen and the engagement that’s had to happen and how much new things are possible because we are competitive in this state, the uphill battles in the face of voter suppression, the uphill battles in the face of all the obstacles that put in our way and the incredible work that’s been done by these campaigns and by outside advocates and organizations on the ground. And so, I’m looking at all of this.
I’m also recognizing that these midterm elections, when you have the president in the office, are always bad for the party that has the president in office. And so, I’m also looking at how we perform relative to the sort of historical trends. And I think that that’s important as we think about how we continue to invest in the work, to not be deterred, to recognize that we can’t just be Republican-lite, we can’t just be conservative-lite. We have to run on principles. We have to sort of push forward and have sort of proposals and ideas that run up against the sort of corporate rule that we are seeing taking over so many aspects, that we are running to reimagine public safety.
And so, I’m looking at a number of these races that haven’t been called. I’m looking at congressional races. I’m looking at some of these secretary of state races in places like Michigan, obviously the governor’s race in Pennsylvania, places that will have a role in the elections infrastructure for 2024. And I think we have to sort of pay close attention to those things.
And the other thing I’ll say, Amy, is I think — as I think about Stacey Abrams and all the contributions she has made to making us believe Georgia is possible, to making us believe so many new things are possible, the number of people running for governor, Black folks, Black women, running for Senate, people who are candidates that are winning primaries in new ways, that progress. And so, seeing Wes Moore, my friend Wes Moore, win in Maryland, seeing an openly gay woman win in Massachusetts, these are going to be important as we continue to expand our aperture of who can lead in this country, who can run. And I think that it also just means that we have to get — we have to continue to invest in our infrastructure, continue to invest in turning out votes, and continue to put things on the ballot that make people understand why they should be voting for our side.
AMY GOODMAN: Rashad Robinson, Black men have been seen as the new swing vote in tight races, in Georgia, in North Carolina, in Wisconsin, with the Republican Party focusing on their potential deciding role, also in the Tracey Abrams — sorry, in the Stacey Abrams-Brian Kemp race, as well.
RASHAD ROBINSON: Well, you know, Black men probably, after Black women, vote more Democrat than any other group in this country. And so, the idea that Republicans are trying to engage Black men, are trying to appeal to Black men, should just be a very clear wake-up call to Democratic infrastructure, that you just can’t come to our communities right before elections, that the engagement and investment year round has to be there, that we have to fight and win on some of the tough battles that maybe weren’t delivered on, like the sort of moving criminal justice reform and policing reform forward, and that some folks have been, I think, captured by some of the kind of economic messages in the absence of maybe the type of clear, ongoing investment that campaigns need to have and outreach that they need to have to our community.
But I do want to say that when folks are voting 80-plus, 85-plus percent for one party, to call them a swing vote is probably not the exact sort of right term. And I will say also that we’ve not — we’ve seen this before, if we think back to the Kerry loss in 2004 and we think about George W. Bush’s strategy of dividing through mis- and disinformation, the 13 anti-gay ballot measures that passed in 2004, the ways in which that was used as a wedge issue in Black communities, and the sort of coming together around new candidates, like President Obama and others, that sort of shifted that sort of — shifted that energy away. I think that it’s about investing in candidates, about the investment in infrastructure, the year-around engagement in communities, and not taking any voters for granted or think folks are just going to vote for you because they don’t like the other guy.
AMY GOODMAN: Talking about not taking things for granted, April Albright, on Monday in Georgia, the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center won a victory after suing Cobb County for accepting voters’ applications for absentee ballots, then failing to mail those ballots to hundreds of absentee voters. Can you talk about what happened, and also your pushback, I mean, the whole movement on the ground, however Georgia turns out, “We Won’t Black Down,” the campaign and bus tour wrapping up in Georgia and North Carolina, of course, with this election?
APRIL ALBRIGHT: Yes. “We Won’t Black Down” was the theme that we chose because of matters that happened in Cobb County, that was fought by ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center successfully, you know, meaning that no matter what comes up against our communities — right? — with voter suppression, with efforts to deny access to the ballots, whether it’s absentee ballots, and trying to disqualify them, as they did in Cobb County, also as they did in Philadelphia, for minor items, you know, all these cases that Republicans have filed all across this country to try to prevent, you know, votes in particularly — right? — Black communities from being considered in the election. And so, that was a great victory that we had here in Georgia, and also, you know, trying to handle and deal with some of the other not so victories in other states.
And the “We Won’t Black Down” tour has been traveling throughout this country in places like Wisconsin, in Texas, in Ohio, in Michigan, in Pennsylvania, in North Carolina, in Georgia, obviously, but even in places like Florida, where people were saying that, you know, “Why are you in Florida? There’s not going to be any successful results.” But, like, you know, like we were just talking about — right? — we need to help, and we need to build our infrastructure. We need to still connect to our communities and engage them, to build, if not for now, for later, so that we can respond to efforts of voter suppression, which, by the way, are going to increase. You know, in 2023 and 2024, all of these things are in preparation, and they have the kind of judicial system in place now that will support and allow for the advancement of voter suppression tactics. And so, the tour was designed to just remind Black people that, you know, historically, we have faced challenges, but our community, our ancestors have always stood in the gap and resisted efforts to suppress our vote and to suppress us in other ways in our communities.
And so, this message during this election cycle was the same. And as we watch the hours progress, we are still hopeful that in many of the communities not yet called, we’ll begin to see candidates elected that will continue to support things that we need. For example, you know, more progressive voting access laws, dealing with issues of police brutality and accountability in federal legislation. Those are the things that Black voters want to see, and that’s what’s on the ballot this year. And that is why we are seeing, you know, record turnout from African Americans all over this country in these states that they’ve called swing states. So, the hour is still going, the clock is still ticking, and we are believing that we’re going to get some victories tonight that will help us move our agenda forward.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you, April Albright, for joining us, with Black Voters Matter Fund. And, Rashad Robinson, just 30 seconds, before you go — we already spoke to you about this on Democracy Now! at 8 a.m., where we broadcast Monday through Friday, 8 to 9 a.m., and people can check that out at democracynow.org. But to ask you about Elon Musk, the world’s most — the world’s wealthiest man, who has now taken over Twitter, and what this means. As we moved into this Election Day, he encouraged his however many 115 million Twitter followers to vote Republican, although months ago he had said Twitter will remain neutral. One of the people who had their accounts closed was the executive director of the League of Women Voters of California. There was tremendous outcry, and it was reinstated. And he fired half his workforce, almost 4,000 workers. Your thoughts on this election night?
RASHAD ROBINSON: My thoughts are that we have deep, deep challenges with the information environment, and we’re going to need more of us to speak up and push back. We’re going to have to hold advertisers accountable. We’re going to have to do everything we can to fight and engage, and hopefully eventually down the line get some legislation to hold these big corporations accountable.
But when it comes to Elon Musk, if he says something in the morning, you can count on that he may actually change it by the evening. He cannot be trusted, because at the end of the day, growth and profit is going to be sort of first and foremost over everything else. And if he can’t win growth and profit, he’s going to do everything to be in the public space, to be heard himself and to sort of engage the public at the expense of actually the safety, integrity and security that should be first and foremost over communications platforms as powerful as Twitter. It’s going to be really challenging. And even some of the policies that he’s saying he’s going be rolling out over the next several days, as these elections still will not be fully called and we will be counting votes, is deeply troubling.
And so, I do think that, you know, for all these social media platforms, we simply cannot count on them for content moderation. And more of us are going to need to speak up. We’re going to lose in the backrooms if we don’t have all of us lined up at the front door pushing and holding them accountable.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, a number of people are leaving Twitter for Mastodon. Does Color of Change have a recommendation for a new social media site?
RASHAD ROBINSON: No. I think that folks need to make their own choices right now. We’ve been focusing on the environments where people already are that have so much power. We are looking at the terms of services and the engagement of all those, and we’ll be coming out with some recommendations for our members and for the larger public soon. But right now we’ve been full steam ahead in this election cycle, really focusing on preventing some of the worst changes that were slated and announced. And some of those things, we’ve been able to prevent, but there are going to be so many, so many challenges we will see ahead. And I urge people to make the right choices for themselves, but to also recognize that simply leaving Twitter will not change some of the deep impact it will have on our democracy, on our economy and our ability to work together, live together and, you know, share power in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Rashad Robinson, I want to thank you so much for being with us, president of Color of Change.
Yes, this is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our midterm 2022 election night special on this night of the blood moon, right? The night of the total lunar eclipse. The next one won’t happen until 2025.
We’re joined on the phone right now by Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic, four-time presidential candidate.
Ralph, one of the races I want to ask you about is New York, where The New York Times says the Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul is leading by 27 points, with 30% of the votes reported. Of course, she’s up against Lee Zeldin. This race got very close at the end. People were surprised by that. Lee Zeldin — how did Politico put it? — has spent the past handful of years as one of former President Donald Trump’s fiercest defenders, including voting against certifying the Electoral College results amidst Trump’s false claims of election fraud, a fierce anti-abortion advocate and gun rights advocate. Your thoughts on what’s happening in New York?
RALPH NADER: Well, Lee Zeldin is a one-note Charlie, largely crime in the streets. He has camouflaged his record in Washington. When he supported defunding the regulatory corporate crime police, health, safety, economic law enforcement, he pushed, with other Republicans, to starve the budgets. And far more lives and disease and injuries come from corporate crime and negligence. You have 60,000 workplace-related diseases and trauma deaths every year, OSHA figures. You have 65,000 from air pollution alone. He supported the coal and fossil fuel industry. Those are EPA figures. And the big one is 250,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, in this country die from what they call, quote, “preventable problems,” end quote, in hospitals.
So, the Democrats lucked out. You know, he didn’t have much to offer, kept going up and down talking about street crime, even though he supports more guns, you know, without permits. He’s part of the GOP lobby in that respect. And he didn’t talk much about community policing. So it’s not surprising that Governor Hochul is going to beat him.
AMY GOODMAN: And then, of course, you’ve got this aspect of him being a longtime Trump ally, supported overturning the 2020 election. It’s not only Zeldin, Ralph Nader. Washington Post just put out this news alert: More than 75 election deniers have already won midterm races tonight. Your thoughts?
RALPH NADER: Well, part of it is in, you know, red states, Amy, where they have a big advantage to begin with, whether they’re election deniers or not. The other part is, throughout American history, people have been suspicious, you know, dumping paper ballots in the river decades ago. There are whole books written on stealing elections. The Republicans have made a clever practice of highlighting it and increasing the likelihood. By charging that elections are stolen by the Democrats, they’re doing everything to make sure they’re stealing the election. And unlike rhetoric, they’re passing voter suppression laws, purging voters, making it difficult to do an absentee ballot, threatening volunteer precinct workers, miscounting the votes.
So, you know, this is what happens when you have one-party-dominated states. I mean, the Democrats, years ago, wrote off almost half the country. That’s where the red state-blue state. They would spend more money on a Pennsylvania Senate seat than on six Mountain states, or, including now, eight with North and South Dakota. There used to be a lot of Democratic senators from those areas. And now they just concede it. Well, when you concede it, it’s not easy for the — it’s not difficult for the Republican candidate, secretary of state, to win an election based on election denial.
AMY GOODMAN: And what about the issue of the minimum wage? In fact, it was voted on in places like Nebraska and Nevada. Polls just closed at 10 p.m. Eastern. On the ballot, raising the minimum wage from $9.50 an hour to $12 an hour. What will happen if the Republicans dominate the House? What would that mean? And what does it mean that minimum wage is really a bipartisan issue, in terms of raising it?
RALPH NADER: Well, it’s a left-right support issue. You know, the federal minimum wage has been frozen at $7.25 since 2009. Obama promised to raise it and didn’t do much. And the Democrats’ great default here is there are 25 million workers who would get a raise if the minimum wage went to $15 an hour, which has huge public support. Do you think conservative families are going to say, “No, I’m a conservative. I don’t want to put more food on the table”? You’ve got 60 million poor whites, men, women, children, who reverberate to something like that. But for some reason, whether the Democrats are dialing for the same campaign dollars as the Republicans or they’re in the hands of the corporate conflicted political media consultants that sabotaged the Democratic voters’ prospect of winning, they don’t make it a big issue.
They passed it in the House, and they don’t talk about it. They could have regular hearings in the House and the Senate making it a big issue and show that the GOP, as they did against Franklin Delano Roosevelt, are against minimum wage, against adequate unemployment compensation, against Social Security, or they want to increase the eligibility to 70 and do all kinds of things to freeze Social Security benefits. They want to push the corporatization of Medicare, oppose universal healthcare. I mean, these are all huge support in the polls — left, right. But the Democrats are enchained by these political media consultants, who they surrender their judgment, strategies, tactics to.
I mean, Mark Green and I speak from experience. In the last six, seven months, we organized representatives of about 24 leading citizen groups, citizen advocates, in an effort called WinningAmerica.net. And we basically said to the Democrats, “Hey, this is the worst GOP in history.” There’s no — you know, they’re against almost anything human that moves. They have the most drastic cruelness against children, starting with adequate neonatal care, all the way to the $300-a-month child tax credit that they blocked in January of this year, its extension, that cut child poverty in half and went to 58 million children. They don’t even know how to boast, the Democrats. So, if they lose the House and the Senate, it’s because they lost it, not that the Trumpsters won it.
AMY GOODMAN: So, your thoughts tonight? I mean, if the House goes Republican, Kevin McCarthy, who would become the speaker, has made it very clear, not to mention a number of congressmembers, the different issues that would be raised. One of the greatest concern, of course, of the Democrats and many others, even supporters of Republicans, is that a lot of time is going to be spent trying to impeach President Biden, going after Biden, going after his son Hunter Biden. What would this mean? How does this country move forward?
RALPH NADER: Well, first, the Democrats are still in power until early January. And what they’ve got to do is work hard for once — no more three-day weeks — cut the vacations down and start having public hearings on labor rights, on children’s rights, on the assault on a variety of women’s rights, not just reproductive rights, equal pay, consumer rights, and throw the gauntlet down to the incoming Trump dumpsters. That’s one thing they can do. They control the hearings in both House and Senate. And they’ve got to pass whatever legislation they’re able to pass, from corporate crime to labor to election security. They will pass a bill to defend against the disruption of the certification of Electoral College votes. They got Republican support on that. But they have two months to throw the gauntlet down, frame the issues for the coming election and take the initiative.
But, you see, the Democrats never learn from their failures, because they have scapegoats. They scapegoat the Green Party. They always have a scapegoat for their failure against the worst GOP in history, whose policies are opposed by 60, 70, 80% of the American people. So there has to be a clean house, cleaning of house. The Democratic National Committee, all the people who were responsible for these losses over the last 20 years, governorships, in state legislatures, they need to be replaced with new energy, young energy, and not simply blame some outside force, look at themselves clearly in the mirror and make themselves more a party of, by and for the people.
I mean, they’ve been pushing for paid sick leave, paid family leave, paid child care, like all Western countries have had, for decades. And they’ve been pushing for it, but they don’t make them big political issues. You don’t think single moms would reverberate to something like that? So, they don’t know how to boast. They don’t know how to use vernacular language that reaches blue-collar workers where they work, live and raise their families. They don’t even have slogans, for heaven’s sake. We have to teach them to have slogans. Slogans are important, because when they’re authentic, unlike Trump’s slogans, and fact-based, they catch people’s attention. And you’ve got 120 million nonvoters who aren’t going to vote today. A hundred and twenty million. So, you know, you get 10 million voters in swing states, and you easily defeat the Republicans at the state and federal level.
Now, I urge people to not get depressed if they lose, if they’re Democrats and they lose today, because you’ve got two months. You can energize the party, lay the gauntlet down, pass some good bills, frame the progressive agenda for the future and go for 2024.
The Democrats also have the power to invoke a constitutional provision on insurrection, which could prevent Trump from ever running again for political office — ever running again. The January 6th committee knows all about this. Attorney General Garland knows all about this. What are they waiting for? Another Trump attempt to introduce neofascism in America? The corporate state merging Wall Street with Washington, turned against the people, stealing elections? You know, the Republicans accuse the Democrats of stealing the election, but they’re doing it in a way with their own legislation and regulations, mostly in Southern states. They’re preparing to steal the election. And there are going to be a lot of votes today that are not going to be adequately counted because of the kind of laws that are now in Georgia and Florida and other places.
The symbol of the Democratic Party default is Beto O’Rourke. He didn’t make the economic agenda. He doesn’t listen to Jim Hightower and other progressive people. He has all kinds of poor people and poor children. And he basically avoided the kind of FDR New Deal advocacy to take Texas away from Governor Abbott AWOL.
AMY GOODMAN: And let’s just say the race has been called. Governor Abbott has beaten Beto O’Rourke in Texas for governor. Speaking of governor races, Josh Shapiro, the attorney general of Pennsylvania, MSNBC has called that race, his race for governor, over Doug Mastriano, an election denier who charted buses for people to the insurrection of January 6, 2021. That race and the significance, Ralph Nader, of state government and what that means for these elections? Because, in fact, Josh Shapiro will be in charge of — right? You have the secretary of state. You have the whole election apparatus in each of these states, why governors make such an enormous difference.
RALPH NADER: Well, they do. And the real critical governor races — Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin — those are the swing states. And the gerrymandering in Wisconsin is more radical than almost any other state. The Legislature may be veto-proof if Governor Evers gets reelected. He’s a Democrat.
So, I think the bright spot here is the way two unions canvassed this year. One of them is the hotel workers, called UNITE, and the other is the culinary workers, especially in Nevada and Arizona. UNITE was in Arizona and Pennsylvania and other states. They canvassed millions of homes. And they don’t start saying, “We like Joe Smith, and we would like you to vote for Joe Smith.” Their approach is they knock on a door, and they say, “What’s on your mind? What do you think are the real issues today in the campaign?” And when the person says, “Well, it’s crime,” or “It’s inflation” — right? — then they start the conversation. “Inflation? What about price gouging?” Last thing they heard, “the government doesn’t sell you drugs, food, motor vehicles, oil, gas, coal. Those are all sold by corporations. So, if you’re worried about inflation, you don’t blame Washington. You blame all these companies that have the pricing power, and they’re taking advantage of it, sometimes overtly, in their discussions with one another. Supply chain? Who expanded the production of goods that can be produced in this country to China, so you had that huge supply chain, which they’re using as an excuse to jack up prices if indeed they don’t overcome their own shortages.” So, that’s what these two unions — and I advise Democratic Party to get together with these unions and get other unions to do the kind of grassroots that really connects with people where they work, live and raise their families.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ralph Nader, we want to thank you for being with us, longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic, four-time presidential candidate, speaking to us from Connecticut.
Yes, this is Democracy Now!, and we’re covering the midterm elections in this three-hour special. I’m Amy Goodman. We turn now to look at early results from Arizona, the epicenter of far-right politics and election 2020 deniers. In Arizona, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly has an early lead over Trump-backed Republican challenger Blake Masters. With over 40% of the vote counted, Kelly has 56.1%, while Masters has about 42%. In the gubernatorial race, Democrat Katie Hobbs has an early lead over Trump-endorsed Republican Kari Lake, who has upheld former President Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen. Lake herself refused to say whether she would accept the results of her own election during a CNN interview in October. She said, if she one, she would accept the results, but refused to say whether she would accept them if she lost. Meanwhile, Democrat Adrian Fontes is currently leading in the race for secretary of state against far-right Republican Mark Finchem, who has ties to the white supremacist group the Oath Keepers.
We’re joined now by Alex Gomez, executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona, or LUCHA Arizona.
It’s great to have you with us, Alex. Welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about what’s happening in your state right now.
ALEX GOMEZ: We’re starting to see the early returns coming in. And, you know, we’ve had a full day of our canvassers out in the doors. We had really long lines, which was really encouraging, at the polls. And the conversations that we were having at the doors, over 400,000 conversations, we felt very encouraged, because once we had those conversations that were meaningful at the door, talking about the issues that matter to our communities, our communities were saying that they were committing to voting and that they were waiting for somebody to come to their door and have the conversation about the issues that matter to them.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you surprised by some of the results that we’re seeing right now? I mean, again, these races have not been called, but Katie Hobbs, the current secretary of state, possibly beating the Trump-supported broadcaster Kari Lake. Your thoughts on that race?
ALEX GOMEZ: You know, it’s too early to call it. We are still waiting on Pima County, which is the Tucson area, the other metropolis city in the state of Arizona. And what we’re seeing is voters voting their voice. Across the board, what we were hearing at the doors, even with independent voters and some Republicans, is that they were alarmed at the vote deniers, the statements and comments that, you know, Kari Lake was going to decertify our election results. Right? All of that was causing alarm across the board, across party line.
And so, what we were hearing at the doors is our communities are paying attention. Democracy is important to voters, including Latino voters. And what we have seen is we’ve already had a historic participation from Latino voters, surpassing our 2018 numbers. And so, we’re really encouraged to see Katie Hobbs currently in the lead. But we are waiting to see the returns from the rest of the state.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us about Prop 309, as you speak to us from Phoenix, Arizona, Alex Gomez?
ALEX GOMEZ: Yes. Actually, we’re really excited to see that Prop 309 is in the lead. And what we’re encouraged by is that this is going to start to tackle the issues around predatory debt collection.
But another really important ballot measure — so, Arizona has been the epicenter of hate, but Arizona has also been the epicenter of anti-immigrant sentiment. So, in 2006, a law passed, which was Prop 300. And so, that was meant to cause DREAMers to have to now pay out-of-state tuition and revoke all scholarships. Well, this year, we were able to pass through the Legislature a ballot referral, and voters were able to choose. And what we’re seeing — again, it’s too early to call, but we are seeing Prop 308 in the lead. And so, that’s incredibly encouraging for a state that was the epicenter of hate and anti-immigrant sentiment actually voting and turning out for DREAMers to be able to receive in-state tuition and to be able to now pay in-state fees.
AMY GOODMAN: Also, talk about the significance of the move by a federal judge earlier this month imposing a restraining order on members of the far-right Trump-supporting group Clean Elections USA, including barring the open carry of firearms and wearing of body armor close to ballot boxes. The level of intimidation that people were experiencing, this another victory for people being able to vote without fear, Alex?
ALEX GOMEZ: Absolutely. What we have seen here in Arizona, that was just, you know, another moment from extremists targeting and trying to suppress people of color in their pursuit to be able to actually participate in elections, to vote their conscience on Election Day. And what we’re extremely proud of is that we have weathered all of the attacks and, in many cases, come out victorious. And this was another example of that. And, you know, we’re no stranger to being under the watch of the Department of Justice for voter suppression. And, you know, out of this legislative session, we also had over 200 anti-democracy bills come out of the Legislature. But the reason all of that is happening is because we’re winning.
When you go and you talk to people at the grassroots, you have a relationship with them every single year for the past decade, and you tell them that they matter and that their vote matters, people participate. And so, this did not feel like a midterm in Arizona. This felt like democracy was on the line, and voters answered the call and turned out.
And now, you know, we’re waiting. We’re waiting to see what the results are. But, you know, for us, this is a tremendous victory, because — I believe it was Ralph Nader was saying that UNITE HERE was out there knocking on doors. We had a massive effort in the field. And we have knocked over 3 million doors as a coalition. LUCHA has been able to knock on over 400,000 doors. And that’s because our communities matter to us, and we’ll be there after Election Day.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you, Alex Gomez, for joining us, executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona, or LUCHA, speaking to us from Phoenix.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, our midterm election night special. Vermont has become the first state to codify abortion rights in its constitution. Vermont is one of five states to have a referendum on abortion on the ballot today.
We go now to Amy Littlefield. She’s the abortion access correspondent at The Nation magazine.
Amy, you tweeted tonight, “Thinking about those hardy Vermont canvassers I shadowed back in September and how happy they must be.” Talk about what happened in Vermont. We began the conversation with Becca Balint, who now becomes the first congresswoman from Vermont and the first LGBTQ+ member of the Vermont delegation, openly gay member of the congressional delegation. Now there is this abortion referendum, not only in Vermont, but if you can start there and then talk about other referenda around reproductive rights in the country?
AMY LITTLEFIELD: Absolutely, Amy. History has been made in Vermont in more ways than one. I mean, this is absolutely incredible, early in the evening results coming in that Vermont has enshrined not just the right to abortion but the sweeping right to personal reproductive autonomy into their state constitution. And that includes the right to access birth control, the right to access or to refuse sterilization, you know, because of this robust and long and tragic history of forced sterilization of women of color, of people of color in this country. And it includes the right to be pregnant and have support when you want be pregnant, and to have an abortion when you want to have an abortion. This is the first time we have seen a state proactively enshrine that right into a constitution. I mean, think about what a different place we would be in — right? — if that was enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
Two other states are considering similar measures. And, you know, it’s early on, but I would predict, because abortion is such a popular issue, I think Michigan and California, the other two states, are likely to pass these similar measures to enshrine this robust right to reproductive autonomy into their state constitutions. Of course, the state where it matters the most is Michigan, because Michigan has a 1931 abortion ban still on the books. It’s been held up by a court, so it’s not in effect. The Democratic governor who’s currently in place, of course, Gretchen Whitmer, doing everything in her power to try to save abortion access in her state, but it would be a hugely powerful and consequential message if the people of Michigan voted in favor of this constitutional amendment that’s on the ballot there. So, those are three that I’m watching very closely.
And then we have Kentucky, Amy. And I am just obsessively refreshing the results right now, waiting to see if this race is going to be called. Kentucky, one of the reddest states in the country, a state that is already living under an abortion ban — right? — has on the ballot an anti-abortion measure, similar to the one that we saw in Kansas over the summer, that would sort of make permanent the existing abortion ban in the state by saying there is no right to abortion in the Kentucky state Constitution. And it looks like voters there are rejecting this measure. I mean, early results are showing a pretty resounding rejection of this anti-abortion amendment in deep red Kentucky.
And so, you know, I think what we’re seeing here is a resounding sort of reflection of what abortion rights activists have known for a very long time, which is that abortion rights are deeply popular. And when you put the question before voters and say, “Do you want people in your state to have the right to access not just abortion but the whole array of reproductive freedoms?” the answer is a resounding yes.
And, you know, huge congratulations. I am thinking about these women who I shadowed. Amy, I could not keep up with these women. Vermonters are tough. And I know you have deep ties to Vermont because your brother David lives there. I could not keep up with these women, who, like, you know, are — I don’t know — marathon runners or something in their spare time, and in there seven days and were out there canvassing and knocking doors and talking to voters about their views on abortion.
And inevitably, you know, when you start to talk to people about these issues, you start to hear stories. Behind every door is a story of someone who’s gone to a fertility treatment process and sees abortion personally that way, or somebody who, like the voter that I talked to in Vermont, who had been through a pregnancy loss and had to make a decision to terminate a wanted pregnancy because her water broke early. You know, these are the sort of experiences that people think about when these amendments come before them.
AMY GOODMAN: Amy, this news just broke, and I know you were in New Hampshire earlier today. NBC News is projecting that Democrat Maggie Hassan has won reelection to the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, defeating the general, Don Bolduc. The significance of this victory?
AMY LITTLEFIELD: I mean, this is hugely consequential, obviously. This is one of the most closely watched races in terms of —
AMY GOODMAN: Whoops! It looks like we lost Amy Littlefield for a moment, abortion access correspondent at The Nation magazine. Bolduc, who was defeated by Maggie Hassan, is the Republican general, the candidate who talked about a meme that has gone — that has been repeated by a number of Republican candidates around the country, that schools are putting litter boxes in their hallways when children identify as cats. And they wanted to pass a rule that no schools could put out litter boxes. Quite an astounding story, a sort of a side story to the bigger issue here that Maggie Hassan has won the New Hampshire race for Senate.
This is Democracy Now! Before we wrap up this second hour, we wanted to go to Washington, D.C., to Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections at Common Cause.
Sylvia, thanks so much for joining us. Election Protection, talk about what you’ve seen around the country today.
SYLVIA ALBERT: Sure. Thanks so much for having me.
So, what we’ve seen today is a pretty standard election. There are always problems, little things here and there. Somebody didn’t have the keys. There wasn’t an extension cord. There might have been some misunderstanding of how poll books worked, you know, lots of new technology in different places. So we saw some delays in opening of polling places in the morning or some slowness because of that. But we also saw that these were isolated incidents and that election officials around the country reacted quickly with resilience plans to ensure that voters were able to vote a ballot and hopefully have that ballot count. So, it is actually a pretty calm Election Day in that sense.
On the other hand, what we have seen is people taking these small incidents of isolated election administration problems and spreading lies about them, trying to spin them into huge mis- and disinformation narratives to undermine people’s faith in the election. And you saw that, I think, particularly in Arizona, but not just in Arizona.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what happened in Pennsylvania with Republicans suing to ensure that undated or misdated absentee ballots would not count? Your group, Common Cause, sued in federal court. Fetterman sued, the Democratic candidate for senator. The significance of this?
SYLVIA ALBERT: Sure. This is, I think, another example of, you know, politicians trying to define their constituency. It is the idea that they choose who gets to vote, not the voters getting to choose who represents them.
So, this is one of the number of lawsuits where Republican candidates or the Republican Party are trying to get vote-by-mail ballots discarded. They’ve spent the last two years telling their constituents not to vote by mail, and continuing to undermine and lie about the safety of vote by mail, which we know is a safe and secure system. So, after telling their constituents not to use it, they have now gone through and attempted in multiple states to get some portion of vote-by-mail ballots tossed.
In this case in Pennsylvania, it is undated or misdated vote-by-mail ballots. So, to be clear, these ballots are received by the election officials on time. And whether or not somebody wrote the right date on the ballot actually has no bearing as to whether or not it’s a valid ballot or whether that person is a valid registered voter. So, the Republican Party sued in state court to ensure that those ballots weren’t counted. The state Supreme Court found for the Republican Party on the state issue, saying that it was in state law that the ballots couldn’t be counted, but they deadlocked on whether it’s a violation of federal law. So, we and others sued in federal court, because this policy, we think, is a violation of the Civil Rights Act, which basically says that you can’t have unjust or immaterial laws that will toss people’s ballots when it has nothing to do with their actual — the actual sanctity of the ballot itself.
AMY GOODMAN: We just have a minute to go, Sylvia. If you can talk about what you think is most important about this midterm election when it comes to fighting back voter suppression?
SYLVIA ALBERT: I think, you know, the first thing is for everybody to know that Election Day is not results day. I think there’s so much mis- and disinformation. And I think, you know, what people should know is that we need to count all of the ballots, right? All eligible ballots should be able to be counted. And if that means they get counted tomorrow or the next day, that’s way more important than having a quick result. It has always taken a good amount of time to canvass and certify our elections. Right? What the news might report on election night is not an official tally. It is not an official certification. So, we are going to take the time needed to ensure that every eligible voter is able to have their ballot counted. And a proper election where democracy is strong means that every ballot is counted, and that is way more important than having a quick result.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Sylvia Albert, for joining us, director of voting and elections at Common Cause. Thanks so much.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, the midterm election night special. We’ll be going ’til midnight Eastern time.
Coming up at the top of the hour, we’ll be bringing you an election summary, and we will also be speaking to Bishop Dr. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and president of Repairers of the Breach. A couple little notes: Lindsey Graham said on NBC, “Definitely not a Republican wave. That’s for darn sure,” he said. Also, Republican Chuck Grassley has won reelection to the U.S. Senate in Iowa. And this breaking news, this news from Ohio: Republican J.D. Vance wins U.S. Senate race in Ohio. That’s at least what NBC News is projecting. New York Times is still predicting that Congressmember Boebert will win, which everyone expected from the polls. And Summer Lee has won a congressional seat in Pennsylvania. We’ll talk more about this in a minute.
[End of Hour 2]
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!'s midterm election night special. I'm Amy Goodman.
Polls have just closed in California and Washington state as several key races in battleground states remain too close to call. In New Hampshire, NBC is projecting Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan has defeated her far-right Republican rival, General Don Bolduc. NBC is also projecting Republican J.D. Vance has won the Senate race in Ohio.
In Georgia, where just over three-quarters of votes have been tallied, Trump-backed Republican football star Herschel Walker has a small lead over Democratic Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock. Walker leads by about 10,000 votes, with less than one percentage point separating the two of them. Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver has about 2% of the vote, which means Georgia’s Senate vote could be headed to a runoff election if no candidate reaches 50%. That election would take place on December 6th.
In Wisconsin, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes is neck and neck with incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson, the grocery chain magnate. With a little over half of votes counted, Mandela Barnes leads Johnson by just a few thousand votes, a fraction of a percentage point. Senator Johnson is a climate denier who has also downplayed the January 6th Capitol riot. Just ahead of the insurrection, Senator Johnson and his staff tried to deliver lists of fake electors to Vice President Mike Pence. If Barnes wins, he will become Wisconsin’s first Black U.S. senator.
In Colorado, Democratic Senator Michael Bennet has won reelection after fending off Republican challenger Joe O’Dea, a construction company executive who drew headlines for refusing to support former President Trump.
In Pennsylvania’s Senate contest, Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman is leading Trump-backed Republican and former TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz by about two percentage points, with two-thirds of ballots counted.
In Virginia, incumbent Democratic Congressmember Elaine Luria has lost to Republican state Senator Jen Kiggans in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. It’s a positive sign for Republicans, who need to flip five congressional districts to win a majority and to unseat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In Arizona, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly has a significant lead over Trump-backed Republican challenger Blake Masters. With over half of ballots counted, Kelly has 58.1% of the vote, while Masters has 39.6%. In the gubernatorial race, Democrat Katie Hobbs, the current secretary of state, is also leading Trump-endorsed Republican broadcaster Kari Lake, who has upheld former President Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen, this with 57% of votes counted. Lake herself refused to say whether she would accept the results of her own election during a CNN interview in October. She has 42.9% of the vote. Meanwhile, Democrat Adrian Fontes is currently leading in the race for secretary of state against far-right Republican Mark Finchem, who has ties to the far-right groups the Oath Keepers. Fontes has 59.4% of votes, while Finchem has 40.6%.
For more, we’re joined by two guests. In Raleigh, North Carolina, Bishop Dr. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, president of Repairers of the Breach, is with us. And in Madison, Wisconsin, John Nichols, The Nation’s national affairs correspondent and author of several books, including __The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party_.
John, let’s begin with you in Wisconsin. It is neck and neck. Can you talk about Mandela Barnes and the race he waged against the incumbent, Ron Johnson?
JOHN NICHOLS: Sure. Mandela Barnes is a remarkable candidate by just about any measure. He is the son of a union activist — the grandson of a union activist, who came out of a working-class neighborhood in Milwaukee, got elected to the state Legislature, and then, four years ago, was elected as lieutenant governor. He easily won a multicandidate Democratic primary and then went into this fall race against Ron Johnson, who you’ve described quite well. He ran as a candidate really promoting economic justice. That was his core issue.
Johnson attacked Barnes with viciously racist and xenophobic ads. It was a really nasty campaign. And Johnson did, in September and early October, take a lead. In act, at one point, it looked like Johnson was well ahead. But Barnes had a couple of very strong debate performances. He was benefited by an appearance a little over a week ago, week and a half ago, by former President Barack Obama. And so, he’s basically created a very close race. He surged at the end.
This is still a tough race, though, Amy. There’s a lot of rural votes still out. That rural vote is more likely to go to Ron Johnson. And so, I think that at this point what we’re looking at is a contest that’s going to go a good deal later into the night, whereas the governor’s race in Wisconsin, it looks like Governor Tony Evers has opened up a significantly stronger lead as a Democrat seeking reelection. But there’s still quite a bit of voting to be counted here in Wisconsin.
AMY GOODMAN: And, in fact, The New York Times — I mean, these numbers change every minute or so — says that Senator Johnson now is up 51% to 49% with 65% of the vote counted. Bishop Dr. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, can you talk about what you’re watching right now? And, I mean, we’re reaching you in North Carolina. In North Carolina, there’s a very interesting race going on right now. Cheri Beasley, who served as chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 2019 to 2020, she would be North Carolina’s first Black senator if elected, the first Black woman to serve in the U.S. Senate from North Carolina. But at the moment, her competitor, Budd, is up about 51% to 47%. If you can talk about this race?
BISHOP WILLIAM BARBER II: Well, thank you so much, Amy. And hello to John.
You know, there are several races. There’s this Senate race with Cheri Beasley. And we’re deeply concerned about where it is. You know, we know how to win in North Carolina. A part of the problem has been, though, we believe that there was not as much national support as there should have been. And some of these consultants continue to take our candidates away from the bread-and-butter issues. You know, they first framed Senator Beasley around law and order and abortion rights, which is powerful. But in North Carolina, 49% of the people in this state make less than a living wage of $15 an hour, and over 79% want a raised wage. This was the state that we waged a war against voter suppression and won. And those were not major mainstays in the messaging.
You know, over a million poor and low-wealth voters in North Carolina did not vote in the last election. Trump only won by 70,000 votes. And in North Carolina, it would only have taken 19% of poor and low-wealth voters to close the margin of victory from the last time. Now, it’s not over yet, but I hope the Democrats are learning something tonight. And we’re going to be watching carefully. We touched 5.1 million voters in 50 days who are poor and low-wage, low-propensity voters in 15 states. We know across this country there’s not a state where if just 25% of the poor and low-wage voters who did not vote in the last election were to vote, that there would not be a major shift, and most of it’s under 10%. In Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina combined, there are over 3 million voters, poor and low-wage voters, who did not vote in the last election. If you combine the margin of victory in those three states, it’s under 100,000.
Also in North Carolina, what we’re seeing is there are two districts, the 13th District and the — a new district, I think the 1st District, and the 13th District. And it’s interesting. The Democrats will pick up those two seats, it looks like. These are new districts, gerrymandered districts. The reason they are is because we, again, in North Carolina, fought the battle and beat them, beat back gerrymandering, and we beat back the racist voter suppression laws. If these two districts pick up, one in rural North Carolina and one in Raleigh — and we spent a lot of time — we touched 717,000 poor and low-wealth voters through the Poor People’s Campaign over the last 50 days in this state. And when the numbers are finally vetted out, we’re going to see that where people won and where Democrats won, poor, low-wage voters weighed in, just like last time with the Biden and Harris. It was 53% of poor and low-wealth voters that got them through Georgia and actually got them through the national election.
I’m hoping, Amy, that in the midst of this, while there’s some wins, there’s some losses, I hope there’s a lot of learning. We cannot continue to leave — I think in the last election, 27 million poor, low-wage voters did not vote. Democrats are going to have to message directly, and it’s not going to be on TV. It’s going to be door to door, touching, and with a message that says if — what they’re going to do if they get elected. And when they get elected, they can’t allow a few renegade Democrats to block the things they ran on, like living wages and voting rights, because, then, when the candidates go back home, they don’t have anything to run on that they promised that they would do.
I don’t think tonight, lastly, is so much about Democrats losing in some places, because it’s not a wave of Republican wins. I think tonight must be a time of learning. And we must decide that we’re going to be the party of all people. And that means that we are not going to leave the 85 million poor and low-wage workers in this country untalked to, unrecruited and unvoting — and not voting. We’re going to go after them hard. We’re going to go after them starting tomorrow. We’re going to work with them. And I think when we do that, we’re going to see that a lot of these wins by the Republicans are more like mirages, because it’s really — the swing vote in this country is not the elusive suburban vote; it’s poor and low-wage voters that have turned off from our democracy and are not voting either way. And we need to go after that sleeping giant and wake it up. And that’s what we intend to do in our campaign.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you something, Bishop Barber. In Georgia, you have Brian Kemp. Let’s see who is predicting this. Brian Kemp is expected to beat Stacey Abrams. He’s the incumbent governor. Of course, this is a rematch for them. She’s the longtime voting rights activist. What do you think went wrong for Stacey Abrams in this race?
BISHOP WILLIAM BARBER II: Well, you know, again, when you look at Kemp, he did take on Trump, and he stood up to him on the last time, and I think he got some courage points for that.
I think that when you look at Stacey and you look at Warnock, let’s not forget that the South is still troubled by the Southern strategy. There’s a lot of effort put in to making the Democratic Party, quote, “the Black party,” and suggesting that if they win, people are going to get something, and poor whites are not going to benefit from it. There’s a lot of voter suppression still in Georgia. Let’s not forget that, as Dr. King said, the greatest fear of the Southern aristocracy for whites and Negroes and — as he said “Negroes” — Black people and Latinos to come together. I still believe, however, that when you look at Georgia, it would have taken — 7% is the percentage of poor and low-wage voters that you would need to target and mobilize, that did not vote, to close the margin of victory. I don’t believe, nationally or in other places, that we’ve really targeted, we’ve really called the names of poor and low-wage voters. We still talk about middle class and the wealthy, and I think that’s problematic. I think Stacey did a — she’s a powerful, tremendous candidate. It is no fault of hers, because she was just going after issues.
The other side of this also is the larger media. The media has a way of shaping these battles, if you will, down to two or three issues, rather than making these candidates, like a Kemp, really have to answer, “What are you going to do to the more than a million people in your state that don’t have healthcare? What about nearly 50% of your state that makes less than a living wage?” So, the way in which debates are shaped and conversation is shaped in the media, they get a pass on these issues. They don’t really get pushed on these issues. And I think that, in turn, allows a lot of people to vote without really knowing how dangerous these candidates are to the kind of public policy that would lift up everybody.
You know, I think, lastly, Amy, that what we see now is — we started seeing it in 2008 with Obama when he broke through the Southern strategy. There’s been a regressive attack to keep that from happening again. But Stacey, Warnock, all of us understand we are not going to quit. We’re going to continue to work. But all of us and the Democratic Party as a whole has a whole platform about poverty, but when they run for office, too often you do not see the kind of intense focus I believe is necessary to mobilize the percentage of poor and low-wage voters that really could be the swing vote that could turn elections in another direction. I’m not talking about Black people, even though Black people are — 60.9% of Black people are poor and low-wealth. I’m talking about across the board. That is a message that can reach in rural Georgia or rural North Carolina or in the urban areas. And we’re going to have to — Democrats are going to have to hone that message, and not depend so much on TV, but go into those areas and mobilize that vote. When we do that — when we do that, we will see a brand-new electorate in the South and across this nation, in Ohio and other places, that will be transformative in our politics. But as long as we leave that many millions of voters kind of untalked to specifically, then I think it is economically insane, it’s morally indefensible, it’s constitutionally inconsistent, it’s politically inept. And we cannot continue to just ignore poor and low-wage and low-wealth voters anymore. We have to have a direct campaign to their doorsteps.
AMY GOODMAN: The significance of the vote that just took place in Washington, D.C.? I’m looking at Axios right now. D.C. passes a huge raise for restaurant workers and other tipped employees. Voters backed Initiative 82, outlawing a subminimum wage for tipped workers. Instead, they’ll receive the full minimum wage, plus tips on top.
BISHOP WILLIAM BARBER II: Yep. That’s the thing I’m talking about, Amy. In every one of these states — you take, for instance, Florida. When DeSantis won in Florida, also a living wage won. In all of these states, the polling says that people want a living wage. And there’s not a county in this country where people can work a minimum wage job at $7.25 and afford a basic two-bedroom apartment.
When Warnock, for instance, ran in 2020, that’s all they were talking about, living wages and voting rights and dealing with racism. They get to the Senate. They have a majority. Manchin and Sinema are allowed to block both of those things.
A month ago, we took 50 clergy to Capitol Hill that represented 50 million people, in denominational structure. And we said to the Congress, we said to the Democrats, “You all need to have three votes right now, whether you win, lose or draw: You need a vote on living wage, you need a vote on women’s right to choose, and you need a vote on the voting rights bills. Even if you lose, even if a couple Democrats block it, let people will see you fighting for it, and let them see who is voting against their very livelihood and the life blood of this democracy.” But you cannot run a campaign and say, “Oh, what we’re going to do is we’re just going to run on a woman’s right to choose and January 6th.” You must run on that and — and even with that, who’s going to be hurt most by abortion rights being taken from women? Seventy-three million poor and low-wealth women in this country.
I’ve said over and over again there’s no way in the world you can have a voting bloc of over 87 million people and you can have a constituency of 140 million poor and low-wealth people, 43% of this nation, 52% of the children, 55 million people working for less than a living wage, 87 million people uninsured or underinsured, and you’re not speaking directly to them and building up organizers in their communities. And the Poor People’s Campaign, with volunteers, we touched 5.1 million low-propensity voters in 50 days. What could a campaign, a party do?
I understand they spent some $250 million in Georgia, and more money was spent here in North Carolina than ever. But most of it’s on TV. Most of it is directed to the middle class and so-called swing voters out there. But we have to see a change in the way in which we are reaching voters. We saw reaching poor and low-wage voters changed Kentucky. And they won a Democratic governor some couple of years ago. And I could go down the list. I won’t.
But all over the country, wherever you look, wherever the margin of victory is within 3%, poor and low-wealth voters make up over 40% of the electorate. And across this country, poor and low-wealth voters now make up over 30% of the electorate in any state. You cannot ignore that. You must intentionally and with great specificity and commitment, before the elections, focus on that. You do not move that bloc of voters by just having a few high-powered speakers come in a few days before the election and do it. It has to be a constant and consistent work. We’re going to do it in the movement. But the party needs to understand, if you continue not to address this group, this bloc, you will continue to struggle at the ballot box.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, it looks like Kansas City has addressed it, Bishop. I’m looking at a tweet from KC Tenants Power. That’s Kansas City Tenants Power. Tenants win —
BISHOP WILLIAM BARBER II: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: — $50 million for deeply affordable housing. They tweet, “We’ve seen enough! With 70% of the city reporting, Question 2 passes with approx. 70% support. Kansas City votes to #HouseThePeople, authorizing a $50 million bond for housing between $550-750 dollars.” The significance of this?
BISHOP WILLIAM BARBER II: And those are our friends out there in Kansas. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. See, I see hope in the desperate, the numbers that are full of despair. For instance, if you have millions of people who are either homeless or living on the brink of homeless, one way to look at it as despair. The other way is to look at it and say that’s millions of people who could stand up and be registered to vote if we build an agenda toward them. If you have 87 million people uninsured or underinsured, that’s ugly. That’s bad. Three hundred thirty thousand people died during COVID not because of COVID, because of the lack of healthcare. But if you flip that over, you’ve got 87 million people that you can — that could stand up, that could turn out, if you focus on them. And the country is ready for that, because people were hurting long before the inflation. The inflation, we know, is not so much about Biden creating inflation, but it’s a global problem.
But what we have are these hard, real numbers. We’ve been talking about it now for three years. And we brought 150,000 people to D.C. in June for the Mass Poor People’s, Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls. And people are saying, “We are not going to be silent anymore.”
You have a win in Kansas. You have other wins that we’ve seen, even in — as I said, a few years ago, in Florida, on wages. In North Carolina, we were able to beat back voter suppression. We were able to win a case that allowed 56,000 former felons to have their voting rights back. On the ground, we can win on justice issues.
But too often what the party does at the national level — and then they get these consultants, and they put these candidates for Senate in boxes, and they say, “Stay within these two realms. Only deal with this issue and this issue.” And too often we’re not even dealing with the issues of that state.
And again, going to North Carolina, you have 3.2 million poor and low-wealth voters, eligible voters. Almost 70% of them are already registered. Last time, over a million didn’t vote. How are you running a campaign and not say upfront, “How are we going to get at least 30% of those who did not vote the last time?” And I could go down the list. A million people in North Carolina who don’t have healthcare or are uninsured, 30,000 of them are veterans. How can you run a campaign and not specifically talk to people who are being denied healthcare?
We must begin to talk specifically to the needs that people have, and to just basically be constitutional. You know, the Constitution says — and every politician puts their hand on the Bible and swears to uphold the Constitution. Well, the first principle is to establish justice. So, candidates ought to be able to run and say, “It’s not just to take a woman’s right to choose. It’s not just to suppress the vote. It’s not just to see corporations’ greed overtake people, working people’s need of a living wage. It’s not just to deny people healthcare, be more concerned about stacking the Supreme Court rather than keeping people out of caskets during COVID. And here’s what we’re going to do. If you elect me, this is the healthcare you’re going to get. This is the living wage you’re going to get. This is the kind of housing policy you’re going to get.”
And then, when you get elected, do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. And then come back to the people and say, “I said what we said we were going to do, and we did it.” I guarantee you that will cause a massive rise of poor and low-wage and low-wealth voters to come alive in the electorate. And if that ever happens — I wrote an article in USA Today I hope you can link to for this story. I said that’s the swing voter. The poor and low-wealth voters who are not voting are the very hope of this democracy, and we’d better hurry up and recognize it and start reaching out to them.
AMY GOODMAN: And as we’ve been speaking, CNN has called your state, North Carolina, Bishop Barber, for Ted Budd over the former state Chief Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley. Your final thoughts?
BISHOP WILLIAM BARBER II: Well, you know, I think, in some ways, Budd got a pass. You know, one group called him a false prophet. He has some very extreme ideas about religion, very extreme ideas. He claimed he was running on a faithful agenda, but his agenda of guns and attacking gay people and Latinos and a woman’s right to choose is not a godly agenda. This is not good day for North Carolina.
But I also want to look inside of those numbers and see what the margin was. And I guarantee you — I guarantee you that the margin will not be much more, if it is even 19 or 20% of poor and low-wage voters who did not vote in this particular election.
And I hope Democrats, in losing, will learn. In losing, will learn. We all lose sometimes, but what champions do is they lose, they learn, they get up, they fight again, and they win. 2024 is coming. Let’s make sure, Democrats, that you are not going to leave poor and low-wealth voters out of the equation, and make your adversaries — make your political adversaries have to say on the record how they’re going to address these issues that affect people’s everyday lives. And I guarantee you, you will hear a rumbling and a waking up of what I call the great sleeping giant in this country. We have to do it. We must do it for the heart and soul of this democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: And apparently, Stacey Abrams has called Governor Kemp and conceded the election, as well, Bishop Barber.
BISHOP WILLIAM BARBER II: Hard days. But, you know, we’ve had those before. We’re working against a plan. This is not Donald Trump’s plan. Donald Trump inherited a plan that was put in place 50 years ago with the Southern strategy. And it’s not going to be easy. It’s not easy to overturn it. It’s race and class all mixed up.
But again, I want to look at those numbers. And I’m going to beg and beg and plead, therefore look at those numbers. I bet you — even down in Georgia, I’ll be willing to almost bet you that the margin of victory could have been closed by somewhere between 7 to 10% of poor and low-wage voters, many who are already registered, but many who have been turned off from the politics of our day because we tend to talk about trickle-down or either neoliberalism rather than specifically what we’re going to do in the lives of poor and low-wealth people.
I think we — I hope we will learn in this moment and not give up, but get up, not turn around, but turn to, and not stand down, but begin to stand up. You know, Frederick Douglass said in the 1850s after the Dred Scott decision — somebody asked him what was he going to do, and Frederick Douglass said, “You know, this is a monstrous decision. It’s not a good day.” He said, “But every attempt to allay the abolition movement has only served to intensify our agitation.” I want to say it is time for us to intensify our agitation.
Ronald Reagan ran a whole lot of times before he ever became president. I want to say to Stacey, my dear powerful sister, let’s keep on. Let’s keep fighting. To say to Cheri and others and the Democratic Party, everything you have that you need to win is here, is already present, but you’re not going to do it unless you turn in a specific way to make sure we no longer take for granted the 87 million poor and low-wealth voters in this country, who are just there.
And so many of them are not voting for anybody, because nobody is talking to them. We did a survey, Amy, and a study with Columbia University. The number one issue why poor and low-wealth voters are not voting was not voter suppression and transportation and infrastructure for transportation. It was “Nobody talks to us. Nobody comes to us.” We put people on the ground in North Carolina, and literally, when they knocked on the door of some people, I got stories back of people crying, falling on their knees, white and Black, saying, “Nobody has ever talked to us in the last 10 or 15 years.”
We cannot allow that to continue. We must reach our brothers and sisters who are poor and low-income and low-wage, and not just ask them to vote, but ask them to be a part of a movement to transform this country when it comes to wages, voting rights and healthcare, our critical issues. And I believe if we do that, we will see a massive turnout in ways that will close these gaps, and we will see some new things come out of the South, the Midwest and other places, because we wake up that powerful voting bloc that should never be allowed to go and should have never been allowed to go to sleep in the first place.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Bishop Dr. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, we thank you so much for joining us, joining us from Raleigh, North Carolina. John Nichols, before we let you go, we wanted to ask about this latest news out of Ohio: J.D. Vance has defeated Congressman Tim Ryan. Your thoughts? And talk about this race.
JOHN NICHOLS: Well, the Ohio race was a significant race because J.D. Vance was really put into that position by Donald Trump. He was a Trump candidate in a state where Trump did very well. Tim Ryan, a populist congressman, closed the gap and actually ran a very strong campaign. But it’s not that big a surprise that Vance has won in a state, Ohio, that’s been trending very Republican.
I think the bigger thing, the most important thing tonight, is to sort of step back from some of what we’ve been looking at in some of these defeats and recognize that if you’re looking across the whole country at this point, not a single Senate seat has flipped to the Republicans. We’re now five hours, five-some hours after the polls started to close in Kentucky and Indiana. Now most of them are closed across the country. And so, instead of the red wave or the red tsunami that people were talking about, we’re actually ending up with a midterm election cycle in which, for a variety of reasons, the results are much closer than expected. There is still a good chance that Republicans will take the House of Representatives, but they’re not going to take it by anywhere near the size of margin that had been expected. There is still real competitiveness as regards the Senate, but there is at least a decent chance tonight that the United States Senate could, when all the votes are counted, when all the contests are decided, remain in Democratic control.
And most significantly, in the races for governorships across the country, in key battleground states that will be definitional as regards where we’re going in 2024 with the presidential election, you’re seeing Democrats winning. They’ve now won — it looks to be a win in Pennsylvania. It looks like a very good chance of wins in Wisconsin and Michigan. Those are three of the five key battleground states. And in Arizona, the Democrats appear to be, at least in initial vote count, substantially ahead.
So, this is a very significant night. It looks to be shaping up as one of the closer midterm elections. Usually midterm elections are very rough for the party in power. They see very big losses. At least certainly that was the case in 1994 and in 2010, the last time you had a Democratic president going into midterms after two years in office. This does not look to be like it’s going to be that kind of night.
And the last thing I’ll throw in the mix that I do think is significant is that across the country, although our media tends to do a terrible job of covering this reality of our politics, you’re going to see a substantial expansion in the number of progressives in the U.S. House of Representatives. You just reported that Summer Lee won in Pennsylvania. We should also note that Delia Ramirez has won in Illinois, and Jonathan Jackson has won in Illinois, and Greg Casar in Texas has won. And I can — you know, we could go down the list. The fact of the matter is that the Progressive Caucus is going to expand as a result of this election.
And so, what we’re really seeing is a reality that the American people are uncomfortable with where we’re at. I don’t think they’re in love with what the Democrats have done. I think there’s a lot of frustration with the Democrats. But they’re not rushing to the Republicans at this point, either. And, in fact, the substory is that in many parts of the country they’re choosing very progressive candidates to represent them in Congress.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the Wisconsin Legislature, John?
JOHN NICHOLS: Well, that’s a whole 'nother substory, is these battles for control of state legislatures. And in Wisconsin right now — and we still have a lot of votes to be counted, so we should be careful on making any predictions. But in Wisconsin right now, Governor Tony Evers, who's been a very, very progressive governor but has had a Republican Legislature, so he’s had to veto more than a hundred bills, including many voter suppression bills, he’s ahead. But there is a battle for control of the Wisconsin state Legislature. And if Republicans flip a number of seats — I think it’s five seats in the state Assembly, a couple seats in the state Senate — they could get a ability to override his vetoes.
That’s actually true in a number of states around the country where these battles for the legislature, which don’t get covered much in our national media, are actually places where we define where the real power is, because, remember, the federal government deals in a lot of major issues, there’s no question, but it’s the state government that more often than not is making the call on issues like abortion rights, on issues like social services, on a whole host of environmental issues.
And in a number of states around — especially in the Upper Midwest, you have Democratic governors with very conservative Republican legislatures, and so the makeup of that legislature is really going to define, you know, what those governors can or cannot do. In Wisconsin, that’s a battle that’s unsettled at this point, but it’s one we’re watching very closely. I think a similar thing, we’re seeing a real fight in Michigan for control of the Legislature.
And bottom line is that — it’s why I love what you do on this show and what you just did with Reverend Barber — is when we go deeper, when we look at the whole of what is happening, at all the factors that are in play, what we realize is that a midterm election cycle, as a presidential election cycle, has many layers to it, many levels. And as we dig deeper into that, we actually see how power is divided up.
And one of the things that, again, I think has been undercovered in this year is the fact that the billionaire class, the wealthiest people in this country, poured huge amounts of money into races at every level, including these state legislative races. Now, they’ve won in a lot of places. There’s simply no question that billionaire money has defeated some very, very good candidates around the country. But there is also the reality that we’re seeing working-class, union-backed candidates fighting back and prevailing in some key races across the U.S.
And so, it’s a mixed result tonight, Amy, and that mixed result, ultimately, is one that ought to give us hope for going forward, and especially, again, to harken back to what Reverend Barber had to say, if we recognize that — I think what the results tell us tonight, not a Republican wave, not a Republican tsunami, but a very mixed finish. If the Democrats ever got their act together and actually started to put their money into real outreach to working-class and poor people and put a lot more money into grassroots organizing and a lot less into television advertising, they might well have done significantly better this year.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, John Nichols, you mentioned Delia Ramirez, as well as Summer Lee, which brings us to Aimee Allison. She is the founder of She the People. She the People is a national organization that elevates the voice and power of women of color as leaders of a new political and cultural era.
Welcome, Aimee, to Democracy Now!’s midterm election coverage.
AIMEE ALLISON: So happy to be here. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us. Let’s talk about Summer Lee for a minute. Here is an African American woman who is a member of Democratic Socialists of America, community organizer, a Pennsylvania state legislator. She will now become the first African American congresswoman representing Pennsylvania. Can you talk about the significance of this race?
AIMEE ALLISON: It’s very significant that Summer Lee has pulled out a win in a battleground state, Pennsylvania. You have to remember her history. She comes out of organizing Black Lives Matter. She ousted a longtime moderate Democrat, a white guy who didn’t reflect the demographics and the political sentiments of Pittsburgh, where her district was, and she used her time in the state Legislature to continue to build Black and Brown political power in a place, in a state where, you know, the Democrats and really the political system at large had largely ignored the tremendous power and the political needs of the community.
And she had quite a fight. And, in fact, you know, the main fight, you could say, was in the primary. But in the last couple of weeks, it was millions of dollars of dark money who came at the 11th hour to attempt to defeat Summer Lee, money that was fueled through AIPAC and other PACs. And I think at the end of the day she showed the strength of her vision. And she not only was — is just a tremendous organizer, but translated the political vision, really a justice vision, into messages and commitments about housing. She addressed pocketbook issues. She talked about safety and gun violence. She talked about abortion rights and reproductive justice. She committed to being part of a larger cadre of women of color who are going to be entering Congress ready to fight for and lead for the things that we, as progressives, want to see.
So, you know, Summer Lee has broken a glass ceiling as a Black woman. More importantly, she has built political capital. And her strong win — and what we found is that Black women and other women of color who are running on very broad-based, very strong progressive agendas are building longer-lasting coalitions that not only propel them into office in the best case scenario, but also help statewide wins.
And so, my hope is that tomorrow, in the days to come, when people are not only looking at the significance of Summer Lee and her win, but they’re also looking at Fetterman’s race and the statewide Democratic prospects, and they look to Summer Lee and look to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as being the keystone of statewide wins. This is important because, as been mentioned by a lot of other guests, places like Pennsylvania are going to be ground zero in the battle for the White House in ’24. Those battle lines are already being set. And Summer Lee is demonstrating that you can stand really strongly for racial, economic and gender justice and win a seat and propel a whole state to be successful statewide.
And so, that is where I see Summer Lee joining other women of color who have led on some of the major issues that have been mentioned tonight, leading on reproductive justice and sending — passing a bill, sending it over, leading on criminal justice reform, leading on minimum wage. Those things have been stalled in the Senate, but the fact is that it’s been women of color who have pushed that envelope. We can expect that kind of leadership, and I really expect her, as a freshman congresswoman, to come in there with her colleagues, AOC and Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar and other women of color who have made a name for themselves in legislative leadership. I expect her to work in conjunction with them and to continue pushing our issues forward.
AMY GOODMAN: An amazing odd twist: You had Summer Lee up against Mike Doyle. Now, she’s replacing the Democrat Mike Doyle, who found the need to hold a second news conference saying, “Guys, I am leaving,” because the Republican opponent was also named Mike Doyle. He rarely put in his literature that he was a Republican. People on the ground, when interviewed, were constantly confused, said they would support Summer Lee, but they didn’t want to go against Mike Doyle, a very popular congressman. But this was a different Mike Doyle. And to add insult to injury, one of his last ads was simply “Mike Doyle, a name you can trust.”
AIMEE ALLISON: And Mike Doyle, the name that Summer Lee knows how to beat. I mean, honestly, it is a twist, and she’s certainly — she’s traversed pretty treacherous waters to get where she’s at today. You know, really, congratulations to her and her whole team. She ran an excellent campaign. We are expecting a lot from her. She’s actually very young and energetic and has a long career ahead of her. So she’s someone to watch as she moves into congressional governance.
AMY GOODMAN: And speaking of people to watch, you now have Delia Ramirez, who John earlier mentioned, the first Latino to — the first Latina to represent Illinois in Congress. She is a Guatemalan American. In 2018, she became the first Guatemalan American elected to the Illinois General Assembly, according to her campaign website. She has worked as a community organizer and social services director on the Northwest Side before she was elected to the Illinois House in 2018, now will be the first Latina congresswoman from — congressmember from Illinois.
AIMEE ALLISON: And that’s significant in so many ways. I mean, if you look at the dynamics of Illinois and the fact that the demographics have shifted and that a Latina from Central America, who has such a strong background as an organizer, has successfully won that seat, really, is — it heartens a lot of us who understand that Latinas are among the least represented in every level of government. So, to see her ascend into her year next year as a congresswoman, breaking those barriers, is an inspiration.
I would also say that we’ve been keeping our eyes on another Latina, Rochelle Garza, who ran in Texas as attorney general. Now, she wasn’t successful this time around, but I want to say something about her run, as well. For a Latina to run, to run competitively, in a state like Texas, that has been and will continue to be a battleground state; for her with her strong credentials taking on a sitting attorney general who’s under FBI investigation, who was there at January 6th insurrection, who is in every way election denier and enabling the governor and Republican state Legislature to criminalize women who seek abortions in that state; for her to stand up against all that and run a competitive race should not be ignored. Latinas who are positioning themselves to build multiracial coalitions and lean into justice issues speak to a growing and young demographic. And these are the kind of candidates that the Democratic Party should be investing in, should be investing in early.
And unfortunately, we see, even in battleground states where we don’t capture that seat, we lay an important groundwork. That’s true in Illinois, where the congresswoman-elect base is still going to be there. It’s the foundation of the work that we’ll do in '24, and I would say the same in Rochelle Garza's race in Texas. These races, win or lose, help us to build out an infrastructure, that maybe we don’t get it this time, but we build toward the next. So, congratulations to the newly elected congressmember.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Aimee Allison, we’re speaking to you in Oakland, California, where you live, but heading south, in Los Angeles, there is a very tight race right now. The latest news tweeted by Bolts: “Karen Bass leads 50.8% to 49.1% against Rick Caruso in Los Angeles. Based on the June primary, this is quite good for her: She was trailing by a few points on Election Night then, and finished ahead by 7%.” The significance of this race in Los Angeles for mayor?
AIMEE ALLISON: Well, you know, there’s not a lot of local races that I would say are a national bellwether, but this is one of them. You have Congresswoman Karen Bass, former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, who is known and has been in elected office and has worked in the Los Angeles and nationally, up against a billionaire who spent $150 million of his own money buying out every digital billboard and TV ad available in the largest media market in the country.
And that it should be close is really — when you uncover what the issues are, I mean, you’re talking about Caruso, a guy who was a Republican for much of his life, has funded many of the Republicans who have brought us the most draconian policies and practices, have been election deniers, have been behind overturning Roe v. Wade. That’s that guy. And I think Republicans haven’t ceded, in a place like the city of Los Angeles, making a run for it. In recent months, of course, Caruso has claimed, you know, that he supports a lot of the issues that are overwhelmingly popular in Los Angeles. And that, plus all the media buys, have brought us to where we are right now.
I continue to think, in a state like California and a region like Los Angeles, where the electorate is nearly 27% women of color, that the Congresswoman Karen Bass will be the next mayor of Los Angeles. But it’s a bellwether because of the huge, you know, just huge amount of money that — from the personal wealth of a billionaire that’s been spent to attempt to level the playing field or to buy his way into that local seat. And because Los Angeles, as a city, is a leading city in California, California being the fourth-largest economy in the world, it’s just so much is at stake. And everything that touches people’s lives, from jobs to affordable housing, which is a huge issue in Los Angeles, those things are not going to be solved by a billionaire who’s bought his way into leading one of the country’s leading cities.
So, I think the significance of how close it is is that we still have a system where it’s tremendously difficult for average, everyday people, even people who have served at the congressional level, to go into a local race and be able to, you know, build from there, that billionaires can come into a place, into a local race like that, and inject so much money, that that’s where we are right now. And I know that in the particular dynamics of that race, we have Black voters, we have Asian Americans, we have Latinos, we have white voters. And across the board, the way that voters have been inundated with confusing messages from the Caruso campaign has made it difficult for people to understand the base issues. But I think at the end of the day — and, of course, we’re going to see as the results here in California, the — and in Los Angeles, the polls haven’t been closed for that long — but as we see the results unfold, we’ll get an opportunity to appreciate how much people in Los Angeles are really trying to be clear on the issues. The issue is housing. And no matter what a billionaire says about those things, it cannot change the fact that there was only one person in that race who was communicating, has a history of working on that key issue. So, I think it’s a bellwether, you know, and I think that that’s going to be a really important race to watch.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Aimee, we have to leave it there. Aimee Allison, president and founder of She the People, speaking to us from Oakland, California. And CNN has just called the New York governor’s race for Kathy Hochul.
Our last guest, we turn now to Chris Melody Fields Figueredo. She is executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center.
Chris, if you could walk us through the ballot measures you’re watching tonight in this last few minutes that we have? It’s great to have you back on.
CHRIS MELODY FIELDS FIGUEREDO: Thank you so much for having me, Amy.
Listen, I think the running theme that you’ve heard from so many of your guests is these progressive issues, when put before voters, have the opportunity to win. We already saw victory in Vermont being the first state to enshrine the right to an abortion. We’re poised to see that in California, and likely in Michigan, as well. In fact, Michigan Reproductive Freedom for All and Promote the Vote, the voting rights ballot measure, are trending higher than the Democratic candidates on the ballot. It also looks like Kentucky is about to reject the abortion ban.
I talked earlier this week, I think yesterday, about the movement to abolish slavery as a form of punishment in state constitutions. We are poised to remove those from state constitutions in all five states that have that before voters.
We also already have claimed victory in Nebraska to raise the minimum wage. Here in D.C., voters have approved eliminating the subminimum wage for tipped workers. And in South Dakota, where it is likely that Medicaid expansion is going to win at the ballot. Also, it is looking like, in Illinois, the right to collectively bargain, which is important for labor unions, is going to win at the ballot. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re going to lose a right to work at the ballot in Tennessee.
Things are also looking good to raise taxes on millionaires for public education and public transportation. And it also looks like — well, we already know that marijuana has been legalized in the state of Maryland.
So, what this tells me is what we have known for the last several years, is that these progressive issues transcend party lines. These are the issues that people and communities care about. This is the message that drives voters to the polls, and they are often higher vote-getters. And that is a really important message for us to remember tonight and going into the next couple days.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Chris Melody Fields Figueredo, we thank you so much for being with us, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center.
As our election special comes to an end, the balance of power in Congress is still up in the air with key races too close to call. Senate races not yet decided include Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona and Nevada.
In Pennsylvania, the Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman has a narrow lead over Dr. Mehmet Oz, backed by President Trump. In Georgia, it appears increasingly likely the Senator Raphael Warnock-Herschel Walker race could go to a runoff. That would take place on December 6th. In Arizona, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly has a sizable lead over Blake Masters with half the vote counted. In Wisconsin, Republican Senator Ron Johnson has a narrow lead over the Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes. In other closely watched Senate races, Senator Maggie Hassan is projected to have defeated General Don Bolduc. Meanwhile, in Ohio, Republican J.D. Vance is projected to have defeated Democrat Tim Ryan in the Senate race there. In North Carolina, Republican Ted Budd is projected to have defeated Cheri Beasley.
In the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, the Democrat has defeated the Republican election denier Doug Mastriano. That’s Josh Shapiro, who will be the next governor of Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has defeated her far-right challenger, Lee Zeldin. In another closely watched governor’s race, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has defeated Stacey Abrams.
The New York Times projects incumbent Democratic Senator Patty Murray has been reelected in Washington state. Democrat Ron Wyden will hold his Senate seat in Oregon. California voters send Democrat Alex Padilla back to the Senate. In early 2021, Padilla was appointed by Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom to fill the Senate seat vacated by Kamala Harris after she was elected vice president. Governor Newsom has also been projected to win reelection once all California votes are counted, a process that will take at least another week.
Democracy Now! is produced by an amazing team of people. It’s produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud, Mary Conlon. Our executive director is Julie Crosby. Special thanks to Becca Staley, Jon Randolph, Paul Powell, Mike Di Filippo, Miguel Nogueira, Hugh Gran, Denis Moynihan, David Prude, Dennis McCormick. And special thanks to David Goodman.
Democracy Now! will bring you a morning-after special tomorrow in our regular time, 8 to 9 Eastern Standard Time. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Thanks so much.