Amanda Litman, Executive Director of 'Run For Something' discusses the importance of down ballot races


The Mandolin. Welcome to the PODCAST. I am so glad to be here. Thanks for having me so I read something really interesting last night I was reading through twitter. Of course only at night. That's what I do and there's a thread pincher twitter feed that caught my interest. You said something to the effect that you were talking talking to people and people have said to you about this year's upcoming election. They're just kind of focused. Their resources are energy and their time on trump and getting trump out of office. A what's what's wrong with that view view. Well I think it's It's it's wrong. I think it misses the bigger picture of what's at stake this year. Beating trump is important at. It's it's obviously a high priority it. We can't dismiss the importance of winning the White House both on a policy level and on a save American democracy level and it's not enough It can't be our priority as Democrats to the at the expense of everything else and what I've been hearing especially from donors this year not as much from volunteers which is great but especially from donors this year is that their money their efforts their energy is going towards things that stop trump. Yeah and that means that there are huge swaths of this ecosystem of this work being done that are under funded and under resourced and aren't going to be done in the way that they need to at a time when we have a chance to make huge progress especially on state and local government awry in. You know you're not the first person who runs an ORG that I've heard that from right that going into the general election. I think this happens a lot. You know every four years people start focusing especially early donors their their resources into the general election and that just kind of misses the point really important point so I just want to point something out about the power of down ballot races this so was it day before yesterday the Equal Rights Amendment was ratified in Virginia. And I think one of your alums run for something along. Jennifer carrol. foy Is a delegate in Virginia that she was a part of that process. Not just a part of it John was leading the charge on this and she is. I think she's incredible. We've been working with Jensen's she. I ran twenty seventeen I think people forget about her first election. You know it was twenty seventeen Virginia House of delegates. It was the first first big race after twenty. Sixteen she was running in a primary against a candidate who had run before and people wrote her off. They didn't think she could win. She was a black woman running in northern Virginia They didn't feel like it was possible for someone like her to take office. Not only did she win. She won her primary by fourteen votes like week or two after having given birth premature twins. Wow she is hard core. And you'll we were with her during that primary and then into the general when she flipped flip to see in the Virginia House of delegates. Red To blue She helped pass Medicaid expansion in Virginia in two thousand eighteen to ensure that more kids had healthcare just like her baby's I did and then when we met with her a little bit later after twenty eighteen. I guess she was like I want to take on the way and we said great. Let's do it so so. She did a bus tour across the state. She's been working really hard to ensure that there are the votes for it. She campaigned really hard to make sure that the Democrats are able to flip the Virginia House in Twenty nineteen gene and then she was the lead sponsor of the bill just earlier this week. Making Virginia the final state to actually finally ratified the equal rights amendment. It's so amazing. See not what is possible when you elect a Democrats that's amazing. I actually didn't know the depth of her story. That is amazing because I just did an episode on the IRA that was was a century in the making and the fact that run for something was behind a candidate who did all of that. I think that's amazing. In that in itself is a commercial for why we need to focus on these races. It's really remarkable. What happens when you elect the Democrats to offices where they can actually make a difference? You know one of the things. I find so fascinating as people. Tell me you know. My biggest goal is insert issue here. That's why I'm putting all my efforts towards winning the White House towards a House district like do you not see where the power comes from if basically every issue you care about the true levers of power happen in state and local government so whether its reproductive health or criminal L. Justice reform or voting rights or climate change or lgbt equality. Really any issue pretty much makes progress or gets defended at the state and local level. So another one of your alumni isn't a Tamie Sawyer in Memphis. I'm actually from Memphis. I grew up there so I interviewed her a few times. She's another powerhouse. I loved loved him. You saw her. She's in the city council. Right now ran for mayor another person who is going to make a big big changes in local politics in Memphis. Yes yeah. She's amazing we were so proud to be a part of her campaign and I know even though she lost that race. She's not done so I'm excited to see what she does next. Yeah so the thing is. Is that one party already. Does understand this. And that's the Republican Party. They understood this for over a decade that the power lies in these local races. They do focus on the Journal election. Obviously the White House in in governorships and stuff like that but they don't think that any rates is too small like from the school board to election. Birlik you've mentioned. Do you think that Democrats are finally catching up into between to that to that strategy. I getting closer. I think the deals you see is doing amazing work. I think the National Democratic Redistricting Committee is an incredible partner And I think it's not enough and I think it's not local enough even with all the work being done on state legislative races the best example. I've got here. Do you remember that New York Times article. I think it was maybe earlier or this week or last week. Time is a flat circle. That was talking about the textbooks in Texas. I California right right and was explaining. How like in California? It's sort of a broad ed more nuanced look at history versus Texas textbooks which are very dismissive of African American history in the United States and have Berries Pacific viewpoint around the second amendment. Things like that. The one thing. That article didn't get into that I think is worth pointing out is that that is an outcome. That is an intentional goal of the Republican Party. The the Republican Party invested millions winning the Texas State Board of Education which helped dictates that curriculum. In fact in some points in the process the Texas the State Board of EDUCATION GETS LAKE LINE ITEM veto power over these textbooks That's why Republicans controlled it. That's why Republicans spent money and invested did efforts to win it and what that does is teach Texas teenagers. If specific viewpoint of history breeding them to be more conservative voters It is both with a short term and long term impact of this work there. Republicans have understood. They have figured it to fuck out and important is because they see the longer picture and I hate to complement the Republican Looking Party. It's a bad party. Lease the elected officials in it are bad for the most part but their donors figured it out. They figured out early. They've been doing this for decades twenty thirty forty years So we have a lot to do to make up for that loss. Time am and there aren't too many groups who do the work locally the way that we do. I wish there were more so yeah no. You're absolutely right. You're as I was thinking the exact same thing that you just said that they are thinking about generations ahead. Children are reading these text books. They know exactly only whether it is intentional. Strategic it is long-term thinking it is understanding that the crazy person you elect to a city council today could be the crazy person a letter into a member of Congress tomorrow but that they've been crazy member of city council sort of gives them credentials. It's a breeding ground. So it's not just now policy policy. It's not just politics. It's the entire cultural impact in echo chamber that they have created to give themselves sustainable power and ultimately that's what run for something is all about is building being sustainable power for Democrats progressives because if we don't win these grass roots offices these local school boards water boards and community college boards. The rest of it falls house apart because it's not on a solid foundation. So let's talk about money where the money goes because this is another thing. They figured out that we have it. And I'm Kinda pissed about this one. So the coke brothers right. They've poured millions and millions into these down Belarus's right no racist too small for them. You know they'll put lots of money into a school board. If it means something but Democrats on the other hand you can and tell me. Maybe I'm wrong about this. Maybe this criticisms wrong. But you know we've got billionaires running in the primary running what appear to be vanity campaigns spending hundreds of millions of dollars Ads when if they were reinvest that in down ballot races. Maybe we get somewhere yeah. I've no disagreement here You know I hey. I have a very strong belief that if you are a billionaire or a KNOB billionaire it is your money to do with what you wish. If you think that's the best way to achieve your goals as running for president let go forth respectfully disagree. I don't think it's a good way to achieve your goal but I do think it's a symbol of how the Democratic Party has has sort of idolized allies. The presidency is the solution to our problems. You know that we have to billionaires running for president and not enough of them funding local offices like could you ask for a better metaphor it just. It drives me

Coming up next