Hello and welcome to another episode of lever time. It's the show that's kinda like Bill Maher's show except I'm not an out of touch asshole. I'm your host David Sirota on today's show, we're going to be talking about the January 6 hearings, and why they probably won't hold the intensifying assault on democracy until Democrats start actually doing things. Then, in light of inflation continuing to rise amidst record corporate profits. We're gonna be discussing how the Federal Reserve is planning to help. By lowering your wages, you truly cannot make this shit up. Finally, due to the cataclysmic failures of the two party system here in the United States, we're going to be having a discussion about third parties. Later, I'll be speaking with Philadelphia City Councilmember Kendra Brooks, and former Lieutenant Governor of Vermont, David Zuckerman, who both won races as third party candidates. This week, our paid subscribers will get a bonus segment from the levers, Matthew Cunningham, cook and Julia rock, who believe they've figured out the key to solving the inflation crisis, a reminder for our free listeners to head over to lever news.com To become a supporting subscriber that gives you access to our premium podcast feed, plus a whole lot more live events, all sorts of good stuff. As always, I'm joined here on this podcast by producer Frank. What's up, Frank
now much, David, it's been an inflation heavy week here at the lever. And I've learned more. I've learned more about the Federal Reserve in three days than I had ever before that time.
Yeah, I mean, the Fed is kind of a topic that people's eyes glaze over. But I promise our discussion is not going to be one of those. And yes, I think inflation has not just been a big week for inflation here at the lever, it's been a big week for inflation. All over the place, I read one stat that said that the average American household is now paying about 400 or $450 more a month for the same goods than they were a year or two ago. That is just kind of mind boggling. And I'm sure everyone listening to this is feeling it in some way, shape, or form. Of course, unless you're a billionaire, and you're listening to us, so shout out to all the billionaire listeners, I don't think we have many,
even people in the middle like who are firmly in the middle class. Like who you know, 450 doesn't sound like a lot. But just imagine, imagine like the folks who are living on the margins of poverty, what that actually means to their day to day lives. It's it's, it's really scary.
It really is. And it doesn't show any signs yet of stopping art. We're gonna get into that discussion in just a little bit. But I want to start very quickly with a review of the January 6 hearings that have been dominating cable news. Over the course of the last few days, there were tons of details about the riots, plenty of testimony from people close to Donald Trump, and all those details, paint a pretty simple portrait, Donald Trump wanted to overturn the election. And so he incited a mob to try to do that. Now I have three takeaways from all of this. And I think they're takeaways that haven't gotten much attention. Take away number one. This whole ordeal showed how insanely easy it is to nearly topple the government. I mean, Trump and his cronies. These are not geniuses. These are morons. And even morons got close to ending democracy. It's almost like a satire. It's almost like Veep actually, Frank, it reminds me of the film, the death of Stalin, like a bunch of bumbling idiots running around trying to do really bad things. Right. And would anybody argue that Donald Trump's folks are like super political rasp mutants and geniuses? Would anybody really claim that?
No, I don't believe so though. I do think that they had the advantage of being right wing, which literally resulted in there being less protection around the Capitol on that day as opposed to some sort of left wing rally that had been mobilized.
Absolutely agree had this this been a kind of radical leftist uprising of the Capitol, there would have been a completely different response completely agree. But I also think that if a bunch of right wing morons could get that close to toppling the government, it's not really a great commentary on the robustness of the system on the stability of the system. Okay, TAKEAWAY NUMBER TWO. Liberals have spent the last week lavishing praise on Mike Pence and Liz Cheney, and that's fucking embarrassing. The Atlantic's headline was, quote, Mike Pence is an American hero. Meanwhile, Robert Rice who I like usually insisted that Liz Cheney maybe should be president. To me, this is peak West Wing liberalism, the desperate need by liberals to honor the right wing lunatics who helped build and inflame the entire right wing movement for decades, and to honor them just because what what, at the last minute they decided not to help pull off an actual coup. That this all reminds me of that famous Chris Rock. It all reminds me of the famous Chris Rock comedy bit. I take care of my kids never been to jail what's on a cookie? J have low expectations. I'm sorry, you don't get a fucking cookie for not overthrowing the government. You're not some great hero because you issued a press release opposing a literal violent insurrection. That's literally what you're supposed to do. As the bare fucking minimum of your job
yet it has big clapping for the airline pilot when he lands the plane energy.
Like that's, that's the minimum of your job. I mean, I mean, this is Bob Rice quote, I can't read it without without getting angry. And again, I liked Bob Rice. But like, here's his quote, quote, Liz Cheney, although conservative, reminds me of Senator Paul Wellstone, one of the most progressive politicians I've ever known. They have in common courage, integrity and a love of democracy. What the fuck are you talking about? You're likening Liz Cheney and Paul Wellstone, like, like you've lost your mind. The third takeaway, I think, is the most important. It's about the whole democracy question. Right now, we're five months, just five months, until the midterm elections. And even amid multiple emergencies, it still seems like the Biden administration. And Democrats in Congress are basically saying this to America.
Everything's under control situation normal won't happen. Has like weapons malfunction. But everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here. Now. Thank you. How are you?
As it relates to the January 6 Riot this everything's fine situation normal idea is embodied by the notion that the hearings or even indicting Donald Trump will singularly beat back the larger authoritarian movement in America. Now, look, I'm very much very much in favor of holding Donald Trump and his accomplices accountable, throw the law at them. Absolutely. But that is not going to rescue us from fascism. In my view, the only way to do that is for the fascists, alleged opponents, the Democrats who control Congress and the presidency, to do something that the Democratic Party used to do, but in my lifetime, almost never does. Which is deliver real material gains to the working class. That is right now being radicalized, radicalized by seeing a government continually side with big money interests that are ruining the lives of everyone who isn't super rich. There's two quotes I keep thinking about, from Franklin Roosevelt. The first came in 1932. During his first presidential campaign, FDR said, quote, the millions who are in want, will not stand by silently forever. While the thing is to satisfy their needs are within easy reach. We need to correct by drastic means, if necessary. The faults in our economic system from which we now suffer. That's FDR 1932. Six years later, amid a rising fascist movement in America, I think people forget this, that fascism was on the rise in America in in the 1930s. Six years later, FDR said this 1938
Democracy has disappeared in several other great nations disappeared, not because the people of those nations disliked democracy, but because they have grown tired of unemployment and insecurity, of seeing that children hungry while they sat helpless, in the face of government confusion, govern On weakness, weakness through lack of leadership in government. Finally, in desperation, they chose to sacrifice liberty in the hope of getting something to eat. We in America, know that our own democratic institutions can be preserved and made to work. But in order to preserve them, we need to act together to meet the problems of the nation boldly, and to prove that the practical operation of democratic government is equal to the task of protecting the security of the people.
Now, FDR fought off fascism with the New Deal, which delivered real material gains to workers. But in other countries, the opposite happened. There was one particularly fragile democracy, where inflation was extremely high, where there was a right wing nationalist movement agitating the working class, and where the ruling center party, that's what it was called the Center party, pushed austerity measures, budget cuts and the like. Sounds like I'm describing America today a little bit, doesn't it? But what I'm describing is why Mr. Germany before the fall, and here's what researchers recently found about that period, quote, austerity measures implemented between 1930 and 1932 in Weimar Germany, in misery rised and radicalized the German electorate austerity worse into the situation of low income households and the Nazi Party became very efficient at channeling the austerity driven German suffering and mass discontent. So in other words, the centrism the corporate friendliness of the ruling Senator party at the time the austerity measures the we're not going to spend much to help people idea in Weimar Germany helped the Nazis gain power. Now, I don't like making, you know, Nazi comparisons to what's going on today. There's that rule, you should never make those comparisons. And I'm not making a direct comparison. But there is a lesson there. And let's remember, back in 2016, Donald Trump was buoyed by a 10 point spike in the Republican vote share in the American counties that specifically saw life expectancy stagnate or decline. That dynamic echoed the 1930s, where there was, quote, a significant association between mortality rates, and increasing vote shares for the Nazi Party in Germany. At that time, according to researchers, those researchers ultimately concluded that quote, when people are suffering, they may be more open to the siren calls of right wing radical populist parties. There are also studies that show in the last 150 years, financial crises like the financial crisis we went through, and weak responses in industrialized countries like the United States have almost always been followed by an assault on democracy by right wing authoritarian movements, whose anti government arguments find an eager audience among voters who start blaming public institutions for the emergencies. So step back. What does all of this tell us? It it suggests that we are right now in that why Mr. Period a why Mr. America period, billionaires have made trillions of dollars through the pandemic, the so called centrist corporate friendly Democratic Party isn't delivering much of anything to the working class amid sky high inflation. And an authoritarian movement is on the march, threatening to make January 6, look like a warm up to something even bigger. And even worse. In my view, the only way to have a chance to stop it, to have any chance to stop it is to actually just show the government delivering real gains to lots and lots of people. I'm talking about student debt relief to 40 50 million households. I'm talking about raising the minimum wage to $15. For millions of workers. I'm talking about expanding Social Security, anything and everything that would just directly alleviate some of the crushing pain that millions and millions of people are going through and do it in a simple way. That unless millions of people quickly see real help see the government really trying to help. I don't think the January 6 hearings, even though I support the hearing support the investigation. I don't think that is going to stop the rise of fascism. I don't think that's going to protect democracy. And I think that's what FDR was warning us about. Okay, it's time to get to our lever story for today, which actually relates to workers and crushing pain that we're talking about. Another quote from a president that I want to bring up to start that discussion. This is a quote from Ronald Reagan,
I've always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.
Now, in my opinion, Reagan was a bit too broad. The government does some great things like Medicare, Social Security, et cetera, et cetera. But one thing is true. The nine most terrifying words are I'm from the Fed, and I'm here to help. This week, Julie Iraq reported on Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell, screaming the quiet part out loud when he said that his priority is to quote, get wages down. And Powell is now pushing interest rate hikes designed to do exactly that. To explain why that's so terrifying. Julia and I are joined by Josh Mason, an associate professor of economics at John Jay College and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Josh is going to help us by doing the most important job of any modern economist sift through the Federal Reserve's bullshit. Okay, so Josh, I'm going to ask really dumb questions, and Julia is going to ask the smart questions. So I'm going to start with a really dumb question. What exactly is the role of the Federal Reserve when it comes to fighting inflation?
Well, you know, that's that's not such a simple question. So the conventional answer, the textbook answer is that it is the job of the Federal Reserve to fight inflation, that that is to say, to maintain an inflation rate of around 2%. That's how people understand the role of the Fed today, it hasn't always been the case. Until the 1990s, it was not particularly believed that the Fed was responsible for dealing with inflation. And that's not just in the US, but in most of the world. And if you actually read carefully what the what the law governing the Fed says, it doesn't say the Feds job, we talked about the Fed having a dual mandate to maintain price stability and full employment. The law doesn't say that it says the Feds job is to maintain credit and monetary conditions consistent with price stability and full employment. And that's there's a subtle but important difference there. If inflation is happening, if you read the letter of the law, and this is how the role of the Fed was understood for most of its history, if you've got an inflation that's happening, because banks are lending too much or creating too much money, that's a problem the Fed itself. But if inflation is happening for some other reason, like let's say there's a war in Ukraine that's interrupting the world's supply of food and energy that's driving those prices up. Well, the law says credit and monetary conditions, that's not credit and monetary conditions. And again, for most of the history of the Fed, it was understood, that's not the job of the Fed. So today, we think when prices are going up, the Fed needs to raise interest rates, raise unemployment, reduce workers bargaining power, lower wages, and that's going to get passed through to lower costs. But strictly speaking, if you read the law that the law doesn't tell them to do that, and again, for most of the Feds history, that wasn't how their role was understood. If
that's the case, if the Fed is only if what I hear you saying is the Fed is supposed to sort of intervene when inflation is a monetary situation, and the Fed alternately, shouldn't or maybe doesn't have to intervene when inflation is about something else. With that in mind, what is the Federal Reserve doing right now about inflation? And do you think that its actions are incongruent with what is actually driving inflation?
Well, you know, the Fed what the Fed is doing now is is what, you know, a modern day textbook would say they should do, and they're very clear about this. They're very explicit about it. Jay Powell says, what what are we trying to get we're trying to get wages down. The textbook view is that businesses are setting prices just as a sort of markup over their wage costs. You know, if the wage cost to produce 111, unit of output is $20, then they'll charge $30. If wages go up by 10%, their prices will go up by 10%. That's what the textbook says. So if you want prices to go up by less, you have to get wages to go up by less. How do you get wages to go up by less by making it harder for workers to demand higher wages making the bargaining position of workers worse? And that means raising unemployment or at least making it harder to find a new job? You know, what Powell has said until recently, oh, you know, the unemployment rate has doesn't have to go up but we just need fewer job openings. So work yours can't be so picky. So they have to settle for lower wages. That is explicitly what the Fed is trying to do make workers accept lower wages on the theory that this will then get passed through to lower prices. And that will bring inflation down
and just intervene for a moment about that that textbook theory of wages and prices. That's not what's happening right now. Right, price prices are going up by more than wages are?
I don't think so. And I think there's a lot of evidence, it's not what's happening right now. You know, if we look at where inflation is mainly happening over the past year, you know, we've seen a lot of inflation in energy crisis, that doesn't have anything to do with wages in the United States, we've seen a lot of inflation in auto prices, especially used cars, which obviously, by definition, are not being produced by labor in United States. But autos in general wages in the US wages are not a big part there. And we know what's happened with cars, they didn't, you know, the auto companies didn't order enough semiconductors, they thought there was going to be a deep slowdown, people on demand, they plan for that. And then they weren't able to keep up when demand actually remained strong. So that's why prices went up there. We're seeing prices rise in other areas, now we're seeing higher rents, higher rents, our long standing problem this country, they don't reflect higher wage costs reflect that there isn't enough housing in the places that people want to live. So most of the price increases we're seeing now it's very hard to link them to higher wages. And if you look, you know, Josh Bivins, at the Economic Policy Institute did a very nice piece on this. If you look at how much of the higher costs of production, the United States, over the past year, 18 months is accounted for by higher wages, it's a very small fraction, which is quite different from for instance, the inflation in the 1970s.
So then, let me ask a question. Again, I'm gonna go and ask a dumb question. Why don't you explain how raising interest rates raising the cost of borrowing money, how that translates into lower wages. For those who don't just understand that connection?
Well, it's a little bit indirect, it's not obvious that they always do. But the notion is, you know, interest rates are not a cost of current production for businesses, what they're what interest rates, influences investment spending, you know, businesses don't borrow money to produce stuff today, the stuff you're producing today, really, if it's worth producing, you should be able to sell it for more than it costs, you shouldn't have to borrow money to finance it. But when you're investing, when you're building a new structure, or researching a new product, developing something new, then that sort of by definition, doesn't pay for itself right away, and you have to borrow to do it. And so if interest rates are higher, at some point, you're going to borrow less, you're going to it's going to be less attractive to borrow, and businesses are going to invest less. And that's going to mean less demand. And that means less people getting hired. So in the housing market, we can see it, it's most it's most clear cut there, you know, developing housing, you borrow money to do that, that's that's how developers work, they borrow money, build the structure, and then sell it. And if it's too expensive to borrow, it's not worth building those houses anymore. And that means people are out of work, who otherwise would have been working, building those houses. And the notion is, as more people lose those jobs can't find those jobs. That makes it harder for people to demand higher wages. And that's that's how you then have have prices come down. So it's a pretty it's a pretty roundabout process. And a key step is that workers have a harder time finding jobs and therefore are willing to accept lower wages.
So even if wages are not, you know, a primary or even much of a cause at all of today's inflation, could you know, bring down wages through this roundabout mechanism reduce inflation?
Well, in theory, could I mean, I don't think anybody doubts that if the Fed raises interest rates enough, eventually, you will get a recession in this country. And I should say the textbook story is about investment spending. But there's some other channels that are important too, in particular, interest costs. If you already have debt, whether your business or household, a family or even a local government, if you already have debt, you're rolling that debt over typically, even if you've got a fixed rate mortgage, every so often people move and they have to borrow, get and take out a new mortgage for a new house. And then if the interest rate is higher, they find themselves with higher housing costs going forward. And that means less money to spend on other things. And businesses that have you know, outstanding debt, when they roll it over, they face more and all that all that is reduces the money available for other things. And eventually, if you push it far enough, people can't meet their debt service costs, you have bankruptcies, you have defaults, and you do at that point, tip the economy into into a recession. And at that point, I think we can safely predict eventually prices will come down. So I think I think eventually, if the goal is to, you know, slow inflation by whatever means necessary, then the method they're using will eventually be successful.
So let me ask this question about how to deal with inflation. Okay, so inflation is an issue. It's a problem. It's something that we need to deal with. Something is going to have to change. It sounds to me like what what you're saying is that the textbooks prescribe harming a certain set of people basically, workers rank and file aisle workers. That's the standard way that we have come to as a as a country as a government to deal with the inflation issue. That's right. And so then the it raises the question, Well, is there another way to deal with the issue that isn't just about kicking the face of workers over and over and over again? Well,
you know, I think in some cases, historically, we said, you know, when prices are increasing rapidly, and it's in a part of the economy, where there's not the potential for generating more supply quickly, or there's, you know, there's, there's, there's shortages that you that will take time to resolve themselves, then you regulate that price, or if the producer has a lot of market power, and they're taking advantage of that by raising prices, you regulate that price. And we still do some of that today, we have in New York City and certain other big cities, we have rent regulation. And, you know, some economists don't like it, but the truth is, it's pretty popular, and it certainly does the job in the sense of making housing more affordable than it would otherwise be. Nobody will say housing is affordable in New York, but it's certainly, you know, less affordable than it would be without rent regulation. And we also, you know, if you have water in someplace parts of the country, we have, we have private companies that supply water to those companies charge whatever price the market will bear no, there are public utility Commission's that say, you know, you can charge a price for water that reflects the costs of delivering that service, if your costs go up, you can raise the price, but if the cost didn't go up, you cannot raise the price. And that's a model that is widely accepted. And we realized it would be silly, if not impossible to have competing companies all having their own networks of, of pipes delivering water to people's houses, but it would also be unacceptable to allow companies to you know, squeeze people for as much as they could or cut their water up. So what's the solution, you regulate the price, and we could extend that model to lots of other historically, you know, in this country in the mid 20th century, you know, airline fares, truck rates, train rates for for hauling freight passenger trains, all those were set by public missions, you know, and a big part of what we think of as sort of the neoliberal turn in American politics. And, you know, starting with, you know, in the late 70s, and continuing into the 80s, was about rolling back those price regulations, but, you know, maybe it's time to revisit that model.
Okay, there are all these other things that could be done to to, you know, regulate prices, keep them down. I think I've seen a lot of things floating around on this front, but it seems like the Biden administration is endorsing the Feds current path. After last Friday's inflation numbers were released. Brian DESE, the director of Biden's National Economic Council said what the numbers today underscores what the President has been saying and what we are focused on, which is fighting inflation has got to be our top economic priority. The Fed has the tools that it needs, and we are giving them the space that it needs to operate. Biden said recently in a meeting with Powell that was covered, my plan is to address inflation that serves the simple proposition, respect the Fed, respect the Feds independence, which I have done and will continue to do. What what is the path that that the administration is endorsing here?
Well, obviously, that's just endorsing the conventional wisdom that saying, Let's keep doing things the way we've always done them. And I don't I don't, I'm not I'm not thrilled about that. I do think we have to recognize, though, if you look at, you know, how Biden and other officials have talked about inflation over the past year, there's been you sometimes hear the sort of what you just said, but you also hear them talking about price gouging, you hear, you know, he's had some great lines, on more than one occasion about the role of the tiny number of the food processing firms and driving rising food prices. He's talked about the fact that prescription drugs, you know, the prices don't don't reflect the cost of producing those drugs. And that needs to be addressed. So I think you can, although you can, you can find other perspectives on inflation on price increases coming from the Biden administration, as well as that one.
So let me ask the question about fiscal policy, aka taxes. One thing that has been absent from the discussion, and maybe it's because of the Senate filibuster, and everyone believes that you can't you just simply can't get tax increases passed. But the other way, it seems to me and again, a stupid question, because I'm not an economist. But the other way you can reduce the money supply is by, for instance, repealing the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy, repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. I guess my question on this is, are we really facing is the government essentially facing a choice between, let's say, raising taxes on the rich fiscal policy, or monetary policy that jacks up interest rates in a way that harms workers? And if that's one of the choices being made, is the choice on interest rates effectively, a specific kind of ideological choice? That's what I'm really getting at? Is the government pretending to make a dispassionate, a choice with interest rates, when in fact, it's actually a highly ideological choice?
I think that's right. I think just not even you know, the choice between raising taxes on the rich and raising it interest rates. But even more broadly, the question of whether inflation is people don't like inflation. I mean, that's clear, people are not wrong to be annoyed of rising food prices. But the people who are most furious about inflation and the people who will be harmed by interest rate hikes and higher unemployment are different groups of people. And the choice to prioritize inflation at all costs, even if it means a recession, even if it means lower wages, even if it means, you know, making life worse for working people. That's a political choice. It's not just an objective fact that you have to have to have to make that choice. And the notion that, you know, price regulation is just out of out of the question that price controls, you know, I thought there was a very funny moment, Ezra Klein, you know, who represents a lot of sort of, let's say, liberal, conventional wisdom on a lot of things, interviewed Larry Summers, who's, you know, a very prominent democratic economist who's been leading the charge against inflation. And at one point, the subject of price controls came up. And Ezra Klein said, Well, of course, I'm not going to suggest price controls, and then the conversation moved on. So it's sort of telling what gets completely excluded from the conversation. You know, throwing millions of people out of work, rising hunger, homelessness, evictions, you know, all the things that will happen if we have a recession, those are costs, we just have to pay, we just have to be tough minded and accept that. But the limiting the authority of private businesses to charge whatever price they want, nope, can't even can't even consider it. So I think you're right, there's a there's a strong there's a real ideological dimension to what's considered an acceptable cost to pay. And what's completely out of the question, a question
on this point? You know, there's an argument that that we've seen time and time again, I saw a piece on on Noah Smith substack on it on Monday that? Well, you know, a recession would be bad for working people, but inflation is much worse. It's hitting low income people the hardest, and, you know, but both politically, but and and in terms of just sort of the the material conditions of working people. Inflation is a worse outcome than you know, causing a recession. What what do you make of that argument?
I think people really underestimate how critical labor market conditions are. It's not just about wages. It's not just about employment, although those things are very consequential. It's about, you know, all the things that come with having more or less power, you know, the successes we're seeing for unions right now, at places like Amazon and Starbucks, I think there's no question those are the direct, I wouldn't say, you know, they're not the only result. But those critically depend on the fact that this is a very, very favorable labor market for working people, people have the opportunity to stand up to their boss and demand better conditions in a way that they would not in a different kind of labor market in the labor market that was more favorable to the bosses, which is what Powell right now is trying to bring about. And I think things like that have real long term consequences. We saw very clearly, after you know, that the Great Recession of a decade ago, that not, it wasn't just about the people who lost their jobs in that immediate moment. But you know, young people coming into the labor market, people who lost their jobs at that time have lower wages years and years later, it closes off opportunities for people people drop out of the labor market, they give up all sorts of social problems, you know, about that we're very familiar with these deaths of despair from drug overdoses and, and suicide, you know, all those things depend on on because we do we have our basic organization of society that says your sort of your status, your your your your status, as a as a respected member of society depends on having a job. And so I think the consequences of denying people the opportunity to work or making their their opportunities to work worse, are really far reaching, in ways that go beyond just the question of, you know, what, how fast wages arise?
Okay, so my last question for you then is, if you were the Federal Reserve Chairman, Federal Reserve Chairman, Josh Mason has been appointed to a five year term, what would you do in this situation? And not only what would you do? What would you also advise policymakers in the executive branch in the Congress to do in tandem with what you're doing
at the Fed? Well, I don't think the Fed should be in the business of managing inflation. I don't think that's the Feds job. I don't think their tools are well suited for it. I don't think their legal mandate really supports it. So if I were the Chairman, I would I would give up on the idea that we're going to be constantly adjusting interest rates in response to what's happening with inflation or unemployment rates, I would I would basically pick a reasonable rate for the federal funds rate, and maybe that's zero, and maybe it's 2%. I don't know, we can debate that. And I would say we're basically going to leave this year. And then I would focus on the things that actually the Fed has very powerful tools to manage, which are financial stability, asset prices, the degree of risk in the financial system things which where we know things can go seriously wrong in the economy, and where the Fed really does have the tools to manage them effectively, and say, that's going to be my job. And then as far as you know, inflation, my advice would be, you know, not every market is the same and there's no one size fits all tool that's going to be the right one. If you're talking about rising energy prices, you know, what we really need to be focusing on is getting away from fossil fuels as quickly as poss Trouble. And in the short run, you know, what California is doing send everybody a check every family in the country check equal to the average amount they're spending on gas prices above and beyond, you know what it was a year or two ago. Doesn't matter if you have a car or not everybody gets the money. So you feel that you've made people hope people aren't so mad about it anymore. And then, you know, bus service should be free right now, we should have Biden buses running free all over the country. You know, for some people, they're never gonna take the bus, a lot of people. But for some people, that's a real alternative to driving a car when gas prices get higher, and it gets people off the road, it reduces the demand for gas. You know, we should be encouraging working from home we've shown, you know, we learned was one of the few silver linings of pandemic we learned how to do it. A lot of people who've been going into the office every day don't have to do that, when we've got a severe problem of rising gas prices, we should be encouraging people to work from home. And in the long run, we need to invest in green energy. We know we knew we already need knew we needed to do it, but we really need to do it now. So I wouldn't be talking about monetary policy or taxes or anything there. I would be talking about how do we reduce demand for fossil fuels. If you're talking about you know, rising rents, rising healthcare prices, then I would say we need to regulate those prices. These are not markets in any normal sense of the word. These are cases where the seller has a lot of leverage to charge prices that don't reflect their costs at all. And we need to just directly regulate that. Then if we're talking about other things like you know, let's say the cost of childcare, those are small producers with low margins, they don't have actually they're not making big profits. It's just a really expensive service to provide. So there, we need public money, we need subsidies to make childcare affordable. So I don't think there's going to be a one size fits all solution to rising prices. I think you're going to need targeted policies, depending on which set of prices you're interested in moderating those increases. Josh Mason,
thank you so much for your time today. Thanks for suffering through my stupid questions. And thank you for dealing with Julia rocks, extremely smart questions. We really appreciate it and we really appreciate your writing, I should say I rely on it all the time to try to understand what in the hell was going on. Thanks so much, man. Okay, for our final segment today, we're going to be talking about third parties. Let's start by stating a fact. Most people in America who are not lobotomized by cable TV news, and still have a functioning brainstem will admit that both parties are wildly corrupt and dysfunctional. The two parties aren't the same. I'd argue that the Republicans are more dangerous than the Democrats. But most of us can agree that the two parties are basically FUBAR. Okay, so this is why more people now describe themselves as political independence, then as members of one of the two major political parties, so there's potentially an opportunity for third parties. But of course, the term third party is also seen by many people as kind of an epithet. Third party history in this country is usually reduced to just two words. Ralph Nader, people usually view third party candidates as spoilers or not serious in the NATO situation, NATO was blamed for changing the course of American history for the worst buy. The argument was that by helping George Bush win, I don't necessarily by that, I mean, Al Gore should have won that race going away. The fact that it was that close is just a pathetic commentary on a terrible campaign. But I digress. There was clearly an opportunity for third parties a perpetual opportunity. A recent Gallup poll from 2021 said that 62% of Americans now believe that a third party is needed with only 33% saying the two party system is working just fine. I mean, who's in that? 33%? Seriously,
who is stuck? Who the fuck are you show yourself right now? Uh, you need you need to answer a lot of questions.
You should feel shame. Actually, you should feel deep shame that you think the two party system is working. I mean, I get why billionaires think the two party system is working. So then the question is, well, what? If that's the case? Why haven't we seen a major third party? In my view, part of it is that most people still only imagine a third party on the national level. They fantasize about a magical independent candidate who swoops in during a presidential election wins the presidency, builds the perfect third party from the top down. But that's not actually the way things typically work. Typically, things work from the bottom up in the part of politics that isn't talked about much on social media or on cable TV. This is the really unsexy unglamorous work of politics, the local level to actually build the third party it probably has to start from the ground up with really hard to work, not just tweets and YouTube rants. That's why today I'm talking with two people who've done that work. First, we're going to talk to Kendra Brooks, an at large member of the Philadelphia City Council, who won her seat as a candidate, not for the Democrats, not for the Republicans. But for the Working Families Party. Kendra is a terrific example of what can be achieved at the grassroots level with a community based organizing operation outside of the two party system. So, for any of our audience who doesn't know you, tell us a little bit about your background, specifically, what got you into local politics in the first place?
Sure. So I got introduced into local politics primarily through education, my children, went to all of my I have four daughters, they all went to the neighborhood public school. And it was slated to become a charter wasn't, you know, completely anti charter, understanding the purpose that charters were created. But it was the only existing public school left in our neighborhood, all the schools had already went to charter. So when we talking about pro choice for parents, in terms of education, they were eliminating the opportunity for choice in my community altogether. So that was my first real community organizing experience. And I won a fight that I didn't think I could win. And it kind of opened my eyes to the importance of organizing and what it looks like in my community. And from that point, I began to organize helping other schools organize around school funding issue that we were having and still facing here in Philadelphia, as well as other issues that affect my community like gun violence, environmental justice, all types of economic justice, and housing insecurity, food deserts, all of these things that affect this community Nicetown community where I grew up in, so
through the fight over education, through essentially through your your experience as a parent, it kind of became your first foray into politics. And I should say, I feel a kinship with that in the sense that my wife here in Colorado is a state legislator, and her first foray into politics was in school politics, she first ran for the school board, over a very similar kind of situation with charter schools versus neighborhood schools. I mean, that I feel like that is an entry point for a lot of people into local politics. So when you decided to run for the City Council, you made a decision to run outside of the two party system. How did that decision get made? What What led you to make that decision as opposed to running inside of the two party system?
My like I talked about my access into politics. And the things I was fighting for, weren't necessarily necessarily upheld by the folks that we were currently electing into office. I am a super voter. My grandmother was a judge of elections, I have been a part of the Democratic Party, the majority of my life. But I realized when it came down to what I was fighting for my neighborhoods, a lot of our elected officials questioned whether they can get involved. And I couldn't understand why that was a thing. Like we vote you into these elected seats to support issues that are affected communities that you serve. But you were okay to turn your back. When we were fighting for schools, when we were fighting for environmental justice around a power plant that was coming up in our neighborhood, whether we were fighting that gun violence epidemic, I didn't get the support that I needed as a local community member. So when they reached out to me, and talked about the opportunity of running as a Working Families Party candidate, it was intriguing because I've been aligned to politics, most of my life. But the reality is that when it came down to a real fight, that meant something to me and my neighbors, I didn't feel any party stood up to support us in any kind of way. And Working Families Party here in Philadelphia, and in Pennsylvania is contrived of service based sectors, unions and community based organizations. So that kind of added to my guess, because who would best represent a third party like Working Families Party, other than a person who has been directly impacted by the injustices that focus on work and family parties fight for?
What was the reaction when you first decided to run and I should say you became the first candidate from outside the two part major parties to win a seat in the city of Philadelphia City Council in 100 years? What was the reaction initially when you started running from the Democratic Party establishment in the city in the state? Were they hostile to it? Were they expecting it what what was there? Yeah,
I think at first, they just ignored me. I think the reaction in the comments that I got was like, Who are you to think that you could do this? I think once the momentum began to pick up, because I may not have been a part of Democratic establishment politics, but I have been very much entrenched in social justice movements around not just the city, but the state in the country. And as a community organizer, you know, how to galvanize folks and my platform that I ran on was about housing as a human right. Same dignified conditions in schools, working conditions for workers and union workers, climate justice, like fully funded schools, and, you know, taxing the rich, as not too many working class folks that wouldn't stand for that. And we began to build so much momentum, then then people started to take it a little seriously. And I started getting phone calls from other elected officials just to want to have a sit down. And a conversation because the reality is that, you know, when people think of social justice movements, they try to make it a white thing. In the reality, here I am, as I am a, you know, a progressive, very much lefty, but wholeheartedly a black woman, from a low to middle class income community that hadn't been boots on the ground and majority of my life and has been impacted by all these things that I talked about. So for me, it wasn't theory. It was my reality. And the reality of folks that I know every day,
and I want to, I want to talk a little bit about how how powerful the Philadelphia Democratic machine has been. I mean, Bob Brady, the who ran the party for 40 years. He at one point, I mean, he really didn't want you to win your race, he suggested that Democratic Party Committee members who endorsed non Democrats in the election could be expelled. Just talk a little bit about, I guess, how, how, how powerful that machine was, and what kinds of things that they threw at you to try to try to derail your campaign.
I think the first thing when you talk about committee pet people for Kendra Kendra fulfilling, I think that was the maybe one of the first things that kind of threw them off. But once again, you can't tell impacted people that they can't support someone they know is impacted as well. And the threat of throwing them out at a party. I don't think most of the folks that supported me, that was a real threat. First of all, I don't know if it was possible. And number two, you can't stop people from fighting for their own rights. If this is a true democracy, even folks that represent alternative party, once you educate folks about the significance of a win a win like mine, not just for their community, but for generations to come. And for their own self interest. You know, you throw me out the party has nothing to do with someone throwing me out my house, be losing my job, me being able to feed my family, and me be able to make my community better for me and my family. So I think the threat most of them took it with a grain of salt. I mean, people got a little nervous, but the reality is, what I stood for what I stand for, and what I fight for, kind of significantly settled well, with folks that were willing to stand up for Working Families Party in the last election. And I think I have a proven record now that I've been in office two and a half years.
Let me ask you about Philadelphia is the way that the city council elections happened, because I think there's there's something interesting there about how it in a certain way, potentially can help third party candidates. I know there's a there are some rules in the city council about there has to be minority party representation. I know that that you ran at large city wide in a multi candidate race. So can you tell us a little bit for folks who were interested in building third parties? In Philadelphia, what the rules said that made it a little bit potentially more accessible for third party candidates.
So the way our city charter is written, there are tin district seats. There are seven City Council at large seats, but there are two seats that are reserved for a minority party. And traditionally, people assume the minority party would be Republicans, but they don't have to be a minority party is anyone who isn't Democrat. And I think the political education piece around it was significant for folks around the city, because we even had committee people and Ward leaders of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party that did not understand that. And the reality is that once we educated folks, they were willing to step out and, you know, try something different. And then the way our electorial is set up here in Philadelphia, me winning as a Working Families Party candidate does not affect the Democrats at all. It only affects the Republicans so Uh, you know, for the Democratic Party at one time when they tried to push up against it for informed voters, and our job is Working Families Party was to inform voters, it didn't make sense like this is not against your own self interest, it's primarily to make sure that you know, we have a alternate or options in in a party preference here in the city.
So now that you've been in office, it gets what's the Democratic Party's reaction been? How has it been like to work with the Democratic Party? And, you know, what advantages and or disadvantages? Do you sense or face from being a candidate who are a person in office holder who is in a public office, but not in one of the two parties?
I think I get it, I think the establishment was afraid of losing power, even though we saw some, you know, really staunch opposition during the campaign, we began to, you know, realize that electing the working families candidate did not affect the Democratic Party at all. If anything, it gays, some of my more lefty colleagues to be able to, you know, push towards something different, you know, because I was able to introduce things that people was like always No way that's gonna pass, you know. But when we start, you know, moving, moving forward and negotiating, we realized that, you know, a lot of my colleagues do believe in the same things. And we even seen that over this last year, within the party, we have a lot of WFP supported state reps as well, across the city, really, across the state, and others WFP endorsed city council members, and we have began to, you know, build a strong progressive blob, which is excited, exciting. However, in the last election, we see that, you know, is some opposition even within the Democratic Party, because we saw the attacks and efforts to unseat you know, Democratic incumbents like Liz Fiedler and Crips, rap and record Uschi. But one thing we did notice is that it failed, they all were able to maintain their seats. And it kind of pushes to the argument that, you know, there are opportunities for people to carve out their own path into politics.
I mean, you could tell me if I'm being a conspiracy theorist here, but there's a theory out there that says the Democratic Party is afraid of groups of third parties, like the Working Families Party, because the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party fears that more than the Republican Party, because the Democratic Party doesn't actually want to be a progressive party, that the Working Families Party is in some ways, it causes more problems for the Democratic Party, because then in the work, the stronger a party, like the Working Families Party, is the stronger a poll on the Democratic Party to actually represent working people. Do you buy that?
No, but, you know, to that point, that's a good thing, like working people need a voice, for sure cannot have a party that is going to fold and been at the whims of corporate privatizers. You know, and big money. As long as you know, that's kind of what keeps me grounded and excited about being part of the Working Families Party is that my constituency, are working people, the folks that I fight for every day, are working people. And if we want to build a city in the state, where elected officials are voting for the people, not a machine, it's our job to get people into office, people who aren't, you know, looking for status or power. You know, we need people like me, organizers, moms, domestic workers, queer people, activism, is it outside is to shake things up, because if not, we'll continue to get the status quo. And what we know for sure is that the status quo has been failing us for decades.
So So to that point, if folks are listening to this in their own communities, and they're they're sick of the status quo, they're sick of the two parties that don't think the two parties are delivering what they want. What would you say, are the biggest challenges to third party organizing to building a third party what what are their cautionary tales are the things people should do? Shouldn't do? Like what? What are the lessons you've learned? For people who haven't done it before?
I mean, for me, when when the idea of a third party, it wasn't about organizing a third party, it was about building a movement, right? How can we build a group of issue based activist movement leaders across a city, a state or even this country that stand for something different than what we have been given over the last decades? So if you're just starting out, you You know, to the point I started as fighting for my school fight, we can activate elections, as you know, school board elections, which are important. And I think if we use the same methods that the Democratic Party or the Republican Party use to build a party, we're going to end up with the same thing as the working families or a third party movement. That's what we were building a movement, issue base, like minded working class folks that want to see something different, besides big money and corporations can controlling politics. And I think we're starting to see just shift. And I think for people who want to build that they have to be issue based minded, like, how are we fighting for real change, not just for another seat at the table? Because there are a lot of folks sitting seats at the table and don't do anything. How are we going to continue to fight for change?
Last question for you is the question that always comes up about third parties. It goes back to the spoiler question, which granted in your in your race, it sounds like it wasn't an argument that could be made against you because of the structure of the of the way elections work in Philadelphia. But you hear this all the time, hey, listen, if you're organized, if you're working outside the two party system, you're ultimately going to help the party you really don't want to help, which is the Republicans, you know, you hear this at the presidential level? Well, you know, if you support a third party candidate in the presidential election, you're going to you're going to hurt the Democrats ability to win and the Democrats are the only viable candidate to win at the end of the general election against the Republicans, you're effectively going to help the Republicans as the whole argument that was made about Ralph Nader, and you are in a swing state, Pennsylvania, a really important swing state. How do you suggest people think about those questions?
I think work, keep in mind Working Families Party, we also endorse Democratic candidates. So the spoiler concept is completely out the door. Like we work with Democratic candidates, I mean, elected officials in order to get things done. I don't see that as a spoiler, I see that as an opportunity. I think when I think about back when I was running for office, you know, one of the things that folks who have been, you know, neglected or feel neglected by the Democratic Party, or feel like I don't believe in voting, I think is a waste of time. I don't believe these folks represent me, I don't believe these folks are folks that I can relate to. I don't believe these folks are folks that I see every day at school at church, you know, in the bar club, like, wherever. And I think people are looking for something different. So one of the things when I was running, I have, you know, young adult children. Now I have three children at a voting age. I remember I used to tell my 21 year old at the time, and her friends that if I win this election, and dismiss, dismiss all the myths that they have in my community, that votes don't matter, because they have been following my campaign. They saw, you know, the pushback that I was getting from Democratic Party, they saw my work, the effort and energy that I put in, and some of them even got involved, and realized that people said that I didn't have a chance in hell of winning. And to them that symbolizes to young black women, that a young black single mom from both Philly without a lot of money, just just got off public assistance, lost her house struggling, not married, has the opportunity to get involved in this political game. And I think, when I did when it was symbolic to them, and I remember my first we going down to City Hall, I ran into a young woman on a subway, and they call me Miss Nikki. Nikki, I'm so happy you won. Now, we got to get everybody organized to get Trump out office. Because now I believe that my vote counts, because she remembered the conversation I had to them. And with them, I'm getting a little emotional when I told him that if I win, is proof that your vote your vote, and your voice matters. And I need for you to get involved in our community, because that's the only way we're going to make it better. So, you know, for them to see somebody that's in this work, does not politics, as usual, is not in it for you know, notoriety, all that it's just really about getting better, getting more and activating our community to fight for what we deserve. And that's what this is about. So folks that want to make it a conspiracy theory about this party against that party. It's not for me, it's about activating folks who felt left out pushed out and neglected not just in their lifetime. But this isn't generations of generations of folks. So all we got to do is activate more people to vote, more people to get actively involved in this process. And that's what democracy is about. Because if it's not about organizing folks who are most affected and connected to the harm to be a part of the change, then what is it about?
Councilwoman Kendra Brooks, thank you so much for taking the time with us today. And thank you for your work on all of those issues that you mentioned. Really appreciate it. And it's really, it's really great to talk to
you. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.
Okay, for our final interview today, I spoke with David Zuckerman, the former Lieutenant Governor of Vermont, who's been running on a third party ticket since 1996. And has won almost all of his races. He's now running for lieutenant governor again, I talked with David about what it takes to successfully build a third party from the ground up. David Zuckerman, great to talk to you. Thanks for spending some time with us.
And so joy to be here. And good to see you again. David.
Good to see you. So you're running for lieutenant governor? Again, you were the Lieutenant Governor of Vermont. There's a lot of chatter about third parties in the air. I would just ask you, as somebody who has been in office as an been elected from a third party, where do you come down on the whole conversation about? Do we need the Democratic Party? Do we need a third party? What do you think people understand or don't understand about third parties? Where do you come down on all that?
Yeah, I definitely think we need a third party, I was part of the founding group that took the progressive coalition to being a progressive party in Vermont in the mid 90s. I think it's got to be strategically done generally, from the bottom up, I think local offices are easier to win third party than bigger offices that take both more money, and more explaining of why you have a right to run with the media and others that are going to really try to pigeonhole candidates into a side shoot have not been viable. But I think we have to broaden the conversation, I regularly talk to folks about how in this country in this political dynamic, I'm considered left. And if I was in Western Europe, I'd probably the centrist slightly left. And so the the conversation has just kept moving, right. And unless we have a voting system and a financing system, to really promote the ability to have third parties, it's going to be hard, but I think it's necessary.
Let's take a little journey into your history in 1996, you ran for a seat in the Vermont legislature as a member of the progressive Coalition, which as you alluded to, eventually became the Progressive Party. What was it like running as a third party candidate in 1996? Was everyone just calling you a Ralph Nader copycat, or a spoiler? I mean, what was that experience? Like?
Yeah, I mean, I was fortunate in that Bernie had already been a US congressman from Vermont at that point. He's the one that inspired me to get involved back in 1992. When I saw him speak at UVM. In my race was interesting, because it was a district where there were no Republicans running. So there were two Democrats, two independent slash progressives. And they're actually two people from the natural law party. So they're to third parties in a strange way. But it still took defending the idea of not running as a Democrat as opposed to running in a Democratic primary. Even though there are no Republicans in the race, it was pretty remarkable. And it continued to be an issue through the 14 years that I served in the House. Because in general, there was this fixed mentality that we live in a two party system. That's how it's always been. That's how it'll always be. And certainly serving there were implications, getting elected as one of three out of 150 representatives in the Vermont house with a progressive label.
Well, what do you make of that affinity for the two party system? Because I think it's, I think, underneath a lot of this is it, it's not just that people necessarily think, oh, it's always been a two party system, which of course, that's actually not true in American history. But right, oh, it's it's hard for there to be a third party or fourth party or alternative alternate parties, that it's beyond just a kind of a technical argument. I feel like there's almost a religious devotion to a two party system, kind of a cultural level. Do you agree and like where do you think that comes from this kind of cultural self identity of seeing oneself as affiliated with one of the two parties and that anything outside of those two parties is just hard for people to even conceptualize? Where does that come from? Well, first
of all, I'd say it's not that hard for people to conceptualize, because almost 50% of the country considers themselves independent of the Democratic or Republican party when they're polled. So it's not so much voters and everyday people that think it's hard. It's media and the establishment parties and the money that is behind those parties and the candidates of the two, quote parties. So I think it's driven into us through the media narrative. You know, you look at naters race you you mentioned that you ran a few times. But you look at back in 2000, he was a pariah, not just by the media to the other party candidates. So he put the media did it, the media has this framework, that we are a two party system, that if you run some other way, you're immediately a problem, you're a spoiler. And there is some validity to that, because of the voting systems that we have. And so it's a it's a tricky dynamic. And that's why I often talk about going from the bottom up, because really, you have much less media, in local races, and in House races, you can go door to door in five and 20,000 person districts and really talk about the issues, regardless of what the media narrative is, because there's much less of a media narrative.
I want to ask you about your shift in 2012, you ran for the Vermont State Senate, but instead of running solely as a Progressive Party candidate, you ran the Democratic Party. Now, there are some folks out there who think that any alliance with the Democratic Party proves that you are a horrible sellout, that if you think a particular Democrat in a legislature or in Congress are not so bad, that even saying that means you are complicit in the in the so called duopoly. So I would ask you why the shift in that you made in 2012? And what do you say to folks who may have said to you, Hey, man, you're selling out like, you're, you were leading the Vanguard for the third party, you just sold everyone out? What's your response to that?
Well, you know, I think if you look at my track record on the issues, nothing changed. So on that side, there was no sell out. The fact of matter, at least in my judgment, was to win at a larger level where you don't get that face to face time at the door, people start voting more on the general assumption based on your party label. In this district, the Senate race was 160,000 people, it was too big a district to hit every door and too small district to get a lot of media attention. So the party label Next, your name, unfortunately, was going to skew people one way or the other. The other thing in this particular race, it was the largest district in the country, there's six seats. So you already had 12 candidates, just Democrats and Republicans, you often have three or four independents, who are not party independents, just often kind of wacky people. So with 15, or 16 people to stand out was was relatively difficult.
So what I mean, what I hear you saying, as you get into bigger races, if the third party infrastructure is is not yet built, that the average voters sort of identity and how they identify which candidates they might vote for is so baked in to the to the two party system, that in some ways, it's just kind of a tactical measure to just clear that hurdle. So that that doesn't become what defines you. But then, of course, you'll you'll hear people, skeptics say, well, then you're making common cause with a flawed duopoly. I just like, how do you work?
Sure. Well, it's hard every time. You know, every race I've run in the Democratic primary, the Democratic Party worked against me, they didn't want me, they didn't give me access to the voter list. I did say I'd run with the DEA after my name. Although I also made sure to put the parameter, I plan to run with both labels. And I'm going to put the progressive label first, because of my belief that we need to build a party system that goes beyond two parties, but I'm collaborating to help not elect the worst result of a quote, split vote. So by running a Democratic primary, I told people, Look, I'm doing this to eliminate the spoiler problem, and to be collaborative, but I'm going to maintain my integrity, I'm going to put the progressive first I'm going to not always support the party if the party doesn't support the issues that I've been fighting for. And like I said, they worked against me after I won the Democratic primary. We had a pride parade a couple weeks later, and after the parade was a big festival, I went up to the Democratic tent said, now that I'm one of the six people in the Democratic label, can I put my lawn sign here as well? And they said, Well, let me check. And they actually, the Democratic leadership of the Senate said no, they basically implied we would rather a Republican win than a progressive slash Democrat. In the end. It helped me and I think those that are out there doing this learn how to jujitsu with this stuff. I went to the media and said, look, the voters of the Democratic Party gave me the label. And the establishment said no way. So I think there's ways you can actually use it to your advantage. But I don't think I'm a sellout but some might. And everyone's has their prerogative to their opinion. I'm okay,
man. I mean, my view on all this is the people that people take this party stuff to be religion, and I don't take it that way. I've said this before, I'll say it again. I am. I am tactically agnostic, build a third party, great. Get good Democrats, inside of the Democratic Party, infiltrate the Democratic Party make the Democratic Party better? Great. I think the people who take this and make this a religious litmus test, whether you're for a third party, or for fixing the Democratic Party, and therefore you're a sellout, I think that's bull shit. I think that's just not the way the real world works. And I want to ask you a question about building a third party. Do you think there's a lack of understanding of how difficult that is to do? Do you think it needs to happen more on a local level than a national level? Like, what are the lessons that you've learned from being involved in this in terms of built because there was a standalone Progressive Party and in in Vermont, and it's, it's kind of toggled between all these different tactics? What are the lessons that you would say are for those who want to build a third party?
Well, first of all, I would say it's incredibly difficult between the voting system and the amount of money it takes to win at any larger scale, it's phenomenally hard. So I would say build it from the bottom up. That's what happened in Vermont, where House races were four or 5000 constituents, you could you could do it with 10 or 20 people, you could win a race. It is it is definitely, I think, worth doing. I think strategically, you've got to look at the situation that's in front of you in terms of what the voters are, where's your voting population. If I happen to think voting third party, if you're out there on the issues that matter to your community, that aren't getting addressed by the other two parties, you have a wide open door to do it. If the people who are in office have those two parties, or one of the two parties is actually doing fairly close to what the constituency wants, it's going to be harder. But as we know, between voter turnout, between economic strife, I mean, the world is just super heavy right now. People can't feed their family and put gas in the tank. You know, the climate issues, war, our democracy, it's really heavy right now. And I think if people go out there and say, We need a change, these parties have gotten us here. I'm ready to run and fight for you. I think you could do it. But I think bottom up unless you've got a cult of personality. I mean, Bernie, I know him, right, you know, and he's an amazing individual. Not everybody could do what Bernie did. In fact, I don't really anybody else that could do what Bernie did. And it's just incredibly hard. But if you do at the local level, you don't have to be a super Rockstar to do it.
So then, of course, the question always comes up, you know, it's three weeks before the election, two weeks for the other week before the election, everything the national election, everything is on the table climate policy, we got a ticking time bomb there, you got all of these huge policies on the table, and it always comes down to Okay, listen, it typically always comes down to we've got a viable Democrat who could win a viable Republican who could win. And if we're being honest, the you know, typically, there's not a third party candidate who has a legitimate shot to win. And there's a school of thought that says, Well, you got to punish the Democrat, to send them a message that their voters can't be taken for granted. But the cost of punishing the Democrat by voting for the non viable third party candidate is to get a right wing fascist. And there was some argue that that's the only way you're going to ever get the Democratic Party to listen to you. That's the only way you're ever going to get a viable third party. And then there are others who say, if you do that, you're, you're inflicting serious harm on millions of people in the here. And now.
For me, it's situational. You know, I think it really depends on the dynamic right now. You know, the House and the Senate of the United States government are very few votes apart from suddenly putting these horrific people in power. And they are willing to do anything with that power. And they will change the structure so that we will never get power back. So I think the risk right now is greater. On the other hand, if you have a buffer, then I think you could go for it. I think each race is situational.
I whether you're voting in a swing state or not voting in a swing state.
Exactly. Or district. You know, I look back at the Clinton race with Trump. I was certainly not thrilled about Hillary Clinton as a huge Bernie supporter. But the ramifications are we have a preme court that's now going to impact social justice in particular, for 30 years or more, you know, we have the impacts of Trump for four years are going to live with our democracy or break down our democracy potentially. So would we have gotten Supreme Court justices that would have overturn Citizens United? Probably not, you know, it would have been corporate justices. But when I look at my gay lesbian brothers and sisters, and I look at, you know, trans and my black and brown brothers and sisters all over the country, the ramifications of being a white privileged male going, it's okay, we can vote our principles no matter what. I don't think that's always the case.
Right? And of course, you'll you'll be accused, and look, I voted for Hillary Clinton, in 2016, right, and I voted for Joe Biden, in 2020. I didn't like casting those votes, I couldn't stand it. But I also don't see me going into the voting booth at the end of the day it looking and making an honest assessment of who had a chance to win. I didn't see it as a religious expression of my own self identity. I said, this is one way that I impact the world. You know, it's voting isn't I'm not a huge believer in electoral ism is the only thing that matters. This is a tactical decision I have to make try to make a moral choice inside of an immoral system. But of course, you know, people like me and you, you get accused of Oh, you're sheepdog. And for the Democratic Party, you you criticize the Democrats, and at the end of the day, you sheep dog people into voting for the Democrats? I mean, I just, I just fundamentally reject that.
Well, it's frustrating. But I think it's also fair to recognize it's not that one vote that one day, it is the day to day work, to build the movements to say, Okay, if we didn't get it this time, what do we do to win some of these seats next time? How do we change that in Vermont? You know, we've gotten to where we are a full fledged, major third party and from that media takes the Progressive Party as an equal, the leadership of the six or seven members of the House are gone to buy media for their perspective on the policy that sometimes they vote for. Sometimes they don't. So it is, I just want to put out there that it that it can happen, but it takes that work between elections, just like we're building movements around workers rights, and unions and building rights, building movements around gender expression, and, you know, police reform, building those movements doesn't just happen on the day that we feel it's such
an important point, right? The vote at the end of the day is not the be all end all of what politics is politics is not just, you know, every two years in November, or every four years in November. So that that gets to my final question for you now that you're you're running again for Lieutenant Governor and I want to be I want to remind people, we're talking to somebody here, who has been a statewide elected official who has helped build a third party. So take these views with with that, that credibility there. You're running again for lieutenant governor. Two of your opponents have served in the Vermont State Legislature as Democrats. In the last few years, we've seen the Democratic establishment coalesce around certain kinds of candidates to try to crush progressive challengers like you. In your race. Now, have you experienced any of this again, in this race that you're running now?
Well, let me just say I've experienced it in every single one of my races. I wasn't supposed to win the Lieutenant Governor Democratic primary the first time in fact, about three months left in the primary, I was likely going to win and they pulled someone in who had been speaker, who had been running for governor had pulled out of that race for family health reasons, got back in have tried to last minute, you know, get one of their folks into the office, and I beat him by four points with grassroots work. This race, I'm not the favorite candidate. The most of the elected legislators are endorsing one of those two that you mentioned. That person also is married to an auto dealership owner, and is raising a lot of money to raise way more money than me. But the way I've been winning is between the elections. You know, right now, I'm not going to win by out campaigning my opponent. I'm also a farm and or shorthand, and so I'm farming eight hours, 10 hours a day. But the routes that I have that I've sown all across the state, working on labor issues, raising minimum wage, marriage equality, GMO regulation, universal health care, and living rooms and church basements and coffee shops over 25 years all over the state. Those are the roots that are going to bear the fruit in the election over the next two months here in Vermont. And you can do a lot with TV ads, you can buy that name recognition, but people want to vote for someone who they trust and you look at the support for Bernie, it's because he's been consistent on these issues for 30 years. errors. And that doesn't exist very often. So if you're consistent to your values, and if you've been running as a third party, you clearly weren't originally running to get way up in the system because it just doesn't happen. And so that integrity helps get you through it. But yeah, it's happening here. We're having a hard time raising money. We're, it's a little hard to generate excitement because I already used to hold the office. So it's not a new thing. But I do think we're going to carry the day in the end.
So just very quickly, where can our listeners find you and your campaign?
You can look me up and learn my history of these battles and fights at Zuckerman for vermont.com. That's Zuckerman, Z, U C, K, er, ma N. fo r. V. t.com. It's long last name, but Zuckerman for vermont.com. I appreciate it.
David. Thanks so much, man. Really appreciate it.
That's it for today's show. As a reminder, our paid subscribers who get labor time premium get to hear our bonus segment, which delivers Matthew Cunningham cook and Giulia rock finally figured out what the hell is actually driving inflation.
Someone was like, you just have to understand that like Federal Reserve governors just hang out with bankers. Like it's very important that you understand this. And I think that context is actually quite helpful.
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