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53 minutes | May 31, 2022
Started At The School Board, Now It's Congresswoman Lee
She can relax a little now. The PA-12 results are certified. The victory is locked in. So current State House Rep. Lee, the expected Congresswoman-elect from Pennsylvania’s 12th district, sat down with Amira Hassan to tell us the WHOLE story. How did Summer Lee get so deep in the progressive political revolution brewing in Pittsburgh? What does it actually look like to build grassroots power by organizing at the local level, and electoralize that power up to the state house and ultimately Congress? What is it like to grind out a victory after your opponents drop $3.3 million dollars to defeat you, ALL within the last three weeks before Election Day, and all aimed at defeating your campaign? Summer breaks it down: the early victories before she ever thought of becoming a candidate, the MVPs of well-meaning white guy political operatives, what it was like to campaign through negative ads blanketing local TV and radio, and more. Amira roasting Steve Irwin in March: https://twitter.com/itsAmira_H/status/1507449513488777216
24 minutes | May 24, 2022
Campaign Breakdown: How Summer Lee Beat the Ads
In the final weeks before Pennsylvania’s May 17th primaries, SuperPACs affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee spent millions of dollars in the 12th district, nearly all on TV ads attacking Summer Lee and boosting corporate lawyer Steve Irwin. Summer Lee narrowly won. How? And what might other progressive candidates, campaign managers, communications strategists, and organizers learn from the resilience of the Summer Lee for Congress campaign? Also, what to make of the increasing sums of outside money spent against Justice Democrats in these competitive primaries? To get the inside scoop on the tactics and strategies that mattered, Guido sat down with Justice Democrats campaign director and former pro basketball player Geoff Simpson for another episode of Campaign Breakdown with Coach Geoff. For more on the May 17th primaries and the factional scoreboard, see the Washington Post story “In Tuesday’s primaries, Democrats’ left and center wings both got wins” by Perry Bacon Jr.
54 minutes | May 17, 2022
Build Back Never: What the Hell Happened to Biden's Agenda?
Group Chat is back with Guido, Amira, and returning guest Mary Small (National Legislative Director of Indivisible) to process what f*** happened with President Biden’s Build Back Better bill. When did Build Back Better die? It died when the House of Representatives passed the bipartisan infrastructure package – but wasn’t it doomed before then? Could the negotiations over Biden’s domestic agenda in 2021 have gone any differently? Did progressives fail? What lessons can we learn from how the progressive bloc strategy played out? In what moments could Biden, Schumer, or Pelosi have approached their own legislative strategy differently? Then we take bets on whether anything at all will pass through budget reconciliation before the 2022 midterm elections.
20 minutes | Mar 20, 2022
The Last Takes of an Ex-Campaign Director
A bonus group chat with two seasoned professionals of the political left. Two operatives who went up against the Cuellar machine in TX-28 share stories from the frontlines and pitch some provocative theories. In the DMs: Ava Benezra, the organizer who’s been driving the JD campaign machine since before The Plague began. We recorded just after she'd worked her last day as the (former) JD campaigns director. Alongside Ava, a Bloc Party debut for the leftist comms professional who’s tracking the press coverage of Democratic party politics and contested primaries every day of the year: Usamah Andrabi.
40 minutes | Mar 15, 2022
Texas Post-Game Analysis feat. Coach Geoff
The first big Democratic primaries of the 2022 cycle are done. The voters of Texas’s 35th and 28th Congressional districts have cast their ballots. Topline results: A big win, and an excruciating close-tie. What does it all mean? Justice Democrats campaign all-stars sifted through the results, read the post-election hot takes, and now we’re bringing Group Chat back together to make sense of it all. Do these Texas primaries tell us anything important about the left in American elections, what works and what doesn't? What did we do well, where did we disappoint ourselves.. ? Before Group Chat, I sat down with Justice Democrats’ new campaign director Geoff Simpson to break down the numbers and look back on the strategies that really mattered on a new season 2 segment: Campaign Breakdown.. with Coach Geoff.
74 minutes | Feb 14, 2022
What's The Matter With South Texas?
It’s time. The rematch for Texas' 28th Congressional district: Cisneros vs. Cuellar. Human rights attorney Jessica Cisneros, who fell 2,700 votes short of unseating incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar in March 2020, joins us to talk about how she recovered from a tough, narrow loss and why this race may still come down to The Wire. But first, Waleed Shahid takes on a new role as a private investigator, reporting on shady deals and probable crimes committed by the ruling Congressman of Texas’ 28th District. In the second half, Professor Ian Haney-López sits down with Waleed to answer questions that no one in the Democratic Party can agree on: What’s going on with Latino and Hispanic American voters shifting towards Trump and the GOP since 2016? How might Democrats approach issues of race, class, and identity differently, in an effort to construct a multiracial majority? JESSICA CISNEROS FOR CONGRESS Volunteer with Justice Democrats. Readings & citations: Jessica Cisneros Takes Her Second Shot at the King of Laredo AFTER FORGING TIES WITH AZERBAIJAN OIL EXECUTIVES, REP. HENRY CUELLAR PUSHED NATION’S AGENDA IN CONGRESS Henry Cuellar’s Corporate Ties Democrats Are Anxious About 2022 – and 2024 Democrats Find Urgent New Reasons to Worry About Latino Voters Why Democrats Are Losing Texas Latinos Mapping the Trump Meridian in Texas How Latinos Could Redefine the GOP in Texas Trump didn’t win the Latino Vote in Texas. He won the Tejano vote. Project JUNTOS study of Latino racial identity. EQUIS 2020 Post-Mortem Study: The American Dream Voter. Ian Haney-Lopez on Twitter.
3 minutes | Feb 6, 2022
Bloc Party 2: Feel Bad Better
Build Back Better is dead. The Group Chat is resurrected. Welcome to Bloc Party Season 2. New episodes dropping twice a month, starting this week. Text your friends, call your representative, subscribe & share wherever you get your podcasts: ⏯https://podlink.to/blocparty 🟪
61 minutes | Aug 18, 2021
Bloc Party 201: Advanced Tactics
Putting the bloc back in Bloc Party. Freedom Caucus. Progressive Caucus. Blue Dogs. Why do we care? Justice Dems spokesperson and co-host Waleed Shahid sits down with Ruth Bloch Rubin, author of Building the Bloc: Intraparty Organization in the US Congress. Ruth tells Waleed that size matters when it comes to congressional voting blocs, but bigger isn’t always better. What can we learn from Congressional ideological factions of the 20th and 21st centuries? Why and how did they succeed and fail in their own goals? Why is collective action exceptionally difficult in the U.S Congress? Amira Hassan, JD’s political director, joins Waleed to break down why Congress is the place where solidarity goes to die. Readings & clips: Ruth Bloch Rubin’s book BUILDING THE BLOC. Robert McCormick, NBC, on Hon. Lee Metcalfe and Democratic Study Group. 1960. “Meet the Blue Dog Democrats!” “Democrats have grown frustrated with Blue Dogs..” Chris Van Hollen on WAMU 88.5. Washington Unplugged, 07.15.09 House progressives are building something new, exciting, and powerful
101 minutes | May 31, 2021
Why is the AFL-CIO falling in love with DSA's PRO Act campaign?
Is the AFL-CIO falling in love with the Democratic Socialists of America? Why is DSA’s PRO Act campaign drawing praise from unlikely allies in mainstream unions, the Democratic establishment, and beyond? What have these young socialists figured out about organizing towards working-class power? And why did this campaign come from [checks notes] DSA’s Green New Deal campaign committee? Guido joins Daniel Denvir, host of The Dig Radio from Jacobin magazine, to investigate DSA’s groundbreaking organizing effort to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO Act) Act. FIRST, The Dig interviews Gustavo Gordillo and Sydney Ghazarian from DSA's GND campaign committee on the origins and tactics of their PRO Act campaign. AFTER THE BREAK, Dan joins Guido for a very special, all-DSA Group Chat to chop it up on movement strategy and labor history with Green New Deal campaign committees members Thea Riofrancos and Ashik Siddique. Join DSA’s PRO Act campaign here: pro-act.dsausa.org Support The Dig Radio: https://www.patreon.com/thedig Readings and references: House Democrats Pass Bill That Would Protect Worker Organizing Efforts The Dig Radio: We Need the PRO Act with Jimmy Williams How the filibuster goes down The racist roots of Right-to-Work To win a Green New Deal, pass the PRO Act WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON, by Thomas Geoghegan
54 minutes | May 29, 2021
Has President Biden really ended “the Reagan era?”
“Trickle-down economics has never worked.” In his Joint Address to Congress President Joe Biden discarded the prevailing economic consensus of post-Reagan Revolution America. What does that tell us about American politics in 2021? Is the Reagan era really over? Is neoliberalism really dead? Guido, Amira, and Waleed jumped into a Group Chat to capture their reflections and vent their fears as the Biden administration marches on past the first 100 days. After the break, Amira puts on the tinfoil hat and investigates a conspiracy among Democrats; Waleed brings a policy proposal from Radical Reconstruction. Are We Entering a New Political Era? What Comes After Trickle-Down Economics? Biden to Propose $6 Trillion Budget to Make U.S. More Competitive Senator Markey and AOC introduce Civilian Climate Corps for Jobs and Justice Why Some Black Democrats Haven’t Embraced a Voting Rights Push Democrats’ Odds of Keeping the House Are Slimming Fast Biden, Do the Right Thing and Release the Vaccines From Pharma’s Grip Joe Biden is proving progressives wrong. And they're loving it. Black Democrats urge party to shift its voting rights push
43 minutes | May 4, 2021
Odessa Kelly: “The South Got Something To Say”
Folks… Odessa’s running. Justice Democrats’ Executive Director Alexandra Rojas makes her debut on the Bloc alongside a very special guest. Odessa Kelly, the first Justice Democrat of the 2022 cycle is running for Congress in Tennessee’s Fifth Congressional district, challenging Representative Jim Cooper and the Cooper dynasty. Odessa teaches Guido and Alexandra how to pronounce the name “Prentice” in the South, before telling us what led her to decide to run for Congress as a Justice Democrat. After the break, Alexandra unveils the secret sauce of Justice Democrats’ candidate recruitment process and shares her biggest lessons learned from previous electoral cycles. More about Odessa for Congress: www.odessaforcongress.com Nominate a leader to run as a Justice Democrat: www.justicedemocrats.com/nominate Odessa Kelly Takes Aim at Cooper ‘Dynasty’ in Congressional Primary Bid The First Progressive Primary Challenge of 2022 https://www.huffpost.com/entry/odessa-kelly-democratic-primary-jim-cooper_n_60679a3cc5b66c4ab6b2905b
64 minutes | Mar 21, 2021
Make ‘em pay. Put ‘em in debt. They’ll quiet down.
45 million Americans hold a total of $1.7 trillion in education debt. How did we get here? Guido sits down with writer and filmmaker Astra Taylor to discuss the seeds of the current crisis. How did government-backed, private loans and an anti-civil rights, anti-peace movement backlash led by Ronald Reagan and neoliberal economists produce the historic debt crisis in higher education? Also, there’s a small bit of good news for student debtors in the American Rescue Plan, and AOC says: the time is ripe to mobilize and win. But how? In the second half, Guido talks to Umme Hoque, the Organizing Director of the Debt Collective, about her decision to go on a debt strike and demand Joe Biden cancel all student debt. Waleed stops by to contemplate President Biden canceling Senator Biden for supporting welfare work requirements in the 1990s, and wonders if Biden’s newfound, self-directed cancel culture could extend to federal student loan borrowers. Readings & resources: You Are Not A Loan, a film by Astra Taylor Umme Hoque: I'm going on a debt strike. The Biden administration must cancel student debt: Debt Collective Anne Helen Petersen: The future of the middle class depends on student loan forgiveness Most Black voters support eliminating student loan debt, new survey finds Corinthian College Student With $30K In Loans Refuses To Pay, Takes Part In Debt Strike Rep. Pressley on the Education Debt Crisis & A New Deal for Higher Ed The Political Case For Student Debt Cancellation The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them, by Christopher Newfield
56 minutes | Mar 13, 2021
The era of small government is over...?
This is not Bill Clinton’s Democratic Party. But it’s not the Squad’s party either. Today, a very special Group Chat to discuss a very large stimulus bill. Amira and Guido are joined by Mary Small, National Legislative Director for Indivisible, to react to the passage of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. What does the massive investment in stimulus checks, expanded unemployment insurance, and the child tax credit tell us about the state of the Democratic Party halfway through Biden’s first 100 days? After a break, Mary and Amira break down progressives’ strategy during the Congressional negotiations over the American Rescue Plan. There were threats of progressives voting as a bloc! What did progressives win, what did progressives lose, how has the Congressional Progressive Caucus changed since the Obama era, and what can we learn about wielding the power of the progressive bloc in future legislative fights? Readings & resources: What’s in the Stimulus Bill? A Guide to Where the $1.9 Trillion Is Going Biden’s COVID-Relief Bill Is a Big F**king Deal Where Do We Go From Here on Tax Credits? How Democrats miscalculated Manchin and later won him back An Expanded Child Tax Credit Would Lift Millions of Children Out of Poverty Analysis: Senate ‘gangs’ show Biden what’s possible, and not ‘A Racist Narrative’: Biden Warned of Welfare Moms Driving Luxury Cars No, Joe Biden Won’t Give Us Social Democracy Clinton’s 1996 State of the Union Dismantling the Welfare State? Reagan, Thatcher and the Politics of Retrenchment
48 minutes | Feb 23, 2021
Build Back Green New Deal?
Did the Sunrise Movement… negotiate a win? Guido sits down with Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, to check in on her well-being after four marathon years of campaigning for a Green New Deal. More than two years after the sit-in with AOC, Guido and Varshini look at Biden’s recent climate announcements and ask themselves: are we reading this wrong or did the Green New Deal.. win the debate over Democratic climate policy? And if the answer is “yes, we did notch some wins but not enough,” how did the climate movement achieve that and what’s next — for the movement and for its army of young people? But first, Guido and Waleed debrief the right-wing attacks on the Green New Deal following blackouts in Texas, and break down how a Green New Deal would prevent such massive blackouts from ever happening again. Additional readings & references: BIDEN-SANDERS UNITY TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS TACKLING THE CLIMATE CRISIS AT HOME AND ABROAD EXECUTIVE ORDER At last, a climate policy platform that can unite the left “End the lies-for-profit games.” Why Texas Republicans Fear the Green New Deal
48 minutes | Feb 13, 2021
“You’re in power. Where’s our bill?”
In 2010, the DREAM Act failed in a Senate vote when five Democrats refused to vote for the bill. Will the Biden administration learn from that defeat? Greisa Martinez Rosas was in the Senate gallery in 2010 when the DREAM Act died. Since then, she’s organized relentlessly to prevent the next Democratic trifecta from failing to protect immigrants. This week, Amira Hassan, Justice Democrats’ Political Director, takes the mic to speak with Greisa, executive director of United We Dream. Together they unpack the immigrant rights movement’s wins and losses from the past two decades, what has changed since those battles, and what lies ahead in the fight for immigrant and racial justice during the Biden years. Greisa also shares her evolution from a shy high schooler to a veteran organizer, and gives Senate Democrats some advice after a few of them voted with Republicans to deny stimulus checks to undocumented Americans. Join United We Dream’s Undeniable campaign. 'The civil rights issue of our time': how Dreamers came to dominate US politics DREAM Act dies in Senate Progressive dems show Biden what “sweeping” reform really looks like On Immigration, Biden Goes Big In Opening Bid To Congress Biden Signs 3 Immigration Executive Orders. Activists Want More Hundreds deported under Biden, including witness to massacre
54 minutes | Feb 5, 2021
Going Nuclear for Majority Rule
When the slavocracy needed to quash the rising tides of emancipation and free labor, they used the filibuster. When Jim Crow segregationists needed to stymie anti-lynching laws and preserve their poll taxes, they used the filibuster. Today, when the Republican Party must cling to power by strangling the American government and suppressing the American majority, they use the filibuster. But the filibuster is an accident of parliamentary history; an unintended consequence of minor changes to Senate rules. Now the weaponization of the filibuster against majoritarian democracy has essentially broken Congress. This week at the Bloc Party, Waleed Shahid, spokesperson of Justice Democrats, sits down with Adam Jentleson, author of the new book KILL SWITCH: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy. Waleed figures out why former Harry Reid staffers like Adam end up becoming progressive crusaders, how the filibuster went from accident to shield of white supremacy, and together they assess how the Democratic Party might reform Congress, or fail and forfeit power for a generation.
60 minutes | Jan 23, 2021
Unity with who? Congressional majorities for what?
Group Chat returns after Senate Democrats win back the majority, the Republican Party incites a deadly coup attempt, and Joe Biden is officially sworn in as the 46th President. President Biden delivered his inaugural address, but what does “unity” mean after Republicans abetted violence against Democratic members of Congress? What does it mean to evoke Lincoln, who was assassinated by a Confederate sympathizer, as a figure of unity? Why would Senators like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley ever stop aiding would-be fascists if there are no consequences for their actions? We look back at inaugural speeches from FDR and Reagan. Just hours after his inauguration, Biden signed more than a dozen executive orders in the Oval Office, including measures to rejoin the Paris Agreement, repeal Trump's restrictions on travel from several Muslim-majority countries, stop construction of the Southern border wall and mandate the wearing of masks on federal property. Amira, Guido, and Waleed make sense of President Biden’s Day 1 agenda. Additional reading & references: Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem Bayard Rustin, From Protest to Politics Biden, Inauguration Speech Biden Transition: How to succeed in hyperpolarized politics Climate activists expect a lot from President Biden League of Conservation Voters: Policy Priorities for Biden The New Progressive Left Shows How To Deal With Sedition Sen. Manchin calls for $4 trillion infrastructure spending Biden unveils immigration plan Poll: 47 percent of people blame ANTIFA for insurrection
57 minutes | Dec 18, 2020
Good Strategy, Bad Strategy
President-elect Joe Biden ran against Medicare-for-All in the Democratic Presidential primary, and he won. Despite millions of Americans losing their medical insurance after being laid off in the midst of deadly pandemic, the crises of 2020 have not brought universal healthcare back onto the national agenda. So what do advocates for Medicare-for-All do now? And how should we think about using the leverage the Squad will wield inside a Democratic caucus that has only a slim, 222-seat majority in the House of Representatives? Group chat regulars Guido, Amira, and Waleed make sense of a recent strategic debate swirling around the left: what if AOC and the Squad refuses to vote for Rep. Nancy Pelosi until she brings Medicare-for-All to the floor for an up-or-down vote? Is that a good strategy? The Group Chat sifts the good from the bad while trying to stay humble and keep the good vibes going. Winning takes long-term planning, it turns out, which is why you, yes you, should nominate a leader in your community to run for Congress in 2022. Additional references: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s interview with Jeremy Scahill at The Intercept. AOC: Pelosi needs to go, but there’s no one to replace her yet Jimmy Dore: How Progressives Could FORCE A Medicare For All Vote The Campaign Against ‘Medicare For All’ Is Spending Millions. Progressives Not So Much. The Majority Report with Sam Seder The Left Can Win, by Pablo Iglesias
75 minutes | Dec 10, 2020
What Planet Is Joe Biden On?
Because this is not the Earth of Joe Biden’s childhood. This week, we take a break from the inside-the-beltway negotiations, zoom out, and ask the important questions: Is the stable foundation of human civilization unraveling? Does anyone or anything have the power to hold the apocalypse at bay? Journalist David Wallace-Wells synthesizes climate science to deduce whether we are still living on planet Earth, and what it means for the future if we’re not. Then journalist Kate Aronoff takes us on a tour through inadequate solutions and false hopes for planetary salvation, before explaining why the U.S federal government, for better or worse, has the power to stop the apocalypse -- or to seal our fate. Waleed reveals he is actually an animal rights activist before having an existential crisis about the absurdity of American politics. Our guests and their work: The Uninhabitable Earth: LIFE AFTER WARMING By DAVID WALLACE-WELLS Overheated: How Capitalism Broke the Planet--And How We Fight Back by Kate Aronoff Additional readings and references: Carlos Maza’s video essay ‘Why you still don't understand the Green New Deal’ What Does ’12 Years to Act on Climate Change’ (Now 11 Years) Really Mean? Q&A: How do climate models work? Scientists have gotten predictions of global warming right since the 1970s SPECIAL REPORT: GLOBAL WARMING OF 1.5 ºC: Summary for Policymakers What would it take to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C? The Paris Agreement set an unrealistic target for global warming. Now what? Carbon unicorns and fossil futures. Whose emission reduction pathways is the IPCC performing? UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2019 Carbon budgets: Where are we now?
68 minutes | Dec 3, 2020
The Bloc vs. The Blob?
Guido and Amira unpack interviews with two foreign policy experts, Matt Duss, Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy advisor, and Yasmine Taeb, human rights attorney and progressive foreign policy activist, circling one central question: What happened to the reigning foreign policy consensus in D.C - also known as the Blob - when Congressman-elect Jamaal Bowman unseated the hawkish Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel this summer? Guido interviews Matt about his experience pushing the constraints of the Blob, how a progressive vision for foreign policy was shaping up before the defeat of Eliot Engel and then how Jamaal Bowman’s victory changed the politics of what’s possible all over again. Bowman’s race was watched closely for months by grassroots organizations and once it was clear Engel was going to lose his seat as Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), activists like Yasmine Taeb were on the frontlines working to champion a progressive replacement for Engel. For Yasmine, who grew up in a refugee family - and many others who are critical of US foreign policy - the fight against the Blob isn’t just political, it’s personal.
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