Politics

This week on The Brief: Building critical infrastructure in Arizona ahead of 2022

As Republicans continue trying to torch any legislation and attempts at progress from Democrats, it is becoming increasingly clear that they are willing to trade their constituents’ well-being for political gain. Eleveld censured the GOP’s behavior, noting its widespread harm:

‘Constituents can’t have nice things if it means that we’re going to give Democrats a win’—I mean, that is where the GOP mentality is now. And it’s really up to Democrats to make sure suburban voters realize how extreme this party has gotten, including death threats, including tweeting out videos of them executing congresspeople from the other side of the aisle.

It’s not hypothetical. If you hand this government over … to Republicans, you’re going to end up with Kevin McCarthy, who has had nothing to publicly say about his caucus member Congressman Paul Gosar tweeting out this animated execution of Congresswoman [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez. I mean, it’s just incredible he hasn’t said anything about it.

“They’re literally [calling for] burning books [too],” Moulitsas said. “They [the Trump base] are not interested in conservative governance … they want to ruin everything for everybody.”

“And destroy the Democratic Party,” Eleveld added.

The gridlock that has resulted from the GOP’s approach is making effective governance difficult for President Biden and is also harming Democrats’ image.

“Can a single party save the republic when the other party is not invested in that republic anymore?” Eleveld mused. “I think that’s a part of [the reason why] we’re seeing with Joe Biden’s approval numbers going lower. I think people were like, ‘Gosh, can we just get back to normal.’ … [But] there’s no way for Biden to really turn the ship around with a Republican Party that is so nihilistic, that is so bent on destroying things and not giving Democrats any wins and things like that.”

What’s more, 19 Senate Republicans and 13 House Republicans voted for the infrastructure bill, yet only five of them were willing to make an appearance at the bipartisan celebration of President Biden’s signing of the bill. Passage of the bill, to Eleveld, indicates that Democrats know they need to right the ship.

“Hopefully we’ll get Build Back Better. And once they stop having this debate among themselves to try and get this legislation through, which will hopefully be entirely sooner rather than later, then they can get to selling this stuff,” she added. “They can go back to their districts and say, ‘here’s what we’ve gotten for you. Here’s what we’ve done for you. We know you’re hurting … that could really start to turn things around.’”

Moulitsas and Eleveld then welcomed Arredondo onto the show, who shared her views on how Democrats can invest in communities of color and win in Arizona next year.

Moulitsas opened the conversation by asking Arredondo what motivated her to become a professional activist. Arredondo, whose mother is still undocumented, learned about the importance of getting involved in the political process when she and her friends began applying to colleges, as “many of my friends found out for the first time [through the college application process] that they were undocumented.”

OneArizona’s strategy for next year focuses heavily on getting more voters registered and to the polls. Moulitsas wondered, “Is there a lot of low-hanging fruit with the voter registration stuff?”

Arredondo believes that this is a worthwhile investment, elaborating that her organization has seen greater success speaking with potential voters in person and emphasizing the importance of giving people more than just something or someone to vote against:

We’re focused on communities that are moving a lot, that are coming of age. Our goal for next year is 300,000 voter registrations, and we’re looking to be back in the field, and not just do that digitally. That’s our best game, you know, when we’re out talking to folks in the community—they’re seeing us, they’re interacting with us, they’re getting their questions answered. I think we’re going to reach our goal, and again, we have 28 partners … we need candidates, we need these folks running for office to meet us the other way too. Folks want to have something that they’re voting for, not just something that they’re voting against. Personally, I’m tired of just voting against, you know? I want to be excited, I want to know that people coming into office are going to do something for me regardless of their political career.

Arizonans have also faced severe voter suppression efforts that may make getting to the polls more difficult for voters next year. Moulitsas asked Arredondo to expand on what Arizona has done to make it harder for voters to vote. As she explained,

During COVID we saw a lot of updates that we really liked, like drive through voter registrations, you used to be able to drop off your ballot in different places, we were able to extend our voter registration deadline through a legal battle … [now], there are [fewer] polling locations, we have to make sure our polling places open on time. Our native communities are constantly struggling to get translation services or support in these very rural polling places that we too as communities struggle to be at, to enforce or help folks say, ‘Hey, no, don’t leave—you deserve and have the right to get that support.’

Arredondo also highlighted the need for enough polling locations and more drop box locations, adequate translation services, and just making it easier to drop off your ballot is a big win. “Last year, not being able to knock on doors like we normally do was a big issue for us. We want to get ahead of that this year,” Arredondo said.

“Do you have a single policy or a few policies that you think would be heavy sellers, that would get people out [to vote]? For example, if Democrats were able to pass universal pre-K, would that be a big, big deal? Do you think you could get that across? Or what if Joe Biden got rid of $50,000 of student debt for people?” Eleveld asked. “I’m just wondering what you think the big motivators are for the communities that we need to get out as Democrats.”

Arredondo noted that regardless of party affiliation, people are focusing on what’s important in their daily lives, and that focusing on these issues will yield great results:

Free and great education—you know, our education is free, but we are one of the last in the country. I think healthcare, again, is a big issue, a rude awakening for many people … folks in our community get healthcare but don’t know what to do with it, and then still end up in the emergency room because we’re not going and seeing the doctor soon enough. And I think all those things that are going to make someone’s life easier on a day to day [basis] is what we want to see.

I think folks are tired of these future wins that are just taking way too long. How can we increase peoples’ salaries right now, how can we help support peoples’ status right now? You know, how can we make sure that people who feel sick can go to the hospital or call the ambulance without knowing that they’re going into huge debt? I feel like those are common sense solutions that make someone’s life better on the day to day that we keep tiptoeing around.

Communities remain concerned about the response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as well, Arredondo noted.

Before closing out, Moulitsas asked Arredondo, “What can people do to help you do your work?”

She replied:

[Our work] requires a lot of resources, both financial and also just people power. It’s an exhausting job and we’ve had folks visit the state before and we’ve figured out ways to accommodate that. Arizona gets really hot in the summer, and that’s our time where we’ve got to get things done. We have 28 organizations at One Arizona … I invite you to check us out and support one of our organizations, become a member of one of our organizations, and consider visiting the state when the time comes. We’re going to need all hands on deck to get 300,000 people registered to vote and also aware of how and when to vote so that those ballots are getting turned in and people are making their voices heard.

Moulitsas impressed upon the audience the importance of investing time, in addition to money, into the organizing work that happens on the ground in Arizona:

You don’t register 300,000 on Twitter or TikTok. You’re going to need hundreds of thousands of volunteers … What happens in Arizona next year is going to dictate whether we hold the Senate, whether we hold the House, whether Arizona has a pro-voting, pro-democracy government in place for 2024, and then all sorts of other things that are beneficial to the people of Arizona, right? But from a national perspective, Arizona is a very pivotal state in our battle for American democracy, and so we’re going to have to fight for it.

Watch this week’s full episode here:

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