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1A's Stateside takeover: A conversation with Rashida Tlaib, a look at MI’s role in 2020 election

Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio
1A's Across America comes to Michigan Radio with conversations betweet host Jenn White and Congresswoman Tlaib, Kat Stafford, and Tim Alberta about Michigan's role in the 2020 election.

As the presidential election gets closer, many people are paying close attention to how the race is shaping up in the Midwest, including here in Michigan. The state, which President Donald Trump won by less than 11,000 votes in 2016, is seen as a key swing state this election.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic has turned life upside down and ravaged much of the economic recovery the state has seen in recent years. The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer set off months of protests and turned the nation’s attention to widespread systemic racism. So, what does this all mean for November?

1A host Jenn White hosted a special Stateside takeover to talk about why what happens in Michigan matters in the 2020 election. She spoke with Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib from Michigan’s 13th congressional district, which includes parts of Wayne County and the city of Detroit. She also checked in with two national political reporters about how they see Michigan shaping the outcome of the upcoming election.

Jenn White’s conversation with Rashida Tlaib

On Presumptive Democratic Nominee Joe Biden choosing Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate

In July, Tlaib worked with Harris on a bill designed to protect Americans’ access to the water and utilities necessary to social distance safely in their homes during the pandemic. Tlaib said with all the turbulence COVID-19 has caused, she is glad to be able to “move on” and start focusing on the various issues that people will want to see addressed in November.

"I think people are excited about Senator Harris. Especially because you know our history, she and I have worked together on making water a human right. It's something that she supports, which is a huge issue of my district, and I've also worked really closely with her about recurring payments. You know, you see a lot of bailouts for the airlines and Boeing, and Senator Harris has been on the frontlines saying ‘No, we actually need to bail out people first.’ I've been really thrilled to be able to work with her and I know, when there, you know a Biden-Harris administration is gonna be much more sympathetic to some of the issues facing my residents right now, from poverty to economic crisis to environmental racism. I just know her lens is gonna be leading with compassion versus what we've seen with this current administration."

Why she voted "No" on the DNC platform

This week, Tlaib shared an image of her DNC ballot on Twitter, showing that she voted against the proposed platform, and for Senator Bernie Sanders. Tlaib said her decision was due, in part, to the lack of support for Medicare For All. 

“We have a healthcare industry that is inequitable, that is not accessible, and for many of our working class folks and my neighbors, they don't have any time to wait. I have residents in tears because they can't afford their insulin. Some that are so afraid because they're literally filing bankruptcy because they have medical debt left and right. And no fault of their own, I mean, this is illnesses that we're creating because we haven't handled the climate crisis. Illnesses we have created because of poverty. There's so many other [challenges] that my residents are facing every single day, and they're just tired of waiting.”

What we should do if the Biden-Harris ticket wins

Though Biden was not her pick for the Democratic nomination, Tlaib said if he wins, Americans will still be able to pressure his administration to make the changes that they want to see. Growing up in Detroit, she said, has taught her that transformative change happens in the streets.

"You know, when I look at the primary numbers, the primary election we just had in August, [there was] a 21% increase in voter turnout alone in my district. Why? 'Cause we talked about water as a human right. Why? 'Cause we talked about, really truly talked about, how do we invest in communities versus, you know, this kind of criminalization and militarization of our communities?’ That's what inspired people to come out and vote. Vote for a movement. Vote for social justice change that's really meaningful. So they felt like they're being seen and heard. That is not going to stop no matter who's in the White House.”

Race, turnout, absentee ballots: journalists look at Michigan’s role in 2020 politics

Jenn White’s conversation with Kat Stafford and Tim Alberta

For a perspective on where Michigan fits into the national political puzzle, we turned to two all-star Michigan-based reporters. Kat Stafford covers race and ethnicity for the Associated Press and Tim Alberta is the chief political correspondent for Politico.

Where is the Democratic party headed?

The heated primary race and the midterm election of candidates like Tlaib show a Democratic Party divided between a progressive and more moderate wing. Alberta says we saw a similar phenomenon with the Republican party after George Bush left office. That division within the party helped create the political environment that would eventually elect Donald Trump.

"I think the Democratic Party is in the middle of a sort of an interesting soul searching period here that’s not entirely uncommon to a party once its two-term president leaves office” Alberta said. “And I think in large part that question has been asked and answered to some degree because of the nomination of Joe Biden. And it’s not to say the Democratic Party has not been gradually moving leftward and that it will not continue to gradually move leftward. In fact, Biden has tacitly acknowledged that much on his own, but I think that it’s happening more slowly and a bit more cautiously and more methodically within the Democratic Party than it has certainly on the Republican side.”

A moment of reckoning

In the wake of George Floyd's death, there have been months of protests across the country and calls for America to deal with the problem of systemic racism. Kat Stafford says that Joe Biden has been campaigning as a “healer,” which many people feel is necessary at this moment.

“This moment of reckoning, I feel, has really forced both sides, in a way, to address racism in ways we haven’t seen in quite a long time, if ever,” Stafford said. “I think race, quite frankly, is at the center of this election. Race is going to be the center of this country for some time to come because right now, as I stated earlier, young Americans, and beyond that, frankly, Americans in general are saying it’s past time for this country to truly reckon with the racist history that is so deeply embedded in the fabric of this nation.

“At the end of the day, these votes will be counted”

In 2018, Michigan passed a ballot measure that allowed for no reason absentee voting, and many Michiganders took advantage of the new option in the August primary. Recently, President Trump has been attacking voting by mail, saying it’s not a secure system. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy came under fire in recent days becasue of controversial changes he made to the U.S. Postal Service, which critics say could make it difficult for people to vote in the middle of a pandemic. On Tuesday, DeJoy It was recently announced that he would postpone cuts to the postal service until after the election. Alberta warns that the real issue this November may not come from the mail-in votes, but from more common problems like long lines and poor staffing at in-person polls. 

“That to me, at least in Michigan, would strike me as an even bigger source of concern, particularly for the Democratic party than this uproar over mail balloting, which I think really, at the end of the day, is not the huge source of heartburn that some would lead you to believe,” said Alberta. “At the end of the day, these votes are going to be counted whether President Trump likes it or not. He can say whatever he wants to, but ultimately the Secretary of State has the power to count these ballots.”

This article was written by Stateside production assistants Lia Baldori and Olive Scott.

Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
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