Here Comes The Sunrise Movement | Crooked Media
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September 08, 2020
What A Day
Here Comes The Sunrise Movement

In This Episode

  • College students have returned to campuses, and so has coronavirus. Northeastern University suspended 11 students for partying, and will not refund them tens of thousands of dollars in tuition payments. At University of Kansas, students are striking and demanding that the university shut down the campus and give hazard pay to workers.
  • Extreme weather over the past few weeks has underscored the need for an extensive environmental policy overhaul, the kind that is championed by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey. We look at how Markey worked with the Sunrise Movement to court young people in his primary race last week. Plus, we speak with Sunrise’s political director Evan Weber about lessons that Biden and other Democrats can learn from their movement.
  • And in headlines: protesters in Rochester demand justice for Daniel Prude, India now second in COVID cases, and Trump courts the racist White vote over the weekend.



Akilah Hughes: It’s Tuesday, September 8th. I’m Akilah Hughes.


Gideon Resnick: And I am Gideon Resnick, and this is what the day where we are encouraging any Trump voters who sank last weekend to keep on trying.


Akilah Hughes: That’s right, everyone sinks a boat or two on their first boat parade. All right? It’s on you to dry off and just try again.


Gideon Resnick: You know, being an expert boater requires 10,000 hours of sinking boats.


Akilah Hughes: Mm hmm. On today’s show, what Joe Biden can learn from Ed Markey’s win in Massachusetts, than some headlines.


Gideon Resnick: But first, the latest:


[clip of President Trump] If you don’t take it off, you’re very muffled. So if you would take it off would be a lot easier.


[clip of reporter] I’ll just speak a lot louder. It that better?


[clip of President Trump] It’s better. Yeah, it’s better.


Gideon Resnick: That was Donald Trump asking a reporter to take off his mask because apparently he was muffled. I don’t think I would have obliged in this situation.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone to take their mask off. Like I’ve told people to put him on. But, not the opposite.


Gideon Resnick: Yes. That seems to be the right way to go. In news, though, last week, which felt like 100 years ago, we talked about how the opening of college campuses had inevitably led to coronavirus outbreaks. And to give you a sense of scale, the New York Times looked at 203 counties in the country, where students comprise at least 10% of the population, and about half of them experienced their worst weeks of the pandemic after August 1st. Also, according to the Times, there have been at least 50,000 cases reported at more than a 1,000 campuses. So now that we’re getting a fuller picture of how the virus is spreading at schools and in their neighboring communities, there’s also more information about how schools are disciplining students who don’t adhere to their guidelines, and lots of discourse around that.


Akilah Hughes: Yes. So over the weekend, the big story was Northeastern University, and they suspended 11 students for violating established COVID protocols, i.e. the kids were partying. Adding insult to injury, those students are also not getting a refund of their tuition for the semester, which is estimated to be around $36,000. Does the consequence fit the crime? I mean, it’s a philosophical discussion. OK, so should there be monetary punishment for risking the lives of others? A lot of people say no, that losing the opportunity to go to school there is enough and it’s probably going to be hard enough for them to get into any other school considering. But others also point out that if you say, got pregnant and had to leave school shortly after classes start, historically that hasn’t gotten you a refund either. There’s the additional observation that suspending students for parties that have an off campus might be out of their purview, since mandates may not be statewide or even citywide, but just campus wide. And maybe a final thought is, if you invited students back to school in a pandemic when you didn’t have to, you can’t penalize them for being around each other because you made that choice.


Gideon Resnick: Right. I mean, that seems reasonable to me.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. So that’s, you know, the really extreme example of handling the crackdown on the youngs and their party habits. But other schools, including NYU, OSU, WVU and Purdue, haven’t gone quite as far, but they’ve suspended students for breaking campus rules. And not just a few. All right. OSU has suspended more than 200 students.


Gideon Resnick: Man, oh man. But it’s not just schools who aren’t happy with the outbreaks and the recklessness. University of Kansas students aren’t happy about it, either. So let’s talk about what’s happening there.


Akilah Hughes: OK, so yesterday there was a student-led strike on their Lawrence campus because there have been 550 cases there. Hundreds of students pledged not to attend classes, according to an online petition. There’s also been a list of demands that includes shutting down the campus and providing free exit COVID testing to all students. And yes, they addressed the question of what to do with students who test positive in the exit tests—send everyone else home and let those who test positive quarantine and the now empty dorms. I think that’s a great idea. They also demand hazard pay for those who work on campus.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, this opens the door to so many questions about what this means for teachers, local communities. It’s kind of a mess, and everybody is, seems to be figuring it out as they go along.


Akilah Hughes: That’s for sure. Well, we’ll be tracking this story as it develops. But for now, let’s switch gears to another crisis. In the past few weeks, there have been intense hurricanes in the Gulf. Blazing temperatures in the West and seemingly endless fires in California, where more than two million acres have burned, already setting a record for the year before the most dangerous months of fire season have even happened. Climate change isn’t something in the far distance. It is very much here.


Gideon Resnick: That’s right, and that existential threat has shown up in the urgency of young people’s politics. That was evident in last week’s Senate primary in Massachusetts, where Ed Markey won a double-digit victory against challenger Joe Kennedy. It marked the first time that a Kennedy has ever lost in Massachusetts, and at the start of the race, Kennedy seemed to have this clear advantage with universal name notoriety, the opportunity to argue for youthful change—he is significantly younger than Markey—and the fact that Markey was less well-known to voters across the state.


Akilah Hughes: But climate change was a major factor in the race. Markey was able to raise his profile by emphasizing his record on the environment, particularly his work in the last couple of years. So let’s talk about that back story.


Gideon Resnick: That’s right. So Markey has worked on the environment for a long time, but what’s more relevant to this particular discussion is what happened starting in 2018. So it was just after the midterms when new members of Congress were elected. One of them was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and she joined up with a youth-led climate organization called the Sunrise Movement to participate in the sit-in outside of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. And they were advocating for a massive climate change plan called the Green New Deal. It was really big and bold and kind of controversial at the time among some Democrats. But according to the Sunrise Movement, Senator Ed Markey saw this protest and reached out to them and AOC to partner on the Green New Deal and formally introduced a resolution to Congress. That ended up buying Markey a lot of new favor with younger voters and the climate movement more broadly.


Akilah Hughes: Right. And that brings us to this 2020 race. Going into it, Markey was a 74-year old senator. He was strong on climate, though still maybe not the most well-known. Then Sunrise Movement gets involved, and he was able to turn himself into a kind of social media meme. There was this photo of him wearing Nike sneakers, a viral campaign ad, and you could just really clearly see the influence of young people on his campaign.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I think that’s right. You know, there’s a combo of a smart campaign and the melding of the minds with Sunrise. I spoke with the political director of Sunrise last week, Evan Weber, and he was telling me that Markey’s campaign reached out to them last year, letting them know that he was expecting a primary challenge. And the group, which again worked very closely with him on the Green New Deal, got fully behind him in this race. They gave him traditional help like hundreds of thousands of phone calls to voters. But also, like you mentioned, they helped him put together one of the most viral political ads in recent memory, dubbing Markey the quote “Green New Deal maker” and turning the Kennedy legacy on its head with this line.


[political ad] We asked what we could do for our country. We went out. We did it. With all due respect, it’s time to start asking what your country can do for you.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah.


Akilah Hughes: Hell, yeah.


Yeah, as you can hear and also see when you like watch the ad, it looked very much like it could have been cut directly from The Departed, which is, you know, unique for a 74-year old senator. Anyway. Sunrise, which is run by young people, helped reintroduce Markey to a young generation of voters and kind of blunted Kennedy’s message that he could represent a youthful changing of the guard. That immediately became more challenging when tons of young voters were enthusiastically backing Markey. And so by the end of this race, Markey, in conjunction with Sunrise, had become the major climate champion, this sort of Nike Air-wearing radical, even though in his past he had voted for the 94 crime bill, the Iraq War, and decades ago opposed bussing for Boston schools. Now, Webber and others have acknowledged that Markey doesn’t have an unblemished record, but they zeroed-in on his climate policies as more than enough reason to send him back to Congress.


Akilah Hughes: OK, so that’s the back story. But the reason we’re talking about this race is because it was a big victory for the Sunrise movement and their cause, climate change. So what have they said about that?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s right. When I talked to Weber, he was saying that the race gave them an opportunity to show their organizational power and how motivated voters are by the issue of climate change. Here’s a clip:


Evan Webber: I think the biggest lesson that should be drawn is that running boldly and aggressively on climate change is a political winner. It motivates young people. If you look at where Ed Markey won, we won the suburbs in a really big way on Tuesday night. And you know, there has been a lot of recent polling by Global Strategy Group and Climate Power, amongst others, that has shown that climate is not only an issue that can motivate the Democratic Party base, which is younger, more progressive, more diverse, and polls, really, you know, is very mobilizing to young people and LatinX voters in particular, but is also something that can win over suburban moderates, particularly moderate women and young swing voters, young Republicans, etc.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. I hope that people keep talking about the climate. That should be a bigger issue in the actual presidential election. But what else are they cooking up in terms of 2020?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so they’re basically saying that embracing and welcoming-in young people is one of the most important things that the Democratic Party can do. And the easiest way to do that is what you’re saying, is really buying in on the issues that motivate them, like climate change. So in the presidential race, Weber said that Biden may be focusing too much right now on courting former Republicans, though he does commend him for reaching out to young people and activists on climate earlier this year after Senator Bernie Sanders dropped out. Weber says Biden’s climate platform, which was heavily shaped by Sunrise and the Bernie-Biden task force, has dramatically improved so that it is now quote “the most ambitious climate plan of a major party nominee in history.” But Weber still thinks there’s more to be done given the urgency and enormity of the crisis. I asked him about next steps, and here is what he had to say:


Evan Webber: Young people have a really big opportunity this election to turn out in a really historic way and give a very strong generational mandate to Joe Biden that our generation has expectations and demands of him and that he is actually accountable to us as a political bloc. And if we can turn out in bigger numbers than these never-Trump Republicans or whomever, they’re going to make their political calculations as to who they think it’s most important to listen to as they’re negotiating policy in 2021, 2022 and beyond.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so that’s the hope with Biden. And if candidates like Markey win big and continue to win big, it also adds more power to the climate agenda in Congress. Later this week, Sunrise plans on making a slate of endorsements. More on all of that soon, but that is the latest for now.


Akilah Hughes: It’s Tuesday WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re discussing some looks on the campaign trail. Kamala Harris made her first solo trip as vice presidential nominee this weekend, and a clip of her stepping off a plane in Milwaukee got a lot of attention for her low cut black Chuck Taylors. It’s a very classic look. Another prominent political sneaker, also nice to see a potential VP go down stairs gracefully. So Giddy, if you’re wearing the original basketball shoe, are you going high-top or low-top?


Gideon Resnick: Low for sure for me, I highly respect people who can do high, but it it absolutely does not work for me. I need to have like a little bit of ankle showing or I feel like I have, like my leg just looks sort of like long and wide and just chonky. So I need to, I need to, I need to have a little bit of slope in my step, if that makes sense.


Akilah Hughes: I understand that. And I also appreciate that you have considered what your leg looks like in shoes. I feel like most men that I’ve ever spoken to have never even thought about what it looks like. And I’m like, You look insane. Think about ankle, you know?


Gideon Resnick: Well, here’s the thing. Also, if you go low, you can wear shorts. So if you, if you’re wearing, if you’re wearing shorts and you go high, then yeah, you got like a real sort of weird width going on. And you know, as much as we like respect trees and want to protect them, we don’t want to look like trees all the time.


Akilah Hughes: That’s 100% true. Yeah, I feel that. I totally agree.


Gideon Resnick: So what are you doing if you’re if you’re putting on the Chucks?


Akilah Hughes: I mean, I’m definitely also a low-top person. I have like short legs. I’m, I have a very tall personality, but I’m not tall in reality, and I think I’m one of those people who has like an equal like, very few people have the same length legs as torso and like upper body. And I think that I’m like, evenly split. So like, it’s not good to start sectioning off the bottom part. It’s like, I mean, you were speaking to me about these shorts because when I wear shorts and I wear the high tops, I’m like, am I in the shoe? Am I in the shorts? Is it just the shorts? Like, am I, it’s just like, they touch, basically. I have short legs, so it’s just not going to happen. Little low tops all day. And just like that, we’ve checked our temps. They’re cool because we didn’t fall down and embarrass ourselves by tripping over our very long shoes, I guess. I don’t know. Stay safe and we’ll check in with you all again tomorrow.


Gideon Resnick: And now for some ads.


[ad break]


Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: Protests in Rochester, New York, ramped up over the weekend calling for justice in the death of another Black man who was killed in police custody. Back in March, 41-year old Daniel Prude was experiencing a mental health emergency when police covered his head with a hood and held him on the ground until he stopped breathing. He was declared brain dead and died a week later. Prude’s death was ruled as a homicide by the county’s medical examiner, but no officers were charged. Seven officers were suspended last week after Prude’s family chose to release body camera footage from the night he was detained. On Sunday, a thousand people, including church elders who serve as buffers between police and protesters, marched through the streets. Mayor Lovely Warren promised to reform Rochester’s police department by shifting crisis intervention duties to the city’s Department of Youth and Recreation Services. And New York Attorney General Letitia James announced she’ll be forming a grand jury to investigate Prude’s death.


Akilah Hughes: Some updates on COVID around the world and at home: India’s COVID case total is surging, making it the second worst affected country in the world behind the United States. On Monday, the country saw the highest single-day increase any country has recorded so far, with over 90,000 new cases. India’s COVID mortality rate of 1.7% is low compared to other hard-hit areas, but experts say COVID-related deaths could be undercounted. New York passed a milestone this weekend after going 30 straight days with less than 1% of COVID tests coming back positive. Governor Andrew Cuomo pointed to the state’s strict lockdown and restrained reopening as the reasons behind the success. I wish California would do the same.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, hopefully everywhere can do the same. Trump made some big moves to lock in the racist white person vote over the holiday weekend. That began on Friday, when the director of his Office of Management and Budget sent federal agencies a memo calling to suspend racial sensitivity trainings because they constitute, quote, “un-American propaganda.” That memo singled out programs that dealt with critical race theory and white privilege—you know, concepts that have been at the forefront of the national conversation this year, but which don’t exist in Trump’s version of America, which is mostly just for sunburnt families in boats. Over the next three days, Trump launched a similar attack on the 1619 project, which describes the legacy of slavery in America. Trump threatened to take funds from California schools that included as part of their curriculum and called it quote “revisionist history” which it is in the sense that it revises history to be accurate. Trump’s efforts to erase America’s history of racism weirdly don’t include blowing up statues of Confederate leaders, because for him, the important part of slavery is the bad guys.


Akilah Hughes: Bloop. All right. Well, Post Office double agent Louis DeJoy might have a history of using his powers for bad. A new investigation by The Washington Post alleges that in his old position as CEO of a shipping company, he frequently pressured employees to donate to Republican candidates and then paid them bonuses to offset their donations. No surprise: this is not legal. Campaign finance records back up the claims of a donor culture at DeJoy’s Company called New Breed Logistics. Between 2000 and 2014, GOP candidates received $1 million from employees there. Many of them hadn’t donated before and haven’t since—not a great sign. DeJoy’s wife’s political career took off during this time, earning her appointments from elected Republicans like George W. Bush and Trump. As we know, DeJoy would go on to be Postmaster General despite his clear philosophical objection to delivering letters. Asked about allegations on Monday, Trump said he would support an investigation into DeJoy’s fundraising. Stay tuned for Kayleigh McEnany telling us he meant to say “on opposite day.” And those are the headlines.


Gideon Resnick: One last thing before we go. Today is “get your shit together” day. What does that mean besides that being every day for me? Well, each state has different voting options and deadlines this year ahead of Election Day, and things may have changed in the past few months or even weeks.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and our friends at Vote Save America combed through all 50 states to compile all the information about your different voting options, specific deadlines, and frequently asked questions. That’s everything from what do you do if your vote by mail ballot doesn’t show up to when do you need to get registered by? So take some time today to visit VoteSaveAmerica dot com/states, figure out your voting options and deadlines, and get your shit together.


Gideon Resnick: That is VoteSaveAmerica dot com/states. That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, support investigations on opposite day, and tell your friends to listen.


Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just campaign finance info on Louis DeJoy like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Akilah Hughes.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And don’t give up, voters!


Akilah Hughes: I like what you guys are doing.


Akilah Hughes: What a day is a Crooked Media production.


Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.


Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon is our assistant producer.


Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our senior producer is Katie Long.


Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.