The Long View Of The Midterms | Crooked Media
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August 09, 2021
What A Day
The Long View Of The Midterms

In This Episode

  • Next year’s midterm elections will dictate the future of voter rights, reproductive rights, climate change, pandemic recovery, and more. They may seem far off, but we can start getting ready for 2022 now. We spoke with Crooked’s political director Shaniqua McClendon about the “No Off Years” campaign, which aims to support local organizers on the ground, register more people, and fight misinformation around the polls.
  • And in headlines: the Dixie Fire continues to burn in Northern California, the Taliban seizes more regional capitals in Afghanistan, and Larry Page gets residency status in New Zealand.





Gideon Resnick: It’s Monday, August 9th. I’m Gideon Resnick.


Erin Ryan: And I’m Erin Ryan, and this is What A Day, celebrating the USA for winning the most medals at the Olympics while we did the important job of figuring out how to watch it.


Gideon Resnick: Yes, that’s right. Successfully using Peacock should really be an Olympic sport, honestly.


Erin Ryan: Yes. And I would be disqualified for throwing a tantrum.


Gideon Resnick: Same, yes.  Booted in the first 30 seconds, not allowed back after. On today’s show, the Taliban seizes several cities in Afghanistan, plus the Dixie fire in California becomes the state’s second biggest wildfire in history.


Erin Ryan: But first, we introduce you to a new project by Crooked to protect our elections and help you find out about how to get involved locally. That’s because, believe it or not, yet another major election season is on the horizon. The midterms are coming in 2022. I’m still writing 2016 on all my checks.


Gideon Resnick: You should change that.


Erin Ryan: I can’t believe 2022 is coming up. The outcomes of these races from state legislative on up are going to be crucial on all sorts of issues: voter rights, reproductive rights, climate change, pandemic recovery, and more.


Gideon Resnick: That’s right. And Crooked has a campaign starting today to support local organizers that are on the ground, educate and register more people to vote, and fight misinformation around the polls. It is called No Off Years. And our political director, Shaniqua McClendon is with me to let us know what it is all about, how you can find out more and help with these important local races. So, Shaniqua, what are some of the things that No Off Year is trying to accomplish?


Shaniqua McClendon:  Kind of first and foremost, we want everyone to really get bought into the idea that this electoral work and political organizing is not something that only happens in a quote unquote, “election year.” It sounds like it’s really early and the midterms are really far away, but we’re going to have to show up even more for 2022 and it’s really important that we get started now. So some of the activities we’ll have people getting involved in is helping with voter registration. There are so many folks getting purged from voting rolls, there are so many new people getting registered for the first time, people becoming new Americans who are eligible to vote now, and a lot of young people who are turning 18 for the first time. So we’re going to be focused a lot on voter registration, getting those people registered now. So that’s one less thing that will take up our time next year.


Gideon Resnick: Why in this year and next, especially, when the attention is going to be so much, I think, on House and Senate, as it often is, should we also make sure that we’re focusing on these local races that are below that as well?


Shaniqua McClendon:  The position would not exist and have elections if it didn’t impact your life in some way, so we should be concerned about any election that’s happening. But ultimately, these state legislatures control—you know a lot of the fights we have at the national level about the minimum wage, abortion access, voting, voting rights—the state legislatures are making a lot of these decisions. And especially as you look at our federal government and the Supreme Court and some of the decisions, things that Congress can and cannot do because Democrats don’t have a huge majority, or decisions coming out of the Supreme Court, state legislatures, if you’re lucky, they can be a protection against any bad things coming down from the federal government. But in reality, they make a lot of decisions about your life. Our state legislatures, you know, people don’t pay a ton of attention to them, but they are very important and actually are why we’re kind of in the situation we’re in now.


Gideon Resnick: Right. And do you have an early sense of what is likely going to be defining some of these races? Like is there anything that has jumped out so far?


Shaniqua McClendon:  I don’t know that voters are paying as much attention as we would like them to be to voter suppression laws, but I do think it’s what’s going to ultimately have the biggest impact on what our elections look like. I think the other thing that is just top of mind for people right now is continues to be our COVID recovery. The Biden administration has done a really good job of making it clear what they’re doing. They’re prioritizing vaccines. But if you go down to the state level and again, this is why these elections are so, so important, you have legislatures and you have governors who are saying, well, we don’t care what Biden says, no mask mandates for us. I just hope the people who have been resistant up until this point are seeing a lot of these news accounts of people who didn’t get vaccinated and are now really regretting it. But I think that’s going to be something that’s very top of mind. And then, of course, the way the economy ties into that.


Gideon Resnick: How does this all play out, if at all, in primaries like the recent one in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District? I think from the outside, people were defining it as a progressive versus a moderate, which is the sort of reductive thing we always tend to see in these kinds of contests. But are the issues that we see coming up in races like that, which just took place this past week, most often super local, or are these other things sort of like seeping down into that, even in a primary where on issues related to COVID, both Democratic candidates are probably pretty closely aligned?


Shaniqua McClendon:  Yeah, you know, honestly, I do think a lot of the national kind of fights, if you will, are trickling down a bit to the elections that we’re seeing. You know, in the past, I don’t think we would have seen so much attention on a House, a special election House race, especially one that was not the general election. It was just a primary. And the primary in this instance will determine who ultimately wins because it’s a pretty Democratic district, but honestly, I do think the outcome of that election was, was local, but, you know, I look at Cori Bush and the protests that she led to to get the eviction moratorium back in place, and I think it would be great to have more people like her who, you know, she was, she beat an incumbent. She beat a long-term incumbent, and Democrats protect their incumbents. And if she hadn’t won, I don’t think that demonstration would have happened.


Gideon Resnick: No way.


Shaniqua McClendon:  Who knows if we would have the eviction moratorium back in place. So I just again, in this specific case, I think we saw the outcome of what the voters wanted. But I do hope that national figures stay out of these fights a little bit because it’s a little discouraging to see why they stand behind someone versus why they’re against some of these candidates.


Gideon Resnick: That’s a good jumping off point to talk about examples of other local races that people should be paying attention to at this moment and why. And obviously, there’s tons, but that could be anything that is on the secretary of state front, things had to do with education, state legislature, yeah, anything.


Shaniqua McClendon:  So this year, there’s a gubernatorial election in Virginia and right now Democrats have Ralph Northam in place right now, but he’s term limited, so they’re having another election. Terry McAuliffe, who’s a former Virginia governor, is the Democratic candidate and so we feel good about him being reelected. But in order for him to be successful, Democrats will have to hold on to the House of Delegates. If for some reason they are not able to hold on to it, it will be much harder for Terry McAuliffe to advance a progressive agenda. You know, if you’re in the DMV area, which is D.C., Maryland and Virginia, you know, try to get down there and volunteer, especially for these legislative races, because they will determine what the future of Virginia looks like. What happens in Virginia will tell a story about what we’ll see in the midterms next year. And we need all the momentum we can. And just one, this is one race, but secretaries of state races are happening across the country next year, but in particular, looking at Arizona, a state that we have seen try to force this Big Lie down our throats and say we need to audit the election results and that it was rigged in some way—which we know it wasn’t, but Republicans have continued to push this and the Democratic secretary of state there criticized the audit that they were doing and the state legislature—this goes back to the importance of state legislatures—they voted to strip her of her powers as secretary of state and give those over to the attorney general, who is a Republican. And so that race is going to be very important. You know, she’s kind of been stripped of her powers already and the stripping of those powers expires at the end of her term, so it’s very targeted on her. But right now, there will be an election next year to fill this seat and there are a few Democrats and a few Republicans running, but one of the Republicans who is running for secretary of state, he’s in the legislature right now, but he was he participated in the insurrection. And so, you know, which means he has really bought into this rigged election and he needs to be nowhere near a secretary of state position. So there are so many elections that happen lower down the ballot that have a lot of power. And so I just hope everyone is paying attention to all of those.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, yeah. I mean, they’re crazy important. How in sort of practical terms is No Off Years planning to combat voter suppression that has unfolded and will continue to unfold across the country?


Shaniqua McClendon:  Yeah, you know something I want to just like make really clear is that we can’t out organize the voter suppression. Congress has to act. Our elected officials need to pass laws that protect voters and advance pro-voter policies. But what we can do is let people know what laws are on the books. We can let them know what they need to do. We can encourage them to continuously check their voter registration, make sure it’s valid, make sure they haven’t been purged from the voter rolls, and also make sure that we are investing in the organizations that are going to be engaging with voters. So in addition to voter registration and the other things that I mentioned as part of our No Off Years program, we’ll also be encouraging people to contribute to grassroots organizations, and everyone should continue to call on their lawmakers to do something. But we don’t get to go into the chamber and cast a vote. So while they’re doing that, we want people to get involved in this way. And they can do that by checking out VoteSaveAmerica dotcom/NoOffYears.


Gideon Resnick: And just for our purposes, in the coming weeks, we’re going to be airing conversations with a lot of different candidates like India Walton, who is the Democratic nominee for the mayor of Buffalo, New York, Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin who just entered the Senate race as a Democratic challenger to Senator Ron Johnson, and many more. The interesting thing about the two of them is they also have a lot of this organizing background that you are talking about, and different organizations had supported them along the way and continue to. So what are some good ways for people to learn either more about the candidates in races that are near them or the organizations that are involved in lifting these candidates up?


Shaniqua McClendon:  So through our No Off Years program we will be highlighting organizations that are on the ground now doing good work because we want people to volunteer with them and we want people to donate to them. As we get into next year, we’ll start to layer in that information about the candidates, but as you all probably know—I mean, you just said you all are interviewing Mandela Barnes and our other shows will continue to have guests on so that people can get familiar with these candidates, so you should listen to all Crooked Media podcasts. But continue to check out Vote Save America to get that information on the candidates.


Gideon Resnick: Thank you for the plug for our show as well as what you’re working on. Shaniqua, thank you so much again for taking so much time. We really appreciate it.


Shaniqua McClendon:  Thank you for having me.


Gideon Resnick: We’ll have a link at our show notes as well so you can be a part of No Off Years, but that is the latest for now. It’s Monday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we are talking about the ongoing feud between celebs and big soap. So there has been a puzzling trend lately of famous actors and actresses revealing how infrequently they wash their bodies in the shower, starting with this confession by Ashton Kutcher on Dax Shepherd’s podcast, Armchair Experts.


[clip of Ashton Kutcher] I wash my armpits, my crotch daily, and nothing else ever.


Gideon Resnick: Hmm. OK, relatable. Days later, Jake Gyllenhaal signaled his support, saying in a Vanity Fair interview that quote, “I do think that there’s a whole world of not bathing that is also really helpful for skin maintenance and we naturally clean ourselves.” Then Dwayne The Rock Johnson waded into the self-cleaning body discourse late last week, tweeting that, quote, “Nope, I’m the opposite of a not washing themselves celeb. Shower parentheses cold when I roll out of bed to get my day rolling, shower parentheses warm after my workout before work, shower parentheses hot after I get home from work.” Psychotic. OK, so the challenge here seems to be finding a happy medium between these two extremes. Erin, what has your reaction been to this important conversation?


Erin Ryan: I think we need to give celebrities stuff to do because this is the chatter of a group of people who are very, very bored. I think there are a lot of, like, serious dimensions to this conversation, you know, beyond, oh, does Jake Gyllenhaal stink? First of all, like there’s environmental concerns around showering and using a ton of hot water every day. And water shortages are a factor in whether or not people should be doing that en masse. There’s also like a long history of disenfranchising or stigmatizing different groups of people because there is a belief among a more dominant group that those people are like unclean or dirty. So there’s sort of like a historically fraught aspect to it, too. Like, but all those things aside, I really hope people know that you can’t really tell if you smell bad. If you gradually got to a point where you smell bad, your nose is blind to it.


Gideon Resnick: Yes.


Erin Ryan: So I think it’s really important just out of courtesy to the people around you to at least rinse off. You know, but at the same time, you know, I didn’t really need to hear about Dwayne the Rock Johnson showering. Gideon, same question for you.


Gideon Resnick: I want none of this, nor do I care about any of it. I think I, the parentheses situation with the varieties of temperatures that the Rock is pursuing is bizarre. I don’t need to know that. I’m the kind of person personally that is like this is just part of the routine that I have in my day to day. I’m not really thinking about it a lot. I’m not really, like, super enjoying it either, to be perfectly honest. I’m like showering is like brushing my teeth. It’s just the thing that happens, that I got to do, then I move on. So the idea that there is a massive discourse that has been built around either not doing it or doing it an insane amount with varying temperatures is deeply foreign to me, and not interesting.


Erin Ryan: I’m going to go a step further Gideon and say that for me, showering is kind of like washing dishes. Like I have, you have to do it. But do I like it? I actually don’t really like showering. I don’t like being wet. I don’t like being cold. Get me in, get me out, get me on of my way. I would rather like jump in a big pool of water than take a shower. But showering is the best most of us normal non-wealthy celebrities have.


Gideon Resnick: Exactly. Invite me to your pool, The Rock, I will take a parentheses cold dip into it to clean myself. Just like that, we have checked our temps. Bathe if you can, but you know, the respectable amount. And we’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Gideon Resnick:  Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Erin Ryan: Aside from being the largest wildfire in the country right now, the Dixie Fire in California has become the second largest fire in the state’s history. So far, it has burned over 460,000 acres and it was only 21% contained as of this weekend. Luckily, recent cool temperatures and humidity are helping to slow down its growth. No deaths have been reported so far, but over 100 buildings were destroyed, including the historic downtown of Greenville. The cause of this fire is still under investigation, but previously fire-causing utility giant Pacific Gas and Electric admitted that its equipment may have played a part. The company was recently prosecuted and became bankrupt over their involvement with large fires in the state just three years ago. Perhaps we should stop letting these people near things that are combustible. They don’t seem to be able to handle it.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, my goodness. The Taliban seized more regional capitals in Afghanistan over the weekend continuing their violent takeover of cities since the ongoing withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops. Since last week, the Taliban has captured four capitals, including yesterday’s takeover of the strategic northern capital, Kunduz. Government officials and journalists there reported heavy clashes and civilian casualties. The Taliban’s aggressive advances are the latest in a series of blows to Afghan government forces as the U.S. and allies are pulling out troops after two decades in the country. A White House official told the Associated Press that the administration plans to stick to its plans to withdraw the troops despite gains to the Taliban is making.


Erin Ryan: Google co-founder Larry Page must have searched “how do I prepare for society’s imminent collapse?” He recently gained residency status in New Zealand following a trend of billionaires quietly securing accommodations on the remote and famously secure island. Page took advantage of a residency visa called Investor Plus, which opens the country’s tight borders to anyone who can invest seven million dollars domestically. His visa application was approved in February of this year at a time when the country was essentially closed off to non-residents. Page’s Silicon Valley peer Peter Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and crushed Gawker—RIP—got citizenship in New Zealand in 2017. The Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University named the country the best place to survive the apocalypse for its small population, renewable energy and abundant supply of fresh water, though it is absolutely crawling with orcs.


Gideon Resnick: It is. Beware of anybody talking about man flesh there. They, they mean it in the orc way. I’m just going to say it. Florida Governor and a computer-generated character from a wrestling game on PS3, Ron DeSantis suffered a setback in his fight to turn schools into a safe space for coronavirus. DeSantis’s executive order that prohibits schools from enforcing mask mandates is now facing two legal challenges. They’re both from parents who want to protect their children. At the heart of the lawsuits is the idea that Florida’s constitution guarantees a safe school environment for kids. The state has emerged as a national COVID hotspot, accounting for one in five of the nation’s new COVID cases just last week. So the parents have good standing to say this environment is not safe and the governor’s demand that my child hold a little doormat under his face that says welcome home COVID isn’t helping. Children under 12 still aren’t eligible for the vaccine, which makes the issue of mask mandates in schools even more pressing. Still, when it comes to public health, DeSantis seems committed to standing in DeWay. And those are the headlines.


Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, if you’re DeSantis, please get out of DeWay, and tell your friends to listen.


Erin Ryan: And if you were into reading, and not just each and every celebrity’s views on personal hygiene like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Aaron Ryan.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And take our money, New Zealand!


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I have seven million to spare. I’m filling out the app right now.


Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed Charlotte Landes. Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers, and Kelly Sadikun is our intern. Or head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.