Talk about what steps you’ll take beyond this initial phone banking to address these voters, and how else you’re fighting this purge?
So voter purges, when they happen, the most important part of the process is ensuring that the people who are likely to be purged know what’s coming and know what their rights are. We have been combing through the list since it was released a few weeks ago…verifying names, doing our initial vet of who should have been purged and who should not. There were [some] people whose names were [put] on the list improperly because they’ve recently voted.
And so what we will be doing is an initial texting and phone banking and that’s what’s happening on Thursday. That’s a massive event where we’re taking advantage of the attention that’s being paid in the state and the capacity to reach people because they are going to be more alert to this. We’re working with other organizations, we’re working with the state party and we’re working with anyone who has an interest in this across the aisle because voter purges are not [partisan] — in Georgia you don’t register by party and so we don’t know who’s being purged. But our mission is to make certain that no one is taken off of the rolls improperly.
Has voter suppression gotten enough attention this cycle?
On their own I think almost every one of the top-tier candidates has made a statement about voter suppression. [But] we have not heard enough of it on the national stage, and that’s why I’ve been trying to bring the debate to Georgia, and more importantly making certain that this is a [national] conversation. It’s hard to come to Georgia and not have a conversation about voter suppression.
What do you hope to hear from candidates?
I hope to hear, one, an acknowledgment from the moderators that this is a national scourge and deserves the same degree of attention as any other topic. Because all of the progress we speak of as Democrats rests on the ability of voters to be heard and to participate in our process. You cannot have an effective health care system or laws that move our health care system forward, you cannot pass laws to address climate change if we do not have the right to vote. So I want the moderators, because they control the tenor of the debate, to put that forward. And then I want thoughtful answers from those men and women standing on stage. Because because it’s how they’ve gotten their jobs if they’ve been elected to office. And it’s how they will get this job.
Would you be willing to be vice president for any candidate, not just Joe Biden?
Absolutely. I am a Democrat and I would be honored to help the Democratic ticket win and to serve.
Have any of them reached out to talk to you about being VP?
No, no, there has not been a single campaign that’s reached out about that conversation because it is premature. I do my best to be honest and forthright and to not be disingenuous. And so I’m certainly not going to coyly deny my interest when the question is put to me again and again by reporters and by folks at events. But the sincere desire I have is to serve our country. [And] serving as second to the president of the United States is a very effective way to continue to push forward the expansion of voting rights and the inclusion of our communities writ large and our democracy.
Is it a mistake to assume that because black voters in South Carolina are overwhelmingly supporting one candidate that black voters in other states would do the same?
We have 50 primaries and caucuses for a reason. South Carolina is in the spotlight early because it is the state that has the largest population of African American voters. But there is no community that is monolithic, including the black community. The larger question for every candidate is what will they do to make certain that they are speaking to voters in every single state, including Georgia. We may not be a Super Tuesday state, but we’re the very next week and we have the youngest population of a battleground state and we have the heaviest African American population.
Has impeachment become a local issue in Georgia?
It’s hard to miss it if you turn on television. But the larger ethos is not a conversation of what this means for 2020, it’s a conversation of what does this mean for our country and our values. And when it comes up it is usually in the context of worry about the erosion of our values, beginning in the White House.
Is it a motivating factor for voters in Georgia?
It is of a piece. But it is not the singular topic that anyone is going to focus on because these are communities that have deep issues. Georgia is one of 14 States that’s refusing to expand Medicaid. We are one of the states being hit hardest by the tariffs. Those are immediate issues that families are facing.
Despite the diversity of the field, the top four candidates right now are white. What does that tell you about the state of politics or about the Democratic Party?
Three things: One, this is a moment in time and we have not yet had our first contest and there’s a reason that it’s a 50-state contest that will stretch until June. No. 2, the distance between the fourth- and 10th-place candidate is not that large. So there’s always time for those metrics to shift. Three, I am excited because … the diversity of this field has forced a complexity of conversation that we have not previously seen. The fact that there are candidates who have to talk about issues they may have thought about but have never had to publicly grapple with — that means something. And whether or not that diversity is reflected in the eventual nominee, the diversity of the field has changed the conversation, and I think for the better.
What are some of those conversations you think have been forced that weren’t previously?
The very vibrant conversations about criminal justice reform, about black economic equity, about immigration as more than just the question of border security, but a question of how do we address the kind of nation we want to be, issues of women’s bodily autonomy and how women economics are missing in some of our national conversation. Across race and gender we have seen, and identity writ large, we have seen a deeper understanding of what communities need. You were with me this morning when we had a conversation about the intersectionality of race and physical ability as a point of entry for access to the right vote or is a barrier. We don’t have those conversations as often and I know a handful of candidates have already put out plans to talk about how they will continue to work with the disability community to lift up their voices and their needs.
One of the conversations in the primary lately is whether or not Iowa and New Hampshire should continue to go first in the nominating process because they’re 90 percent white. Should Democrats change the order?
My focus is on getting through the order we have now and making sure we get all the candidates back to Georgia.
Did Elizabeth Warren consult or talk to you at all on the speech she’s giving Thursday about black women laborers?
We haven’t spoken about that direct topic recently, but she and I have had robust conversations over the last year-and-a-half as we’ve gotten to know each other, and I look forward to hearing what she says.
I’d like to get your response to former President Obama’s recent comments on the state of the race. He said America “is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement. They like seeing things improved, but the average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it.”
As someone who serves in a leadership role who was responsible for gathering votes from within my own party and then crossing the aisle to get additional votes, what I know is that change is complex and people are interested in revolutionary change, but they are often reticent about how close that change comes to their lives. And I think that’s what the president was speaking to, that we have to not only think about the goal, but think about the process. And sometimes in our politics we are so focused on the goal, we forget that we’ve got to bring the people along with us for the process to work.
And my take away, not only from the president’s comments but my experience, is that often those changes and that revolution requires compromise and engagement and that it’s not real if people aren’t with you.
What I’m saying is…we should have bold, ambitious goals, but we also have to have patience with the process. And sometimes the conversation about the goals [ignores] the complexity of the process.