Moulitsas and Eleveld set the stage by discussing the political map as it currently stands, how Arizona and Georgia turned blue last cycle, and why they think Texas is next. In particular, what might our goals be when it comes to Texas, which has remained so tantalizingly out of reach for Democrats for years? Joining this week’s episode were Michelle Tremillo and Brianna Brown, who serve respectively as the executive director and deputy director at the Texas Organizing Project.
Moulitsas and Eleveld welcomed Tremillo and Brown to the show, and each gave a brief overview of the Texas Organizing Project, as well as their personal backgrounds, before delving into the issues.
TOP organizes Black and Latino communities specifically in Dallas, Harris, and Bexar counties, with the ultimate goal of transforming Texas into a state where working-class people of color are represented and have collective power. Brown and Tremillo discussed their organizing strategy, which is built on a year-round community organizing model that focuses on a racial and economic justice agenda to build power together to transform the state of Texas. More than 285,000 members and supporters help lead their direct-action organizing, grassroots lobbying, and electoral organizing. In 2020, the organization reached out to over 1.9 million voters across the state of Texas, turning out about 900,000 to the polls.
With so much of TOP’s work focused on increasing voter turnout in Black and Latino communities, Eleveld asked after Brown and Tremillo’s learnings: “What were the barriers to voting, and were they the same among demographics, or similar?”
Brown cited voter ID laws, insidious misinformation campaigns, and fearmongering as major barriers to voters of color making their way to the polls. What’s more, she noted, there was a serious hole in Democratic strategy itself:
People are not courting us. What is amazing whenever I look at the example of ‘the other side,’ they go to the ends of the [earth]. Less than two months shy of the presidential nomination, they decide to push through a Supreme Court nominee ... they deliver; I mean, they go to the ends of the earth. You know, we don’t really see that on our side—people really delivering. So much of the work that we do is inspiring folks to the ballot box, and making sure we’re there the day after, which is when our real jobs begin, right? To hold that institution and electeds accountable—and deliver.
Part of the reason why unlikely voters don’t engage, Tremillo added, “is because [they think] it won’t make a difference … it’s this cycle of participation that is critical to people becoming habitual voters.”
Eleveld said that TOP’s work is proof of the significance of local races and wondered if the Biden administration is helping deliver for the voters the group has turned out.
Brown replied, ”When it’s all said and done, the Biden administration will be the most progressive administration … right now, there are a lot of tangible things we can point to [that they have accomplished]. We have to keep the pressure on, make sure there’s accountability.”
With 2022 “going to be a bloodbath,” in Moulitsas’ words, he asked, “How close are we to flipping Texas blue?”
Tremillo gave a measured response but sees promise in continuing to focus on turning out voters of color: “The path forward to Texas no longer being controlled by Republicans is rooted in growing the electorate, and it is growing the electorate in communities of color [that is going to make the difference.]” She also pushed back against the common theme of voters of color not being worth the investment, calling out Democratic strategy having for so long focused on the mythical white swing voter: “So much effort and money and attention gets put on the swing white voter, and we [organizations focused on turning out voters of color] have to make do with what’s left over.”
Moulitsas mused about the increase in Latino votership for Donald Trump and asked what Tremillo made of this. Tremillo replied, “Only 55% of Latinos cast a ballot. The majority of Latinos are not participating and are not seeing that change can happen in their lives if they participate. So that’s one thing. And two, investment in a relationship with Latinos has not really happened.”
Tremillo reminded viewers of the need to focus on communities of color not just when there are elections, but year round:
We have to remind ourselves that voting is a social habit, and it’s done through the practice and [following the behavior] of others. There’s a lot of work to be done—and it doesn’t start 30 days before the election, eight weeks before the election. It is a year-round thing. If I show up to vote, it has to mean something. If I voted for you, what are you going to do for me?
Moulitsas thinks that flipping Texas is definitely possible, as many said the same would never happen in Georgia, but the last election cycle proved them wrong. “I remember talking about [how there are] 700,000 unregistered African Americans in metro Atlanta alone, and if you were to register all these people, Georgia would be a purple state, and people would snicker and laugh. But over the last 10 years, it happened.”
Looking toward 2022 and the future, Brown said:
Delivering Texas to the progressive column is a big experiment. It’s going to take a lot of investment. And we can’t be scared of that at all. We need big ideas. And the big idea that we’re proposing is that y’all help us build a Texas for all—a Texas that works, a Texas where there’s maximum participation at the ballot box, not a Texas for the few.
Lastly, Brown and Tremillo urged voters to donate to the TOP PAC and help make their “amazing vision to transform Texas” a reality.
Moulitsas felt hopeful after this conversation, because if Democrats flip Texas, then it becomes incredibly difficult for the GOP to win any presidential election. Moreover, he said, “it’s really important for people across the country to look at Texas and think, ‘Yeah, we want those electoral votes, and we also want those Senate seats.’”
Closing out on a positive note, Eleveld said that if we make the right investments, they could really pay off in 2022:
Any investment that you can make as a Democrat right now in a flippable state could probably go a lot further because we’re going to be coming off at least some legislative wins, and the Republicans are chasing their tails right now trying to figure out how to get Trumpers motivated to get to the polls in the midterms, and at the same time, alienated a lot of their suburban base … this is a good time to be interested, to be curious, and to be investing in what could be a really, really good decade for Democrats if we put the effort in.
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