• Show Notes
  • Transcript

Related Content: Listen to the bonus content for this episode here

On this week’s episode of Stay Tuned with Preet, “No Voter Left Behind,” Preet breaks down the virtual Democratic National Convention and the future of the Democratic Party with Maria Teresa Kumar, Founding President and CEO of Voto Latino. Then, Johns Hopkins History Professor Martha S. Jones, author of “Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All,” joins Stay Tuned for a special segment highlighting the centennial of the 19th Amendment, the lost stories of Black women who led the suffrage movement, and the racial injustices that plague the ongoing struggle for universal voting rights. 

To listen to Stay Tuned bonus material, try the CAFE Insider membership free for two weeks and get access to the full archive of exclusive content, including the CAFE Insider podcast, co-hosted by Preet and Anne Milgram. 

Sign up to receive the CAFE Brief, a free weekly newsletter featuring analysis by Elie Honig, a weekly roundup of politically charged legal news, and historical lookbacks that help inform our current political challenges. 

As always, tweet your questions to @PreetBharara with hashtag #askpreet, email us at [email protected], or call 669-247-7338 to leave a voicemail.

REFERENCES AND SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS 

MARIA TERESA KUMAR: 

DNC ROLL CALL 

  • Maria Teresa Kumar’s Tweet about the Virtual Roll Call, 8/18/2020
  • Annie Linskey, “The security guard blurted ‘I love you’ to Joe Biden in an elevator. One viral video later, she nominated him for president,” Washington Post, 8/18/2020
  • Lauren Gambino, “Jerry Emmett: Hillary Clinton’s enthusiastic 102-year-old supporter,” Guardian, 7/27/2016

BIDEN AND HARRIS

  • Maria Teresa Kumar, “Op-ed: Joe Biden has a Latino voter problem. Here’s how he can fix it,” CNBC, 8/5/2020
  • Joe Garofoli, “Latinos still aren’t excited about Joe Biden, but he’s trying to change,” San Francisco Chronicle, 8/6/2020
  • “Voto Latino Praises Biden Selection of Senator Kamala Harris for Vice Presidential Nominee,” PR Newswire, 8/12/2020
  • Fadell Alassan, “Poll: 58% of Biden voters say vote is more ‘against’ Trump than ‘for’ Biden,” Axios, 8/16/2020

MICHELLE OBAMA

  • Michelle Obama’s DNC Speech, PBS NewsHour, 8/17/2020
  • Maria Teresa Kumar’s Tweet about Michelle Obama’s Speech, 8/17/2020
  • Matthew Choi and Max Cohen, “Michelle Obama: ‘Going high is the only thing that works’,” Politico, 8/17/2020 

VOTO LATINO

  • Maria Teresa Kumar on the Youth Vote, NPR, 3/12/2020
  • Nicole Goodkind, “Voto Latino has seen a 2,750% jump in voter registration since the killing of George Floyd,” Fortune, 6/12/2020
  • Bonnie Fuller, “Maria Teresa Kumar: Meet The Dynamic CEO Of Voto Latino Who’ll Register 500k New Voters,” Hollywood Life, 6/18/2020
  • Robert Reinhold, “In California, New Talk Of Limits on Immigrants,” New York Times, 12/3/1991
  • California Governor Pete Wilson campaign ad on illegal immigration, YouTube, 1994

TEXAS

  • Chris Essig, “Where Ted Cruz’s close victory over Beto O’Rourke stands among Texas’ historical election results,” Texas Tribune, 11/7/2018
  • “’Drug dealers, criminals, rapists’: What Trump thinks of Mexicans,” BBC, 8/31/2016
  • Luis Noe-Bustamante, “Where Latinos have the most eligible voters in the 2020 election,” Pew Research Center, 1/31/2020
  • “Texas Walmart shooting: El Paso gun attack leaves 20 dead,” BBC, 8/4/2019
  • “Why COVID-19 Disproportionately Impacts Latino Communities,” NPR, 7/1/2020
  • Benjamin Wermund, “Latino voters in Texas ‘much more’ motivated to vote in 2020, poll finds,” Houston Chronicle, 8/5/2020

THE FUTURE OF THE PARTY

  • “Voto Latino hits a quarter of a million registered voters for 2020 election cycle,” Voto Latino Press Release, 8/18/2020 
  • Rebecca R. Ruiz, “Ocasio-Cortez Makes Symbolic Nomination of Sanders for President: Full Speech Transcript,” New York Times, 8/18/2020
  • Sarah Ruiz-Grossman, “Ocasio-Cortez Uses Her 1 Minute At DNC To Call Out Injustices,” Huffington Post, 8/18/2020
  • Eliza Relman, “The most diverse Congress in US history is sworn in as Democrats take the reins of power in the House,” Business Insider, 1/4/2019
  • Color of Change official website
  • Rock the Vote official website 
  • Julián Castro on Stay Tuned with Preet, 7/11/2019
  • The HEROES Act, Introduced 05/12/2020 
  • Ellie Kaufman, “Trump says he opposes funding USPS because of mail-in voting,” CNN, 8/13/2020
  • Vann R. Newkirk II, “African American Voters Made Doug Jones a U.S. Senator in Alabama,” The Atlantic, 12/7/2017
  • Doug Jones Victory Speech, NBC News, 12/12/2017

 THE CENTENNIAL OF THE 19TH AMENDMENT WITH MARTHA S. JONES

  • Martha S. Jones, Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All, Basic Books, 2020 
  • Martha S. Jones, “Black women in politics are no longer a ‘first.’ They are a force.” Washington Post, 8/13/2020
  • Cathy Rainone and Noreen O’Donnell, “‘For the Future Benefit of My Whole Race’: How Black Women Fought for the Vote Before and After 19th Amendment,” NBC, 8/17/2020
  • “The 19th Amendment: An Important Milestone in an Unfinished Journey,” The New York Times Editorial Board, 8/15/2020
  • Rebecca Boggs Roberts, “The Great Suffrage Parade of 1913,” The Women’s Vote Centennial,” 2020 
  • The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in the National Archives
  • History of the National Association of Colored Women from the National Women’s History Museum
  • Carol Anderson, “Republicans Could Use the Coronavirus to Suppress Votes Across the Country. This Week We Got a Preview,” TIME, 4/8/2020
  • Vann R. Newkirk II, “Voter Suppression Is Warping Democracy,” The Atlantic, 7/17/2018

Preet Bharara:

From CAFE, welcome to Stay Tuned. I’m Preet Bharara.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

Some people will simply will not be converted and it’s good to create a home and the Democratic Party has such a broad tent. But what I have really failed to see is an expansion of that electoral base of the people who marched for George Floyd, the people who marched for gun reform, the people who have marched for the women’s march. We have not seen that broadening of that base and we need them.

Preet Bharara:

That’s Maria Teresa Kumar. She’s the founding president and CEO of Voto Latino, the grassroots organization dedicated to voter registration and engagement. This week, our focus is on politics and the Democratic National Convention, the move to virtual, the rousing address by Michelle Obama, the inclusion of disenchanted Republicans and the rebukes of president Trump’s handling of the pandemic, our racial reckoning, immigration, and more. Maria joins me to help us put all of this into context. Her organization, Voto Latino, has already registered over 200,000 voters for the 2020 election cycle and is aiming for a half million new voters by November. Then Martha S. Jones, a history professor at Johns Hopkins university and the author of Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality For All, joins us for a special segment, marking the Centennial of the 19th amendment’s ratification. That’s coming up, stay tuned.

Preet Bharara:

Voto Latino president and CEO, Maria Teresa Kumar has been working for almost 20 years to register Latino voters and raise political awareness across the United States. She brings her expertise to the show for a look at the Democratic National Convention. And we also talk about the larger trends we’re seeing in the Democratic Party during this pivotal election cycle. Maria Teresa Kumar, welcome to the show.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

Thanks for having me, Preet.

Preet Bharara:

It’s great to have you. So we are midway through, we’re taping this on Wednesday morning, midway through the Democratic National Convention, which as everyone in the world has pointed out is a little bit different this year and the Republican national convention will also be different. You’ve been to a number of conventions. What are you missing? Are you missing going to the live event?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

I mean, this is the thing Preet, what has caught our attention as our life’s work is politics and the machinations of how it happens. And this is every four years where people like us who are very wonky and I self-proclaimed nerdy. We go and we meet our tribe every four years and we come together and we celebrate democracy and the people behind the scenes and we thank the volunteers and we thank the people that make our country work. And it is for me, one of the few times that I appreciate and enjoy and look forward to spending time again with my tribe that I see every four years and that’s missing. But that said, the roll call that they did yesterday that was so expansive. Everything from our 50 States to our territories also to me was incredibly touching because it reminded us what makes us so different from the Republican party, but also our richness and our belief in our democratic systems.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

And that piece, that essence, that flavor of all of these individuals coming from different areas and congregating in this case would’ve been Milwaukee, that element would have been missed. And I think that they did such a beautiful job of showing our tapestry. And now my hope is that that tapestry will reflect it in the agenda that they espouse because we need to do a lot of big work coming out of COVID for America.

Preet Bharara:

Yes, we do. You used an interesting word, at least to my ear. You said you go to the convention to see your tribe. And in recent times, tribe and tribalism have a sort of negative connotation that we’re all sort of too isolated and in our silos. You don’t think tribe is a bad word?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

No, in this case, some people are really into Comi-Con. They go to Comi-Con because they want to see their tribe. My Comi-Con sadly is less flourishy. It happens to be the democratic convention. That’s how nerdy I am Preet.

Preet Bharara:

I got you. I had one other question that my kids were asking me yesterday. Do you know how it is determined who from each state gets to speak in the roll call because sometimes it was an ordinary person and sometimes it was Senator Klobuchar. How does that get determined?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

It is a lot of lobbying and jocking, I can tell you. It’s not as pretty as it seems as we like to. It’s an opportunity for the party to demonstrate like the elevator worker, right? She had such a beautiful personal story of her interaction with Joe Biden. Sometimes it is a union worker and it is a constituency that they really need to mobilize and sometimes it’s a rising star that you may never heard of. And then sometimes it’s from a meritory. So one of my favorites was in Philadelphia where it was a woman. I think she was over a hundred years old and she cast the ballot for representing Arizona. And there was such pageantry around it because it was a symbolism that she was casting a vote for a woman when she could remember the suffragist movement and it was just powerful.

Audio:

Madam secretary, Arizona cast 34 votes for Senator Sanders.

Audio:

And 51 votes are the next president of the United States of America Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

And that is something that it is a bit of symbolism, a bit of I am the politician and I am the next leader of the free world. And some of it is just some great, beautiful decency.

Preet Bharara:

Right. So there’s also controversy and obviously behind the scenes lobbying for who gets to speak and who doesn’t and how long their speeches are. And we’ll get to some of the I guess, mild controversies within the tribe on that.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

It’s just going to be, I’m going to be labeled forever as one that said the tribe-

Preet Bharara:

No, no, no, no, no, no. You explained it. Well, I have these people on all the time. It just struck my ear because you have people on all the time talking about tribalism and talking about … No, I’ve asked people, I’ve asked Republicans from time to time why they can’t say certain things, like why they can’t say black lives matter. And sometimes the response comes back, well, we all are sort of adhering to our tribes and it’s tribalism, which is an odd response. But it’s usually when it’s used by certain kinds of people, used as an excuse for why they’re doing something that’s not the right thing. So I find that kind of interesting.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

No, I think that’s fair.

Preet Bharara:

Let’s talk about the one I think clearly avowed breakthrough performance, if you want to use that word of the convention, Michelle Obama. Your reaction please.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

She was succinct. She was clear. I think the biggest challenge of the last four years for myself and I would say for you Preet is to remind the American people that what is happening is not only not normal, but gravely dangerous and sounding that alarm to the best of our abilities and not everyone really being cognizant of the clear, present danger that Trump represents, not just to Americans, but I deeply believe in our world’s stability. And she was very clear on saying that if you think it’s worse, it could only get more worse if he stays in office. And I think that was one of the most poignant moments because everybody tries to mince around it and she didn’t, she was very direct. But then she also provided us, and this is, I think that we need to create more, more contrast.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

She provided us with hope and she provided … and hope is so necessary right now. Some people try to call that Pollyanna, but hope is so necessary right now when you are an essential worker and you feel like your life is not working and you’ve lost a loved one, and you’re trying to juggle your family, be a good parent, making sure that your child is having not just enough to eat, but also getting educated while having to get up in the morning and leave maybe with or without childcare at home. And so she was able to remind us of what happens when we do come together and she is able to remind us of what happens of our audacious possibility when we’re willing to think big.

Preet Bharara:

Do you think she was providing a good roadmap and model for how to run against Donald Trump? I noted and other people noted that she didn’t spend any time that I can recall referring to Donald Trump as authoritarian or despotic or any of those kinds of criticisms. She mostly spent her time talking about how incompetent he was and that’s where the danger is. He just wasn’t up to the job and it is what it is. Do you think that’s the better tack than what some people do?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

The reason that she did that is that she’s trying to persuade white, suburban moms and you and I could look at other authoritarian regimes, but that language and I’ve used it in the past, but that language sounds so extreme to a fellow American that may have not experienced or witnessed or knows of what that kind of regime looks like. But the way she were able to frame it of he’s kind of a crappy boss who doesn’t know what he’s doing, actually, I think everybody can relate to that. Right?

Preet Bharara:

Everyone can identify with that. Yes. Yes.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

And I think that was-

Preet Bharara:

My team right now is relating to that.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

They’re all nodding. I am joking. So I think that that’s what she was … and that lands differently, right? It doesn’t seem as extreme even though, again, I do think that in four years he has undermined our institutions and our credibility in fundamental ways that’s going to take years to recover and to root out because I think that what he has put into these different departments of whether it’s Homeland security, whether it’s the Department of Justice, whether it’s the interior department, it is elements of corruption that is like a cancer. And once a cancer metastasizes, it’s really hard to root out. And quite frankly, it’s those cancers of the decay of an institution of why so many immigrants left their countries because we can’t do … we get taxed for doing basic business transactions, if that makes sense. And I don’t think the American people quite understand or appreciate how special we are in many ways, because we have been, we fought for corruption for so long.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

We deeply believe that it is anti-American. And now we have a president who’s the anthesis of that, who actually embraces it and celebrates it. And for a lot of Americans, it’s cognitive dissonance to realize how teetering we are in our democracy and part of it is just lack of exposure. So what I think what she did there was that she was able to say again, she was able to land it in a way that wasn’t as, didn’t seem sensationalized in any way, even though what he is demonstrating, what he is doing and the route he is taking is absolutely along the lines of authoritarianism and fascism. To be able to go into Washington, to Lafayette park and turn the National Guard and police force against peaceful protestors because he wanted to cross the street and pick up a Bible that wasn’t even his, speaks to who he is, right?

Preet Bharara:

There’s something else that she addressed that really struck me and I’ve been thinking about it since she spoke. It’s an extended quote, and I want to get your reaction. She said, “Over the past four years, a lot of people have asked me when others are going so low, does going high still really work?”

Audio:

My answer, going high is the only thing that works because when we go low, when we use those same tactics of degrading and dehumanizing others, we just become part of the ugly noise that’s drowning out everything else. We degrade ourselves. We degrade the very causes for which we fight. But let’s be clear, going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty. Going high means taking the harder path.

Preet Bharara:

What do you make of that? And why do you think she felt the need to sort of expand upon and clarify what she said four years ago?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

Because I think that we are … she’s basically telling us not to be pushovers, right? That going high is being very clear eyed on what the stakes are, and that if we don’t fight like hell for this country, there are elements in our government and foreign interference that’s very real that doesn’t want this idea of a multifaceted, diverse, thriving America to succeed. And we can’t, we have to fight for it. And I can tell you, I was naturalized when I was nine years old, my family fled Columbia. I’m very acutely aware of what happens when we have a deterioration of our judicial system and our media. And in fact, it was the media in Columbia and it was the integrity for the most part of the judicial system that despite all the chaos, all the lives lost, all the civil conflicts of Colombia, it was those two institutions that were the ones that kept the country afloat as a democracy.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

And at the time too, when I was … for a long time, this were the two most dangerous jobs Preet in Columbia, being a reporter and being a judge. And so when we see a government that is going after these two pieces of institutions that maintain our integrity, that not only try to subvert transparency of truth, but also trying to stack the cards against a growing population that is not white, that is disproportionately black and brown and beautiful, we have to make sure that we’re fighting for it. Because one of the things that, if we have any life lessons of American history is that nothing has been given, but it’s this understanding that we aspire to be better and to be more. And that does mean going to the streets, that does mean at the same time, not only going into the streets, but running for office and voting. And again, it seems simplistic, but those three ingredients are what have actually made us propel ourselves to change the most and that’s what she’s requiring of us at this moment.

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Preet Bharara:

I want to read another quote to you. I think it was Rick Wilson of the Lincoln project who said, “We go low so you don’t have to.” Do you think that folks like the people of the Lincoln project are helpful? What’s your reaction to the Republicans or the erstwhile Republicans who are supporting Joe Biden?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

And this is where the difference is. I actually think that what they’re doing is not low. They’re just being clear and I wish we would espouse more of that clarity to our audience in that contrast, frankly. I don’t know if they’re converting anyone though. That’s the challenge, right? And it is our job to try to bring some people along and recognizing that sometimes it’s like if your, this is going to be terrible, but your kids are not always going to want to eat their vegetables. And so sometimes you’re going to have to figure out how do you bring them along even though you need them to.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

And I think the Lincoln project is speaking to a reality that will help move some independent voters. I don’t know if some staunch Republicans will be moved only because I just don’t think people believe it. I think our biggest challenge in this environment is that our media and our media consumption is so bulkanized that even if someone sees what Trump has been saying, and you’re a Fox viewer and your whole echo chamber is Fox news in that lens, it’s going to be really hard to actually believe that that is true.

Preet Bharara:

But the theory seems to be on the part of these folks and they’re not all the same and they have different approaches. Look, if we can peel off some small percentage of conservatives of Republicans for Joe Biden, that can make all the difference in some of these states. And given what you’ve said about the Lincoln project folks, what do you make of day one of the Democratic National Convention where multiple Republicans, not necessarily part of the Lincoln project, but multiple Republicans spoke, including John Kasich, who was trying to get the nomination from the Republican party not very long ago at all. Is that off-putting? Does that strategy work? Does it make any sense?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

It has to be a blend of both, right? And this is where I go back to the … I don’t know what to expect for the last two days, I’ll be honest, of the convention. But we have to, as a party, recognize that some people will simply will not be converted and it’s good to create a home and the Democratic Party has such a broad tent. But what I have really failed to see is an expansion of that electoral base of the people who marched for George Floyd, the people who marched for gun reform, the people who have marched for the women’s march. We have not seen that broadening of that base and we need them because Democrats are going to vote. Independents will vote. Republicans will vote, but we have roughly about 123 million Americans that set it out in the last election.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

And I can tell you from the work that I do at Voto Latino and the work that we work with young voters, you have roughly 25 to 30 million young people that are eligible to participate, but haven’t registered and haven’t voted. But when you talk about the future that they want to espouse, it is the 400 pieces of legislation that Congress passed and that is literally wilting away at the feet of Milton McConnell. Changing culture, changing this idea that climate change is real, changing someone’s perspective on a woman’s right to choose, changing someone’s belief of LGBTQ as being right, changing someone’s view on immigration is really hard to do. But you have tens of millions of American disproportionately young people, disproportionate Latino, who actually already espoused that worldview and where we’re missing the mark is that we figured out how to close that last mile of getting them to actually register so that they can vote.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

I can tell you I’ve been doing this for a very long time and the Democratic Party when it comes to the infrastructure of building communities of color and among youth, it’s a dismal. We just surpassed registering 255,000 voters yesterday and it was a huge milestone for us because even though we are the leading voter registration outfit in the country for the last three election cycles, the totality of the people that we’ve had ever been able to register before Preet was 202,000. But we built an infrastructure and we talked to this community every single day and people are responding. So it’s not this lack of people not wanting to participate, it’s that literally we don’t talk to them. And so what I like to see in the last two days, whether today and tomorrow is that expansion that’s speaking to those progressive values that will energize a population that is at the front lines of some of the worst healthcare and wage loss that we’ve ever seen, who are desperate for a lifeline, but who also believe in the basic principles that we need to move the country forward.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

And so it’s fine giving the Kasich’s of the world a stage so that they can gin up the frequent voter, but you have a whole universe of people that are part of our worldview that would help move the agenda that we’re going to need the post election. And I don’t see that happening, right? It’s nice to see the rising stars that they showcased, but these are already elected folks. You could technically buy young people that they’re already part of the machine. What about Emma Gonzalez from March For Our Lives? What about Christina Jimenez from DACA? There are these really energizing young people that are helping us move and forcing us to think differently that we just haven’t seen showcased and they should be showcased because they bring energy and they bring people.

Preet Bharara:

So one person who was young, as you mentioned, but is already elected is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, AOC. Should she have gotten more time, especially in light of, I don’t mean to keep going back to John Casey, but John Casey came into the convention criticizing that element of the party and he got more time than AOC. Is that something we should focus on or just get past?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

We have to create that platform. And this is the thing, right? And I’m going to speak very bluntly right now because the challenge of giving all of these folks so much airtime, the reason that they’re doing it is because the consultants that are advising the DNC and I’m going to get heat from this. But the consultants-

Preet Bharara:

That’s what we like. We like that.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

I’m going to get some heat. But the consultants advising the DNC for the most part are all from the Midwest and they’re older and they’re living and translating their life experience to the Democratic Party of they like uncle Joe and uncle Joe can’t possibly be a racist because uncle Joe and I have Thanksgiving together. Well, sometimes you kind of have to-

Preet Bharara:

Wait uncle Joe, you’re not talking about Joe Biden?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

Oh, I should use a different name. Oh my God, that was horrible. I was thinking of Joe the plumber. I was actually thinking of Joe the plumber everyone.

Preet Bharara:

I’m like Maria, how much heat are you prepared to take on this? This is an award winning podcast but maybe-

Maria Teresa Kumar:

Oh my God, no. I was thinking of Joe the plumber, but [crosstalk 00:23:58].

Preet Bharara:

I want you to do-

Maria Teresa Kumar:

Can we redo that?

Preet Bharara:

I want you to do here what you don’t feel comfortable doing on MSNBC. It’s just you and me. So let it all out.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

Right. And the like seven of your best friends right now when it’s recording. No, and this is a real problem. I will share with you that the electoral map, and you started seeing the edges of the electoral map shift back in 20, I would say in 2012. When you saw Virginia go blue and you saw Colorado also loosen in 2008, it was in a moment … and Nevada as well for that matter. It was a moment for the Democrats really to take a step back and reimagine what the path to the White House would look like. And instead what we’ve seen in the last three cycles is very much dependent on the Midwest, but this is what’s happened since 2010. 2010 we started seeing massive job loss in the Midwest because of manufacturing. And you saw these other spaces in America populating. Yes, you saw the Latino community come of age in Georgia and North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, but in those states, what you also saw was a transfer of manufacturing and talent go into the South.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

And so you have almost a perfect storm in the South of what the Midwest used to be in many ways. You have manufacturing coming in whether we’re talking about the Hollywood studios in Georgia. You have Apple and Amazon coming in, in Texas and Toyota. So you see this new group of jobs coming in. And with that, a lot of young families, a lot of young professionals that have brought in a lot of their usual Midwestern sensibilities that are now living in the South. And so you have a perfect storm of a new demographic that’s not just Latino or African American, but layered on a lot of young professionals. But the way we keep running our strategy is as if we were in a very static map. And as a result, we’re not making the investments we need in these other states.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

I’ll give you an example. In Texas, we have registered now 137,000 folks. Beto O’Rourke lost by 200,000. People keep telling us that we’re wasting our time in Texas, but one thing I do know is that we have 2.5 million unregistered Latino youth who remember that president called their families loved ones, rapists and criminals, and who are also under the regime of Governor Abbott, where they feel uncomfortable just to go outside, to feel safe. And so if the Democrats would bring in consultants and cultural competency in these different nuances and had to take a refreshed look at the map, maybe they’ll, yes, they’ll give Kasich some time, but then they’ll also give, they’ll give time on platform to a new rising [inaudible 00:26:55] that looks much more of the future of America that’s going to be eligible to cast a ballot for the very first time this year.

Preet Bharara:

When do you think is the earliest likelihood that Texas could actually vote for a Democrat for president? Could it happen this year?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

This election? Yep. So we’ve been working in Texas form 2010. So this is not the flavor of the month from me. I take long game, right? So in 2010, I started frequenting Texas because we were visiting my in laws and that’s when I started just looking around at the demographics. And then also getting more, better understood the politics of Governor Abbott and of Rick Perry. And it is the perfect storm that we saw in Colorado against the Latino community in Trincado. It’s the same perfect storm that we saw with Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona. The challenge, and this is where people say, “Well, Latinos don’t vote.” It’s not that we don’t vote is that we are so young that we’re aging in. We have a million young Latinos turning 18 every year for the next decade Preet. That tsunami of Latinos started in 2016.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

And it just so happens at 25% of all eligible Latino youth live in Texas and they’re first generation and they’re concerned because they have a hostile person in government. And in the midterm election in 2018 for the very first time, Texas went from a dead last photo participation state in like 25 years to 41st in a midterm. That jump was driven by young people and by Latinos. So the challenge in Texas is not that people aren’t paying attention, they are underwater. Texas to me is more akin to my life experience of growing up in California under Pete Wilson, where Pete Wilson was the originator of show me your paper laws, where I came back from college and during Thanksgiving and told my aunts and my grandmother and my uncle to become US citizens because I was concerned for their safety.

Audio:

They keep coming. 2 million illegal immigrants in California. The federal government won’t stop them at the border, yet requires us to pay billions to take care of them.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

That conversation I had with my family, millions of other of my peer group, was having it across California. Those are the conversations now that we’re having in Texas. The difference is that they don’t have to become United States citizens. They skip the step, they are citizens. They need to register, they need to vote and they’re responding.

Preet Bharara:

Let’s talk more about young people because it’s the conventional wisdom that there’s lots of young people that have become more active lately, but they still don’t really vote. They vote on lower percentages than older people. Is that changing? Is it different in the Latino community? How do you think about actual turnout among young people?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

So for the very first time in 2018, generation X, Y and Z out voted older voters and Preet I finally was able to actually own my generation or do something good. And that was because it was two years of protest, right after Donald Trump. And there was a constant reminder to young people that things were not right, and they were feeling it and this is someone in the White House that doesn’t espouse their values. Quite frankly, I was concerned that that energy would be lost between the 2018 election and 2020. But what young people were able to do was they voted in the most diverse Congress in our nation’s history. And when people ask why does diversity matter? Then you look at the legislation that they espoused in the past.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

So we had the most women, the most Asian Americans, the most LGBTQ, the most veterans for that matter and we ended up passing 400 pieces of legislation that espouse our values, that talk about gun reform, that talk about immigration reform, that talk about healthcare, that talk about fair wages and the list goes on. Now, we need to make sure that young people are as engaged and as mobilized to finish the job, to give a Senate to president Biden so that we can get the work that needs to be done in a coherent and fast, we need fast. I keep saying that we’re in a moment where we have to break the emergency glass to get the country back in order. But the disconnect, Preet, is that the investments that happen in organizations like Color of Change, in organizations that happen like in Rock The Vote and in Voto Latino is dismal compared to a $3 billion campaign. I’ll share with you. In 2016, people kept talking about how the Latino vote was the most important vote to capture.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

Us as organizations collectively that do this work received a total of $11 million. We have been able to reconstruct how we do the work targeting young Latinos this election cycle. And I’m pleased to say that we have, at Voto Latino, we have raised $16 million to register voters and turn them out. But that has been 18 years of knocking on doors and convincing people that this is where the opportunity lies. There’s no other marketplace, so to speak, to sell democracy except among young people. So for the first time, we’ll have 12 million more young people than baby boomers. Two thirds of them who are young people of color, 4 million of them who happen to be Latino. When you look at the Latino community and remove the 4 million that I mentioned, we have 11 million Latinos that are unregistered, 60% of them who were under the age of 33. So it’s a marketing opportunity right? And young people happen to reside, not in the Midwest, but in the coasts and in the middle of the country and towards the South. So let’s think differently on how we can engage them.

Preet Bharara:

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Preet Bharara:

When you talk about the Latino vote and how important it is, it’s not monolithic. Like they’re not all voting for Democrats. You speak of the 1 million Latinos are turning 18 in Texas. Is it your expectation that they’re going to be overwhelmingly democratic? How do you describe across the country, how the Latino vote breaks down and how that’s trending?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

So I sleep really well at night Preet.

Preet Bharara:

At least you do.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

Well, you know. No, it’s interesting. The older generation of Latinos are the ones that have really espoused more conservative values. And the younger folks, if you’ve been here one generation, two generations, trend very much more on the progressive side. So at Voto Latino, we ended up registering roughly and including independents because independents more young people are identifying as independents but they espouse very progressive values. So roughly of the people that we register, roughly about 85% of the people we register are independent and democratic, and about 15%, the other 15% are Republican. And we’ve seen the trend because that was not the case when we started 15 years ago. So we have seen a trend on the people we’re registering becoming even more progressive. And that explains, I think also to the generation and the time of how people have changed.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

I mean, we broke barriers Preet when Voto Latino, we were the first organization 14 years ago to recognize climate change among the Latino community. We were the first to talk about with choice. We were the first to talk about gun reform. We were first to espouse and bring DACA when they were dreamers, before they were dreams together and actually provide them their first campaign to register other voters. But that reflect, it wasn’t that we were innovative, that we were just reflecting a constituency that was coming up and not really being recognized for their differences among the Latino community.

Preet Bharara:

Can I ask you a question about the organization, which does amazing, terrific work that you’ve been talking about? And I’d like to hear more about it. Voto Latino, as I understand it, the first time that it endorsed a nominee for president was this cycle, Joe Biden. Why not before?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

Because I deeply believe that the way a community gets their best policies is by having parties fight for us. And it was prior to Trump. I mean, I guess you could ask me, well, should we have endorsed Hillary Clinton?

Preet Bharara:

That was actually my implicit question.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

Figured you were going to ask me. I will tell you that it hurt my heart that we did not, quite frankly, because what I did know two weeks out before the election was that Donald Trump had, despite the polls. I mean, I was on meet the press two weeks before and Amy Walters and Mark Hopper jumped on me when I basically said that Donald Trump had her path to victory.

Audio:

Well, and I think one of the things that we’re not talking about with Donald Trump, he’s low on the polls, but I actually think that we can expect almost a Bradley surprise, meaning that there’s a lot of folks that may not feel that they want to publicly say in polls that they want to vote for him. But when they get behind that … when it’s between them and the box, they actually might pull out [crosstalk 00:36:41].

Audio:

I don’t buy that. I mean, we’ve not seen any evidence of that in the primaries. People who said they were going to vote for Donald Trump voted for him. And the people that are saying, that we’re hearing, I’m not going to vote for Donald Trump, they’re Republicans-

Maria Teresa Kumar:

And my worst nightmare came true. And the challenge of election day, the day after was that at Voto Latino, we had to go from providing voter registration information to suicide prevention hotlines because we were seeing our audiences distraught. There were 700,000 that had given their private information to a federal database and they felt that they had put their families in jeopardy with this administration. And so my mother oftentimes tells me, you never look back, you just move forward. But at the time having, given the information that I knew, when we first started paying attention to the polls, it looked like she was going to win, not recognizing how much election interference there was and how the margins were beat, but they were beat in the Midwest. Right?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

So I think if anything, what I’ve done with the organizations is that we’ve doubled down on the South, because we do believe that there’s an opportunity. But we endorsed Joe Biden for the first time because we also saw kind of a repeat of what we saw in 2016 where we didn’t expect so many of the people in the Bernie Sanders campaign to sit it out quite frankly. And we just expected that they would vote for her. And when we saw that we were seeing at least among the young Latinos, the same trend, that’s why we endorsed. And we took heat, but we’ve been able to explain positions and now we were able to highlight the good stuff that he is espousing that will help provide relief and opportunity to not just Latino, but to the American people. But yeah, but it was tough. That was a tough call.

Preet Bharara:

Do you think that the Democratic Party has largely taken the Latino vote for granted? For example, going back to the convention, I think it’s the case that Julian Castro, former guest of this podcast not given … so we like him very much, not given a speaking slot, is that a slap in the face?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

It is because, and this goes back to understanding communities and the Latino community. We are-

Preet Bharara:

And the Midwestern consultants.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

I think that we all as Americans have skin in the game to get this guy out of office, but I don’t think that folks, unless they are of immigrant roots as well, really understand the anxiety and fear that Latinos wake up with every single morning when they step out the door. That we have 11 million Latino and undocumented folks that live in the shadows, but they live in 16 million American households. And when we go out the door, when our sons and daughters go out the door and we have a man who has demonized and blanketed us as all un-American for the color of our skin, there is a real anxiety that yes, we will be police profiled and ICE profiled, but then that our neighbors will profile us and can cause us harm.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

The realization that happened in El Paso last year, where a man was inspired by Donald Trump and he decided to get into a vehicle and drive 10 hours to a city that is 85% Latino and that is one of the safest cities in the country, was to send a message to us that none of us were safe being Latino in this country. Because that man was in Texas and he could have done the exact same thing by driving across town and caused harm to Latinos in his community, but he wanted to send a maximum message. And so that is I think that the challenge of not having representation on that stage is also not having representation of the pain that the community is enduring. And to speak to that in a real way, that when we look at COVID cases and we talk about who are essential workers and who is dying of COVID, the Latino community, sadly, we are that mantle.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

We are taking that charge and we are exposing our families in ways that most Americans don’t have to because we live in intergenerational households. And so it’s not that it’s a slap in the face. It’s almost a misunderstanding of why we need to correct this country and that it’s going to be through the Latino community. And it’s recognizing the real pain that we’re feeling because of what this administration has caused. His rhetoric has turned into policy. And in some cases, a call to arms, to individuals to harm us.

Preet Bharara:

What do you think the Kamala Harris selection for VP means for the Latino community? What’s been the reaction?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

So I have known Kamala for a very long time. She was one of the first people that actually listened to me when we were starting Voto Latino. So she’s a long time friend. I am thrilled to see her on the ticket because I think that she is a refreshing choice. I know that the South Asian community is over the moon as they should be. My daughter’s over the moon and it’s beautiful and it’s wonderful and I think that it also is a bridge through the Latino community. The way she speaks and connects of her relationship with her mother, her mother’s expectation of her and Meyer, her sister are no less expectations of which I grew up in and millions of Latinos grew up in. And that is she is able to speak to even the nuance that I just mentioned before of the pain often happening in this administration, in the Latino community and immigrant communities is important and it is exciting. And I think that she will help energize the ticket in a way that before people didn’t feel like they were being seen or heard.

Preet Bharara:

Are you worried about that energy and excitement? I think it’s the case that something like 58% of Democrats say they’re voting for Joe Biden more because they want to vote against Trump than affirmatively supporting Biden. Are you worried about that?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

I’m worried about that excitement as it translates to low propensity voters, as it translates to unregistered voters, because Democrats were taking very much a pragmatic look at this election, right? It’s recognizing that four more years of Donald Trump is not sustainable for our families, for our community, for our states, for our country, for the world and I deeply believe that. But it’s for the folks that are on the margins that concerns me and we have to figure out how to reach out to them, because if anybody has a lot on the line, it’s the ones, it’s our fellow Americans that don’t participate because to their credit, they don’t feel the country has changed for them for the better. And they are busy trying to survive and they’re busy trying to make ends meet and this idea of politics and an election is the last thing on their mind because it doesn’t remedy their situation immediately.

Preet Bharara:

I mean, I wonder sometimes what’s more important this time around, is it excitement or is it unity? My sense is that there’s more unity now. And the reason for so much unity happens to be a shared view that Donald Trump has to go. People have noted that Bernie Sanders speech this time around was a lot more conciliatory and supportive of the nominee than it was last time. And maybe that’s because Bernie and his supporters felt they weren’t given a fair shake last time and it was much closer last time. Does it matter why they’re unified? Is it enough just to be unified against Donald Trump?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

Again, I think for the Democrats in the independent, yes. I think that we need to be unified. I think that this president has his strategy is division. He is a one trick pony when he talks about racism and it’s no longer whistles of being a racist and disparaging to 40% of Americans that live here. So when people talk about people of color and they label us minorities, Preet, it drives me bananas. Very few things can get under my skin, and that gets me into my skin. We’re talking about 135 million of us, and we’re not small. And so this unity is something that is desperately needed because you mentioned tribalism before. Trump’s currency is tribalism. His currency is divisiveness. And he does that because it gives him great opportunity to pillage the coffers. And while we are trying to point out our differences, he is he’s making money hand over fist and ruining our institutions. And so the unity I think is also desperately wanted. I think that’s why the whole casting of the delegate vote as it was from seat account, and … I can’t even say the word-

Preet Bharara:

Seat a shining seed.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

Thank you. Seat a shining seed. That’s where my ESL comes out by the way Preet.

Preet Bharara:

I’m naturalized too. I was naturalized at 12.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

Oh, okay. Yeah. So you appreciate it.

Preet Bharara:

3 years older than you were.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

No, but you appreciate it.

Preet Bharara:

I remember. Seat to shining sea I think was probably on the test.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

Yeah. So I was grandfathered in. I didn’t have to take the test.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah, me too. I was joking about the test.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

But no, but I always started making American idioms and I lose and that’s when people know that I’m ESL. Anyway-

Preet Bharara:

There’s a huge challenge for every community now, and that is COVID. And with your work for Voto Latino registering people, and then trying to make sure that they get out there and the whole controversy that everyone has been talking about with the post office and mail and voting, how are you dealing with those challenges? And what is the reaction with the people that you were working with to get people to have confidence in voting? Do you expect most of the people you’re registering are going to vote by mail or try to go to the polls in person? Just explain what’s going on.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

That’s a great question. So 79% of the people that we register vote, so we’re really good at getting them out. Our challenge though is now breaking it down. We did a poll with Latino decisions and the voter participation project at the end of June, trying to get the pulse of the community. And we found that 75% of the voters in battleground states that we pulled were concerned about voting under COVID and 59% Preet, had never voted by mail. So we have a bit of a double whammy. And then the last one, I would say the triple whammy is that similar to the black community, Latinos don’t trust putting something in the post office. They’d rather see their ballot be put in a box. And so one of the things that the efforts that Voto Latino is doing is that we launching a massive communications campaign.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

We’ve never done this before, but we see that we really need an educational campaign to target low propensity voters. As of June close to 57% of registered Latinos had not been contacted by any political candidate or campaign, compared to 59% of Latino Trump voters who had. So there is a big gap. And so our job is with this $10 million expansion budget is to do specific communications around vote by mail and about the sanctity of the vote and making sure people are informed. What we would like to see is the $3.7 billion that’s currently allocated in the Heroes Act, we’d like to see that passed so that it provides states with the resources to do vote by mail, but also to provide poll workers with PPE and making sure that they are implementing safe in line voting on the day of elections. I’m part of the National Election Crisis Task Force. I’m there Preet so you don’t have to be. It’s a bipartisan program.

Preet Bharara:

Thank you.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

My goodness. It’s a bipartisan taskforce. Michael Chertoff is part of it, for example, the former Homeland security secretary for Bush. And we started looking at this back in January before the pandemic and what were going to be the obstacles of a fair election, and COVID just added a different layer. And so it is because of that, that we are targeting education, education. We know that when Latinos see a message specifically directing to them, and this is a study that we did with Google back in February. But we know that when Latinos see a PSA that’s specifically targeted to them by a brand that they trust in Voto Latino, they were nine times more likely to search out voter registration information. So using that-

Preet Bharara:

Nine times.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

Nine times, nine times, and they-

Preet Bharara:

Why such a huge difference?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

Because no one talks to us, literally, no one. I mean, in the last two election cycles Preet, 49% of registered Latinos never received a contact from a political campaign or candidate 49%.

Preet Bharara:

So why is the party so stupid?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

They have to modernize. So you and I are both naturalized citizens. For the very first time this election, one out of 10 voters are going to be not naturalized citizens. They are disproportionately new voters, right? They don’t have a history of voting. You couple that with knowing that 60% of Latinos are under the age of 33, they also don’t have a voting record. So they’ve only voted once. And so the way the system works right now is that the Democrats and the Republicans look at high propensity voters and they target them. By default, that means you’re targeting older white voters and African American, older, white, African Americans. You’re not targeting the tens of millions of young voters under the age of 33, which is technically your life blood, if you were to target them. And you’re not targeting naturalized citizens, which are also a couple of million.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

So it is the mechanics of how they have to change. And so that’s where Voto Latino, that’s really where we step in with our work, because we know that no one’s going to talk to them because they don’t have a history of voting. But Doug Jones, if you recall his address and his thank you, he thanked black voters. He thanked Latino voters.

Audio:

My friends in the Latino community, thank you. To all my Jewish friends, happy Hanukkah.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

Right. And it was his delivery and it was because he did it right. He did not leave a voter on the table. He worked very closely with NAACP and the human rights campaign, and they called, shocking, they called every voter. And that is the strategy that we should be espousing on a more progressive front.

Preet Bharara:

No voter left behind, right?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

No voter left behind because these are the voters that they sync up with our values.

Preet Bharara:

Before we go, can you tell folks if they want to get involved in Voto Latino or contribute or help in some way, how they can do that?

Maria Teresa Kumar:

If they want to volunteer, they are free to volunteer at 73179. We have now trained over 4,000 volunteers, but more importantly, those volunteers since COVID have reached over 600,000 registered voters in key battleground states, all through SMS and relational organizing. So you can do it from the comfort of your house, wearing your slippers. Texts volunteer to 73179. If they want to donate, for every $18 donated to Voto Latino, not only do we register the voter, but we also get them to the polls. So if they would like to do that, they can go to votolatino.org. And if they have to register, please register at votolatino.org.

Preet Bharara:

Maria Teresa Kumar, thanks for spending time with us. Really appreciate it.

Maria Teresa Kumar:

This was wonderful. Thanks so much for all that you do Preet. It was a pleasure.

Preet Bharara:

My conversation with Maria Teresa Kumar continues for members of the CAFE Insider community. Consider becoming a CAFE Insider. You can try it out free for two weeks at cafe.com/insider. Insiders get bonus stay tuned content, the exclusive weekly podcast I cohost with Anne Milgrom, the Cyber space podcast with John Carlin, the United Security podcast co-hosted by Lisa Monaco and Ken Wainstein, audio essays by Ellie Hoenig and me, and more. Again, to get a two week free trial, head to cafe.com/insider. That’s cafe.com/insider. This week marks the Centennial of the 19th Amendment’s ratification ratified on August 18th, 1920. The 19th amendment declared that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Preet Bharara:

For many reasons, this day is a celebration. We have come so far with respect to women’s rights, but the story of women’s suffrage is also complicated as it often overlooks the work of many women who fought for the right to vote, but were excluded from its benefits because of their race. Dr. Martha S. Jones is a professor of history at Johns Hopkins university and the author of Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality For All. She’s telling the stories of black women who shaped the suffrage movement and fought for equality, but were left out of the prevailing historical narratives.

Martha S. Jones:

The suffrage movement gets right the fundamental idea that sex should have no relationship to political rights or political power in the United States. This is a movement that looks to expand American democracy to include an important portion of the body politic that had been disenfranchised, silenced and really didn’t have a seat at the table in American politics. The suffrage movement also suffers from an important shortcoming and that shortcoming is its relationship to racism, anti-black racism. Really from the outset of the movement, American suffragists struggled with their own personal prejudices, but more importantly, they struggled with how to build a political movement that represented itself as speaking for American women writ large, but actually was deeply ambivalent about opening the door to African American women in American politics.

Martha S. Jones:

As the movement goes forward and suffragists determine that it’s important to bring white southerners into the movement to win the support of southerners, white southerners, in the movement. A deep compromise will result and African American women will be asked to stand at the margins, will be excluded, but most importantly, their political interests will be jettisoned in a bargain that leads to the ratification of the 19th amendment. African American women will be kept from the polls just like their fathers and their husbands have been kept from the polls by state laws that are used to keep black Americans away from election day. Poll taxes, literacy tests, understanding clauses and nothing in the 19th amendment by design, nothing in the 19th amendment interferes with the ability of Southern states to continue to use those laws to now keep black women from the vote.

Preet Bharara:

Black leaders in the suffrage movement were often excluded from movement, rallies, meetings and events in order to appease white southerners. Ida B, Wells, writer, civil rights leader, and cofounder of the NAACP was one of them.

Martha S. Jones:

March of 1913, Alice Paul, and a somewhat renegade crew of women associated with the National American Woman Suffrage Party convene a parade in Washington, DC on Pennsylvania Avenue. They call the parade for the eve of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. And they’re looking to draw dramatic attention to the cause of women’s votes. African American women earlier in the planning had been invited to participate, but as the meeting drew close, Alice Paul and the other organizers get pushback particularly from white Southern women who object to sharing the day, sharing the parade, sharing their political lives with African American women, but African American women do attend. Probably three dozen or so of them come to make plain that they are going to steer their own political futures and sometimes that means taking part in a meeting or a parade where you’re not welcome. Ida B Wells from Chicago is one of the African American women who comes to Washington to participate in the parade.

Martha S. Jones:

She travels with a contingent of white suffragists from that city who have been her allies, her comrades in the struggle for women’s votes. By 1913, women in Illinois have gotten the vote to an important degree and are really becoming major political players. So Wells comes and when she arrives is advised that she’s going to be asked to March, not with the Illinois delegation, but with a contingent to the rear of the parade. And Wells is deeply hurt by this announcement, so much so that many people fear she won’t March it all. But once the parade is underway that morning, Wells will step out from the crowd, enter the parade already in motion and link arms with two of the white suffragists with whom she’s traveled from Chicago and complete the parade route alongside them. It’s a moment that illustrates Ida Wells’ genius and tenacity. That’s very important.

Martha S. Jones:

It’s a moment that reminds us that there were particularly in local circles, there were instances in which black and white suffragists worked alongside one another. That was true for Wells in Chicago. But it is also true and perhaps the bigger truth is that the marginalization of Wells and other black women in that parade is one sign of what’s on the horizon, which is an increasingly rude bargain that will sacrifice black women and their political interests in the interest of building another sort of coalition, a white coalition. It is that coalition that will lead to the ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920.

Preet Bharara:

The stories and names we now think of as defining the suffrage movement leave out the narratives of the black women leaders who fought alongside people like Susan B Anthony and Alice Paul. How did this happen?

Martha S. Jones:

Suffragists like Susan Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are deliberate in foregrounding themselves and their contributions to the long quest for women’s voting rights. They publish a multi-volume nearly 6,000 page history of women’s suffrage and place themselves and their allies at the center. So when we ask how is it that we’ve overlooked or forgotten or aren’t as familiar with some stories, particularly the stories of African American women, well, this is because if you will, the first history was written by participants who privileged their own roles and their own importance.

Martha S. Jones:

African American women are organized all throughout the movement for women’s rights and women’s suffrage going back to the early decades of the 19th century. They will organize an anti-slavery societies in churches, in civil rights organizations, in sororities. Most importantly, perhaps in the National Association of Colored Women, which is founded in 1896 and is really a companion organization to the major women’s suffrage associations. African American women never organized in suffrage associations, or they rarely do I should say, because their political agenda is importantly, far more ambitious.

Martha S. Jones:

African American women are working simultaneously for the vote while they are also working for example, to win anti-lynching legislation in Congress. And so a suffrage association, particularly suffrage associations that are reluctant, if not opposed to grappling with racism are not an easy or a comfortable home for African American women. So one of the things that I had to do in my work was stop looking so hard at the suffrage associations and follow African American women to where they actually were and where they were doing their work. And we find them in the NACW, the National Association of Colored Women. We find them in black and Baptist churches. We find them in civil rights organizations like the NAACP. And so telling the story of African American women in the vote requires that we do a different kind of investigation and then listen to black women. And it turns out they are as interested in, concerned about, committed to their own political power as any community of American women. They’re just doing that work on their own terms.

Preet Bharara:

So why all this effort to continue to suppress the black vote? What’s the fear? What would change if communities of color had equal and fair access to voting power?

Martha S. Jones:

This is why the example from 1920 is so illuminating. In 1920, yes, anti-black racism is underneath the effort to keep black women from the polls, but there’s a nuance to that. That effort is being led by white Democrats who expect that if black women register, if they come to the polls, they will, the vast majority of them support Republican party candidates. And so what white Democrats fear is that they won’t be able to keep their power, particularly in the American South, if black Americans, including black women are disenfranchised. White women are expected to split and that they will vote like their husbands and their fathers, it’s a terribly sexist way to frame it, but that is the language of 1920. But black American women are expected to come out and vote as a block and really change the game for the Republican party. Well, here we sit in 2020, and we know African American women continue to vote as a block in this country.

Martha S. Jones:

Now, today they vote for the Democratic Party not the Republican party, but the fears remain the same, that when black women are able to turn out, they won’t split as white American women did for example in 2016, that they will vastly vote democratic and have the ability to shift the outcome. Not only in a presidential contest, that is important, but everyone knows the ways in which the weight of those votes can change local and state level elections. And so there is a very deliberate political purpose to keeping people like black women from the polls, precisely because they vote as a block. They will enhance the power of the Democratic Party in 2020. This is the fear, this is the purpose of voter suppression.

Preet Bharara:

Despite the setbacks and the challenges in front of us, there is much to celebrate. The choice of Senator Kamala Harris as candidate for vice-president marks a new era for women of color in American politics.

Martha S. Jones:

I thought it was historic, but I want to say why. Many people have commented on Senator Harris as a first and I actually think the era of firsts is quickly behind us. And what we’re seeing is the force of black women, of women of color in American politics writ large. Part of what is remarkable about Senator Harris’ nomination is that she was part of a pool that included six black women, and they weren’t cookie cutter figures at all. They were very different in their experience, in their expertise, in even their position on the issues. This to me is a sign of women of color becoming a force in American politics and not simply shattering glass ceilings or chocking up firsts. So alongside Senator Harris or somewhere between 120 and 130 black women running for Congress, that is a force. Those are not firsts any longer.

Martha S. Jones:

And so I want us to appreciate that we’ve entered a new chapter in American politics. It’s one that black women have worked especially hard for since only 1965 when the voting rights act is passed, but have worked deliberately for, have built toward, have readied themselves for such that when this country gets ready for black women in politics, it turns out there’s not one or two or three right. There are a half dozen and probably more that we could name who would have been forceful running mates for Joe Biden. I think we’re in a new moment historically, and I’m extremely excited for what this generation of women will do in Washington after they are elected in November.

Preet Bharara:

Well, that’s it for this episode of Stay Tuned. Thanks again to my guests, Maria Teresa Kumar and Martha Jones. If you like what we do, rate and review the show on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. Every positive review helps new listeners find the show. Send me your questions about news, politics and justice. Tweet them to me at Preet Bharara with a hashtag #askpreet or you can call and leave me a message at (669) 247-7338, that’s 669-24Preet. Or you can send an email to [email protected] Stay Tuned is presented by Cafe Studios. Your host is Preet Bharara. The executive producer is Tamara Sepper. The senior producer is Adam Waller. The senior audio producer is David Tatasciore and the CAFE team is Matthew Billy, David Kurlander, Sam Oser-Staton, Noa Azulai, Matt Wiener, Jake Kaplan, Calvin Lord, Geoff Isenman, Chris Boylan, Sean Walsh and Margo Malley. Our music is by Andrew Dost. I’m Preet Bharara. Stay Tuned.

Preet Bharara:

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Stay Tuned Bonus 8/20: Maria Teresa Kumar & Martha S. Jones