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Bird-dogging for healthcare, with Jennifer Flynn


The House has passed “Trumpcare,” and the Senate has taken it up. But congressmembers are already feeling the heat at home, and Jennifer Flynn is out to ratchet that heat up. A longtime organizer on issues of healthcare and HIV/AIDS, she explains what “bird-dogging” is and how and why it works.

JF: Some people actually believed that Trump might win. People had already started talking about how vulnerable the Affordable Care Act was. The House had voted sixty times to undo it unsuccessfully. We knew that this was coming and something that he said he would do on Day One. We also knew that if we could slow down this fight and if we could build a resistance based on this fight, that would only help every other issue that is part of the Trump agenda.

A couple of days after the election, a colleague of mine from the AIDS world—we actually worked together in an organization that came out of an effort of bird-dogging, of following around elected officials back in the late 1990s. We worked together in this organization that was really known for bird-dogging, particularly during the presidential candidates, when they would go around to Iowa and New Hampshire. So, we had done that work all along. We had been on the campaign trail following Trump so we actually could witness first-hand how popular he was in certain parts of the country.

My colleague sent out an email just on two listservs. These kind of listservs that sprung up the night of the election where thousands of people joined immediately because we were all so desperate for something to do in a community, to commiserate with. He said, “I don’t really know what to do in this time.” My colleague, by the way, is named Paul Davis. He now works at Housing Works. He said, “I don’t really know what to do at this time, but the one thing I have done in the past that was very effective under previous Republican administrations, particularly under the Bush Jr. administration, is that we would do this very targeted bird-dogging campaign where we would not let any elected official off the hook and just repeatedly ask them questions and through our question-asking move them, get that different answer each time. We are actually moving them from being strongly opposed to our view to being closer to our side.” He said, “So, if you can get fifteen people and a space, I will come out and do a training.”

He just thought a bunch of people where he lived or he is close to, some place where he could get to easily with sign up and he would go and do a couple of trainings. Within three days, he had thirty-two cities scheduled.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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No Muslim Ban, Not Ever, with Murad Awawdeh


Donald Trump’s centerpiece policy, his Muslim travel ban, is back in court and protesters are back in the streets. Murad Awawdeh and the New York Immigration Coalition have been planning strategies for resistance since before the election, and that groundwork has allowed them to be ready for the fight.

The work prior to Election Day was planned out for us well in advance of the election. We had a “What if Hillary Clinton Wins?” and “What if Donald Trump Wins?” At first people thought we were crazy for doing scenario-planning for both, because everyone thought it was clear who was going to win. Just erring on the side of caution, we decided that it was really important that we do that. Prior to the election, we were looking at “What can real immigration reform at the federal level look like?” and “How do we revive those thoughts in a way where we are providing 11 million undocumented people a pathway to citizenship and to status in the United States?”

The reality was that whoever won, it was going to be a difficult fight. It is just a different fight now. As opposed to just thinking about “What is that pathway?” now we have to think about this large scale enforcement apparatus that is being created, that is building off of the huge enforcement apparatus that President Obama already had in place. With Donald Trump being elected, we dusted off our “What if Donald Trump Wins?” scenario plan and started to spruce it up. Then, shortly after that, we kicked off our This is Our New York campaign, which really was to illustrate the values of New York and how immigrants have been the backbone and the foundation of building this great state.

….

We have been able to build up our resistance movement built on people from all walks of life coming together to say “This is not right. This goes against who we are.” You can see through the actions that we have done at JFK when the Muslim ban came down, where 5-10,000 people showed up in a span of four hours. The next day we had a march from Battery Park, which overlooks the Statue of Liberty and marched straight to the DHS building at 26 Federal Plaza in New York City and over 30,000 people showed up to that. After that, we had about twenty other events that drew thousands of people consecutively. It became this huge resistance force on the ground. And not only on the ground, but in the courts and providing people with the legal assistance that they needed for free. That was something where we were able to demonstrate as an organization our ability to really put pressure on the streets, but also provide the legal expertise that was needed at that point to help people get out of the situation they were in when they were stuck in JFK.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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Halting the healthcare apocalypse, with Adam Gaffney


After one failed attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, the Republicans managed, by one vote, to pass another version of what’s being called “Trumpcare” through the House of Representatives largely by pushing it through before anyone had gotten a chance to look at it closely. But any bill before this deeply divided Congress faces an uphill battle, and particularly this one. Physician and universal-healthcare advocate Adam Gaffney joins us to explain what is in the bill, what its chances of passing are, how we got here, and how we stop 24 million people from losing their health insurance in favor of tax cuts for the rich.

AG: I think that there is a realization on the part of many moderates in the House—so-called “moderates”–that this is an ugly, unpopular bill. The last poll I saw was the one that was being cited around the time of Version 1.0, if you recall, that showed 17% support for Trumpcare. That is a dismal level of support.

Part of that is because, let’s remember what Trump actually campaigned on. His healthcare promises were vague, but they aren’t what he is doing now. He said he wasn’t going to cut Medicaid. He said he wasn’t going to cut Medicare. He basically promised more healthcare for everybody. So, every time people sort of chuckle and say, “Oh, I can’t wait to see the Trump voters get what they voted for” on the one hand, I think that is really nasty and is not how we should be approaching politics. On the other hand – and you can fault them for being poorly informed – but, Trump did promise something different. He promised more healthcare, not less. This is just less healthcare. It is really a quantitative switch on healthcare spending. It is less money going into the healthcare safety net and more money going into the pockets of high income people and healthcare companies.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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Fighting Wall Street for Racial Justice, with Saqib Bhatti and Maurice Weeks

There have been a lot of debates recently about Wall Street and its role in fights for racial justice. For Saqib Bhatti and Maurice Weeks, co-founders of a new organization, the Action Center for Race and the Economy, understanding and combating the power of finance is an indispensable part of the struggle for both racial and economic justice, fights that cannot be separated out from one another.

MW: To me, the Trump administration is actually a perfect example of the demonstration of our analysis. On the one hand, you have a group of people who are just outright racist, who are just pushing forward the most hateful, xenophobic ideas that you could possible imagine. And on the other side, you have this group of people who are some of the economic justice targets that we have been fighting for the past ten or twenty years. Folks from Goldman Sachs, Steven Mnuchin, and that whole bunch.

In our analysis it makes a lot of sense that those two camps of people came together. There is a wealth extraction plan that they are pushing forward and the tool to do it is the racist hate language. Blaming the problems of the economy onto Black and Latino, brown folks and whoever else they can blame. It makes perfect sense that those two things are together and it is a really important calling for us to focus on race as a central piece of the work that we are doing. Because, if we don’t, it can be used as a tool against us.

SB: I would add that one of the original sins of the Democratic party going into the 2016 election was the failure of the last administration and the supermajorities in Congress to actually offer meaningful relief to struggling families in the aftermath of the financial crisis. The focus was on “How do we make sure that we can keep the financial system afloat?” and they left working families, struggling families behind.

One of the things that really is important about that is that one of the ways in which Wall Street ensured that they were able to push through their agenda was by racializing the issue. It was that the home owners who were facing foreclosure, they are irresponsible Black and Latino families who got into loans they couldn’t afford and so they didn’t deserve help. The reality is, we know, that Black and Latino families were actually targeted with predatory mortgages.

But, the other side of that, though, is that while it is true that Black and Latino families are disproportionately the people who impacted by the foreclosure crisis, in raw numbers it was a lot more poor white folks who were foreclosed on because there are a lot more poor white folks in the country than there are poor Black and Latino families.

The “white working class,” they very much were impacted by the same pro-Wall Street policies that were justified by scapegoating people of color. What is interesting now, of course, you had Donald Trump who really appealed to a lot of folks who felt left behind by the Democratic Party by saying the system is rigged. He wasn’t wrong that “The system is rigged.” It was rigged. Of course, it was rigged by the very people that he has put in his cabinet. So, it is this vicious cycle. As Maurice said, this is the perfect example of how race and class and racial and economic analysis go hand in hand and come together to give us the moment that we are in now.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

 

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“We will use our non-cooperation,” with Gloribell Mota


May 1, 2006 was the famous “Day Without an Immigrant,” harking back to May Day’s radical immigrant labor history in the U.S. and successfully stopping a vicious anti-immigrant bill in Congress. Today, as an administration that rode anti-immigrant fervor into the White House cracks down on communities, people across the country are joining a one-day general strike for justice and equity. Movimiento Cosecha has been at the heart of the organizing for the strike, and has held several actions in the lead-up to today’s actions. Gloribell Mota of Cosecha Boston tells us about it.

Cosecha movement is a non-violent movement that is looking to the respect and dignity and getting permanent protection for eleven million undocumented in this country. Since the beginning of this year, we have been asking for a strike for May 1st. We are really asking for a one week strike if that needs be to show our economic power. During these months we have been trying to illustrate our message, what we are asking for, what we are asking for May 1st, and what we saw February 16th organically come up from the community. Basically, that they are ready and that we have to follow their lead and provide that support.

A lot of allies, organizers, clergy members, youth, individuals, former undocumented came together for this Monday action to stand against what we feel is not moral and as well to make sure that those that are detained and those that are practicing their first right and speaking up against anti-immigrant rhetoric, that we stand with them and that we are resisting any deportations, detention, and unjust proceedings that we also saw in Lawrence where people were going to their court hearings and automatically were not even allowed to do the process and were detained. Something that was not a practice [previously]. I think this action that we just did was to go to the detention center and particularly ask Suffolk County that represents Boston and Chelsea, both cities that the mayor and the local body has said are sanctuary to no longer serve as a detention center for the state.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.