As part of our February All Members Meeting, Indivisible East Bay reached out to the local campaigns of all the presidential candidates who have signed the Indivisible Pledge, inviting local people working at a grassroots level to tell us about the experiences and ideas that brought them to do that work. Six out of seven eligible campaigns accepted our invitation and joined us for a discussion intended to build the kind of community that allows for productive debate: when we talk with each other and learn the stories and ideals that brought us here, we make our community strong enough to both fight when we disagree and join forces to reach common goals.
To start off, we asked everyone, audience and panelists alike, to take the Indivisible Pledge, and were delighted that all or nearly all 80 or so in the room raised their hands to promise to:
- make the primary constructive and grounded in our shared values;
- rally behind the winner; and
- join IEB to make calls, knock doors, and do whatever it takes to win in November.
Even better, 35 of those – including at least one panelist! – signed up on the spot to join one of our upcoming phonebanks to Arizona.
- Two minutes on the story of how you came to join your campaign.
- Two minutes on an issue or two your candidate would prioritize as president.
- One minute on something you think a person who has been skeptical of your candidate in the primary could get excited about if your candidate becomes the nominee.
- Many of us are disappointed that there are so few candidates left in the race who are people of color, so we wanted to engage with the issue of racial equity in the primary by asking one more question: One minute on what your candidate has been doing to earn support from communities of color here in the East Bay and across California.
Please note that the following answers depict the individual opinions of the panelists, not the candidates, and not Indivisible East Bay. They have also not been rigorously fact checked – we wanted to get this to you before Super Tuesday! – so we don’t offer anything here as a definitive source and this article should not be cited for that purpose.
Kook Huber for Michael Bloomberg
- Her Story: Kook described expressing support for Bloomberg as her second time “coming out of the closet.” Just two weeks ago, she went to a local house party. She went in not knowing much more than that he has been getting a lot of flak around being a billionaire. She noticed right away that most of the people at the party were African American. She was impressed by the Bloomberg surrogate’s candid discussion of the mayor’s controversial stop and frisk policy, and the candidate’s willingness to admit that he did wrong without making excuses.
- Priority Issues: Jobs/Economy, Gun Safety, Environment/Climate: To predict what Bloomberg would do as President, Kook looks at what he did as Mayor of New York, as a business owner, and as a philanthropist. She likes his record on job creation and teaching workers about new technology and the new economy. He founded Everytown for Gun Safety. He urged 40+ cities to sign the UN policy to reduce carbon.
- Get excited: Kook noted that since 2016 Bloomberg has identified 24 congressional seats and put in $100M to flip them – including supporting 21 women. Now he is building campaign infrastructure which he plans to leave in place, and continue to pay for, to support the ultimate nominee, even if it’s not him.
- Outreach to communities of color: Kook pointed to the New York City Young Men’s Initiative, a multi agency multi governmental program aimed to provide training and opportunity for young people of color to have access to jobs within the government that Bloomberg started as mayor.
Stacy Goldsby for Pete Buttigieg
- Her Story: Stacy lives in Oakland, raised in East Oakland and is a grassroots volunteer with East Bay for Pete Buttigieg. She heard Pete on an NPR radio interview during her commute and when she arrived home, she took another spin around the block to finish hearing his story as Mayor of South Bend full of clarity, sense of urgency, fearlessness to step out to an arena people say he has no place to be in running for President. She went to a fundraiser in Oakland and has been a supporter of his campaign ever since. “My $25 has gone really far.”
- Priority Issues: Health Care: Stacy believes Buttigieg would prioritize creating a public insurance option through his Medicare for All Who Want It plan. She sees this as a way for those of us like herself who have healthcare through their jobs and who are satisfied with it for themselves and their families are to keep it. She believes giving people options is the democratic way. Pete’s plan will be fiscally responsible. Working in the healthcare field she clearly sees the need for a public option to cover more people.
- Get excited: Stacy noted that the first thing people say is “He’s so young! He’s not ready!” “He’s been a mayor of a small town!” But she believes that’s precisely why he is a good choice. She feels Pete represents generational change and brings a fresh perspective. Stacy says when you work on the ground-level as a mayor of any town of any size, you’re working with the day to day grind of our lives: the messy part of our lives, the triumphs of our lives and he faced those challenges as mayor of South Bend and will not be hemmed in by the way things have always been done.
- Outreach to communities of color: Stacy thinks for a campaign that’s barely a year old, Pete has done amazing outreach to communities of color. He has been in the Bay Area and Central Valley and it’s great he speaks Spanish. Coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire everyone is running so it’s hard to reach everyone. Pete’s campaign will go everywhere and talk to anyone. She likes that Buttigieg prefers not to have a lot of surrogates speaking for him, but wants to do outreach directly and show up in person.
Jude Berman for Amy Klobuchar
- Her Story: Working on voter outreach to Virginia, Michigan, and Georgia with Sister District and Open Progress for three years taught Jude to get out of the “Berkeley bubble” and consider what galvanizes people in vast swaths of this country and who/what they will and won’t vote for. She joined Klobuchar’s campaign because she believes she speaks to people in areas of the country we need to win.
- Priority Issues: Practical and Progressive Policies: Jude believes Klobuchar would prioritize a “progressive agenda,” but would do so in a pragmatic way that delivers; she won’t make pie-in-the-sky promises. She will base her priority issues on where she thinks it is possible to make headway, which will likely hinge on the makeup of the Senate.
- Get excited: Jude sees Klobuchar as a unifier above all. She appeals to people in purple and red states, including Independents and former Republicans. She will prioritize not just winning the White House but flipping the Senate. She gets things done. Jude also stressed that she doesn’t see that much daylight between any of the candidates and in fact, Klobuchar was not her own first choice, but now she is all in.
- Outreach to communities of color: Jude acknowledged that Klobuchar does not yet have a significant presence in any community here; she’s definitely an underdog in this race. That said, she had strong support among people of color in her state elections and is making that a priority in states where she is campaigning now. She believes the SF Chronicle and SJ Mercury News and NY Times considered minority representation in their vetting when they endorsed Klobuchar.
Sherry Drobner for Bernie Sanders
- Her Story: Sherry started volunteering for Sanders in 2016 to help people damaged by the economic system. She believes her vote is not for herself, but for her daughter and for the people experiencing homelessness she sees every day. She has friends in Denmark, and like Sanders admires that country’s strong social welfare programs. She believes his theory of change goes beyond a set of policies. She sees in him a real champion of the working class, and says she wouldn’t put faith in Sanders if she thought he couldn’t win or beat Trump.
- Priority Issues: Immigration, Environment/Climate: On immigration, Sherry says Sanders is looking at everything that the current president has done by executive order and thinking of what could be undone the same way – e.g. stop building the wall, pause deportations, stop threatening DACA – and also hoping to work with Congress for comprehensive immigration reform. He also supports a bold Green New Deal and a huge amount of spending on environmental issues.
- Get excited: Sherry pointed to Sanders’ diverse coalition, saying it gives people hope, faith, and power over their lives. She believes this movement can expand the electorate and build a movement, because there is so much we all have in common: we can win.
- Outreach to communities of color: Sherry invited us to look at the Sanders campaign’s presence in the Latino community. She has seen this canvassing in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Her fellow canvassers can speak people’s first language across a whole range of languages.
Andrea Slater for Tom Steyer
- Her story: Andrea has been working for 20 years on California political issues such as cash bail, housing policies, voting rights, and more. Over time she noticed lots of friends working for Steyer so she knew he shared her priorities. She had planned to sit the 2020 presidential primary out–presidential campaigns are a lot of work – but when she was asked to join the Steyer campaign as deputy California director, she decided it was worth it based on his track record on climate, equity, education, environmental justice, and voting rights.
- Priority issues: Environment/Climate, Democracy Expansion: Andrea says Steyer’s main focus will be on climate. He believes in putting people before profit in general. Eliminating the corporate stranglehold that has produced systems of iniquity such as cash bail, pay gaps and healthcare underinsurance. He wants to engage young people in the political process and train a new generation of leaders.
- Get excited: Andrea looks to Steyer’s belief in an approach that starts with policy and then gets feedback from people who are affected, a step she believes is missing from much of this country’s current politics. He takes that info back, revises the policy. She also noted that she was excited by the strong field of candidates.
- Outreach to communities of color: Andrea believes it speaks volumes that he prioritizes making sure his California campaign seeks out locally owned businesses, Andrea has personally spent 80% of her events, etc. money with minority businesses. She said this can be a challenge because in many communities people don’t even know which businesses are owned by people of color and noted that here in the Bay Area they had found an excellent vendor to work with that employs the recently incarcerated. As voters, the campaign is working hard to engage, educate voters and get their commitments at the polls.
Jennifer Sherwood for Elizabeth Warren
- Her story: A big reason Jennifer is volunteering for the Warren campaign is her experience with the American health care system. She had found herself stuck in a situation where she had to take medical leave from work, but risked losing her employer provided insurance. She was very afraid that she would end up not being able to afford the treatment she needed. She feels strongly that a public option isn’t the answer; single payer systems are especially good at increasing health coverage, and holding down health care prices. She feels that Warren not only supports the right issues but is also knowledgeable about policy and details of what works.
- Priority issues: Corruption, Democracy Expansion, Jobs/Economy: Jennifer says the cornerstone of Warren’s policies is a vast anti-corruption package including 100+ proposals to fight against monopolies, tame finance, and reduce Big Business control of the economy and government so that people can fully participate in the economy and democratic process. One of her first plans to level the playing field is the wealth tax with a 2% tax to be levied on assets more than 50 million.
- Get excited: Warren’s plan to fight corruption is similar to the popular HR1 reform bill passed by the House in 2018. It includes a lifetime ban on lobbying for presidents, vice presidents, members of congress, cabinet secretaries, and federal judges. It applies conflict of interest laws to the president, vice president, and federal judges requiring them to sell off businesses and assets including real-estate, and stock options. Jennifer believes Warren knows the system well enough to do much of this with executive action.
- Outreach to communities of color: Jennifer says Warren believes we should be talking about race in all policy discussions, to understand how laws and policies affect people of color. Policies that support people of color include a plan to reward health systems for keeping mothers healthier (especially black and brown mothers), universal child-care and pre-K, and a comprehensive voting rights plan. She has been endorsed by Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza’s Black to the Future Action Fund.
Note: We also reached out through several channels to the Joe Biden campaign, but they were not able to send a representative to our event. After inviting them to submit something in writing, this is what we received.
Erin Saberi for Joe Biden
- Her story: I’m a lifelong progressive who has been waiting for most of my political lifetime for the Democratic Party to defend us against a runaway economy and policies that support the rich and hurt the rest of us. This has gone on for far too long and unfortunately, with the support of too many Democrats! So I’ve been excited to hear some of the progressive populist proposals put forth by Bernie and Warren and many of the other candidates. But after attending countless political events for all of the candidates in Iowa, Nevada and California, I’m all in for Joe.
- Priority issues: Erin believes Joe Biden will lead an administration that will restore democratic principles and provide immediate support for Americans who are struggling. For example, he will enact a comprehensive JUSTICE program to end the criminalization of poverty (e.g. end cash bail, stop jailing people who cannot afford fines and fees), refocus the criminal justice system on redemption and rehabilitation rather than incarceration and stop corporations from profiteering off of incarceration by ending private prisons. In addition, Joe will extend the ideas in California’s homeowner and renter bill of rights nationwide by adopting a new Homeowner and Renter Bill of Rights that will go even further in protecting tenants from eviction and holding financial institutions accountable for discriminatory and irresponsible practices.
- Get excited: Erin says Joe Biden has extensive leadership to protect women from violence, from his sponsorship 25 years ago of the Violence Against Women Act to his leadership as Vice-President forging the “Its On Us” campaign to raise awareness and fight against sexual assault on college campuses for both men and women.
- Outreach to communities of color: Joe Biden has a decades long record of standing with and supporting people of color. His policies as President will be life changing for millions of Americans in addressing racial inequality and systemic racism from adopting a bold stand on justice to health care and immigration. In particular, Joe’s policies will provide a needed overhaul of the justice system that disproportionally affects people of color – from cash bail to prisons for profit, including expanding the use the power of the U.S. Justice Department to address systemic misconduct in police department’s and by prosecutors. Joe will support our Dreamers, reverse Trump’s asylum policies and put an end immediately to the inhumane separation of children from their parents at the border. And importantly, we know that Joe Biden will be a President who truly cares about people and will continue to work to unite and uplift people – the polar opposite of President Trump’s dangerous and disturbing politics of racism and division.
Photograph (L to R) of Stacy, Sherry, Andrea, Kook, Jude and Jennifer by Andrea Lum
Special thanks to: All the panelists, IEB members Linh and Anne for moderating, Barbara for keeping time, and Ted and Ion for taking notes.