October 27, 2022
Political organizer, advocate, activist, and member of the Obama administration Ashley Allison joins Jameela this week to discuss what pushed her into politics in the first place, what it looks like when young people show up to vote, why we cannot take our voting rights for granted, why these midterm elections are so important, practical ways to become informed voters, the future of abortion rights, and more.
You can find transcripts for this episode here.
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134 — Why Your Vote Matters This Fall with Ashley Allison
Jameela [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another episode of I Weigh with Jameela Jamil, a podcast against shame. Now if you can sense some urgency in my voice, that is because this is such an important episode. It might be one of the most important episodes I’ve ever had on this podcast. Due to what is happening in America right now in the United States of America, we have the midterms coming up. Now midterms, something that I never paid particular attention to. I know a lot of people haven’t. The media still isn’t fucking paying attention to the midterms the way they should. This should be all we’re talking about. We’re still talking about fucking don’t worry, fucking darling, when we should be talking about the midterms and we aren’t really seeming to fully understand the gravity of what’s at stake here. Democracy is hanging in the balance, and this next three weeks might be our last chance to secure it. And if we miss this chance, we might lose most of our fucking basic rights, especially those of us who are marginalized, to be seen as full human beings in the United States of America. That is not hyperbole. That is not exaggeration. And the reason I feel confident in that is that I have the excellent Ashley Allison on this podcast. She is an extraordinary educator, a CNN commentator, an organizer, an advocate, someone with the most intimidating resumé of her activism career that I’ve seen in a very long time. An amazing communicator she is on here explaining to me the gravity of these midterms, how we can be involved, how we can help others become involved, and how important it is that we use our votes that we have access to, because so many people are being increasingly denied access to the vote, and that is because our democracy is under attack. So we have a very no bullshit chat together about what is happening, what is at stake. I, as an English person and someone who has never been politically active in my youth, and so I’m still kind of coming to this now, in the last decade of my life, she has educated me. In this hour, I hope she will be able to educate you. I hope she will galvanize you. I hope she will fill you with not just a little bit of fear and panic, but mostly hope and inspiration. That’s the thing that makes her stand out to me is her hopeful, progressive, restorative attitude towards the future of the United States. And this woman has seen enough in her life, both in her personal life and her political life, to feel completely disenfranchized and to just give up. And she doesn’t she can still see the light. And so if she can, we can as she’s here to guide us all. So please get your pen. Get your paper out. Get your notes out on your phone. Write down the things that she’s saying. Write down all of the resources that she gives out on this episode and move. I am begging you, especially as someone who cannot vote myself, I’m begging you to go out there and vote for those of us who can’t, because this will affect us forever. And I know that it is hard. I know it’s tedious. And I know so many barricades have been put up all around each of you to stop you from doing that. And I know that people are suppressing how important this is, the people who are so powerful who should not be suppressing this. And so it feels very daunting. She makes this un daunting. She completely simplifies the system for me and for all of us in this episode. And I left this chat feeling motivated and I hope you feel the same. Send it to your friends. Send it to anyone who you think needs this little kind of, like, jolt and kick up the ass. But please enjoy the extraordinary Ashley Allison. Ashley Allison, welcome to I Weigh. How are you?
Ashley [00:03:48] I’m doing great. We have two weeks before our midterm elections and so lots of things going on.
Jameela [00:03:56] 100%. Okay. So about a week ago, I was at a dinner where they had excellent speakers talking about the midterm, telling us everything we need to know, galvanizing everyone in the room to do everything they can to make sure that we influence as many people as possible to move and organize for what are going to be some of the most important midterms in history. And you were one of those speakers, and I fell madly in love with you within in 15 minutes and literally got on my knees and asked you to come to my podcast and speak and educate me and my followers on all of the things that you know from your fucking extraordinary career. And and I think one of the things that’s the most interesting to me is that you’ve had this kind of like, you know, beyond 15 years, like the kind of heights of political organizing. But that isn’t what you started as you started as a teacher. Can we talk a little bit about that transition that you made from from teacher into politics?
Ashley [00:05:03] Yeah you know I’ve always loved politics. I actually wasn’t sure how to get into it. But when I was in college, I studied abroad in South Africa and people were desperate for access to public education. And in that moment, I come from a family of educators. I said, when I graduated from college, I wanted to go into the classroom as my service back and everything that all of my teachers and my family had poured into me. So three years in the classroom in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, Boys and girls high school teaching high school special education. During the time when Barack Obama is running for his first term as president. And I have to tell you, my seniors, who were some of them were going to be able to vote the way their eyes lit up and the way we were able to engage in conversation about that election excited me. But then the other reality was they were in a school that was not properly funded. Teachers were coming out of their own pocket to pay for school supplies and support student needs. And I was like, This doesn’t feel right. Like these kids are into our democracy and yet they are being unjustly serviced. And I know that my education background was not- was fully funded. And I thought, well, what can I do to change that? And so I went to law school and I started volunteering on the Obama campaign, and I just fell in love with organizing and the transition happened. But I will tell you, I think I have been successful in politics because of my time in the classroom, because if you can convince a high school teenager of something, you can convince anybody. And I think about the work that when I develop a campaign or a strategy, I think about what this reach would it have impacted the kids that I taught? And if the answer is no, I dig deeper and try and find it. Find a way for it to be more effective because we need to reach young voters. We need to reach voters who are often forgotten about in this world. And that is kind of how I came into politics and what drives my political theory every single day.
Jameela [00:07:15] Well, we know that you’ve been extremely successful because you were the director of the National Coalitions for the Biden-Harris 2020 presidential campaign. And and you are a significant part of how we were able to engage more people than ever before in an election. And actually, you were so helpful in mobilizing and and encouraging people to use that vote that they have. And so we need to learn about every level of politics to make sure that we are paying attention to who the governors are, right. And I beg your pardon, because I’m still relatively new to America, so I’m still like working out this justice system, but even down to electing our judges, finding out that it was a judge who was able to block a ridiculous heartbeat bill, when it came to reproduction rights like knowing that these are the people at every level of government that we need to be taking into our own hands as to who it is that we elect. Because not only are those people going to graduate in their careers to go and further to gain more power, that’s how Mitch McConnell happened. But it’s vital to it’s vital to understand this. And so I wonder if you wouldn’t mind breaking down to me what’s going on during these midterms, what’s at stake, why it is so vital that we move now, otherwise we might not have the chance later.
Ashley [00:08:36] Yeah, well, first I want to say thank you for the shout out on our work on the Biden campaign. I will say it was a massive collective team effort. People on the campaign and people have been organizing in states for decades and I always am so grateful for the work folks do, even when people don’t know their names, because that’s what makes the difference. For this election, you know, I used to work in the Obama White House and my issue around reform was criminal justice. And I started a month before Michael Brown was murdered. And there was a lot we could do in the executive branch through the president, but there was so much we could not do. And I remember the night when it was clear that the police officer who killed Michael Brown charges weren’t going to be brought against him. And the person who decided that was the prosecutor and the prosecutor was elected by the people of Ferguson. And it was this moment where people realize their electoral power beyond just the presidency, beyond just governors, the folks that are farther down on the ballot, that we don’t know their names and they don’t make national news until there’s a tragedy. But fast forward to this cycle in my hometown, the heartbeat bill that you were just referring in my home state of Ohio, an elected judge stopped that bill at this moment. We have people we have 36 governors who are up for election this cycle. And we don’t hear about a lot of them. We hear, you know, some big names, some big races, but 36 governors. Every House candidate is up for reelection. Right now, Democrats hold the House, but that could swing either way. And it really is up for grabs depending on turnout. We have Senate races that are up in in blue states, red states, purple states. These are the people who will decide your your congressional leaders, your senators will decide if there’s a national abortion ban. Not Joe Biden, not former President Donald Trump or Barack Obama, these individuals on the ballot right now, these are the people that will decide whether or not these essential workers, as we come out of the most, the heightened state of this pandemic, the people who kept our country going will decide if they get an increase in federal minimum wage that has been stuck for years. These are the people who decide whether or not you get to keep your health insurance the way it is or privatize health insurance. Elected officials at every level, including the president, but at every level, play such a critical role. Governors, state legislatures, they’re the folks that decide whether or not that six week bill, heartbeat bill in Ohio is going to be law or not. And so we have such an ability. Democracy is so precious and it is not perfect and no candidate is perfect. But we have an ability to make our voice heard. And when you get when you vote and when you turn out at fine members, young people, black people, queer people, you have the ability then to hold those folks accountable. You are then their boss because you elected them. And if they don’t do what you want them to do, you can get them out of their job quickly. But you got to show up. And you can’t let perfection be the enemy of the good, because none of us are perfect. Sometimes we want our elected officials to be perfect, but no one is perfect. Your car insurance is not perfect. The apartment that I live in is not perfect. But we still engage. We still participate. So I don’t want everyone, anyone to ever feel disenchanted. Frustrated. I understand where it comes from, but know your power. Like you can stand in your power. You can organize your friends and change can come. But not if we sit on the sidelines.
Jameela [00:12:25] It’s a vital point that you’re making. And it was one of the things that made me so desperate to have you on the podcast was your incredibly real discussion about the fact that we must not seek, like, complete purity. I think sometimes it’s that search for purity of absolutely loving a candidate or absolutely loving a party and really backing everything they stand for. That stops us from voting at all because we don’t want to put our vote behind anything that we don’t believe in, but we just kind of have to try and make the best out of what we’ve got, essentially. Right. We’ve just got to. You say it better than me. You talk now.
Ashley [00:13:02] Well, I also want to point out examples, because I think sometimes we are overwhelmed with the negative and we forget the wins because it feels let’s take student loan debt cancelation. That was not a topic that in the beginning of the Biden campaign and many of the presidential campaigns folks support it. But what happened? Young people, my generation, the millennials, we showed up and we said, we want a commitment. If you’re the Democratic nominee, we want you to commit to canceling student loan debt and what just happened? It’s not a perfect cancelation plan, but because we elected someone, we made them put a commitment to it, it actually happened. And that doesn’t happen if young people don’t show up. It just doesn’t. No country is perfect. America is not perfect. But I think about the civil rights movement and how long sometimes people think like, oh, the civil rights movement was a couple of years. No! Like the Voting Rights Act took a decade to pass a decade. And we’re still striving for perfection. So it can’t. The analogy I like to use that I’ve been using recently is about engaging in democracy is like a relationship. You know, if you have a one night stand, it’s not going to like it’s like one night might have consequences later in life. But if you’re in a committed relationship with democracy, what do you need to do in a relationship? You got to show up regularly. You got to be in conversation with your partner. They get to hold you accountable and you have to be held accountable. That’s how we can be in relationship with our elected officials and governors. We show up regularly and vote. We hold them accountable. We get in conversations with them. I’m in I’m in a relationship with democracy. And I think everyone else needs to. And when you’re in a good relationship, you feel better. Things get better. It’s healthier. But I don’t want to be I don’t think anyone should have a one night stand and vote one time and think that the world is going to change because that’s just not the way any relationship works.
Jameela [00:15:05] No. And no relationship is perfect to start with and we have to build on them. We have all had to back people who we don’t agree with on every single thing. And so it’s just about really doing the work and also really looking into people’s past, you know, learning that, you know, right now in California, we have someone who’s running for mayor who became a Democrat in January of this year, who’s been a kind of career Republican, who then went like kind of he decided not to have a party for like 12 years and now is suddenly running as Democrat. But has all of his political affiliations have all been Republican, so it’s like, you really need to not just look at who’s the Democrat, who’s the Republican? Look deeper, look into their political history. Look into the people that they are funding. This person has funded a lot of very, very anti-choice politicians in the past. Like we need to take these things into account. Now, the person who is his political opponent, Karen Bass, also imperfect. But when I zoom out and look at who’s going to do more for California, who actually cares who’s actually on the ground, who understands every level of the societal structure? That’s Karen Bass. I’m going with her and the things that I don’t agree with her on, the things that I think she might be being too harsh about, that I will be a part of mobilizing to challenge later. I feel so impotent because I’m not a citizen, so I can’t vote. And so I’m also partially here begging everyone to do it in my name and in the name of the many people who are being shut out of voting, not because they’re not citizens, but because there are people organizing against people having the right to vote. Can you expand a bit on that?
Ashley [00:16:55] Yeah I mean, there was a time in our country’s history where because we were women, we would not have had the right to vote because I’m black. I would not have the right to vote. And so, I mean, let’s compare it to abortion rights. My entire life, I have always known I had a right to choose. Until recently, that right was taken away. And so it’s the same thing with voting. I now know a life when I have always had access to the ballot, but that has not always been the case in American history, and we need to not take it for granted. So, for example, there are things like voter ID laws in certain states that people try and put in place to make it more challenging to vote. There are there are many, many resources that I’ll share in a little bit where you can get education on how you vote, what you need to vote. There are people who have served their time and have committed crimes in our country, have served their time, are now out and still cannot vote. And there are people working to say, look, they are citizens. They should have the franchise, but we can’t take this for granted. And I fundamentally believe voting rights is something that I have always worked on and have cared a great deal about. Because, you know, the first time I voted, I was in the 2000 election, Bush v Gore. And a flashback is like I was very disappointed in how that that outcome came and it was decided by the Supreme Court. And voter suppression is real. Voter fraud is not. It’s a narrative that people use to try and suppress young people, black people, poor people, people with disabilities votes. But again, the people you elect matter like you should take a look at Georgia. The current governor wants a very has signed into law a very suppressive bill. Now, one thing I just want to make real clear is sometimes people say, but turnout is so high. Yes, people are overcoming extreme barriers to vote so that we can lower those barriers. Turnout is high. Does it just cause turnout is high doesn’t mean suppression is not happening. We just can’t take it for granted. When you think about the late, great John Lewis who shed blood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday just for the right to vote, that is not too far from the past and we can find ourselves in that situation now if we don’t engage and elect people who believe one, every people should have access to citizenship, but two, that people who are citizens. Their vote, they should get on the rolls. They should be able to vote and their vote should ultimately be counted.
Jameela [00:19:30] And can we discuss some of the ways in which that voting is being suppressed? I mean, for example, the deterrents and making people wait 8, ten, 12 hours, no water, no access to food. But can you expand on that, please?
Ashley [00:19:43] Yeah. So a lot of times in certain communities, there are limited polling locations. And because there are fewer polling locations and there is a demand to vote, there are long lines. And, you know, if you’re working a job, can you take off 3 hours to go vote? Probably not. If you don’t know your schedule ahead of the week before, maybe you need to vote by mail. But long lines are one way. Voter I.D. is one way. Signature matching. There have been a lot of folks who have tried to say right now in the state of Pennsylvania, if you don’t sign and date your in particularly date your ballot. People are trying to challenge that those ballots should not count. Now, luckily, the secretary of state is pushing back on that and saying, no, like we can cure these ballots, we can make sure these folks have voted and people should be counted whether or not the ballot is dated or not, as long as we receive it before Election Day. And they’re just little tactics that like. Make it a little harder in the hope that like because it’s just a little harder you just won’t vote. And people know folks are busy. People know times are hard. People know that voting if voting is more challenging, folks won’t engage. But here’s the thing. Don’t let these tactics intimidate you. Don’t let them win. Don’t if you need to get a voter or a photo ID. If you got at 1866 our vote, they can walk you through the state rules on what you need to vote. If you have to wait in line, once you’re in line, if the longer the line is super long and your polling place closed, guess what? You still get to vote. Don’t let somebody tell you to get out of line because the line is too long. If you live in a state like Florida or many others, we have it. You can vote by mail so you can get your ballot now, you can request it so you might not have to wait in line. People will tell you that some of these tactics are not a good way to vote, but they are. We just saw because of 2020 and COVID vote by mail is a very effective way to vote. So don’t let people try and misinform you, give you bad information. Check your source. Again, that’s 866 our vote. It’s a hotline you can call and gets you the information that you need to know how, because each state is different in their voting laws. And we want to make sure you’re equipped and prepared to overcome any challenges that you might face so that your voice can be heard this cycle.
Jameela [00:22:08] And we keep hearing the sentence that our democracy is under threat. Right. And that is like a big that’s a terrifying sentence. But a lot of people don’t really understand exactly what you mean by that. And it feels so unfathomable because we look at, you know, these countries, especially in the Middle East, where, you know, democracy has fallen and dictatorship has risen. And and there’s always been this kind of like it can never happen over here. And even after the insurrection, there’s still a kind of doubt of like it could never happen over here when look what’s happening to my country, Britain. We never, ever, ever could we ever imagined this shit would happen. And so can you explain the the depth of that sentiment and how much we stand to lose if we don’t engage now?
Ashley [00:22:58] Yeah you know, one thing that folks who are dictators try and do the first. And if you go back in history and you study them is they try to sow doubt and uncertainty in the system, and that really was prevalent in 2020. And you saw the then president, Donald Trump, do that even in 2016, even though he won sowing doubt in people to not believe or trust the system. As we approached in 2018 and in 2020, he continued this narrative to his base and on social media. Luckily, he’s not on social media for now, but there’s doubt that like the election can potentially be stolen. And then when people from both sides of the party, and despite every legal challenge, said there was no voter fraud, there were there were not ballots that were illegally cast. There. All the lawsuits, the 60 plus lawsuits that his campaign put in front of the court. None of them were successful. They still use a narrative like don’t trust the system. And so we have now election deniers. And you have people like on January 6th, people without it could have never happened. Well it did. I was in Washington, D.C. when it happened and people stormed the Capitol because they felt like something was being taken away from them. But the reality is Republicans and Democrats certified that election because people showed out in record number and no longer wanted Donald Trump to be our president because he was endangering democracy. Now, fast forward now. He continues this sentiment of sowing doubt. The election was stolen and now we have candidates. Two thirds of Republicans on the ballot this cycle are election deniers. And the reason why we say democracy is so fragile is that many of those people are running for offices that will determine not the outcome of the 2022 election, but the 2024 election. And there’s an effort to put people in place who don’t want to certify the election, who want to sow this doubt, who want to destabilize our democracy so that in 2024, whoever wins, if it’s Donald Trump or another Republican that is an election denier, that they can actually overturn the validity of the election. So that’s why this election is so important. And people say it’s not hyperbole that our democracy is under attack. Again, democracy is only as strong as your engagement with it. If you are a passive stand in fire observer, it can fall. But it’s an active relationship that we have to have. And if we can make sure now, I will say, you know, to date, the only people who are election deniers are Republicans and their party is really under attack. And I think whenever I talk about this, this is not about party. This is literally putting politics aside, putting party aside and putting country first and believing that the will of the people that the voters get to decide. And there are some people same people who want to suppress votes are the same people who don’t want the voters to ultimately decide and undermine our democracy. So that’s why this election is so critical, because who could potentially be elected that would manage and govern future elections?
Jameela [00:26:14] And that will that will fully determine who our next president of the United States is. This is our sort of last shot at being able to somewhat have some sort of control over what the outcome is. I also just want to make make it clear that, you know, you were saying that Donald Trump isn’t on social media. He’s not on left leaning social media. He’s very much so on social media. And so he’s still out here. He’s still out here. He’s still spreading misinformation. He’s still entering into the territory of Qanon conspiracy are starting to you know, fan those flames. We also have like a a bunch of other people who are parroting his same sentiment. Please don’t hear that there’s a greater turnout, there’s more youth engagement. And then think, okay, well then we can relax. Because they are also hearing that there is an unprecedented youth turnout in Democrats and left leaning people. They are aware that we are also showing up. They saw what happened when we showed up in 2020 and they have potentially learned their lesson. So as much as we are showing up more than before, we are so. Forgive me if this I don’t know. I don’t ever want to piss you off because I think I’m such a fan. But there is an arrogance to liberals and to the left where we don’t really pay attention to what’s happening on the right as much as we could, where, like, we’re worrying about our own base and we don’t take them seriously. And I think part of that comes to the fact that a lot of the people who are sent out in front as Republicans just are actual clowns, like people who are pulling like sucker shit. And and so therefore, we are able to look at those like few individuals who are at the front of the party, including Donald Trump, and just be like well they’re fucking idiots and all, like, we’re going to be able to beat them. They don’t know what they’re doing. They’re talking nonsense. They’re talking about conspiracy theories. You know, Marjorie Taylor Greene, I think being a prime example of that. But they have not been this successful for no reason. Those people are just the kind of distraction tactic in my in my personal opinion, I believe they are diversions for us to all ridicule and laugh at and underestimate the Republican Party. There are highly informed, highly educated, highly organized and highly privileged people behind those clowns pulling all the fucking puppet strings that are why we keep having our rights revoked one at a time, in perfect order. And it is a well organized, like, multi-decade long efforts like this abortion shit didn’t just happen overnight. They have been putting people in place for 30 years in order to or more even to overturn Roe v Wade. And so it is so vital that we do not underestimate the opposition and that we do not think that they are not turning out as much as we are, because they also know that this is a defining moment. This is when they can take the house, they can take the Senate, they can take the election, they can take democracy. I’m sorry for my rant.
Ashley [00:29:09] No that could never.
Jameela [00:29:10] But I just think we can be incredibly smug, you know, and I think we can be complacent. And I think we’ve done it before. And and I think that we are at risk of doing it again, especially because it feels like more clowns are at the circus than ever before. So we can’t underestimate them. We must not underestimate them. They are showing us, that they are taking away our human rights, one after the other successfully.
Ashley [00:29:32] Yes. And I say never take anything for granted. You know, in 2019, people took something, some races for granted, every state. That’s why I made the point about the 36 governors. We can’t take any of those seats for granted, even if it’s in a very conservative state. Every race we need to be running candidates in every state in every in every position. We cannot take anything for granted. And I really appreciate your point about him not being necessarily on Twitter and Facebook, but there are other social media platforms that he’s on. You know where else he is? On the campaign trail and he shows up at places for certain candidates and he spews this hate and this lie. And sometimes the candidates try and distance themselves. But they want his endorsement, they want his support. They want him to fundraise. And so, don’t, don’t be fooled by someone who is starting to distance themselves a little bit in the general when, particularly before they want they sought, they sought his out, his advice. And this very cycle, it is a part of a plan to undermine our democracy. And that is why this election is so critical. But I think everything you said as we we cannot be passive. We cannot take this for granted because we’ve done it before and it has come back to bite us.
Jameela [00:30:49] 100% and just know that they are also so galvanized for this fight. And this is this feels like we’re just teetering on an edge that I’ve never seen before in my lifetime. This is really this is really scary and I think is especially reinforced by the, like, demonstrable rise in fascism around the world and Italy. Like in I mean, Britain is moving in a really disturbing direction. I think Brexit was the sign of the darkest days and look at the way that my country is suffering because of that. We are seeing this all over the world, Turkey like everywhere. So this is this is a I mean, France. France just by by a fucking hair managed to retain it’s democracy. They were going in that direction. And so we are seeing this pattern emerge all over the world. And I think that that is galvanizing the opposition. And I think it’s I hope it’s scaring the fucking shit out of us so that we move and we act.
Ashley [00:31:46] I think one thing, though, I want to be really clear as is use the word hope and hope is I’ve learned, a discipline. It is not a passive state. It is an active word that we must engage in. And sometimes again, we hear all of this and we’re like, throw our hands up, and we’re like, What can I do? You can vote and you can literally like it. Sometimes people want the recipe to be so confusing. No it’s actually not that confusing. You can show up and you can vote. You can be an informed voter, and you can elect people who want voters to decide who want our democracy. Who want to have an inclusive society. And it we did it already. We did it in 2020. And it feels like because of COVID, I feel like 2020 feels like very far in the distance for some people. But we did it in the most challenging circumstances and so we can do it again. So I don’t want people to also feel hopeless. Part of why we’re having this conversation is for you. So you are informed to then remain disciplined and hopeful and take actions to keep us moving forward and not going back to an era in our country where neither one of us would have been seen as whole people.
Jameela [00:32:56] 100%. And also know that like there are strategies in place, right, to continue to disenfranchised as the the reproductive bands, you know, not to sound like I’m now putting my own like tin hat on, but the reproductive bans like forcing people into parenthood. Forcing people into pregnancy is more likely to disenfranchise them. Right? You take away their opportunities, you take away their freedom. They are more exhausted. They are less likely to have time to be politically engaged, politically motivated, to show up on that street because they can’t get a fucking baby sitter. So they can’t riot or they can’t not riot necessarily, but they can’t protest, but they can’t do any of these things. You know, we we destroy the the energy to dissent when we force people’s lives into disarray. And so I think it’s it’s it’s really important to pay attention to why these things are happening, why the voter suppression, why all these little kind of freedoms are being taken away, why our prison system is so unbelievably fucked, why it’s so easy to enter the prison system, why it is then so easy for your voter rights to be taken away once you do. These are all very careful. None of these things are coincidences these are carefully mapped out plans. And so anyway, I think, you know, we’ve made our point that it’s scary. I would like to now move on. Partially everyone knows they have to vote to ask you, you know, so let’s say someone like me relatively new here or someone who’s 18 and just starting to get politically motivated. Are there specific websites in each state people can go to to kind of look up these candidates because the Internet is a fucking mess? What would you recommend as like first steps like for like someone like me?
Ashley [00:34:32] Well, the first thing I think you should do is you want to go to a website. Either I’m going to give you a couple organizations names so that you can Google their names because websites sometimes are hard to remember. So you can look up a organization called All Voting is Local. They will give you an overview of what you need to vote. The ACLU, if you Google them, they have information about what you need to vote. You can Google organization called Campaign Legal Center, because I think we’re in a critical moment right now. A lot of voter registration deadlines have closed. So you want to be informed and make sure you’re on the roll so you can actually vote. Then as we get closer to the Election Day, where do you find out who to vote for? Now, depending on which party, you know, I’ve always worked for Democrats. You can go to the DNC, the Democratic National Committee and research candidates. You can go to your state party. So the Ohio Democratic Party website and find out the candidates that are available there. I’m never going to tell you who to vote for, but I will tell you, I think what is on the ballot, not like in explicit words, but abortion is on the ballot this cycle. Democracy is on the ballot this cycle. We talk a lot about the economy. Well, if you can’t get a job and you can’t make a living wage, you have to work four jobs just to make ends meet that is on the ballot. And Democrats are the ones fighting for the opportunity for everyone to thrive and not struggle every single day to pay gas, to pay for your gas bill, to pay for your light bill, to pay for your groceries. Now, the one thing I will say is sometimes when you walk in, there are sample ballots. That’s why going to your party, like your Ohio Democratic or your Georgia Democratic Party, because there are so many races that can be overwhelming, they will then list all the different candidates, the judges, the city council, the election administrator, any ballot initiatives, because some states will have ballot initiatives on specific issues. But those are a few websites people can go to to figure out the information. You can also always check the source. A lot of times when things are dot org, that means they’re a nonprofit, so they’re not affiliated with the party. If you feel more comfortable getting that type of information, I would be mindful of dot com websites because a lot of times they’re for profit and they’re guiding you into a certain direction. But all voting is local. ACLU Campaign Legal Center, the Lawyers Committee. They are all great organizations that will get you the information you need on how to vote on Election Day or before for many states.
Jameela [00:37:24] To move further into this like. Let’s say we are able to secure our democracy. Let’s say we manage to pull this off. Right. The fight is not over then, because there’s a different type of fight that you speak to really beautifully, which is that, okay, fine. We can maybe impact policy for a while. We can hold them off a little longer. We can maybe save the next election, but something we have to work on. You talk about the fact that you can I mean, these are your words, right? You say that you can pass a bill, but you cannot legislate hate out of someone’s heart. Now, I love I love that sentence because that is the other the other battle. I don’t really want to live in a country where we’re just forcing people to tolerate people who look like you and me or people who look like the communities that our loved ones come from. I would like to live in a world where we can actually accept each other. And I don’t want this I hate this feeling of war, especially because of the fact that we have so much more in common than we have apart, which I know you also speak to all the time. The climate is fucking us all. The climate is fucking the the people in the middle of this country who might be voting conservative and Republican. Well, more than it is any of us on the, you know, the elite, you know, coastal states like it is. It is vital that we understand that we’re all being impacted by the student problem, by the health care issues, by the mortality rates, countless things that impact all of us exactly the same. And somehow these things are being turned into politics when they’re just humanitarian issues. And so, what is your strategy? Like, what is your hope hopeful strategy for us to actually also genuinely start to like heal this divide? Because I’m not up for this war. I don’t like it. I don’t want to I don’t like looking down. Not I don’t look down on people. I recognize we are products of our environment and fear. I want unity. I want us to feel good about the changes we make in America all together.
Ashley [00:39:26] Yeah. One thing I want to before I go into that is say that just like in 2020, we might not know the results on election night. So also don’t find panic and despair. If votes are still counting, that is totally normal. So stay the course and let every vote be counted. I do fundamentally believe that you cannot legislate hate out of people’s hearts. Legislation is put in place to protect the people that are often hated, and that’s an important distinction and is an important to have happen. You know, I found myself at a point in my life where I had gone into my corner and I was just like, I’m not going to be friends with the Republicans. I don’t like I don’t want to debate it. I’m not I’m not having this conversation. And I think a lot of us are there and I’m not judging people who are there because there is you know, this podcast is about mental health, about protecting yourselves. There is a survival mechanism that we all deserve to have that if you feel triggered or traumatized by having tough conversations with people, that you need to go and protect your mental health and your physical health, too, so that you can have productive conversations. And I did some of that work, but I didn’t realize very quickly that most of the time we are a conversation away from realizing how similar we are. And I was put in some environments where, you know, after Charlottesville happened that I was having conversations with people that were on the other aisle, other side of the aisle and worked for people that I was so frustrated with. And I told my own personal experience of what it was like living in America as a black woman from the Midwest, now living in at the time, D.C. before in New York. And they had never heard that story before. And I don’t know who to fault for it, but I decided not to cast fault but be vulnerable and tell my truth. Now, once I tell you my truth and my story, if you receive it, I can stay in dialog with you. If you question my truth and story, I don’t have to tolerate that, but I will not run from my own truth. People have to be willing to come and have conversations and then people have to be on the other side willing to accept that just because you didn’t know about something doesn’t mean it’s not true. Just because you didn’t have never experienced discrimination doesn’t mean discrimination is not real. Just because you might not understand somebody transitioning that is trans doesn’t mean that that’s not a real experience. And you have to honor people’s truth. And I believe that we again, we are one conversation away from realizing we have more in common than not. And a lot of my friends laugh at me and say, I’m so I’m too hopeful. But I do believe that being in your corner is not your own. Just be talking to yourself people, and it’s just going to be like an echo chamber and you’re not going to move anyone. We got to get out of our silos on both sides. We have to honor people’s lived experience. We have to be vulnerable and we have to be willing to see each other’s humanity.
Jameela [00:42:32] 100%. I mean, I’ve been trying to speak about the necessity for abortion access in a way that doesn’t feel political so much as societal. Where I’ve been trying to appeal to people to understand that, okay, fine, if we take the moral debate out of this, if we take the right to freedom out of this, which all already feels insane to say, we think about what happens later. Right? Ok so something like 700,000 babies, I think this is like a 2019 statistic were aborted in 2019. Right. So we’re talking about adding that like forcing at least 700,000 children into our society, unwanted children, children that there isn’t a societal structure for. We are in a country that doesn’t have enough baby formula. We don’t have enough we don’t have any like childcare. We don’t have a significant or sufficient or almost any maternity leave. There’s no welfare support for young people there. We have a well-intentioned but quite broken and not just adoption system, but, you know, foster care systems.
Ashley [00:43:46] Foster care. Yeah.
Jameela [00:43:46] Yeah. And in which there are huge racial discrimination that happen, if you are a black boy, you are something like five times less likely to be adopted, you know. And so okay, so fine. So, so all of that happens. Those kids grow up unwanted. A lot of the time we have people who are being forced to have children, not able to continue their work, not able to continue their educations, falling how their lives are falling into disarray. Potentially the lives of their children are falling into disarray. What does that society look like? Does that society look like a definite increase in homelessness? A definite like increase in crime? A definite increase in the mental health state of of our states. We’re saying that we’re afraid of overcrowding. We’re afraid of immigrants because we think we don’t want more people here, but we’re forcing hundreds and thousands, maybe millions eventually of people into this world who are unwanted, who aren’t- people are not ready for these for these babies to join us like this. They can derail someone’s lives. We have a crazy mortality rate again, with a racial bias, which is more predisposed to black women dying in childbirth. What does that society look like? Is that the society that you want to live in, where economically we are fucked and crowded and our health care system is completely broken by then? Does that benefit anyone? Are you going to feel good about that vote that you made based off of like a moral fantasy?
Ashley [00:45:10] Well, I think there’s a couple of things that you’re raising here. One of those 700,000 and I hadn’t heard that statistic, but of those abortions that had happened, many of them are because of miscarriages. Many of them are because of rape and incest. Many of them are because of the mother’s health or the baby’s health. And so. I don’t want to force that on anybody. I don’t want to force somebody to have to make a decision about whether they’d pick their life or their child’s life that I would only only I would never even want to have to make that decision, let alone force it on somebody. So that’s the first thing why I think, you know, the conversation around abortion, it is actually a moral conversation. It’s a.
Jameela [00:45:52] No. Yes. Sorry, if I wasn’t clear. I completely agree with you, those are the lines I have said for all these years, like I’ve only taken that position of like what is right and what is fair and what is what is justice. And and just taking into the fact that a mother’s life is like a human. Like my reason for my abortion was not an emergency. It was not because I was a product of rape or incest. It all the contraception failed and I was not stable and not ready and didn’t want a child. So I’ve always taken that position. Just to be clear, I’m saying that if I could appeal to the coldest, most fiscally like minded and and least attached to the care for our humanity, that’s what I would say, is that you still have to live in that same society that you are creating. So what are you going to do then?
Ashley [00:46:41] But I totally I know you feel like it’s a moral decision, but I think that we often it’s flipped, like we don’t have morals when we talk about abortion. We actually do. We are. That’s what I mean when I say it like we actually do. We are making thoughtful decisions. Never have I ever heard of somebody saying that their decision to have an abortion was an easy decision. It is a personal decision that folks sit with and that you remember for the rest of your life. And I don’t want one side that is a pro-life side to think that they have won the moral argument because they are able to quote a Bible scripture, because the Bible talks about taking care of your poor, the Bible talks about taking care of your weak. The Bible talks about taking care. You know, if you want to talk about morality and Christianity and scripture. Jesus saw the least of those and went out. And so often people who quote scripture and quote religion as the moral high ground don’t support policies that help poor people, don’t support giving folks a second chance. And so the hypocrisy with that is what I find challenging. And I do think when we talked earlier in the conversation about taking things for granted, I do think sometimes progressives have ceded this moral conversation to the right. My spirituality is just as strong as someone with a R by their name. And I will go toe to toe on that. And I talk to my God every day, all day long. And so just because I support abortion doesn’t mean or that someone has had an abortion and I refuse to cede the moral high ground. Now, on the economic issue, it’s an and I just I always want to be clear on that because it bothers me when people use religion as a reason for their policies. But there are they don’t apply their religion consistently.
Jameela [00:48:34] Oh aboslutely. What about the lives that are already here? Right. What about the people? What about the homeless? What about the people who can’t access health care? What about the the people who are trapped in fucking containment units, you know, at the border? Like, what about if we are so pro-life.
Ashley [00:48:50] Yes what about separating mothers and children and they’re just like. It is so problematic.
Jameela [00:48:51] If we are so pro-life. Exactly. Then then what about the lives that are already here? You know, it’s been said before many, many times that the unborn are very are a very convenient group to advocate for because they don’t require any resources. They don’t require any support. So it’s very easy to fight in their corner. But the second that baby is out of the womb. That baby is on its fucking own. And if that baby is brown, if that baby is black, if that baby is queer, if that baby’s going to be like that, that baby is trans. Like, if that baby has a disability. Invisible.
Ashley [00:49:25] Good luck.
Jameela [00:49:25] Good luck.
Ashley [00:49:25] Yeah. So I think for the economic argument, you know, we know that when children are born into a certain environment, depending on where their reading level is, by third grade will determine their their lifetime outcome, whether or not they find themselves incarcerated, whether or not they’ll be able to graduate from college or can be gainfully employed. So what I say to folks is that regardless of where you stand on abortion is that let’s start developing policies that for people who for for undocumented people, for children. Let’s actually put together a plan that will allow them to live their best and fullest life. And we know that if you invest in children on the front end, that the investment that you have to do on the back end decreases. Ie, look at the criminal justice system. We have all these people locked up right now. It is draining city and state budgets for things like marijuana that now are legal and people are making I mean, they just said in Florida, Circle K is now going to start selling weed at their locations. And there are literally people in Florida sitting in jail for selling weed. I mean, the hypocrisy and draining Florida’s budget and guess who’s up and can do something about this? They’re Governor Ron DeSantis. But instead, he wants to criminalize people for, you know, voter fraud, so to say, and send the police out to arrest people who were told by state officials they can vote. So the hypocrisy just is there. And when you talk about like how people should be educated on who to vote for, we are complex creatures. We have many different ways that we identify. Don’t be a single issue voter. Don’t be told that. Like depending on where you stand on one issue, you have to then vote for one party. Look at a candidate in a comprehensive way and see if what they say out of their the right side of their mouth matches that or what they’re saying out the left side of their mouth, and then often doesn’t in one party. And that is what they don’t want you to check. And that is what some of those websites I was telling you about, particularly party websites, will give you information on that and be empowered to ask those tough questions you are again, be in relationship with them. You are allowed to ask those tough questions. But, you know, on the abortion issue, I think it is one of the ones that I find to be the most hypocritical for conservatives that they it’s not a straight line and they are very extreme and that many of them also have benefited from having access to abortion in their state and they want to pretend like they don’t. Some candidates are facing that challenge right now. Ie look at Georgia. But, you know, there are some people who say, well, that was his personal choice, but his policy. Well, you know what? It is a personal choice for every single person living in this country. And it should remain a personal choice. And it’s not the case right now. But if we show up, we can actually the president just most recently said that if we if Democrats win the House and the Senate one of the first pieces of legislation he would work to do was to codify, which is make it federal law, that abortion is legal again across this country. And I think that is one of the most important issues because abortion is an economic issue.
Jameela [00:52:42] And does that then override any state being able to outlaw it? Just for anyone. Sometimes when I’ve been like posting about it, some people have been like, what exactly does codify mean, and I don’t feel as though I’m the right person to ask that question. So could you explain exactly what it means?
Ashley [00:52:58] Yeah Federal law overrules state law. And this also goes to the hypocrisy of what the conversation is about. So I’ll just do a quick lesson real quick on the Supreme Court that brings us together.
Jameela [00:53:08] Like guns.
Ashley [00:53:12] Yeah. So the Supreme Court decided in the DOJ’s decision in June of 2022 that abortion should be a state’s issue. And so you saw states put in very aggressive heartbeat bills. But codifying Roe, which has passed now in the House and has not had movement in the Senate because we don’t have enough, even though Democrats run the Senate, there aren’t enough votes to override what we call a filibuster. We need 60 votes. And right now we only have 51, which is why the Senate election is so important. What would make abortion legal. And then the Supreme Court would not that decision would no longer stand. Abortion has never been codified in this country. Roe was a Supreme Court decision that has been the law of the land for 30 years, and now the Dobbs decision and another Supreme Court decision overrid that. And the way our government is set up is that federal legislation could be passed to overrule the Supreme Court, which is why this election is so important, which is what it would mean to codify Roe.
Jameela [00:54:19] Right. And again, a reminder that as much as we have heard that Biden will do this if we take the House, if we take the Senate, especially with enough votes to be able to secure the filibuster, is that the correct way of saying that?
Ashley [00:54:31] Eliminate. Eliminate.
Jameela [00:54:33] Eliminate, eliminate. Okay. Sorry, I’m still learning and it’s okay to learn. Okay. So as much as we have heard that that Biden is going to codify Roe, right. If we take the House, if we take the Senate again, the opposition are also hearing the same information. And so don’t take for granted the fact that we’ve heard that and, you know, the rest of us are going to go out or the rest of you, rather, because I can’t vote, are going to go out, and we’re going to make sure that that happens. They are hearing the same information. They’re hearing all the same news and are likely to be galvanized as much as we are to make sure that that doesn’t happen. So show up, show out, share this information. Do take the time to educate the people around you if they see things differently, take the time to register. Jump through these frustrating hoops that have been created to stop us to, to disincentivize us from going. I know that that would be a fucking shit or boring few hours, days or weeks, or even maybe a month of your life. But it will affect the future, not only for you, but for the people that you love, for the people who aren’t even here yet, and for the society at large that you are going to end up living in for the rest of your life. So take those few fuckin take those few opportunities while you still can.
Ashley [00:55:54] Well said. Absolutely. Absolutely. If it is up to us, we get to decide the country we live in. And the only way you can do it is to show up and vote. It is literally that simple.
Jameela [00:56:06] I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you and I admire you. And I keep getting nervous when I’m chatting because I’m so intimidated by everything that you know and everything that you have done. Like you’re an incredible human being. And I’m so appreciative that in such a busy time that you came here to educate me and please let me know and let us know now how we can support you the best.
Ashley [00:56:32] Well, I am humbled and I a funny story. She came up to me and she said, I’m Jameela Jamil, and I just I know who you are. I am fan of yours. And I want to say thank you because many you have a large platform and people listen to you and it takes courage to ask questions that you don’t know the answers to and not be ashamed of that that is, we all are learning, including myself. It takes courage to say, I’m going to use my platform to talk about politics in such a polarized way. So thank you. And you have done so much for our country. Even though, you can’t even vote. And so for people who can vote, imagine how much more you can do. The way you support me is by showing up on November 8th, and if you can vote early, get your ballot. But also, once you take care of yourself, you know how you’re on an airplane. They say when the mask falls down, put it on yourself, vote for yourself, and then look to your neighbor and ask them have they voted and ask them, do they have the information? Because you talking to the people you know, is the best way to motivate those individuals to vote. Don’t think your voice doesn’t matter. Don’t think that you have been forgotten. We all are a part of this. Even if I’ve never met you and you vote, I’m saying now. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Because it will determine. And even if it’s your first time voting, don’t be ashamed of that. You can start any time as long as you stay engaged. So if you want updates, you can always follow me on Twitter @AshleyRAllison. I’ll be giving real, live updates, suggestions on where to go. And if you have questions also on Instagram and Tik Tok same handle but thank you. Thank you Jameela because this is such an important time and the future is ours if we show up.
Jameela [00:58:28] You are an incredibly hopeful and inspiring person, and I hope that you have given hope and inspiration to others. You know, I’m British and I’m cynical and hysterical and fearful. And so it’s really important to have a sober voice like yours.
Ashley [00:58:41] You got me on a good day. You’ve got on a good. And I’m like, What the hell is going on?
Jameela [00:58:50] Now I know. I know. In your ability to keep faith through all the cycles that you’ve gone through and seeing progress and then seeing that progress taken away. And still believe that that progress can happen again, because you’ve seen it before is so valuable. And and so thank you for coming on. And just and just before you leave me, will you please tell me Ashley Allison, what do you weigh?
Ashley [00:59:16] I weigh that I hope when the story is written of my life, that people said when it was hard to make a tough decision. And it took courage that I had the courage inside of me, from my ancestors, from the people who love me. To make the hard call and make have the courage to do what was right, even when it was hard. I really hope. That I can be that person in that moment and that it’ll inspire other people to have the courage to do it also, because this work is not easy, but we can do it together. And I hope I am an example of courage and action.
Jameela [00:59:52] Good luck to you. I will be behind you helping in any way my stupid ass can. All right. Lots of love. Thank you.
Ashley [01:00:02] Thank you. Lots of love back at you.
Jameela [01:00:07] Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode. I Weigh with Jameela Jamil is produced and researched by myself, Jameela Jamil, Erin Finnegan and Kimmie Gregory. It is edited by Andrew Carson. And the beautiful music you are hearing now is made by my boyfriend James Blake. If you haven’t already, please rate review and subscribe to the show. It’s a great way to show your support. We also have a bonus series exclusively on Stitcher Premium called Ask Jameela Anything. Check it out. You can get a free month Stitcher premium by going to Stitcher.com/premium and using the promo code I Weigh. Lastly over at I Weigh, we would love to hear from you and share what you weigh at the end of this podcast. You can leave us a voicemail at 18186605543 or email us what you weigh at IWeighpodcast@gmail.com. And now we would love to pass the mic to one of our fabulous listeners. I weigh 30 years and 1 million miles.
September 28, 2023
This week, Jameela is joined by crime journalist and activist Isla Traquair and they cover her long spanning career reporting on true crime to recently becoming a victim of emotional violence and stalking herself.
September 21, 2023
Jameela is joined by campaigner and writer Gina Martin, and in this optimistic conversation about creating change for equal rights around the world, they discuss how anyone can show up and support activism (especially offline in real spaces) and what this activism work can look like.