The Trailer: Overdoses are up. On the trail, Republicans blame Biden.

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In this edition: The Republicans who claim President Biden is killing people, the GOP’s big Florida redistricting coup, and an interview with Pittsburgh’s rising socialist star.

Waiting for a billionaire to buy our Twitter account since 2008, this is the Trailer.

“Because of Joe Biden, fentanyl, cartels, human traffickers pour across our border,” Ohio state Sen. Matt Dolan (R) says in an ad for his U.S. Senate campaign.

“Woke liberals are killing Coloradans, and Republicans helped them do it,” Colorado state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer (R) says in an ad for her swing-seat U.S. House campaign.

“The number one cause of death for people 18-45 in the United States of America is fentanyl overdose,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said last week. “That would not be the case if we had the border secure and didn’t let the cartels eat our lunch every day.”

In campaigns around the country, and on conservative media outlets where many right-leaning voters tune in, it’s become common to hear Republican candidates accuse the Biden administration of sentencing thousands of Americans to death by overdose. 

Sometimes, the culprit is liberal drug policy. Much more frequently, the record-setting pace of fatal overdoes is blamed on Biden’s changes to the immigration policy left behind by the Trump administration. The argument isn’t just that the Biden team is losing a war on drugs — it’s that it’s throwing the fight, and for political reasons.

“The crisis at our border can be pinned directly on the inaction of President Biden and his administration,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said last month at a Heritage Foundation conference on the “Mexico-Texas Connection” to fentanyl trafficking. “Texas is not sitting by while our border is flooded with people and deadly drugs like fentanyl. Instead, we are stepping up do the federal government’s job.”

Democrats, who have tried out a series of midterm messages, have largely ignored such attacks. And when it comes to policy, they have taken steps they say are designed to reduce overdoses. 

In Colorado, where Kirkmeyer is accusing the party of enabling overdoses, Democratic state legislators are now debating whether to make it a felony to possess of one gram of fentanyl. In Congress, Democrats have characterized the GOP’s argument — that reversing Trump-era border policies has led to more drug deaths — as an incoherent stunt. And White House officials have defended their border policies, saying they inherited a broken system and have worked to reconstruct a secure and humane approach. 

“They attack President Biden on the border and on immigration saying that he’s doing nothing, then they turn around with the repeal of Title 42 and say that he needs to restore what he was doing because it was working,” Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Tex.) told Politico this week. “They cannot have it both ways.”

No one disputes that fentanyl is being smuggled into the country every day, or that a drug 50 times more potent than heroin has caused tens of thousands of overdoses. And when they leave the campaign trail, Democrats and Republicans basically agree on how to treat fentanyl and drug traffickers — as a menace, to be wiped out. 

In September, the Biden administration recommended that Congress permanently classify all “fentanyl-related substances” as Schedule I drugs, fully illegal, with no accepted medical use; two months ago, most House Republicans co-signed a letter urging the administration to make “fentanyl related substances Schedule I classification permanent.” And the legislation that would do that, which hasn’t gotten a vote yet, is bipartisan.

But when Republicans sent that letter, many of the signers argued that the Biden administration was culpable for overdose deaths — not because of drug classification, but because the president refused to complete building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“President Biden’s open border policies have opened the floodgates for fentanyl to flow into our communities — and it’s killing our children,” wrote Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.).

“Joe Biden’s open border policies have allowed criminal drug networks to flood the United States more easily with fentanyl,” wrote Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), the fourth-ranking Republican in the House. Conservative commenters have sometimes gone further, asking whether Democrats see some overdose deaths as political opportunities.

“Their deaths had nothing to do with the equity agenda,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson told viewers in February. “In fact, their deaths may have helped the equity agenda by changing the demographics of the country in a way that benefits the Democratic Party. So, as far as the Biden administration is concerned, it’s not a bad trend.”

The trend of increased overdoses began before Biden took office, though, and drug policy analysts are worried that a matter Democrats and Republicans had largely come together to fix could become yet another wedge issue. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of just under 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses each year in the first three years of Donald Trump’s presidency. In the final year of his term in office, with covid-19 disrupting regular life and strict border controls in place, overdoses surged, with nearly 95,000 reported deaths in the last year before Joe Biden took office — and more than 100,000 in the first year of the pandemic.

“It really predates Trump,” said Bryce Pardo, the associate director of the Drug Policy Research Center at the Rand Corp. “Cartels are moving into fentanyl because it’s just more profitable for them.”

But on the trail, Republicans attribute the rise in overdose deaths to the Biden administration’s immigration policy. Border Patrol operations that seize fentanyl from smugglers become evidence, as the Republican National Committee put it in February, that “illicit drugs are flowing into the country at an alarming rate because of Biden’s open border.” 

The argument is twofold: That seizures are up because overall trafficking is up, and that the Biden administration is creating opportunities for traffickers every time there’s a surge of migrants, who might not have come if Biden wasn’t lifting restrictions. This month’s announcement, that the administration would stop using the Title 42 public health order that expelled many asylum seekers automatically, sparked another round of fury

“There has been so little attention by the Biden administration on the fentanyl problem and the border concerns,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) told Newsmax last week. “Now you’re starting to see just an absolute explosion of new federal cases in West Virginia and across the country.”

Since they don’t hold a majority, House Republicans can’t pass anything if Democrats don’t vote with them; Republicans with power have used it, with mixed results. After the Biden administration rolled back Title 42, Abbott took two actions that drew national attention: sending migrants on a bus from Texas to Washington, and ordering extensive new searches of all commercial vehicles crossing over from Mexico.

“Cartels use vehicles, many of them dangerous commercial trucks, to smuggle immigrants, deadly fentanyl and other illegal cargo into Texas and onto our roadways,” Abbott explained. He would do what Biden refused to — and the results quickly demonstrated why. After days of protests, Sid Miller, the state’s Trump-supported agriculture commissioner, wrote a letter warning Abbott that “this misguided policy will have little or no impact on the invasion on our southern border.” 

While he faulted Biden’s policies, Miller also called Abbott’s policy a “stunt.” Regina LaBelle, who was acting director in the Office of National Drug Control Policy last year, said it had been “disheartening” to watch a traditionally bipartisan issue become polarized, even before it led to Abbott’s legally questionable move to have state law enforcement slow down international trade. 

“My saying we’ve got this five-point plan that’s going to take a couple of years doesn’t look as effective as ‘I’m going to stop every truck coming in,’” said LaBelle. “But that’s not going to stop it either. They can mail it in. It’s not like fentanyl comes in bales.”

In the meantime, the idea that Biden is allowing drugs to cross the border, and that he is to blame for overdose deaths, is firmly in the GOP mainstream. On Fox News this week, former congressman Sean Duffy asked whether the president needed to think harder about the human cost, and why his son’s own drug addiction didn’t move him to return to Trump-era border policies.

“If Hunter Biden’s drugs had been laced with fentanyl and he had died, Joe Biden would have a way different view on the drugs coming across our border into our country,” Duffy said. “I don’t wish it on him, by the way, to be clear.”

“DeSantis takes on Disney in a culture war with national implications,” by Lori Rozsa

The war on “woke capital” so far.

“Criminal justice reform faces political buzzsaw as GOP hones its midterm message,” by Marianne Levine

Any bill can be stopped if you say “defund the police” loud enough.

“Judge lets Durham case against Democrat-connected lawyer go to trial,” by Matt Zapotosky

The 2016 election will never be over.

“Nicholas Kristof’s botched rescue mission,” by Olivia Nuzzi

The man who won’t be governor of Oregon.

“Two Democrats, two Republicans will compete in special election for South Texas congressional seat that GOP wants to flip,” by Patrick Svitek

A summer special election in the Rio Grande Valley.

“What is Title 42 and how could lifting it impact the U.S. border?” by Amber Phillips

Tomorrow’s political battle, explained.

On Wednesday, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis submitted a new congressional map that would create a 20-to-8 seat advantage for Republicans — one that the party sounds ready to approve.

“[It] reflects standards the Senate can support,” wrote state Sen. Ray Rodrigues, the chair of the Reapportionment Committee in Tallahassee, in a memo to colleagues.

Florida is one of just three states that has yet to approve a new congressional map for the next decade; in each state, conservative demands for more Republican seats bogged down the process. When DeSantis rejected a map that would have given his party an 18-to-10 advantage, slightly increasing its representation, he proposed an alternative that would eliminate a swing seat around Tampa Bay, a plurality-Black seat in Jacksonville and a Democratic-leaning district around Orlando.

Those changes made it into the new map, which would turn central Florida’s 7th Congressional District and north Florida’s 5th Congressional District into likely GOP pickups. It would also rip up the current 13th Congressional District, which Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) is vacating to run for governor, replacing a seat that now sits entirely on Pinellas County’s panhandle with one that would stretch across the bay and include more Republican precincts.

“Gov. DeSantis is hellbent on eliminating congressional seats where Florida’s minority communities have the ability to elect representatives of their choice,” Florida Democratic Party chairman Manny Diaz said in a statement. “He is imposing his own partisan political preferences on Florida’s congressional map.”

In Florida, Democrats are likely to file suit against the map and take it to the state Supreme Court, which is now composed almost entirely of Republican appointees — not the case when the court last struck down a Republican-drawn map. But in Ohio, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor once again sided with liberals Thursday, rejecting the fourth set of maps — for state legislative races, not Congress — from the Republican-led redistricting commission.

“We again order the commission to be reconstituted and to adopt a new plan in conformity with the Ohio Constitution,” the majority wrote in its opinion, with three conservative justices once again writing dissents — one saying that the court had entered the “farce stage” of the battle over the new maps.

In New Hampshire on Monday, the state Supreme Court announced that it would take over a redistricting case working its way through a lower court, raising the possibility that judges will draw maps after Gov. Chris Sununu (R) rejected a GOP-drawn map that replaced the state’s two swing House seats with districts likely to elect one Democrat and one Republican.

Tim James for Governor, “Enough Foolishness.” University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas is appearing in more and more campaign ads — all from Republicans, all of whom ask why a transgender woman is allowed to compete in women’s sports. “Come on, that’s a man in a woman’s bathing suit,” James says. “And now, right here in Alabama, millions of your tax dollars are paying for the first transgender public school in the South.” That’s a reference to the Magic City Acceptance Academy in Homewood, which James is also attacking in a radio ad, “Genesis.” After the school, which promotes an “LGBTQ-affirming learning environment,” announced that it would hire extra security, saying that the ads were threatening its students, James said its charter should be revoked. 

Kay Ivey for Governor, “No Way, Jose!” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) wants to win the May 24 Republican primary outright, as challengers such as Tim James try to keep her under 50 percent and force a runoff. Ivey’s response has been a butcher’s shop worth of red meat, including an ad that sends her to a shooting range, one where she says that the media and Democrats “stole the election” in 2020, and this spot, where she says she won’t let the left “cancel” her for sending the state’s National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border. “If Joe Biden keeps shipping illegal immigrants into our states, we’re all going to have to learn the Spanish,” she says.

Lindy Blanchard for Governor, “Trump Trusted.” Also running in Alabama, Lindy Blanchard is a wealthy nonprofit founder who served as the Trump administration’s ambassador to Slovenia. “Lindy believes the election was stolen from President Trump. Kay Ivey believes Biden’s victory was legitimate,” the spot says.

Jane Timken for Ohio, “Runaway Inflation.” The GOP’s U.S. Senate primary in Ohio has seen candidates pursue two different ad strategies. Spots promoting J.D. Vance have focused relentlessly on one issue, undocumented immigration; ads for other candidates have jumped from topic to topic, covering everything from transgender athletes to crime to, in Timken’s most-discussed spot, whether the men in the race were “compensating” for something. The former state GOP chair tackles inflation in this ad, sitting in a family restaurant and saying she’ll fight for a “balanced budget” as a way to cut prices.

Fetterman for PA, “No Place for Granted.” Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) has focused on the same message since he first went on the air: his life story, and the start of his political career in Braddock, Pa. Each ad has told as much of that story as possible, with mythic touches, like the Ry Cooder-ish soundtrack that plays as a narrator talks about Fetterman running for mayor after his GED students were killed. This went on the air just as a super PAC went negative on Fetterman, but the prominent interviews with Black constituents also work as counterprogramming, with Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D) attacking Fetterman over the 2013 incident where he chased a man who he thought was fleeing a crime scene. During the incident, Fetterman had a shotgun in hand, according to a police report.  

Fred Schneiderman for Congress, “Meet Fred.” Republicans held New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District for decades, until Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer flipped it in 2016, and held it against weak opponents in 2018 and 2020. Schneiderman introduces himself as a CEO frustrated with the Biden administration, with images from (pre-Biden) riots showing a nation in chaos, and makes three policy promises: “Fight unrestrained spending, tackle inflation and support law enforcement.”

Georgians for Latham, “Battlefield.” The Republicans not named “Herschel Walker” have been gasping for attention in the state’s U.S. Senate primary. Polls give the former football star a commanding lead over the field, even as he’s skipped debates with the other candidates, and given sometimes-confounding interviews. Former Navy SEAL Latham Saddler mentions Walker at the start of this ad, acknowledging that the Trump-endorsed Walker is more famous than he is, before saying he has more relevant experience. “Herschel Walker was my childhood sports hero,” he says, “but I also wore a uniform.” The election can be a choice between “a warfighter and a celebrity.”

Kemp for Governor, “Listening.” The most dramatic moment in this ad involves a finger and a cellphone, as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) declines a call from “Dr. Fauci” — a symbol of how he ignored “blue state” advice on covid-19, and didn’t keep schools or businesses closed as other states maintained social distancing mandates. “We chose freedom over government lockdowns, and you stood with me,” he says. “And you know what? We were right.”

Alabama Conservatives Fund, “Inflation Run Wild.” The outside groups helping Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Katie Britt already succeeded in one goal: Trump dropped his support of GOP Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.). Neither Brooks nor veteran Mike Durant is mentioned by name in this pro-Britt ad, which lets Doug Trantham, a farmer from Alexandria, Ala., explain that Britt will fight inflation if she gets elected. “The other candidates?” he says, referring to Brooks and Durant. “One’s been a career politician for 40 years, and the other one isn’t even from Alabama.”

“Do you approve or disapprove of the way Kamala Harris is handling her job as Vice President?” (Berkeley IGS, March 29-April 5, 8676 registered California voters)

Approve: 35% (-3 since February)
Disapprove: 45% (-1)
No opinion: 20% (+5)

It’s something many Democrats prefer not to talk about when people are listening: The first female vice president of the United States is not very popular right now. Harris’s approval rating has declined in tandem with Biden’s, with the same kinds of voters viewing both of them negatively, and fewer voters registering an opinion of Harris. This is a poll only of California voters, who have never rejected Harris any time she’s appeared on their ballot, but most demographic groups now view her negatively — including a plurality of Asian Americans. Harris’s mother was an Indian immigrant. 

“If the primary election for U.S. Senate were being held today, would you vote for…” (Franklin & Marshall, March 30-April 10, 785 registered Pennsylvania voters)

John Fetterman: 41% (+13 since February)
Conor Lamb: 17% (+2)
Malcolm Kenyatta: 4% (+2)
Someone else: 9% (+2)
None/don’t know: 28% (-16)

Mehmet Oz: 16% (+6 since February)
Dave McCormick: 15% (+2)
Kathy Barnette: 7% (+1)
Jeff Bartos: 6% (+2)
Carla Sands: 5% (-6)
George Bochetto: 2% (+2)
Someone else: 6%
Don’t know: 43% (-10)

One month out from the primary, none of Fetterman’s Democratic challengers have been able to bring him down to earth, and neither of the wealthy self-funders in the GOP primary have broken through. That says something — it’s not clear what — about advertising. An endless barrage of TV spots has done little to boost either McCormick or his name ID, with half of Republicans still saying they have no opinion of the ex-hedge fund CEO. Fetterman’s bounce comes after he finally started running TV spots; Lamb, who went on the air in March and had a supportive PAC come while this poll was in the field, gained as much as Kenyatta, whose first ads went up this week.

One related trend might help explain this. President Biden’s approval numbers have tanked in Pennsylvania, with just 33 percent of voters here saying he’s doing a “good” or “excellent” job. That includes just 61 percent of registered Democrats. Fetterman, the only candidate who gained significantly since going on the air, has run a campaign largely divorced from national Democratic politics.

The Republican National Committee voted unanimously to ditch the Commission on Presidential Debates on Thursday, after repeatedly criticizing how the CPD managed the 2020 process — including the cancellation of a virtual “town hall” debate after Trump contracted covid-19 and Republicans rejected the moderator.

“We are going to find newer, better debate platforms to ensure that future nominees are not forced to go through the biased CPD in order to make their case to the American people,” RNC chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.

The cancellation was a long time coming. Ten years ago, Republicans said the final debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney had been slanted toward the Democratic president, after moderator Candy Crowley corrected Romney in real time over his characterization of how Obama responded to a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. 

That was nothing compared with the outrage Trump and the RNC directed at the committee after 2020. In negotiations with the CPD, McDaniel had demanded that debates begin before any state started early voting; Republicans had argued that voters needed to see Biden in real time before they cast their ballots. 

And the perennial complaint about moderators became a demand that the CPD pick only those who had “never worked for candidates.” That was a reaction to C-SPAN’s Steve Scully getting the town-hall debate gig in 2020, despite having interned for Biden in 1978 — and it helped convince Republicans to walk away.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Summer Lee expected to get to Congress the way she’d gotten to Harrisburg — by beating an incumbent Democrat in a Pittsburgh primary. In 2018, Lee was one of three Pennsylvania Democrats elected to the legislature with the support of the Democratic Socialists of America. Six months ago, she was about to announce a campaign against Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) when, instead, he retired.

“There was an appetite in this region for the type of progressive politics that we’ve been doing,” Lee said in an interview at her Pittsburgh campaign office last week. “Just looking at the race and the trajectory of it, I decided to run.”

Lee is now one of five Democrats running for an open seat, including Jerry Dickinson, a law professor who challenged Doyle from the left in 2020, and Steve Irwin, a liberal attorney. Lee, a proponent of Medicare-for-all and a Green New Deal, has led in public polling, and there are few better opportunities for the Democratic Party’s left wing than Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District — or better opportunities to elect a non-White candidate in a seat that’s always been represented by White men. 

This is a lightly edited transcript of the conversation.

The Trailer: Why did you get into the race?

Summer Lee: There was an appetite in this region for the type of progressive politics that we’ve been doing. We’ve been seeing that from our work over the last five years, knocking on doors and expanding the electorate. We have been creating, I’d say, a lot of momentum around tapping in to those poor and working-class folks, who want to see a robust labor movement that is reflective of how people work now.

TT: How people work now — do you mean, more service workers?

SL: Precisely that. There’s a strong history of labor in Pittsburgh but it doesn’t paint the entire picture. We’re thinking about steel, absolutely. We’re thinking about those building trade jobs, which created family-sustaining jobs in this region. But the largest employer in our region is UPMC [the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center]. 

Those are health-care workers, right? Those are janitors and all the different folks who are coming in and working in these facilities. Those are Black and Brown folks, those are immigrants. When you look at Starbucks workers, when you looking at Amazon workers organizing in New York — we’re seeing the same trends here.

TT: What is Unite, the political organization you founded after the 2018 campaign?

SL: We were able to double voter turnout. We had a decision to make: Is it good enough to get in ourselves, and stop? Or is this something here that is bigger than us? So I co-founded Unite. As a poor, working-class Black woman, I said, if we were going to replicate this, then we need to create some infrastructure so that we can help other candidates.  

TT: And what’s been the impact?

SL: We were able to get a Black woman from housing projects elected to the county council. And we were able to get a school board member elected. We had our first bump in the road with our D.A. race, which we lost. But the factor there was really time — we didn’t have enough time to organize.

I’d say our biggest wins came last year. We had an historic slate of judges. We ran in coalition with some other Black-led organizations: 1Hood, the Alliance for Police Accountability and Straight Ahead. Every one of our women candidates got through and, of course, we got our first Black mayor.

The safest blue places are also some of the most vulnerable places, right? They’re often places with the largest Black or Brown or Indigenous populations. The local government doesn’t always reflect the community, and that’s because there’s just not been that organizing effort outside of presidential election years. 

TT: And how does the record of Democrats in power, since 2020, affect what you’re doing?

SL: When I’m talking to my neighbors and my community, they’re still wondering what’s going on with the child tax credit that brought kids out of poverty. They’re wondering about the prescription drugs benefit. They’re wondering about the cost of their groceries, the cost of their housing. Yes, they’re also thinking about infrastructure — we had a bridge collapse literally around the corner from here. 

But there’s this narrative that we must compromise. These are policies that are important. They poll well. Democrats ran on them. It was the Progressive Caucus, it was Squad members, who were pushing the hardest for Biden’s agenda, right? They said that If we separate the infrastructure bill from Build Back Better, it wouldn’t pass. 

We spend a lot of time looking to blame the left for fighting with the urgency of their communities. I think that that is a narrative that we have to fight back against as a party.

TT: Would you have voted against the infrastructure bill?

SL: I get asked this question, like, every other day. The thing that I’ve learned in my four years as a legislator is that we need to have a co-governing strategy. That means that when we get information or insight from stakeholders, we have a responsibility to bring it back to our district, explain our perspective and make a strategy together. So I think that I would have fought like hell to the very end. But would I have taken a no vote? I wasn’t there. I haven’t talked to my district about it. I think that in retrospect, we can see how important infrastructure is.

TT: You’re running on Medicare-for-all, and that’s fallen out of the conversation since the end of the presidential primary. If you want to get that passed, how do you?

SL: Incrementalism is such a funny word. It’s just not the frame that I use. I think that the most successful strategy is connecting our outside movements to our voting inside Congress. Nationwide, Medicare-for-all polls incredibly well. [Polls have shown different results in recent years, depending on how such a system is described.] We’re two years into a pandemic that has shown us, if nothing else, how problematic it is to have employer-based health care. We know exactly we need to do. But we still have corporate politicians, Democrat and Republicans who are not beholden to the people who we are serving, right? 

We have to get rid of those folks. Every two years, we’ve got an opportunity. We’re going to get Medicare-for-all at the precise moment that we have taken over these seats and gotten progressive, working-class-centered folks in office.

TT: How effective has the “Squad” actually been?

SL: We’re talking about folks who are coming from marginalized, oppressed backgrounds, who are underrepresented in all levels of government, who have been able to get into a governing body that is not friendly to them, is not welcoming, is not a place where right away they are going to be comfortable. And they have been able to move the national narrative around so many topics. 

Right? They have been able to elevate the conversation around environmental justice, and environmental racism, around Medicare-for-all, around racial justice and economic justice, around unions and workers’ rights. And there is a lightning rod effect there. Folks who are threatened by marginalized folks, by progressives — you will always attract that sort of that negative energy. But our policies have to match our politics.  

TT: How does any of your criminal justice agenda get enacted when there’s a political backlash to rising crime? It’s not as high as it was in the 1990s, but reform is being challenged basically everywhere.

SL: We have to decide who we’re serving, and what narratives we are giving air to. There’s a difference between data and conjecture. This is not a new phenomenon that we’re experiencing right now. If we go back to the original abolition movement about the enslavement of Black folks in this country, if we’re talking about the civil rights movement, the voting rights movement, women’s suffrage, LGBTQ rights, those were never movements that were enjoying popular political support. But they were movements that were righteous and they were fighting for what was right. And we have to fight those even when politicians or our leaders aren’t aligned with us.

TT: Did the conversation around “defunding” police stop the momentum? 

SL: That’s scapegoating. Black and Brown and poor communities have been begging for some sort of acknowledgment and solution to police brutality for decades and decades and decades. I don’t see a political will to actually address the concerns that our communities are raising. And I think that the longer we avoid it, we’re doing a disservice politically, to our candidates. If we can’t push back against those Republican narratives and create our own positive narratives that resonate with our own voters, then we’re having a different problem. 

TT: Would you still call yourself a Democratic Socialist?

SL: You know, it’s funny. I’ve been characterized in very many ways. What I identify with is somebody who was building power for poor and working-class people, for marginalized people. Somebody who was fighting for economic, racial, environmental, social justice. 

We are going to be serious about combating the right-wing extremism that we’re seeing right now, that fascism that’s going on the right, that white supremacy that’s going on the right. We have to be very clear-eyed about who the opposition is. The Democrats’ opposition can’t be the Squad. It can’t be the left. It can’t be Black women who are running for office. That’s absurd. The opposition stormed the Capitol on January 6th. The opposition are passing bills that will criminalize talking about LGBTQ issues.

Every moment that we punch left instead of right, we acquiesce to Republican talking points and labels and narratives. We are missing the opportunity to build our movement. 

TT: Why are you better equipped for the job than Dickinson?

SL: Look, I’ve dealt with Republicans in Harrisburg. This ain’t the Republican Party of 30 years ago. This is the Republican Party of Jan. 6. And this is the Democratic Party post-Trump. This is a Democratic Party that has been more diverse, that it’s finally more diverse than it’s ever been. And we need to respect that diversity. We have to honor that diversity. 

… 19 days until primaries in Indiana and Ohio
… 26 days until primaries in Nebraska and West Virginia
… 33 days until primaries in Kentucky, Oregon, North Carolina and Pennsylvania
… 40 days until Texas runoffs and the special primary in Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District
… 58 days until the special House primary in Alaska
… 75 days until the special election in Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District
… 91 days until the special election in Texas’s 34th Congressional District
… 202 days until the midterm elections

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