Janelle Jolley 0:01
Oh, hello there and welcome, or welcome back, to What's Left To Do. I'm your host, Janelle Jolley. So, we are about to dive into Part Two with Holly and honestly, there is a ton here that I don't even know how to neatly summarize. So let's just, let's jump right back in. When Bernie announced in 2016, or 2015-2016, you decided to start volunteering. My next question was going to be, what attracted you to him and, in the 2016 campaign, and not Hillary, since she was the heir apparent? What was your thinking then?
My dad had just had a heart attack. And he was a veteran who like my family had to pay mortgage and all this stuff. And I just went down to help them. And this is like the one presidential candidate that's coming out saying, "Hey, we need health care for everybody." And I'm intimately in this health care experience of like, changing my whole life to take care of my family. And I know that in your 20s, like, I cannot be the only one who's family has some sort of health scare or something that you derail your work or school ambitions to focus on your community and your family. And there's people who take care of their family from the time they're young, all the way through! Having to do all this. So I'm just lucky that my family is fine and they're able to take care of themselves. But even since then, between the 2016 campaign and the 2020 campaign, my stepmom had a tumor removed that had gotten to be almost 30 pounds.
Janelle Jolley 1:43
Because she did not have health care to go and get it looked at when she noticed and it would have been a few pounds.
Janelle Jolley 1:50
So when I saw her after that it was like she had just gone through like a crazy body transformation.
Janelle Jolley 1:57
Yeah, because she had lost so much to this tumor. So- and luckily it was not cancerous, thank goodness.
Janelle Jolley 2:03
Thank god! That's scary that it even got to that point. Good grief.
Right? And so when I think of like, "Do I support Bernie?" Like, of course I support Bernie. I've seen him on C-span since he was the only one there yelling at an empty room. And so I- of course, as soon as he announced, I knew what Bernie was there for.
Janelle Jolley 2:11
Did you have even a moment of like-
Janelle Jolley 2:25
Oo! Come on, that was quick!
Janelle Jolley 2:27
Didn't even get-
Not a second.
Janelle Jolley 2:30
Didn't even get that out.
I had been worth watching Bernie on C-span since I was, like, end of middle school, right? And so, throughout high school I was busy making my bad decisions, but I still did watch C-span. And so I knew what Bernie stood for. And as soon as he said he was running, I didn't feel the need to hesitate on it. I didn't have that minute of like, "Let me question what this person is about." Because for literal years, I had already seen him standing around telling absolutely no one exactly what her thought. When nobody was listening, so I don't see why you would lie at that point, because nobody was listening. So I mean, like anybody, having a first female president will be great. I know, that's really important to...especially people my grandma's age who, you know, don't have 40 years to look for a potential female president. But what I really need is something that helps my family? So I definitely was just like, "2016, in it for the challenge. Please do bring up Medicare For All. That needs to be a conversation."
Janelle Jolley 2:37
So you were viewing it as, "Hey, this is a way to expand the discourse to include policies and issues that don't get talked about enough in public."
Janelle Jolley 3:52
And he did better in 2016 than I expected, too. Like, wildly. And I think it's also because he has been an independent for so long. And so many people just feel very trapped. And like, "I have to register as a Democrat so that I can vote in the Democratic primary and get hopefully a better person than I otherwise would have had, if I just wait until the general and then like vote, because-" So it's a lot of how the primary system works. And a lot of people that are...consider themselves independent, have political beliefs but don't, you know, ascribe to a political party, kind of recognize that both of them fail in their own ways. And that it's not...its not some taboo thing to recognize that both of them fail in their own ways and that we just have to do the best we can. And I think that's a very simple reality that expresses itself very complicated.
Janelle Jolley 4:51
Sure, sure, sure. Did you- do you- at that point, did you- or...at that point, at this point, however you want to put that. Do you consider yourself a leftist or progressive? Like, what is your preferred identifier of yourself politically?
I don't usually pick one.
Janelle Jolley 5:08
Ah! Okay. It's not important.
So, yeah, I am technically, on my little checkbox on my voter registration, I think it's still Dem from voting in the primary.
Janelle Jolley 5:17
No, no, not your ?. I don't care about that. I'm saying, what do you- how do you ?
I think that most of the time I say independent, because that's easiest. But that's not actually anywhere on...like, that doesn't express anything on the left-right spectrum when people are looking for what you are. And the reason I kind of don't pick a label is because people will assume a bunch of stuff when you are. And they're not usually the right stuff. They're usually nothing actually related to that. Their whatever, stereotypical version of that is. It's not usually what it actually is. And I actually find it really rhetorically helpful when people say, like, "Well, you're just being this." And I can be like, "Actually, I'm not. I just want to talk about this issue and this issue."
Janelle Jolley 6:17
So it's really...I definitely prefer it. Depending on who I'm with, if they're like, "Hey, are you leftist?" I'll be like, "Sure." Depending on who I'm talking to. If I know what they mean when they're asking that, I'm okay saying it. But I don't go around being like, "I'm a social democrat," or "I'm like...anything particular."
Janelle Jolley 6:40
I understand what you're saying, and I don't think that you have to be labeled or be provincial about any labeling. But how- with with or without a label- how would you describe your politics?
Oh, I definitely am a "Everybody should have health care and free education," both those things should be included. Honestly, a lot of things that are typically talked about as, "This is a cost," I think of it as, "This is an investment." And if I- like, politically, what I want is to invest as much in people to be the best people they can. But I want is to give as many people as possible, the ability to do the best that they can do to improve themselves. And that's a very selfish way to look at it, cuz I think we have a very selfish society in some ways? But having the least harm for the least number of people.
Janelle Jolley 7:35
Like, how can we have a society where the lowest standard of living is one that we think is actually livable, you know? One where I don't have to go to bed and be like, "I'm really glad I ate dinner because I know that probably a million people didn't." Because that's a hard world to live in. And because, as humans, you have this cognitive knowledge, "I know there is this problem," and there's not a lot you can do about it. And so in the end, you just kind of feel bad for knowing. And then people are like, "I don't want to know," and that's worse. And then other people are like, "I know, and now I feel bad." And that's also not good. So how can we change the fact that we know these objective things, like people are hungry? How can we resolve that? And if we do resolve it, what external and contextual impacts will there be to that? We'll probably be more productive. I would bet that if everybody knew that every single person in the world was able to eat that day that they would probably sleep better at night for no particular reason. Other than that, like...
Janelle Jolley 8:50
My fellow men and women have full bellies.
Yeah, it's just a nice thought. And there's obviously no scientific tangible study related to, "How did people's brains work if they know someone else ate?"
Janelle Jolley 9:05
No, but I think there...I think there-
No, there are ones on, like, if you ate and if you are doing well. There's like, "If rats will feed a friend," kind of thing.
Janelle Jolley 9:13
No, but also, with like- are you familiar at all with Case- Deaton? Like, The Deaths of Despair? That body of research that has gotten, gained a lot of purchase in the last, since, like, 2016?
Only the faintest amount.
Janelle Jolley 9:28
Okay. That's fair. So basically, what their research supports is that, with a lot of the deaths of despair from the opioid crisis that, you know, is ravaging large swaths of the country. What they find is that, even for people who- people in the communities that have been ravaged, who are not directly affected either, you know, with a family member or someone they directly know that has, you know, been caught in the throes of addiction and the associated, kind of, social maladies associated with that, that their perception of their community's health is negatively affected because they know that people around them are-
Oh, I totally believe that.
Janelle Jolley 10:15
You know what I mean?
Janelle Jolley 10:16
I think that supports some notion of like, "Hey, I feel a little bit more at ease knowing that people are ok- that people are fine. Or, people are being taken care of. Or, people are not suffering." I think that's a human thing.
It's a very human thing. And I think a lot of the time we do get caught up in discussion that is sciency, which is very valuable. But like, you bring up a really good point that some things are just very human?
Janelle Jolley 10:44
Yeah. And can't necessarily be quantified.
Yeah. Even if we can't explain it yet, that doesn't mean we'll never be able to explain it. But that doesn't mean we should wait to do something about it until we can explain it, right? I actually, one of the kids I grew up with, he had an addiction and actually ended up dying of infection, not the addiction itself, because he was living outside and homeless at the time. And I grew up with him since before I can remember. And he died just last year.
Janelle Jolley 11:17
Wow. I'm so sory.
Yeah. And like, god, I can't imagine for his mom? Being in his funeral and seeing his mom?
Janelle Jolley 11:24
Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Like...there is politics, and there's like, "Hey, this is the good policy," and whatever. And then there's remembering the human impact and the human aspect of those policies. And how do we put people first and meet them where they're at to do the most good possible? I- when I have to talk to a conservative person, I usually tell them that I want the most bang for our buck. And if people aren't actually, you know, doing better for it, then I'm not getting the bang for my buck. Like, yo, those police people in my home town, Redwood City, I'm on one of those things where you keep track of your hometown, even when you don't live there. They recently gave, I think it was like $3 million? They increased the police budget by like $3 million this year. And then, a couple months later, they announced that they had to cut the fire department budget by- you could guess how much- by about $3 million, closing one of the largest fire stations for that city. And so people in that city would then have to rely on the city next door to have their firemen come over. And that particular fire department, in a year where we've had a shit ton of fires, is one of the busiest ones. And so the thing is, like, am I getting...are we as a community getting the most bang for our buck by closing a fire station and increasing police budgets so that they could have literal vacancies? And even if those were not vacant and they were doing something, is what they are doing contributing or pulling from community health? And is there a way that everything we are doing can be with that in mind and toward that avenue? As opposed to, like...I think what you focus on is what you're going to get because it's how you are preparing yourself to enter a situation.
Janelle Jolley 13:26
From everything that you've gone through, understood, felt, experienced, blah, blah blah, what is your understanding of our political world, institutions, processes, whatever, in the United States right now? Like, what is your understanding of things? I'll just leave that open so I don't confuse the question anymore.
Oh man. I got a couple.
Janelle Jolley 13:50
Woo-hoo, run 'em down!
Let's start with the individual. So I think that a lot of times we have a representative. and they are similarly abstract, as politics is abstract. They aren't- you don't think of them as somebody I'm gonna call, right? And you need to call. Sometimes you just need it.
Janelle Jolley 14:17
Sorry, hold on. He has a package. Sorry.
No, I'm with it. I think that's the right thing. Yeah, sometimes you need a package.
Janelle Jolley 14:26
That's right! Oh, no worries. No worries.
I like it. I think that what happens is that when they are abstract in that way, when you can't call them, when you can't get something from them, it ends up being that they don't exist for you.
Janelle Jolley 14:49
But you can call them.
I mean, you can-
Janelle Jolley 14:52
You call their office.
If you know how to call their office, and if you get their office, you know what to ask for. It's kind of like a maze, right? And most people are like little mouse at the beginning of the maze. And, even if there's some cheese over there, I have no idea how to get there. And it takes a while to figure it out, right? And people don't have this, kind of, extra time and extra mental energy-
Janelle Jolley 15:15
To learn about the Labor Board, call them-
Learn about the Labor Board and know how to call them and know how to print out all your own papers and know how to send it with the signature thing and then know how to get it back. And then, if those things don't work, what to do next. And so even if you cognitively know there is an assembly office that I can call, the amount of effort that it is between knowing that and actively having your assembly office do something that is useful for you, like walk you through a wage theft problem, or help with your landlord with your eviction, or if you want to start a union, can they answer those questions? Like, they aren't a one stop can do everything kind of place.
Janelle Jolley 16:02
And so what happens is that a lot of people have a lot of problems and nobody knows where to go exactly for thwm. So what happens is, we're all kind of running around like chickens with our heads cut off, like, "What do I do? Is this the right thing? How do I find it?" It's a mess. It's just a mess.
Janelle Jolley 16:20
Can I ask though, because you have much more of a background in, specifically, California politics than I do, because I'm not from here, you know, whatever. But like, talk me through, in your opinion, how a Nancy Pelosi happens. Do you understand what I'm saying? Like, she- I mean- go ahead.
Yeah. Yeah, yeah, sure.
Janelle Jolley 16:37
Because she, in my mind, is like- while everyone rightly has a lot of smoke for Mitch McConnell, there's very little focus on how she is a the ringleader of a lot of material dispossession for people. And I'm specifically- and I'm getting worked up as I'm talking about it-
Be worked up.
Janelle Jolley 17:05
Thank you. I'm specifically thinking, most recently, about how she completely fucked everybody by dragging her feet on the stimulus money before the election.
She just fucked with our money.
Janelle Jolley 17:17
Right. And this is, like, the most dire economic situation that most people hopefully will ever experience and I hope it won't get worse.
They said they would make it great. It ended up being a lot more like Great Depression, but umm...yeah.
Janelle Jolley 17:29
Right, exactly. So it's like, how do you- in that case, where you have an elected official who, you know, who rhetorically tries to make herself appear as, you know, "I understand what my constituents needs and I, you know- I understand what my constituent needs are, and I work hard to take care of them just like everybody else in Congress." But it's like, no, the fuck you don't! And so like, why- and I'm asking this, obviously, I didn't vote for her this go round. I've never voted for Nancy and I never will. But how does a Nancy Pelosi happen where you can successfully for 20 plus years, piss on people and tell them it's raining and they're like, "Oh, yeah. Uh-huh." You know what I mean?
I, it's so sad, I'm going to tell you a couple of things that I try to keep in mind whenever I am super frustrated by some representatives. And that is that America is ridiculously mobile. And that means that voters move a lot. What, it's something like a third of people will move within a two year period. And so obviously not the same people moving every two year period, but decently mobile. We don't have any kind of automatic registration, so anytime someone moves they will need to re-register. So... maybe, maybe not. So first, I'd say we'd have a really big registration issue.
Janelle Jolley 18:52
Why is that not a core party function for Democrats?
I wish I had an answer for that. That's why I would not be a Democrat.
Janelle Jolley 19:01
Yeah, that's right.
Because you need to register voters. Some local orgs do that, which is amazing. And which could easily work with some more party people and do more. So first, we definitely have a registration issue. The second thing I would say is that, something like two thirds of people do not know the three branches of government. Like you could name the three branches of government right now, right?
Janelle Jolley 19:23
The judiciary, the legislature, and the white house- and the executive branch.
There you go. Boom! See? Super easy. Two thirds of people can probably not do that.
Janelle Jolley 19:30
Yeah. I'm not sure it was exactly two thirds, so one can fact check that, but I'm just saying it's a lot. A lot of people do not know. Yeah, like over half do not know. So when they see something like, my representative is Nancy Pelosi and she's fighting for this aid. And that's pretty much all they know, right? They don't have the full picture. They're losing a lot of context because they don't have the political knowledge. And then they'll go out and they'll say something like, "I love Pelosi because she's doing the thing." And someone else like me is over here, like, "What are you even talking about?"
Janelle Jolley 20:11
Because I know more of the things. And it's not that they are stupid voters, it's not that they are stupid voters, it is that they are not necessarily informed voters.
Janelle Jolley 20:25
That's fair, that's fair.
And, I mean, even some of those people are gonna be really mad because they just heard me say that and they're like, "But I am informed." And I'll be like, "But you voted for Nancy Pelosi."
Janelle Jolley 20:34
Right, yeah. While you're unemployed.
So the thing is that, when someone has voted a certain way for a really long time, it's the same thing that's with other decision making. Like, as soon as you've made a decision, you're more committed to that decision than you were before you made it. And so people who have voted for Nancy Pelosi four or five times, it's not just recognizing, "Nancy Pelosi has messed up this time, so I'm going to vote against her this time." It's recognizing that, "She messed up this time," and that, "I enabled that because I voted for her last time. And so I am the reason she is there to mess up in this way." So by admitting a failure of a representative who you yourself voted for, some people take that as like...I'm attacking the representative and the policy they did, but they'll take it as a personal attack. They're like, "I voted for that person and I want them to be doing this thing, and so because you don't like that policy, you don't like her, you don't like me, and we're all against each other." As opposed to, "No, I just don't like that policy. If we could just change the policy, I really don't care who votes for it, as long as it's the right policy," right? So I think a lot of it is habitual voters who do remain in place. So that's really hard. And then a combination of that, where when new voters come in they're those lower information voters, it's not that they're- maybe they were very informed about their old place that they lived, but they moved. And so now this is different. And whatever things they knew from their old state, it would be great if those carried over, but they fucking don't. They have to re-learn, like, from 18. Like, how do you register, when do you register, who is your representative? Like, it's starting all over again. It's this huge uphill learning curve, when they, you know, they just are trying to survive life and they want to be responsible and vote.
Janelle Jolley 22:37
So is the net of what you're saying, like, part of your understanding of why things are the way they are right now is because of a combination of the mobility of the American people and maybe the barriers to...some level of accountability for elected officials? Like, the example you said of having this, you know, vague knowledge of, you know, my assembly person, you know, my assembly representative is x person. But then the downstream, kind of, actions. There's like, okay, finding, you know, their website, finding the number and/or right person in their office to contact, or-
Or even like, I have an assembly person and I have a house representative, and they call the house representative but it's not actually a federal issue, it's a state thing. Or, for example, there was a couple years ago, I saw a map of San Mateo County, my county, it was a map of lead in water and the amount of lead and water that the counties had reported to the CDC and my county was missing. And I was like, why is my county information not reported to the CDC to appear on this map? So then I'm a really annoying political person. So, I called. And I was like, "Hey, County Health, who handles this?" And I went through, I don't know, three or four days of calling different offices and trying to find who was the person that is supposed to send this existing lead information that I know we collect to the CDC and why wasn't it sent there? And in the end, I was able to find a very nice lady who conducted the lead testing for different schools in the area, but she was not the person who compiled or reported it and didn't know why it wouldn't have been reported. And my federal representative office sent me back a stock letter- looking at you rep who's been my whole life, who I like, but you write too many letters. Only letters, why are you never saying something about healthcare? Anyways, I like her, she's a good representative, but she could be better, and that's a thing. And so, ultimately, long, long, long, long story short. Basically, we just need more than what we're getting, right? And there's no way to find that. Even if you have three days like me to spend on the phone to find the answer to this one thing that should be very easy, right? Report your lead data. There's- what is so hard about this? Why are half the places not doing it? Like, there's those gaps. And those exists not just in lead water reporting. I'm sure there's ones like that in education. I'm sure there's ones like that in wastewater. I'm sure there's ones like that all over the map. And how do I hold someone accountable to report that so that other people in my state know, that other people in my county know, when I can't even find who's compiling that information? And that's...not what's happening. And how, like, honestly, how would you hold a Nancy Pelosi accountable when she has been elected for 30 years and we can't even ?
Janelle Jolley 26:05
?, I mean, ? wasn't the right guy, but like- why can't- I mean, I think the answer is implied, but why cannot we mount a serious challenger to this ghoul who should have been gone? Because I don't know how this- I don't know how her politicking the issue of the stimulus and how she bungled that so royally and so nakedly-
Cuz the election just passed and by two years from now, everyone will have forgotten.
Janelle Jolley 26:36
Right, but I'm just saying, how is- how- I mean, she's the Speaker of the House and she, you know, she can fucking destroy you. I get it. So I do- the answer to how is because she has amassed an enormous amount of power over her caucus. This is how. But it's just like, how are not-
Also, ultimately, the caucus shouldn't matter when the voters are in your district. Like-
Janelle Jolley 26:56
Screw whatever caucuses you're a part of. What are you doing for voters in your district?
Janelle Jolley 27:01
Right. But I just don't understand how there's not been a- I understand how rich people coalesce and, what is the word? What's the phrase? Like, close ranks behind her-
Well, they got that time. They got time and money to do it.
Janelle Jolley 27:15
Working class people don't have time or money to do that.
Janelle Jolley 27:18
That's right. Exactly, okay. So that's a silly-
I mean, it's not silly, though. It really is the core of the problem, is that if people are so busy just trying to survive, that they can't hold their representatives accountable-
Janelle Jolley 27:32
That's how they get away with bullshit.
They get away with bullshit. And then, you know, it just exacerbates the problem. And then people are trying harder to survive-
Janelle Jolley 27:40
This what I'm trying to pull out of you. What does accountability look like for working people? If we take as a given the time constraints and exhaustion and just, you know, trying to, you know, keep a roof over my head and maybe, you know, two hot meals a day. Like, what does accountability look like for a responsible government? And I ask that out of my own sheer frustra-
Janelle Jolley 28:08
Throw eggs at them. I'm a big fan of the classics, eggs and rotten tomatoes. But I...
Janelle Jolley 28:17
Like, is the goal- is the best we can hope- I ask this partially cynically, is the best we can hope for is to recruit a generation of Hollys who are dedicated to a politic that, you know, provides for and lifts up, you know, the widest swath of people to like, you know, help out on campaigns professionally, or, you know, work on some, you know, long term political- but like, is that the best we can think to do?
I think it has to be a combination. Because any movement like that will get us right back where we are right now, right? Where 20 years from now, they'll be Holly 20 years from now sitting right here being like, "Hey, these people are unaccountable now," because they're just ushered in in like a wave and then we expect the wave to do the thing we wanted it to do and that is enough.
Janelle Jolley 29:16
Ahh. Is it we take our eye off the ball?
Janelle Jolley 29:18
Yeah, it's that we need to be more involved on a regular basis. I think that's what will lead to more accountability.
Janelle Jolley 29:26
It depends on what you're doing.
Janelle Jolley 29:27
So if you're single mom and you are super busy all the time, I'd say writing an email that you're mad that schools are reopening, like, that's fine. That's some measure of accountability. If you are, you know, a retired person who has plenty of time and it's not a pandemic where you're going to get sick because stay home, then you can show up to your representative's office and be like, "Hey, I need a meeting cuz we have, you know, I have these 10 retired friends and we need a meeting. We care about our grandkids," like you can do additional things. So I think what it is, is just everybody doing the little bit that they can, and not being super harsh on yourself when you can't, right? So I think part of the reason that people pull away is because it feels very all or nothing. Everything is dire, everything is catastrophic. And I can't do everything, so I won't do anything. It's like the dishes we were talking about earlier. So even just doing minor things...doesn't feel like a lot, but ends up adding up. Just like how we phonebank, one call adds up to a lot. So if you can phone tree with your friend's preschool class and be like, "Hey, when I hear something about education, I'll let you guys know. We'll phone tree down." Like, even groups of five friends, or whatever. Totally fine.
Janelle Jolley 30:52
So is it more about like, durable- this is a term that I'm just pulling out of my ass. But is it more about durable micro organizing?
Yeah. I would say it's much more about the longevity of organizing. So organizing so far has been very boom and bust. And there's a lot of organizations which are trying to fix that, that do amazing work, that do work between cycles.
Janelle Jolley 31:18
So I know there's this group called SURG, it's S-U-R-G. I believe it's Students United for Racial Justice? And so I know they have been doing work in a couple of different states. And I actually have a friend who is volunteering with them in Georgia right now. And so there's orgs like that. A lot are also boom and bust orgs. I did some work with March for Science, which had a lot going on for, in like 2017, and then kind of busted and hasn't had a lot going on. And so there's a lot of effort that goes into this steep run up, and then collapses pretty much every election cycle from almost every different candidate, right, that has these volunteers and these workers. And so I think what needs to happen is that we as community members, if we expect someone to be accountable to the community, need to organize in ways that do not depend on elected representatives.
Janelle Jolley 32:23
What does that- hat do you mean by that and what does that look like? Use your imagina- I'm not saying necessarily right now, but even if-
So, instead of always volunteering on a campaign- I love campaigns, I'm not saying don't volunteer campaigns, obviously. I need you to literally volunteer for campaigns. But instead of just volunteering for a campaign, right, staying involved afterwards with that representative? Saying, "I voted for you because of this issue, and I organized for you in this district, and these are the 20 people I organized with during that time. And if you don't do the thing that you said, I will organize against you next time." And being very explicit. And so having this, sort of, more continual relationship with your community beyond just the election cycle. Because we get to know each other really well, we do a lot of really good work. But, like you said, even with this, we don't get to know each other.
Janelle Jolley 33:19
We get to do the work.
Janelle Jolley 33:21
And it's a lot of work, and it's very busy, and it makes everyone exhausted.
Janelle Jolley 33:24
Yeah. But, like, what happened with this, the primary campaign, like it all fell away after he, you know, after he dropped out.
Janelle Jolley 33:31
And it's just like, there was- and that drives me crazy, or it makes- no, it doesn't drive me crazy, it makes me sad to think about. It's just like, there were millions of people coast to coast. And like, what would- I mean, it would have been a herculean task and maybe there wasn't the money for that, maybe there wasn't the energy for that, maybe the pandemic would have thwarted that completely, I don't know. But that is a formidable...politically, I mean, potentially, that is a formidable political force. If there was some durable organiza- and I'm not faulting anyone because, again, that's herculean. But like, god damn, that was it.
And honestly, every time someone makes it into an organization of some kind, I feel like that initiates the bust. Because all of a sudden they...are a...hierarchy of some way, it has to go through something, there has to be donations of some kind. And so it starts to add to the barriers that people have to getting involved. Whereas, if it's something that doesn't feel like organizing, if it's you talking with five of your friends, and you talk fairly regularly, and it's not something you think of as politics?
Janelle Jolley 34:50
And it's much more sustainable.
Janelle Jolley 34:52
Because people are just so tired of politics. Like, even if you leave out the word politics, you talk about everything else the same?
Janelle Jolley 35:01
You'll probably get a better reaction. Because people are just so tired.
Janelle Jolley 35:05
Worn out, yeah.
Janelle Jolley 35:06
Hmm, interesting. Okay, so....interesting. Just to build on what you were saying about maintaining some durable organizing structures, I think that that's extremely necessary. I don't- that's not easy, but I think it's extremely necessary if we're going to advance some notion of: A. Accountability, B. Progress on the issues that we all care about. So to get into that further, a couple weeks ago when you and I were talking, trying to arrange this, you were talking to me about- ah, are you aloud to talk about this? VAN? The VAN stuff we were talking about?
Uhh...maybe, keep going.
Janelle Jolley 35:54
Okay. You were talking about maybe getting a hold of VAN or VAN data so that- I don't remember exactly what you were saying because I made you stop talking because I was like, "Okay, we have to get this recorded." But like, what are, you know, things are, as they are right now, like things are pretty unorganized- for people like you and I, call them Berniecrats or leftists or what have you, things are pretty disheveled and not organized. However, we do, having gone through these experiences with campaigns, paid or not, we do have a certain skill set, a certain know-how, we do have the capacity for organization. If we are looking to the future and how we might create it in a better way, or shift it in a better direction, a life-giving direction that we all care about: healthcare, education, food, housing, you know, etc, everything. How are ways- what are the ways, in your mind, that we can use that skill set, use the data, blah, blah, blah, in order to do that? And I specifically wanted to double click on or have you expand upon like what we were starting to talk about on the phone, about VAN, and how that could be a tool, a method that we can start using for our own ends, and...but maybe I'm not understanding that correctly.
I love DoubleClick for this moment, by the way. And so, what I'm going to say is, VAN is a vote builder system, which the Democratic Party typically uses to organize voter data and coordinate events or lead drops and things like that. So there are similar ones that exist for republicans, things like Nation Builder. There's some competitors to these, like PDI, there's a few others-
Janelle Jolley 37:56
Talk about how important things like this are. Like, what role do they play in helping candidates win? Or, movements win?
Yeah. So, essentially, if you are a...well, some- I'm gonna do two things. I'm gonna say, if you are a candidate or you are a, fall under a particular guidelines, you can access voter data from either the Secretary of State or your Board of Elections, depending on where you live. So the requirements might be slightly different, if you're out of California, to get those. But, when you're a candidate, you definitely can get that. It is decently accurate, right? Because it's from the Board of Elections or Secretary of State. And so that way, when you are going out talking to people, you are not doing it blindly. And so, what you want to do when, not just when you're campaigning, but when you're organizing an area, is kind of have a road map or a topographical kind of map for your organizing in the same way you would want a road map if you're on a road trip, or you would want a topographical map if you're doing some geologist thing. Geologists use- yeah, they use the rock maps. Like, topographical map is a thing, right?
Janelle Jolley 39:13
So all that being said, where- how are you thinking about using your skills, your know how, the tools that you know, that are on offer? Like, how are you thinking about using that to sort of reconstitute some manner of organizing? Or are you? Like, or is it just- I don't know.
Oh, tough question. I will probably work some more campaigns and be doing organizing. But I think that when...like, I-
Janelle Jolley 39:47
Like, when you were talking about the VAN, what were you- you were super amped about VAN.
So, I was telling you that there- so, in major cities, a lot of places, like that's the difficult part is you'll start organizing on a thing, no one will know exactly what to do, and so no one will do anything. Or they'll have different ideas of what to do, so then they make you pick one? But you don't really have to pick one, you can do things like, "Hey, we're going to go to this other meeting. Hey, we're going to support this other thing. But like, make sure that the thing that you are interested in is being mentioned when you're in other places," right?
Janelle Jolley 39:55
I see, I see.
So instead of-
Janelle Jolley 40:27
You don't come in hot, like, "This is what the fuck we're doing!"
Yeah! Oh my god, no.
Janelle Jolley 40:32
It's just like, "Hey, we're here to learn more about this, we're here to support this and by the way-"
You're like, "Hey, I support renters rights. And, by the way, I'm also doing this thing because, you know, fuck Uber, because our drivers should have fair pay and wages to be able to afford their rent." So what I would say is, don't go in and fuck Uber, that's, that's what I said, That's what he said, but what you're gonna do is you're going to go in, and you're gonna say, "I care about x. I also care about y. Y is related to x, because...," and you tell them. So that way you're building the connection with individuals, not necessarily with the org that is a coalition. However, whenever the Prop 22 kind of thing comes up and it is an election, you have seven or ten or a dozen people in your group, which are members of different organizations, who can then go back and ask, "Will you support this effort," and do that coalition building. Because at that point, you have a few people from a few different orgs that are kind of all on the same page. And it's a lot easier to say, "Hey, let's send out an event invite for a phone bank to all seven lists and see how many people we get and build from there," right? So I think that what happens is that we're very used to organizing within a business framework. So that is either with the organization, or with a nonprofit, or with a campaign, or with something else. And I think if we really want accountability, if we really want like better communities, we have to organize just as people. As the humans we are who talk to each other. You know what I mean? And yes, all of those other things are very important. They'll be relevant. It's not that we're leaving them in the dust, we're not going to live in the woods. But they can't be first. Orgs are never first, people are first.
Janelle Jolley 41:01
So what are you planning on- what are you planning on using VAN for? What would you like to use VAN for? How are you thinking about it?
So VAN is just a...one of the database systems. I would actually say there are quite a few others that are up and coming. So I think what I was going to talk to you about on the phone is that I know two or three different people that are software developers that are developing alternatives to VAN so that there isn't this monopoly. Because you have to pay for VAN and you can only get it under particular conditions. It's... for Nation Builder and PDI they're different, but-
Janelle Jolley 43:01
Can I say this?
Janelle Jolley 43:02
We're gonna have to put your Twitter handle or something in the show notes, because I'm sure people are gonna want to follow up with you.
I have no Twitter.
Janelle Jolley 43:10
I will get a Twitter...maybe.
Janelle Jolley 43:11
Woman, you gonna have to be open to people hitting you up because I'm sure someone is going to- like there- I'm sure that at some point, a software engineer will be listening who's like, "Hey, how can I help?" Because it is-
Oh, I can definitely put them in touch with another software engineer.
Janelle Jolley 43:23
Yeah. Because there- I think there is this groundswell of desire to support, you know... demolishing, abolishing the barrier, the unnecessary barriers that exists that can foment some sort of political contestation.
Yeah, just to be frank, we have a shit ton of monopolies in a bunch of different areas and it's not useful.
Janelle Jolley 43:44
Yeah, yeah. That's right. But, you're working with the software engineers to open- would you get open source-
I wouldn't say I am working with them. I would say I know-
Janelle Jolley 43:52
You know some who are working on it.
Two or three software engineers who are working on various systems. And what they essentially do is enable you to get the voter data as the CSV file. And then instead of uploading it to VAN, or something, where you have to pay $2,500 a month for it, you can-
Janelle Jolley 44:08
Ha! A month? Wow.
You can upload it instead to a system, which will do things like- so part of my job is like, "Hey, it would be good to target this group of people for XYZ reasons." And so for smaller campaigns, they don't have somebody that knows which ones or why they might do that. They're just like, "This is a bunch of voters. They're just in a list. What is happening?" I think what these will do is make it much easier for people who had no idea what they were doing to then have the data and have it clear what they're doing.
Janelle Jolley 44:46
Are you saying that moving forward, you think that your contribution, or your time and talents, would be best used in the electoral realm on another campaign? Are you thinking about anything that is extra-electoral, meaning outside of the electoral realm? Or is it just like, "Electoralism as my shit. This is where I cut my teeth, this is what I understand, this is what I enjoy. And I think that this electoralism, even though it's completely just fucking rubbish," depending on your point of view-
No, but for reals.
Janelle Jolley 45:20
Right! "This is an arena we can't- we as people who think people should have health care- can't ignore." Like, is that what you're saying?
What I would say is, yeah, it's something that...like, it can't be ignored and, especially having worked in it, I feel like if good people who believe these values get tired and leave all the time, then we're not gonna get anywhere.
Janelle Jolley 45:47
But do you- but isn't part of it, we get tired and we leave because we see that it's not- this is the strategy that doesn't bear fruit if you're a certain kind of political bent? I'm just playing devil's advocate here.
I mean, yes and no. Yes, because, I mean, not everything works every time, so you're bound to have some losses. Like, that happens.
Janelle Jolley 46:08
No, but we keep taking Ls! We only take Ls, it feels like.
Well, we also...I mean, you're talking about-
Janelle Jolley 46:16
Look at the primary. Look at- just, I'm not fussing at you. I'm just...devil's advocate, here.
That's okay, fuss away.
Janelle Jolley 46:23
If you look at- if you take just recently, the 2020 primary and how everything shook out in the primary and then on to the general. The left, or progressive, flank of the party, we got nothing.
Janelle Jolley 46:42
We had the most energy and support up until the Night of the Long Knives, and we got nothing. So how could someone- like, a person like me, let's call her Janelle, for example. I look at that and I'm just like, "What the fuck? What is there to be done?" We get dick.
Because Janelle is looking at the big races and big races are harder to win. So if you want to win big races, you have to win, you know, if you win 200 City Council races and then 10 of those people run for senate and then two of them win, right? Then you've made the progress of progressive people.
Janelle Jolley 47:21
So change my vantage point.
Janelle Jolley 47:22
We did get a Cori Bush. This girl- like someone solidly working class who unseated a ghoul.
Janelle Jolley 47:29
We've got some progressive wins statewide, locally in California.
And I'm gonna tell you, it sucks when we lose. It sucks a lot. Especially because there is so much on the line for so many people. But I think if I, as a person who works campaigns, if I were discouraged every time I lost, I would not still be in this. But the thing is-
Janelle Jolley 47:49
Cuz you just came off of a losing proposition, didn't you?
I just lost two!
Janelle Jolley 47:53
You lose sometimes. But what happens is that, like, I want the realm of politics to have people who believe in human rights, right? And so if everyone who believes in human rights is looking at the elections, and we see losses on the national scale, and on some state levels, and then is discouraged, and then checks out? The people who just won? They're not checking out, they're still there. And so I don't want, like I don't know if I want to do politics forever. I'm not gonna lie, I get tired of campaigns. Like, I need a break. I need to do some other stuff in between them. So thank god it's seasonal. But what happens is that I literally can't abandon it because I don't want to see that ground to someone else.
Janelle Jolley 48:48
But is it- again, I'm just- and you know I love you, I'm just- I ask these in good faith. Whether or not you see ground has zero effect on how directly antagonistic the mainstream Democratic Party is to your interest. So it doesn't- so what I'm saying is, does it actually matter? I ask this because, I'm not asking this to be, you know, nihilistic.
No, I'm with you.
Janelle Jolley 49:09
But does it matter if people like us are even involved? Because it seems like we get- even if, even when-
Janelle Jolley 49:17
For an example, and not to pick on her because nobody's perfect, but even when you get an insurgent to unseat an incumbent to great fanfare like an AOC, it's not like she's able to just come out and tell the truth about Nancy and be like, "No, fuck you mama bear. I ain't wit it, you full of shit."
Well, because she's not Gen Z. Gen Z will be like, "Fuck you."
Janelle Jolley 49:39
But, you know I'm saying? Like, even-
Janelle Jolley 49:41
Like, there's still a level of, what's the word? Not obstinance, but...obstruction.
We still live in old gaurd. So what I would say, is that at previous times in American history when there has been high polarization and both parties have been very entrenched, even when they weren't necessarily Democrats and Republicans, the way that there was an adjustment was very age and generational-centric, where it was a younger guard of people in both parties that came up and was like, "You guys are full of shit." And then as a unit, there was an era of bipartisanship, which isn't really bipartisan. It's kind of just like, "Hey, we didn't like what these older people were doing. And they've been there forever." And then it switches, and then there's increased tension among that until we're at such a point as there is increased polarization again. So I think that the best bet structurally to actually get some sort of adjustment, because, like you said, we can get one-offs all day, it's not gonna matter until you get the 51st one-off in a 100 senate, right?
Janelle Jolley 50:55
So you can't leave it cuz nothing happens, but for a long time, you have to deal with nothing happening while you are actively working and it sucks.
Janelle Jolley 51:04
And building toward power.
Like, if you approach all electoral politics as if it exists only in electoral politics, then we're gonna get really predictable outcomes? And so I think, right now everything's very siloed. Like, "That's electoral politics over there, and here's everything else I'm doing." And it really needs to be more cohesive, in that like, what am I doing on the daily that I'm not even thinking about that will affect electoral politics? Or that I can do that would. Like, can I-
Janelle Jolley 51:43
So are you saying that that's a...I need to- you didn't say this directly, but I'm...because I'm a masochist. Like, I need to unsettle this binary of electoralism and everything else?
Janelle Jolley 51:58
There are...that's a false binary that I need to challenge?
Yeah. I would say that that's something that- and it's really common too, because it's a lot easier to be like, "That is the election." And there are things that are like specifically election related, right?
Janelle Jolley 52:13
But broadening that so that we are not as constrained by it, I think, is really, really important.
Janelle Jolley 52:21
I see. But what does that mean to not be constrained by it? And what does it mean to not live in that false binary?
I think it would mean-
Janelle Jolley 52:27
Give me another example.
I think it would mean that Janelle, who cares about Medicare For All, would call a person who they know is not for Medicare For All, who's their friend, and check on them. Because that's what friends should do first. And then mention, when they're like, "How have you been?" Mention something that is relevant to that issue. Say, "I just met with my friend the other day, and her mom had a tumor taken out when I was 30 pounds, that was a crazy story to hear." You know? Make it tangible for people so that they aren't just thinking about health care in the realm of politics. So that they aren't just thinking about health care when they're in the hospital. So that when they think of their best friend, they think of their best friend's healthcare. So that when they think of-
Janelle Jolley 53:24
But then what is the step after that, that can push us from the peer to peer to, fucking, Nancy bringing the Medicare For All bill to the floor.You know what I'm saying? Like, what-
Well, you're gonna be like, "Oh hey, you were a Republican, but how about you vote against Nancy Pelosi?" You know what I mean? Like, if you have already developed a relationship with someone where you can talk about political things outside of the realm of electoral politics, then it's that much easier when you bring up something electoral and have a recommendation for them. Because you already have that credibility. They already know, like, "Hey, we agree on these issues." They're not going to take it as like, "You're telling me how to vote," like that sort of thing.
Janelle Jolley 54:06
Hmm. So I think I have one more question for you because then I need to eat. But what what do you look forward to, either in terms of your own personal political practice, or what do you see as possibility for a collective political movement? And that feels like a weird question to ask because it's like, right now it's like, "Fuck can we all just not die from a pandemic? Can we still, you know, get over our hatred for, you know, a lot of mainstream politi- blah, blah, blah." All these things. But what is it that, when you, you know, take a breath. When, you know, we have, you know, reunion calls with volunteers and whatever. Like, how are you thinking about...how are you thinking about forward progress, forward movement? And not necessarily that you're doing it, but how do you think about it? And how do you imagine we could or we should? That's a big question.
It is. And, to be honest, I want to say like, I don't actually expect that much?
Janelle Jolley 55:32
Huh. Why do you say that? And what do you mean?
I...think that what will happen is that because some people burnout as other people come in, that we'll look back in 10 years and be in very much the same situation. Because the people we have right now will burn out now have a hard time continuing, right? So I think that the biggest thing I would prefer to see would be a focus on the burnout that collectively as, not even just leftish people, but just as a society, that we are experiencing? There are so many things coming at so many people all the time that you end up tuning out from all of it. Because it's either all or nothing? And I think we'll have a lot of people, especially as there's a depression, as there's less jobs, I think we'll have a lot of people that don't see the point in continuing. Not even just continuing in politics but maybe not continuing their lives. And we don't have much, I think, cultural capacity in the United States to sit and have the kind of emotional and difficult conversations that are necessary to not only be able to alleviate those things, but even to acknowledge that they exist. Acknowledge that, if you are an Amazon worker, even if you were getting paid well, that there are parts of that job that is exhausting.
Janelle Jolley 57:19
Okay, you've given me a lot to think on.
What would you...same question?
Janelle Jolley 57:24
Oh, that's not fair. Of course it's fair.
It's the most fair.
Janelle Jolley 57:28
Yeah, that's right. I think that...what I, big picture, ultimately, the future I that I hope to produce is a future in which we are able to eliminate material depravity. So, that's the big picture. How we get there? I'm gonna have to sit and chew on what you said about the binary of electoralism and everything else because, to me, it is a very stark-
I got something for you for that one.
Janelle Jolley 58:07
Hang on, I need to take a hot second to cus them out. Can you two shut the fuck up? I'm recording a show. Thank you! Praise the Lord. Okay. I'm going...okay, thank you. Did you already order the food?
(Unknown speaker) 58:20
No. That's why I'm here, to order the damn food.
Janelle Jolley 58:21
What are you gonna order?
(Unknown speaker) 58:22
We're gonna go to Delfina.
Janelle Jolley 58:24
Oh, super. Something with meat, please.
(Unknown speaker) 58:26
Janelle Jolley 58:26
What I would say is, while you're thinking about that, the way I think about it, because I encounter this problem very often with things that I am inclined to silo into its own thing, but that is somewhat related to something else? One of my geometry professors, one of my geometry teachers when I was in like sixth grade, "A square is a rectangle, a rectangle is not a square." So the electoral politics is the square. It is part of the rectangle, but also the rectangle is not square. Like, life isn't electoral politics, but electoral politics is a part of life. So it is both siloed, like it is its own thing.
Janelle Jolley 59:08
But it is also similar to this other thing. So I, in a very similar vein, is how I think of electoral politics. It is related and it's very similar to life, it's obviously connected. It's not like there's...but there's these obvious differences too that make it unique on its own.
Janelle Jolley 59:28
Yeah. No, no, no, I get you. I get what you're saying. I just- I'm gonna have this- I'm just gonna have this- I just never- I did not think that, as I was thinking of things in my own mind, that I was, as you suggested, creating this false binary. Because to me it is a, completely by nature, is like, there's electoralism, and then there's not. Like, there's electoralism, and then there's labor; there's electoralism, and there's da da da. But I- and I'm sitting here trying to under...I'm sitting here trying to process a challenge to that binary that I have created and been stuck in. That being said, I have to sit with that. Because, in my mind, how it works- let me tell you how it works in my mind.
Tell me about it. Yeah.
Janelle Jolley 1:00:17
In my mind how it works is: okay, electoralism is completely, in this country, is completely unresponsive at the federal level to a political project centered, or which has the bedrock of universal concrete material benefits for working people, which is what my politic is. Okay, so that being the case...fuck electorialism, because it's not responsive. But what are the forces- what are the related or adjacent forces...or, what are the forces that can have...can produce a response? And in my current analysis, this is before you fucked me up with this whole binary thing. In my current analysis, which I'm not- which we're all always thinking and evolving-
We're all growing.
Janelle Jolley 1:01:03
Blah, blah, growing. That means we need to shift our focus to labor and organizing it as a countervailing force to capital. That is where my- that's my current analysis. But-
Ooo, I still be loving that, though. We talked a lot about electoral politics. I mean, let's just say labor is amazing, and I'll leave it at that. But keep going, keep going.
Janelle Jolley 1:01:25
So that's how I'm thinking. Well, that's what I have been thinking lately. It's just like, maybe we need to completely- not completely abandon it, because it's- in order to...in order for labor to have produced that countervailing effect on capital, which is the dominant force in our electoral politics, we would still need representatives to legislate something like Medicare- you know? Like, in my mind, you know, there's some sort of targeted general strike that puts pressure on the owners of capital who put pressure on our elected officials, because that's all they- those are the people they care about.
Yeah, double step.
Janelle Jolley 1:02:03
Yeah, double step. But you can't completely abandon- even when I say it out loud- you can't completely abandon electoralism, because you need those legislators to legislate into existence Medicare For All, or a debt jubilee, or, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah. So it's-
Or taxes on them rich people.
Janelle Jolley 1:02:20
Or taxes on these rich bitches. So it's like...I don't know. I'm trying to make sense of my own thoughts. Anyway. Do you have any more questions?
Probably, but I can't think of them right now.
Janelle Jolley 1:02:34
Now I'm thinking about what is it you were getting for dinner?
Janelle Jolley 1:02:38
I don't know. I think they're ordering pizza? I'm hungry as fuck. And I think somebody's...oh-
Yeah, you were saying you were gonna eat ages ago.
Janelle Jolley 1:02:46
Yeah, but it's more important to speak to you. I'll eat after. This was wonderful, Holly. Thank you.
This was nice.
Janelle Jolley 1:02:58
I'm really gonna have to sit with the binary question. So, thank you for that.
It's hard. Just don't worry about binary or non-binary, just be like square- rectangle. It is both. We're fine.
Janelle Jolley 1:03:12
Oh, boy. This...this has given me a lot to wade through. And honestly, I have not stopped- it's a week later and I have not stopped thinking about this conversation. So if anyone can help me straighten out some of my thoughts, you know where to find me. Don't forget to subscribe. Tell your friends. Tell the world. And find us on Twitter and Instagram. And I'll see you next week!