Transcript for Feminist Utopia Podcast Episode 6

It’s all about the women… presidential candidates~

Benita: Welcome to Feminist Utopia, a community dedicated to envisioning and creating a more just society for all. Hi, thanks for joining us on Feminist Utopia today.  I’m Benita Malone.

Debby:  This is Debby  Williams.

Benita: This is episode  6 and today we’re talking all about  the women  in the 2020 presidential race. Debby: Forget about all those “B boys.”  (Biden, Bernie, Beto, Budegieg)

Benita: I wish we  could.   It does  seem  to be really early to be talking about  the 2020 election.  But honestly, with so many people running it is going to be here before you know it.  And I’m kind of excited to see how it’s all going to shape out! You know, most  of the primaries take the form of the follow-the-leader race where everybody is chasing a clear front runner.  Or a free-for-all in which there is no obvious heir apparent….which I think this race is a free-for-all.  I know there’s pundits that say that the two most prominent elderly men are vying for the nomination   but I’m not ready to rule anybody out.  Which is why I’m excited to introduce you all to the women candidates that have declared so far.

Debby: I think  I’m so excited about it because I’m so excited about  2020 being around the corner and this na  onal nightmare possibly being over.  But I’m also super excited about the women.  I feel like it’s a fantasy football team of excellence and good  policy!  It makes me feel be  er about life.

Benita: Oh yeah, that there’s so much excitement and energy and qualified women! Debby:   Yes, highly qualified.

Benita: Let’s jump right in… in alphabe   cal order… Minnesota  native Amy Klobuchar!  I take some  pride  in that!  I was born in Minnesota, and I claim North Dakota as my home state.  So, the fact that she announced in the middle of a blizzard outside  in February was just wonderful.  I loved  seeing  those  pictures. But she is a former corporate lawyer.  She was the first woman to be elected a Minnesota senator.  And she’s gained a little bit of prominence through her unflappable questioning of Supreme Court nominee Brett   Kavanaugh.  And she has been in politics for about 12 years.

Debby: I do think one  of the unsurprising things is about  who gives her money.   Law firms.  She’s worked in law. She was an elected  prosecutor  at one point.  And the food  and dairy industry…  She comes  from Minnesota. Shocker.   I don’t really consider that a nega   ve at all.  She also believes that we should get dark money out of politics and is saying, at least right now, she isn’t going to take corporate PAC money.  We’ll get into a discussion about that later when we get to Elizabeth Warren.

Benita: Yeah

Debby: And I have some  issues with the idea of women  saying they aren’t going to take PAC money these are things that are necessary now in our post Citizen’s United society.

Benita: Absolutely, yeah.  Put a pin in that.  We’ll come back to it.

Debby: One of my things about  her is how  frankly badass  she is.  The only complaints  I’ve heard about her from these former staffers that are like “She yelled at me” and “She was mad that I forgot the fork when  I brought  her a salad so she yelled at me and ate the salad with a comb.”  I love that.   She was hungry.  It was time to eat.   She solved a problem.  I don’t know.   That seems…  You have a problem.   You solve  it.  I like that!

Benita: Talking about  that negative publicity that Amy Kobluchar got about being a tough boss… For one, you don’t hear men being described that way.   And for another, the article was skewed.  They did not interview people that were happy working for Amy.  And there were people that wanted to offer positive things that just didn’t make the cut… in the article because it didn’t fit the narrative… that they were trying to present of her as being difficult.

Debby:  And a tough… the kind of woman that doesn’t  compromise  or whatever.  When actually I find her centrist posi  ons to be one of the more troubling,  in a vague  way, issues with her.  Right now  as Benita and I have talked about I’m not currently worrying about  electability  when  I look at these candidates.   This is my fantasy pool.  And  I get to vote  for who  I really believe  in.  And frankly she’s focusing on compromise which I do think is a good  idea but also she’s one of the few that isn’t proposing Medicare for all. She just wants to lower the age to 55. She’s like Hillary Clinton  regarding  foreign  policy issues, keen on intervention, especially  in Syria, and she’s an ICE supporter (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

Benita: I have some  big concerns  about  that, too.   So there’s  pros and cons.   We’ll try and just give you a little bit of the pros and cons on all of these candidates, but if we don’t keep moving on we’re going to be here for too long.The next one  is Kirsten Gillibrand.   I’m actually going to see her!  She’s coming to Houston.  I’ll be going to see her on Saturday morning  the Democra    c Party in Harris County is pu  ng on these candidate forums.  So, I’m excited to learn more about  her.  I really don’t  know  that much.   I know she’s a former corporate lawyer, and she’s New York’s congressional representative.  She was one of the first senators that called out Trump’s sexism and she actually led the push for Democra   c senator Al Franken to resign a  er those  sexual misconduct  allega   ons.  She announced  on Stephen Colbert that she was going to explore running and then she actually came into the race on March 17th. She’s been in politics for about 11 years.

Debby:  And she has a lot of federal experience which  I appreciate.  And a lot of her money, because she’s from New York comes from Wall Street investment firms and stuff.  And when she was a private a  orney she defended Big Tobacco, and so progressives are going to have a hard   me with her at least in the primaries. But on the plus side, she supports Medicare for all which is important to me. She was a Green New Deal supporter.  And if you go to her website,  you’ll find that she really… in her issues sec  on addresses ins  tu  onal racism and promotes criminal jus   ce reform  so…   I like that about  her.

Benita: Some of the cons though is she has done work defending the Tobacco Industry

Debby:   Yes, that’s huge

Benita:  And she’s kind of got an an  -immigrant past.  So that raises some questions about where her loyalties lie. Debby:  I think that she’s trying to reach those  progressives  by going  on shows  like Colbert  and has an extensive social media following.  And for the record, all of the links for all of the social media for all the female candidates will be in the show notes for you to explore on your own.

Benita:  Yep.  Moving  right along.   Tulsi Gabbard.  Tulsi was the first Hindu member of congress.  She is a Hawaiian representa   ve.  She also is a veteran.  She has experience fighting in the Iraq War as part of the National Guard. And she supported  Bernie Sanders in his 2016 Democratic   Primary campaign.   She entered the race pretty early on February 2nd.  And she’s been  in politics for 17 years!

Debby:   That seems a really long   me for someone  as young as her.

Benita: Yeah

Debby:  I was surprised to see that because… one of the cons I have about  her is…. Tulsi who??..  That what  kind of major legislation has she been involved in and it was interesting that most of her stuff is focusing on military and veteran  affairs which I don’t  think always gets a lot of a  en  on.  And she’s one of the few people in Congress who has spoken out about ending support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen.  Stop funding this war in Yemen effectively.  And I think that is interesting because  there’s bipartisan support for Saudi Arabia in Congress and in the White  House. And she came out saying nope,  we shouldn’t be doing this!

Benita:  Yeah, not only did she come out… she’s controversial because she met with Syrian leader  Bashar al-Assad, and she sided with Vladimir Pu  n against Obama  on the US intervention in Syria. So there’s a lot to unpack there.

Debby:  I think part of it is that she doesn’t  have a lot of seasoning.  I think being  a senator  helps in these  things because you are more exposed to foreign policy issues and stuff than you are necessarily in Congress if you’re not on the right committees.  I’d have to check and see what committees she has been a part of. But I do feel that foreign policy experience and understanding that some   me regime change is necessary…  I get her position in Saudi Arabia,  and I get her position supporting Putin over Obama.   It’s a difference of opinion.  She does not believe the US should be involved  in regime  change,  and on the surface  I can’t argue with that.

Benita:  Yeah, one of the concerns  that I have about her though is her history with women’s  reproductive rights.

Debby:  Yes

Benita: She opposed abortion and she supported a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between  a man and a woman.   And while she says she’s since changed her views, I know she hasn’t won over the Democratic Party’s LGBT Caucus.  They actually supported  her Democratic Primary opponent  in 2016. So… there’s a little bit of a concern  with her history on LGBT and reproductive rights.

Debby:  Okay, and moving on…. Kamala  Harris.   I adore her and am troubled by her all at the same    me!  She is the child of immigrants, Jamaican and Indian. She came up as a prosecutor  in Oakland and was very prominent in creating prosecutorial  standards… and did things like criminalizing truancy and creating rules that… I don’t  want to say criminalized poor people…   but certainly didn’t add to making the lives of black people or poor people easier. When she became the Attorney General of California, that was one of the things that was a huge problem for her to get the nomination.  She’s been in politics for 16 years. She does it beautifully.  She speaks beautifully.  She again also works without  super PACS or corporate  PACS and again we’ll get back to how I feel about that when we get down to Elizabeth Warren.   I do like her pragmatism.  She sees  the world  for as it is.

Benita:  I have reservations I would  say about  her.  She’s got such a mixed record on reforming the justice system. She’s said that she’s for reparations, for the Green New  Deal, for decriminalizing sex work and legalizing pot.   But when she had the opportunity to vote for all of those reforms when she was in lower office, she didn’t.

Debby:   Exactly! She actively prosecuted people and she like Oh that’s not a big deal now.  Well, when it was politically advantageous  to her to use them to further herself she did.

Benita:  And I think that her whole  career… she’s been  gearing up for this run for president.   She has really tried to have…  I mean she hasn’t really done anything because  she didn’t want anything to follow her that would be negative.  So, I just am… a little reserved  on her.  Let’s just say that.

Debby:  But I’d be totally willing to vote for her.  And if she got the nomination, I’d probably go door to door and do the work.

Benita: Oh absolutely! So, I heard about this on Rachel Maddow.   I like listening  to her.  I listen to the podcast.  But she was telling me about this pledge that is put out by and you can find it in the show notes but it’s just and it’s… they’re asking people to take the 2020 pledge  and the premise is that basically we have to defeat  Donald Trump.  And the first step is a primary contest that produces  a strong Democratic nominee  and the second of course  is winning the general  election.   So you can go there and take a personal  pledge  to rally behind the winner whoever the ultimate Democratic nominee is. Support them.  Also, do the work to beat Trump. So that means personally volunteer, knock on doors, make phone calls whatever it takes.  They have a pledge for candidates  also and they’re  pledging  that they’re  going  to rally behind whoever the Democratic nominee is right now, no questions asked, full support.  A little over half of the nominees now have already taken the pledge which I think is really exciting.  I don’t want to get into a protracted race for the primary candidate and then have hard feelings or… a sore loser situation.

Debby:  Good!  So, we’re going  to move  on to… my personal  favorite…  You haven’t  said which one  you love yet and I’m just going to announce this is my dream candidate right now.  And it’s Elizabeth Warren.

Benita:  Are you…??  Honestly, we did NOT talk about this beforehand, but she has my full support!

Debby:  Oh yay!! We’re twinsies!!

Benita:  Yeah, she’s my favorite!   So far!  But like I say, well…  I’ll keep an open mind.  I’m going  to see Kirsten but right now Elizabeth Warren… she’s just my favorite.  And it’s going to take a lot to knock her off that pedestal that I have her on.

Debby:  I think she’s been  extraordinary with the hard-hitting policy initiatives, everything from reparations in the form of billions to historically black universities to forgiving student loan debt to Medicare  for all.  I mean  almost everyone is agreeing to Medicare for all in the Democratic primary. And she’s just like Medicare for all, that’s easy! Let’s work on helping younger people have a secure financial future and she really is looking at it in a systemic way.

Benita:  I really get the feeling  that she’s not just talking to whatever  crowd  she is and coming  up with whatever they want to hear.  She’s actually put in the work and thought it through and has a specific plan.

Debby:  Yes

Benita: She talked to black women  in Houston, all the candidates did.  They did a huge event and I know  that Elizabeth Warren got standing ovations and just really impressed.

Debby: And I think she has a good  social justice platform which I frankly haven’t  seen  from  Amy Kobluchar as much. I found Amy Kobluchar’s website odd… like there were no issues pages.   It was donate or volunteer or get off. But  I do think that in Elizabeth’s awareness of social justice issues sometimes she can step into it, as all white people can, by not necessarily understanding the subtleties.  And… I’m going to bring up Pocahontas – i mean it’s the elephant in the middle of the room.  I think when  she wrote her biography about being told that she has Na ve American heritage… that evidently isn’t uncommon  for many people in Oklahoma to tell their kids, I guess.   And so when the GOP, especially Trump was making fun of it saying it wasn’t true, she fell into the Republican trap of viewing Native American  heritage  as a race and all that it implies.   And I think she stepped  into with that DNA test.

Benita:  She did step into it with the DNA test, but they came after her family.

Debby: Yes

Benita:  This was a story… generations of this family lore…  It was a very personal  attack.  And obviously she believed what she had been told.

Debby:   Yes, and you know everybody who’s into genealogy or something has had that weird story told about your family and 90% of the    me it isn’t true.  Like your great-grandfather came from this town in Germany… whoops,  it was upper state New York.  Oh wait no… that was Trump.

Benita: One of the things about  Elizabeth Warren is, she was a Harvard law professor.

Debby:  Yes

Benita:  And now she’s a U.S. Senator obviously from Massachusetts, but she brings that scholarliness to her policies.

Debby:  Yes

Benita:  And everything is really well-thought  out.  And one of the things that I learned  was with her oversight  of the financial industry bailout, she has been  such a consumer advocate

Debby:  Yes

Benita:  Going against the big banks and Wells Fargo and just holding their feet to the fire which I think  is necessary and amazing and brave.

Debby:   Yes, I completely agree and thankless. It is completely and utterly thankless to do that task.  And then 50 years from now hopefully we’ll be seeing… oh and then we created this consumer protection organization and it was a really good  idea!

Benita: Right

Debby: But we’re still fighting that right now.  And she’s still fighting.  And it comes back to electability and funding so…  She’s not polling great in spite of the fact that she’s well-known.  Her policies are sound.  And I’m kind of surprised by all this.  And then I read about  her insistence  about  I’m not taking any corporate PAC money and making a big deal out of it.  She’s not getting funding!

Benita:  And I think that is such a mistake!  PAC money is unions.  PAC money is not always the corporate  fat cats that you think of. It’s the teachers’ union, it’s the united electrical workers, it’s really important to be able to compete on a financial level and I’m just sick that she’s not considering  accepting PACs.  It’s not appreciated how hard it is to raise money without getting those larger checks.

Debby:   Especially at the presidential level!  It’s ridiculous. To the point where, a couple weeks ago her finance director actually resigned because  this person’s hands were basically   tied in terms of creating enough funding for a presidential campaign when someone  is polling so low and isn’t as exciting to the voters as, you know, Bernie.  And everybody’s like, oh I’ll send  her twenty  bucks and frankly, I think Elizabeth Warren’s  policies  are far more racially and social justice and economic justice oriented than even Bernie Sanders.  But it’s not exciting.

Benita: She was in Texas talking to African American women,  and she had a plan to decrease  the mortality rate of African American women  and children.  And Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate.  3rd world countries are doing better than Texas is.  And for her to be aware of that coming  into Texas and having a plan…  She just blew everybody away!  And it would just be a shame if money is the reason she can’t get the Democratic nomination and one of the things that I have decided and committed to do is support her financially. I’ve donated to her campaign already  and I am going to become  a monthly sustainable donor because I believe she is imminently electable.   And she deserves to be elected.  If we’re talking Feminist Utopia here, it’s President Warren in 2020!

Debby:   Yes!!  Okay, this is my least favorite candidate.   Is she still a candidate?   I don’t  know.   I haven’t  heard anything from her in ages.  Her website’s  still up. Marianne Williamson,  self-help,  spiritual guru of Oprah from the1990s, has decided  that she can cure us all.

Benita:  She actually hasn’t formally announced.

Debby:  Oh!

Benita:  She said that she was thinking of running for president in November 2018, so she’s not formally announced yet.

Debby:  But she has a website with the most extensive issues page I’ve seen out of any of the candidates.

Benita: Oh really?

Debby:  It goes  on to like all sorts of things: education policy, like 15 different topics.  So for someone  who’s not running, she’s really got a lot of information out there.  She’s been in politocs for 5 years?

Benita:  Yeah, who knows.  She might have stuffed envelopes for somebody when she was you know in high school or something I don’t  know.   But I mean  she does  have some  pretty unique  ideas.   She’s for reparations and more human U.S. immigration policy. I’m not informed enough about reparations.  I can’t wrap my head  around  that.   That’s another  whole  episode maybe we can do at another   time. But she is very wealthy and funding her own campaign so there’s that.

Debby:  I want someone who has knowledge of economic policy, legislation, and the ability to get things done because when you elect somebody with fuzzy ideas you get really bad policy.  And it’s attractive.  I get it… like “Build the Wall” was how Trump got elected!  But there was no sound policy behind it and now look where we are. And  I don’t want it to come from my side either.

Benita: Agreed.  Somebody that would be exciting to get into the race is that hasn’t yet announced  is Stacey Abrams.

Debby:  Yes!!

Benita:  She of course  is a lawyer and… I did not know  this, but she is a novelist.   She’s sold over a hundred thousand romantic suspense novels!  And her pen name is Selena Montgomery.

Debby:  I had no idea.

Benita:  So I might have to put a link in the show  notes  to one  of her books and check it out.  She was a Georgia state representative from 2007-2017 and of course, she ran against Brian Kemp in the 2016 gubernatorial race. And I think she was robbed.

Debby:  She was robbed, and we all know she was robbed.  We all know voter suppression and miscounts and… But that’s how they’ve been doing it for years. And the fact that people are finally waking up to it… That’s good.  One thing I’m really impressed by her is she delivered the Democratic rebuttal to Donald Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address.  And usually that’s where aspiring politicians go to die.  They do something like Bobby Jindal, and then…  it’s over.   It happens  on both  sides of the aisle.  She. did. well!  And it was so nice to see her, especially a  er this devastating loss in Georgia  come  back and bring it in a intelligent  and directed  manner.   And I think that is probably her most prominent national stuff? And this comes down to… I really like her policy initiataves, but frankly if you go to her website, they’re focused on the state of Georgia.

Benita:  Well, there’s some speculation the big announcement  that she’s gearing up for is a run for state senate in Georgia.  And I think that would  be an excellent, excellent place for her.

Debby:  I completely agree.

Benita:  I wish Beto  would  take a page  out of that playbook instead of running for president.  He could have ran for state senate.

Debby:   And he could have run against Cornyn!  Senator Cornyn from Texas, let me be more specific.  There was nothing preventing him from doing that.  Of course, Senator Cornyn is not as detested  as Ted Cruz. It’s easier to run against Ted Cruz than Cornyn.  So Beto thinks he’s going to run for president because  he made it onto Stephen Colbert because  he was running against the most hated man in the senate?

Benita:  And lost.

Debby:  And lost!  And lost.  I think the “B boys,”  several of them don’t necessarily understand that every single woman on this list has paid their dues, except for Marianne Williamson.

Benita:  So I think we’ve  done  at least a brief introduction of all the women candidates.  I do think, as much as I’m not a real sports fan, the sports analogy works well in this case.  This is like our dream team.   And we don’t know who the nominee is going to be. And I refuse  to get upset  or take anyone  too  seriously who  thinks that they know who the nominee is going to be. Nobody thought Trump was going to be the nominee! It is complicated, but I’m confident  that by the    time the Democratic party goes through their nominating process, the cream will rise to the top and we’ll get a great candidate that I’m happy to support.

Debby:   Yes, and I think the call to action isn’t to pick Elizabeth Warren.   The call to action is to  check out each of these women.  We’re going to links to all their social media.   And pick one that matches  your prominent  policy issues.  Follow them on social media.  That stuff really matters.  Nobody  says you have to read every tweet.   Even just the act of following them increases their prominence.

Benita:  And don’t get sucked into the electability converstion.  Because people will say Oh I like Elizabeth  Warren or I like Amy Kobluchar but can she really get elected.   The fact is that women  are electable.   If they weren’t, we wouldn’t have any women in elected office.  And we do!  The majority of the women  who are running hold elected office now!  So obviously they are electable.

Debby:   So, pick a candidate.  Support them, support them financially, support them around your dinner tables, volunteer, get involved.

Benita:  Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Debby:   Thank you for joining us today at Feminist Utopia.   If you like our work, please  give us a review  on Itunes, Stitcher, or wherever  you access our podcast  so others can find it as well.   You may also become  a Feminist Utopia patron at to show your appreciation. Remember, patrons get perks.

Benita:  And check out our blog and other resources at our website:   Email us your idea of what a feminist utopia would look like or any ques   ons to  We appreciate you taking the    time to listen and grow with us.

Feminist Utopia is created by Debby Williams and Benita Malone.