February 1, 2024
From The Real News Network

The 2024 elections have begun, and all signs point to a rehash of 2020’s Biden vs. Trump race. Biden is now at the nadir of his approval ratings in office, thanks to his administration’s obstinate support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza. Within the GOP, Trump’s nomination is a fait accompli despite the former president’s ongoing legal battles. There are few silver linings for the left in this scenario, but sticking our heads in the sand isn’t an option, either.

Mel Buer hosts a panel on the critical updates from the election year thus far with Lisa Snowden, award-winning reporter and editor-in-chief of Baltimore Beat; Max Alvarez, editor-in-chief of The Real News Network; Marc Steiner, host of The Marc Steiner Show at The Real News; and Stephen Janis, investigative reporter and co-host and creator of the Police Accountability Report at The Real News.

Studio Production: Cameron Granadino
Post-Production: David Hebden


The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.

Mel Buer:

Welcome back, my friends to The Real News Network podcast. I’m your host, Mel Buer. Before we begin, as always, I want to take a moment to thank you, our dedicated listeners for coming back week after week to listen to the show. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to do this important work. Whether you’ve got our shows on while you’re making coffee in the morning, put our podcasts on during your commute to and from work, or give us a listen throughout the workday, The Real News Network is committed to bringing you ad-free independent journalism that you can count on.

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Now, election season is well underway here in the United States, and the general sentiment about the upcoming general election is complex to say the least. Donald Trump is leading the race in the GOP with Nikki Haley trailing behind, and Democratic incumbent Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee for the opposing party. Despite the wall-to-wall coverage of these races by mainstream media, The Real News is focused on going beyond the horse race politicking that has jammed up the airwaves in the last couple months.

Anecdotally, no one wants this race to shape up in the way that it has. It seems apparent that many voters aren’t interested in this rehash of 2020, nor are they excited about the rock and a hard place choices that are likely to be on the ballot in November.

However, the stakes of this election are pretty steep. Our democracy already reeling from years of compounding crises feels on ever more unstable ground as we rocket toward the general election at the end of the year. To help us understand the stakes of this election and give some insight into what our listeners can expect in the coming months, I’ve gathered a roundtable of seasoned reporters to help us make sense of things. With me today are Lisa Snowden-McCray, award-winning reporter and editor-in-chief of the Baltimore Beat. Max Alvarez, editor-in-chief of The Real News. Mark Steiner, host of the Mark Steiner Show at The Real News and Stephen Janis, investigative reporter and co-host and creator of the Police Accountability Report here at The Real News.

Before we get started on today’s main conversation, I would like everyone to take a moment to introduce yourself, give folks a little bit of a window into the work you’ve been doing lately. Lisa, we can start with you.

Lisa Snowden:

Hi, I am Lisa Snowden. I’m the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Baltimore Beat, which is a Black-led nonprofit news outlet in Baltimore City, and we focus on news in Baltimore City and the surrounding areas.

Mel Buer:

Great. Thanks for coming on. Max.

Maximilian Alvarez:

Hey everyone. I am Maximilian Alvarez. I am the editor-in-chief here at The Real News Network, where I have the tremendous honor of getting to work with our entire incredible team, producing hard-hitting grassroots journalism that lifts up the voices from the front lines of struggle here in the US, here in Baltimore, and around the world.

And yeah, that is what we are working on this year across the board, whether it be in the fight for workers’ rights or the fight against the prison industrial complex, or against the military industrial complex that is wreaking havoc on our people and our planet. We’re going to be there this year covering it as best we can, as authentically as we can.

Mel Buer:

Mark, welcome to the show.

Mark Steiner:

Thank you. Yeah, I’m Mark Steiner. I’m for Real News. I’ve had the Mark Steiner show there now, and I’ve been covering the rise of the right in this country and across the globe. And another piece I do called Not in Our Name, which is talking about the Israel-Palestine conflict and the future there, talking to folks around the globe as well and talking about elections. And I’ve been involved in and covering elections, either involved in and/or covering elections for decades and decades and decades. We don’t have to go back to the very first one.

Mel Buer:

Great. And Stephen?

Stephen Janis:

I’m Stephen Janis. I’m a reporter for The Real News Network, and I produce a show called The Police Accountability Report, which covers law enforcement across the country.

Mel Buer:

Great. And everyone, all listeners should know who I am by now, Mel Buer, the host of The Real News Network podcast, and a staff reporter here at The Real News Network focusing on movements and the labor movement more specifically.

Thank you so much for coming on the show today, everyone. There is quite a bit that we could get into that would have us talking for a couple of hours about this current election season, but we’re going to do our best to keep the conversation focused on a few key points and observations that we hope will arm you in the audience, with some new thoughts and ways of viewing this current election season.

I think a good way to start off this conversation is to take stock of the state of things as they are today. We’re recording this episode near the end of January. We’ve already seen two primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire, both of which had some interesting things happen. What are some of the key things that our listeners should know about what’s been going on so far this election season? I think Max or Lisa might be great to start the conversation with your thoughts and observations.

Lisa Snowden:

For me, our focus is local, so it’s a little bit different. I mean, obviously we are impacted by what happens nationally, but for me, I’m looking because the national outlook is so dismal and because really my work is hyper local… My focus is local and specifically young people in Baltimore City because traditionally when it comes to talking about voting in Baltimore City, the focus is on the folks that show up, and that’s always the older population.

Young people are talked about a lot, especially in the last year or so, when despite the decrease in crime, there’s been a lot of talk among people in power, in the media, more mainstream media, about how to crack down on crime, still going back to harsher penalties and harsher penalties for children. So for me, as an editor with an outlet and a platform, I want to let young people be able to say what they want to say. Whether it be weighing in on the things that are on the ballot, but also how they feel about voting in general, because we’ve seen a lot of young people really be energized by what’s been happening in Gaza, the organizing that’s been happening around that. So are y’all even coming to the poll and do you want to talk about why or why not?

Mel Buer:

That’s great. Yeah. I think this is something that has also been part of the conversation here at The Real News, and we are definitely going to spend a good chunk of the back half of our conversation talking about local races. So I can’t wait to hear more of your thoughts about this.

Max, if you want to add in a bit of a national perspective and some of the things that The Real News is trying to cover this year from the federal election season, general election season.

Maximilian Alvarez:

Yeah. Well, I mean, I kind of want to just call out the elephant in the room, because like Lisa was saying, we got to be honest about the fact that once again, here we are in a situation where it’s election season. We are having our presidential elections, we’ve got national races, we’ve got state and local races, we’re in full swing, and I’m already exhausted. And it feels like we never really get a full reprieve from the election season. Feels like 80 to 90% of politics is just the never ending campaign as it were. And we’re always talking about what we’re going to do and what politicians are going to do somewhere, sometime down the road that never actually comes, right? And so people are naturally exhausted by this.

At the same time that it feels like everything around us is getting slowly or less, slowly worse for a lot of people. I mean, I don’t want to minimize and paint a totally bleak picture, and we can dig into this more as the conversation unfolds because it’s not as easy as just saying everything is terrible under Biden. There’s no hope for us one way or the other. Things are bad, they could always get worse. Things are bad, but they are getting better for some other people. Wage gains are being made in some parts of the economy. Jobs are being lost in other parts of the economy.

I mean, it’s always a bit of a mixed bag, but the fact of the matter is for I think your average person, and for all of us here covering this stuff, we have historically unpopular presidential candidates, one who is currently actively the world’s number one supporter of a genocide that is happening in real time in Gaza in President Joe Biden. And then you’ve got Donald Trump, who Jeff Charlotte rightly summed it up on Democracy Now recently, with his campaign fascism is literally on the ballot in 2024.

We can’t pretend that it’s anything otherwise. If you listen to what Trump is saying and what Republican voters are saying they want, then we’ve got a real pickle on our hands with these two options at the presidential level with a population that is exhausted already by the prospect of an election season that can feel the government around it sort of crumbling and the legitimacy of that government crumbling while inequality is rising, while war is breaking out all over the place, the climate crisis is getting worse. The bastards keep winning, right? At the same time, Trump and the right present a real scary and horrifying threat.

And so what do we do about that? What do we do about the fact that this is an election that at the national level is still going to have implications even though both candidates are awful, both parties at that level are oligarchic, corrupt, war-hungry, and serve the interest of the ruling class over everybody else. At the same time that elections still really, really matter, and there are tons of races from the, again, state, local and national level that the results of which are going to have a major impact on our lives.

And so we have to approach this election like any election, strategically, if not begrudgingly, because none of us want to do it, but it’s all going to have an impact on our lives. So that’s kind of the frame of mind that I’m coming into as it’s clear after these two primaries, it’s Biden and Trump, the Republican and Democratic parties are not going to allow any other option. This is what we’ve got. So I’m excited to talk with everyone here about what we do about that as citizens and as journalists.

Mel Buer:

Definitely Max, I think it’s definitely a good thing to point this conversation into a direction here just in a little bit about the, as you so succinctly put it a couple of days ago, the quandary that we’re in. Right?

Before we move on to that though, I want to get your take Mark. You’ve been covering elections for years, many, many election cycles. You’ve spent a lot of time in the decades of all of your work really kind of paying attention to the sort of political machinations of this country. And I really kind of want to key in on what mainstream media is choosing to focus on this time around. It feels a lot, at least to me and anecdotally from some of the folks that I’ve spoken with that we’re kind of seeing a rehash of 2016. It doesn’t seem like media is really covering important issues related to these races. There’s a lot of, oh, incendiary sort of rhetoric and propaganda that’s coming out of mainstream media coverage of the Trump campaign, of the Biden campaign and so on. Do you see this sort of pattern continuing? Is this a new thing? Do you feel like this is kind a new sort of salvo in this sort of information war that we’re seeing surrounding general elections, or is this more of the same?

Mark Steiner:

Well, I mean, first of all, media in general covers a horse race. They don’t cover the issues deeply, never have. Maybe some parts of media have, but for the most part, this is going to be about two men, about Trump and Biden. It’s going to be about what they represent, and it’s going to be about that part of the race. We’re not going to see a lot of, so far, we’re not seeing a lot about what either party or man stands for. So I think that’s going to be what we’re going to see for the rest of this election when it comes to coverage from mainstream media.

I think that, and for us, we’re in a very difficult time, and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and writing just about comparing this moment that we see ourselves in to, on some levels to Germany in 1930 and ’33 and how things fell apart and how the fascists seized power. And we are on the verge of it now. I’m sitting here, spent a good part of my day finishing up on our story that Max and I and Kayla did in Texas, where the right wing has seized power of Texas and seeing what they can do and what they can do with that power. And I think that’s what we’re facing.

I think that’s part of what the difficulty is in covering this race for us, these races for us, is that you’ve got these kind of neo-fascist right wing party on one side that is really gaining power momentum, organizing and putting together their power base. And you’ve got these kind of moderate Democrats on the other that really don’t offer the alternative, but they end up being the only alternative because otherwise you have the fascist in power. So I think we’re at a really difficult moment, and I don’t see the mainstream media getting into that in any depth at all. And I’ve been following that pretty closely.

Mel Buer:

Max or Stephen, do you have anything you’d like to add about that? I know both of you have had some thoughts about mainstream media coverage. I have found it absurd whenever I’ve turned on CNN and seen what they choose to spend their time on. There was a full day over the weekend of CNN reporters following GOP congressmen through the State House, through the House of Representatives, and asking them if they would support Trump, even if he was thrown in jail or taken off the ballot. Very much a kind of absurd sort of way to spend your time, I think. But yeah, Stephen, Max, if you have any thoughts?

Stephen Janis:

I can go. I mean, I think I’ve always been struck even since 2016 by the media’s fetishization of the Trump voters, excuse me, fetishizing the Trump voter to the sense that I don’t think we get a clearer picture about Trump electability to a certain extent. I mean, it’s so extreme, the coverage, and I think it sort of resulted in the surprise of 2016, but the media, again hasn’t corrected in any way, shape, or form that I can see.

And what’s interesting and what you saw this past two weeks with both of the caucuses was a very mild buried narrative emerging where voters in the Republican side of the ledger, or even in the independent side were saying they wouldn’t vote for Trump regardless. And the media just, if you watch the media, you think Trump was basically ready to be coronated president already. And I think it’s interesting that once they were confronted with the reality of some of 40% of the electorate, especially in New Hampshire and somewhat similar in suburban voters and things like that, and moderate voters saying, “We won’t vote for Trump regardless,” that there’s been a very mild correction, but not the kind of correction they need.

I do think that the media kind of feasts on Trump because Trump, I don’t know, he attracts a lot of attention as we know and get a lot of clicks, but there are things emerging that are problematic for this thesis. And I’m not sure why the mainstream media continues. It’s almost like they want to be… Because if you look at it from a broader perspective with the media, the media does very well when Trump is in power. I’m not saying that they want to put him in power, but they certainly seem to benefit from his antics and his true threat. And no one is saying it’s not a true threat of fascism. Mark is correct about that, and so is Max.

But I think there’s a certain amount of facilitating him by not really looking at what’s really going on outside this bubble they’ve created, where the whole world is a Trump voter. So that’s just something I think that they’ve done since 2016. They’ve over corrected, and I think it’s a…


… that they’ve done since 2016. They’ve overcorrected and I think it’s a mistake.

Lisa Snowden:

Yeah. Well, I just wanted to jump in. I think that what Stephen was saying was great. I’m a Black woman and one of the things that I’m obsessive about is talking about the lack of diversity in journalism. I think that it’s one of those things where when you’re closer to the danger, you’re more likely sometimes to be able to point out the danger. So if you have a core of media that are mostly white folks, even if they’re well-intentioned white folks that want to do a good job, sometimes they’re not able to sniff out the danger like Black or Brown or queer journalists. And those people are not always in newsrooms, and if they are in newsrooms, they’re not the ones that are making the calls. They’re the ones that are sent out on stories, but they’re not the ones that are shaping the big picture stuff on what these larger mainstream organizations are doing. I just wanted to throw that out there.

Mel Buer:

And that problem is certainly getting worse. We’ve seen just in the last week and a half alone, particularly at places like the LA Times, layoffs have affected disproportionately Black and Brown journalists who are the ones who are spending a lot of time covering these important issues, and it’s compounding the problem and making it even worse. So I think that’s a really good point that you’ve brought up, Lisa. Max, would you like to add something?

Maximilian Alvarez:

Well, just if I could hop in really quick because I think this is a really important part of the discussion that affects all of us, and I just want to keep tugging at this thread for our listeners. Because I think what Lisa and Stephen are saying and what we have seen over the course of the Trump era from 2016 on, there’s a very eerie and daunting parallel to what we’re watching happen right now with Israel’s War on Gaza and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, which we’ve been covering relentlessly here at the Real News. And we recently published a podcast here on the Real News feed where I got to interview Adam Johnson and Dan Boguslaw, Adam the columnist here, and Dan is a writer at the Intercept, and we were talking about how the role that Western media is playing laundering, Israel’s genocidal violence for a US audience. And how the stenographers of the IDF and Netanyahu’s government here in the West, they are presenting a version of what Israel is doing to the American public that Israel isn’t even presenting to itself.

Because again, if you listen to what a lot of politicians in Israel are saying very openly about what their aims are in Gaza, that doesn’t translate to what the New York Times is saying the Israel’s aims are in Gaza. It’s this weird effect where they’re trying to present a very skewed version of what’s actually happening and what Israel’s own government is saying, and its own press, is even saying. You had something similar happen throughout the Trump era, and it’s happening now because in a lot of ways, the people who are doing that work in the media, they’re presenting an image of Israel that they want to believe in as well, that they want the public to believe in. There is some projection going on there along with ideological machinations of laundering imperialism and settler colonialism and war, along with all of that other stuff.

Same thing goes with the way the mainstream media covered Trump is there was a lot of projection and the media would take what was happening at Trump’s rallies, what he was saying to his own audience. And then they would filter it into a narrative that made sense to them, and they would project to their readership a version of Trump that they wanted to explain and they wanted to present. Because they kept trying to fit him into this or that archetype of a politician’s past, or they tried to, again, tease out the tidbits of what is he actually saying and what is just hollow rhetoric. We had that whole phenomenon of people saying, “Take Trump seriously, but don’t take him literally.” But the thing is, the more that you just listen to what Trump is telling his supporters at these rallies and what he’s saying in these interviews and what his supporters are responding to, he is telling you as openly about what he wants to do as members of Israel’s cabinet, Netanyahu’s cabinet are saying they want to do in Gaza.

But for some reason, the media keeps trying to present a different or skewed version of that instead of recognizing the reality that is screaming right in front of them. And we need to be really, really honest about that. And that’s why I’m so proud of the work that Mark does, the work that everyone does here to tell that truth. Because we can’t just not take seriously when Trump is saying immigrants are poisoning the blood of our country. And when they’re calling for mass deportations of immigrants, not just illegals, but the language is getting more openly blood in soil, the designs are getting more openly fascistic. The Project 2025 is getting more of these shadowy, financially monstrous organizations involved in the effort to turn the Trump 2.0 into what Trump 1.0 couldn’t successfully achieve.

Mel Buer:

You’re bringing up good points, Max, and I think it’s also maybe important to underscore what that is also looking like from a real sense. We have the state of Texas openly flouting Supreme Court rulings currently and attempting to bar the border patrol from accessing parts of the border in Texas. There’s a Texas exit secession movement that is gaining steam in Texas and seems to have the open acceptance or promotion by the governor of Texas. So these are things that are becoming more important as we get closer to election day. Now, I know that we’ve all experienced conversations anecdotally about this particular election season. For myself, no one is excited about November. We’re stuck in this place where the likelihood is we’re going to be rehashing 2020, as max has said, Trump versus Biden. In New Hampshire, Biden apparently won the New Hampshire primary via write-in ballot because he wasn’t even on the ballot. So this is the future that we’re seeing for ourselves.

The voters aren’t happy, and a lot of voters that younger folks anecdotally through social media are not even interested in voting. Some of them haven’t even chosen to update their voter registrations. They just don’t care. They don’t think it’s useful. The electoral politics in this country, as we all know, are fraught with, for lack of a better word, bullshit and a second term for either of these candidates, paints a bleak picture for Americans in the coming four years.

But as Max has mentioned as well, the stakes for this election are extremely high, and we’ve been in the midst of what looks and feels like a real crisis of legitimacy for our democracy since at least 2016. An argument can be made to go all the way back to 2000, 2001, and we need to take some time to square what quandary we find ourselves in. I will say for my part, there is a marked difference just as a labor reporter between Biden’s NLRB and Trump’s NLRB. If Trump were to be reelected and spend another four years in the White House, then we are going to see what we saw from 2016 to 2020, which was a hollowing out of the NLRB and the powers that allow labor organizing to continue at such a brisk clip. We’re going to see another assault on the working class, that’s likely going to be worse than it was the last time he was in office.

I’m not saying that Biden has been a particular friend to portions of the working class since he was elected, but there is a marked difference. And you can see, and we can talk about this, I’m sure Max has some thoughts about this, but you can see that labor is going to have a place in this election. Already does have a place in this election, and these labor endorsements do matter in my opinion. So that’s something to talk about. But yeah, I would like to just talk about this a little bit more openly. Max, if you want to start continuing your thoughts from the start of this conversation about the stakes in this election and the how can we continue to see if we can come up with some answers to your important question about how do we square this? How do we take high stakes for the electoral process in this country, and what can we see moving forward?

Maximilian Alvarez:

So I’ll try to just throw out some quick thoughts here because I feel bad about talking so much already. But just to underscore what we’re talking about here with the crisis of legitimacy and the quandary that we’re in that you and I were talking about, Mel, is at the same time that we are growing so tired with the cliche of this is the most important election in our lifetimes. We got to vote like our lives depend on it. That’s what we have heard for… It feels like every election that we can remember, but it’s really, I think, felt that way. I think if people are honest with each other, maybe like we did in some part of our hearts feel that way over the past few elections, which is why you saw historic numbers of people voting in the past few elections, even 2020 amidst a pandemic, but at the same time that that is happening and people are doing their job.

Now, I want to stress that again, there are so many people in this country who don’t vote, who are prevented from voting, who feel like they have absolutely no reason to vote, and that is the great silent majority as it were. But when we’re talking about folks who are exercising the right to vote, we have seen this historic numbers of people coming out in the Trump era at the same time that people are coming out to vote in a system that it seems across the board people are losing faith in. So something’s going to give there because I want to maybe retroactively apologize to my liberal friends out there because during the first few years of the Trump era, it was a lot of liberals who were saying, “Trump is destroying the norms and institutions of our government.” And people on the left, like us were like, “There are a lot more serious problems than the norms and institutions right now. This guy’s doing real material harm to real people.”

But there is something to be said about the fact that as far as those institutions that uphold what is left of our democracy, and it’s not like our democracy was nothing. We did have a system of governance that was the envy around many parts of the world. It was very novel in many ways. It was expanding in its ability to better represent more and more people, but it was also really and needed a lot of improvement. It was founded by white slave-owning people. It was never a perfect system. But what I’m trying to say is that the parts of it that remain democratic have been falling apart for quite some time and have been actively destroyed by our elected officials and their unelected oligarchic supporters. These things have been hollowed out from the inside out, and people are realizing that.

That’s the real key part is that the faith, people’s lingering or residual faith in things like the Supreme Court have at last and in large quantities been shattered. And the Supreme Court was really the last bastion of the facade of impartial, apolitical, justice-seeking institutions as part of our democracy. Again, I’m not saying that that’s what it was or always was or ever was. I’m saying that the amount of people who at least believed in that enough to give that institution the kind of power it needed to enforce the law of the land, the way that the Supreme Court is meant to in this system, that is the faith that has gone out the window, the more that we learn about how corrupt Clarence Thomas is, how really gross and cynical and shadowy the process of getting people like Brett Kavanaugh ram through.

And then you start going back in time, you’re like, wow, was it always this way? Was it always this corrupt? Were people always this bad? And then you have this rapid decline in people’s faith in the system that we live and operate in. And that is a very dangerous place to be. It is both a hopeful place to be because then that is the moment that is ripe for systemic change. It is the moment when more people are willing to take on that thinking, that imagination of how we could do things better. But it is also the moment when these institutions are at their weakest and the functions that they serve are at their most vulnerable.

And I don’t think any of us are truly fully prepared for what’s going to happen like when those institutions are at last de democratized in total. And that is exactly what Trump wants to do. That is exactly what the corrupt assholes who were in those offices tap those seats are doing to themselves. But we are the ones who are all going to pay for it, because when people lose faith in any semblance of a democratic system, that is when they turn to extremism. That is when they listen to people like Trump and then they see what remains of our democracy, Trump’s supporters, they’re not prepared to vote en masse because they want to save democracy like the Democrats are saying. They’re like, “We got to vote to save democracy.”

Trump supporters, they want to use what’s left of democracy to get in there and destroy what’s left of democracy. And they’re being very, very open about it. So again, we are left in the position of defending the shreds of democracy that were never good enough for enough people and had so much more improvement to go. Defending those scraps from the people who are openly calling for doing away with them, giving lifetime appointments. I mean, really going back to, and turning away from a more liberal democratic system of governments to a more oligarchic, autarkic system and the corrupt and democratic ways that operates. So that’s the crisis of legitimacy that we’re, I think, facing from the broad sweep of things. But there are so many other ways that people have lost faith.

In the same way that Stephen and Taya cover every week, and Lisa at the Beat and we hit the Real News, you can only read so many stories about how awful and corrupt the police are before you stop believing the police are there to protect you. That’s again, it’s a good thing given we need to change the police as they are. But I’m using that example to say we have also seen over from 2020 to now, a pretty rapid decline in what was left of people’s faith in the goodness and democratic nature of our government. So we find ourselves in a very, very precarious moment where things can get even worse. But we are left here defending what was never good enough in the first place.

Mel Buer:

Mark, I want to get your thoughts on what Max is bringing up here, because I think that it’s important to acknowledge that this crisis is continuing to get worse, and we’ve all felt the effects of weakening federal protections of an economy that claims to be robust, but we still can’t afford our groceries every week. And I think it’s important to continue to underscore that this is a real thing that’s happening in this country, and it’s not some fanciful space. But I also don’t want us to fall into patterns that some folks on the left to where they have this accelerationist wishful thinking about, “Well, just get it over with. Let’s just usher in whatever era of fascism or whatever else, and have them expose themselves fully so that we can fight back against it. We can have this open sort of…

Mel Buer:

…fight back against it. We can have this open war against really bad people who are suddenly in control of this country. Well, not suddenly, but you know what I mean. And I don’t think that’s the right way to go forward. So I guess the question is how can we take stock of this and the stakes of these elections, which isn’t just the only piece to the puzzle, but what is to be done? How do we view this in a productive way? What’s a way that we can spur ourselves to action when we see the state of things as they are?

Mark Steiner:

Starting with the last thing you said, there’s an element of the left that believes if things can get bad, really bad, that the fascists come in, we can stop them. I think the exact opposite happens and history has shown that it happens. Some of us grew up in this anomalous period from the ’30s to the early ’70s when change was actually fucking happening, when labor was strong, when the civil rights movement was fighting and breaking down racist barriers in this country, when they were actually trying to fund education. Things were moving.

I’m not saying they were perfect, far are from it, but what that caused was what we’re seeing now that people have to look at… Sometimes I think we have to step back and look at history, both our immediate history and the history of this country. And our immediate history, the reaction to everything we did from the ’30s to the ’60s in all the organizing, fighting, going to jail, all this stuff that happened to move the country forward inch by inch was the right got their hackles up and began organizing in the early ’70s to seize power back to re-whitenize America.

Now, it’s come to this place, this fruition called Donald Trump and his movement, this maganeal fascist movement around him. So we are really up against a very aggressive force, which puts us in a weird place because we on the left really are not that organized and we do not have either a party or a movement that is powerful enough to stand up to it by itself. That’s part of the issue that we’re facing, I think. But I don’t think, “Oh, woe is me, all is lost.”

I think that we have to… How can I put this? We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. I mean, who wants to get out there and go, “Rah, rah, rah, rah, go vote for Biden. I’m all excited. Let’s get him back in the White House?” It is a very difficult time. It is very difficult to even want to do that, to say that unless you see what’s at the door. And I think I’m going to go back again to history. Look at the history of this country. For the most part of our history, we have been run by absolutely white oligarchic power. We had brief periods where that was different. Reconstruction attempted it, and then civil rights and post-civil rights. And then it is being re-seized before we can even push it further. And that’s what we’re facing.

I think that in this coming election, we have no choice but to fight and stop the neo-fascists from taking over the country. And I’m just finishing up now editing and producing this piece that Max and Kayla Rivara and I did in Texas. And one of the things that piece taught me, is teaching me has to say is that the far right can take over. And when they do take over, they will diminish the power as they’re doing in Texas of cities across Texas. Because cities is where the working class lives, where Black folks live, where Latinos live, where Mexicans live, and they are ceasing power away and back to the rise of the white right. And so we need to take lessons from that. We need to see what we face through the states where they have already seized power.

So as much as we want to say, “Just like Biden intensely,” the Democrats for the most part are just moderate establishment folks who would care less about the future. We have no choice but to unite and stop the right from seizing power. That is really where I am with all this. We’re doing the series of Rise of the Right that I’ve been doing with Real News has just been… I already knew it was there, but the more I interview people, the more I see it, the more I do the research, the more I realize we are facing a really, really bleak and dangerous future. I joke about this a lot, but I’m dead serious.

I think it’s so bleak on a personal level. Let me just throw this out for a second. There’s nothing more important to me in my life than my family and my daughters. My daughters, each of them, different mothers, have the right to foreign passports. I’m going to make sure they get those fucking passports because I don’t know where we’re going because I don’t see us coalescing strong enough to stop the force of the right, but I think we can do it. But right now, they really are in ascendancy. And this is not oh, woe is me and being negative, this is just looking at reality. It doesn’t mean we don’t fight it. We need to realize the reality that’s at our front door and what we have to do to end it. We can’t let them seize power. We just can’t.

Mel Buer:

I think you bring up a really good point that I think helps us further this conversation into our really tightening our focus down from the broader sense of where these elections are going to races, issues, local elections, is what I mean that have real material impact for members of the working class across this country. And I really think, Lisa, this is a great place for you to kind of talk about what Baltimore Beat has been doing in Baltimore City to kind of underscore these important elections, the various issues that folks are running on, and the ways in which your audience, the folks you talk to, constituents, voters, what they are seeing is important. So what are some of the local issues, the key issues that you are seeing in your reporting that folks really should be paying attention to in the coming months?

Lisa Snowden:

I’m going to make a little bit of a liar out of myself because I said that I’m focusing on local. But the thing that I’ve really been thinking about a lot listening to what Max has said just now and what Mark said is how much of a touch point the massacre that’s going on right now in Palestine is for where we are in this moment. I think that there’s so much about it that underscores so many of the issues that Max and Mark just talked about and brings all of those to the surface and also shows the very weak arguments that have been given to us. So we are told, I think that this week it seems like Joe Biden’s team has rolled out this push for women’s maternal health. That’s great, but also we know for a fact if you’re watching and paying attention that there are Palestinian women and people who menstruate, who don’t have access to that right now, to the materials that you need when you’re menstruating.

So everything that we have been sold that is democracy and right now that the Democrats can offer us is being proven alive by Palestine. And so I bring that up because for my next issue, I’m writing about the movement here in Baltimore, and I think that we’re in a moment where in some ways, yes, it’s easy for me to say I can take myself out of that and I can work in my community. And there are things in my community that can happen and I can talk about those in a few minutes. But I also think that there are times when the moment we’re in right now where the local and the national unite and intermix. Mark, I know that you said the left is very disorganized and I agree and I think that’s something that all of us, if we have any passing knowledge at the left, we get very frustrated by.

But I have seen in Baltimore coalitions forming that have not formed before. When it comes to getting our local representatives in Baltimore to call for a cease fire, it’s been Jewish folks, it’s been Black Alliance for Peace, it’s been Baltimore Beat and the Afro-American newspapers. It’s all these groups. It’s other parts of Maryland outside of Baltimore coming together in a way that has never come together before. And I think that that’s going to have, hopefully, if we’re being optimistic, that will make lasting repercussions.

If I want to pivot a little bit out of that, because that was just on my spirit, but locally Baltimore is part of the national push, like I said, to crack down on policing even though there’s no reason to crack down on policing logically because crime numbers are down everywhere. But we got to keep the police-industrial complex going and shoveling lots of money into it and shoveling lots of Black lives. So we’re going to be unpacking a lot of what policing means or doesn’t mean for folks in Baltimore City. Sheila Dixon, who is challenging our current mayor, Brandon Scott, just rolled out a plan and we know that it’s going to be very conservative because she’s backed by conservative folks. She’s looking to bring more policing into city schools. She’s said all the checkpoints for if you are conservative and want to figure out how to lock up more Black folks, so we’ll be focusing a lot on that.

Mark Steiner:

I just wanted to chime in for just a quick second on what both Max and Lisa just said, and it has to do with the Middle East in this election. This could be a huge factor in the coming national elections, huge factor because of what Israel’s doing and the neo-fascist government that controls Israel, what they’ve done in Gaza, the split it’s causing in this country is profound and it’s generational and is political and it could usher a Trump in. And it is so dangerous to our future because it’s so wrapped up in racism and antisemitism and feelings that people never want to talk about in public.

And the reality of what our role is in the Middle East and the oppression of Palestinians, this is going to be a factor that we are not taking into account, I think, in terms of what pushes people in one direction or another. And the longer this fight goes on in Palestine Israel, the deeper it’s going to get. And I think I just wanted to throw that in because both my friends have raised the issue of Israel-Palestine. I think it will be a critical part of this election.

Stephen Janis:

It’s interesting because I was just thinking as everyone was talking about an experience I had with regards to Trump and how it bends us and limits us, because Lisa will recall this, we went down to cover the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race. And at that time, Bernie Sanders, I think he had won I think both New Hampshire and Nevada and also come in second, I believe, in Iowa, just barely behind Pete Buttigieg. And we had gone down there thinking that perhaps this would’ve been a transformative moment for progressive movements or progressive politicians because Bernie would somehow win South Carolina and then go on to the nomination. And of course, that’s not what happened, as we all remember. And the main impetus besides the politics of South Carolina was the fact that Bernie Sanders was seen as too radical because the only thing that mattered was having someone who could defeat Trump.

And I do think, going back to what I said before about the mirage of Trumpism, it is real and it is scary. But we have to remember that Trump has never won the popular vote. And to my sense, I have not witnessed in the past two or three months how he has expanded his electorate. But because as what Lisa was talking about, the media bias, we have these very white corporate newsrooms that focus on Trump voters as if… They’ve created these super voters, these super specters in our head that we can’t tout progressive values because we only have to beat Trump and Trump is going to win and roll over us. But this guy’s never won an election really, and only a remnant of slaveholder constitution, the Electoral College has made Trump a winner of anything.

And so I think we just have to be cautious of thinking that nothing’s possible within the electoral mix. And Mark is absolutely right. If Trump wins, it’s over in many ways. But I think the media is somewhat responsible for this idea that Trump is somehow unbeatable when he’s never won anything. So I just think it’s important, as Max was saying, for the real news and people like us to get out there and report and pay attention to people that aren’t white and living in rural Wisconsin and are conservative, which is the only thing you see when you watch CNN.

Lisa Snowden:

Sorry to put you back on the hot seat, Stephen, but I write about policing from Baltimore. I know that you and Taya sometimes cover Baltimore policing, but you also go national. I’m wondering what are you seeing or thinking about when it comes to things that are on the ballot for policing around the country or have you seen anything like that?

Stephen Janis:

I haven’t seen any ballot initiatives that we know of, but I do think that it’s interesting that in rural communities we cover, which as Lisa points out, we started out covering policing in Baltimore and we thought that police brutality or bad policing was just something that was a big city phenomenon. But I’ve been surprised, honestly, how widespread it is and how much it raises the consciousness of the people. We get a lot of conservatives who are transformed by a bad encounter with policing and are motivated by it. And we’ve seen a lot of small towns become embroiled in debates over this because as you well know one of the main points that Trump used in the 2020 election was support for police and we need more policing.

And I think that will be an issue again. I think Trump will go back to this, even though the crime rate 2023 crime went down about 20% while police staffing has been at a low point. Baltimore is down like 760 officers, which who is surprised that Sheila Dixon is saying, “We need more cops?” They always say that, but the numbers don’t add up. There’s no reality there. Again, this is a mainstream media problem with policing. They paint the picture that there’s some equivalence between having more cops and safety and it doesn’t work. I’ve never seen it work and certainly, we have provable evidence now that it didn’t work in the past three or four years. We have less police and less crime. So I would say, Lisa, to your question, that it’s just as big an issue, though I haven’t seen anything building around it, like let’s have a referendum about it, but there is a huge consciousness of qualified immunity and that would be certainly something that I think will come up.

Maximilian Alvarez:

Well, just hopping in here again to, I guess, pick up on that thread of what we were talking about earlier. What is the version of this that the major media networks are going to be presenting and what’s actually going to be happening, because as far as major news is concerned, as far as what we are calling here, the horse race is concerned, listeners, you guys know what we’re talking about, but just to flesh it out, it’s talking about these elections like a sport, which team is going to have more people in these key positions at the end.

It’s contained to that sort of weird logic, not really thinking about what are the outcomes of these elections from top to bottom going to mean for people’s right to abortion, people’s right to not get fired for literally any reason, like if their boss stubs their toe that day or whether or not trans people are going to be able to get their healthcare in that state? Those aren’t really the terms in which we have been taught to talk about elections in this country. But as far as the horse race is concerned and the things that people are going to be hearing about a lot if they haven’t been hearing about them a lot already is, as we said, you’ve got the presidential elections and at the moment we’re recording this at the end of January after the two primaries, as Mel mentioned…

Maximilian Alvarez:

… end of January after the two primaries, as Mel mentioned. We still have other candidates in. I did want to stress that. We’re not pretending that they’re not there. The incumbent for the Democrats, Joe Biden, we’ve got Marianne Williamson, who we’ve interviewed here at The Real News Network, and we’ve got Dean Phillips. But again, Democrats, they don’t want primary debates. One of the reasons that we had that weirdness in New Hampshire with Biden’s name being written in is because of the changes Biden wanted to make to the primary schedule that would basically ensure that his reelection was a fait accompli based on how he performed in the previous elections. It was really cynical sort of stuff.

And of course, we believe that every election people deserve a more robust debate. People deserve options that they actually can hear out and listen to. And the mainstream media and the two major parties are not going to give us that. That’s basically what we mean when we say it’s going to be Trump and Biden, because we know how we’re operating here.

But there are still candidates, not only in the Democratic side, Nikki Haley has said she’s going to stay in. I mean, I personally think that she’s hanging on in case something happens and Donald Trump gets actually barred from the ballot and somehow an opportunity arises for Haley to step in. Again, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Or she’s again, just angling to be VP at the end of it. And then we got that dude Binkley. I mean, he’s still in the race. We’ve got independents, we’ve got Kennedy, we’ve got Cornel West, and we’ve got Dr. Jill Stein, right? So that’s where we are after these two primaries.

But I think the way that the mainstream media has been talking about the Republican race is very instructive for, again, how problematic the version of reality they present to us is. Because now it’s all this hype about, “Oh, we have something to talk about. DeSantis dropped out.” I mean, if you ever want a lesson in this, just a quick aside, if you guys want to see what we’re talking about, just take a second to go back and look at the media coverage from past elections. And then when you have the benefit of foresight and you know how things went, just sit there and weigh the difference between the reality that the media was presenting in the way it talked about the elections and what actually happened. They’re so often so disjointed from each other. It’s really important to sort of see that looking back so that we can be better prepared for it moving forward.

And we’re seeing it right now with Nikki Haley because for a year, it was all about DeSantis is the challenger to Trump. What about Ron DeSantis? Don’t sleep on DeSantis. DeSantis is the future of the party. And then DeSantis flops like a wet fart, drops out, just totally bombed with the National Republican base, and now he’s out. So all those articles about DeSantis over the past year look ridiculous. But now we’re getting the exact same kind of articles about Nikki Haley, who is really only benefiting this. I mean, in many ways, Nikki Haley’s momentary rise in the polls, ’cause she did do respectively… What did she get? Like 40% or close to 40% in New Hampshire?

But there’s a really kind of, you need to look at the fine print there because the way that New Hampshire’s voting goes, there were a lot more independents who felt like instead of voting in the Democratic race where Biden’s not even on the ballot, the write-ins aren’t even going to really count. So, “we can strategically vote in the Republican race.” So I think there are a lot of votes that Haley got in New Hampshire that she’s not going to get in other states. But right now, the media’s talking about it as if she’s got this clear or this path to really challenging Trump. And I just don’t really see that. I see that as a media concoction and a misreading of the recent results of elections more than an accurate reading of reality.

But the other thing that the mainstream media is going to focus on is of course, the balance of power in the Senate. And this is actually going to be… there are going to be, I think, races that ultimately flip balance of power to Republicans. This was like what Democrats are freaking out about after Joe Manchin who was… We don’t have to go into a tangent about Joe Manchin, but it’s like what kind of Democrat is that anyway, if he’s always voting against you guys or the quote unquote, one Democrat who’s stalling the president’s agenda, so on and so forth. So with Manchin not running in Arizona, people… Sinema hasn’t announced what she’s going to do. But it’s not looking good for Democrats, and that’s all that the folks are going to talk about in the mainstream news.

But what I just wanted to tell folks listening, and then I promise I’ll shut up and I apologize guys, for going on. But this just gets me amped up and I’m so looking forward to more of these panels where we can break down the specifics as we go through the election season. But again, at the same time that we’re getting those national races, the horse race crap that no one really cares about because working people don’t care about the way that mainstream news talks about politics. We care about what impacts us and we hate both of presidential candidates.

But at the same time, the things that we cover here at The Real News, the things that Lisa and her crew cover at The Beat, the things that those of us who care about these issues invest our time into, where we try to cover the people who are trying to make real tangible change in the world. There are ballot measures, there are state senate races that are going to impact, again, people’s ability to not get beaten by the police and get arrested as easily as they can now. I mean, there have been just hundreds of anti-trans bills in states across the country over the past two years. That’s a real tangible impact that elections have. And there are going to be more of those coming up in the new year.

In Nevada, there’s a ballot measure to end slavery as a form of punishment for a crime, which we’ve been covering here rattling the bars relentlessly. So people are going to actually vote to take it out of the Constitution the same way that there are going to be multiple states, including Florida, Arizona, Missouri, South Dakota, New York, that are going to vote on whether or not to enshrine the right to an abortion in their state constitution, the way that Ohio did last year.

So I mean, these things matter like that. But I do think that there is an interesting thing happening there where you’re seeing the state races in fact become more important. Because as things get so fractured and fraught and stalled at the national level, you are seeing in fact states become these sort of bastions or laboratories of certain political ideologies. So yeah, you could have one state where your abortion protections are much better safeguarded than the one literally right next to you.

But that’s kind of the way that the country is segmenting right now. And there are key races all across the board that are going to impact, again, people who have loved ones in prison, people who have the right to an abortion, and so on and so forth. So please, please, please, everyone out there listening, don’t just wipe the elections away completely. Pay attention to what’s going on around you. Forge ahead as best you can, but just be strategic about it.

Lisa Snowden:

And if I could preach to the choir a little bit, because we are on a nonprofit news network. But nonprofit news more and more, is driving the conversation. And the things that places like The Real News have been pushing for a long time, slowly trickle into mainstream. So like nonprofit news, places like The Real News have been talking about police say journalism or diversifying the newsroom, diversifying who you count as a source and what kind of information you put out. That kind of stuff has started to trickle in. And I’ve been seeing recently more folks in nonprofit newsrooms decrying how useless horse race journalism is.

So for folks that are listening that are not in Baltimore, look for places that could be… There’s more and more pockets of people of color led, indigenous person led, different gender identity led, newsrooms popping up around the country. And you can find those and plug into your local stuff because I think that Republicans and conservatives have known for a long time the power that lies in local communities. That’s why they’ve poured so much money into these initiatives that we’ve been hearing about like outlawing drag performances, getting books out of school. They’ve already known this. This is all a plan that they’ve known about, but we need to understand the value in that too. And I think we’re at a moment right now where there’s a little more resources, a little more attention on smaller newsrooms like The Real News and The Beat that can really help people coalesce and learn the important information and coalesce power.

Mel Buer:

I think it’s a great place to, I think, round out our conversation, Lisa. Right before we end, you’ve already spoken about some of the things that you’re planning on working on for your next issue and for what’s coming out later this year. But are there any other important stories that you want folks to look out for, as the months go along?

Lisa Snowden:

I mean, we really want to make sure that we are looking at Baltimore’s leadership through a very critical eye. We also think that as important as that kind of hard news is, we think that the arts community is just as important. So we want to really look at artists that are living below the poverty line in Baltimore City. And just the work that’s being created by folks that would necessarily be covered by people looking at Baltimore. That’s really important to us.

Also, we are raising money always, so we will always be trying to convince people that there’s value in what the Baltimore Beat does. And making sure that we are training black and brown and indigenous and queer journalists. And giving them a chance and keeping that kind of work going.

Mel Buer:

I’m excited to see what comes out of the next couple of months. It’s been really great speaking with you about what the Baltimore Beat does and for your insight today on our election coverage. For The Real News Network, there’s also some interesting things that we are working on here at The Real News Network. Steven, Mark and Max, if you guys kind of want to go down the line on the various projects that you’re working on that’s related to election coverage that you’re excited for our listeners to get a chance to view.

Stephen Janis:

Yeah. Well, we’re talking right now about trying to go back to Pennsylvania where we covered in 2018 and 2020, to sort of… There’s some interesting communities that are kind of right poised between very progressive and very conservative. And mostly try to see what kind of issues are actually on the minds of voters, not just like you said, the horse race. Because it’s interesting when you get down to the granular level and you follow activists around and see. There’s an interesting group called Standup Lancaster or Lancaster Standup. And we want to work with them to try to cover how they’re trying to get progressive issues on the top of voters’ minds. So that might be something that we’ll be working on, going forward.

Mark Steiner:

In terms of rise of the Right, I mean, one of the things I really want to look at very carefully or [inaudible 01:06:20]… There are certain states I’m looking at right now to talk about the elections in those states, where the right is being challenged, what the grassroots are doing, and what it all portends. And looking at that and really kind of focusing for a bit now on the selection and the rise of the right where they could be seizing power, why, and where they could be stopped. And who are the people who are organizing to stop them and to build something different? So that’ll be a real focal point I think, for us in the coming months, as we look at [inaudible 01:06:50].

Maximilian Alvarez:

Yeah. And I mean, I guess speaking for myself and just for The Real News more broadly, kind of building on Mark’s example, I think that we are of course going to talk about the significant news as it comes from the national level. And as well as focus on key local races that are happening throughout the year. But everything is going to be, again, funneled through the way that we know how to do news best here at The Real News, from the grassroots, from the perspective of, how does this impact regular people? What impact do these elections have, do these policies have on real people, including the kind of people that we talk to and interview on our shows? And what are the impacts of the people and policies that are up for election this year? What are the potential implications of those? Who are the people and communities that these policies are going to potentially impact?

And then on the other side, again, not focusing on the horse race and not just thinking that elections are the end all be all of politics. Because let me be clear, they are not. We talked about this Ad Nauseum on The Real News across our different shows. We are not saying that elections are the only way to make change in this country. I think if you listen to our stuff every week, you know we don’t believe that’s true. You can make change and you should be making change in your workplace, in your community. Anywhere and everywhere that you can and that can help build collective power, you can and should be doing that ’cause you can achieve a lot of good things with that power.

And so, that’s where we look at The Real News is, where are people building power? How are people using elections as an opportunity to build power that lasts beyond the elections? Or how are elections, in fact, mobilizing community organizations like Cross Partisan Alliances in different parts of the country, and people actually working and organizing together around a certain election issue? And we want to be there talking about what they’re building in that. Not just how they’re going to vote in November, but what they are building and what those organizations, those muscles, those relationships, those movements that we cover week in, week out, what role are they going to play in pushing political change before, during, and after these elections? That is where we’re really going to be putting our focus.

So, the key issues that are going to be on the ballot are going to be in our coverage. But we want to tell the stories of the struggles over those issues, as told from the people who are struggling over them, the people who are going to be impacted by them. Whether that be in the fight against the prison industrial complex, and for our rights, like as free and freethinking citizens, or our right to live in this economy and pursue our happiness without being swept into institutionalized because we’re living on the street and there’s nowhere else for us to go. So, there’s a lot that is at stake here. And none of us are excited about the system we have or the election season in general, but we are going to approach this as honestly and as we can. And we’re going to, as always, dedicate that coverage to regular working people here in the U.S. and around the world.

Mel Buer:

All right, that rounds out our conversation for today. Thank you so much everyone, for coming on the show and talking about really important issues as they relate to the elections. Lisa, if you want to give us just a little shout-out to where we can find your work and the work of your colleagues with the Baltimore Beat?

Lisa Snowden:

You can find us at baltimorebeat.com or on all the socials. Same thing, Baltimore Beat.

Mel Buer:

Great. Thank you so much for coming on, everyone.

Lisa Snowden:

Thank you.

Maximilian Alvarez:

Thanks for having us.

Stephen Janis:

It was great.

Mel Buer:

That’s it for us here at The Real News Network podcast. Once again, I am your humble host, Mel Buer. If you love today’s episode, please be sure to get subscribed to the podcast to get notified when the next one drops. You can find us on most platforms, including Spotify and YouTube. As always, if you find us on YouTube, leave a comment and who knows, you might get a response from me.

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