This week, Jeremi and Zachary talk with Wendy Davis and Eric Cervini about their perspective on voter intimidation, and their lived experience with the “Trump Train” incident in 2020.
Zachary sets the scene with his poem, “I Knew We Had Arrived”.
Wendy Davis represented the 10th district in the Texas Senate from 2009 to 2015. She was previously on the Fort Worth City Council. Wendy Davis was serving as a surrogate for the Biden-Harris campaign and was present on the bus when the Trump Train harassed its occupants. The October 30 attack barred her from campaigning for herself and for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris when the Biden-Harris campaign decided to cancel scheduled events due to safety concerns. The former Texas state senator and 2020 congressional candidate remarked that the bus incident was further evidence of a rising temperature in American politics, and that she had never experienced this kind of intimidation before in all the many campaigns she’d run and opposed. After the October 30 attack, Davis considered speaking out about her experience but did not immediately come forward because she feared for her safety.
Dr. Eric Cervini is an award-winning historian of LGBTQ+ politics and culture. His first book on queer history, The Deviant’s War, was a New York Times Bestseller, an Editors’ Choice, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history. It won the Publishing Triangle’s Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction and was voted the “Best Read of 2020” at the Queerties. As an authority on 1960s gay activism, Cervini serves on the Board of Directors of the Harvard Gender and Sexuality Caucus, and on the Board of Advisors of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of gay American history. His award-winning digital exhibitions have been featured in Harvard’s Rudenstine Gallery, and he has presented his research to audiences across America and the United Kingdom.
- Wendy DavisPolitician, former Texas Senate Representative
- Dr. Eric CerviniHistorian and Author of LGBTQIA+ Politics and Culture
- Jeremi SuriProfessor of History at the University of Texas at Austin
- Zachary SuriPoet, Co-Host and Co-Producer of This is Democracy
[00:00:00] This is democracy, a podcast about the people of the United
[00:00:09] States, a podcast about
[00:00:13] about engaging with politics and the world around you. A podcast about educating yourself on today’s important issues and how to have a voice in what happens next.
[00:00:22] Jeremi: Welcome to our new episode of this is democracy.
[00:00:27] This week’s topic is a very difficult and in many ways, disheartening topic, but a topic that all scholars and citizens who care about democracy need to focus upon these days. This is the question of voter intimidation. It’s an old story in American history, but it’s a story that many of us believed was in the past, uh, the past of the 19th and early 20th century, when bullies try to prevent people from certain backgrounds, from voting or certain races from voting or bullied people to vote in particular ways, [00:01:00] what we’ve seen in recent.
[00:01:01] Years. And particularly in recent months, there’s an increase in voter intimidation efforts by particular groups to stop people from voting to stop them from campaigning. And we have with us today, two very prominent, experienced, thoughtful politicians and political analysts who have experienced this and also analyzed it for us and have a lot to share with us about what we can do.
[00:01:25] To limit and push back against voter intimidation in our society. We’re very fortunate to be joined by Wendy Davis and Eric Savini. Wendy Davis represented the 10th district proudly in the Texas Senate from 2009 to 2015. She was previously on the Fort worth city council. She also ran for governor of the state of Texas and recently ran for Congress as well.
[00:01:50] She was serving as a surrogate for the Biden Harris campaign and was present on the Biden Harris’ campaign bus. When a group of [00:02:00] Trump supporters, a large group calling themselves the Trump train, harassed the bus on October 30th, 2020, forcing a number of campaign events to be canceled. We will discuss this incident with her and.
[00:02:13] Eric, Eric serine is a PhD and an award-winning historian of LGBTQ plus politics and culture. I highly recommend his recent book, the deviance war, which was deservedly, a New York times bestseller and an editor’s choice from the New York times a finalist for the Pulitzer prize in history, it won a number of awards, including the Randy Shilts award for gay nonfiction and was awarded the best read of 2020 at the quarantine.
[00:02:41] Uh, he’s an authority. Eric is on gay activism from the 1960s to the present. He’s on the board of directors of the Harvard gender and sexuality caucus. And on the board of advisors for the Matta chain society of Washington DC. He was also part of the incident on October 30th. Uh, Eric was [00:03:00] involved in the Biden Harris campaign at that moment and experienced the intimidation that we’ll discuss in this podcast today.
[00:03:07] So, uh, Wendy, Eric, thank you for joining. My
[00:03:10] Wendy Davis: [00:03:10] pleasure.
[00:03:11] Eric Cervini: [00:03:11] Thanks for having us
[00:03:13] Jeremi: [00:03:13] before we turn to our discussion with Wendy and Eric, we have, of course our scene setting poem from Mr. Zachary Siri, uh, Zachary, what’s the title of your poem today?
[00:03:23] Zachary: [00:03:23] I knew we had arrived.
[00:03:25] Jeremi: [00:03:25] Let’s hear it.
[00:03:27] Zachary: [00:03:27] I knew we had arrived when we always spread the news from the man who heard it from the grapevine that the end was coming.
[00:03:34] I knew we had arrived when the buses all became Domino’s and we all faced down the guardians of Lafayette square asking what’s so funny about peace, love and understanding. It was like the apocalypse was on its way, but it was stuck in a traffic jam of Satanists on between San Marcos and the second. I knew we had arrived when I spotted a bullet hole in the shape of America.
[00:03:58] And no one seemed to care about the [00:04:00] arc of the moral universe. That’s long, but bends towards justice because no one seemed to realize this wasn’t justice. And it was like jumping through fire to buy a lighter, like kissing a Komodo dragon on the lips, like a florist in an empty shop where have all the flowers gone.
[00:04:17] And I knew we had arrived because it all went in slow motion and I watched them fake religion, fake decency, fake up a new constitution with tea stains and candle smoke. Make the new lives look like the old truths because the times they are a change.
[00:04:36] Jeremi: [00:04:36] Zachary. I love, uh, all the combinations of historical and musical references in your poem.
[00:04:42] What is your poem about?
[00:04:44] Zachary: [00:04:44] Really speaks, seeks to speak to the directness of the threat, that political violence and the militarization of our political discourse poses, not just to our democracy, but to our society and also to our relationships as humans.
[00:05:00] [00:05:00] Jeremi: [00:05:00] Well, I think that’s a perfect place to start. Uh, Wendy, if we, if we could start with you, could, could you share with us the experience on October 30th and, and why it stands out to you, you and Erica, pardon out of a lawsuit, uh, surrounding these events?
[00:05:16] Uh, you’re such an experienced distinguished politician. W w why were these events on October 30th? So startling.
[00:05:24] Wendy Davis: [00:05:24] Well, Jeremy, thanks so much for having me in Zachary. Thank you for that phenomenal, beautiful poem. I’d love to have a copy of it, and I’m really happy to be here and proud to be here with Eric Savini today.
[00:05:38] Um, as you pointed out, Jeremy, I’ve been in politics for a long time. I started my first political campaign back in 1996 and I’ve run just about every election cycle since then. And though I have been a person in the middle of some controversial issues and certainly I’ve had my fair share of [00:06:00] people acting out in ugly ways.
[00:06:03] I’ve never experienced anything. Like I experienced that day, October 30th, which was our last day of early vote here in Texas in 2020. Um, as I experienced that day, we had made several stops on the bus. They were supposed to be, um, announced stops, uh, where people would know ahead of time, where we were going to be so that we could gin up some excitement about the election, the opportunity, um, to elect Joe Biden as our next president, and to really encourage people to come out.
[00:06:41] For the early vote. Um, but unfortunately I believe it was the day prior, the, the folks who were volunteering and staffing the Biden campaign had run into some harassment in the Laredo area. And a decision was made not to pre-announce where [00:07:00] we were going to be, which sort of defeats the purpose of the entire thing, you know, to encourage people to exercise.
[00:07:08] Their constitutional right to vote and their first amendment, right. To express themselves, um, and their excitement about the upcoming election. But we did make a couple of stops. Um, we said thank you to the campaign workers and the voters who happened to be there. And the third stop that we made was at a prominent arena in the San Antonio area.
[00:07:32] And I suppose the Trump folks guessed that that’s a likely place that we would be. It was a very large early voting center in San Antonio. And sure enough, when we arrived there, there were several people with Trump paraphernalia on pickup trucks, awaiting us. And while we tried to make remarks to the few people who had gathered there, we weren’t able to, because they were [00:08:00] shouting us down.
[00:08:01] So we got on the bus, um, headed towards San Marcos, which is about an hour away from San Antonio. And our plan was to go to Texas state university. We had a number of students who had organized a, a wonderful rally, um, and they were really excited about this. For many of them, it was their first time to participate in a political event.
[00:08:24] A political election. Um, and unfortunately as we left San Antonio, the folks who followed us from that arena, um, apparently communicated ahead and before long, we were surrounded by mostly pickup trucks, um, bearing Trump paraphernalia. With people acting in very intimidating and, and honestly frightening ways.
[00:08:53] Um, becoming, coming very, very close to the bus. Um, veering and [00:09:00] swerving as though they were trying to maneuver us off of the roadway. As we continue down the corridor, there were people. Basically lying in wait, um, on the grassy sides of the highway and they would join the, the caravan of trucks that were surrounding us.
[00:09:20] Um, and we were lucky that for a little while, Um, we did have a police escort join us in new Braunfels. We had called 9 1 1. Um, we were immediately supported by the police there. And when that happened, the caravan, um, the Trump train. Began behaving more normally. Um, they had previously slowed our speed to about 20 to 30 miles an hour.
[00:09:49] Um, they began driving at a regular speed. They moved away from the bus, but then as soon as we hit San Marcos and we lost our new Braunfels police escort, [00:10:00] even though I and Eric and others, um, Had called 9 1 9 1 1 and asked for help. Unfortunately, we didn’t receive it. And it was really frightening. Um, we wound up making a judgment call to cancel the stop at Texas state university, because we were really worried about taking this entire caravan of Trump train, uh, vehicles to that college campus with us.
[00:10:25] And honestly, we’re very fearful for the safety of the students there.
[00:10:30] Jeremi: [00:10:30] It sounds absolutely horrible nightmarish. And I remember watching the video that evening on the news. Uh, Eric, can you share your experiences with us?
[00:10:41] Eric Cervini: [00:10:41] Sure. First of all, thanks so much for having me. And it’s such an honor to be a plaintiff alongside Senator Davis, who, you know, part of the reason I was volunteering that day is because folks like her have showed that even just one person can, can make history.
[00:10:55] Uh, and it felt so important to be there. Uh, trying to [00:11:00] turn Texas blue and have civil liberties for, for everyone, uh, in our state. And so I was just there for that day. It was my first day volunteering, uh, alongside the Biden Harris boss. And I was driving a little bit ahead, about five minutes ahead. Uh, and the plan was for me to help with advance, help set up some of the events, uh, for some of the surrogates and some of the local candidates, uh, in between San Antonio and Austin.
[00:11:27] And so I. Got to see the, uh, the, the ambush and wait. So there was about 40 to 50 cars and pickup trucks waiting alongside . Uh, and of course, uh, impeding traffic, uh, certainly dangerous conditions even before. The bus got there. And so I gave them a bit of a warning, uh, but by then it was, it was too late.
[00:11:48] And so by the time I got to the San Marcus venue where the campaign event was to be held, uh, the, the bus had already been surrounded. I was getting calls from inside the bus [00:12:00] from staffers and other volunteers, uh, folks who fear for their lives. Uh, and so it was, it was quite a terrifying experience. Uh, let alone for someone who was actually on.
[00:12:10] Uh, or even driving the bus. Uh, and so thankfully there were a couple, or I would have hoped, thankfully there were a couple of, uh, of law enforcement officers at the event venue and I ran up to them and told them that. Something terrible was happening. That folks were fearing for their lives. People were in danger on I, 35.
[00:12:34] I told them exactly where the bus was and they didn’t do anything for 20 minutes. They said, if they felt in danger that they could call 9 1 1, uh, and they refused. To go tie 35, uh, with the explanation that by the time they got there, they like laid the bus that is, would likely have been outside of their jurisdiction.
[00:12:56] So it was really a, it was a scene that [00:13:00] I’d never thought. I would have experienced as a Texan, as an American. Um, you always think that when you ask for help from the police, that that they would offer it, they would do everything in their power to make sure that you and your, your peers are safe. And to see the opposite happening, to see the lack of action at all was so incredibly disconcerting.
[00:13:23] And it’s something that no American nets should ever experience in their life.
[00:13:28] Jeremi: [00:13:28] Um, Eric, what you’ve described is actually a stretch of highway that, that I know reasonably well. I’m sure many of our listeners do, uh, the stretch of highway about 80 miles between San Antonio and Austin, San Marcos, or somewhere in between.
[00:13:44] Uh, that’s a very heavily policed highway I’ve had, I’ve received a speeding ticket at least once on that highway. Why do you think that there wasn’t more of a police presence once you left new ground?
[00:13:57] Eric Cervini: [00:13:57] You know, I really have no idea. All I know [00:14:00] is once they were told that there was a problem that this attack was taking place, they didn’t respond.
[00:14:09] So I don’t know what sort of, uh, planning did or didn’t happen. Uh, there certainly should have been more of an escort in my opinion. Uh, but w w the reason why we’re participating in this lawsuit is because of the lack of response. As soon as we knew that there was a danger, that there was this attack taking place.
[00:14:29] Uh, as soon as we informed law enforcement officers repeatedly, whether it was dispatchers on the other end of nine 11, or the, the, the two, uh, police vehicles. At the San Marcus location, uh, there was a failure to act for an unacceptable period of time. Uh, and that’s why we’re falling, filing this lawsuit.
[00:14:47] Jeremi: [00:14:47] Wendy, if I could bring the same question to you because you have such experience with, with Texas politics. Uh, and I know these issues probably better than almost anyone else. Um, why, why, why do you think there [00:15:00] wasn’t a response? What response should there have been? I think it’s easier to understand why the Trump train people were there.
[00:15:05] That’s another, that’s a, that’s a question has been answered. But the most disconcerting part to me seems to be the lack of a response. As Eric said, by law enforcement.
[00:15:14] Wendy Davis: [00:15:14] Yes. And, and, you know, as I mentioned a moment ago in new Braunfels, we had really, um, excellent support from the police there. And I, and others on the bus.
[00:15:28] We just immediately breathed a sigh of relief when they joined us. After we left San Antonio. Um, but then as soon as we crossed into the San Marcos jurisdiction, they of course peeled away and it became really terrifying, um, truly threatening and we. I was personally, as well as another one of the Biden staffers.
[00:15:53] Uh, we were both on the line talking to San Marcos police dispatch. [00:16:00] Uh, we kept telling her every mile marker. We, she was asking us for, you know, different points of interest that she could convey to a police officer. Um, and we just. Telling her, you know, well now we’re passing this and now we’re passing this.
[00:16:17] And I on at least one occasion said to her very frustratingly, why, why, why is this taking so long? Why are they not coming? And because the Trump train had slowed us so much. We were in the San Marcus jurisdiction for at least 30 minutes there there’s just simply no excuse that we didn’t have any police support.
[00:16:44] And then as soon as we crossed into Kyle, which is the next municipality on the way to Austin, again, we were provided a police escort, uh, almost immediately upon passing into that jurisdiction. Um, so. [00:17:00] You know, the flagrant difference between the kind of support that we got depending on the municipality that we were in, uh, is very disheartening and obviously a, a basis for a portion of this suit.
[00:17:12] The lawsuit of course, is also making a claim against the very aggressive drivers, very threatening assaulting drivers in the Trump train. But also against the police for the lack of support. And for me personally, I felt like it was really important that we make sure that law enforcement isn’t selective about who they protect.
[00:17:42] That, that can’t be. The America, the society that we live in. Um, and so where we have such a flagrant disregard for the safety of people, perhaps, um, depending on their political party, I think that’s [00:18:00] really something that we need to address and we need to make sure that we’re not letting it go unanswered.
[00:18:08] Eric Cervini: [00:18:08] So
[00:18:09] Zachary: [00:18:09] Dr. Savini, uh, what was the response that, that your group received from the general public? Not just from the media, but from members of the general public at large, after the.
[00:18:20] Eric Cervini: [00:18:20] Well, I certainly didn’t expect it to be participating as at least in such a newsworthy event. It was certainly not my, my hopes, uh, volunteering to, to be on the news.
[00:18:34] I simply wanted to help with the election. So when that happened, I, I tweeted about it and I was. Set, as you can imagine. Um, and I tweeted some of the video that I had taken, uh, and some that I had found that had been posted by one of the members of the, the Trump ambush. And of course, that that went viral.
[00:18:53] And honestly, one of the most horrific parts of the experience was, was the response [00:19:00] by some of you know, those on the other side, who realized that, um, some of their worst. Antics were being exposed, uh, because I think it would have been much easier, you know, back in the 19th century, uh, because. Folks can document necessarily, uh, the classic activity.
[00:19:23] You didn’t have smartphones, but here it was very obvious that something unAmerican, something violent and something unacceptable was taking place. Um, the, the backlash I received on social media of thousands upon thousands of threatening messages was a bit scary. And I consider. Uh, moving my, my mom out, uh, of, of our place in, in round rock.
[00:19:49] And it certainly wasn’t something I hoped to be experiencing on election day. It should be a celebration of our democracy, not, not a time to be fearing for your [00:20:00] life.
[00:20:02] Jeremi: [00:20:02] And just following on, on this terrible experience, Eric and Wendy, that both of you, you had, uh, when did you see this as systematic? Do you see this incident as, as part of a larger piece of what’s happened in the last few years?
[00:20:20] Wendy Davis: [00:20:20] And it, it certainly. Is an example of other experiences that we’ve witnessed in the last couple of years. And that for me personally, was one of the reasons I felt it was so important to file the suit. The KU Klux Klan act, um, was created to protect against this very. Action to protect people and their precious right to vote and to make sure that they’re free of intimidation and fear of physical violence.
[00:20:57] Um, just to help you [00:21:00] understand how terrible this was. One of the Biden staffers who was in a vehicle behind the bus, following us to the next event for purposes of staffing. He was actually, uh, sideswiped aggressively by another driver, one of the Trump train trucks. Um, and when we finally did make it to our destination in Austin and I saw his vehicle, I just couldn’t, I just couldn’t believe it.
[00:21:30] Um, and he was visibly shaken as he got out of the car, um, and was confronted. Angrily and threateningly by the very person in the pickup truck who had sideswiped him. Um, it was just a, an overwhelmingly, scary experience. And I feel like it’s so important. That we not let this become our new normal, this can not be what political [00:22:00] speech looks like.
[00:22:01] It cannot be what political opposition, um, how political opposition presents itself. We all, each other the duty to be civil. And that’s what our laws are designed to protect. And in this instance, and in other instances, certainly, um, surrounding this election, That was not the case. Um, and it’s incredibly important.
[00:22:26] Not only that we say to private citizens, this is not acceptable. You will be held to account if you engage in behavior like this, but it’s equally important that we tell our police departments that they must protect us when things like this are happening.
[00:22:46] Jeremi: [00:22:46] You made reference Wendy to the KU Klux Klan act of 1871.
[00:22:49] And, and just for a little background, I know, I know, you know, this and most of our listeners probably know this as well. The, the KU Klux Klan act was passed by Congress because, um, state [00:23:00] authorities in many states, We’re not enforcing the law protecting and in particular African-Americans who were voting in large numbers, uh, during this period of reconstruction and the federal government under president Grant’s leadership in some cases had to send in a military force to protect voters.
[00:23:19] Yeah, throughout the south, the 1872 election following the Klu Klux Klan act was probably the election, the election with the safest and highest participation of African-Americans. Is there any election in toll, the 1960s in the United States? Um, all that, but it’s an act that’s, that’s very important. And, and as Wendy said, uh, you know, it really, it really matters.
[00:23:39] Uh, well with these conditions, which again are conditions that echo the echo that, that passed. Um, Eric you’ve been involved in, uh, activism around LGBT issues for a long time, and you’ve obviously confronted hate and prejudice, uh, before, um, does this feel different to you?
[00:24:01] [00:24:00] Eric Cervini: [00:24:01] It feels different because, you know, honestly, even in the sixties and or even the fifties, when we were grappling with, with, uh, queer persecution, with the gay purges, everyone could agree that there still should be no violence.
[00:24:19] And the electoral process, the electoral process was the solution. It was the means by which we affect social change. And so as soon as you. No longer can agree on that one ground rule that it’s a peaceful fair process. Then there are no more rules. And that, uh, like Senator Davis said, I think is just unacceptable.
[00:24:41] This cannot be the new normal. Um, and the only reason that our country has made it this far is by agreeing on that one ground rule. So I think the fact that this one act was condoned. By the president, it was accepted as part of the [00:25:00] 20, 20 election. I don’t think it’s a surprise of what happened on January 6th at the Capitol.
[00:25:06] Um, and I think that’s why this lawsuit is so crucial is to, to hold these folks accountable because without accountability, there can’t be, uh, any future in maintaining, uh, the democracy that we hold. So. Right.
[00:25:23] Jeremi: [00:25:23] And, and Eric is there following this line. Is there a set of lessons from activism in the past that can help us today?
[00:25:32] I mean, clearly as you say, uh, we need national leaders to speak out against this and not to encourage it to as, as president Trump did. If I remember correctly, Tweeting out himself supportive words for the attackers, for the Trump train. Um, so clearly that needs to be different. We need different presidential leadership.
[00:25:51] That that’s an obvious point, but what else can we learn from the experience of the past, even if it’s been slightly different for thinking about these issues [00:26:00] going forward and how has that perhaps influenced the approach you’ve taken with others in your life?
[00:26:06] Eric Cervini: [00:26:06] That’s a great question. And I think if there’s anything my, my research has taught me is that social change, especially at the legal level requires both legal action, which is exactly what, what we’re participating in, but also grassroots action, holding, uh, politicians, elected officials accountable.
[00:26:25] And so we’re trying to certainly. Hold law enforcement officers, and those who engaged in this violence accountable via this legal process. Uh, but we also need all the support we can get from outside the courts. Uh, so whether it’s calling in tweeting at your, your Congress people, your, your, uh, your elected officials and making sure.
[00:26:49] Voice heard that there should be protections, uh, for our voting process, that there shouldn’t be any of these, uh, [00:27:00] restrictions that are currently being placed in various states across the country against the voting process. Uh, and so I think it needs to be a two-pronged attack and, and quite frankly, a defense of our rights and of our peaceful democracy.
[00:27:15] Jeremi: [00:27:15] And, and, and Wendy, uh, especially in a state like Texas, um, where, um, sometimes, uh, there’s a willingness to accept, uh, bullying and where, um, it appears sometimes that there are biases in one direction or another. What, what do you see as some of the things that, that our listeners that ordinary citizens can do to make a difference?
[00:27:42] Wendy Davis: [00:27:42] Well, obviously, um, and I guess it’s a bit circular to say this participating in an election so that we can protect elections, right? Um, exercising or power at the ballot box to express our [00:28:00] strongly held positions about. The justice and fairness that every person in America deserves, um, and that can only really be demanded and enforced through elections where we’re putting people in place who are going to protect our rights.
[00:28:22] Um, And also, you know, making sure that we’re spreading the word when things like this are happening and that if we are, um, subject to any kind of harassment or intimidation ourselves, we’ll feel emboldened to come forward and report it. Um, one of my concerns of course, is that when people behave like this, it tends to.
[00:28:50] Drive a, a silence of support for opposing positions. Um, just the fear of, you know, what it might mean to [00:29:00] have a bumper sticker of a Democrat on your car, um, in certain areas of Texas, for example. And I remember thinking about that after this incident in a way that I’ve never had to think about before, but.
[00:29:14] I proudly had my Biden Harris sticker on my car and traveling through the congressional district that I was running in which isn’t includes, um, San Marcos and new Braunfels. Yeah. A large, uh, rural swath of central Texas. I just remember feeling that, that fear for the first time that I might be identifying myself in a way that would welcome harassment.
[00:29:44] Um, and so. The way I answered that fear for myself was to just to face it right to, um, proudly stand for what I stand for, for whom I support, [00:30:00] um, and to rely on our power through the judicial system and the legislative system to make sure that. That we hold these kinds of acts and actors responsible. And I would just encourage everyone, um, to do the same, to not allow the fear, the intimidation and the tactics of violence that some of the folks on the other side have displayed.
[00:30:29] To cow us. Um, and I certainly take as my inspiration, people like Eric, um, and historically, uh, the folks who have fought so hard to make sure that we have equal rights in this country. Whether we’re talking about people in the LGBTQ community, uh, or whether we’re talking about, uh, black Americans who for so long fought for, and have held so [00:31:00] dearly there, right.
[00:31:01] To make sure that they can participate in the electoral process.
[00:31:06] Jeremi: [00:31:06] It’s such an important point that you and Eric make about the importance of participation. It does seem circular, as you said at first, but it’s actually, I think such a powerful answer, which is that, um, the response to bullying has to be more participation, not less, uh, we don’t have to bully in return.
[00:31:23] There doesn’t have to be, we don’t want to see countermanded malicious to militias that are out there, but we do. We do need people to speak up and call upon the use of the law and our institutions to protect voters. And that would apply to bullying of any kind intimidation of any kind, um, Zachary for, as a young person listening, who cares deeply.
[00:31:43] And, and, and I know you and me. Your colleagues were really astonished, startled dismayed by what happened on October 30th and some of the other evidence that we’ve seen around the country in the last year of voter intimidation, does this [00:32:00] discussion help? Does it, does it offer a way forward or are you inspired by it or, or is it actually a source of continued concern for you?
[00:32:08] Well, that’s
[00:32:08] Zachary: [00:32:08] a good question. I think that in many ways it’s easy to look. Incident, uh, and, and, and, and see it as an example of how dire, uh, our, the state of our political discourse is in this country, but I think there’s also something deeper. And that is that, that, that the people who are trying to resist, uh, the broadening of our electorate and the broadening of democratic participation, um, are feeling really threatened right now.
[00:32:35] And I think that this incident goes to show that many of our efforts are actually successful and that the reason political discourse in this country has become so, so, so fervent lately has been that, that, that, that there is change on the way. And so I think it can be a hopeful moment.
[00:32:53] Jeremi: [00:32:53] Eric, are you hopeful?
[00:32:57] Eric Cervini: [00:32:57] I am. I am. And I think, you know, [00:33:00] you look at despite what happened, uh, on October 30th, um, we won with Biden and, and vice president Harris, uh, are now in the white house by 7 million votes. Uh, and so I think it sent a message, uh, to. Everyone in our country that you can try to rely on these tactics. But at the end of the day, uh, we have a majority of folks in this country who will always fight for civil liberties and justice for everyone.
[00:33:36] And I think once we return to. The equal playing field that, uh, once was part of our rhetoric, but never quite there, uh, historically, uh, on a defacto level, I think we need to be striving to make the voting process open to everyone. And I, I totally agree, uh, that there is a fear of that process, [00:34:00] but that just means we’re doing something right.
[00:34:03] Jeremi: [00:34:03] Wendy. What about you? Are you, are you hopeful?
[00:34:06] Wendy Davis: [00:34:06] I’m an eternal optimist. I have been my whole life and despite being knocked down a few times, uh, myself and political battles, I believe so strongly in the institutions upon which this country was founded, um, yesterday, uh, celebrating the independence of our nation and the promise that.
[00:34:33] All are to be created equal and have the equal right. To live a happy life. I believe so strongly that our foundations will assure that if we continue to fight to make sure that they do. And that of course always leads back to electing the right people. Who will fight for those [00:35:00] principles and assure that every single one of us can grow up in a secure, safe, and prosperous America.
[00:35:09] Jeremi: [00:35:09] I think that’s a perfect note to close on. And, and I am inspired, uh, Eric and Wendy by the optimism that, that you bring to this. And, and I think you’ve articulated both of you so eloquently, uh, one of the central themes of American history, which is that I think the. The efforts to intimidate voters and to distort elections are old and they’re, they’re ubiquitous in our history.
[00:35:33] Uh, but what’s equally ubiquitous, uh, are the courageous efforts of citizens to shed light on that and, and inform other citizens and mobilize people to fight back, uh, and to fight back by going out to vote and participating, uh, when voter intimidation has worked in our history, it’s been because it happens and.
[00:35:53] Good citizens don’t do anything about it. Uh, when voter intimidation has failed, uh, as to some extent it did in the last [00:36:00] election, uh it’s because people stand up against it and, and, uh, hats off to, to both of you, Eric and Wendy for, for standing up and for not only being a model. And your actions in, in October and throughout the election, but also now speaking out about it and educating all of us.
[00:36:16] I know our listeners are better informed. Thanks to thanks to both of you. So, so thank you for joining us. Uh, Wendy Davis and Eric Savini. Thank you. Thank you, Jeremy. Thanks so much. And Zachary, thank you of course, for your wonderful poem and your insights as well. And thank you most of all, to our listeners for joining us for this episode of this is democracy.
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