This week on The Brief: Michigan! Fighting on the ground for ‘the soul of our country’


Michigan is always important and was one of the states that flipped back to the Democratic column on the presidential level in 2020, after going to Trump in 2016. Moulitsas and Zelaya explained why The Brief is working to get early fundraising to this and other key swing states well ahead of the 2022 mid-term elections: Throwing money at television ads in the three weeks before an election isn’t what wins; it’s people on the ground, talking to people in their communities, and addressing the issues those communities want addressed.

But victory in states like Michigan does not simply mean winning in statewide or federal elections; it also means winning state legislative seats and flipping legislative chamber majorities. Moulitsas pointed out that Michigan also has some very important state-level races that will have an impact on election integrity, with the state’s Democratic governor and secretary of state being up for reelection next year.

Art Reyes and Kamau Clark joined the show after this introduction and first spoke to the outcomes of the 2020 election. Reyes reminded everyone that, while the angry white nationalists made national headlines by attacking the Michigan Capitol, the fact of the matter is that those folks were the losers last year. The people of Michigan who continue to be the winners of this last election are “multi-racial working class organizing that’s fighting not for any party or for any candidate but is fighting for dignity in our communities.” This, Reyes believes, is an essential aspect of how grassroots organizing is built to develop an energetic and passionate electorate that more people need to understand.

Reyes went on to talk about the need for progressives to invest deeply in state and local politics and organizing, as this is the only real place to build power that affects the day-to-day lives of people in our country. Asked about whether or not people can be reached locally, Art relayed a terrible story about his hometown of Flint, Michigan, where an undocumented family had not known how poisoned their water supply was until it made national news and they difficulties they faced as they tried to access clean water. “The consequences of not building enough power are not a lost election or two, or a person we don’t really like ends up in office; the consequences were that my family and the community were poisoned.”

Reyes shared a powerful explanation of how and why he moved away from national organizing and into the state and local level in Michigan:

The fights that we have to fight in this country are at the state level. It’s where many of these decisions are made. It’s where power ends up playing out. It’s something that the right has deeply invested in for a number of years, which is why we have so many of the challenges that we do now—things like gerrymandering, the attacks of voters’ rights—all of these things are happening on the state level. And unless we are thoughtful about building a legitimate, real long-term organizing infrastructure in our communities, we will lose in the end.

Because it can’t just be about moments of national mobilization every two or four years around an election. It has to be about our communities making claims on how do we make sure we get dignity, and are able to aspire to the type of communities, and states, and country that we deserve. Including the multi-racial society that we have yet to realize in this country. That we have a lot of work to do to actually achieve.

And that only happens if we are doing the organizing work, if we’re building relationships with people, and if we are unlocking people’s agency, and their collective agency to say ‘in a Democracy we get to choose.’ But we need to choose in the ways that shape our communities and shape our states, and that in total is how we fight for the soul of this country. I deeply believe that.

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