Each event featured a panel of hosts from Crooked Media, political and legal experts, historians, elected officials and activists, moderated by Gaby Goldstein, co-founder of Sister District, and Shaniqua McClendon, Vice President of Politics for Crooked Media.
State legislatures are growing ever more powerful. The most critical and life-altering policies, from reproductive justice and trans rights to fair wages and conditions for working people and families, are increasingly coming not from Washington, but from our often-overlooked state legislatures. States also have tremendous authority over election rules and administration, so they are critical to our democracy’s future.
Progressives face an existential need to explore and develop resonant narratives around state power. The purpose of this Series is to start a conversation to build narratives around the growing importance of states, provide context about the historical circumstances that have placed progressives at structural and ideological disadvantages in state power-building, and emphasize the urgent need for progressives to reimagine states as radical bastions of progressive power and commit to permanent, sustained state power-building efforts.
Gaby Goldstein is an attorney, political strategist and researcher focused on the growing importance of state legislatures and state policy. As a Co-Founder at Sister District, she focuses on building progressive power in state legislatures. She writes and speaks often about progressive federalism and progressive state powerbuilding, including recent contributions to CNN, The Guardian, The Hill, Washington Post, Ms. Magazine, and Salon. She frequently participates in lectures, events and podcasts, from UC Berkeley and Columbia University to Netroots Nation and Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness. She holds a BA from UC Berkeley, JD from Boston University School of Law, and PhD in health policy from UC Berkeley.
Shaniqua McClendon is a political strategist and speaker and commentator on media, politics, voting, and race. She is the Vice President of Politics for Crooked Media (home to the popular podcast, Pod Save America) and currently a fellow at the USC Center for the Political Future. At Crooked Media, McClendon leads their political strategy and civic engagement program (Vote Save America). Prior to Crooked Media, McClendon served on Capitol Hill as a policy advisor to Senator Kay R. Hagan and Legislative Director to Congresswoman Alma S. Adams. She began her career as a White House Intern for President Barack Obama. McClendon’s B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications and B.S. in Business Administration are from UNC Chapel Hill. She received her Masters in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School. Shaniqua serves on the board of Fund Her.
October 25, 2022 at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ET
This panel, taking place just two weeks before the 2022 midterm elections, recapped the work done ahead of the midterms and highlighted key trends with a particular focus on critical state races and what to keep an eye out for on election night. The panel also explored differences in state power between the right and the left, and why it is so important that Democrats shift their focus to states—in these midterms and in the long-term. Importantly, the panel served as a call to arms to drive volunteer capacity to state legislative races in this critical GOTV period, as well as encourage listeners to commit to building power in statehouses every year.
David Daley is a senior fellow for FairVote and the author of Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy, which helped spark the recent drive to reform gerrymandering, as well as Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy. A frequent lecturer and media source about gerrymandering, he is the former editor-in-chief of Salon.com, and the former CEO and publisher of the Connecticut News Project. His work has appeared in publications including the New Yorker, The Washington Post, and The Guardian.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed is a physician, epidemiologist, educator, author, speaker, and host of Crooked Media’s “America Dissected” podcast. He is a commentator at CNN and his newsletter, The Incision, cuts into the trends shaping our moment. He is a Senior Fellow at the FXB Center for Health & Human Rights at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and a Scholar-in-Residence at Wayne State University and American University, where he teaches at the intersection between public health, public policy, and politics.
Jessica Post is the president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, where she leads the national strategy to elect more state Democrats and win legislative majorities. Post is known for connecting innovation in politics and technology with best practices in the field and at the DLCC. She is a renowned expert on state legislative races and is regularly quoted in national and state publications and programs, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, and Politico.
Overview: This panel explored how state legislatures play an outsized role in the future of our democracy. The January 6th hearings provided us with explosive evidence of how Trump and key officials in his administration attempted to strong-arm state legislators into putting up fake electors and changing election outcomes. And in key states, Republicans are still building toward a future where they can engineer election outcomes, by modifying the laws and rules governing election administration and limiting the ability of state courts to curb partisan redistricting and subversion. On top of that, an arch-conservative Supreme Court appears likely to thwart a constitutional challenge to this state power grab via the Independent State Legislature theory — taking up a case next term which would provide state legislatures with complete control over election administration. We must pour resources and attention into state chambers. This panel explored these topics, as what we do now to build state power will determine the fate of our democracy. WATCH NOW!
Brian Beutler is Editor in Chief at Crooked Media and host of the podcast Positively Dreadful. He was a senior congressional reporter for the news site TPM for five years, where he covered all the major reforms of the Obama era, and the conservative backlash that ultimately gave rise to Donald Trump. He was formerly a columnist for Salon, and senior editor at The New Republic, where he wrote a daily column and hosted the podcast Primary Concerns.
Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, Pennsylvania State Representative for the 181st Legislative District, serves as Vice-Chair of the Philadelphia Delegation, as a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Suicide Prevention, and on a host of committee leadership positions. As the first openly LGBTQ+ person of color and one of the youngest members elected to the PA General Assembly, he is deeply committed to creating an equitable and inclusive society. He has championed proposals to address generational poverty, raise the minimum wage, protect workers’ rights, increase access to mental healthcare, stem the rise of gun violence, and protect our digital infrastructure. In 2022 he became the first openly LGBTQ man of color to run for US Senate in American history.
Dahlia Lithwick is a senior editor at Slate, where she has written her “Supreme Court Dispatches” and “Jurisprudence” columns since 1999. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, Harper’s, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The New Republic and Commentary, among other places. She is the host of “Amicus,” Slate’s award-winning biweekly podcast about the law and the Supreme Court.
Overview: This panel took place just a few days after the Dobbs decision was released by the Supreme Court. In the wake of Dobbs, abortion access now falls fully within the purview of states. Abortion access has never been universally guaranteed, and this development, as with prior restrictions, will disproportionately impact low income people, Black, Latino and Indigenous people, young and LGBTQ+ folks and people in rural areas. After decades of failed policies rooted in systemic racism and oppression, these folks will disproportionately lack the resources necessary to cross the expanding abortion desert to seek care. On the other hand, states including CO, CA, CT, and VA have expanded and enshrined the right to abortion services into state law. Panelists Imani Gandy, Erin Ryan and Leah Litman explored the conservative jurisprudential goal of narrowing federal protections and reverting civil and human rights issues back to states, and considered whether the end of Roe v. Wade is an example of how we may be experiencing the death of the ‘rights revolution.’ The panel explored these trends and discussed what can be done to bring the civil and reproductive rights (and justice) revolution to our states. WATCH NOW!
Imani Gandy is Senior Editor of Law and Policy for Rewire News Group, where she covers law and courts and co-hosts the RNG podcast Boom! Lawyered. Imani is a recovering attorney turned award-winning journalist and political blogger. She received her JD from University of Virginia School of Law in 2001.
Professor Leah Litman teaches and writes on constitutional law, federal courts, and federal sentencing at University of Michigan. Her recent work appears in the California Law Review, Michigan Law Review, Virginia Law Review, Texas Law Review, Duke Law Journal, and Northwestern Law Review. Her writing for popular audiences has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Slate. She is a co-host of Crooked Media’s Strict Scrutiny podcast.