Episode #6: Jess Phoenix (Transcript)
Quinn: Welcome to Important, Not Important. This is episode six, and I'm Quinn Emmett.
Brian: And I'm Brian Colbert Kennedy.
Quinn: Awesome. This week, we are talking to volcanologist, geologist, and California District 25 congressional candidate, Jess Phoenix, about her unexpected political career, her biggest challenges so far, and how she's helping to pave the way for more lady scientists to get involved in civic life; the pros and cons, the lessons learned. Brian, what's something you learned today?
Brian: I don't know that I learned this exactly today, but I really do like and hate that I think about, so much later in my life, all the different things that I could have, and thinking back, would have studied in college, but I didn't. Our conversation today just made me think of it.
Quinn: What would you have studied? Wait. What did you study?
Quinn: Okay, yeah, check.
Brian: For, as you so sweetly brought up last night, was for a total of nine months.
Quinn: That's all right, man. Everybody's got their thing. I mean, I'm sure the collective number of classes I went to adds up to about nine months.
Quinn: Fucking maybe. Maybe.
Brian: Yeah, it was just cool, it was talking to, which everybody will hear in a moment, talking to Jess today about how she decided, like, oh, well, I'm just gonna take these eight classes in eight different subjects to see if anything sticks. And then it did, and now, now look where she is.
Quinn: She's gonna save the world.
Brian: It was a really, yeah, it was a really cool thing to hear, and yeah, not, again, not that I just learned today that I regret not going to school more, but it would've been cool, man. It would've been cool to be a Jess.
Quinn: You know, she made this point where she was, like, "Oh, and then that semester, I decided to take other stuff." And she rolled off immediately the list of all the classes she took that semester.
Quinn: I can tell you maybe four classes. If you asked me right now to name four classes you took in college-
Brian: Oh God.
Quinn: I don't know. And I did okay. You know, I loved it. Maybe too much.
Quinn: Anyways, so actually to be clear for our Los Angeles based listeners, Jess is running for District 25 against Steve Knight, which just ...
Quinn: Monster. District 25 is just north of L.A., which means you can go stump for her.
Brian: Oh, yeah.
Quinn: You can go knock on doors. You can make phone calls, whatever it takes. She needs our help and other folks like that. She is running a grassroots campaign, and she is awesome. And people like her should pretty much be making all the decisions.
Brian: Yeah. She speaks for normal people, regular people who are interested and who aren't rich and who want the country and the world to be happy and good for everyone. She was great.
Quinn: And not burning. She really was great. I'm really pumped for her. I hope we can make a difference here. She needs 20,000 votes to win the primary.
Quinn: That's her math.
Brian: Of the 700, just over 700,000, right, in her district?
Quinn: Something like that.
Quinn: Yeah. 20,000 votes to win the primary. And Brian's two of them.
Brian: I literally count for two.
Quinn: Yep. Look, side note, if everything comes out on schedule, this is the first episode after our sort of trilogy of shows explaining how action minded conservatives are doing their best to bring other conservatives on board. I thought that was pretty interesting. I thought it was pretty fascinating stuff. You, Brian?
Brian: It was unbelievable. You think of, I think of anyway, here are these people, they believe in climate change and they're Democrats. Here are these people, they don't believe in climate change and they're Republicans.
Brian: And to learn that it's not that black and white-
Quinn: Yeah. We got our asses handed to us.
Brian: Yeah. It was ...
Quinn: And it's not who I expected to talk to, but the dominoes fell and I think it really matters because those three folks we talked to and all the other people that are doing similar jobs to them-
Quinn: ... they've got a hell of a tough job, man. But it is maybe the most important and significant battle we're facing. Because if we can even start to win that battle, to get some of them on board, some of the decision makers to go along with all these young conservatives who are up for environmental action.
Quinn: We might, might survive.
Brian: Maybe. And if we do, you know what that means.
Quinn: I get to be a robot. Right?
Brian: I just want to be a robot on Mars, man, with my friends.
Quinn: Right? Because that's the thing. We are on a true race against time, but if we win it, and to be clear, Earth's gonna change, right? Things are gonna-
Quinn: ... we're gonna hit 1.5-
Brian: It's changing.
Quinn: We're gonna try not to get to two because that's bad news. Past that it's bye-bye time.
Quinn: But if we can, there's so much awesome shit happening that we talk about in the newsletter every week. And we're gonna start to talk to some of those people on the podcast. We just obviously want to get to this first.
Brian: Yeah, yeah.
Quinn: There's so much awesome stuff happening.
Brian: Yeah, the beginnings of what is happening, it would be so terribly sad if we don't get to see all that stuff out.
Quinn: If you didn't have to super worry about climate change every day-
Quinn: ... what's the number one thing you're most excited about that's gonna happen in the next 25 years?
Brian: I don't think there will ever be anything more exciting to me than space exploration. I just want to do ... Well, I mean I'm not gonna fucking go to Mars obviously myself but ...
Quinn: Why not? Hey, why not?
Brian: I'm just a 34 years old-
Quinn: You're 40! What? You're only 40.
Brian: Come on. The kids that are born today are gonna go to Mars. Well, all right.
Quinn: You could go.
Brian: If I could go, that'd be great. That'd be great. But I just want people to be there. I want to at least be here on Earth not burning alive or under water, watching-
Brian: ... watching people fly to fucking Mars on a rocket ship. That's what I want, more than anything. Also, I would be a robot if that was an option, too.
Quinn: Would you insist on a roundtrip ticket or would you go one way?
Brian: I would 1000% do one way. And maybe that would give me a little advantage. Because say I'm whatever at that age, 60 years old and they're like, all right, listen, you can go you old man, but you're not coming back, and I would say okay.
Quinn: Two related questions.
Quinn: Because we talked about it before.
Quinn: How disappointed would your mom be if she found out you bought a one-way ticket? Go.
Brian: I might not even be able to go if I picked up the phone to answer when she hears about it and what she has to say to me.
Quinn: Good news is, when she calls, I think there's a delay, and actually there's a two-week period every two years when, I don't think you can talk to Mars.
Quinn: Or maybe it's Moon. I can't remember.
Brian: Oh, but there is, no, there is something like that. That's true.
Quinn: So she couldn't get you for those two weeks.
Brian: Yeah, that'd be a good two weeks out of the entire rest of my life that I'm gone.
Quinn: Is it worse when she's actually giving you guilt or worse when you're giving the guilt to yourself.
Brian: Like about it?
Quinn: About it.
Quinn: Knowing what she would be saying.
Brian: No, it's worse when she does it. 'Cause she's just the best. I don't want to hear her be sad.
Quinn: Yeah, but you-
Brian: It's the worst.
Quinn: You probably hear her be sad a lot, right? 'Cause of a lot of decisions-
Brian: Oh, because of my decisions? Real good, Quinn. Yeah, you know what, I have.
Quinn: All right. Well, listen we had an awesome time today. It's been a heck of a week. Jess is amazing and let's go find out some more about her, shall we, Brian?
Brian: Let's do it.
Quinn: All right. Thanks guys.
Quinn: Our guest today is a volcanologist, geologist and congressional hopeful, Jess Phoenix. We're gonna get to the bottom of what's the best chance for success for a female scientist in a long time Republican stronghold. So let's find out who she is. Jess, welcome.
Jess Phoenix: Thanks for having me Quinn and Brian. This is great.
Quinn: Yeah. Absolutely.
Brian: We're very, very excited to have you, Jess.
Jess Phoenix: It's great to be here.
Quinn: So just a little preface, note on tone, we have a lot of fun, but we do want to dig deep. We're gonna talk a little bit about your history and how you got to where you are today, and then dive into our main topic of the day. And finally, kind of a note on our ethos, we're big believers in questions, but questions that don't provoke action are basically just philosophy, which is great. But these times call for action and that's where we're trying to go. We're trying to provoke for our listeners on every level. So we're gonna get some context from you, the why of you, the why of the change facing our listeners, and then progress to some actionable steps that our listeners can take. Something that will inspire them to get to work at whatever level. Whatever party they subscribe to, even though they're mostly our party, which is fine. That's great.
Quinn: So, Jess. Two questions: Who are you and instead of asking what you do, we like to ask, why are you vital to the survival of the species, and I encourage you to be bold and honest. You're here for a reason.
Jess Phoenix: So, well, who am I? That's kind of an existential sort of question but I'll give you the-
Quinn: That's the way we do it, man.
Jess Phoenix: ... I'll give you the more down to earth answer 'cause I am a geologist and so down to earth is sort of where I like to live.
Jess Phoenix: But, no, I'm a scientist. I'm a life-long curiosity lover. I mean, I love learning. So basically any kind of inquiry, and kind of question that's really, that is who I am. I like to question everything and explore the world around us. I started out in school thinking I was gonna be an English major, ended up with a history degree and have a geology degree. I like to write. I am really into sports too, which a lot of people, most nerds don't have that reputation but I love sports, and not so much watching, I like playing. And I am really proud-
Quinn: Wait a minute. What sports? You can't just gloss over that.
Brian: We love sports.
Jess Phoenix: Oh, okay. Well, I still ride horses, which I've done since I was eight. And I play softball on a women's competitive fast-pitch team here in L.A.
Brian: Fast-pitch is hard.
Jess Phoenix: It is. It is. I've been playing that since I was a kid too. Well, I started out playing baseball 'cause they didn't have softball where I grew up.
Jess Phoenix: Then I switched over and yeah, I've been doing that forever too. Yeah, those are what I do, and then I used to do a bunch of other sports. I mean, pole vault to ice skating to everything in between. I just like to get out there and be active, so that's a big part of my personality too. I think it's probably why I come across to a lot of people as very energetic. It's all that head's up, athlete energy from back in the day.
Quinn: Sure. Sure. Totally.
Jess Phoenix: Ant then I do have to tell you why I'm vital to the survival of the species.
Quinn: I know. I know.
Jess Phoenix: Let's see. Well-
Quinn: But it's important. You gotta stand up for yourself. Do it.
Jess Phoenix: It is. It is. And actually I like it because it really plays well into my scientist brain and so I would say because I am very adaptable. I'm not gonna be passing on my DNA. My husband and I aren't having kids so what I try to do is show the young people I work with through my non-profit, I work with a lot of college and university students and a lot of elementary kids, I try to show them that being adaptable is how we meet the challenges that our species faces. So basically it's adapt or die is my philosophy.
Quinn: For sure.
Jess Phoenix: And that's kinda where we are as a species. Because I'm a big proponent of that and I spread the word, I think that's why I'm vital.
Quinn: I love that answer.
Brian: Hell, yeah.
Quinn: I love that answer. Brian, do you have anything to say?
Brian: Yeah, I have a question, Jess Phoenix. In looking, researching you online, I've found you as Jess Phoenix and as Jess Pelaez? Is that a-
Jess Phoenix: Yeah, Pelaez.
Jess Phoenix: It's actually my middle name now. Yeah, its Jess Pelaez Phoenix is my whole name.
Brian: Oh, okay.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah, yeah. So my husband Carlos, his last name was Pelaez when we got married, and so for a few years we were both, you know, he was Carlos Pelaez, I was Jess Pelaez. Living overseas and working all around the world like I do, I realized pretty quickly that very few people can pronounce Pelaez or like spell it correctly-
Brian: You mean like I just mispronounced it?
Quinn: Brian just butchered it, so perfect.
Jess Phoenix: Well his wasn't the worst, trust me.
Brian: Thank you.
Jess Phoenix: We've gotten Pleeze, Pelaz, Palayaz, I mean everything.
Jess Phoenix: And in Australia, it was next to impossible when we lived there.
Quinn: Oh, boy.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. In California, we have a little better luck but it's a Columbian last name. My husband's half Columbian, half Mexican. And so we thought we both do a bit of work in the public eye and so we thought well let's have a name that we can keep that as our middle name and then let's have a last name that we can share that means something that we like and has good connotations and is sort of our own thing together, and so we chose the name Phoenix together.
Brian: Oh, so his last name is Phoenix also?
Jess Phoenix: We kept Pelaez, it's still there, but Phoenix is the last name now.
Brian: Oh, that's so great. Yeah, I was wondering 'cause it sounds so bad ass, I figured you'd changed it 'cause of that.
Jess Phoenix: It was more just, it also began with the letter P, and we like the connotations. I was a history major like I said in undergrad, so Greek and Roman mythology are something I've been really into since I was a kid, so there's the mythology of the Phoenix, it's such a cool thing and plus I liked it when I lived in Phoenix, Arizona, it's a nice place.
Brian: Plus X-Men, I mean, it's endless.
Jess Phoenix: Oh, yeah. Yeah. There's many connotations, that's true. X-Men. X-Men was pretty amazing. I was a devotee of the Saturday morning cartoon as a kid.
Quinn: Oh, yeah.
Jess Phoenix: So there is that as well.
Quinn: Those outfits, the costumes from the cartoon were just perfect.
Jess Phoenix: Oh, my God. Yes.
Brian: I did not miss when you mentioned Voltron in your introduction video on Blueprint Earth. I appreciated it very much.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. Yeah. I do things like that from time to time. Today I was referencing Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on Twitter.
Quinn: So good.
Brian: Hey, you're the best.
Quinn: You know, I found a lot of folks, even people our age, don't know Voltron. How is that-
Brian: That's crazy. That is from our generation. I don't know how you don't know Voltron if you're in your 30's.
Quinn: I know. I feel like everybody's like He-man, Transformers-
Brian: All still good.
Quinn: Right. They're all great. But Voltron was ... Oh, God, Voltron's the best.
Jess Phoenix: Voltron was awesome.
Brian: He really was.
Jess Phoenix: I feel very sorry for anyone who hasn't watched Voltron. I don't know how well it holds up, though. Because I haven't watched it recently. I don't know if it's relevant.
Quinn: You gotta be careful, it's sometimes better just to hold on to the memory.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah.
Quinn: I made an Oregon Trail joke the other day, and nobody in the room knew what I was talking about.
Jess Phoenix: What? Oh, my gosh. You have ford the river and your ox dies.
Quinn: I was like Timmy died of dysentery and nobody had any idea what I was talking about.
Jess Phoenix: Oh, well, I would've gotten you.
Brian: Well, we all know.
Jess Phoenix: Sounds like Brian would have too.
Brian: Oh, I would have picked it right up.
Quinn: That's very sad. So anyways. All right. How did you get into working in the earth, on the earth, investigating the earth from a history major?
Jess Phoenix: Yes, it's a good question. I was one of those people who probably should have taken a year off between high school and college. But I didn't and so I kinda stumbled through undergrad and I knew I needed a degree but I didn't know really in what, and I had a semester that was a little rough and it didn't go my way-
Quinn: Didn't we all.
Jess Phoenix: ... And the next semester I thought ... Yeah, right? At least one for some people.
Jess Phoenix: So I decided I was gonna take classes that I was just interested in the next semester, and I wasn't gonna try to just and load up on major related courses or anything. And so I ended up one semester taking intro to poetry, drawing, history of Native American Peoples, astronomy, and geology. And-
Jess Phoenix: ... oh, my gosh, the geology class, it was, the professor, he's a really nice guy, but he has a really boring lecture style and most people were asleep for the class 'cause it was a four hour class from 6 pm to 10 pm on Wednesdays.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah, it was pretty brutal, but I couldn't get over how much I loved what we were talking about because geology really explained why mountains are where they are-
Jess Phoenix: ... why oceans are where they are. There's so many whys you can answer with earth science and so that was it. I was really hooked, but I didn't have enough time to switch majors, so I just took as many geology courses as I could, and I took one at a neighboring college where we had a National Science Foundation funded research expedition to Death Valley and Panamint Valley, California. And Panamint is the valley next door to Death Valley, so it's very similar. And we were doing something really cool, which is cosmogenic nuclide dating and so that was basically-
Quinn: All right.
Jess Phoenix: ... using cosmic rays ... Yeah. Cosmic rays bombard the earth all the time.
Jess Phoenix: And we can actually, they're recorded in the rocks, so we can use the rocks to figure out how long they've been in certain places. So we were researching ancient lake shores and when the rocks were covered by water, the rays couldn't reach them so you could kind of decipher when the lakes were at their maximum using this technique. So that's what I started doing and it was 11 days, it was almost two weeks. No running water, no showers, no bathrooms. It was, and I had never even been camping, so I was, whoo.
Jess Phoenix: I learned fast. And I realized when I was digging a six foot deep hole in 107 degree heat in Panamint Valley in March, that was my spring break. I was like, okay, if I really like this, this may be a career I could consider. And here I am. That was 2004. So 14 years later, if you ask me to do it again, I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Quinn: I mean, that's really trial by fire. You've got to, you find out real fast between taking a college course from 6 to 10 pm, which I guess the only thing worse than that is 6 to 10 am in college.
Brian: 6 am?
Quinn: And then being thrown into that sort of field work, it feels like it's pretty black or white. You're not like, I think I like this. It's either you love it or this is not gonna work.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. You learn very quickly. That's why now, now that I run this non-profit, well, I'm not running it at the moment because I'm running for congress, but-
Jess Phoenix: ... The non-profit I founded with ... Yeah. But the one I founded with my husband Carlos, Blueprint Earth, we take college and university students out to do hands-on field research because there aren't a lot of programs that teach students how to do field research that are affordable. And so if you don't catch a lucky break like I did, and get into an NSF funded thing, you don't have access to it. And it's really important to me that students from all backgrounds have a chance to go out and learn about the world around them because they're the scientists of the future, and I want to make sure that field science remains a vital part of our research program. That's what I'm doing. I'm bringing kids out to the desert and saying, look, here's how you camping, if they don't have equipment, we get the equipment for them. We just got some grants that are gonna allow us to give some stipends to students for the first time, which is great.
Brian: Oh. Amazing.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. Most of them work. So they have to take time off from their job, and a lot of them work and they provide for their families because a lot of our students are from inner cities or from low income backgrounds, so we really want to make sure that it's not a hardship on them to come out. And if we can alleviate the financial stress, we try to do that too.
Quinn: I love it. I think it makes so much sense. And geology really is one of those things where there's such an opportunity to blow minds. The first time you take somebody out there, even if they're like I don't know if I'm up for this, and you can really show somebody very quickly how old something is. It puts things in perspective and that's awesome. And that's great that you're making it more available to everybody 'cause it is a crime that it's not. I don't even know if the NSF has funding anymore at this point? So it's great that folks like you are out there doing that. Yeah, we'll get to that, don't worry. We'll get to that.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. Oh, yes. I figured.
Quinn: Great. Trial by fire. You love geology. You started this awesome program with your husband. And now you're running for congress. Tell us what made you say, you know what? Fuck it. I'll do it myself.
Jess Phoenix: You know, it was realizing that Trump has issues. We know Trump has issues.
Brian: I don't know.
Jess Phoenix: Whatever party you're a part of, you've got to realize the man has a lot going on that is not your typical president. That's about as kind as I can be.
Quinn: Sure. Sure.
Jess Phoenix: That being said, that's a lot of motivation for certain people to run, but for me it wasn't him so much because he's just one person. It was the culture he's bringing with him that attacks facts. And attacks the truth, and evidence. And it basically just says, none of these things that are objective matter. It's all subjective. We can twist it for our purposes. And I had a real problem with that because as a scientist my career is focused on finding out what facts are. Making observations about the world around us, testing hypotheses, it's all very logical and rational, and we make sure that what we do is based in evidence. And I thought well, why aren't our policymakers trusting facts and evidence. And this is a top down thing that's happening. We see Trump at the head of it, but people like the representative I'm challenging, Steve Knight, he has been a climate science denier. And he's called California's climate change preparations foolish. That was his word, not mine.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. You cannot exist like that and so really it's that whole assault on facts and the truth that I just I could not accept that, and I think who better than to champion evidence based policymaking than a scientist.
Brian: No one better, yeah.
Quinn: Sure. There's no fake news when it comes to dating rocks. At its most basic, like you said, it is as evidence based as it could possibly come. And it's such a fundamental thing to you, like you said, and it makes so much sense for someone like you to be the one that's opposing this ridiculousness. All right. So that is Jess Phoenix in a nutshell, am I right? Am I missing anything?
Jess Phoenix: Unless it's like really obscure stuff. I mean, I rescue animals, so that's a big thing, I guess.
Quinn: No way. This is amazing too.
Jess Phoenix: That's not obscure, but that's just like I'm looking out my window right now, and I see two of my rescue, well I have two rescue horses right now, and I'm looking at them.
Jess Phoenix: They reminded me, oh, hey, we're here. No, my husband and I both rescue animals and we have dogs, cats, birds, and horses that we've rescued.
Quinn: I love it.
Jess Phoenix: That is what we do with all of our extra money.
Quinn: Yeah, and all your free time. Sure. Yeah.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. Yeah. These days there's limited free time, but it's actually really good on the campaign trail to have all the animals around because we have one, the most recent rescue is a Chiweenie and I'm not a Chiweenie person, but she was so damaged when we got her that you have to be patient with her.
Jess Phoenix: She teaches you so much patience and it's just so nice to come home and see how much she appreciates us being around. So even if you have a rough day, even if the Russian trolls are getting on my nerves online or whatever, I have a sweet little Chiweenie who is very excited to see me regardless. So that helps.
Quinn: Animals are the greatest. They're the greatest. It's the best. I've got three tiny kids and had two small dogs. Now I've got one dog and it's just the best. The kids, they kinda don't care how my day went, but I walk in the door and the dog's like I don't care how your day went is, you're amazing, and it's the best.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah.
Quinn: They're the greatest.
Brian: I'm googling pictures of Chiweenies and they're just adorable.
Quinn: Look at the ears on that thing. They're amazing.
Brian: I just sent Quinn an image of one. Big, big ears. Like, who's that guy from, that little guy from that movie. I'm ... All right.
Quinn: Good talk, Brian.
Brian: Yep. Next one.
Quinn: Okay. We've got Jess in a nutshell here, so let's set up a little more context for today's topic question. Some of these numbers have probably changed a little bit but they can't have changed too much. In 2018, 106 women hold seats in the U.S. Congress, which is about 19% of the 535 collective members. 22 women serve in the United States Senate and 84 serve in the House. Women comprise approximately 51% of the U.S. population, which is not 19%, so needless to say, it's not very equal. It's not very representative. That's gonna change by some degree for sure this year. By November. A tab in December said 369 women are planning on running for congress, the most ever. And on the other hand, or I guess, if you're Jess Phoenix, scientists, it's just as bad. Bill Foster out of Illinois said he thinks he's the only PhD that's not a political scientist in the House.
Quinn: So Jess, you are the future. You are very much the tip of the sword here, and other women scientists like you. But it's gonna be an uphill battle, I'm sure. So with that-
Jess Phoenix: Yeah.
Quinn: ... with that for context, our question this week is, we're focused on you, but we also want to make this a, you know this is the biggest year of any of our lives I think if this is something you really care about, which you should, but it also needs to be a model going forward. So the question is, what's the best chance for success for a female scientist in a long time Republican stronghold? And how can others currently or in the future, young women who might listen to this, use your model as a blueprint going forward? 'Cause there's a lot of Republican strongholds. We know that the Democrats have failed down the chain for the past 10 years, or not even tried. But many of those white men Republican strongholds are under attack from the left for the first time in eons. And obviously most of them are again, white men. So what is your model, what are you finding most effective? What are you failing at? What are you working hardest on? And how can we duplicate that or at least set it up as something that other folks can model going forward.
Jess Phoenix: Well, you know I think that the really important thing in this particular race is that just to note that things are changing. And it's not just around the country. Right here, we have actually now in my district, in California's 25th, we're northern L.A., we're kind of the rural part of L.A.
Jess Phoenix: It's L.A. County, not L.A. city, and we have, it's a really sprawling district and it's probably, I think 70 miles I think across, I think that's about accurate. So it's pretty big. And what has happened is we've seen a real demographic shift in the last couple of decades and now for the first time, we actually have more registered Democrats than Republicans in this district, and Hillary actually won it by about 7%.
Jess Phoenix: And so my opponent, Knight, he just barely hung on, and when I've gone canvassing, door-to-door, just to do general canvas work, just saying hey, we're with the local Democratic club, we're here to talk to you about are you going to be voting next year, what's your plan, what are your most important issues, if we ask do you know representative Knight, people either say they don't know him, or they know his name and that's it. Very few of them-
Jess Phoenix: ... actually know what his votes have been. And so what I've been doing, what I've been working really hard to do, is show a couple of contrasts. I think contrast is the key word. Because he is very much your traditional politician. His dad was in political power in California, he was a state assembly member, and so Steve was able to get into state assembly and then congress on his dad's name recognition.
Quinn: Must be nice.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. It's probably a good thing if you got it, but he hasn't done anything that would distinguish him, and when you tell people that he has a 0% score, lifetime, from the League of Conservation Voters, it kind of blows their mind.
Brian: Right. Zero.
Jess Phoenix: Zero. Yeah. You have to try-
Jess Phoenix: ... to vote that much-
Quinn: That's hard.
Jess Phoenix: ... against the environment. Yeah. So people are really shocked by that because California, even our Republicans for the most part, are pretty concerned with the environment because it is such-
Quinn: Especially a district like yours.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. Yeah. There are mountains around here. We have mountains. We have desert. We have ocean. I mean, not ocean in my district, but we're right near the ocean.
Jess Phoenix: It's something where wildfires are a real problem here. We were part of that big wildfire outbreak that happened November, December. And this is something that we live with and the environment, it kind of gets up in our faces sometimes if we're not prepared because of earthquakes. So just being environmentally aware and being conscious of that and then realizing that Californians really value our outdoor recreation opportunities, too. And we have a beautiful state and people love to take advantage of that, so when you have a representative who only votes in the interest of big oil, and fossil fuels, because he is beholden to them-
Jess Phoenix: ... money-wise. People really see that and they go, oh, oh, okay. Yeah. We don't like that. And he really proved it because he actually voted for the GOP tax bill, which removed the tax deduction for wildfire victims, natural disaster victims. And he later voted to allocate funds to the disaster relief, but he did make that first vote. And it's like how can you do that in our community where we were actually affected by this.
Quinn: It just puts things into perspective very quickly.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah, it's the contrast. I mean, that's what we're doing. That is how I think we're gonna see the path to victory is by talking to people. I mean, it's communicating that contrast. It's getting out, shaking hands, talking to people online and gaging young folks and letting everybody know, that yeah, their vote is going to matter. More than ever this election. Because like you said, this could be the most important year of our lives. I've been alive since 1982 and we had some pretty momentous things happen between now and then. I mean, Challenger, the wall came down, the dot com bubble, 9/11-
Jess Phoenix: These are momentous things. But we are at an inflection point, I think, culturally, and this is where we have a chance to make a stand and say we want people of integrity leading us, not people who are beholden to big money or people who are in it solely for their own self interest and that is something that I tell everybody when I talk to them. I say, I don't want to be a career politician, this was not in my game plan. It's not like I've ran before and I'm trying it again because I have to get through.
Jess Phoenix: It's not like I see this as my next step on my career ladder, I don't. This is a complete u-turn for me career-wise.
Jess Phoenix: This is really just me saying, I need to solve a problem and I can't do it alone. I need a group of people to help me do this because I mean, that's the only way anything ever gets done, is large groups committed to working towards social justice and change and doing the right thing.
Quinn: Yeah, that works for me. So what are the obstacles you're running into mostly out there. I'm super curious, is it name recognition, is it that you've never been a politician, is it your sex, is it your job, is it none of those things? I'm curious, again, I really wanna break this thing down so that we can look at it and tell folks 'cause there might be some young girl or young woman who listens to this and says well, shit, I wanna do that and we want help them out as much as we can here.
Jess Phoenix: Oh, definitely. I would say so the number one issue is I would have to say the dark money and the corporate donors who are involved in politics. The rules we have in place right now favor the rich, hardcore. And wealthy people can't be the only ones dictating who gets into government, and that's been the case. The system with Citizens United, it's been worse than it was before, but right now this system is really set up to allow people who have a network of wealthy donors to get into office and that's it. That's why we have so many lawyers and business people. They have those networks. When a lawyer runs he or she says to their partners in their law firm and the associates, they say hey, I'm running. And a lot of law firms allocate money into peoples' paychecks for them to make donations to candidates. That's just the system is set up to allow people of money to get there.
Jess Phoenix: For me, I've done business, I've raised money for my non-profit, it hasn't been on the scale of what we need for a congressional race these days, because they're costing four to five million dollars. It's obscene.
Jess Phoenix: And that money goes towards advertising, you know, those TV ads that we all love to hate.
Jess Phoenix: I think that that's really, the system's just broken. And that has been the biggest challenge because what I've seen that's really effective is engaging with people on social media, and just as an example for how different my campaign is, Knight, who is a sitting Republican representative has 4400 something followers on Twitter and he's not very active there. He doesn't engage with people that way. And I have almost 40,000 right now. Just on Twitter.
Quinn: That's crazy.
Jess Phoenix: Facebook is like 20,000 or something.
Quinn: How many people are in your district?
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. You know, in the district total, there's about 750,000, that's standard. All districts are drawn about the same. It's a big number of people but then you figure, not all of them vote, not all of them are eligible to vote.
Jess Phoenix: And when you start breaking it down, it's for the primary, we probably need to get about 20,000 votes.
Quinn: Need to get 20,000.
Jess Phoenix: For me, it's about, we got to turn everybody you interact with into an ambassador for your campaign. And I think that's the way that candidates need to succeed in this day and age if they're not coming from wealth.
Jess Phoenix: I think that's the main thing.
Jess Phoenix: I'm certainly not coming from an area where I can, or a position where I can dump $1 million into my campaign. I can't do that. I think I contributed like 2,000.
Jess Phoenix: That's a lot but that's about all we can do too. I've got student loans and so does my husband.
Jess Phoenix: And I know that's a familiar issue for a lot of people these days.
Jess Phoenix: If you want to run and if you don't want to wait until you're in your 60's or 70's to have accumulated enough wealth to do it yourself, that is if you have that opportunity, we need to have publicly funded elections. We need to have campaign finance reform happen ASAP. I am very committed to overturning Citizens United and to working on that because I think that all the other problems that we see, like let's say, gun violence. The gun lobby is super powerful and influential. The fossil fuel lobby, same thing. Big pharma, same thing. It is all back to money and the fact that people are able to buy politicians' time and influence and I think that that is just a huge problem.
Jess Phoenix: So if we decide as a society we really want a democracy, a true democracy, and actually have anybody be able to participate in the process, we have to make sure everybody has voting rights who is entitled to them. We have to protect the Voting Rights Act and shore that up again, and we've got to make sure that people are able to run for office who come from not wealthy backgrounds.
Quinn: Sure. Yeah. I'm a huge advocate of limiting funding and also term limits and age limits, but that's an entirely different discussion. I could go on about for an hour, but it was already bad before Citizens United and now it's just, it's incredible. It's out of control. I spent part of the time while you were talking looking up Steve Knight's donations.
Jess Phoenix: Oh, yeah. He only gets a third from individuals, the rest come from corporate dark money, GOP money.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. He's not of the people.
Quinn: No, he's not.
Jess Phoenix: He is of the system, yeah.
Quinn: Do you have any idea, I saw you tweeted something last night, this morning, about your grassroots donations, how is that going?
Jess Phoenix: Oh, it's fantastic. We actually, we always, we need more obviously.
Jess Phoenix: Anyone listening if you want to donate, please do.
Jess Phoenix: But I have donors who give a dollar. I have everybody from a dollar up, and the funny thing is, is that a lot of folks who are running for office will have tons of people who do what they call, max out. They will max out, they will give the maximum amount that they are legally able to donate, which is 2,700 per election at the federal level.
Jess Phoenix: You can donate once for the primaries, once for the generals. So that's a total of $5,400. I only have 19 donors, out of almost 5,000 donors, only 19 of them have contributed $2,000 or more.
Quinn: Wow. That's crazy.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. And I've raised around a quarter of a million dollars, I think. I don't have the hard numbers in for last quarter yet.
Jess Phoenix: If you think about it, that is a lot of small donations-
Jess Phoenix: ... adding up.
Quinn: Brian, is searching through his wallet right now. It's not pretty.
Brian: I have-
Quinn: It's not pretty.
Brian: No, no, no. You hold on. I got like $80 in here.
Quinn: Well, that's really great. What else? What else you running into out there? What's been the most surprising thing to you knocking on these doors?
Jess Phoenix: Well, you know when you talk to people, it's amazing the connections you can make. And so it's been really positive in terms of finding common ground with people even if you come from a very different background. And actually one of my favorite little things that's happened is, I was out canvassing for one of the local Democratic groups, the Democratic Club of the High Desert is their name, and I was canvassing for them about a month and a half ago, I think, and I knocked on a door, I was with my husband, my husband's Latino, name Carlos, full disclosure, right, you would expect that.
Jess Phoenix: And I think I said he was Mexican and Columbian before but anyway, we were there and nobody ever thinks I speak Spanish. I mean, I'm redheaded white girl.
Jess Phoenix: But I do, I speak Spanish. And so we knock on the door, it's a Latino family. The gentleman comes out and he's speaking to my husband in Spanish and then I'm just listening on this one, because those houses I often don't get a chance to talk, they just want to talk to Carlos.
Jess Phoenix: But we asked him what his number one priority was and we asked, there was five options; it was like immigration, health care, the economy, oh, there was something else, and then oh, education or environment. And he's got five little kids screaming in the background, a car that he's working on in his front driveway. And he's a working class guy and he said the environment.
Jess Phoenix: And so then I jumped in and I asked him why in Spanish. And that sort of surprised him for a minute there, but then he started talking to me and he said because it's his kids future. And he understands that even though he doesn't have-
Quinn: This guy's my hero to be clear.
Jess Phoenix: It was super cool. And he was like even though I don't have a lot of education, I do know that we have to have clean air and clean water and our kids need that and if we don't have that stuff our kids can't have good lives. I was like, wow, he gets it. This guy gets it. And so it was somebody who we don't share a native language, he's an immigrant to our country, he's a working class dude, and yet he's like, look I understand that we have to protect our planet because we're all here together. And that has been one of the most amazing surprising parts of this. He's not alone. There are so many people who I can relate to about different things.
Jess Phoenix: And I've even had folks who, they are Trump supporters, they were. They voted for Trump, they voted for Steve Knight. I've had people come up to me and say I'm a Republican, life long Republican, I am really disappointed in how this has played out. It's not what I thought. And so I appreciate that you tell it like it is. That you are just here, I can tell you care and I'm gonna vote for you. And I'm floored. I mean its happened more than once. And I think it's just that people are so starved for something genuine and for something that hasn't been run through 800 focus groups and tested six ways from Sunday.
Jess Phoenix: They want people who genuinely just care. I think that that has probably been the most heartening aspect of this whole process for me.
Quinn: Fascinating. That's really interesting. Those type of people just must be like catnip for you. I mean that's ...
Jess Phoenix: Well, it's a balm I guess. Because I will tell you right-wing trolls are really fun.
Quinn: Wait. So how much do you have to deal with that? I'm curious.
Jess Phoenix: Well, a lot actually. Because if you're running for public office, you can't just block people because they could potentially be your constituents.
Jess Phoenix: Which is funny because Steve Knight has blocked several of my supporters, even before they started supporting me. They would ask him questions, how are you gonna vote? And he'd get mad and block them. That's not a good example and I'm hoping, I know people are challenging, I think is what I heard, that they're challenging Trump blocking people in court. We will see. For the time being, I don't block people unless it's truly a bot and they're like promoting Viagra or something on my page. Then I block them.
Quinn: Sure. That's just Brian. That's not a bot, that's just Brian. I'm sorry.
Jess Phoenix: Oh, Brian.
Quinn: I'm sorry. I'm trying. I'm trying.
Jess Phoenix: Ain't that the sport.
Quinn: He's got his own computer.
Jess Phoenix: It happens.
Quinn: It does.
Brian: Great, Quinn. Thanks.
Jess Phoenix: But what I do is, I will try to engage with people and even if I know they're deliberately just trying to provoke, they're just being antagonistic, you just have to appreciate that at least they're engaging and then you just move on. You kind of develop a bit of a thicker skin; although, I will say, I'm human, and it's not fun ... Actually the one that stuck with me a little bit, and I know that means somebody will do it to me again, but that's fine.
Quinn: Of course.
Jess Phoenix: I'm over it now, trolls, just FYI. But, no, I've had somebody, one time, they just said, "Wow. She's a piece of ass." And I went-
Jess Phoenix: ... okay. Not a hot piece of ass, not a sexy piece of ass, not an ugly piece of ass.
Jess Phoenix: Just a piece of ass. And I was kinda like, wow, could you get more dehumanizing than that? I don't think so.
Quinn: Sure. Sure. There's not even an adjective there.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. That's like saying she is a person. But it's like doing it in a depersonalizing way. I kinda went, that's weird. That's just the fact that you would treat someone like that. And I know that other people get it far worse, particularly people who've been doxed or swatted, I guess is the other thing.
Quinn: Sure. It's terrible out there.
Jess Phoenix: It's just brutal and people leave social media, they stop engaging and I can totally see why.
Jess Phoenix: But I think, now more than ever, it's really important to look for the good things like the people who come and talk to me and say that they get it because people you interact with in the real world, it's just a different sort of thing. You can see a little bit more about what makes them tick and they can see what makes you tick. So I think as long as I remind myself of that, that these are real people, unless they're bots, but they're real people sitting behind keyboards. I try to tell myself, you know what, maybe they have a relative in the hospital, maybe they just lost their job. I try to humanize them by remembering the people I interact with on a daily basis because otherwise you could get sucked into the negativity and I try really hard not to do that.
Quinn: Sure. How do you break down your day? How do you break down your week as far as spending your energies?
Jess Phoenix: Well, you know a typical candidate will spend 8 to 12 hours a day making phone calls to wealthy people for money.
Jess Phoenix: Usually if you-
Jess Phoenix: ... ask a candidate they'll say that, but because my campaign's grassroots, doesn't work that way. I spend a good amount of time, because I have my phone all time, so I will engage with people online kinda throughout the day, all day. But every day is different. I will have, like yesterday I had office time with my staff and it was just a lot of game planning, logistic stuff. And then I had debate prep because we had a forum that evening, yesterday night. Sometimes you have a forum, sometimes you have like a meet and greet, sometimes you have an event where you just get to say hi, you're not the speaker or anything.
Jess Phoenix: And sometimes it's just like hey, we're gonna go to this middle school. We're gonna go talk at this high school. You get to meet students. You're gonna go to a nursing home or a VFW or we're gonna speak at the neighborhood council meeting. So it's something different every day. I try to go to anywhere from two to six events a week, just depending on the week. It's busy. It's more than a full time job. And then you have staff members too and it's more than a full time job for them. A lot of them are young because it has to be kinda high energy. So I have to say that its given me a whole new appreciation for the older folks who campaign because it is very intense. You'd expect it to be, but I'm just glad that I get to do more going out and meeting people and writing things that I want to share with my supporters and with, hopefully, new supporters. Most candidates are really just locked in a windowless room making phone calls to donors.
Jess Phoenix: So I'm glad that I get to kinda break that mold a little bit because I've said to everybody I've met, I don't want to do this if I can't be myself while doing it. So that's been a big thing, big part of my campaign.
Quinn: Yeah. I mean, sitting in that room just must be life sucking and for someone like you who has never aspired to be a politician and doesn't aspire to be one of these 85-year-old people who I generally don't understand how they're still in congress, finding out they're running means sitting in a room and making phone calls for 12 hours a day.
Brian: Especially someone like you who's adventurer and an explorer.
Quinn: Right. Would just be so demoralizing and would probably drive some folks out, some good folks out and make them say this is not worth it. God, the campaign financing is such a nightmare because here's, it's a sports analogy, we can rip on all the baseball players who did steroids in the 80's and 90's, but eventually you had to do them to keep up with everyone else.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. And biking too.
Quinn: Right. Well, biking-
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. Yeah.
Quinn: I mean Jesus, what 2004, everyone is like they took all of Armstrong's awards away. I think 2004-2005, they ended up giving the trophy to like the number nine guy, I think. Because that's-
Brian: Because of everyone else?
Quinn: Because everyone else was doping.
Quinn: And there is just like, oh, well, that means everyone's doing it and if you don't you physiologically cannot keep up.
Quinn: And that's the problem with campaign finances, much as I wish it would go away tomorrow and everybody got a public allotment of money, small public allotment of money, we have to keep up, so it's unfortunate that you don't have the same dark money funds but at the same time thank God you're not beholden to those people and organizations, but you're enjoying and being proactive about saying okay, well, this is my hand and I'm gonna get out there and do what I can and I'm gonna get more ... How much you gonna give, Brian? $25 donations from folks.
Brian: Come on. I said there was at least 80 in my wallet.
Quinn: Just gonna send in an envelope of cash?
Brian: Look for the very specifically $83 donation, that will be from me.
Jess Phoenix: Excellent. I will do that. That's how you do it. The only way we're gonna fix it, is if we send people to office who actually have real messages and are doing the real hard work of talking to people and learning the local issues and understanding the community on a deep level. I think that is kind of the change that we need. It can't just be who had the biggest ad campaign. It really can't be that. And it can't be people running and just equivocating on everything and saying well today this and tomorrow something else. We see a lot of that. We see a lot of people who are, they're great at being politicians, they'll say what you want to hear, but that is not the authenticity that our country needs right now in our leadership.
Quinn: Right. So Let's dig a little bit into your environmental policy thoughts. Obviously you support reinstating the environmental regulations that will try to save this planet that Mr. Pruitt's doing away with every morning when he wakes up. Have you ever considered anything like a carbon tax to replace those? Any thoughts on stuff like that?
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. I've actually looked at carbon tax as a way to help pay for Medicare for all in conjunction to that.
Jess Phoenix: Saying taxing, potentially taxing people who pollute, not people, but companies that pollute-
Jess Phoenix: ... and that's something that I'm exploring. But again, this is stuff where you need hard data, a lot of it.
Jess Phoenix: I would say first and foremost, we've got to restore the protections that we had already.
Jess Phoenix: As of, I think it was by October, Trump had already overturned almost 30 regulations. I think there were 29 of them. And a bunch more were in progress. I think there were a total of 60 that he was trying to get rid of. These are basic things. These are like drilling in off-shore drilling, the arctic, hunting grizzly bears and wolves in Alaska, protecting whales and sea turtles. I mean, these are basic things.
Quinn: Some of it just feels like its literally just for shits and giggles. The hunting the wolves and the bears, it's like, but why? What does that have to do with anything? Just why? Because somebody walked through his office and was like, "You know what I'd love to do? Shoot a bear."
Jess Phoenix: Well, Don Young, the representative from Alaska, I think he's been in congress, it was 52 years, it may be 53 or 54 now, but he's been there forever. So that goes back to your term limit thing.
Quinn: Oh, God.
Jess Phoenix: I don't have a set term limit should be X, but I definitely think we need to look at that because we get people-
Brian: Less than 52 years, yeah.
Jess Phoenix: ... in there who are so out of touch with what is going on currently that you have this stagnation of knowledge-
Jess Phoenix: ... and so you don't have people who are willing to explore new policy options. That's what we need. The country is constantly changing and evolving, so is the world at large. So we have to be there and be ready to meet those challenges by saying, hey, look, is carbon tax the right way to go? Is investing more in solar and clean energy? What are we gonna do? And actually, one of the big fundamental building blocks of my campaign is making my community here in southern California the global hub for green tech research and development. And we actually can do that. We have the manufacturing knowledge from being an aerospace manufacturing district for a long time. So we have the skilled workers for that and we also have skilled knowledge workers too. We have JPL really close by and a bunch of great colleges and universities, and I think that we are primed and ready because we have the space, we have the technology, and we need to be a leader in green tech. And what better place than right here? It's just a matter of getting federal funding dollars back home.
Quinn: As far as the green tech goes, any thoughts on vocational training things like that? I know besides the solar panel tariffs, I think they said wind technician is the fastest growing job in America. Solar industry growing 17 times, everything else it just seems like, let's point these people in the right direction, let's give them a chance where things that are already growing.
Jess Phoenix: No, I just agree completely. And I think it's fantastic because I've worked in natural resources. When I lived in Australia, I worked in coal for a bit and so I did it, I was a geologist. My job was to basically to figure out if they were doing their production in an environmentally compliant way, and in an efficient way. So I did that. And that's how I can say, look, I see what it is. There is no such thing as clean coal. Australia leads the way in the greener extraction practices across all of the natural resources. They have pretty tight protections for their environment. But it's still a problem. These industries are, particularly coal, it's dying out and there's a good reason for that. I mean, I've told people that the Stone Age didn't end because we ran out of stones. The fossil fuel age isn't ending because we're out of fossil fuels, it's ending because we have a better option.
Jess Phoenix: So that to me, I have this boots on the ground, real world experience of saying, look, I've seen it, I know what it is, and we can do better. A lot of the people I've worked with had, at best, sixth or eighth grade educations because they work with their hands.
Jess Phoenix: They're very skilled mechanics. They're skilled drillers. They have a lot of skills and they learned those either on the job or through a vocational training program, and I think that we, here in the U.S., need to be elevating the vocations. We need to be elevating carpentry, and electricity work, and plumbing, and of course then, move that into green tech manufacturing because without those skills, you can't just draw something on a computer and make it be real. I mean, yes, 3-D printing is a thing, but we're not gonna be 3-D printing everything. We need to have people who can actually put stuff together and understand things like how the machines work-
Jess Phoenix: ... and a lot the knowledge that we have right now, surprisingly enough, in agriculture actually comes from immigrants who are working in agriculture.
Quinn: Of course.
Jess Phoenix: I mean, it's just understanding that you can't have, we can't solely exist online.
Quinn: It's wonderful, technology is great, technology got us here in a lot of positive and negative ways, if you want to count the industrial movement as positive or negative, and there's some wonderful stuff coming down the tube, but helping to train these folks, whether they're just young people who don't want to go to college or most likely, can't afford it, 'cause that's broken in another conversation. Or they're coal miners who are out of work, or it's just folks who didn't go to a good public high school 'cause that's another conversation, especially here in Los Angeles, but the opportunities that are there to train them into these industries that are exploding, that one, like you said, people who know how to work with their hands and already know how to work machines could fix our crumbling infrastructure, for example.
Quinn: And two, could help save the planet. You can apply it from so many different points, but in a district like yours that has so much room and has so many immigrants and has so many folks who are used to working on the land and has these facilities, it just makes sense to say, hey, come here. We'll teach you whichever one of these things you want to do. We can help, both make you money and help you pay for your family or path to citizenship if you need it, which again, is another discussion. Or you're just a white guy who's out of work, maybe you worked in coal or you never thought about it or you just need a job, but there's so many opportunities to apply it.
Quinn: And I remember seeing somewhere a few years ago, and I'm gonna mangle this, and I've tried to find it before again, and I can't, but someone was saying how one of the fixes to college, or at least maybe community college is the better version of this is, stop with these ... I mean, I was a religious studies major and it applies to nothing. Basically, I've done nothing with that. I enjoyed it, it was fun. I'm a pagan. But I just want to learn about the world and how people see it, but what would have been more productive is if majors were based around fixing problems. Or taking something on, because majoring in climate change action doesn't mean you have to build weather models and climate models, we need someone to do that, but we need also people schooled in ethics and liberal arts and things like that.
Quinn: And trying to turn the ship around and apply those things, I think, let people apply themselves to the things they love, like when you showed up in the desert and were like, holy shit, I love geology. And how can I play that, but there's other ... It can't just be geologists, just like Facebook can't be a tech nerds 'cause we all saw what happened there. It's not great. You need popple working on the same thing, but who are gonna ask should we be doing this? Is this the best idea?
Jess Phoenix: Different questions. It's true. It's true.
Quinn: And those people are valuable. And I know places like Germany are really succeeding with the vocational training, and I don't know. I don't want to keep harping on it, but seeing something like that happen just north of us would be really exemplary because you look at a place like Los Angeles, which has, I'm not sure what the homelessness situation's like up where you guys are, we're only about 10 miles down south of you, we're here in upper L.A. But homelessness is out of control. I love Eric Garectti, but it's out of control, it's so bad, so many of them are vets and there's such an opportunity to turn these people around and help everybody in that case. If there's a magnet like that where you are with you leading the way, I don't know. It feels like everybody wins.
Quinn: Anyways, that's more than enough out of me. I think Brian had a few more small questions to you before we try to close this thing out.
Brian: We're wondering what the big actionable questions that we can be asking of our representatives and of our candidates, like yourself.
Jess Phoenix: Oh, good. So that is a really good thing to ask, because people want to actually be able to ask to do something.
Brian: Yes, please.
Jess Phoenix: It's all well and good, but we've got to be able to hold people accountable. The main thing to do is, I would say to ask questions about why they're voting the way they are. Question that, not just what are you going to do about a particular vote. I mean, you should do that too. Everybody should be calling their representatives, and texting them and all the different tools we have now to get in contact with them, but we should be saying things like, okay, you're taking this vote, but why are you doing that? Do you have donors in that industry? Do you have affiliations with this? Are you gonna be consulting in that industry when you leave office? It's like-
Jess Phoenix: It's following the money. And I think that is what you could do. And then they may blow you off, but then when they do, if they do blow you off, if they give you a form letter or a standard response of something canned, shared that with your friends and get the word out that you have a representative who isn't doing their job. And if you're lucky enough to have one who is, then also ask them, question them too, because they need to stay on their toes. Just because they're in office doesn't mean that their responsibility to you as a constituent is lessened at all. No. In fact, it's heightened. Because now they are acting as your voice. So you definitely have to question them about their motives behind their decisions.
Jess Phoenix: And I think that that is the important thing, is to know that even if you don't agree with somebody on 100% of things, because really the only way to agree 100% with a candidate is if you yourself are the candidate. We're gonna have differences.
Jess Phoenix: Even your most perfect dream candidate will have differences from you. The thing to remember is if you agree with them on most issues or if you agree with them on the issues that matter most to you, then support them. Back them. And of course, challenge them. Tell them things that you think they could look at differently and that they could examine and prioritize. So it needs to be a dialogue. And if your representative isn't having town halls or isn't having office hours when they're in the district, if they're not making themselves available to you, keep pushing for that.
Jess Phoenix: And then publicize it if you can. Whether it's just your friend group on Facebook, or if you have a big Twitter platform or a blog or something. Get the word out there. Hold them accountable and everybody needs to be engaged. And that means teach your kids, teach your friends. Just engage in the hard conversations. I know everybody doesn't like to talk about politics, but start doing it. And if somebody disagrees from you on something, ask them why.
Jess Phoenix: Just try to understand. Be curious. And if we all can carry that innate curiosity that we have as kids with us as adults, then we're gonna be doing a lot better as a society.
Quinn: Absolutely. And I want to give a quick shout out, there's a startup called Town Hall Project, which has worked for the past year, like so many of these startups that didn't exist 12 months ago, to really aggregate every representative and senators' town hall time, whether it's virtual or in person. And it is an easy way to connect with your leaders and do exactly what Jess is talking about, which is just to say why. Why. Whether it's good or bad, why are you doing it? And it seems like, like you said, boy, that would make for a better society. Act like a kid. All my kids do is ask why. And it can either drive you crazy-
Jess Phoenix: Yes, I agree. Kids are the best.
Quinn: Kids are the best. I told this story in a previous episode. Two things. My poor, my five year old is so into the environment and just cares about everything, probably too much, the poor guy, he's gonna get his heart broken every day, but he asked where paper came from and I told him and he's like well, I guess I'm not using paper anymore. 'Cause he loves trees. And we were riding in our minivan-
Quinn: ... he asked about, I don't know, he saw a tailpipe or some smog or something and I told him, and by the time we got out of the car at baseball practice, he was well, I'm not riding in the minivan anymore, dad. I was like, well, shit, man, we need to be able to get places, but I get what you're saying. But the why, it matters so much. And if we can just grasp on to that. Yeah, you're right. If it means chasing down some of this money, then hell, yes.
Quinn: Have you run into anything in particular that's been difficult as a female, besides the online nonsense?
Brian: Besides the trolls, yeah.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. That's been the bulk of it. Otherwise, I've worked in male dominated industries my whole professional career. I started working the sales floor at Best Buy when I was 17 and I was the only woman on the sales floor in that store.
Jess Phoenix: And so I was thrown right into it right away. Ever since then, it's been, especially field science, that is male dominated, largely. For me it's really normal being in a male dominated space like politics, but I think it's just when I actually step back and I look at the toll it takes, particularly with the #MeToo movement going on, and people being very outspoken about the abuse that they've had to deal with, it's very exhausting to be, well one, ripped on for being female 'cause you don't have a choice. Like you are born a certain way and then if that doesn't fit your gender, then you change that these days-
Jess Phoenix: ... because that's valid. But I think that it's, you're born a certain way and whether that means you're fat or you are female or you are skinny, too skinny and people constantly bug you about that. You have some things about yourself that are just external things and it's hard to see people degrading you for something that is just who you are. So I think really, it's just sort of, it's probably common to a lot of women running now, but you just have to make time to be nice to yourself and do things that recharge you and for some people that would be like spa day, for me, it's time with my animals or going and playing a sport. Going to the softball batting cages, that usually fixes it for me.
Jess Phoenix: But you have to remember to do that. And I don't know if that's gender specific or not, but a lot of the issues you deal with are people making comments because of gender. For me, I'm just like, okay. You know what, this is what I'm doing, and particularly troubling are the ones that you get from people who are, you know, I'm very much pro-choice and you get a lot of people constantly calling you baby murderer et cetera et cetera. Its funny because when you are female you have that ability to bear children that men don't have. So it's kinda interesting because a lot of people will try to speak about something that they have no knowledge of-
Brian: Yeah, weird, right.
Jess Phoenix: ... and it's that sort of bridge that you're like, some days you can cross it, some days you can engage and some days you just go, you know what, I'm just gonna leave this for later.
Jess Phoenix: 'Cause it is exhausting. It's exhausting to have people attack your fundamental person, but at the same time, there's so many great people, like I said before, that you just have to look to the people who get it, and who are supportive and who understand and use that to recharge.
Quinn: I think that makes a lot of sense.
Brian: That's awesome. All right we've taken just a butt load of your time, Jess, and we really appreciate it. And obviously thank you so, so much. We were wondering, who else should we talk to?
Quinn: Who are your allies out there? Again, what we're really looking to ... Obviously, look, our listeners are pretty darn progressive. They might not be the nerdiest like the three of us, but they've probably taken more action in the past year than they ever have. They're pretty fired up. They might not know all the issues, but they know of them. They might not know where that iceberg is breaking or when autonomous cars are coming exactly, but they're excited about it or terrified. Who else can we talk to, to help provide a catalyst for action for these folks? 'Cause they're hungry for it.
Jess Phoenix: Well, I would ... Okay. I have some really interesting suggestions for you.
Jess Phoenix: One, is a friend of mine and a supporter of the campaign and an actor. His name is John Billingsley. He played Dr. Phlox on Star Trek: Enterprise, the TV series. And he has been-
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. He has played so many other characters, people know him, he was in a million things. He was in True Blood, and I think he's been on CSI, and you name it, he's been on it. He was in The Man from Earth.
Jess Phoenix: He's been in a lot of things. John has started a group called Push, People Unwilling to Sit on their Haunches. And it encourages activism in whatever area interests the participants. So he's working a lot with the Hollywood Food Coalition, there's a formal name for it, I cannot for the life of me remember what it stands for, but he's gotten a lot, very involved in feeding the hungry here in L.A. And he also is encouraging activism on all levels and he's supporting my campaign and he would be a hilarious interview for you. I will say that. So if you can get him to agree to do it, he would be great. Because he is somebody who has come to activism later in life, and from a very different background. He's using his unique skillsets as a communicator to make a difference. So definitely recommend John.
Jess Phoenix: I can give you his contact info.
Quinn: Yeah. We might rely on you for the hook-up but I literally, all of that sounds amazing. I've literally just been sitting here thinking about talking to him about TNG the entire time, all the rest of that sounds great. I'm sure it's fun.
Brian: We're starting a new podcast to just talk about TNG.
Jess Phoenix: Oh, that's funny. Yeah. No, no, no. He is the best. He is the best. I would suggest him and then there's actually a voice actor who you should talk to as well, Tara Strong. She has done so many different voices. Like Timmy from Fairly Odd Parents, she's a voice in the new My Little Pony, she's been on Teen Titans. I mean you name a cartoon, and she's been a voice in it, and she is a very, very big activist. She's been involved with the Women's March with United We Dream, to help the DACA recipients. She's involved in amplifying candidates around the country who have causes she believes in, including me. Tara is a fantastic person, so I would also be happy to introduce you to her, too.
Brian: Rock and roll. Who out there on the civic level is kicking ass? Who would you like to praise? Who's an inspiration to you as you're getting into this nonsense?
Jess Phoenix: Okay. So Danica Roem, the transgender woman who won the seat from the guy who was like-
Brian: Oh, yeah.
Jess Phoenix: ... Mr. Homophobe in Virginia.
Quinn: I'm from Virginia. I still spend half the year there. It's just incredible. She's unreal.
Jess Phoenix: Yes. I love her. I supported her campaign. I think she's amazing. She's an incredible voice for the LGBTQ community and she is the proof of concept that we can do this by focusing on issues and by being genuine and by talking to people as people. She is just, she's amazing. I'm part of the LGBTQ community as well and I just have to say that it was inspirational to see her run and to see her win. And I think that I'm not alone in thinking that some day, it's not going to matter what your orientation is, what your gender is, what your ethnic background is, what your religion is. Some day I think we can get there, where we're just gonna be seen as people. And I think she's part of that wave towards making that a reality.
Quinn: Absolutely. Absolutely. When you see that happen, you go, oh, this house of cards is coming down. It might take a little but that, someone like her running a much less winning in Virginia, which isn't the reddest state, but still, did not happen, shit, five years ago, much less 10 years ago. It is a helluva sign and it is very inspirational.
Quinn: Lets sort of summarize what our listeners and progressive folks in general, and ladies, and even more so lady scientists or doctors or anything, all of the things we need more of. We often ask this question, if we had more female scientists in charge, would we even be in this place, and the answer is probably no, obviously not. We want to kinda summarize what they can do to take action. And again, correct me and just yell at me if I've misspoken on any of this.
Quinn: But it seems like if they're running, get online. You got to get over the trolls a little bit, but technically can't really block them. And don't be afraid to run a grassroots campaign from all angles. Sounds like you believe in having a real message, which I don't know why that sounds so unique, but it is. And learning the local issues and what people care about, and I think that really matters so much going forward, especially when it comes to the environmental stuff. Climate change is affecting everyone, but each region and state and city is gonna be affected so differently.
Quinn: The self care. Be good to yourself. Take care of yourself, like you said. Whether it's some aggressive swings in the batting cage, which I totally get or it's playing checkers or candles in the bath. I do all of those things. They're all wonderful.
Quinn: And then it seems like number four, is if you're not running, just ask why. Follow the answers. Chase them down whether they're the good or the bad, and if you run into where the money comes from, or what else they're associated with, great. If it runs into their personality and where they come from, then that's even better and maybe a little more understandable if especially something you don't agree with. 'Cause like you said, there's no perfect candidate. We're never gonna agree with everyone on every policy. Does that sum it up? Did I mangle that?
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. Yeah. And then I guess the last little caveat would be, even if you think that you don't have a voice, you do. And the way to have that voice now is to find candidates you like and send them whatever you can. Five bucks, 10 bucks, 15, it doesn't matter, just getting out there and showing that you're a real person and that you're pushing back against the huge big money backers, that actually is going to send a wake up call, a tremendous wake up call around the country and around the world. Get in there and whatever you can, even if its just $1, find somebody who you believe in and support them because it's kinda like rocket fuel when you do.
Quinn: I love it. I love it. All right. We've got a bit of a lightening round and then we're out of here. First one, super important. Star Trek, Star Wars, or Dr. Who? And if it's Trek, or just in general Trek, which one, and please don't say Enterprise. Go.
Jess Phoenix: Oh, I don't get the cop out? No. Actually, I'm gonna be very progressive here and say I love the new Star Trek: Discovery.
Quinn: So do I. So do I. It's so good.
Jess Phoenix: It's amazing. Oh, my God. I'm so excited. I cannot wait for Sunday.
Quinn: So you're caught up? I love the ... I don't want to give anything away for anybody who's not watching and it will be a little bit til this airs, but I love what's going on. I thought twist was crazy. Crazy pants. Didn't see it coming.
Jess Phoenix: Yes, 'cause there's one twist you're like, yeah, we get that. But then there's-
Quinn: Yeah, sure.
Jess Phoenix: ... another twist and you're like, what? Yeah.
Quinn: It explains so much.
Jess Phoenix: Oh, my God. I will tell you, it made my day the other day when Wilson Cruz started following me back on Twitter. He is Dr. Culber in that.
Brian: That's awesome.
Jess Phoenix: And I was just happy that he is all healthy and everything is good with him in real life because his character goes through some things.
Quinn: I know.
Jess Phoenix: But he's awesome. I love the cast. I love the story. I think, at first I was like, grumbling that I was gonna have to pay for seeing-
Quinn: Of course.
Jess Phoenix: ... it through CBS's paywall, but now I'm like whatever, worth it, especially for this-
Quinn: I'm in.
Jess Phoenix: ... production value and this writing. Oh, yeah. It's awesome.
Quinn: Also, this is what I've said to a number of my nerd friends who are the same way who are like, oh, six bucks a month. I'm like, you know you also get every back episode of Trek with that, which is just such a dangerous black hole.
Brian: Oh, really?
Jess Phoenix: You get everything. Everything.
Quinn: Yeah, Brian. Six bucks.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah, all of them.
Quinn: Good content costs money to make, Brian. Fork it over.
Brian: I'm not ... Okay.
Quinn: Jess, how do you consume the news yourself?
Jess Phoenix: Ooh, voraciously. No, no. I have on my phone, I have the NPR app and I have the BBC app and I have a subscription to The Washington Post and I also, actually no, we subscribe to L.A. Times now too, that's right. I've got L.A. Times, and The Washington Post and then ... I mean, I'm on social media all the time. I also see things from all the different outlets on there. And then I have friends who are journalists and so I will check their specific feeds to see what they've written or what they're sharing because they often have very good and relevant taste. So it's sort of a, it's kind of a crowd sourced effort in a way.
Quinn: Well, it seems to be the way to do it these days.
Jess Phoenix: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brian: All right, Jess. I got one for you. Are you reading any books right now and if so, what are they?
Quinn: In all your free time.
Jess Phoenix: Ooh. Yeah. Actually, I just finished the memoir, Hunger by Roxane Gay. It is about Roxane, she's a writer, and she's incredible and it's about her struggles with sexual assault and then her subsequent overeating to the point of super morbid obesity to deal with that and then her evolution-
Jess Phoenix: ... as a person and as a writer as a result. And it is an intense and amazing memoir. I just finished it like two days ago. So I'm about to start another book, but I haven't decided which one yet. But that one was a fantastic read. It's not light, it's not lighthearted.
Jess Phoenix: I did also just finish ... I'm a voracious reader too, which helps with the news consumption. But I also just finished my fun book, it was The 14th Colony by Steve Barry. So historical action kind of stuff.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. People shooting things, and planes, and car chases, and that sort of stuff.
Brian: Trying to keep that balance.
Jess Phoenix: Kind of balance the serious-
Jess Phoenix: ... sad, with the awesome action and adventure.
Brian: Nice. And I know we've sort of talked about this because you're an avid athlete and a horse enthusiast, is there any other hobbies or anything that you do, not work related.
Jess Phoenix: You know, we're doing a lot of DIY around our house.
Brian: Oh, cool.
Jess Phoenix: So I've become this hobby DIYist, I guess.
Quinn: How serious are we talking here?
Jess Phoenix: Like building fences, building a barn for the horses.
Brian: That's pretty serious.
Jess Phoenix: Let me see, what did we do. We rewired part of our-
Jess Phoenix: ... kitchen.
Jess Phoenix: Electrically. We have a friend who's teaching us how to do the electrical stuff.
Quinn: I was gonna say. That one could come back to haunt you. That one could come and get you.
Brian: We sort of need you in office.
Jess Phoenix: But, not. We're doing all this stuff like putting new windows in our house, and just we're gonna be doing ... I just made a table. I made a table over Christmas.
Jess Phoenix: Oh, yeah. I got a piece of wood, just a slab of wood and sanded it and then varnished it and then drilled holes into the bottom of it, and then made legs out of copper pipes and then epoxied them together and then made this three-legged table that is like from this beautiful piece of black walnut.
Quinn: Oh, my God.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah, I wanted to learn how to do it, so I did.
Quinn: That's awesome. I'm pretty handy, but I feel like if I made a table my children would destroy it immediately.
Jess Phoenix: Well, probably, you said five and what's the other one's age?
Brian: Or made it, honestly.
Quinn: Oh, my gosh. They're ... It's a lot. It seems like there's 12 of them. It's five and three and a half and two.
Jess Phoenix: Oh, okay. Yeah, no, that is a lot. 'Cause three kids under five, that's like being constantly under siege. Good for you.
Quinn: It is. It's good. I'm from a big family, I'm used to it. It is chaos. Every morning's kind of like, okay, here we go. Here we go. Shit, Jess, this has been awesome.
Brian: So awesome.
Quinn: We're really excited to come knock on doors for you. Your website doesn't seem to have any merchandise. All I want to do is a hat, or a-
Jess Phoenix: We have stickers right now and we're just about to do a whole t-shirt thing.
Quinn: That's amazing.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah.
Brian: We will buy t-shirts.
Jess Phoenix: We're doing like a logo design contest, that's what gonna be happening here.
Brian: What? So we can enter?
Quinn: No, Brian.
Jess Phoenix: But the stickers, we do have decals that we have that are good for cars and laptops and things like that. But we're actually gonna have a whole page with that stuff within the next week or two.
Jess Phoenix: So that will be available.
Quinn: Awesome. By the time this airs, then that will be up so people can brand themselves.
Brian: Will that be on Jess2018.com?
Jess Phoenix: Yes, it will be.
Brian: Okay. Out of curiosity, have you been to Jessphoenix.com?
Jess Phoenix: I don't know. Have I? Let me look. I'm gonna do it right now 'cause I don't know-
Brian: 'Cause I have.
Jess Phoenix: ... what Jessphoenix.com is.
Brian: I have been searching for you. It is a website, and it's very pretty.
Jess Phoenix: I hope it's not, I just hope it's not porn.
Brian: No, no, no.
Quinn: No, it's not.
Brian: Thank God.
Jess Phoenix: Okay. I own Volcanojess.com.
Brian: Yeah, I noticed that.
Jess Phoenix: And that's my website, website for my non-congress stuff.
Jess Phoenix: Oh, it's pretty. Jessphoenix.com is really pretty. She's an artist.
Brian: Yeah, she loves flowers.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah.
Brian: And that's a nice little Jess, little shout out to the other Jess Phoenix.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. Her stuff is really pretty.
Quinn: Really lovely.
Jess Phoenix: Oh, man. Okay.
Brian: Well, we're very excited for your logo and your t-shirts.
Jess Phoenix: Yeah. I cannot paint so if people see that, it is not me and I cannot paint.
Quinn: Well, that's awesome. Okay. So Jess2018.com. What's your Twitter ... Twitter voice.
Jess Phoenix: It is @jessphoenix2018.com
Quinn: Awesome. And you are pretty active there and the people be a good human. You know? I think that's what most of our listeners hopefully are. Can't control them, certainly not Brian. But be good humans, don't be trolls.
Quinn: Awesome. Well, Jess, last thing. Anything else you want to say to speak truth to power before we let you get out of here?
Jess Phoenix: Just question everything. That's it. Question everything and-
Brian: Hell, yes.
Jess Phoenix: ... when people make decisions, ask them what they base it on because that's really how you get to evidence-based policies. And of course, then there's be excellent to each other, but that's a whole different thing.
Brian: So good.
Quinn: I'm not even gonna explain it. We'll see who gets that one.
Quinn: I love it. I love it. Well, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you for what you're doing, it's exemplary and inspirational and again, we're hoping to both support you in action, both environmental and otherwise, and also hopefully inspire other folks to support you and to get off our ass and to do something themselves. So please keep kicking ass out there, we're gonna be cheering for you up through the primary til November and we're definitely gonna come knock on doors, too. Brian might be on the way there.
Jess Phoenix: Awesome. Awesome. Well, I'm here. I will be sitting here.
Quinn: If there's anything else we can do, please let us know.
Brian: Yeah, seriously.
Jess Phoenix: Oh, great. Well, thank you both so much this has been a pleasure and I just hope your listeners have enjoyed it 'cause it was fun for me.
Brian: I just want to say, I just want to bring it back to Voltron one more time and just say Voltron was the defender of the universe and thank you for being a defender of our planet.
Quinn: Nice. Good work, Brian. All right. Thanks, Jess. We appreciate it.
Jess Phoenix: Thank you, guys.
Quinn: Have a great one.
Jess Phoenix: Have a great one.
Brian: You too, chow.
Quinn: Thanks to our incredible guest today, and thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute or awesome workout or dish washing or fucking dog walking late at night that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at important-notimportant.com. It is all the news most vital to our survival as a species.
Brian: And you can follow us all over the internet. You can find us on Twitter @important-notimp ... So weird. Also, on Facebook and Instagram @important-notimportant. Pinterest and Tumblr the same thing. So check us out, follow us, share us, like us. You know the deal. And please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this and if you're really fucking awesome, rate us on Apple podcast. Keep the lights on, thanks.
Brian: And you can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player and at our website important-notimportant.com.
Quinn: Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blane for our jamming music. To all of you for listening. And finally, most importantly, to our moms for making us. Have a great day.
Brian: Thanks, guys.