Episode #67: Is Climate Change Flippable? (transcript)
Quinn Emmett: Welcome to Important, Not Important. My name is Quinn Emmett.
Brian C.K.: And my name is Brian Colbert Kennedy.
Quinn Emmett: Want to do the next part?
Brian C.K.: Sure. This is the podcast where we dive into a specific topic or question effecting everyone on the planet right now, or in the next 10 years. If it can kill us or turn us into Inspector Gadget, [inaudible 00:00:29] we are in.
Quinn Emmett: Question?
Brian C.K.: Yeah.
Quinn Emmett: We're not going to go down this rabbit hole. Did Inspector Gadget choose to be that way? Or was he injured in a war all over? Was he born that way and needed those mechanical appendages? I don't know.
Brian C.K.: Let's talk about it during Fun Talk.
Quinn Emmett: Yeah that's great. Okay.
Brian C.K.: Very interesting.
Quinn Emmett: Great. Anyways ...
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Brian C.K.: This weeks' episode is, talking about how states are going to save everything, and who's helping us to get those states back. Go ahead.
Quinn Emmett: Our guest is Catherine Vaughan. Another one of the [inaudible 00:01:45] ladies out there who should ... I don't know what the word is for a collective dictatorship ...
Brian C.K.: Right.
Quinn Emmett: I don't know. At least for a while they should have that until we, supporting they, get everything sorted and as she so eloquently pointed out. We'll get into ... back on the right track to an even better place. Not to where we were, because that's what got us here.
Brian C.K.: Yeah. That was really a excellent way to say what she said. That was cool.
Quinn Emmett: Anyways, great one. Really excited about it. And she's got some shit to say because she's got some elections coming up. So let's go support her.
Brian C.K.: Let's do it ...
Quinn Emmett: Our Guest today is Catherine Vaughan, and together we're going to ask, is climate change/cancer/clean energy/artificial intelligence, is it flippable? Are those things flippable. Catherine, welcome.
Catherine V.: Thank for having me.
Quinn Emmett: You're welcome. Thanks for putting up with us.
Brian C.K.: This is just the beginning. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you in advanced.
Quinn Emmett: Already.
Brian C.K.: Very happy to have you here, Catherine. Let's just get started by letting everybody know who you are and what you do. Quick little intro.
Catherine V.: Sure, so I am a cofounder and the CEO of Flippable, which is an organization dedicated to flipping state governments from red to blue. We were founded in the wake of the 2016 elections when a lot of progressives finally woke up to the fact that we had really just invested in the [inaudible 00:03:14] level, which led to all sorts of consequences [inaudible 00:03:17] including total voter suppression in states that were really critical to electing Trump. And gerrymandering that led us to a really imbalance of the house. So we started this organization in 2016. The goal was to help people understand the role of state government and state policy, and pretty much everything that affects our lives. And then to crowdfund for candidates running in the most flippable states in the most flippable districts in those states to help us get back to progressive majorities.
Quinn Emmett: I like it.
Brian C.K.: Awesome.
Quinn Emmett: And from what I understand, I don't know if the history books are telling it to us straight, but this began over very sad drinks on the night of the election, does that sound about right?
Catherine V.: Yeah. So I had been working on the Hilary campaign in Ohio, actually, and that's where I met my future cofounders. And we decided to have a last drink as a team and started talking about everything we'd seen on the ground. From total misinformation about election precincts that were basically suppressing the vote on the ground, to all sorts of other policies and laws on the books that had just made our democracy less democratic. And thought about how many states were in the same circumstances and had fallen to Republicans as a result.
Quinn Emmett: Yeah. I'm glad you had that conversation because clearly you guys have made a difference. Whatever those drinks were, let's get more of them.
Brian C.K.: Those are lucky drinks.
Quinn Emmett: You know it's essential, and this is one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you guys besides obviously the effect you've had is as fantastic as the Obama administration was, and the huge machines behind both of those elections. We did a hell of a job taking our foot off the pedal in down-ballot stuff for 10 years, and it has just come back to bite us in the ass.
Catherine V.: Absolutely.
Quinn Emmett: So it's exciting to have people actually focusing on it. All right awesome. Brian, tell her what's going on here.
Brian C.K.: All right Catherine here's the deal, we're going to go over some quick context so that everybody knows what we're talking about and why we're talking about it-
Quinn Emmett: Most of our listeners are driving and texting, so we'd prefer if they not Wikipedia stuff while they're doing that.
Brian C.K.: Exactly. Saw a bunch of that on my way this morning. So we'll do that, and then what we want to do is get into come action oriented questions that get to the heart of why we should care about everything that we're going to talk about. Is that all right?
Catherine V.: Great.
Quinn Emmett: All right, Catherine, we'd like to kick it off with one important question here, which I'm sure you know is coming. Which is really just a bummer. Instead of saying, "Tell us your life story." Though I am curious how you got to where you are, but we can dig into that. We'd like to ask Catherine, why are you vital to the survival of our little species we've got going on here?
Catherine V.: All right, I will admit that I cheated. I like to do my homework. So I listened to a couple episodes beforehand. And I think this is a great question. So I thought about it a little bit, I think that there are people who are led by the head, and there are people who are led by the heart, and then a lot of people on your podcast are led by both, and I think that's really important. So the people who are led by the head, they love solving difficult problems but in some ways they can be overachievers for the sake of overachieving. I went to business school, I worked at McKinsey for a few months before coming to the bright side. And there were a lot of people there who were so smart, but it was kind of amoral.
Catherine V.: They were like, "Okay well I just want to do really well [inaudible 00:06:50] I'd make a lot of money, and I want to be solving important interesting problems." And then on the other hand I worked in the non-profit world for about five years before business school, and working in politics too. And I think there are a lot of people led by the heart, and they just really care but sometimes they don't care about doing that work effectively. And I don't think that applies to everyone, but we've all been to a charity fundraiser where people are just like, "Oh this sounds so great. I'm helping the world." And then you kind of dig into the organization and you're like, "Are you really doing effective work?"
Quinn Emmett: Isn't it the biggest bummer?
Catherine V.: It's the best ... Yeah like you want your money and your resources and your time to be spent really effectively, and I think what makes me different from those types of people, although I'm not alone, is really caring so much about an issue that you want to do it as effectively as possible. I think when you are led by both your head and your heart, you understand that to make a real difference in the world you have to be rigorous, you have to be efficient, effective, you have to be impact driven. And I think that that combination it means that sometimes I feel a little weird in whatever circumstance I'm in. Like in business school I was always about like hippie like, "Let's save the world." Person. And in my non-profit world, sometimes I'm the corporate type, but I think being about to bridge both of those worlds and translate a little bit and work to combine them is really important.
Quinn Emmett: Yeah, and I mean I guess it's speaks to where you dabbled in McKinsey, right, is efficiency and measuring impact. I don't think anybody just accidentally ends up at a place like that. There's got to be a certain right brain to it. Does that fit?
Catherine V.: Yeah. Yeah totally, and I went to business school after several years in the non-profit sector really wanting to round out my skillset with some pretty hard skills in analysis, and finance, and your business skills so that I could be more effective in the social sector. So for me it was a really deliberate decision to be able to speak both languages. But it is hard to be around people who aren't necessarily tuned into all of the same problems that you're really focused on.
Quinn Emmett: Sure. Sure. Well we're happy and glad to have you. It's like ... Never mind. I was going to make an Avengers joke, but I don't know if we can-
Brian C.K.: We don't need to push it. If it comes up organically, great.
Quinn Emmett: ... No but it's not that. You wanted to make it about me not making the joke, I was doing it in the sense of not having a spoiler.
Brian C.K.: Oh. Got it. Got it. Got it.
Quinn Emmett: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I'm just saying, Catherine is like the Captain Marvel showing up when all the boys have ... The white guys have failed.
Brian C.K.: Yes. Yes.
Quinn Emmett: And she saves the day.
Brian C.K.: She really did save the day.
Catherine V.: I have to admit, I don't speak superhero movie. I know. But I feel like [crosstalk 00:09:41] lost to me on this podcast.
Quinn Emmett: [crosstalk 00:09:45].
Catherine V.: I used to say that I haven't seen any movies that have the word, man, in the title. Like Superman, Batman, Spider-man, it's just part of my feminist philosophy.
Brian C.K.: Into it.
Quinn Emmett: That's great, but Captain Marvel does not have that word-
Catherine V.: That's true.
Quinn Emmett: ... She's fantastic. Wonder Woman, I mean I guess it's got, man, in there but it's-
Brian C.K.: Wonder Woman, yeah technically.
Quinn Emmett: ... But we don't need to dig into [crosstalk 00:10:07].
Catherine V.: I have seen Wonder Woman.
Quinn Emmett: It's pretty great. All right look, I mentioned offline, we don't need a ton of context this week. Usually it's, "Hey this is ... how cancer works." Or, "Why a hurricane does what it does." We don't need to do that. Look, everyone who's listening to this is listening for a reason, which is ... Our listeners are like the slightly nerdier pod save America listeners. They know why they're here. They know what we're dealing with, right? The presidency is fucked. The administration is almost ... Literally at this point, comically corrupt. The senate is like a Star Wars type senate at this point, just doing terrible things. Mitch McConnell is going down in history books as a super villain. Someone made a great point on Twitter the other day. There was a picture of him and they said, "Every picture of Mitch McConnell is like when the doors are closing with the villain behind them, and the deadly gas is about to fill the room." It's just like every picture.
Quinn Emmett: Anyways, they're confirming crazy right wing judges at a truly insane rate, but we did get back the house and that matters. And we had a hell of a lot of progress in the states, not as much as we wanted or hoped for, but certainly more than we've had in a decade, and also on the vocal level. So the question is, who is driving all this change? Again, we already talked to Amanda Litman from, Run for Something, and it's fantastic what they're doing there, and they're really digging down on the very local level as well. Down to city counsel and things like that. School boards. The point is, you can have effect anywhere, but today we've got you. Catherine, who is pulling a separate but equally compelling and vitally important set of strings, which is bringing the states back from the dark side, and hopefully saving the planet along the way.
Quinn Emmett: So again, our question is, are all of the things that we talk about here, that we feel like ... Look there's so much important shit going on in the world, and everyday feels like there's a new national crisis ... And there is, but there's certain things that have a huge ticking clock that are going to affect everyone. That are, like we say, existential-ish. And the questions is, how can the sates effect those? And I think we've seen over the past year and a half that they really can. So, let's get everyone up to speed if you could. Because we like to look forward, but it does matter to see where we've been there. So since you guys put this together, we've had one huge midterm election with a bunch of other state-eide elections thrown in for good measure, and some things have changed considerable, and some have gotten worse.
Quinn Emmett: I mean you look at what's happening in Alabama and Georgia ... Look if there's one thing I think we can say for the GOP, it's that they do not fuck around, right? They know that if we keep making progress ... For instance, if these million and half ex-felons in Florida actually do get to vote, they might never get some of these legislatures and states back. On the other hand, for us if they get to redraw the map stuff, 2020, it's all over. Like lights out, right? So get us up to speed if you could. What's the current situation? Where do we make progress? And where are you aiming your efforts over the next year, and two years?
Catherine V.: Totally. So, as you alluded to before, we lost a ton of seats at the state level during the Obama administration. Mostly in the 2010 midterms, which were just a bloodbath for Democrats. And what that meant, because a lot of states were ... Democrats actually had more majorities at the state legislative level in 2009, than Republicans did. And that completely flipped in 2010. 2010 was a really critical year because it was a year before the last round of redistricting, and redistricting the maps that are drawn persist for the next 10 years. Even when those maps are challenged based in gerrymandering, whether racial gerrymandering, which is plainly unconstitutional, or partisan gerrymandering, which is being debated in the Supreme Court that can take literally eight or nine years to get resolved.
Catherine V.: We're seeing cases out of Wisconsin, out of North Carolina, out of Virginia that are coming to the court, this year in 2019 literally eight years after the maps were drawn. So to your point, it's really important that we act now before the census in 2020, and the next round for redistricting to get back to some level of balance, and ideally to progressive majorities. Not so we can turn around and just draw really unfair maps that favor Democrat, but so that we can actually implement independent committees that decide on the maps and actually get to a place of parody. I heard some Democrats who work with the NDRC, like Eric Holder's group, talking about how we don't need to rig the maps we just need an equal playing field, and then we'll actually win because the trends are in our favor. We consistently win the popular vote. We consistently win a majority of votes at the state level.
Catherine V.: So I think, as a lead into some of your questions that are more specifically about the future of the species and science questions, I think that there is also a question of how do our electoral systems and voting systems work, and who decides that? And that all happens at the state level. So we, in the 2018 midterm cycle, we made a lot of progress at the state level, but we had gotten to a point of such huge disadvantages compared to Republicans, in terms of the margins, the number of seats that we'd need to win in each of these state houses and state senates. And the Republicans had gerrymandered across dozens of states. So we didn't win outright majorities in tons of states, but we did in states like New York, where the state senate was actually controlled by Republicans until this past year.
Catherine V.: In states like Colorado, where the state senate is Republican controlled, New Hampshire, Minnesota where we ... Minnesota's not the only state now that actually has a split legislature where one chambers controlled by Republicans and the other by Democrats, and that's kind of an indication of how polarized things are getting. And in Washington state where a special election in 2017 helped us attain a majority there, and then pass really critical laws on [inaudible 00:16:26] voter registration, preregistration for 16 and 17 year olds, a state voting rights act, and that sort of thing. So we're making ground in states that we might call usual suspect. Like with states that we already saw were trending blue. And then we also made some pretty significant gains in states like Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia. Virginia in 2017, we picked up 15 seats and came within one seat of the majority of the house of delegates. So these are states that we'll take-
Quinn Emmett: Yeah, and that's my home state, and I could not be more proud of how that went, and then how bad last year went just with some of the idiots that were in office. But that was incredible, what happened there. I mean if you'd said 10 years ago that Virginia was going to effectively flip blue, I mean no one would have believed you.
Catherine V.: ... Exactly, and that led to the passage of Medicaid expansion in Virginia, which gave healthcare, health coverage to 100,000 Virginians. We didn't even win a majority in Virginia, but Republicans saw the writing on the wall. They saw hat all of these Democrats had been campaigning on Medicaid expansion, and it was hugely popular. So you can see even when you don't win a majority, obviously that's what we prefer, but even when you don't win one, representatives will feel that they need to be accountable when they have a huge advantage in a chamber they're not necessarily going to act.
Quinn Emmett: Yeah. And it's true, and it's two things really, you know? I mean the Virginia case, I'm biased of course, but it really goes to show you literally. I mean it came down to one vote and then what did they do? They pulled a name out of a hat, right, for the last seat.
Brian C.K.: That's crazy.
Quinn Emmett: Which was crazy, but like you said, they saw the writing on the wall. We didn't need the majority, of course that would have been nice and we could do so much more, like fix all their voting registration issues there. But shit, one vote got 400,000 people health insurance. It's just incredible. So it does matter and it does make a difference, and especially things like health insurance. And we've seen with Obama Care, which is not perfect, but God I mean what a difference it made. You cannot give people health insurance, let them have it for a few years, and then try to take it away because they know now what the other side looks like. And if we can make those gains, if we can make those differences, these guys that are trying to take away fundamental human rights or tell you, "Oh the market version is better ... This and this."
Quinn Emmett: They're never going to win again. Because once you've had it, and you understand what it's like to go to a doctor in a preemptive fashion and take proactive care of yourself, it's a game changer. Or if your friend, or loved one who has a preexisting condition, that is never been able to have insurance before, now they've had it and they've had it for six years, and you're going to go tell them they can't? Holy shit, you're not going to get that vote because now you're fucking with people's health. And that matters to us a lot because we look at so many of these red states where there's power plants in the districts of these underprivileged folks and heavily minority area, and children's' asthma is twice as bad as the national average, and there's cardiovascular issues, and you're just going like, "Well they also don't have health insurance because you won't let them health insurance, and it's just crazy.
Brian C.K.: It's gross.
Quinn Emmett: Interesting. Okay. So, where are you really looking over the next ... And there's obviously some stuff going on in 2019, and then obviously 2020 is the big one. So what are your make or break places?
Catherine V.: Yeah. So we're going back to Virginia. Virginia is having elections at the sates senates and house of delegates level this year. Nothing at the top of the ballot, which given everything going on in Virginia is probably a plus.
Quinn Emmett: Oh Jesus. Yeah.
Catherine V.: But these are the elections that really matter in the state senate, and the state house were just two seats away from flipping to a progressive majority. So we want to go back and finish the job with the Virginia voters who turned out in droves in 2017, because there's no gubernatorial election, or statewide elections, we're facing turnout challenges, and we're in the process of interviewing candidates, about to announce our slate of Virginia candidates for the year, and they're incredible. What we're hearing from them, we're hearing a ton about climate change, and environmental issues, coastal flooding. All sorts of local impact change issues that they're campaigning on. So to kind of preempt some of the topics we'll talk about, that's a huge issue for Virginia. And then, of course, Virginia is a culprit in partisan gerrymandering, and racial gerrymandering, and so we really need to be able to flip the legislature to get fair bouts in 2021. So our campaign for Virginia's called, Flip it Fair.
Quinn Emmett: I love it.
Brian C.K.: Flip it Fair.
Catherine V.: Yeah, and then going forward in 2020, we're revisiting a lot of seats that we did work in, in the 2018 midterm cycle. Texas was the state where we saw huge gain. It's trending blue. We think that we can flip more seats in the state house. North Carolina's similar situation. Florida. [inaudible 00:21:35] Wisconsin. Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania we just helped flip as state senate seat in the special election, and so now we just have three more seats to flip. So a lot of gains were made in these states, and again it's kind of an issue of finishing the job and making sure that before we redistricting we're in a really good place.
Quinn Emmett: I love it. And like you said, we can start to dig into it, but it's easy if you're not part of one of these states to think like, "Oh ... " I mean I think people see how much it matters, because there's such an uproar over what's happening with women's health in Alabama and Georgia. But you look, and you're like, "Oh that's great. The people in Virginia got 400 ... Medicaid kicked in and things like that." But again, through our prism you look and go, well it's also the home to the largest naval base on the planet, which is going to be fucking underwater in 25 years. So that's everybody's problem. And flipping that house makes a huge difference.
Quinn Emmett: It's the ship building, it's the naval bases, it's everything down there. And everywhere has, maybe not something exactly like that, but so many states are having issues like that. You know as much as everyone said, "Oh it's gonna be sea level rise on the coast, and this, and this." You look at the middle of the country and the flooding, and it's just like, "Oh my God, what have we done?" And so many of those places are red states, and the only way to take action, because the federal government won't, is on the state level.
Catherine V.: Exactly. That's, I think ... States are always important, whether or not we have a federal government that's advocating for us, but I think especially when the federal government is actively working against our interests. If you have Democratically led states, you can actually see things get done. I'm sorry I'm being super partisan here. So you know-
Quinn Emmett: No. No. Please [crosstalk 00:23:22].
Brian C.K.: No problem.
Quinn Emmett: Jump in. The water is warm.
Catherine V.: ... Sometimes I talk to people in the non-profit sector where you have to be super non partisan. So I probably should have clarified that before [inaudible 00:23:32]. When you have progressive policy at the state level, you have these states that are making their own agreements on greenhouse gas emissions reduction. So you have states like California, that it's like the sixth largest economy in the world, making legitimate commitments to helping curb climate change when our federal government is doing the exact opposite. You have states that can pass more progressive legislation on things like reproductive rights, on gun control, on ... And thinking about long-term investments too. When you think about who is going to solve these problems at a scientific level.
Catherine V.: We need well educated, well fed students who actually can go to school and learn. And I think that all happens at the state level. So we have a lot of alums who are really thinking long term about making investments in public education, and infrastructure. In things like school breakfast programs and mental health resources in schools. So you kind of see how this all comes together in a really ... Looking at both the short term and the long term ... And also in a really kind of intersectional way of thinking about how these different issues intersect to be able to position students and families in these states to succeed.
Quinn Emmett: Yeah.
Brian C.K.: All right so let's ... So as you started dinging to ... We look into everything through the prism of, will this do catastrophic damage to the species, or upgrade all of us, not just rich people to super robots. Climate change, clean energy, tech, and jobs, cancer treatments, affordable immuno-therapy, AI, fewer but more effective antibiotics. It goes on and on. But let's keep going with climate change. The federal government has not only completely abandoned their responsibility to slow climate change, but are actually digging a far deeper hole. It's like helping the aliens in Independence Day, in Alien, or Aliens. There's a lot of Alien movies.
Quinn Emmett: It just doesn't add up.
Brian C.K.: Any of the movies. Yeah but many states and cities have banded together to take up the cause. So tell us about where the existential threat of our time falls on your radar and on your candidates radar.
Catherine V.: I think that it definitely falls on our candidates radar-
Brian C.K.: Great.
Catherine V.: ... We were asking some of our candidates about you know, "Environment is your biggest issue, how do you talk about that with your constituents? How do you make that real?" And they were like, "We don't need to make it real. Peoples backyards and homes are flooding. People are dealing with this every day." So I think that that is ... In Florida, we saw that with a algae problems and all sorts of environmental problems that weren't being addressed. In Virginia, we're seeing it with coastal flooding. We're seeing wildfires in the west. These are issues that are already touching people. So when you have candidates that actually listen to their constituents rather than, say corporation, and are hearing their concerns and integrating them to their [inaudible 00:26:39] and their policy, that becomes a really natural issue. Environment has been, consistently, in our top three issues across all sorts of different states. Nearly ever candidate in Michigan, that we had in Michigan last year mentioned Flint. So this is kind of a very salient issue for people.
Catherine V.: On my radar, I think, I look at some of these policies in states like Florida, that's completely Republican controlled right now even though the state, especially after the passage of amendment four and especially if amendment four were able to be implemented [inaudible 00:27:11] and kind of restore the vote [crosstalk 00:27:13]. This is [inaudible 00:27:15] state that leans blue. This is a state where Democratic policies are in the interest of Floridians. So that really concerns me there, but then I look at a state like Pennsylvania, which has a Democratic governor unfortunately to a Republican state senate and state house, but Pennsylvania just announced ... Or Tom Wolf, the governor, announced carbon goals for 2050. Which amounted to an 80% reduction in emissions, and Pennsylvania's the third largest green house gas emitting state. So those sorts of commitments really could make a difference. So I see existential threats being addressed in very different [inaudible 00:27:55] states.
Quinn Emmett: And I used to get very irrationally indignant during all the healthcare stuff in 2010, which was like, "Oh these motherfuckers clearly don't have a relative with a preexisting condition, and that's why they're fighting it." Like if you were at all close to this, you have to acknowledge as a human being that what you're doing is not okay. And I've also definitely at times gotten very righteous and shitty about that with climate change. Which is like you look at what a holy hotbed of mess, like North Carolina has been in the past 10 years, but from the courts, to the districts, to everything it's a nightmare, but I think they're finally realizing ... And a lot like Miami is, in Florida, you look at their top tourism area which is the outer banks there. It's going to be gone, and they're already seeing so much rain ... What do they call it? Sunny day flooding, which is already happening.
Quinn Emmett: You don't have to wait for that one hurricane, on average, every 18 to 24 months that does serious damage there you get plenty of rain and stuff. But you're seeing this sunny day flooding and everyone's realizing, "Oh that's the economic engine that's just gonna go bye-bye." And when it does, you're fucked. And it feels like the same thing with Florida, if those ex-felons are able to vote, the GOP will not get that state back. And they are aware of it, which is why they're doing what the fuck they're doing this month. But at the same time they recognize like, "Oh my God, there's so much going on here." Miami has started to prepare, but their biggest power station is on the coast. There are so many issues that are just ... It's like New Orleans where you just go, "What can we do at some point?" Which is not a lot. So you have to, and this is where I meant with the healthcare thing, is people are finally seeing these things.
Quinn Emmett: And the same thing in California, which is always billed as being pretty progressive, but we have some pretty red areas as well. Obviously not nearly as many, until they burn. And now they're just burning, and you can't [inaudible 00:30:03] that. You want to talk about budgets and not having spending, and then we blow through our wildfire budget by April. And you realize it's a paradigm shift everywhere. And we're actually starting to see that. And it's terrible, but you hope it goes, "Oh no. Well maybe people will get their shit together."-
Catherine V.: Yeah, I think that could be a way of getting ... Sorry. I think that could be a way of getting Republicans on board, is to actually draw the connection between environmental issues, and the economy. Because I think that';s something that our candidates have mentioned, that some of their Republican colleagues in the state house may not want to admit that climate change is man-made, but they will be responsive if it's threatening the largest industry in the region. If tourism is being threatened, maybe there are ways to kind of reach across the isle and get Republicans on board with solutions. It's crazy and idiotic that they won't acknowledge the source of the problem because you often need to know that before you can craft a good solution-
Quinn Emmett: It helps.
Catherine V.: ... But at least it's a start.
Quinn Emmett: Sure. And I mean it's terrible, but you look at what happened in Houston with the hurricane too, you just hope it makes people take a step back a little bit and go, "Holy shit, this thing is real now." And we're so unprepared in so many ways. Whether it's been paving over wetlands, or you look at New York and you just go, "Everything's at sea level. Good luck." The next Sandy's going to come. And you can put up walls. And they've proposed these insane things, and people just go like, "Yeah, but what ... It's just gonna go over those." We're going to have some shit to deal with, but hopefully it spurs people into action. Let's talk about good news though. Clean energy, and clean energy jobs are so on the up and up. Right? We try to actually give it very fair coverage, and we try desperately not to talk about just bad news because there's so much amazing stuff happening with clean energy, and cancer, and things like that.
Quinn Emmett: But it's not enough. We are doing so well. Wind and solar prices are dropping at truly ludicrous rates the past five years. Even more so battery storage costs, which was the big question. Everybody goes, "Oh but the sun doesn't shine at night. What are we gonna do?" It's like batteries are down something like 80% in the past 18 months. Which is crazy. Now it's just the technology of actually making batteries more efficient, and having more storage. Wind power technicians, if not the number one, is one of the fastest growing jobs in the country. Solar installer as well. Where do clean energy jobs factor in when you guys are picking candidates, or they're coming to you?
Catherine V.: Yeah. I mean I think that that is one of those kind of intersectional questions that comes up a lot. Obviously jobs are a major issue for tons of voters, and climate is as well, so when you can put together a policy that solves both problems at once, that's always [inaudible 00:32:56] great. We see a lot in colorado so we helped flip the Colorado state senate last year, which was just one seat away from Democratic control. Colorado has been a huge leader in clean energy jobs and the environmental policy over the past decade or so. So really being able to build on the successes and kind of have an aligned and non-gridlocked government to keep building on them, was really important to our candidates. And one of the things that one of our candidates mentioned was, when you look at a state like California ... If you're in the middle of the country, a California type policy seems ludicrous.
Catherine V.: It doesn't seem like that's something you can bring to your state, but she was saying Colorado being in the middle of the country can become the California of the west ... She would never put it that way, because she's a proud Coloradan. But she was saying that other states can then look to Colorado, and say, "This is an implementable policy. This isn't too far off." And so, I thought that was really interesting. Just that maybe certain states are seen as by a median voter in the Midwest as kind of crazy and far off, and that policy would never work here. But as you see more western states' kind of chip away at those illusions and actually show that it can work anywhere, that you can have a combination of clean energy jobs, labor protection, and environmental reform, I think that you start seeing a completely different paradigm of how we can be doing things. Even in states that have a long history of employment in some of the more kind of polluting and not clean sectors.
Quinn Emmett: I love the metaphor there of the Colorado plan building one the California plan, but kind of owning it as a Colorado plan, and what that actually means for other states who could never sell their houses and legislatures, much less their voters on implementing a California plan. But maybe a Colorado plan.
Brian C.K.: Hell yeah.
Quinn Emmett: Because that's a little more reachable. It doesn't sound like as green, and fucking fruity as California.
Brian C.K.: It;'s right there.
Quinn Emmett: You know, it's not all like wheat grass shots. It's like, "Oh Colorado's doing it, and they're kind of hip, but they're still real people, as opposed to everyone out here." That matters, and of course, admittedly, that's one of the things that Democrats have just been horrendous about for 25` years, is literally marketing. From the contract for America, the GOP just blows us out the door every time, whether it's just on organizational efforts, or the actual marketing. But that does matter to get people to get on board. I mean it's part of the reason Obama went on Between Two Ferns to sell healthcare, right? Is just trying to connect with people in a more effective way than we really ever have.
Brian C.K.: Yeah pretty important. Weird, huh?
Catherine V.: Totally.
Brian C.K.: So clearly you are just kicking butt everywhere. I barely have had time to catch a breath, but there must be some setbacks, yes? Some obstacles, some places where you guys have gotten outpunched? Can you talk to us about that a little bit?
Catherine V.: Totally. Yeah. I mean it's funny the night of the midterms last year was so bittersweet for us. Obviously we were thrilled that progressives flipped the house, and we were thrilled to see progress in a lot of the key states that we were focused on, but I think it was really hard to see the losses in Florida, especially given the passage of amendment four. We were kind if like, "We needed amendment four. I don't know, always. But it would have been nice to have had that passed before the election to get someone like Andrew Gillum, to Bill Nelson elected. I think Wisconsin was really tough. We had targeted four seats in the state senate, it was just two seats away from flipping, and we didn't win any of them despite seeing some pretty impressive special election victories before.
Catherine V.: And when you look back at some of the gerrymandering in Wisconsin, you know the maps kind of tel the story. In the state house, I think Democrats won 54% of the vote, but only got 37% of the seats. So it's just the maps are drawn against us. And I think we came up against some of those really important and kind of heart breaking barriers that are keeping us from being able to win what is rightfully ours, and implement the policy that we want. I think we didn't work in Georgia last year, but seeing Stacey Abrams loss was heart breaking. I won't call it a loss. Seeing it be stolen from her was really tough.
Quinn Emmett: I just ... Someone put a newspaper article headline the other day it says, "Stacey Abrams just won't give up, She still claims she won." I'm like, "Listen, motherfucker. I can't even begin ... " I mean it's incredible. I mean other countries must look at ... I mean our country in general, but looking at the election just must be like, "Oh my God what has happened?"
Catherine V.: Yeah. I mean elections are literally being stole from us all the time. As they have been throughout most of history, but I think that maybe the silver lining there is that there is a huge shift in progressives attention to issues around elections and voting. And people are beginning to understand that in order for us to not have to give up our whole lives for an entire election cycle to try to claw back what's ours, maybe we could actually invest in fair voting laws. Something like HB1. I think that we're finally starting to think about voting rights and redistricting in a different way from how we had before. So I think that's the sliver lining is that someone like Stacey Abrams, throughout her entire career, has been drawing attention to this issue. And even in the election, her having the election stolen from her was such a important learning moment for everyone. It's just heartbreaking that we didn't learn it sooner.
Quinn Emmett: So, where can you guys admit that not just have there been obstacles, but maybe you guys could have done better, and how are you applying that going forward?
Catherine V.: Sure. Yeah. So I think one of our lessons from 2017 was never to underestimate how big the blue wave can be. So we supported five candidates in 2017, and the thinking was we wanted to just zero in our dollars. Like we're a grassroots organization. We're not a megapack with millions, and millions, and millions of dollars, so we wanted to start small and focus. And what we saw was that 15 seats flipped. So we kind of walked away from that thinking, "Wow. We need to target every possible seat that could be flippable. True to our name. And we need to think about this as a whole team approach because we saw our candidates working together with everyone who was challenging a Republican, and everyone who's trying to flip their district. And other Democrats that had been in office before." So this year going back to Virginia, we are thinking with a greater sense of possibility about what can flip. We're trying to support the whole team.
Catherine V.: We're seeing some of our alums help new candidates who are running for the first time and sharing their experiences with them and supporting them. Which is really heartening to see. So we're trying to support that effort. I think another lesson that we really want to take forward, is this idea that you can't only invest in candidates. You also need to invest in communities, and in voters themselves. And there are a lot of really good organizations on the ground doing direct voter organizing work to help register new voters, to get people out to vote. And not in a transactional way that's like, "Okay, well vote for a Democrat because that's definitely gonna better for you than a Republican." But in the spirit of investment, of investing in communities, and listening to them because we care about them. So I think that's a really important lesson that, I think, all Democrats need to take to heart, which is that yeah of course we're better than the alternative. But that's not good enough.
Catherine V.: And I think it's insulting to a lot of communities of color to suggest that, "Oh well you just have to vote for a Democrat because literally your lives will be threatened." And we've seen that even under Democrats. Communities are still really vulnerable and not protected. So I think that's a really important message, and we've tried to do a lot of messaging around building a better democracy, as opposed to restoring democracy. I think we're trying to help educate people about like, "This has been happening forever. This is not a Trump thing. This has been a GOP policy and actually kind of just an American set of policies since the country's founding." So it's incumbent upon, it's not just to get us back to a place where things were good enough for White Democrats. We have to get to a place where we truly have an inclusive democracy.
Quinn Emmett: Yeah. I think Michelle Alexander made so many great points in the new Jim Crow, which is just such a fundamental fantastic read along with so many others that have come out, which is just the system was designed this way by the people who, quote on quote, want to make America great again. And that's why when White people start marching in the streets and are so proud of themselves in the past couple of years, so many minorities, and especially African Americans, were like, "Hi, we've been doing this for centuries." Get off your high horse and let us teach you how to do some work. Which is so true.
Quinn Emmett: And like you said, we can't just get back to status quo, because status quo is, A what got us here, and B was not working. It was just not working. And I think you saw that in a number of places, we don't have to get into this, but in a number of places that did vote for Obama, and then voted for Trump. Which is ... Things were just crumbling in a lot of places. So what is your ultimate reach goal ... I guess maybe your ultimate reach race in the next 18 months? What's your hardest sell going to be?
Catherine V.: I think Texas. The Texas house. So we flipped nine seats, I believe. Actually it might have ... Sorry. It's 12 and nine. It might have been 12, and we have nine left. I believe that's what it was.
Quinn Emmett: Pull it together Catherine.
Catherine V.: Sorry. There's a lot of numbers. There's over 7,300 state legislative districts in the US, so kind of figuring out all the numbers and tracking them is a huge task and one of the reasons why we exist. It's like a lot harder to figure out which state seats to flip than to, say, [inaudible 00:43:45] the most competitive house or senate races. So yeah I think Texas we saw that Democrats completely over performed expectations there and even if we aren't able to flip the house in 2020, I think it's really important to continue investing.
Catherine V.: And I would say the same is true for a lot of states where we tend to look at these threshold states, like are we close to breaking a super majority, to achieving a majority, achieving a trifecta where we have power over all the branch of the government, that sort of thing. And because those are where you can actually see policy victories, and that sort of thing, we tend to focus on those types of states like Pennsylvania, or Michigan, or Wisconsin. Which are totally important, but I think that if we want to build for the long term we need to invest in states like Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Florida, et cetera.
Quinn Emmett: I think that would be great. I mean the progress Texas has made is incredible, but it's always going to be a fight. I mean we saw that with how much money went into Beto, right? Which it wasn't enough. It's going to be-
Catherine V.: I would argue ... Yeah. I think that Betos' race was at the point where a marginal investment in his race just had just diminishing returns, like had such little return. Whereas we had candidates who were running on a budget of $50,000 or $100,000. And Beto raised, I think $70 million. So I agree, I think it's an uphill battle, but one of the things that we're really trying to push people toward, is thinking about where will your $5, or $10, or $10,000 dollars make the biggest difference? And you could make a really meaningful difference to a state race and help them get past the finish line in a way that your $5 to Betos' campaign isn't going to really make a difference. So I do think-
Quinn Emmett: ... Right. It's sexy, but it isn't going to move. And I think you're exactly right. And I know Amanda's been pushing as well for Run for Something, which is like, "Do we have to have 23 fucking presidential candidates sucking up everyone's money for the next year and a ... " I mean that's going to start to get cold real fast once they don't make the stage, and then further down. But still it's like there's so many more important things between your organization, and hers, and others like it, and swing left. You look at it and just go, "Oh my God, your money could so much farther and ... " And this comes back to the climate change stuff as well, or clean water clean air. I mean you're going to see, and feel, and breathe, and drink the impact on a local level. And that's really where it's going to matter. When you go to stir shit up at your city counsel, or you run for a seat for your city counsel or your state legislature, those are the people that are going to recognize because they know which street you're talking about. You know they [crosstalk 00:46:39]-
Catherine V.: I love that. You should do marketing for Democrats.
Quinn Emmett: ... I'm so tired.
Catherine V.: I mean who's to say? You will breathe the difference. Or I don't know, you said it better. But it is-
Quinn Emmett: No. You can take it, and just run with it, and enjoy.
Catherine V.: ... All right. Great.
Quinn Emmett: Go get them. Yeah it will, and not just like in the worlds largest naval base type of way, you know? I mean you look at, again, the flooding in the Midwest and things like that, you look at Flint and go, "The people that we put in change, or that I run for ... The people I talk to they're going to understand because they're drinking the same water." That is where you're going to see the impact because these people in DC don't give a shit, and they don't have time for it, and they're worried about military budgets and things like that. Anyways, so let me ask you this, it's been ... I Googled this, 911 days since November 9th 2016.
Catherine V.: Wow.
Quinn Emmett: You ... I know ... It fees like both 12 times and many, and not as long. You, understandably like the rest of the country, but you personally felt that you had locked up ... Probably at about 3:00 that afternoon, a presidential election not so much later that night. Do you, Catherine, feel now with this pivot like you're on the right path personally? Is this a detour to save everything and get, like you said, past a status quo to a better place? I mean we can get into destiny versus free will, and get super weird if you want, but is this where you're going? Is this a stop along the way? What is continued success look like for you?
Catherine V.: Yeah. That's a really good question. You know I hadn't been involved in politics before 2016, and it's kind of crazy that I haven't been. So I started on my career in [inaudible 00:48:32] consulting, and I'd worked with a couple organization that, I should have probably learned then, were so dependent on the policy landscape and on the economic landscape. One of them provided early childhood education services to homeless children, and was thinking about, "Were there certain policy [inaudible 00:48:50] that they can try to scale up state-wide, or nation-wide to have a broader reach?" And then another organization was essentially providing a type of therapy that has been proven to be really effective in preventing children from having to go into foster care. So essentially helping families resolve problems before it gets really really serious.
Catherine V.: And they were thinking about their expansion strategy. And the two inputs that went into it were one, how badly was the recession affecting different states. And two, what did the policy landscape look like in those states? And how likely was it that they could pitch this scientifically proven methodology, that was also more cost effective, to these states that might have been really suffering budget issues and trying to find ways to cut costs, and be more effective in their provision of social services? So that was like my first foray into this. I ended up deciding to spend some time working on global health and agriculture issues in East Africa. Also, doing work with government, kind of thinking about how do you take an organization like Partners in Health, where I worked for a year, that had focused on a decade on building hospitals. And actually turn it into an organization that can help train local nurses and physicians, so that they don't have to be there forever.
Catherine V.: So they can really build up a more solid infrastructure of local doctors, and nurses, and medical staff on the ground. And how do you work with administrative health to actually get that done? So really my whole career had been hinting to me that government is going to play a really important role even if you're working at a non-profit, often the big goal is to get something implemented at a policy level so that many many many more people can benefit from the solutions that you kind of developed or spent time honing. Anyway, I took a lot of detours, and I think almost this is like getting me back on the right path. I decided to work on the presidential because I felt really called to do it. It was the summer of 2016, and I was working at McKinsey.
Catherine V.: And that summer two Black men were shot by police within a 24 hour period. And I was taking part in these protests, and thinking about, "What can I actually do to try to combine my skills and my heart? How do I actually try to attack this problem?" And I joined the campaign and I think that the disappointment of November 9th led me to dig deeper, and try to understand what are some of the more core and fundamental causes of how we got here. So I think that my career has always [inaudible 00:51:29] this process of searching. Of trying to solve a problem and realizing that actually the cause [inaudible 00:51:36] deeper. Or the causes are in a different sector, and we have to think about things differently. So that was a really long-winded answer-
Quinn Emmett: No.
Catherine V.: ... I'm always searching. And I think that this is, yeah, it feels like I'm on the right path.
Quinn Emmett: It's so cool. You were doing all your prerequisites, and you didn't even know it. You ended up being so prepared by the time you said, "Fuck it, I'm doing this."
Catherine V.: That's actually exactly how I felt. There was a moment when we started flippable, and it was crazy. We had this drink on November 9th, and then we kept on using the word, "Flippable." Because we were like, "Okay, well we know that we have to flip states, but how do we know which states are flippable? How do we know which state seats, state districts ... " And then we were like, "Okay, let's have our placeholder name be, 'Flippable.' And we'll figure out a better name." And then I just bought the domain name, like two days later. And my friend and I sat on his couch and came up with a logo. And we were just running so fast. And there was a moment in that adrenaline filled period where I was like, "Everything I've done has prepared me for this."
Catherine V.: And then you're like, "Actually, I know nothing, and there's so much I have to learn." And I had phone calls or meetings with 400 people in my first three months of starting Flippable to actually really try to immerse myself and learn more, and build partnerships, and work with people who are truly experts in this space, and that sort of thing. So there's always this, "Oh, I've learned so much. I've done my prerequisites." And then it's like, "Okay, but now I'm actually in. Starting an organization. Working in state government 101." And I have to also just be really humble about that and make sure that I'm doing the right process to get there.
Brian C.K.: So rad. Because we talk about it on the podcast all the time, about how because of how much November 9th sucked, what happened that wouldn't have, had the result been the other way?
Quinn Emmett: You know, would Flippable would run for something, would swing left. You know all these ... 314, would they exist? And would we have such movement? I don't know/ I don't think so. But again, this is not to say that what happened was needed or was good, but I'm glad this was the response, I guess. It hopefully will push things towards the right direction.
Brian C.K.: Yeah. Okay, let's get to some action. We always like to make sure that by the end of this our listeners know what they can actually do. What questions they can be asking to support you and your mission with their voice, their vote, and their dollar. So let's start with their voice. What are the big actionable questions that we should all be asking of our representatives?
Catherine V.: Yeah. I mean I think I would start with, what are your policy priorities? And what are you doing? What have you been called to the state house, or the state senate to do? So I think a lot of people just need to get to know their state representatives. It's kind of a weird level of office. I think, I live in New York, and in someways the city counsel and people who are representing me on a hyper-local level are more visible, and then obviously senators and that sort of thing are visible. But I feel like state senators, and state house rep [inaudible 00:55:08] kind of seem like they're under the radar. So looking up who you're state rep is, and what party they represent, and learning more about what they are standing for. And then kind of voicing your interests, I think, is a good way to just start getting involved.
Catherine V.: And I think, you might think, "Oh I live in a super blue state." Or, "A super red state. What can that do?" But I do think that it's amazing how much more time you can get with a state rep. If you call up your senators office, or even your [inaudible 00:55:45] persons office, you're going to get a staffer, and they might write down a tally. But when we talk with our candidates, they are hosting office hours at the Starbucks on the road that you drive on every day. They are there to talk to you, not just hosting a town hall, but actually speaking individually with their constituents. So I think, get to know your state rep, or state senator. And see what they're working on and what you can do, because I think the policies that they pass have a huge impact. Vote? Is that next? Dollar?
Quinn Emmett: Yeah. Vote-
Brian C.K.: By the way, I just want to say, that's such a great answer. We get a lot of great answers to this question. And they're always very specific to what we're talking about. I don't think anybody has said yet just like, "Go ask, 'Hey who are you? Why are you here? What are you doing?'" That's such a good one. Like how about that first? That's great.
Quinn Emmett: ... It's like ... And I think you will be so redeemed by it. It's like the first time you went to ... And Brian, I cannot imagine any world that you did this, but the first time you went to office hours with your college professor, and you were like, "Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, office hours." And then you go and you're just like, "That was great. They're like a human who can talk to me." And that's the whole point of office hours.
Catherine V.: Exactly what it's like. I feel like in college [crosstalk 00:56:58] being afraid of professors, and being like, "Oh my [inaudible 00:57:01]." Whatever, and it was like so rewarding when I actually had a good conversation with one.
Quinn Emmett: Yeah. Right. It's like you're like, "Oh professor fucking fill-in-the-blank old White guy doesn't like me." And then you go talk to him and you're like, "Oh that was really nice. He just hates 18 year olds. Because of course he does. They're really obnoxious. But one on one, I earned some street cred, but also I could have a conversation." And you be like, "Oh now I get why they do what they do and they teach the way they teach, and why they're positions and things like that." Even if you don't fully agree, just God it can make a difference, man.
Brian C.K.: Yeah.
Quinn Emmett: Okay-
Catherine V.: [crosstalk 00:57:36] relationship [inaudible 00:57:36] electives. Go ahead.
Quinn Emmett: ... Yeah it seems so crazy. All right, your vote. Who is up very first for you guys? Who's coming down the pipe here?
Catherine V.: So Virginia, if you live in Virginia, definitely vote in this falls elections. They're not special elections, Virginia just happens to be one of five-ish states that has elections in odd years, rather than even years. The other states this year are Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, and New Jersey.
Quinn Emmett: Okay.
Catherine V.: So those are states where you can vote this year, and you probably can vote in many states at the municipal level as well. We like to think that elections happen every four [inaudible 00:58:15]. They definitely do not. It's pretty much every year. So I think that we focus on a set of states. So sometimes our advice about when you can vote, may not apply to every single person who's listening, or who's been visiting our website. But I do think that kind of leads well into the next piece, which is what you can do with your dollar.
Quinn Emmett: Hit us.
Catherine V.: And to your point before, you might not immediately get the relevance of a Virginia state race to you, but when you start thinking about things like, the ERA, which by one vote was not passed in Virginia. When you start thinking about things like Medicaid expansion, which effect a lot of people, issues like gun control where guns can very easily cross state borders. Issues like the environment, which affect everyone. You start to realize that states actually, even if it's not your state, it makes a huge difference. And obviously on things like redistricting, and voting right, which affect us all because they effect presidential elections and congressional elections.
Catherine V.: So we put together some [inaudible 00:59:21] fund. Which allows you to not have to do the work of going through 7,300 state legislature races to find which ones are most flippable, and where your money will be spent best. That's what we do, because we're nerds. So we make it super easy. You can go to our site and donate to the Flippable fund. And we allocate those dollars in a really cost effective and smart way to candidates that are running for state office. So we're focused on Virginia this fall, and bunch of states that I mentioned earlier in 2020.
Quinn Emmett: Awesome. And what is your actual URL? Where are they sending that money to? [crosstalk 00:59:59] make it as easy [crosstalk 01:00:00].
Catherine V.: Flippable.org.
Quinn Emmett: Easy. Done. Flippable.org. Brian is mistyping that into his browser, right now.
Brian C.K.: No I'm not.
Catherine V.: Two, Ps.
Quinn Emmett: Okay.
Brian C.K.: Yeah. Quinn ... Now I ... Thank you so much, I got it.
Quinn Emmett: Okay. We're getting close to time here. Catherine, thank you so much. No one has barged in the conference room, which is not how coworking spaces usually work.
Brian C.K.: Yeah, that was so great.
Quinn Emmett: This is really great-
Catherine V.: [inaudible 01:00:24]-
Quinn Emmett: ... Hey who else should we talk to? Who else should we get on the line that's out there changing the world every day? You can always send these to us later, but scientist, doctors, activists, educators, senators, mayors, astronauts. I mean if they're effecting one of those things we talked about through whatever angle, then we're really into it. And obviously always ladies and people of color, are great. Our guests are 60% ladies. We're very proud of that.
Catherine V.: [inaudible 01:00:54].
Quinn Emmett: Because the world has had enough of White guys. So anyways, if you got anybody please let us know. That would be awesome.
Catherine V.: Yeah, I was thinking about that. So I went to see Carol Anderson, who wrote the book: One Person, No Vote [inaudible 01:01:07]. She teaches at Emory, I believe, and is an amazing Black woman who wrote a really definitive text about voting rights. And she is ... I was thinking about people who have inspired my work recently, and I think she is someone that you should definitely talk to. She provides just a really comprehensive history of how the vote has been suppressed throughout all of American history, and kind of Michelle Alexander esque, in how these [inaudible 01:01:40] deliberately. And also, really talks a lot about the impact it has on Black and Brown bodies. This isn't just like a procedural electoral law issue. This is an issue of life and death. So [inaudible 01:01:53] a real inspiration [inaudible 01:01:54].
Quinn Emmett: Awesome. We will jump right on that, for sure.
Brian C.K.: Is it lightening round time?
Quinn Emmett: Yeah. I mean kind of.
Brian C.K.: Quote-
Quinn Emmett: At some point-
Brian C.K.: ... In quote-
Quinn Emmett: ... we should change the name of this from lightening round.
Brian C.K.: Yeah, like I don't know, 67 episodes ago?
Quinn Emmett: Wow it's so much-
Brian C.K.: Yeah. Ooh that was ... I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
Quinn Emmett: ... Just cruel today. Hey Catherine, when was the first time in your life when you realized you had the power to change or the power to do something meaningful?
Catherine V.: That's a good question. I grew up playing a lot of music. It was like a big thing for my family.
Quinn Emmett: What was your instrument?
Catherine V.: Piano, violin, and singing. So pretty much everything.
Quinn Emmett: Nice. Nice.
Catherine V.: I'm part asian, it's like you know, part of the culture. Everyone has to start taking piano lesson when they're five. So I remember in seventh grade I started this quartet, and we played at elementary schools, and we played at a nursing home, because one of the girls in the quartet, her grandmother was in a nursing home. And I had arranged this piece to feature the cello. And I remember we were playing at this nursing home, and they were so grateful to have kids play music in the nursing home. And they were really grateful ... This is such a small thing, but I'd arranged the piece, Amazing Grace, and I had arranged it so the cello would have the melody. And they were like, "What was so great about this performance, is that a lot of the seniors in the room had begun to lose hearing, and they had lost the ability to hear some higher pitched notes. But when they heard a lower pitched melody that really resonated with them." And It was just this little thing where I was like I hadn't done it deliberately or anything. I just wanted to give my friend who played cello a little bit more of an interesting melody to play. But that level of impact where it was like, "This really made a meaningful difference in these people's day." It was like a bunch of 13 year olds playing at a nursing home. I don't know. I think that kind of was interesting because I'd always seen music as, "Oh I have to go to lessons. It's like my homework. My mom makes me practice all the time, that's her thing." I don't know. But those types of moments that are more like around sharing something culturally, as opposed to just the type of work I do now, which is more political, I think have stuck with me.
Quinn Emmett: Do you still play music at all?
Catherine V.: I do. I sing in a choir in New York.
Quinn Emmett: Nice.
Brian C.K.: Whoa.
Quinn Emmett: That's cool.
Brian C.K.: That's rad.
Quinn Emmett: We're going to have to put that in they show notes. We're going to find you.
Brian C.K.: I love the cello, by the way. It's a beautiful instrument. A deep sound [crosstalk 01:04:39]-
Quinn Emmett: Did you play music at all?
Brian C.K.: ... I played the trumpet in fourth grade.
Quinn Emmett: We're going to put that in the show notes too. And we're going to get some ... We'll call up mom for a video of that.
Brian C.K.: Perfect.
Quinn Emmett: For sure. We'll put you up against the quartet that Catherine arranged on her own. I'm sure it was great.
Brian C.K.: Come on [crosstalk 01:04:52].
Quinn Emmett: That's awesome. We do such a shitty job of respecting, and paying attention to, and listening to older folks in this country, and not receiving the wisdom that they are very excited to share with us. That's always special. It makes such a difference to them, to actually be considered. That's super cool. Who is someone in your life that's positively impacted your work in the past six months? And you cannot say, "Brian."
Catherine V.: So Carol Anderson was kind of-
Brian C.K.: I was going to say Carol.
Quinn Emmett: [crosstalk 01:05:27].
Catherine V.: ... I was thinking about a couple other people. [inaudible 01:05:32] has done some really interesting work. She's an academic at Harvard, and she studies the Tea Party. And now she's studying the Resistance, and how money flows and that sort of thing. Which is really interesting. And then Jane Mayer, who wrote, Dark Money. I had read portions of the book before, but I say down and read like all 600 pages about the Koch brothers, and it was so eye opening. And it really helped me think about, "How do I do that head part of the work even better? How do I make sure that every dollar that we spend ... " Because we're up against a behemoth, "How do I make sure that every single dollar we spend on progressive costs as well as possible?"
Quinn Emmett: Yeah I mean reading that book is like ... Again, not to make another Star Wars analogy, but you're part of the resistance and then all of a sudden 10,000 empire ships show up, and you're like, "Oh that's what we're actually up against. That's the deal." And you realize the full extent of how they're applying themselves and doing it very well, is crazy. And you have to start using your head in that condition, right? You have to be as impactful as humanly possible.
Catherine V.: Totally.
Quinn Emmett: Go ahead. Brian.
Brian C.K.: Catherine, when you are overwhelmed by all of this, what do you do? What do you do specifically for-
Quinn Emmett: What's your dealing-
Brian C.K.: ... Catherine time?
Quinn Emmett: ... What's your self care?
Brian C.K.: Yeah.
Catherine V.: Yeah I feel like my self care used to be more productive. Maybe when I wasn't so overwhelmed I'd be like, "I'd go for a run." Or like, "I'll go sing in my choir." And now it's like a lot of TV. I recently binged Pen 15. And I think I have a special place in my heart for shows about female friendships. Broad City recently ended. I love Insecure. I think there's just something about strong female friendships that are celebrated as an important relationship, that isn't just about women being dependent on men. So that's kind of my-
Brian C.K.: Hell yeah.
Quinn Emmett: There's a movie coming out, soon-ish ... Maybe by the time this comes out? Probably. Called Booksmart. It's the first movie directed by Olivia Wilde, and my friend Katie Silverman, friend of the podcast wrote it, and she wrote the Netflix romantic comedy last year called, Set it Up. That was great. But it's basically ... The very lazy way of describing it, which I'll do here is, it's the 2019 ladies version of ... What was the Jonah Hill, Micheal Cera movie-
Brian C.K.: Superbad?
Quinn Emmett: Superbad. Two girls on the night before graduation. But they invert it in everyway possible. And it's such a wonderful love letter to that age, and girls at that age, and how hard it is and complicated it is. But at the same time how beautiful and fun those relationships can be. It's great. It's why I think you might enjoy it.
Catherine V.: Totally.
Brian C.K.: Yeah it's just a couple weeks away.
Quinn Emmett: It's hilarious.
Brian C.K.: Awesome. How do you consume the news, Catherine?
Catherine V.: I used to be on Twitter a lot more. I'm trying to, "Like everyone." In 2019. I'm trying to limit my social media use, and really just like my smartphone addiction. So I'm also trying to do more primary source reading. Just actually reading the thing, rather than like someone's 280 character, derivative hot take of another summary of the thing.
Brian C.K.: Right.
Catherine V.: You know? And actually when you interviewed Rhiana Gunn-Write about how she ... She said something about like, "Just read the Green New Deal." Which I think is ... I think we get so far away from actually, "What's the source material?" I haven't read the Muller Report yet, but I think that we all could do a little bit of a better job, especially given this era of, "Is there any truth? Is everything just spin? Will we ever get to a sense of journalistic objectivity again, or was that always an illusion?" I think that the historian in me is urging me to go back to those source documents.
Quinn Emmett: That seems like the right thing to do. We're big fans of first principle. and facts, and things like that. That's where it starts.
Brian C.K.: All right, if you could Amazon Prime one book to Donald Trump, what would it be?
Catherine V.: This is the question that I most cheated on because I was thinking about is he going to read it, and will he actually benefit from the lessons in a book? So I'm reading These Truths, right now, by Jill Lepore. It was just such a good history of the US. It's like [inaudible 01:10:14] comprehensive, and centers the voices of women, and people of color, that sort of thing. But I don't think he would take anything from that because I don't think he would have the capacity to absorb it. So then I started thinking about, "Could I just strike fear into his heart?" Like is that actually the way to go?
Catherine V.: Could I just ... Some sort of morality tale, or some sort of just desserts' lesson that you can't get away with this. Like this will come back and bite you. Could I shock him into acting differently. So then I was thinking about ... I actually studied Russian lit for undergrad, and I thought about Crime and Punishment, and the idea that this guy commits a crime and is haunted by it, be it the rest of the book. And it's 700 pages of inner conversations in his head, and paranoia, and that sort of thing. So I think that's what I would pick out for him. Just like a fun little [crosstalk 01:11:09].
Quinn Emmett: That's a good one. I like that. Right. It's coming. And I mean it's kind of what everybody says when they get so worried about ... I mean understandable about, do we impeach or not, or what was in the Muller Report and all this, and the southern district in New York is like, "It's fine because the second he gets out of office we're going to ruin him for the rest of his life."
Catherine V.: Yes.
Quinn Emmett: And you can't escape it, you can't pardon anybody. It like, "We're just sitting here waiting for you." And yeah, Crime and Punishment's a great example of that. I can't imagine the internal conversations that go on inside there. Or maybe just none at all. I don't know.
Catherine V.: Yeah. And also just making him read Russian literature, and making him read a really long book would just be gratifying in it's own way.
Quinn Emmett: Yeah. No I like the Schadenfreude there, from you. That's nice. All right Brian, bring it home here.
Brian C.K.: Last one. Hey where can our listeners follow you online, keep up with you and what you're doing?
Catherine V.: Yeah. As I mentioned, I've been a little less active on the social media's these days, but I am @cv0 ... those are just my initials, and then zero on Twitter. Not to be confused with CVO, which is actually a guy who's running for secretary of state in New Hampshire ... Connecticut. A Democrat, which was good. So-
Quinn Emmett: I was going to say, this could be so much worse.
Catherine V.: ... Yeah. Yeah. I know. I feel so bad for people who share a name with a terrible person.
Brian C.K.: Ugh, I know.
Quinn Emmett: I feel like you always seen that on Twitter. Like a week later, someone has to go, "Hi. My name is now William Bar."
Catherine V.: Oh God.
Quinn Emmett: Yeah. Awesome. And I'm assuming Flippable is, @flippable, or something like that?
Catherine V.: It's @flip ... If you search Flippable, you'll find it. We're figuring out how to get the Flippable handle. A little bit of a trademark issue right now. But Flippable_org on Twitter.
Brian C.K.: Yeah.
Quinn Emmett: Well let us know. Brian's happy to go rough somebody up.
Brian C.K.: It's no problem.
Quinn Emmett: It's no problem. He just needs payment and coffee. That's it. Catherine, thank you so much for your time today. For barricading that room so well. And for all that you're doing out there. It's turning this place around, and obviously we got a long way to go, but we would be shit out of luck without you guys. So thank you for having ... Wait, what is the drink you had that night? What is your drink?
Catherine V.: Oh, you know what? I think I just had a beer because we were driving. So it was literally just one drink. The drinks that we had the night before on the 8th when we were watching the results come in, that was a lot of drinks and it was mostly whiskey.
Quinn Emmett: Yeah. Yeah.
Catherine V.: Yeah. That was a lot, and it was weird because I didn't-
Brian C.K.: Different story.
Quinn Emmett: Beer doesn't cut it that night.
Catherine V.: ... I had almost never been drunk and sad at the same time. Like I feel like I'm usually more of a social and happy drinker. So this was a very weird situation. Very, very weird situation to be in.
Brian C.K.: It was a weird ass night.
Quinn Emmett: It's not a great one. Yeah, I was on the west coast and attempting to put my children to bed, and we were three hours behind. And it was not great. Anyways, yes, I joined you in whiskey. This was awesome. Thank you again.
Brian C.K.: Thank you so much.
Quinn Emmett: Keep doing what you do. We will push this out as much as we can, and hopefully we run into each other at some point here. Awesome. We'll talk to you soon. Thank you so much Catherine.
Catherine V.: Thank you ...
Quinn Emmett: 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 dishwashing, or fucking dog walking late at night that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at, importantnotimportant.com. It is all the news more vital to our survival as a species.
Brian C.K.: And you can follow us all over the internet. You can find us on Twitter @importantnotimp ...
Quinn Emmett: Just so weird.
Brian C.K.: Also, on Facebook and Instagram, at importantnotimportant 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.
Quinn Emmett: Please.
Brian C.K.: And you can find the show note from today, right in your little podcast player, and at our website at, importantnotimportant.com.
Quinn Emmett: 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 C.K.: Thanks guys ...