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Four Debates, 12 Candidates, An Impeachment Inquiry, and You

We want to know what voters are thinking and experiencing during these turbulent political times we are living in. The fourth Presidential debate was held on October 15th at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. We spoke with Lizet Ocampo, Political Director for People For the American Way (PFAW). She also leads PFAW’s Latinos Vote! program which exposes and counters anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric and policies.

A little info about People For the American Way: People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and build a democratic society that implements the ideals of freedom, equality, opportunity, and justice for all. We encourage civic participation, defend fundamental rights, and fight to dismantle systemic barriers to equitable opportunity. Learn more:

Read our interview below

Tahyira Savanna: When working with voters how do you get them mobilized and informed?

Lizet Ocampo: We have a Latinos Vote! program that engages through paid and earned media. Oftentimes, millions of dollars are spent educating voters in English but the Spanish language gets ignored. We help fill that gap.

TS: Many democratic voters are still unsure which candidate will be a forerunner for the next election. How do the debates leverage support for the democratic party in general?

LO: Overall engagement and education about the issues will help the democratic party in general. In order to win, we will need enthusiasm and increased turnout. That in part will be due to how the candidate communicates their positions on the issues.

TS: The current administration is facing impeachment amongst other scandals. Many have left the GOP party unofficially. How do the candidates convey a bipartisan message that can break through the divisive Trump chatter on Twitter?

LO: Many issues are bipartisan issues for voters and the American people generally. For example, there is overwhelming support for universal background checks when it comes to gun control. Focusing on what voters actually want will help bridge that divide.

TS: Do you think President Trump’s behavior signals a concern for his mental health? Should more Republicans be worried about his leadership style?

LO: Regardless of what may be happening with his mental health, the important thing is what his actions are. His actions have shown a dangerous leadership style. Some Republicans have spoken out on some issues but they are largely scared to speak out because they think it will cost them votes. That, in turn, helps to fuel his power with voters thus creating for themselves the very constraints that they fear. It’s somewhat cyclical. Trump’s actions have shown that he thinks he is above the law. That is why there is this impeachment process — to get to the truth. Regardless of party, leaders should be concerned about ensuring that our president is following the law. There is so much hate when an undocumented person or person of color “breaks the law” by breathing in this country, to the point that they are dehumanized or called “illegals.” Somehow that same concern for law and order is not applied to Trump.

TS: There were Blacks and Latinos in midwestern communities that voted against Hillary Clinton in 2016. What is the current political climate in these areas which are crucial to the electoral votes needed to win? Do any of these voters voice regret?

LO: The data show that there was overwhelming support for Hillary from Latino voters. What may be of concern is how enthusiastic voters were and how many stayed home. What we saw in 2018 is engagement from the Latino community in the Midwest. For example, Latino voters were engaged to help elect a Democratic Governor and Lieutenant Governor in Wisconsin. In fact, Latino voters made up the margin of victory. This is an indication of the increased enthusiasm we’ve seen since Trump got elected that, with investment and resources, will continue on to the 2020 election.

TS: Criminal Justice reform is a very important factor to the Black and Brown community, it can arguably be the most important issue that directly impacts our everyday lives. Donald Trump reluctantly claims that legislators have not come up with solutions for CRJ reform but he has signed The First Step Act in 2018. Which candidate is taking lead on this issue? Should Black and Brown voters be more vocal about the lack of progress on this issue?

LO: Julian Castro has been consistent since the beginning of his campaign to focus on police violence. He has repeatedly in his campaign messaging, and notably on the debate stage, said the names of unarmed people of color who have been killed by police. Of course, Criminal Justice reform is more than just police violence and should address the entire system and each step along the way to ensure justice for all. All voters should be vocal about the lack of progress on the issue.

TS: The majority of Americans now back impeachment proceedings. How does this move help current Presidential candidates relay their message to an audience who does not trust politicians?

LO: Candidates can relay their message by showing the contrast of their values, plans, and actions to the current president.

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