Kai Wright: Welcome back to the United States of Anxiety, I'm Kai Wright. This weekend has obviously been a big moment in national history. A new president-elect after four years of true chaos and stress and constant use of the word unprecedented, not to mention this awful pandemic, but it is also a really big moment for this region, for New York City, and for all of the communities in our listening area, really. For this hour, we want to turn our attention to local questions. We're going to focus in particular on New York and New Jersey. I'm joined by two of my colleagues from the WNYC newsroom. Brigid Bergin is the politics reporter for WNYC. Brigid, welcome.
Brigid Bergin: Hey, Kai.
Kai: Nancy Solomon is managing editor for New Jersey Public Radio. Nancy, thanks for joining us.
Nancy Solomon: You're welcome. Glad to be here, Kai.
Kai: We have two really well-sourced people on our region and the politics in them, and listeners, particularly New Yorkers and New Jersey Heights, we want to hear from you, first off, if you have any questions about how this election has unfolded and what it has meant locally for us. Nancy and Brigid are here to answer them, 646-435-7280. Again, that's 646-435-7280. Also, as I said, we are facing a lot just as individuals and as a community. In the previous hour, I asked everybody how you felt about your relationship to the country, to the United States, and your place in it. I have the same question now for New York and New Jersey, how do you feel about your relationship to your community here and your place in it?
It will surprise neither of you, Nancy and Brigid, that our phone lines are on fire and remain full. We're going to get right into it, but I want to first just give each of you an opportunity to answer that question. How do you feel right now, before we even get into the politics? Brigid, let's start with you as somebody who's been thinking about the city for a long time, w what are your reflections on where we stand?
Brigid: Well, I think seeing your neighbors erupt in celebration, sensing relief and jubilation after months of lockdown, along with weeks of protests over racial justice and policing, it was amazing to see some of that sense of relief. As a city where we have seen more than 24,000 COVID deaths and we're seeing all signs of the second wave, I think hearing the new administration, the Biden-Harris administration, talk about among their first steps in the transition, forming a COVID task force led by scientists, can be very reassuring but-- There's a but because, Kai, I live in one of those more purple, sometimes pink parts of the city, and I will tell you that the reaction here was far more subdued than what we were seeing in Times Square or near Prospect Park.
We know that there are pockets of the city and neighborhoods and groups of people who are still looking at the selection with questions. At the same time, we also know that we, as a city and as a state need, we have a huge budget gap. We have a multi-billion dollar budget gap here in the city and in the state and that remains an unknown, particularly, as we await the outcome of these two Senate races in Georgia. I was talking to my editor earlier today saying that I personally feel a lot of anxiety, even as I reflect on all the different ways that my fellow New Yorkers are reacting.
Kai: Nancy, what about you in New Jersey? You not only cover the state, you live there, you have family there. How are you feeling about the state right now, or at least, your corner of it?
Nancy: You know, Kai, I think I've realized in a way that I've never really focused on how much I cherished democracy, and just like your health, you take it for granted until you get sick or injured. I found the past four years personally frightening, and this goes way beyond any kind of what normally we talk about is partisan politics. I wasn't worried about tax policy. I wasn't worried about the deficit. It wasn't like political policy issues. I was frightened about our democracy.
I found New Jersey's participation in this past election really inspiring. More people voted than ever before in the history of the state and that's despite a pandemic. 4 million voters out of 6 million and change registered, voted early by mail, and that beat the turnout in 2016, which was, for its time, record turnout. It was pretty inspiring to watch, and the fact that the entire state, the people who work for the state, and also, the voters of the state got a whole new system thrown at them because we went vote-by-mail, and there were some problems, but the system pretty much worked. I would say, I feel a lot of gratitude towards county election workers who now have been added to the list of our heroes, of the essential workforce.
Kai: Our essential workers, yes.
Nancy: Yes. Some of these folks got sick. There've been COVID cases in the county election department. They've been working really long hours since August. It was just a monumental task, and I'm just feeling totally excited that democracy came through.
Kai: Well, I'm talking with Nancy Solomon of New Jersey Public Radio, and Brigid Bergin, our politics reporter at WNYC, and we're taking your calls. How do you feel about the city, your state? New Yorkers, New Jersey Heights, how are you feeling right now after all of this? 646-435-7280, or if you have questions about what the election means for us locally, Nancy and Brigid, we'll try to answer them. 646-435-7280. Let's go to Jo in Union County, New Jersey. Jo, welcome to the show.
Jo: Well, thank you, nice to be here. Let me say to Nancy Solomon, thank you for all your reporting about New Jersey and about the Norcross Brothers. I've learned a lot. I don't know enough, but I thank you for educating me all the time. Tomorrow, I have to return to my job. We're in a school district, what we consider a suburban-urban school district, and I know that there are many people who work with a predominantly Black and Latino population, who are what we would call shy Trumpers. I know that I have to go in-- I mean, the week was excruciating, but Saturday was wonderful, today was beautiful.
I have to go in tomorrow and be humble, which I'm a little tired of doing all my life as a person of color, but I understand that it's necessary because we all have to get along. At the same time, I really am wondering, and I'm not sure that your guests can answer it, but I am asking more the people who listen to this radio station to call in and explain, what is the purpose of being a shy Trumper?
Are we trying to avoid a conversation that we don't want to have that's contentious, or are we trying to avoid the idea that you're going to be called out in a way that makes you uncomfortable? I really feel like it means that you have to admit some things about yourself that you're not prepared to, that you're not willing to do. I'm just wondering if anybody else understands better than I do, what is the purpose of making sure that you don't, in any way, give out to the rest of the people around you that you are a Trump supporter?
Kai: Thank you for that question, Jo. Let me echo it. That's a great question. She wants an answer. I think if there's someone out there that can answer it, please do call us up. If you are someone who has supported Donald Trump, but it's something you try to keep to yourself, I guess maybe you might not want to call a radio station, talk about it, but let's give it a shot and see if you can answer for Jo. Why is that? Why do you do that? 646-435-7280. Again, that's 646-435-7280. Jo, thank you for that. Let's go to Robert in Jamaica, Queens. Robert, you have been waiting very patiently to ask your question about a diverse democracy, I believe. Welcome to the show.
Robert: Well, no. All right, listen, I'm so happy that I waited. I'm glad I didn't go first because the young lady that just spoke just now, I got the answer to her question. Easy.
Kai: What? This is perfect.
Robert: It's perfect. It couldn't be better. It's like I orchestrated this whole thing. I almost feel guilty. Listen, that particular thing she's feeling because-- Now, I'm going to let you in on a disclosure really quick. I'm an African-American, but I am also a student-- Not a student, but I'm a fan. You could say fan of American history. I just recently became a fan of American history because I was looking for those same answers that she was looking for now, okay? Now, the reason why is not because she wanted to see a victory from Donald Trump, it's because she was curious to see if Donald Trump was for real. I think we were all curious about that, whether we voted for him or not.
Kai: Wait, Robert, are you saying that you voted for him and this is the reason?
Robert: No, not me. You better not spread that rumor [chuckles] around. I didn't vote for Donald Trump. You will have a real problem. In a way, I'm happy to see Donald Trump because we needed this. Sometimes, the medicine tastes terrible, but it's good for you. We needed Donald Trump to come along. Why? Because we needed to wake up, all of us. We're all awake now, I'm sure. You're awake, I'm awake, aren't we all not awake? When I looked at the news and I saw all of those neighborhoods that I used to play in banging pots and pans and dancing, I didn't expect that. In a way, I want to thank Donald Trump for showing up when he did. We needed that. We didn't need to stay asleep sweet for another-
Kai: To bring us together in that way.
Robert: No, not so much to bring us together. Listen, human existence is a biblical-
Kai: I keep misunderstanding you, Robert.
Robert: Human existence is a difficult thing. If you look back in the history long enough, you'll see that. What we're doing in America is almost impossible to do anyplace else. You and I know that. We needed to wake up now because we were on a collision course. Who knows what the heck was out there for? Us, Americans, were on a collision course. What do we need to do hate ourselves for? We're not a third world country in South America. What do we need to run around hate ourselves for? We didn't need that. Look at the cornucopia of riches that we have in this country. You can't get those no place else. Am I right or am I wrong?
Kai: Well, let's see what everybody else thinks. I'm going to let you go.
Robert: We do.
Kai: We'd have to, Robert, because we got a ton of callers that I want to get to but thank you very much for calling in. Nancy, Brigid, any reaction to either of those calls?
Nancy: Well, I think it's the flip side of the celebration that we saw across the region yesterday. I mean, obviously, we are in a deep blue region but not all neighborhoods, not all towns certainly, but northern New Jersey and New York, Metro New York. The flip side is that this was a really close election, and now, going forward, this is some of the anxiety that Brigid mentioned, now going forward, we got to figure out how to come together and how to try to find out how we can all talk to each other. It's been perplexing as reporters. Our newsroom has really struggled in how to find Trump supporters, how to talk with them, how to bring their stories to the air. Kai, you've been involved with this since 2015, 2016, and it's hard to do. It's hard to have those conversations. We just have to keep trying.
Kai: Let's go to Shebesh in Addison, New Jersey because, Shebesh, I think you have a question about what this administration's going to mean for us as a region? Welcome to the show.
Shebesh: Sure. Thanks, Kai, thanks for taking my call. Now that this whole thing is over and I'm relieved to see that, I would really like to get us back to COVID. As we know, the cases are rising. As we know, this administration has been particularly opposing these democratic cities and states and our region is most affected of all. I would like to see how Biden administration puts this back in the right place and get us the resources we need because it's here and it's still going to be here for some time until it is fixed. I'm really interested in seeing how this administration and the task force that they're going to set up helps us, these cities and our region, to move forward with COVID.
Kai: Thank you, Shebesh. Brigid, what about that? In terms of New York, in particular, you alluded to this earlier in terms of what the change in administration might mean for our multi-billion dollar budget gap. I know the governor has one perspective, the mayor has a perspective, are you able to break down what the conventional wisdom is about what's going to happen now?
Brigid: Certainly, if the Democrats were to take control of the US Senate along with the House, and they were able to pass an additional stimulus and with more state aid to address some of those issues, I think we would actually hear Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo agreeing on something, openly and publicly. They both agreed that we need more funding, but there remains a question about when and how severe the crisis will be at that point. These are problems that are compounding and will only get worse before January 20th. There's not a lot of sign that the situation will be ameliorated in any meaningful way before then, so what do these next 10 weeks hold for us? Perhaps, that's part of my anxiety.
For a moment, to touch on one of the other callers was referring to in terms of the shy Trumpers, I do think that one of the things that had brought some really sharp relief during this election and has been growing over time is the different sources of information people rely on. When you are talking to some of these people who maybe are relying on different news sources, different information sources, different entire narratives of what is real versus what we consider in the mainstream media to be facts, that is another place where we have so much work to do, not just politically but in terms of the media itself, to try to figure out how to reach audiences who maybe got pulled away.
Kai: Yes. I'm Kai Wright with WNYC's Brigid Bergin and Nancy Solomon. We're talking about what the election means for us locally, how we feel about our communities here, how we're thinking about our road forward together, and then, finally, I don't want to lose sight of our caller earlier in the show, Jo from Union County in New Jersey, had her own question. I want to make sure we get it answered. She wanted to know, if you are a shy Trump voter, as she put it, someone who supports Donald Trump but doesn't really want to talk about it, why? Why the shyness? What is it that gets in the way of having the conversation? That's what she wants to know. If you're out there, give us a call, 646-435-7280. Let's start with Joe in Westchester. Joe?
Kai: Welcome to the show. I understand you have a question about third-party voters.
Joe: Yes. I don't know how much third-party vote made this year, but I heard that in 2016, if everyone who voted for Jill Stein had voted for Hillary Clinton, then, she might have been president.
Joe: The second part of that question is, why couldn't Joe Biden-- I mean, of any year of Donald Trump in the White House, anyone who's to the left, to my mind, should've voted for Biden, but there was so much opposition on the left to Joe Biden.
Kai: From what I can understand, at least, the data I've seen, the only thing in this national scope where third-party stood out is really in Wisconsin, where there was a big change by not having Jill Stein on the ballot. That margin seems to be about the same margin that Hillary Clinton lost by as the margin that Joe Biden appears to have won by.
Kai: If I can hijack Joe's question a little bit for you, Brigid, thinking about local third-party races, this has been a big part of our conversation here this year because of the change in the ballot rules. How did things shake out in terms of third-party and independent candidate or third parties in this year's vote?
Brigid: I mean, there was a major change to what third parties needed to qualify to maintain their ballot line here in New York. Just this year, it was a struggle over several months. It started as something that got slipped into a commission looking at campaign finance last year, and then, a court overruled it, and then, it got slipped into the budget this past year. Ultimately, it raised the number of votes third parties needed to get to maintain their ballot line to 134,000 votes or 2% of the total vote.
It was perceived by many as an attack on the Working Families Party, which has existed and has served as a pressure point on the Democratic Party. Often, more than anything else, in terms of progressive policies, they have also run candidates and there are candidates that have been elected as Working Families Party candidates. Letitia James, when she was first elected to the city council ran as a Working Families Party candidate, but often, those candidates run on both the Democratic and Working Families Party line.
What happened, ultimately, is that the Working Families Party pulled out all the stops and got all the progressive heavyweights, everyone from AOC to local state legislative leaders, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders to be essentially stumping online to get people to vote Biden-Harris on the Working Families Party line, and they did it successfully. At this point, before you begin counting all those paper ballots, which doesn't start in New York until tomorrow, those absentee ballots, they have already about 4% of the vote about, 300,000 ballots so far.
It's bad news for some of the other third parties. It looks like the state's Conservative Party will probably also maintain their ballot line, but the Green Party, the Liberal Party, the Independence Party, those are parties that we will not be seeing on the ballot unless something completely dramatic and unexpected happens in the paper ballots.
Kai: What do you think that'll mean, if anything, for just the political outlet, the political shape of the city?
Brigid: Well, I think for the Working Families Party, it's a real boost. At a certain point, this is a party that has tussled with Governor Andrew Cuomo over endorsements and over policy promises that were not delivered. I think they feel strengthened, but it also comes at a time when there are other factions organizing in the progressive space. The Democratic Socialists of America are also organizing and recruiting candidates.
This now, in some ways, you could say there are more fractures in the left-wing of the Democratic Party, but potentially, there's also more opportunity for coalition building and more opportunities to put on policy pressure on issues whether it's income tax on the wealthiest New Yorkers or other progressive policies when it comes to policing reform or criminal justice reform.
Kai: I think we have an answer to our shy Trump voter question from a caller earlier in the hour, Serene in New Jersey. Serene, welcome to WNYC. Are you a shy Trump voter and you're willing to speak about why?
Serene: Hi. No, I'm not a shy Trump voter. I voted for Biden. I wanted to share some of my experience with friends of mine who I would probably call as a shy Trump supporter because something that I've observed is that a lot of people that voted for Trump, they won't accept him at anything but certain very specific policies. It's policies that will impact them at a personal level.
A case in point is, I can show an example, Trump administration was very strict on the H-1B program. From my personal experience, I know about a lot of H-1B extensions and new applications getting rejected, which these people think that, in a way, supports the local labor markets, so less H-1B coming in, more job security and better pay. Yes, I hate Trump on everything, but his H1B policy would save my job, my paycheck. Another- [crosstalk]
Kai: Are you positing that there are some people who are like, "Listen, this is just pure individual self-interest. This is going to be good for me. I can deal with all the rest of it because this is really important to my individual life?"
Serene: Exactly, exactly. One more thing is that a lot of people who are supporting this policy actually came in on programs like this. Once they settle down, they just want to close the door behind them because they think that more saturation in the market, higher risk exists for their own job and paycheck. I don't know if that'll explain the whole shy Trump supportive concept, but I think this is one contributing factor.
Kai: Thank you, Serene. Nancy, it begs a bunch of questions that he's bringing up there with New Jersey. It's just the state has changed a lot since the days of Chris Christie or it seems to me. How would you trace the political shift in New Jersey in terms of who the voters are and who they're behind?
Nancy: For one thing an overarching change is that, and this isn't new, and it's not since 2016, but over the last 20 years, the suburbs have become much more diverse, especially here in this region. As the price of what it would cost to rent an apartment in New York just got higher and higher and higher, folks weren't able to afford it, and New Jersey has benefited by becoming more diverse and many immigrants, many people who bring all kinds of different cultures, different languages to the state. That's one thing that's gone on. It has meant that there are more Democratic voters in New Jersey. I think, 20 years ago, New Jersey was considered a swing state.
Nancy: It's solidly Democrat now in terms of statewide elections, except for the governor, but in terms of Senate elections and now Congress, and certainly, in presidential elections, it's no longer considered a swing state. Democratic voters outnumber Republican voters in the state. A lot of that is focused in the suburbs. We're seeing that change as well now.
I think you may remember this. The only Trump campaign event in 2016 that was in New Jersey was an event in the Hindu community, and I guess because Trump is pro-Moti, and there was a lot of support for him. I don't know that there was majority support, but there was a lot of support among the Indian American community in New Jersey. It doesn't always-- I'm not trying to say that the changing suburbs and the new immigrants coming into the state, it's not always true that that means that it's becoming more democratic or Democrat, big D, but we are seeing a lot of change.
Kai: Before we take some more calls, Brigid, I want to ask you about New York City and New York state, in general, is one of the battlegrounds for the fight that is now going to kick into high gear in the Democratic Party in terms of this tension between the left of the party and the center of the party, quite ironically, represented by Joe Biden in the center and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez right here in Queens. AOC has certainly been a go-to interview in the last few days for media outlets wanting to know what she's going to do, how she's positioning. What are you seeing when you look at that? You've covered her very closely. What are you seeing and anticipating about the coming months?
Brigid: Well, one of the things that I think is striking about her assessment of some of these campaigns has been-- Something that she said to me when I interviewed her back when she was still burning through the soles of her shoes trying to register new voters, and it was all about trying to understand the digital strategy and the importance that really understanding and having a fully formed digital strategy is to a campaign, a modern campaign in 2020, and how that plays instead of television ads or mailers, or some of the traditional ways candidates have campaigned. That type of assessment is not necessarily an ideological one.
I am not by any means suggesting that she is not a absolute progressive with strong views on the policies the parties should be taking, but I think what is interesting to me is hearing both her assessment of the strategy and the functioning of some of these campaigns and how Democrats could and maybe are not fully communicating their message to voters on the platforms where those voters are and getting their information, and how she's immediately a lightning rod for her positions on policy.
I think, more specifically, when you see that divergence here in New York, you see a race like hers, where Republicans just poured money into it to try to oust her, despite the fact that her challenger really didn't stand much of a chance, and then, you compare that to a Max Rose, who was the incumbent Democrat who won two years ago in 2018. His district includes all of Staten Island, a portion of Brooklyn. It is a conservative part of the city. It is the only part of the city that Donald Trump won in 2016. He won it again in 2020.
At this point, Rose is trailing his challenger, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, by a pretty significant margin. I don't think that necessarily that dueling ideology between the far left of the Democratic Party and maybe the more centrist or the more right side of the Democratic Party, is as much of what I'm hearing her assessment be about is how to get the message out, how to reach your people and to be organized and connected and grassroots among your base.
Kai: Let's go to Christian in Richmond Hill, Queens. Christian, welcome to WNYC.
Christian: Hey, Kai, how are you?
Kai: Very well. Do you have a question for Brigid or Nancy, or you just want to let us know how you feeling about where we're at?
Christian: I want to let you know how I feel. First of all, thank you to Nancy and Brigid. You guys make sense of the world to me and WNYC. I want to say that I'm celebrating. I'm tired. I marched in the Women's March. I protested against the Muslim ban. I'm a part of a theatre troupe and we performed a feminist flash mob at the White House during the Women's March and we've done a lot, but I'm exhausted and I want to just celebrate. I took my dog to the beach today. It was tons of New Yorkers out there.
I think that we spend-- Look, we have a lot of work to do. There's so much work to do. We don't take enough-- I'm a Gen Xer. I'm not a boomer. I'm not a millennial. I feel like I'm a bridge like I have to remind people, especially young people because they do so much work, a reminder that we need to just take a moment, take a breath, and celebrate, take a few days. Yes, we have a lot of work to do, but let's enjoy the moment. Fill our cups and just really rejoice about this monster is out of the White House.
Kai: Thank you for that call, Christian. The feeling of celebrating-- I mean, certainly, over the last couple of day-- I guess the last day. It feels like the last couple of days. It was just the last day. Nancy and Brigid, there has been an enormous amount of celebration in the streets of New York City at the very least.
Nancy: Kai, if I could, I'd like to take a stab at putting the two things together, what Kristian just said and your question to Brigid about this argument or debate going on within the Democratic Party. It's true that AOC was mostly talking about reaching voters. The context for that is the Coal, that Democrats held, in which some of them said that they were-- Moderate Democrats were sitting ducks in this election. They were blaming the progressive wing of the party.
What came to my mind listening to Christian is that I talked to a lot of the activists in New Jersey that rose up immediately after the Trump election in 2016, and I've been checking in with some this week, and I talked to one of the founders of NJ 11th For Change today, and she was saying that she feels like this debate going on in the party really sells short the work that activists have been doing all over the country, and certainly in New Jersey, the work that happened to flip Republican Congressional Seats in 2018 and to build a political infrastructure in the state of new blood coming into the party for local races, county races, state races.
She was saying we opened up the space for really good Democratic candidates to jump in in 2018 because it was the protests in front of the Republican Congressman's offices and it was the protests and holding their feet to the fire, calling for them. Remember the empty seat town halls? They wouldn't hold town halls. They wanted to hold the Republican Congress people, in the state, accountable for the Trump administration.
That's what opened up the space for these really a notch above Democratic candidates, who usually don't challenge for those seats because the Republicans have had a lock on them for so long. They were able to flip four of those seats. She feels a little-- She was saying that the party needs to be a big tent, and we need to give each local community in each local congressional district more leeway to make it, allow Democrats to work within these purple districts. She was defending the moderate Democrats in New Jersey who have been able to flip some of these seats.
Kai: Not as an ideological question, but rather as how-to, that it ought to be district by district-level decisions instead of so top-down, is that-
Nancy: Exactly, because the activists, it was a very broad range of people, but the leadership really came from progressives. I've seen that all over the state. They are working really hard, but they're creating alliances with moderate Democrats. Mikie Sherrill and Tom Malinowski, they accept that those Congress people are not going to be everything to them. They're not going to do everything, but it was important to progressives in New Jersey to flip those seats.
Kai: Brigid, it's interesting that it's almost-- It's the same really argument, as I gather, in New York City politics and the Democratic Party in Queens and from the left of saying, "The point is don't be so top-down, let us control our districts," is that right?
Brigid: Absolutely. I think what we saw it play out in New York, really manifested during the primary where, again, AOC is known because she challenged the fourth most powerful Democrat in the country, Joe Crowley, and was able to unseat him in what was a race that people did not see coming. She's now not the only one who has done that here in New York. Jamaal Bowman, who challenged Eliot Engel, long-serving member of Congress, head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the 16th Congressional District up in the Bronx.
Jamaal Bowman was backed by the Justice Democrats, the same group that backed AOC. He's an educator, he's Black, he's from Yonkers. He ran a campaign that stretched and went the distance. He started early. He built a coalition. He followed essentially her playbook, and he was successful in doing that. We also have Mondaire Jones in the 17th Congressional District, who would have challenged Nita Lowey were it not for the fact she decided not to run for re-election. He also managed to beat a very crowded field of Democrats to win the primary, and then, go on to win general election. Richie Torres, in the Bronx.
We are seeing in New York, both this new blood in the Democratic Party, a generational shift in our congressional delegation, bringing the average age down by decades, and a delegation that looks more like the people it's representing. I think that is-- We focus right now because we're in a general election timeframe. We're focused on districts that maybe had incumbents facing stronger Republican challengers, but I think we shouldn't overlook how the delegation, altogether, has shifted, and that really does have aligned back to AOC's 2018 victory.
Kai: It's an important point and we really do lose sight of that. I certainly lost sight of that. There's not just an ideological question here, that literally who is in office has changed dramatically in New York, in part, as a consequence of that movement. I continue to pursue an answer to Jo's question, from the caller, Jo, from the top of the show about shy Trump voters, and I think we're going to take one more stab at it here. Dave in Yonkers. Dave, welcome to the show. I think you have an answer for Jo about being a shy Trump voter.
Dave: Yes. Can you hear me okay?
Dave: Good. I voted for Trump in 2016. Frankly, in seeing the demonstrations from people, the graffiti, the public displays of really ferocious animosity toward Trump, and some of the graffiti actually had sort of racist-- They tied Trump, white Trump, and then, some expletives. I would never-- I hid all of my Republican campaign literature. I had it all sent to a post-- Frankly, I was concerned about my safety. God forbid-- I wouldn't wear a MAGA hat anyway, but I just wouldn't want anyone to know that I voted for him.
Kai: Did you vote for him again this year?
Dave: No, I did not.
Kai: Can I ask why?
Dave: Well, the first time I voted for him, I voted for a president but it turns out-- I thought the Republican Senate would uphold their constitutional duties and hold him for the Emoluments Clause, all of his visits. I thought that the Republicans in the Senate would keep him in check, but they basically just caved and gave him free rein. Not only did I not vote for Trump, I voted for Biden. I contributed to the Biden campaign, and I also wanted to flip the Senate because I was fed up with these Republican senators.
Kai: Well, thank you, Dave. Jo, I don't know if that's a satisfying answer to you or not, but there is an answer from a shy Trump voter, who is no longer a Trump voter. That's one of the folks that Joe Biden was trying to flip. We're getting short on time. I do want to get to a couple of things with you, Bridgid and Nancy. Nancy, first off, marijuana legalization in New Jersey. I thought we would get more calls about this, but where do we stand? What exactly happened, and what is going to happen next? Are you able to answer that?
Nancy: Sure, of course. Marijuana is now legal for adult use. Although, I say the word now, meaning, not until the legislature passes a bill that sets out the laws in terms of how it can be sold and the specifics of that use. You could, in New Jersey, be arrested today for marijuana, but soon, you won't be. Where it stands is that it's expected to take about a year to get everything up and running. Governor Murphy, this was one of his main signature things that he campaigned on, and then, was unable to get all the Democrats in the state legislature to go along with him, so then, the compromise was, "Okay, let's put it up for a vote." It won by in the 60s percentage of yes votes. Now, although, the votes are still being counted, but it always pulled well.
Now, Governor Murphy has established a Cannabis Regulatory Commission that will take whatever the legislature passes and turn those into all the rules of how the program is going to work. It is going to be taxed. I think, to New Jersey's credits, that it beat New York and Pennsylvania. Now, the expectation is that the sales tax money will be rolling in from our two cities on each end of the state. He appointed a Black woman lawyer who had worked at the ACLU, who basically spent her career on racial justice and drug laws, and that's who he appointed to lead the commission. That's an incredible thing that he's being very clear about the fact that he's always wanted this to be about social justice.
Kai: You are going to be talking to Governor Murphy for your regular Ask Governor Murphy show this week on Tuesday at seven o'clock. I imagine you'll be asking about this and a bunch of other stuff.
Nancy: Exactly, thanks for the plug.
Kai: Brigid, we are going to be hearing a lot from you, I imagine, in the coming days about the mayoral race that's coming up. In 30 seconds, what are you watching?
Brigid: Rank Choice Voting, Kai. That is going to be the story going forward. It's the first time New Yorkers will be casting their ballots using this system. It'll be the first time they'll be casting their ballots using the system in June. We're going to see a complete overhaul of our city government, mayor, controller, public advocate, and two-thirds of the city council, so it's going to be real busy between now and next June.
Kai: Big, big, big year for New York City as we face such hard challenges. Brigid Bergin is WNYC's politics reporter. Nancy Solomon is New Jersey Public Radio managing editor, she'll be talking to Governor Murphy at seven o'clock on Tuesday right here for her monthly Ask Governor Murphy segment. The United States of Anxiety is a production of WNYC Studios. Jared Paul mixed the podcast version. Kevin Bristow and Matthew Miranda were at the boards for the live show. Our team also includes Carolyn Adams, Emily Botein, Jenny Casas, Marianne McCune, Christopher Werth, and Veralyn Williams.
Our theme music was written by Hannis Brown and performed by the Outer Borough Brass Band. Karen Frillmann is our executive producer, and I am Kai Wright. You can keep in touch with me on Twitter @kai_wright, that's Wright like the brothers. As always, I hope that you will join us for the live version of the show next Sunday, 6:00 P.M. Eastern. You can stream it @wnyc.org or tell your smart speaker to play WNYC. Until then, thanks for listening. Take care of yourselves. Talk to you soon.
New York Public Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline, often by contractors. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of New York Public Radio’s programming is the audio record.