Carolina Democracy

Don't Stay on the Sidelines!

October 03, 2022 Episode 39
Don't Stay on the Sidelines!
Carolina Democracy
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Carolina Democracy
Don't Stay on the Sidelines!
Oct 03, 2022 Episode 39

Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we’re joined by Cheminne Taylor-Smith, a Guilford County activist and volunteer extraordinaire who serves as the local Team Lead for Swing Left. We talked about a wide range of ways to get involved in local elections, from volunteering as a poll observer to canvassing and phone banking. We also talked a little about the trends she’s seen over the last several years in demographics, voting patterns, and progressive enthusiasm on the ground.

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Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we’re joined by Cheminne Taylor-Smith, a Guilford County activist and volunteer extraordinaire who serves as the local Team Lead for Swing Left. We talked about a wide range of ways to get involved in local elections, from volunteering as a poll observer to canvassing and phone banking. We also talked a little about the trends she’s seen over the last several years in demographics, voting patterns, and progressive enthusiasm on the ground.

Learn More Ways to Get Involved:

Other Ways to Support: 

Contact Us:

Follow Us:

Support the Show.

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: I would say to people who want to be. You know, you can't stay on the sidelines anymore. You have to do whatever you can. if we learned absolutely nothing from 2016. It's that you cannot sit there and just assume everything will go whatever way you think it will. please, please find a way to be involved. Find a group and please volunteer please.

[music transition]

JD Wooten: Hey everyone, welcome back to Carolina Democracy. I’m JD Wooten, and today we’re joined by Cheminne Taylor-Smith, a Guilford County activist and volunteer extraordinaire who serves as the local Team Lead for Swing Left. We talked about a wide range of ways to get involved in local elections, especially here in the home stretch, from volunteering as a poll observer to canvassing and phone banking. We also talked a little about the trends she’s seen over the last several years in demographics, voting patterns, and progressive enthusiasm on the ground. While the final cut of our interview is a little longer than I usually aim for, I think that just speaks to how many ways there are to get involved and help out. 

The longer interview actually works out well for timing because thankfully, there wasn’t a whole lot of political news from around North Carolina to catch up on. There continues to news around the photo shopping that was done to suggest several Democratic incumbent legislators, including past guest Ricky Hurtado, support defunding the police. The mailers that went out took the candidate’s pictures and removed campaign logos on their t-shirts and dropped in the slogan “defund the police.” It’s not even taking their record out of context; it’s just a lie. 

The News & Observer in Raleigh picked up on the story, and it turns out the mailers were sent by one of the many dark money groups in politics these days. So, while the MAGA candidates were not the ones actually sending those mailers, there’s been no shortage of MAGA officials defending the mailers either, so I don’t really see any daylight there. And it’s the same false line of attack the we’ve seen for a few years now claiming that these Democratic legislators signed some pledge to defund the police years ago, which has also been debunked, but MAGA Republicans keep repeating it anyways because hey, who really needs integrity? I do think it speaks to the state of GOP politics that they have no platform beyond fear mongering and lies, and when their friends are caught lying, so many rush to defend the lies rather than exercising any accountability. 

It’s a win at all costs mentality, accountability and even democracy be damned, so long as our person wins and is in charge. It’s become a hallmark of the MAGA movement toward autocracy, and it’s extremely dangerous. It also plays into the grievance politics of certain groups feeling like their country is being taken away from them and so nothing is off the table when it comes to fighting back. That cannot lead to a good outcome, period. I could go on forever about all of this, but I’ll spare you today and instead simply say that if any of this gets you worked up, as it should, there’s no time like the present to get involved and help fight for democracy. Take notes during the interview with Cheminne about ways to you can help, or check out the links in the show notes to go volunteer. 

And here are a few critical reminders for November election deadlines. If you want to vote by mail, the online absentee ballot portal is open and ballots have already started going out. The regular deadline to vote is October 14th, and one-stop early voting begins on October 20th. Remember, you can do same day registration and vote during one-stop early voting. November 1st is the deadline to request a mail-in ballot, but please don’t wait that long. One stop, early voting ends at 3pm on Saturday, November 5th, and election day is Tuesday, November 8th.

Finally, before turning to our interview, here are a few housekeeping items. Starting next week, new episodes will drop on Tuesday mornings instead of Monday mornings. That will allow a little more wiggle room to finalize episodes over the weekend and get them ready for release, but still during the early part of the week. So don’t panic when you don’t see a new episode next Monday. Additionally, we’re pausing the YouTube channel for the moment to focus on the audio format only. The traction we were seeing on YouTube just didn’t justify the extra workload of producing video content, so I’d rather focus on delivering the best audio content since quite frankly that’s where the overwhelming majority our community is anyways. 

Finally, as we head into the home stretch of this election cycle, expect a shift away from candidate interviews as most candidates are burning the candle at both ends right now and a podcast interview just isn’t a good use of time in these final weeks. We may have a few more, but more likely we’ll be focusing on ways to get involved, and perhaps go back and do some highlights from past guests who still need your help in these final weeks. And go ahead and start bracing yourself now, I do plan to take a little time off after the election, as we all should, to rest, recover, and regroup before the next cycle begins. Now, with all that out of the way, here’s my interview with Cheminne Taylor-Smith.

[music transition]

JD Wooten: With me today is Cheminne Taylor-Smith, a marketing guru who's been called a creative visionary in home decor marketing. However, that's not what we're here to talk about today because she's also an activist, a volunteer, and poll observer, among many other descriptors for her work on the ground fighting for democracy. Welcome, Cheminne. 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: Thank you. 

JD Wooten: So as always, what's your first memory of politics? 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: Okay, I'm going to totally age myself, so be prepared. But I would say it was Watergate and I was a kid, a young kid, but I remember being absolutely shocked that a president could or would lie or commit a crime because you know, when you're little, your parents teach you not to lie, and you assume that adults never lie. To find out that the president, you know, this man in a very high place of power would lie or would commit a crime, was shocking, earth shaking to me. 

JD Wooten: I can imagine. So follow up then, if that was your first memory of politics, what's your first memory of volunteering or otherwise getting involved in politics yourself?

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: Definitely college, which is when I think it hits a lot of us. But I participated in a rally for abortion rights and I started becoming really active in Planned Parenthood when I was in college. Probably I was more issue oriented than centered on candidates at that point. But one thing that I was very lucky in is that I belonged to an honors group at Winthrop University and the president at the time was Phil Lader, he was the US Ambassador, I believe, to the Court of St. James, and he was close friend of the Clintons. And so I learned a lot about politics from him and our responsibility as citizens to be involved.

JD Wooten: So, speaking of involvement, the first thing I'd like to talk about from your background is the role of poll observer, because you've done that. So the poll observer role has been in the news a lot lately in the last few years, not always for great reasons. You know, mostly due to the unfortunate attacks that we're seeing on our election systems and the local level. But let's start with the basics. What does being a poll observer in North Carolina actually mean in terms of what you do when the polls are?

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: You're essentially there just to ensure that everybody's able to vote. So the word observer is very important because you can be inside the polling location or outside the polling location, but mostly you are there to observe. Now, outside, there's also poll greeters, and those are the people you see handing out literature and trying to promote one candidate to party, of course or another. But an observer is there to really kind of pay attention. To what's happening and make sure that everyone is able to vote. There's also an observer who will be from the Republican side in there, and you're not allowed to speak to voters. You're not even allowed to speak to the poll workers except for the judge who oversees that polling place. So what you're looking for is anything that could prevent. Anyone from casting a vote and you know, you can't tell whether they're going to vote Republican or Democratic at that point, but you do just keep your eyes out to make sure that everyone is allowed to vote. And it can be things like the power going out, which did happen at the polling location where I worked the most, which was Charlotte Hawkins Brown, and a machine can break down. Or even a really long line. All of those are things that can prevent people from voting because you know, if you see a long line, you might turn around and go home, and then you may have lost that person. So it's really just observing everything that could be a voter intimidation or keeping somebody from voting.

JD Wooten: When did you start volunteering as a poll observer? 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: That was my first election as a poll observer. I had done poll greeting, et cetera, but 2020 was the first time. And what a time to decide to be a poll observer for the first time. What a crazy election to, to select for doing that. But that was my first as an observer. In my opinion, it's one of the most important things we can do. 

JD Wooten: Yeah, I have often said in the last several years that being involved in campaigns, whether it be candidate or being directly involved in the election apparatus, and that's about the best civics lesson you can get. You're on the ground doing it. Okay, so if somebody wants to volunteer as a poll observer, how do they go about doing that? 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: Contact the Guilford County Democratic Party and it's []. There is a very simple training process that you go through that gives you the general rules of the road, what you can and cannot do, what you're there to observe and tells you how to get in touch with those people that can help you through the app, which is basically, I imagine it in my head this way, although, you know, it's probably not exactly like this, that it's a war room of lawyers and they answer almost immediately. To any sort of situation that comes up. So it's really great. You check in about every hour on that app to say like, the line is this long, there's this many people here, and everything's okay. It's 90% of what my answers were. And you just go through a very simple and easy training and then you can get up on a signup genius and select the polling locations and, and shifts that you can work. It's very easy. 

JD Wooten: Yeah, and for all the Republicans listening doing their oppo research, feel free to switch teams, come volunteer and be a Democrat. You can join the fight there too. 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: Exactly. Otherwise, I'll see you just like I saw everyone in the poll, observers on the Republican Party on the other side, and I will be very friendly and I will shake your hand and smile at you a lot all day long.

JD Wooten: Now I will say that that brings up a great point. Some of the best election related conversations I had during my campaigning were actually just talking to voters, other candidates who were obviously on the other side of the aisle, but we just had good, friendly conversations. At one point, tossing the football around with a candidate from the other party, I mean, not everybody is cuckoo bananas.

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: That's why I truly will walk in and smile and say hi. Now if something goes down, yes, I'll report it, but you're right, there's, there's no reason for either side to act that way. 

JD Wooten: I made it a point of trying to be polite and introduced myself to everyone that came up, no matter who they were or what they were wearing. And one time there was an elderly gentleman that was helping his handicapped wife get out of a car. He was wearing a MAGA hat. I decided, you know, he's a voter. I just introduce myself and thank him for coming to vote. I assumed he'd be voting for my opponent, and as soon as he heard my name, he said, oh, Mr. Wooten, I'm looking forward to voting for you. And I was like, holy crap, okay. 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: You never know. 

JD Wooten: You just never know. 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: You can't assume. You just never know which way someone is going to vote. And making assumptions, I think, has been a lot of what's gotten us to this place. 

JD Wooten: I think so too. All right, so shifting gears, another side of volunteering for the last few election cycles. You've also been a team lead for Swing Left, a national grassroots organization working to elect Democrats up and down the ballot. For any of our listeners who may not be fully up to speed, could you share a little about Swing Left and what it does? 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: Yes, it was founded after the 2016 election as a lot of groups were and it was created to actually make it easier for progressives to volunteer in swing districts and then to win those races that are close or flippable. So taking back the house in 2018, for example, was one of the really strong goals that Swing Left had. But the general goal is maximum impact to get people involved and then to win elections. And they work very closely with other groups that you're familiar with, like Indivisible, Vote Forward. They have I think 300 to 400,000 volunteers. Now, I know they've raised millions and millions of dollars for candidates, but Swing Left is also focused long term. So the idea is that persistence is critical to winning races, period. So that was something that really appealed to me. I got involved early on. I was looking for something to do after that 2016 election as many of us were. And so I went to one of the Swing left road shows that they were doing at the time, and I really liked their style and their ideas about long term think.

JD Wooten: I should have joined you at that meeting. My past would've been very different. So Swing Left focuses on a few key races in each region or state every year, how are those races selected? I think you kind of alluded to it, but how are those races selected and who you'll be focusing on this cycle? 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: So first of all, I always want to say this at the very beginning because it's something. Some people get confused about Swing Left, does not get involved in races before the primaries ever. So people will ask us all the time, you know who we're supporting, but we don't even get cranked up until after the primaries. We don't get involved in those at all. At the very top of Swingle, they use an incredible amount of data to determine those races that they think are most flippable or winnable that are important to winning back a state. For example, North Carolina has been in that. I guess every election cycle that I can think of for Swing left because we're so very close to being a purple state and you know, we all remember that there was a time when this state voted for Obama. So that's the thing about North Carolina is that we are in that sort of teetering area of which way the state could go, so we're usually a focus. Locally with our Swing Left Guilford group, we work very closely with Indivisible - Guilford County, too, so that we can pool our resources and be even stronger. So we also do things slightly differently though in that we are hyper local. We focus on our state and municipal races as well, and we're committed to getting people to vote down the entire ballot. So Cheri Beasley, for example, she's going to get a lot of attention. She's working with a lot of groups. Of course we want people to vote for her, but we also want people to focus on Lucy Inman, you know, for Supreme Court in North Carolina, or Brandon Gray for NC House 62. People who are further down the ballot, because often we find people won't go all the way down the ballot. So that also impacts how we canvas, what our outreach looks like. So we pay a lot of attention to a person's previous voting record and how likely they are to get out and vote. You'll hear us talk a lot about percentages and targets based on how a precinct or district will lean, and what percentage of that group is likely or unlikely to vote. So we use those persuasion markers and take all of that in mind when we're creating our targets, as well as talking points and scripts. 

JD Wooten: And if I recall correctly, where there are opportunities for overlapping districts to maximize your impact, That's always a, a perk.

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: Absolutely. I mean, it maximizes the amount of work that we're doing and it maximizes our ability to get people to vote down ballot. So, for example, this time we're putting a lot of attention on areas that overlap between Brandon Gray and Michael Garrett. For the same reason, because when we're able to talk to people in those particular districts that will maximize the voting for a lot of people all the way up the ballot. But paying attention to those people down ballot and talking a lot about voting all the way down ballot is really critical to what we do.

JD Wooten: Yeah, and if I, if I recall in the other direction, just like you were talking about with Brandon Gray and Michael Garrett. In 2020, the senate district I was running in had more or less three house districts in it. And on our western flank was Nicole Quick running in 59. And on our eastern flank was Ricky Hurtado. And those were both target districts too. So you know, triple whammy in that one. 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: That's exactly right. And so that type of thing helps us. We also do talk to Swing Left at a state and national level because we get a lot of help from them. They do listen to what we have to say. What we think our turf looks like, how we can cut it, how we can get out there and get the most votes, the most bang for our box, so to speak. And they, they do help us, you know, get more resources and more people to canvas and phone bank with us. You know, for canvasing, we, we work a little differently too. A lot of people do because we want to engage with voters. We want to listen to them about their voting experience and help them make a plan to vote. And of course we talk about the candidates, but again, it's going to be those local races. But we really want to listen. So that we bring out issues that they're concerned about, the voters that we're talking to, and then we try to make a candidate connection for them, if that makes sense. But the key is to get people to the polls. Period. 

JD Wooten: We've just talked about picking target districts and why, so what is it that Swing Left actually does to try and turn out those people? 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: Well, the thing that I always try to tell people is that we try to offer something for everyone so that people will want to come and volunteer with us. It could be putting signs out in people's yards. It could be writing postcards and letters to get out the vote. We have one subset of our group that does that. We do phone banking and then we do canvassing where you're knocking on doors and talking to voters and we never throw someone in the deep end of the pool. We always offer a lot of training and a little bit of handholding even. So, for example, if it's your first canvas, you're certainly not going to go out by yourself. You're going to go out with a seasoned veteran who's going to show you the ropes and you know, let help you understand what the process is and tamp down that intimidation factor that, you know can happen, and with phone banking the same thing. We offer a lot of training about it and talk about. Why we're doing it and how it moves the needle in elections. Both canvassing and phone banking can really move the needle. I think phone banking they've shown it'll move the needle 2.5 points and as you know, that can, that's the difference between winning and losing. So we offer a lot of ways for people to be involved and we, we even need people just to donate snacks or come by and help us collate papers or whatever. So there's always a way to be involved. I just want more people to understand why they should be. This is a really important midterm election and we need all the hands we can get.

JD Wooten: So let's dive into each one of those then just a little bit more for any of our listeners that aren't familiar with each one. Canvasing. We've had guests come on from various organizations like the New North Carolina Project and New Rural Project, and they talk about their deep canvasing, right? But these are long conversations on the door trying to engage people. That's not exactly what we're talking about here. What does canvasing look like for Swing Left?

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: Yeah, there are a lot of groups that are involved in canvassing in our state, obviously, and the one thing I do want to say is we do try to coordinate as much as possible on where we're canvassing versus other groups so people don't have their door knocked about 17 times. You know, in the 2018 election, that was actually a real issue and so we've been more coordinated since then. But our style is a little more about getting out the vote. So, you know, let's say Cheri Beasley's team, for example, is probably far more focused on persuasion and strong talking points about persuading voters. Like trying to get those people on the cus those independents to lean towards Democrats. What we are about is getting those voters who have not voted or how, you know who, who lean left but may not be getting out to vote. We want them to get to the polls like we've talked about this several times during this conversation, that that is critical. So for us, you're not necessarily going to find someone when you're canvassing, that is a massive Trump supporter and you're going to have to argue with them. That's not our style. That's not what we are doing. We're not into persuading people to vote a different way. We're really about getting the voters that we know will support our candidates to get to the polls. That's really important to us. 

JD Wooten: Yeah, I I think I've heard it kind of summed up. It's all persuasion. I know some people like to say persuasion verse turnout. It's all persuasion. But it's persuasion over which candidate you're going to vote for versus whether you're going to vote 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: IT's honestly, in the last election cycle in particular, it was a lot of trying to convince younger voters that their vote mattered. I think it's less that this time around. In most cases we're seeing more enthusiasm, but I think that, you know, in the past it was just trying to convince people that their vote would matter or that there was a candidate who did represent what was important to them. I did end up talking one time on a phone bank in the last election cycle to someone who was supporting Ted Budd over Kathy Manning, and when we started talking about Social Security because I just thought, oh, well let's just talk about Social Security. This person was a left leaning voter too. When I started pointing some things out and asking the voter to go look at Ted Budd's own site about social security, I changed his mind. Things got very quiet and he was like, I'm going to have to rethink things. So it can happen. But I think people are intimidated because they feel like they're going knock on doors and have to argue with people, and that's not what we're. 

JD Wooten: Yeah, I can, I can say that when we were canvasing as a campaign, we were doing a lot of the same kind of, let's go find the most, you know, likely voters and just get them to turn out. And those can be some fun, enjoyable, meaningful conversations. So similar vein then - phone banking. What's that look like for Swing Left? 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: Again, we train you before you do it, and then we provide a script. And the script is meant to be, you don't say it word for word, so you sound like a robot, but you just sort of familiarize yourself in general with what. The points are that we want you to make when you get into the program that we use, there is information about the person that you're calling so you can actually see what precinct they're in. You can tell them a little bit more about their particular candidate and you can also point out all the different ways that they can vote, whether that's early voting or absentee or whatever, and even give them the dates and their polling locations for early voting and for election day. So it's got a lot of great information on there that's right on the screen in front of you. So it's very easy to do and again, you're not calling people that you should be having arguments with. I've had some really good conversations this election cycle with people and we're there to hold your hand. And in fact, we do a lot of phone banks on Zoom now just because people are still a little uncomfortable about getting together. And also people from other states have been calling in to help us. So in both cases, you know, it, it helps to have somebody sitting there on Zoom. I will sit on there as long as the calls are being made so the person can come back and say, I just ran into this wrinkle and I'm not, I wasn't really sure how to answer it. So that there is that help while you're feeling, you know, still new to the. 

JD Wooten: So anything else that people should know about Swing Left or ways to get involved or, you know, how can they sign up before we transition to that last piece.

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: If you get on to Mobilize or the Swing Left site, and you search by your zip code and you live in Guilford County, that our information will come up and there are a lot of events listed there already that you can sign up for through mobilize. if you're from out of state, same thing. If you want to help North Carolina, the site gives you great ways to get on there and find the groups that you can help the most. There are a lot of us across North Carolina, of course, we want you to help Guilford County, but you can find all the different events that we have listed already.

JD Wooten: And just for anyone that's not familiar, Mobilize is an app you can download to help get you active.

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: You can actually go onto its website too. You don't necessarily have to download the app if you want to find events. Most people do download the app and use it, but for those of you who don't feel comfortable with that, you can go onto Google and just put in Mobilize and then search for events in your zip code and we should pop up.

JD Wooten: Great. We'll leave links for that in the show notes. Now in deciding where to knock doors and who to call, and you've already talked about this some, I know Swing Left and other groups use a ton of data, including demographics. What are some of the trends you're seeing here in the Triad and North Carolina more broadly? 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: Well, as you know, I'm sure you saw this cause it was big news in March, we now have more unaffiliated voters in North Carolina than Republicans or Democrats, and we're only one of 12 states where that's the case. So I think that could be interesting for this election cycle for us. Guilford County was also one of the counties that had the largest increase in unaffiliated voters by population. We have a lot of younger voters who have registered, and those under 40 are now the largest group by registration, but not by voting. So getting them to the polls again, is really key for us, especially in Guilford County. 

JD Wooten: Do you think that shift in voter registration reflects a shift in voting patterns or merely a shift in kind of identification for registration purposes?

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: I think that unfortunately all the turmoil that we have gone through in the last four years to eight years has really caused a shift in the way people think about the parties in general. And I think that has caused a lot of unaffiliated. I think sometimes two younger voters are very independent in the first place, and they don't want to be put in a box, so they'll, they'll hit that unaffiliated button. I think there are a lot of reasons that someone may choose to be unaffiliated rather than be a Democrat or a Republican. And I think we're seeing that definitely play out in North Carolina in particular. But I think, you know, we are having an influx of people from other states moving to North Carolina, and it's not the retiree trend that we were seeing for so long. We're a great state to retire in, of course, but we have a lot of people that have moved to North Carolina for different reasons during the pandemic, particularly because they could work and live wherever they wanted to. So that has definitely changed the demographics, I think, in North Carolina, and it'll be great to see how that plays out this election cycle. 

JD Wooten: Now, along with the generally shifting demographics, we're also seeing a shift in demographic support for our two major parties, especially in the urban / rural divide and the college / no college degree divide. Have you been seeing those shifts play out locally? 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: Definitely. I think what we're talking about already is is part of that. But you know, I also think Guilford County is getting bluer. I'm not sure if you saw the numbers after the 2020 election, but of course we parse those to pieces and you know, 60% of those in Guilford County voted for Joe Biden in 2020. That's pretty impressive number. And we have a median age of 37 in this county. So many colleges and universities for us in Guilford County, that can make a big difference. Statewide, you know, we, we still have our strong Republican base, but I do think that we are going to see some shifts, not just this election cycle, but in the future. I like to look for trends far down the line. And so I think in some ways that makes me a calmer person to be involved in politics, because I'm not just focused on the next election. I'm thinking further out too. So sometimes when people get upset because something didn't quite go their way in politics, I'm the one who's saying, But look at the trend we got further than we did the last time. Everything's changing. So, you know, I think we have to pay attention to those long term trends that are coming. The whole country is moving sometimes very slowly away from those more right leaning ideas on social issues. I mean, if you look at things like the unaffiliated trend or the trend away from religion, you know, demographics and trends are just pointing in a different direction than what the Republicans are representing. And I think what we're seeing, as my mom used to say, being good southern girl, You know, a dog that's cornered is going to bite. And so what happens is they get louder and louder and those in power are going to clinging to it however they can and as long as they can. But you know, the numbers are going to bear out eventually.

JD Wooten: Yeah, and I think that this is part of our underlying issue with the strength of our democracy right now is that because of anti-democratic measures, whether it be in voter suppression, voter depression, gerrymandering, you know, any number of things those elected to office, especially at the state level, have been able to get further and further away from what popular opinion supports. They're insulated from the repercussions of that. 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: Agreed a thousand percent. And I think that's the key is that if we can get the voters out who are black, female, young, independents, that's the key. That's the key for us. Because the numbers, when you think about popular vote or just general numbers, are not there to support what we are going through right now.

JD Wooten: And our democratic institutions are, are being further and further insulated right now from popular opinion. You know, I saw a great reminder just the other day, Democrats have won seven out of the last eight presidential popular votes. But we currently have a six-three Republican appointed majority on the Supreme Court and the decisions that they're handing down, especially this past summer, quite clearly for all the reasons I've discussed on the podcast, questionable on a legal basis, they're also very unpopular. And we're seeing, I think, some of that play out in terms of enthusiasm. So that's actually a great segue, that enthusiasm. What are you hearing? What are you seeing either in phone banking, canvasing, your conversations, are progressives, democrats, et cetera, really as, as amped up to vote as the media wants us to believe right now?

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Two examples. I got, and this is, these are micro and then macro, I got one of the signs about reproductive rights and, and supporting reproductive rights, and I put it in my yard. It's interesting because decades ago when I was rallying for reproductive rights, I never would've imagined I would be able to put a sign in my yard saying that I supported a woman's right to choose. You know, that was just, you didn't talk about it. So that was a big day for me to put that sign in my yard and I, I was a little nervous, but I just thought I'm doing it. By the end of the day, I had had 10 neighbors ask me for one of those signs and that, I mean, by walking, by and stopping you people you wouldn't have thought of too, you know, just by looking at them, which I'm about to talk about, but it's interesting to me how angry people are and how fired up they are, and that has definitely been born out through our canvasing and our phone banking. We are getting a lot more enthusiastic voters. Of course, I'm going to vote. When is early voting open again? Tell me again where I'm supposed to vote. I'll be there. That is not at all the reaction that I had in 2018 or 2020 calling basically the same groups of people. And so we are seeing far more enthusiastic people who want to even volunteer with us, who are asking how can they be involved to make sure other people will vote. That never happened before, either in the same questions about volunteering with us. We're on our scripts then, so you know, will it translate into votes? Of course, I hope so. But we are definitely seeing far more enthusiasm and people wanting to protect the issues that appeal to them or that are important to them. And I think in the past, in some ways, that was more common among Republican voters, you know, because of those more either religious views or very conservative views on social issues. But the tide, I feel has turned this year for Democrats on that, where the issues now that they're being threatened are critically important. I just think it's unfortunate that we kind of have to get fired up after something dramatic has happened. So, you know, but hey, everyone seems to be in a great place right now for wanting to volunteer and to be involved in this election process, and at least to vote.

JD Wooten: That's wonderful. You know, months ago I was talking to Virginia Reed on this podcast. She was my campaign manager for the first half of 2020, and she was pulling double duty working for me and Donna Lake out in State Senate, District Seven. And it's all this work. Go, go, go, crunch, crunch, crunch, and then wham, you've got an election. And it's just, especially on a campaign, either you won or lost and for those that are activists, at least you've got a little bit more of a spread. Maybe you get some mixed success, but still it's election day comes and then boom. So I'm curious, how have you dealt with, if you don't mind me asking, how have you dealt with that build up, that burnout, that fatigue, or what's your experience been there? 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: It's interesting because in 2020 in particular, I worked so hard, so many of us worked so hard and we did have some successes for sure. We had you know, I think Kathy and some great local races that we were thrilled about. But there were so many others where we didn't pull it over the finish line. And I will say that you just get to the point of exhaustion, you know, you've, you've worked so hard and I knew that in Guilford County that things were going our direction, you know, you could feel it, especially for the presidential race. But, you know, then you'd hear the polling numbers. And I worked all day on election day. I think I, it was 7:00 AM till 7:30, whenever the poll closed, and then of course you have to stay there and watch the, the machines be shut down and the, the ballots being processed, et cetera. So it was pretty late by the time I got to a friend's hotel room because she had flown down here from New York to work at the polling location with me. So we got back to her hotel room. We were watching the numbers and I was just almost catatonic and I said, I've gotta go. I can't sit here and watch this because it was not going our way. Got to my house, my husband took me away for the weekend to the, his family's mountain house, and I literally sat there staring at a wall almost until Saturday, because remember, that's when we found, and I heard a lot of screaming in the living room and went down there and found out that Biden had actually won. And I was shocked. Absolutely shocked and thrilled. And you know, I think then with everything that followed after that, it, it has been a tough time. You and I were talking about this earlier, pandemic, insurrection, war. It just, it's, this has been a very difficult time in this country. And so to have all of that happen afterwards too, you know, it was, it was it kind of took the fun away from it. An election is supposed to kind of be a bit of fun and, and your the day that the president sworn in is supposed to be a great day for the group that won. And it, all of that was tainted really, you know, and so everything felt very, kind of a letdown. And it took me, it kind of took me until the spring to start getting my mojo back a little bit. And what helped me do that was just, whatever you may want to say about him, Joe Biden has an unfailing optimism that is infectious. And you know, has he made every step correctly? No, but he's done a lot of good really quickly. And at the same time, he tends to keep that steady as we go, everything's fine. And I think we kind of needed that Uncle Joe to help sort of pat us all on the back a little bit, no matter which side you're on. To kind of go, we're going to get through this together. We've got a good hand on the tiller and that helped me kind of come back from it. But this has been a hard time for everyone and I understand that. I just want people to know though there are a lot of enthusiastic people out there who want to be involved, who want to make a difference in this country, who want to repair a lot of what has happened over the past, you know, six years or so. And to really bring us back to where we were. And I'm not talking about make America great again for God's sake, but at least to be civil again. And so I would say to people who want to be, you know, you can't stay on the sidelines anymore. You have to do whatever you can. You cannot sit back. If we learned absolutely nothing from 2016. It's that you cannot sit there and just assume everything will go whatever way you think it will. You have to be involved. There are a lot of ways to be involved, and here's another thing that's really important for me to say before we close. We also need to speak up. I think too often as progressives, we've kept our mouth shut. We didn't want to offend anyone or step on toes, so you know, we might not put the sign about reproductive rights in our front yard, you know, just in case it offended a neighbor or whatever. I'm done with that. I am completely done with that because the people who are getting all the attention are the louder voices and they're still a minority. And yes, it's scary to watch. Those fascist people put their hands in the air like they're at a Hitler rally. I understand that, but it's still a small group of people, so we need to speak up. And there are a lot of people out there listening to the louder voices and they're thinking to themselves, well, they're the majority, so either I won't vote or I'll just go along with the ride or the tide. And they need to know that there are others out. Often majorities who agree with a more progressive agenda, and if we don't speak up and voice our opinions often enough, then we will continue to not be able to attract those voters. I will speak up and I will stand out, and that's what we need to. 

JD Wooten: Cheminne, we've covered so much ground and those were wonderful thoughts that you just ended on. Any closing thoughts or plugs you want to make for upcoming events or volunteer opportunities you want to put out for our listeners? 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: Well definitely please go on to Mobilize and find our local events that we have listed. We have at least a phone bank and a canvas, if not more than one every week. I would say to people who want to be, you know, you can't stay on the sidelines anymore. You have to do whatever you can. You cannot sit back. If we learned absolutely nothing from 2016. It's that you cannot sit there and just assume everything will go whatever way you think it will. You have to be involved. There are a lot of ways to be involved right up to the election day. So please, please find a way to be involved. Find a way, whether it's Swing Left, Indivisible, anybody, I don't care who you're working with, just find a group and please volunteer please.

JD Wooten: Well Cheminne, thank you so much for joining us today. It's been a real pleasure. 

Cheminne Taylor-Smith: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

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JD Wooten: Thanks again to Cheminne for joining us today, and to everyone for listening. Links are in the show notes for everything from today’s episode. Reminder, the Carolina Democracy Podcast is not affiliated with or authorized by any candidate, candidate’s committee, or other political committee or organization, and does not endorse any candidates. If you have questions or comments, send me an email at And again, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and share this episode with a friend. Together, we can achieve a better North Carolina for everyone!

Interview with Cheminne Taylor-Smith
Closing Notes