Special Edition Series: Bonus Episode 01

Reaching Across The Aisle: Beto O’Rourke and Pantsuit Politics

It’s been bananas in the political sphere the past few years, but you knew that. You may not think you have a voice in any of the chaos, but frankly you do—because We The People get to decide who represents us and our values. Your thoughts, your ideas—they have power. And one of the most effective ways to exercise your power is to vote. 2018 midterm elections are approaching around the country on every level: local, state, and national. Our show doesn’t focus on politics, but if you’re living and breathing, it can’t be avoided. And we are a show that isn't afraid to open ourselves up to important conversations. There’s an up-and-coming senate candidate in Jen’s home state of Texas, and he’s been making some waves. Representative Beto O’Rourke is on the campaign trail and called Jen from his car to talk about what’s important to him as pursues this race, and the values he shares with many of our listeners—values like government and healthcare that represent everyone, and helping families stay together and thrive. We follow up this conversation with the ladies from Pantsuit Politics, Sarah and Beth, who have a “relationships before policy” attitude, and they break down Jen’s conversation with Beto from both sides of the aisle.
PART 1: MY INTERVIEW WITH TEXAS DEMOCRATIC SENATE CANDIDATE, BETO O'ROURKE

Photo Credit: Jennifer Boomer

Transcript from the show

Narrator:  Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people, every week, on this podcast. Thanks for listening. We hope you enjoy the show.
Jen: Hey everybody, it's Jen Hatmaker, your very happy hostess of the For the Love Podcast.

Welcome to this very special surprise episode. We might start doing this from time to time, me popping into your podcast feed with something different, something one-off from the series that we're doing, maybe related to current events, maybe of the moment that I think you might be interested in. It is my podcast, and I can have two shows a week if I want to. It is my right as an American citizen.

So listen, I want you to know this first: I really brag on you a lot and often. I tell people all the time I'm not afraid to put any guest or any idea in front of you. And I’ll tell you why. Because you're smart. You are intelligent. You listen. You hold tension and complex ideas. And you talk about your disagreements and understand that people can disagree, and that's not the worst thing that has ever happened. In fact, it can even be useful, very beneficial for public dialogue. I think different ideas keep us fresh and accountable so that we remain critical thinkers who are not bunkered off in our silos, but who process what's going on and how it affects the people around us.

Having said that, today I am so pleased to share this special bonus episode of For the Love with you.

As you know, unless you live underground, very shortly this fall, the United States is holding midterm elections. And so all around the country, we're voting in old and new faces, old and new ideas into Congress, into state and local government.

Over the past couple of years, I know you've been watching your family and friends, your neighbors and co-workers grappling with what feels like a new world order. So many of us honestly cannot take another minute of watching it all play out, and we're finding ourselves more often than not just turning off the news because it's so much to handle. It's so much to digest.

Maybe you've been directly touched by injustice. And I know that injustice can take a myriad of forms. You may not think you have a voice in any of this, but frankly we do. Because the wonderful thing about living in this republic, a great benefit of the democratic process is that we get to decide who represents us and our values. Right? “We the people.” Your thoughts, your ideas have power, and one of the most effective ways to exercise your power is to vote.

We're going to talk so much about this over the course of this episode. But vote, period, on every level. Local, state, national. You get a say. This fall, you have the opportunity to make your voice heard in the midterms, most of which fall on November 6th.

Here in my home state of Texas, one of the midterm elections I'm following, and apparently the nation is following, is for one of the seats in the U.S. Senate. So you have probably heard about this, since it involves a relatively known entity, Senator Ted Cruz, and what feels a little like a newcomer—a relative newcomer, anyway—U.S. Representative Beto O'Rourke.

As you know, we're not a largely political show, but we are a show that isn't afraid to open ourselves up to important conversations. Obviously, go back and look in our archives. We have put every sort of important topic here. We are not shying away from any of that.

In this case today, we're all pretty familiar with one of the candidates in this race. Senator Cruz has been around for a long time. We've watched him on the national stage for years and years and years. He ran for the presidency. He’s been in front of us for a long time. So suffice it to say, I think he has largely shown us who he is and what he cares about, and we have heard from him many, many times.

But I want to hear a little bit more from those up-and-comers jumping into the fray. I want to have Representative O'Rourke on the show today, because he's a new face in politics and I, for one, absolutely think we need some new voices right now. New ideas to counteract some of the exasperation and exhaustion we might feel around the political process.

With that said, we're going to take a few minutes to talk with a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senator of Texas, Beto O'Rourke.

And I want you to know this before we start: first of all, you’re going to enjoy this conversation, no matter where you are. Because every part of my conversation was held with you in mind, my listeners. We really didn't dive in to those Beto's talking points. You can find those all over the Internet, pretty clearly spelled out.

I wanted to talk to Beto about our community. I told him I have listeners and readers that are conservative, and I have listeners and readers that are progressive—as does he. His constituency here in Texas runs the gamut. And I asked him questions for both of us, for all of us. I asked questions from sort of each side of the aisle, if you will. And I asked him to speak into my very broad faith community, and what did he have to say to us. Is there a place for us, no matter where we fell on the spectrum? What about the policies and ideas that touch our lives too?

And so I can't wait for you to hear his answers. I think you're going to be refreshed. And I hope you are able to listen with open ears.

We’re almost here. Thank you for your patience.

If you're new to Beto, let me give you a very quick rundown. He's currently serving Texas's 16 congressional district, his hometown of El Paso, in the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves on the House Committees for Armed Services and Veteran Affairs. You'll hear him talking very often about his work for veterans and our military. That’s one of his key things. He's been working to improve their ability to get healthcare and other services that they need and deserve. That’s one of the torches that he carries, for sure. He said he's actually made it a priority to secure bipartisan support for that legislation because he knows how important it is, obviously, to work across the aisle to get anything done these days. We know that. We know that, and he’s doing that.

Beto started getting involved in civil service in 2005 when he was elected to El Paso City Council, and he served two terms there. Then in 2012, that's when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, which is where he's serving still now.

So from my vantage point—I’ve been paying attention, this is my state—Beto has run a clean race. He’s kind of refused to get down in the muck and mire of it all, and I find that refreshing after the last couple of years. If you've heard him say this, which you probably have, it's an absolutely grassroots campaign, meaning he has not taken one penny from a PAC or from a corporation or a special interest group—it's all just of the people and by the people. This is a pretty big deal, especially in the post-Citizens United era. And if you don't know what that is, go Google it because it really helps explain our political climate.

Beto and his wife Amy live in El Paso where they're raising their three kids: Ulysses, Molly, and Henry. I mean, they have a kid named Ulysses, you guys. A kid named Ulysses has got to be going somewhere. If he’s not, I don’t know who is.

So listeners, I think you're going to enjoy this conversation with candidate for Texas Senator, Beto O'Rourke.

Also, stick around for the rest of this show because we will be debriefing with my girls, Beth and Sarah, the ladies of Pantsuit Politics. They have a podcast, in which they take a very bipartisan look at politics from both the left and the right, which each one of them sort of represents. Their hallmark is “relationships before policy, and understanding before argument,” which I think most of us can get on board with. We’re going to discuss voting and our role as citizens. We’re going to talk through some of the language in this, and they’re going to help us make sense of it. And they set such a marvelous example of holding public dialogue, where there is room for disagreement and also decency, and it co-exists all at once. If you don’t already follow Beth and Sarah at Pantsuit Politics, you’re going to want to after this. They are so fabulous. And so stick around for the whole episode, because the three of us will unpack my interview with Beto and more aftward.

But up first: my very, very wonderful conversation with Beto O'Rourke.
Representative O'Rourke, welcome to the For the Love Podcast. I am absolutely delighted to host you. I know your schedule. I know it is jam packed. And I'm just grateful that you've made time. You're in your car, right?

Beto O’Rourke: I am. We are driving from Dallas to Austin. It's just been a packed day already and a lot more to do later today. But that's really been our story for the last year and a half.

Jen: Yes, it has.

Photo Credit: Rick Kern/Wireimage

Beto: This is life right now.

Jen: Yes, it is. And you're going to share a stage with Willie [Nelson] tonight. I mean, it's so quintessentially Texas, I feel like I'm bleeding out Texan right now.
Let me just ask you a few questions, if you don't mind. And again, grateful for your time.

First of all, let me say that it has been just a real refreshing time to watch you, and watch you campaign, watch you literally canvas our state, county by county. I want you to hear me say that so many of us appreciate your decency and this very clean, pure way that you are running your campaign. It's giving us some hope and reminding us what we're capable of and our highest ideals.

I just want to say thank you for it. Thank you for operating your campaign out of these sorts of values and the way you're doing it.

Beto: Well, thank you for saying that. I'll tell you, anything good that you see like that out of the campaign is really just a reflection of the people of Texas with whom we're running this. And you probably know we're not taking any help from PACs or corporations or special interests. It's the people of Texas and every one of the 254 counties that's driving this, and that's what the people of Texas want.

We can't condemn indignity and indecency on the one hand, and then use those same tactics to win, and then just promise once we get in power we won't employ that any longer. I think we're done with the means being justified by the end, and we've just got to walk the talk.

Photo Credit: Victor Rodriguez

So whether it's not taking PAC money or going to every county—and we could care less how red or how blue—listening to everyone, inviting everyone in, that's the way that the people of Texas have asked us to run this. We're just trying to be honest to their request, and also the way that it feels right to do this. I'm just very lucky to be a part of it.
Jen: Let's just jump right in this. Let's say that you get elected, and it is the next day. How do you plan to approach your leadership? Who's going to be around you? What are your first priorities?

Beto: I've served in the Congress and the House of Representatives for the last six years, and I am a much better representative for my constituents, those whom I serve and represent, [when they hold] me accountable.

Every month, we hold an open-to-all, no-holds-barred town hall meeting, where anyone and everyone is welcome to come out. You can ask a question, you can offer an idea, but you can also challenge me and you can level a criticism my way.
That healthy fear that exists between me and those who put me in this position of public trust is something that is with me as I vote, as I work on legislation. It's a spur to force me to find a way to work with folks who I may not otherwise agree with—a Republican colleague, for example, or someone from another part of the state or another part of the country.
But I know my constituents won't stand for excuses based on partisanship or any of that other small stuff. We're there to get the job done and to find the common ground that allows us to do that.
So first and foremost, I want to make sure that whether we're in Austin, or Houston, or Comanche—which, I understand, is a part of the state that you're familiar with—or El Paso, where I'm from, we go back now not as a candidate, but as the office holder to listen to those whom we serve and to be kept honest and to be held accountable, so that on any given issue that flows from that, if it's healthcare—we're the least insured state in the country, and we're unfortunately seeing people die of diabetes or the flu, parents anxious about their children who have pre-existing conditions, who are medically complex and medically expensive to care for, wonder if they're still going to have that protection, if their kids are going to be okay—we can use that experience to drive the conversation to get to universal, guaranteed, high-quality healthcare. And it can't be Democrats making that happen. It won't be Republicans, either. It's got to be all of us coming together.

And when we listen to people and listen to the stories of not being able to do that, or listen to communities that have figured out a solution to at least partially achieve that, then I think there we're going to find the answer. If we just don't allow the small stuff, including party, to define us, I don't think there's any stopping us from achieving the big things.

But healthcare, of all the things I've heard in every one of the 254 counties, is the most consistent and the most urgent. Literally, people's lives are on the line. And the kind of lives that we're forcing some people to lead, who may have schizophrenia, for example, in a state where more than four million are uninsured and who may not be able to afford care or treatment and get arrested on purpose to go to the county jail where they can get it, that's just not right. Know that we're better than that.

So these stories will help us to achieve what we want to for one another. And that's certainly a leading issue right now.

Jen: So as a prospective    Texas senator, obviously you're going to be representing, as you've mentioned, all kinds of folks from all across the spectrum. You already do as a representative. And so I understand this. I largely lead a community loosely connected through a faith space. And traditionally, certainly recently, we are often treated as a monolith, as if we have a very pre-set list of values and ideas and we are one cohesive voting block. And it's tricky for those of us who feel outside of those boundaries.

And so, under my umbrella as a leader, I represent a lot of people of faith. Some of them are conservative, like an enormous part of your Texas constituency. Some of them are a little bit more like me, more progressive, we lean that direction. And so I wonder if you just had their ear for just a minute, if you could say a word to my community that . . . let's just say they're a little bit more conservative, that they maybe follow more of the party lines that we've seen in Texas for the last couple of decades, why are you their candidate too, and not just candidate [for those who] are going to vote Democratic this year?

Beto: It's because I want to serve and represent everyone, and will go to everyone to make sure that I understand what our expectations are in common and how we're going to work together to achieve them.

Photo Credit: Brad Tollefson/A-J Media

An example is going to a place like King County. [The] county seat there is Guthrie. We showed up to listen to the people of a community that voted for Donald Trump 95 or 96% in the last election. But regardless of who they voted for last, or who they're likely to vote for next, they're every bit as deserving of our attention, or being heard, of being fought for and represented and served. And the only way I can hope to do that is to show up first and to listen to them.
And anything of any consequence that I've been involved in in United States Congress, it's been made possible by finding common ground with people who are on the other side of the aisle.

I'll give you an example. We were able to significantly expand access to mental healthcare for veterans who have served this country [and] who have an other than honorable discharge, but have been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or traumatic brain injury, but by law were unable to get into a VA and seek care. I wrote a great bill, but that bill wasn't going to get it done unless we could find a Republican colleague with whom we could work. And so Mike Coffman, other side of the aisle, we were able to bury our differences, introduce a consensus piece of legislation, and ultimately get that signed into law by President Trump.

So I think we've been able to demonstrate we'll work with anyone, anytime, anywhere to make this country better. And part of the genius of this country is that that will almost always involve compromise.

Jen: That's right.

Beto: If we allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good, we'll never get anywhere. So I want them to know I'm not running to represent Democrats, and I'm not running to represent Republicans. I'm running to represent Texans. I'm running to represent Americans. I'm running to represent human beings. And no party has a monopoly on those good ideas. And all of us, if we come together, are going to be able to achieve great things for this country.
So I'm running to represent and serve and to work with everyone, including Republicans, including people who may not vote for me on the sixth of November. They’re just as important to the future of this state and this country, so I'm going to be there for them.
Jen: Thank you for that.

Let me swing it around a little bit. My audience is filled with very smart, thoughtful, thinking, intelligent people. And some of them are conservative, like you just so eloquently spoke to, some are a little bit more like me. And we are, what appears to be, a surprising group of Christian voters who are very concerned about racism and white supremacy. We do not want to see any more families separated at the border. We are incredibly concerned about healthcare for all of our neighbors, and we're very compassionate towards our immigrant refugee neighbors, as well. And so, we're always wondering if we have a place. Nobody really talks to us. We don't have a lot of people who ask where we're at and where we're going, and feel somewhat under-represented.

I wonder if you could speak a little bit to us. We're looking in Washington right now. We're trying to make sense of this. Everything feels bananas. I mean, we really do feel the tremors. It feels like our community is fraying at the edges.

And so, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about where you see—and of course you don't speak for all of them, we understand that—but just in your opinion, where do you see the Democratic party going in the next few years? Who do you think is going to make up that electorate? And what are the important issues that the party needs to tackle next?

Beto: Great question. And I'll start with the beginning of your question.
You were talking about communities of faith. I just had a chance to reread the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” from Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. And as you know, that letter is addressed to other pastors and other faith leaders who had been critical of his role in the Montgomery bus boycotts. And he's having this dialogue within that community of faith about what's the best way to be alive and to be part of this democracy and to make sure that we make things better.
It's not lost on me that so many of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement who were able to force those who were in positions of power and public trust to bring forward the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act. These were communities of faith who were living that out and taking some tough political positions, who in some cases were being arrested for having the courage of their convictions. Very often beaten, and some lost their lives in the process.

I think about what's going on in this country right now. Those who have literally borne witness at the border, seeing children taken from their parents. One of the most inhumane and cruel things we can ever visit upon another human being, and this country has done it. But it's also those communities of faith that have helped to facilitate the reunification of these families.

Jen: That's right.

Beto: I think of those at Loretto Chapel and Annunciation House in El Paso that we've been able to work with who've been doing this incredibly important work. You talk about those who are standing up to a resurgent white nationalism and members of the Klan, neo-Nazis marching in the streets of major American cities today. But also marching are those who stand up against that, and for who we know this country to be, and our promise and our hope and our values and what we tell our kids this country is about.

And so, I think in the last part of your question, I don't know what any one party is going to do, or what the rule of party is anymore. I really think that this moment, which I think is a defining moment of truth for us, at least in our generation, this transcends party. And it transcends the differences of geography or race or sexual orientation, or how many generations you've been here. It's about all of us as Americans in the same boat right now wanting to make sure that this country works and answers to its promise, and continues to inspire us and the people of the world who've been looking to us as the example for so long. That's our opportunity. I think I’m called, and those in this campaign, to just make sure that we make the most of this moment and do what we know to be right for this and the generations that follow, because they're counting on us right now.

Jen: That's so good. And I will just add to that one thing that we are looking forward to with hopeful eyes is, we would love—and I would love and hope—to see surrounded around you, ultimately, would be more people for whom we are under-represented. We'd love to see more women around you. We'd love to see more leaders of color and love to see our elected officials look a little bit more like the demographics of the United States. And so we're looking forward to voting in officials who care about that and who care about representation, and who can look sideways and realize, This is only a sliver of our culture, but we are over-represented in the government. And so, that is another one of our hopes and dreams for the future.

Let me ask you two very quick more questions, as you are on your way to Willie and I would never stand in the way of this important night.

Your schedule's insane. The campaign trail, bonkers. I'm just curious—I'm thinking about you and Amy and your kids and the family—who out of your family has just gotten the biggest kick out of this campaign season? And more importantly, what is the best thing that you have eaten on the campaign trail, because food is one of our shared Texas values, if anything is?
Beto: Family—my mom, Melissa O'Rourke, has been a surprise star of the campaign. She has been out there on her own, a volunteer with her most of the time, going town to town and just introducing herself as my mother. But [she’s] also someone who is a lifelong Republican, incredibly devout herself, and talking about her values and how they're reflected in this campaign. And my mom's kind of a shy person and not the most gregarious outspoken person, and yet she's putting whatever shyness or fear she has about doing that aside and just getting after it. She's been wonderful. And then Amy and Ulysses and Molly and Henry have been on the trail with us a bunch.
Food—we had the best fried pies ever in Gainesville, which is in Cooke County. And I forget the name of the place, but you'll know it. It's the fried pie place. And I had a fried apple pie.

Jen: The one.

Beto: And it was just glorious. And then for barbecue, I know this is a controversial thing to bring up.

Jen: Sure, be careful.

Beto: In Tyler, Texas, Stanley's BBQ is just phenomenal.

Jen: It is. I've had it.

Beto: It's the best I've had in Texas, and we've had a lot of really good barbecue in a lot of different parts. So those are two food memories that stand out, for sure.

Jen: That's fabulous. Well, if nothing else, Texas will keep you well-fed on the trail. I mean, you will never lack for calories. And so, good on us.

Last question, and I'm so grateful for your time. This is a question I actually ask all of my guests on the podcast, and I cannot claim credit for it. That goes to author Barbara Brown Taylor. But this is her question, and right now this can be as serious and sober or as silly and frivolous as you want it to be. But it's this: what is saving your life right now?

Beto: Oh, wow.

Jen: I know.

Beto: I tell you, it's really pertinent because this experience has pushed us (I say “us.” Everyone on the campaign—my family, me, everyone who's putting their heart into this) to our very limits physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, you name it.

And so, for me, that's my family. When Amy and I are connected, even if we're a thousand miles apart but we're able to connect on the phone, and that doesn't always happen. Sometimes we aren't able to make that connection. You know how that is. Your spouse is doing homework.

Jen: I do.

Beto: Or is fried at the end of a tough day, or you're in a different place.

But when we connect, that's the most powerfully positive thing in my life, and it's all the energy that I need. I can go without sleep, and may not be eating the best food in the world all the time in terms of being healthy. But if we've got that connection, then I'm strong.

The thing Amy and I keep talking about is, we've been at this for the better part of two years now, and here we are 38 days to go. We've made it this far, and we've just got to stay focused on the goal and giving it all we got.

Jen: That's right.
Beto: And knowing at the end of this, we're going to be together. Whether we win, whether we lose, whether it's a draw, as a family, we're going to be together. And that's the most important thing. Really, that was the impetus for our decision was, What's best for our family? And how do we answer to our kids what we've done, what we've failed to do in this year? We have a responsibility to them.
And so that's the answer to a really, really good question. Something I've been thinking about a lot lately.

Jen: I love it. I love it. We salute Amy and your kids, and all the spouses and families of the folks on the campaign trail right now. They just deserve honor and respect. And so we send her and your kids our love as well.

Can you just lastly tell everybody where they can find you, if they want more information, more specific stuff about your policies and all that?

Beto: Well, thank you for having us on. This is a huge honor to be able to do this, and love the questions that you asked and the things that you're talking about right now.

Jen: Thank you.

Beto: They're just the most important that we can be focused on.

If anyone's interested in finding out more, betofortexas.com is our website. And we're also famous for live streaming almost everything we do on Facebook. And so if you want to hear what we said in Comanche, if you want to hear what we're going to say tonight in Austin, you can just follow us on Facebook and see that live, comment in, and be part of this extraordinary campaign of people all across Texas.

Jen: Perfect.

Representative Beto O'Rourke, we are grateful for you, for your family. We're thankful for your time. We're cheering you on as you're almost at the finish line. And it's just been a joy and refreshment to watch you, so thank you again for being on the show today.

Beto: Thank you so much. Big honor. Grateful.

Jen: Have fun at Willie tonight.

Beto: I will. Absolutely.

Jen: Bye.

Beto: Bye-bye.
PART 2: COMMENTARY WITH BETH & SARAH OF THE PANTSUIT POLITICS PODCAST
Jen: Okay, everybody. Welcome back to the second half of our surprise special episode.

If you remember, at the top of the show, I told you we were going to download my Beto conversation and some of his talking points and more with the ladies from the Pantsuit Politics podcast. And I mean, I love these girls.

This isn't necessarily, by the way, a Texas specific conversation. I want to make sure to point that out. There are midterm elections going on across the entire nation, and this is kind of a microcosm of what's going on in your own neighborhood. So yes, I want to shed some light on this candidate and his policies from a few different angles because, quite frankly, we need to figure out how to vet all of our candidates, from multiple point of views. So that helps us become more educated and informed voters. I think this is a really healthy exercise, actually, to think about what people are saying, and the nuances of it all and the repercussions.

If you are not familiar with Pantsuit Politics—which I know a ton of you are, of course—you're going to be really pleased to know that this is a bipartisan podcast. And it's hosted by Sarah from the left and Beth from the right. And their mantra is “No shouting, no insults, plenty of nuance.” So can we just say glory, hallelujah?

Every Tuesday and Friday, Sarah and Beth hash out what's going on in the news. And they concentrate on listening to the other host first and talking politics second, because of course on the other side of any conversation, on the other side of the aisle, if you will, is a human being. And we should not forget that.

People all around the world have taken notice of Sarah and Beth's approach to politics because it's so refreshing. It is so decent and respectable. In fact, The Guardian named Pantsuit Politics one of the best podcasts of 2017. Pretty big freaking deal. They've been featured in Elle, Bustle, Parents Magazine and so much more.

They actually have a book coming out in February, and listen to the title: I Think You Are Wrong (But I'm Still Listening). I love these girls.
Sarah and Beth are actually real life friends, and they're not afraid to talk about hard things and come away with different conclusions. And . . . the end. They're are each so very smart. Sarah serves on the city commission in Paducah, Kentucky. Beth is a lawyer who now operates her life and business coaching practice near Cincinnati. And so they each deeply love their families, deeply love their neighborhoods, and they agree and disagree with each other, and they are okay with it. They set a really great example for the rest of us.
Nobody better to discuss midterms, and elections, and voting in this political environment, and how do we operate as concerned and invested citizens—nobody better than Sarah and Beth. These are the two girls I wanted by my side to build this episode out with.

I think you're going to love this conversation, no matter who you are, no matter what sort of value you bring to the table, ideology you bring to the table. This conversation is really, really refreshing. And I can't wait for you to listen to it.

So this is, again, not just about Texas, it's about your state too. So help me welcome Sarah and Beth to the show.
Okay. Two of my favorite girls, Sarah and Beth, welcome to the For the Love Podcast. I'm so happy you're here.

Sarah: We're so happy to be here.

Beth: I'm going to add “Jen Hatmaker's favorite girl” to my Instagram profile.

Jen: New bio.

Sarah: To her Twitter handle.

Jen: Oh, you know that I'm so into you both. I love each of you, and I love what you do and I love how you do it. I absolutely applaud the energy and example that you are putting into the political space right now. It is so needed. You are such important leaders here. Watching you host calm and nuanced dialogue around really tough issues is a wonder right now. It spills like rare air, so thank you in advance for putting what you're putting out into the world. It's important and it's needed. I respect so much, and I'm so happy you're on the show.

Sarah: Thank you for having us.

Beth: We are so happy. Thank you. We are able to do a lot because of all the things that we learn from you all the time.

Jen: You're just being nice now. And I don't care. I'm going to accept it, I'm going to receive it, and I will not debate it.

Just real quick—with your voices, so my listeners know, will you tell which one of you is which so they know how to listen for whom?

Sarah: I am Sarah from the left.

Beth: And I am Beth from the right. And Sarah has a little bit more of a Kentucky accent than I do, and I found like Delicious Dish from NPR, if you remember at all that Saturday Night Live skit.

Jen: Boom! Fantastic.
Okay, having said that, so I've told my audience a little bit about what you guys do with your podcast, and how you hold conversations that very thoughtfully represent both sides of the fence. At this point, you’ve both had a chance to listen to my interview with Representative O'Rourke. And just for brevity's sake, because that is a mouthful, we're just going to call him Beto from here on out. I think he would approve.
First of all, I'd love to just get some general thoughts from each of you about what you thought about what Beto had to say. I know it wasn't a long interview, but some of the things that we discussed are really important issues to all of us: racial tensions, immigration and such, healthcare.

I find myself sort of engaged on the periphery, via the podcast, with some amazing guests who do work in all of these areas. But this is the first time that we have ever very deliberately brought politics specifically or a politician onto the show. So it's just a little bit of new territory for us, even though it's old familiar ground for you.

You guys probably know, my tribe, as does yours, comes from all ends of the spectrum. As I mentioned in the interview with Beto, a lot of them come from faith-based perspectives, really all over the map. Some of them probably skew my direction, meaning that some of the ways we've come to think about the world and policies and politics defect, if you will, from a political affiliations that we used to hold. Sometimes we don't really know where we land. We don't really know where we fit. I'm not really sure who represents us or where we belong.

But I really love that you two can address what was said here from both ends of the spectrum. And as we think about how important it all is, despite the political exhaustion we are all experiencing, that we do still get to raise our voice for what we believe in, and that we still get to use our right to vote, which is so monumental and we'll talk about that, and that we get to get behind people who might be able to make a difference.

So that was a mouthful. Who wants to go first?

Sarah: I'll go first.

Jen: Okay.
Sarah: I think that what I really loved about [Beto’s] interview is I felt like he was over and over orienting himself with this very Texas constituent focus. Over and over again, he was saying, you know, "I'm driven by what Texans are telling me. And when I'm up there, I'm going to be held by what Texans are telling me, and showing me in my experience.” I felt like that was his sort of north star.

In the past, as someone who's been involved in politics for a long time, the idea that you wanted to represent everyone would be kind of a throwaway line, right? Everyone says that. "Oh, once I'm elected, I'm going to represent everybody." That was just a thing that everybody said, but it's not really true anymore. And that's not just sort of a throwaway line everybody says anymore.

I have been in meetings with people when they've said, "Well, we really want to steer resources to those who voted for us." And I think that you hear it a lot in some other national politicians. This idea that, "Oh no, no, no. I'm here for my team. I'm here to show up big for my team. When you're voting for me, you're voting for the strongest advocate for our side."

And so, it's refreshing now to hear someone say, "I want to represent everyone. I want to show up for everyone." And I think that's so, so refreshing.
Jen: What do you think, Beth?

Beth: I thought it was a really important conversation, particularly for Beto's campaign as it relates to conservatives like me, who are conservative but not thrilled with what's happening in our national politics right now.

Jen: Is that the title of your new book, Conservative But Not Thrilled?

Sarah: That's really a new party. That's a party.

Beth: That is party. I love that.

Jen: Yeah, it's a party. Yes it is.

Beth: There are a lot of us.

Jen: That's right.

Beth: What I mean by that, I think, and I feel like I'm going to do the thing where you can talk about your family, but other people can't right now.

Jen: Got it.

Beth: I think one of the things that conservatives culturally bristle at are politicians who feel like celebrities. I think that's why that ad about President Obama, when he ran against John McCain, about him being the biggest celebrity in the world was pretty effective on my side of the aisle, because we don't really like that sort of slick Hollywood feel. And a lot of how Beto is represented in the national media has that “Look at the giant crowd, people are in love with him, he's kind of this hunky guy” vibe that is off-putting on some kind of . . . I don't know what it is in our wiring, but there've been a lot of studies about the psychological differences between conservatives and progressives, and I think this is one of those things. It just hits a button.

And I thought your conversation with him was so helpful because he was just a guy talking to Jen Hatmaker, instead of on a stage in front of 55,000 people. Now I can hear him a little bit differently, and I can think about him as a person who loves his family, who's doing his best for his country, who has his feet on the ground.

I thought your last question to him was such a good one. When you talked about if they lose this race, they'll know they did their best and they did right by their children. And I thought that he answered your questions directly, and that's something we're really missing across the spectrum.

So even where I disagree, if I know where he stands and he's willing to say yes or no to a yes-or-no question, that's a big deal to me.
Jen: Me too. I agree with you. My eyes start getting glazed over when I'm listening to any either candidate or politician who lapses into “politaspeak.” You know, it's just, it's the phraseology and the terms and the buzzwords, and I mean, I just check out.

I think a lot of us are leaning and hoping for some sincerity. I don't know if we're even allowed to say that in politics, but we sense it. It's hard to know, for sure. We can't burrow down into people's actual intentions, but we do sense it one way or another, I think, to your point.

Let's dive a little deeper. So you've kind of given us the topline view of this conversation. Beto has been pretty clear about what his top three issues are here in Texas.

I'd like to hear what you both think about the top three planks of his platform, your general thoughts on how these issues have been addressed on a more global scale in our country, if you will—a more national scale, I guess—and how you think they should be addressed going forward.
So high level, his three key things. Number one, jobs. He's concerned about unemployment and underemployment of Texans and is interested in bringing more high value jobs to Texas and the pipeline there ensuring that Texas had the education and the training to fill them. So jobs.

Number two, universal healthcare, which we're really going to unpack here in a sec. He thinks this is a basic human right, and would like to achieve universal healthcare for Texas, whether a single payer or dual healthcare system will get us there.
And then number three, immigration reform, which obviously affects our state specifically here on the border. He believes in granting—and I think he's made this clear—Dreamers an immediate pathway to citizenship. And his position is that giving citizenship to Dreamers would add hundreds of millions of dollars to our bottom line instead of deportation, which would detract.

So my first question to you, and then we'll drill down, is which of these do you think is most achievable in Texas, or even in America? Do you think one of these rises to the top as possible?
Beth: I see jobs as the most achievable arm because that is a common interest. Regardless of party, I think everyone agrees that we want a robust economy. And I think that we are arriving at some consensus that we have to measure a robust economy beyond the stock market performance.

Jen: That's good.

Beth: And so I think that where Beto is focused especially on education and job training and bringing better companies into Texas with more opportunities for a diverse labor workforce in terms of skill set, I think that's really possible both in Texas and across the country if we use smart policies.

Jen: Good point, Beth, and I think you're right. We can agree on this. This is something everybody wants to see.

What do you think, Sarah?

Sarah: You know, here's my really honest assessment, even with regards to all three on what's achievable. I'm not just saying this as a Democrat, but the more people like Beto we elect—and by that I mean people who are in jurisdictions that either Senate, Congress, whatever in which they're not representing an overwhelming majority of people who feel the same way they do. You know what I mean? The more Democrats in red states, and you know I really wish there were more moderate conservatives being elected in liberal states. We don't see that as much—but the more of those people we elect like him, the more chance we have of achieving anything on all three of those, because you know the people you are going to come to the party and say, "I don't want to just toe the party line. I want to get something achievable.”

Actually, you saw that on immigration with more moderate Republicans in liberal districts. They were a big part of the people pushing just for some of those bills he was talking about.

Jen: That's true.

Sarah: When you get in the Congress, that's what you need. You see it right now with [Rocky] Raczkowski and [Chris] Collins. It's moderates in the middle going . . . everybody's lobbying them, and the people who have to go back to a district in which everybody is not hardcore one way or the other to say, "Okay, I really looked at this. I tried to take away the best of both sides, and here's where we settled." Those are the people we need there.

We don't need ideologues on each side, pitching their tents and not talking to each other, which is a little bit of where we are right now.

Jen: It is, girls, and this is so complicated. Just this morning I was watching the news and I was watching Jeff Flake say . . . the question was put to him, "Could you be, essentially, a potential moderate on this specific thing, if you were not running for reelection?" And he said no.

Sarah: Absolutely not.

Jen: He said, "There is no longer any incentive built into bipartisanship. We are no longer rewarded for there. In fact, it's punished."
This is true on both sides of the aisle. And I do not know the answer to this because I hear what you are saying, Sarah, that we need these really reasonable, moderate leaders who are able to work across the aisle and to consider and to flex a little bit. And yet, I think the truth of the system is that that person is unwelcome right now in our climate. Do you think that's true?

Because also, well, you said it a minute ago, Beth. There's a lot of people that are moderate. A lot of us. There's a big voting block that is not so hunkered down into the farthest 10% on either side. We exist, but I wonder if moderate voters are enough to overcome the inherent disadvantages to being a moderate politician in D.C.

Beth: Well, I think the clarion call has to be that moderates must show up. We have to be passionate moderates.

So, for too long, I think if you are politically moderate, it has also meant, "I'm disgusted by all of this, and I'm gonna sit it out."

Jen: Great point.

Beth: We can be passionate about being moderate and be as politically engaged as people who are passionate about their specific issues. But the proof is in the data.
If you look at states like Massachusetts, where you have a Republican governor of a blue state, the results are exactly as Sarah described. It is a prosperous scenario when we have a divided government full of people willing to cooperate with one another. We've forgotten that in our Congressional districts.
Jen: You make a really, really good point. Even in my own head, when I hear the word moderate, I either think . . . well, I mostly think “checked out.” That's what I think. Well, I think that's the group of us who are like, Oh, what difference does it make? We're just gonna throw in the towel. I really appreciate your leadership on that.

Let me ask you guys to help us unpack this, speaking specifically about healthcare. There is a lot of jargon flying around about different parts of universal healthcare and what that means. And I'm not sure any of us understand all of it, and we attach assumptions to it, too, which makes the conversation derail even more.

Beto talked about funding universal healthcare through either a single-payer or dual-healthcare system. Can you talk about what each of those mean, and how would each of those affect our wallets?

Sarah: I think the best place to start is exactly where Beto does, which is universal healthcare as fundamental human right, just a fundamental right. If we can orient ourselves that way and then think, Okay, well, what are our best options funding wise and quality of care wise?
Not surprisingly, I agree with Beto. I think that you have a universal care . . . it's becoming often known as “Medicare for all.” So we just open it up and everybody can get into the government system, as opposed to having a dual system, where you have some people who can get into the government system and some people who stay on employer-based healthcare.
The more conversations we have about healthcare on Pantsuit Politics—and not just with regards to funding, but with regards to the quality of care, with regards to the values that we often are operating based on with regards to healthcare choices, and I think Beth will agree with me—we don't really love employer-based healthcare. We think it creates more problems. This isn't about whether you think the government is the absolute best way to deal with this.

Beth likes a lot of options where we have the marketplace, but everybody's forced into the marketplace, as opposed to if we open up Medicare for everybody. So there's lots of options here. We just don't love the employer-based model, personally, at Pantsuit Politics.

Jen: Yeah.

Beth: What I would say about that, when you talk about how these affect our wallets, it really depends on whose wallet we're discussing.

Jen: Great point.

Beth: And which system we end up in, and what we're really talking about.

So I agree with Beto that universal healthcare is a right. What I don't agree with is that universal health insurance is a fundamental right, and I think that's a distinction that gets missed sometimes in these conversations.

But, as Sarah said, a single-payer system would be something like Medicaid for everybody, so we have one health insurance system for all people.

In a dual system, you would have one very basic option for everybody, and then you could buy up. You could buy another policy that adds layers to the types of coverage that you're getting, which is done in different countries in lots of different ways. So the modeling of that would be very important. And in a country like the United States, which is very different than a small European country, for example—Texas alone would be very different.

Sarah: It's like a small European country.

Jen: Right. It sure is.

Beth: You would really have to think through what that two-track option looks like, and even what the Medicaid-for-all system looks like. How is that really gonna be effectively administered?

What I think about when we think about our tax dollars is that there are all kinds of costs associated with healthcare, and we're all sharing them, whether we like it or not. Under some scenario, we are always gonna have people with severe illnesses that, somehow, we all must shoulder the burden of helping pay for their care. That can look like poverty that we have to start coming in on, because people can't afford those choices. It can look like hospital utilization, where prices are driven up because we are providing care to those folks and they can't pay for it themselves.

We are all sharing the cost of some care, no matter what. And I would argue that's a value. As an American, as a conservative, I value knowing we are not going to leave anyone untreated, no matter how serious the illness, because they can't afford an insurance plan that treats them adequately.

The question is who are you paying and for what? The reason I don't like employer-sponsored health plans is because it takes the customer number down so far that it gives insurance companies a lot more power. So instead of having 7,000 individual employees of a major company as clients for the insurance company, they have one.

Jen: I see what you mean.

Beth: [If] they make the HR people happy, they're done. It increases their power, and you just keep stacking that up.

I think our government has gone in the wrong direction in continuing to require and subsidize, through tax breaks, employer-sponsored healthcare. I wouldn't go as far as Beto goes in the direction of Medicaid for all. That troubles me just on an efficiency and administration level.

I also think, though, on healthcare, at some point, we're gonna have to learn how to disagree and commit, because pulling it apart and having it constantly be in flux based on who got elected when is really destabilizing for the entire system.

Jen: Yes, it is.

Beth: We need to get to a place and just say, "This is not what all of us want, but we are committed to it. And we are gonna let it even out and give it an opportunity to work."

Sarah: And destabilizing in a situation where our lives or our children's lives or our day-to-day wellbeing is on the line, which is the worst possible environment in which to be in this destabilized place.

Beth: It's expensive, too. It costs us a lot of money when we're changing things all the time.

Jen: That's right. That is so right. Those are really interesting and good points and worth understanding as we engage what is a really high-level conversation in this country and matters to literally all of us.
Let's turn a little bit and talk about that third leg there: immigration, which is obviously hot, hot, hot.

As he has said, specifically coming back to this interview, Beto doesn't believe in building the wall. His approach is better security in our points of entry. According to him, he wants to ensure there's more legitimate trade travel through our ports of entry, and that we know exactly what and who is coming in and out of our borders.
This is obviously a very contentious conversation, especially here in Texas.

What do you think? Is this doable? I'd love to hear your thoughts on immigration reform.

Sarah: Well, I'll say that, just as an American who . . . I'm a Kentucky girl. I'm waking up in a lot of ways to the immigration debate as the rest of America is, and Lord knows that's not the situation in Texas. Y'all have been awake for a long time.

Watching the debate in this particular election is almost like an immigration education for the rest of the country. I wanna hear people running for office in Texas debate this.

Jen: Great point.

Sarah: I wanna hear people where the stakes are very high talking about this issue because, for better or for worse, it is an issue that is incredibly . . . it can be an emotional flashpoint anywhere in the country, even in areas where they do not have on-the-ground concerns with immigration, and because it's so emotional, the complexities and the actual logistics of the debate get lost.

I think hearing the debate from this state, in particular, is so good just for the rest of us on this issue because I think we all do. Even if you don't live in a border state, this issue is driving our national politics in emotional ways and in actual realistic impact ways. We have all got to start waking up and paying attention to this issue, because if we are going to get anything accomplished, it has to be an issue that every single American prioritizes, whether or not they live in a border state, whether or not they are immigrants or know immigrants. This is affecting us all at this point, and we have got to recognize that.
Jen: Beth?

Beth: I think that Congressman Will Hurd, a Republican who I know has a great relationship with Beto in Texas, has been very smart on this issue in trying to explain that we don't solve immigration solely on our side of the border. That we must invest in the root causes, especially of refugees, which means right now that we've got to look at Nicaragua and Guatemala and Honduras and countries where people are fleeing for their lives.

I know that a lot of Americans don't want to spend money on foreign aid, and I get it. But we can be mad at our geography all we want to—we are where those folks have a place to go. We are going to absorb the cost of an immigration system, no matter what. We're better off, I think in the long run, investing in greater foreign aid to try and make those countries places where people can live and raise their families, instead of having all this pressure, especially on the Texas border.

Jen: I couldn't agree with you more. As somebody who in our faith work has worked extensively with refugees and the organizations that work with them, too, the truth is what virtually all refugees would prefer is a healthy homeland that they could live in.

Beth: Absolutely.

Jen: That's what they'd prefer. They want to be with their families and their neighbors in their country. Those are their roots.

I think we're operating, weirdly, on the same side of the table on that particular conversation with the refugee community. That's a tough sell, investing in stabilizing factors in their countries of origin, but I agree with you.

Sarah: Let me say this really quick.

Jen: Oh, please. Jump in.

Sarah: I think why I'm so confused as to why this is a tough sell on so many levels is sweeping in another controversial topic with regards to trade. You see that in our own country.

I was reading an article about NAFTA and how there's this traditional knowledge that, once we did these trade deals, Yeah, there's a real chance that factories could be shut down across the country and that jobs would be redistributed, but people will just move to where there are jobs.

Okay, y'all, people want to be in their homes. So it takes really extreme situations to force people out of their homes. You can see that because so many places in America, you see people who stayed, even though the economic situation was really difficult. It takes lot to push people out. You can see how dire the situation got, but Americans stayed because they want to be in their home.

So it's not like we can't see these pushes and pulls, economically and with regards to refugees, even. I would use that word. I think there are economic refugees. American citizens are economic refugees. You can see that play out in our own country. You don't have to work with international refugees to understand what people are talking about.

Jen: I like that.

Back to Beth's point: however you wanna slice it, ultimately, I think it's financially conservative, it's fiscally conservative that we're gonna absorb the cost front-end or back-end. So if we wanna look at really what's effective, not just what's a popular either talking point or basic ideology, we might pound-for-pound discover that investing in the stabilization of countries where people are just fleeing and flying out the door to find some stability elsewhere is actually more effective cost wise, at the end of the day.

Beth: Here's what I don't—

Jen: I'd be . . . yeah, go ahead.

Beth: Here's what I think the hard thing is about people investing in foreign aid: I think because we so appreciate and love and revere our law enforcement communities, we forget that law enforcement has a cost. We understand that foreign aid has a cost. We look at foreign aid and think, Oh, those are dollars directly out the door. They're not giving Americans jobs. They're not gonna show up in people who look like our heroes. We understand that cost differently than we understand the cost of law enforcement.

But the truth is, it is a much lower price tag than the cost of law enforcement to deal with an immigration system that's been overrun.

Jen: That is a really interesting point. I've never heard anybody say that specifically because you're right. We understand those costs differently. We assign different value to them.

Beth: We really do.

Jen: That is really . . . I'm gonna chew on that.
So, you guys bring a lot of expertise to these conversations, and I'm grateful for it. So I wonder if I can ask you another question.

Let's talk a little bit about PAC money. We understand this or don't understand this to varying degrees. I think this is obviously a big part of Beto's campaign, which, at least here in Texas, makes him a different candidate from others.

If you can indulge me to this transcript, this is what a PAC is in Beto's words that he said on Bill Maher in March earlier this year. This is what he said, and then I'd like to hear your thoughts on it:
"A PAC represents the corporations and interests that have business before Congress. So the pharmaceutical industries, the telecom industries, the energy industries, the insurance industries, and they give money to members of Congress, not just for access, although that's part of it. They're also buying outcomes and legislative language that appears in the bills, and the bills that become laws. So, when you wonder why Congress is so dysfunctional, why it doesn't represent the people it purports to serve, it's because it's so tied to the sources of money that is coming in. It is those corporations, it is why pharmaceutical prices continue to rise. It's why we're the least insured country in the developed world. It's why we're missing out on so many great opportunities to do the big, important, ambitious work before us, and for Dems especially, it's not enough to decry Citizens United and say that all this big money sloshing through the halls of Congress is bad. We've gotta start walking the talk. So, in this campaign, we have out-raised the opponent by well more than a million dollars without taking a dime from PACs. All people, human beings."

So that was his take on PACs.
Does this fall in line with your definition of a PAC or your sense of a PAC? Do you think PACs have contributed to this polarized political environment out here? And then finally on that, to both of you, do you know, is there any other candidate like this out there somewhere else, some other state, who's taking money just solely from the people and not even a politically party or any PACs? Whoever wants to jump in.

Beth: I will start if that's okay, Sarah, and make sure that we level set on some definitions if that's okay, Jen.

Jen: Yep, do it. I wanna hear it.

Beth: So a big, buzzy term right now among Democrats across the country is “corporate PACs,” where people are saying, "I'm not gonna take any money from corporate PACs," and that's really what the quote that you read from Beto describes. The pharmaceutical industry.

Corporate PACs are associations where money from employees from corporations comes in, and it does come from the employees. It doesn't come from the corporation’s bank account. It comes from employees in corporations and then gets pooled. Those corporate PACs, like political action committees consisting of organized labor, there are political action committees involved with unions, and there are ideological political action committees.

So, corporate ideological labor all have a limit of spending $5,000 per candidate per race.

There is another layer here called “super PACs,” which can spend unlimited amounts of money, but they can't contribute that directly to candidates. So that's issue advertising, not candidate advertising, and it's very confusing and very gray.

185 Democrats across the country have pledged not to accept money from corporate PACs this year. It spans all of the Democratic party spectrum. So you have Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York who's much more aligned with the very progressive wing of the party, and then you have moderates like Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania.

The entire Democratic party is pretty on board with not taking corporate PAC money. The thing about that is it's fairly symbolic. So folks who aren't already incumbents usually don't get any corporate PAC money.

Jen: Anyway.

Beth: It's a very small percentage of what incumbents get because of that $5,000 limit.

Beto is out ahead of folks here because he's saying, "I'm not taking money from any PACs. So even labor and ideological PACs, I'm not gonna have their money come in."
There has been a little bit of campaign finance innovation with PACs because they understand this sentiment. Now some PACs—

Jen: They need to rebrand a little bit.

Beth: They're rebranding a little bit, and they're even functionally changing because some PACs are now collecting money from members and then redistributing that money among its members to donate individually to campaigns.

Jen: It's like a side door.

Beth: Exactly, exactly.

One candidate that we talked to on Pantsuit Politics who is just taking a step farther even is Tiffany Bond in Maine. She's an independent running for Congress. She's not taking contributions at all.

Jen: Wow.

Beth: She has asked people to shop in Maine, to donate to nonprofits in Maine, and just tell people, "I'm doing this to support Tiffany Bond's campaign."

Jen: Wow.

Beth: She says, "Put your money back into my community, and let people get excited about me as someone who cares about our community."

Jen: Pretty remarkable.

Beth: That's the fullest extension of this that I've seen, yes.

Jen: I mean, how is she affording her campaign? It's so expensive and costly to campaign.

Beth: She's just not doing a lot of it. She's really counting on earned media, social media, and that word of mouth. Because, as she says, if somebody spends $50 dollars at a local Maine artisan's business and says they did it for me, that's worth more than a $150 donation to my campaign in terms of loyalty.

Jen: That's interesting. That'll be interesting to watch.

Beth: Absolutely.

Sarah: Here's what I think. I think that you have what everything that Beth sort of walked through. You have the logistical, pragmatic realities of PACs and PAC contributions, and all that's very important.

I think you also, as is often the case in politics, we are talking about a reality and then we are having an emotional conversation. We are having an emotional conversation in this country about politics and money, and we need to acknowledge that.

I think that what is smart about any candidate, and there are some Republicans as well who are not taking PAC money, is they are saying, “Emotionally, it's not authentic to have this conversation about politics and money.” And we all know money's the problem in politics without changing, even on a symbolic level, the way we interact with money in politics. You can't have it both ways.

So if you're going to have an emotionally authentic conversation about this, then I need to have something to back that up with. And you saw that. We've been having this conversation for a while. This isn't the first election we've talked about this. We saw it with Obama, and you saw it with Bernie. And you saw it all with all these people were saying, “Look how many . . .” and now it's become a source of pride that candidates spout, “[Look at] how many individual donations I got,” and fueled by individual people.

We're trying to have a conversation about this. Rightly so, because I think everyone recognizes something is wrong. I think until you start to see it in these campaigns themselves, and you see a real conversation and you see people setting themselves apart, like Beto has, as, “I'm gonna do this differently.”

You know what it really reminds me of? Not to put on my historian hat, but like back in the early 1900s when I think—my timeframe may be off—but when they were trying to change the way senators were elected. This is probably really relevant because we're talking about a senate race, that they didn't used to elect them through the popular vote. It was the state senators, I think, who elected them.

What they finally had to do, because nobody was gonna willingly give up their power, they had to get candidates to [say,] “We're not gonna support you unless you sign this pledge to change the way we elect United States Senators.” They just did it candidate by candidate by candidate, and it started to be something like you weren't gonna get any further until you committed to this particular issue.

That feels similar to me the way we're talking about money. Within a certain wing in the Progressive Party, in the Democratic Party already, if you're not gonna commit to this, you're not taking a step further. Especially when you want to change so intrinsic and essentially to the way the system runs itself, it's gonna have to come from candidates almost before anything else.
Jen: I'm curious both of your opinion here, because it feels a teeny bit helpless watching in from the outside, knowing that, really any way you slice it, big campaigns—certainly at the national level, but really at the state level, too—the spoils go to the victors, in that you either pretty much, more or less, have to be already wealthy or already positioned. If somehow you're positioned well enough that you can kind of skirt it and lay down some new tracks, and then we look at no term limits.

Here's my question. I'm curious [about] your personal opinions on and how you see some paver stones out of the system that we have, which is expensive, eternal . . . I have very strong opinions about how long we should let our campaign seasons last. I think we're just emotionally . . . we have PTSD. I think it's really bad on our collective psyche. We can only handle so much of this.

If you had your druthers, if you guys were in charge, if you wanted to overhaul our campaign season and reform the way we receive our elected officials and vote them in, what would you say?

Sarah: Beth, you want to start?

Beth: Sure.

The first thing that I would do is change the term of the House of Representatives. Because right now, representatives—and this is gonna go in the opposite direction of what most people expect me to say, I think—but right now, our representatives have to run every two years, which means they are really running for the next cycle as they begin the first one.

Sarah: Let me say, as an elected official serving two-year terms, it's truly, truly terrible.

Jen: Oh, it has to be.

Sarah: It's awful.

Jen: It has to be. You don't even have one minute to govern and you are already firing the engine back up again.

Beth: I think that's right. And I think that we need to give people time to learn some things, to settle in, and to establish a record that involves them doing something other than fundraising for the next campaign. That's the first thing I would do. I would take the House of Representatives to four-year terms instead of two.

Jen: Okay, good.

Beth: I don't know how I feel about term limits. I go back and forth on this issue all the time. In theory, it sounds good to me. I worry about losing institutional knowledge and expertise. There are people who I think do a really nice job.

Jen: That's fair.

Beth: Who have learned a lot, and we still have . . . as voters, we can impose terms limits when it's time. We can make those individual judgements—we just don't often.

And I think that there other ways to provide more accountability. I would like to see something like “no budget, no pay,” where we tell Congress, "You are accountable to do the job you are elected to do, and we are not gonna pay you when you don't do it."

Jen: Interesting.

Beth: I think that there are other levers that we could use instead of just an artificial “three terms, four terms and you're done” type system.

Sarah: Yeah, because when you look at some studies on places where they've instituted term limits, it's not like you see a vast difference.

Now, I am willing to even entertain the idea of age limits, particularly in the Senate. I think we've got a problem there.

Jen: Interesting. What do you mean, specifically?

Sarah: I mean it's not that I want to be ageist. I don't. But I don't know, if your six-year Senate term is gonna take you deep into your late-80s, if that's good idea. I would like to see the statistics. Because I know, ever since I worked in the Senate, there have been several senators that have died in office. I'm not talking tragically of some sort of . . . not unexpectedly. They were very—

Jen: Yeah, like of old age.

Sarah: Yeah, of old age. Long-lived lives. I just think that that is a problem. We talk a lot about identity politics and how it doesn't look like America up there, and the age population is one of them. The distribution is not reflective of the distribution of ages across our nation, that's for sure.

Beth: Can I offer—

Sarah: Another thing I say is . . . go ahead, Beth.

Beth: I was just gonna say, can I offer a different solution to an age cap?

Jen: Sure.

Beth: I think it would be a good thing to have some kind of process, in addition to voting, by which candidates are vetted. So let's elect our people as we do now, and then let's have them take the kind of exam that we ask officers in the military to take, for example. Just to assess competence, to assess vulnerability to blackmail from foreign sources. There are lots of things that we ask all kinds of men and women in our government across America to do that we don't ask of our elected officials.

I think there's a way to get to some of the concerns we have about people who have been in Congress for 40, 50 years, without setting just an age limit. Because there are people who are in their 70s who are unbelievably competent and technologically savvy and understand this world very well, and I would hate to just lose those people because of an artificial cap. But I think assessing some of those factors for people of all ages would benefit us.

Jen: That's interesting. That's a really good point.

Sarah: Here's something else I just want everyone to really do some hard thinking about: literally it is our God-given right as Americans to complain about Congress, and we exercise it passionately.

Everybody wants to complain about Congress. But incumbency—not party, not location, not age, not even gender—incumbency is the most powerful thing you have working in your favor. We all need to really think about that and have some self-reflection and self-awareness that, if we're so unhappy with the system, why does being a previous participant in the system help you more than anything else?

Jen: That's good. You know what? Along this line of thinking that you've opened up: in elections, really, on both sides of the aisle, there is always big, big, big talk of change, change, change and the cry to stop voting for Washington insiders. Everybody says that. That's the new thing. That's the new line. That has a lot of attraction to it. It has a lot of pizzazz. It dazzles little bit.
I wonder what your take is on the validity of these messages, like, "No more Washington insiders," to your point. Do you think we lose by voting in folks over and over again who very staunchly toe their party line, who don't necessarily adopt any nuances to bridge the gaps between us all and between them and their colleagues in Washington? What do you think happens when we start voting in new faces, especially if we vote in some who aren't as tied to corporate interests or huge party money? What do you think about that? How do you think that actually fleshes out?

Sarah: You wanna go, Beth?

Beth: No, go ahead, Sarah.

Sarah: I think the first thing I'd like to say, as someone who used to work in the United States Senate, is most people who work in Washington, D.C. and those insiders are American citizens, just like members of the media are American citizens. And I would just appreciate it, on a spiritual level, if we would all stop villainizing one group as the sole source of all our problems. It's not helpful, y'all, so just stop.

Jen: It's not helpful and you're right.

Sarah: It's not helpful. But I understand, again, there's the pragmatic reality of, yes, they're American citizens. Most people are working hard and doing the best they could. And then there's the emotional conversation we're having. And what people are saying when they're villainizing Washington insiders or lobbyists or wanting to “drain the swamp” is that they don't feel represented in the system, and I understand that. People don't feel represented. They don't feel heard. The some of the exact issues Beto talks about, particularly underemployment—when people who don't feel like the economy works for them, they are gonna direct a lot of their anger towards Washington, D.C.

Jen: Great point.

Sarah: I don't think that should be the only place that you direct your anger, but I think that that's not undeserved.

It's hard. It's a hard conversation because it's easier to villainize. It's easier to make it black and white instead of saying, "This is complex. They hold responsibility, we hold responsibility. And what are some systematic changes we can make where everyone is gonna have to bring sacrifices and compromises available to the table?"

We're not gonna fix Washington, D.C. without making everybody uncomfortable. We were talking on the podcast today about Jeff Flake.

Jen: Great point.

Sarah: Beth said, "Everyone's mad at him."

And I said, "That's usually a good sign you're onto something if everyone's mad at you."

Jen: Listen, I resemble this remark, so yes. Yes, great point.

Sarah: So, we're not gonna fix Washington, D.C. without all of us probably being a little mad when it's over.

Jen: That's good.

Sarah: So let's all get comfortable with the uncomfortableness that will happen if we really want to make some of these changes.

Jen: That's just a straight-up fact.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Jen: You wanna add anything to that, Beth, or was that it? Drop the mic?

Beth: I would just add that I think we need to bring a little bit more creativity to it than we do or don't re-elect incumbents.

I think it would do our Congress well to spend some time outside of Washington, D.C. as a body.

We had this sense with the Contract [with] America that representatives needed to spend more time in their home districts. And that's had some bad impacts because the relationships among Congress members have deteriorated.

I do think there is something really important about connecting to America outside of Washington, D.C. So often our members of Congress are fascinated with minutiae, procedural issues, tactics—these are the kinds of things that make us feel like they don't “get” us out here in America.

I think it would do Congress good to have some sessions across the country. Maybe let's have one session of Congress take place in Waco, Texas, and put everybody at a Ramada Inn or something and just let them try this elsewhere. Because I feel like, if we're going to get through this divide in America, we have to actually get people outside of the bubble.

Jen: That's good.

Beth: Like, with their bodies and spirits into the rest of the country.

Jen: That's good.
Beth: Like, with their bodies and spirits into the rest of the country.

Jen: That's good.

Sarah: Look at Beto. The first time I ever heard his name was with Will Hurd and that road trip they took. That's what got both of them on the national scene.
Jen: Yeah, that's true.

Sarah: When you take a road trip with somebody, you can't look at each other as enemies, and you have to build a relationship and you get long conversations about what would work and you get creative 'cause you get bored on a road trip. I just think they do.

The truth is, that happens a lot in Congress. Even though they go back to their home districts, they do spend time together in party caucuses. They spend together bonding with their team so that they're building these relationships and they're protecting each other because their friendships are like that. Not to a person. Obviously, there's lots of bipartisan friendships. Again, I love that story about Beto and Will Hurd. I think it's amazing.

Jen: Great points, you two. So, so good.
Okay, I just want to say: Sarah, Beth, thank you so much for being on today. Thank you for your wisdom and your posture. Thank you for sharing your perspectives with us. And thank you for modeling how to have deep, complex discussions with nuance and respect. I think we could help our friends and neighbors dissolve so much of the tension by listening to them deeply, and allowing more than one idea, more than one way of looking at an experience or situation to be valid. I really appreciate the ideas and energy you’re putting into the world, especially right now.

Sarah: Thank you for having us.

Beth: Thank you.

Jen: All right. Have a good day, you guys.

What a good episode.

I want to thank Representative Beto O'Rourke for his time, for calling me from his car, and all his campaign staff that have been delightful to work with. I want to thank so much by friends Sarah and Beth from Pantsuit Politics for their just incredible knowledge and their posture and the way that they modeled this for is.

I wanna thank you, listener, because I already know, I mean, I have every sort of listener. My listeners vote differently, they believe differently, they have different experiences and ideologies and theology and politics, and so thanks for coming today. Thank you for listening. Thank you for being such fabulous listeners, such a good community, able to hold nuance and tension and listen well and learn.

I hope you enjoyed today, and I look forward to hearing your feedback. And it was just a real delight to host these folks for me. Just a real, real delight. This is one of those days where I'm like, "How is this my job? How do I get to do this amazing work?"

Thanks for being a For the Love Podcast listener and subscriber. Positively pop over to Pantsuit Politics and follow along with what Beth and Sarah are doing, and as always, you can find out more from Beto at his website. And we will have all of this linked over at jenhatmaker.com underneath the Podcast tab. We will have every single thing we mentioned linked and uploaded over there, additional resources, more information, some other research that we packed around this that we didn't have time to fit in, so that should be a great resource for you, if you'd like to hear more.

Thanks you guys for joining me today, and we'll jump back into our regular scheduled series next week. See you next time.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!

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