Paula Swearengin - coal miner's daughter, talks about her fight for basic human rights and dignity.
Paula Jean Swearengin - real person, West Virginian, coal miner’s daughter, accounting clerk, social activist, Mom - is running in West Virginia against Joe Manchin, for the U.S. Senate. Paula Jean got to meet Senator Bernie Sanders in March 2017, after the “Chris Hayes show”. She approached Bernie and asked for 2 minutes of his time, feeling strongly that they didn’t have real representation in her State. The Media were following him around, but he stopped everything to listen. The very moving conversation was recorded. He touched her she says, because he cares. Paula Jean thinks it’s a disgrace that a Senator from Vermont cares more about West Virginia than their own leadership does. Shame on Joe Manchin and the rest of the leadership she says, that the people have had to fight back and run for office. The Democratic Party, Paula Jean continues, handed me one of the biggest polluting coal barons as my governor. Three miles from my house there is a mountaintop removal site and he’s put silica dust in my kids’ lungs every day. I’ve been a social justice warrior for years, a mom desperate for clean air, water and prosperity in this State. Democrats and Republicans it’s all the same, they have the same donors (Evan Jenkins (R) and Joe Manchin (D)). They are corporate not public servants.
Paula Jean is passionate about West Virginia and West Virginians, but she has had a tough life. As a kid she drank orange water with a blue and purple film on it, they bathed and cooked with this water too in her community. Until the age of 12 she thought her hair was red! She’s 43 now, and has buried a lot of her family to coal. Her dad died at 54 of cancer, her grandfather suffocated to death with black lung, her uncles have black lung, her step-dad too, along with heart disease and he also had open-heart surgery. She has seen what they call prosperity with coal and has also been hungry and gone without (The Boom and Bust cycle). There’s not a stream in the southern part of the district that’s not impacted by coal pollution. The neighbours’ kids have cancer. I never dreamed Paula Jean says that I’d see the most beautiful mountains in the world blown up for coal, when it’s just for mechanization and it’s taking away coal miners’ jobs. Manchin signed away the little protection they had regarding pollution and streams… people still drink water with acid mine drainage in it. Coal miners deserve clean water too! 44 out of 55 counties voted for Bernie because he offered solutions. Coal miners don’t want their children to go through the same suffering. I think our youth deserve clean and safe jobs, a diverse economic infrastructure and educational opportunities, she says. We deserve healthcare too. We’re one of the sickest, poorest States. I want to bring home some of the trillions of dollars that left the State and invest it in ourselves. “There is a clear difference between being a friend of the coal industry, and being a friend of a coal miner.” To Stock’s question (YT chat) about new coal jobs Paula Jean responds “There’s no coal jobs, the market is down and it doesn’t look like it’s going to rebound.” Gas we are told is our plan B – another destructive fossil fuel that is going to ruin our environment. This affects more than just West Virginia. We need to replace these “leaders”. We need real public servants. Paula Jean wants wind and solar power and thinks they can manufacture them in West Virginia. We need vision. She has worked with a lot of social justice and environmental groups over the years. We’ve been begging to deaf ears, she says. She has spent years as a mom, working 16 and 18 hours travelling while her kids ate chicken nuggets, and she begged for clean water. Food on the table or clean air and water…West Virginians were pit against each other for basic human rights. John tries to thank Paula Jean a few times for running and for fighting so hard – as a single mom too, but Paula Jean doesn’t want thanks “I am a mom and we’re desperate”.
Yes Jeff (YT) it’s worth trying to grow hemp on mountaintop removal sites. I don’t understand how Manchin can turn his back on the children of West Virginia in the way he has, she says a little later. My donors are the People. No corporate money. No special interests. Mylan pharmaceutical company is Manchin’s 2nd largest donor and his daughter is CEO. Manchin isn’t combatting the opioid epidemic either. Enough pills are shipped here to give 455 of them to every person in the State. His adult child is funding his campaign from pumping pills in West Virginia. There are so many deaths that there are backlogs in the morgues. Doctors are responsible for this too. Paula Jean unsurprisingly, is for Medicare for all.
Moving on, this amazing candidate says that we need to stop funding unnecessary wars. I thought, when I was a child that the government would protect me, and us, she says…then I saw that they send their children to wars for rich men. They’re now at war with us. Look at West Virginia…that’s cultural genocide! Definitely cut back on the military budget, balance it, but don’t fund unnecessary wars, instead put the money into infrastructure through federal programs.
There is one issue that unites us Paula Jean says. We all need to stand up and fight over water. Coal companies are not cleaning up properly (mountain tops). They are destroying everything for one out of 10 jobs! Paula Jean is also against fracking and natural gas. The Northern part of the State has had to deal with fracking issues, and the resultant water issues too. Even those, there, who may not agree about the pollution, I’m sure can agree that it’s another singular industry-based economy for West Virginia, no diversity, no promise.
Paula Jean is sponsored by the Justice Democrats and by Brand New Congress. She is inspired by Senator Bernie Sanders who she says is teaching us how to fight back, and has been to West Virginia twice recently. You’re nailing it and you’re so well spoken. We need public servants and mothers (like you) making decisions for our children says John. Dads are just as angry Paula Jean tells him.
As to her campaign in 2018 “I don’t need money, I need votes.” Paula tells us. People are raising their voices all over the State. We can use social media, power building …This isn’t my campaign, this campaign is for West Virginia. We’ve been begging national media, she says, to keep the attention on the genocide here and it didn’t happen, but the conversation with Bernie that someone recorded on their phone…went viral! It brought me a lot of support. We have to hit the streets and talk to people. She spoke recently to a lady who had voted for Donald Trump. Paula Jean told her that she was a Democrat and what she wanted to do…the lady cried! West Virginians have been divided because we have been desperate, yet we’re some of the most hospitable people in the world, and we all deserve jobs. Republicans suffer from black lung too.
Don’t you miss the days when news was news? Yes, says John, it’s one of the reasons I started this network. Paula, if elected, feels we need to figure out some kind of legislation so that the truth is told once again. There are so many lies in the media now. West Virginians have been lied to so much. My question to those people…how much does a child cost in West Virginia? Shame on you!
Please vote for the outstanding candidate that Paula Jean Swearengin is. “I’m an angry mom right now, and I will fight for every child not only in West Virginia, but America.” And she means it folks!
Jenny Marshall discusses healthcare, education, poverty wages, guns, what loving one's neighbor involves...
Jenny Marshall is running for office in North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District. She was interviewed by #WeThePeople on November 1st, 2017. She is a grassroots Progressive who wishes to protect the interests of the People and create economic equity. She believes in healthcare for all, fully funded public education, Social Security, equal pay, clean energy and paths to citizenship. Jenny was a Bernie Sanders supporter in the primaries, and a delegate to the DNC in 2016. Her primary date is now fast approaching, as it is May 8th 2018.
Blue America (Progressive PAC), Sister Giant (Reverend Barber connected with) and Local chapters of Our Revolution (ECU for Our Revolution, Our Revolution Carteret County) have endorsed Jenny Marshall.
First some quotes:
“Corporatism and greed continue to empower career politicians like Virginia Foxx to rob the hardworking citizens of this country, and I’ve had enough. If we want to truly fix the problems that surround us, we must start with repairing the broken and corrupt economy that enforces our country’s most vile systems of inequity. But for this campaign to really take off, it has to be about us - all of us. It has to be about people of color, women, LGBTQ+ folks, immigrants, workers, and parents all working together to turn the tide in the people’s favor. This campaign is about reforming our current system from the inside out to create a collective vision for America’s future that works for all of us. Because right now, under Republican leadership, our future is dim.”
“It’s high time we say no more. No more to turning a blind eye to those among us who are struggling. No more corporatism, no more tax cuts for the rich, and no more obscene spending on defence and fossil fuels while programs like Medicaid and Social Security sit by the wayside. In Washington, we will fight for working families and small business owners. We will fight for economic prosperity, for social and environmental justice, for the equality of all people.”
John begins the interview by asking what prompted Jenny to run, and she replies that after the November 2016 election “I couldn’t go back into my classroom and not do everything in my power to make my students’ lives better, and our community stronger.” So she launched her campaign the following month. It has involved a lot of work, and has also been a lot of fun getting out in the community and talking to people about things that matter to them.
Virginia Foxx (the Republican incumbent of 14 years) voted to gut the ACA, which would hurt the people of North Carolina more than any other State in the Nation. She also voted against raising the minimum wage in 2007, and so much more. She has not held a town hall in... forever, Jenny tells us.
Every district line in N.C. has been affected by gerrymandering. Fortunately they had a redistricting for Congressional lines in 2016, so they are now in the best position in the 5th district that they have ever been in to unseat Virginia Foxx. The last person who ran a campaign against Foxx, did very little campaigning, raised no money for the campaign and only lost by 16.8%. Jenny says they are taking a very different approach and are willing to knock at every door, and are trying to raise as much money as they can to fund the kind of campaign that really gets out and reaches people where they live. Awesome says John
Jenny believes that the U.S. needs to move towards a Universal Basic Healthcare/Medicare for all - style program that covers people for medical, dental and vision care. It’s the smart thing to do, she says. It is economically viable for us to provide healthcare for people. It uncouples that connection between employment and health insurance. It can lower your car insurance because you don’t have to cover medical expenses any more, same for your homeowner’s insurance. Those things are covered.
In the 5th district, Jenny says, 50% of the households are low income or poverty level - that is simply just unacceptable! Unemployment may be low, but people are working 2 or 3 jobs, yet not making enough money to have a life that is secure or that pays for college for their children. We definitely need to raise the minimum wage and Universal Basic Healthcare would mean people could apply for jobs they would like and maybe even make more money. I support the fight for 15 wholly. We need to increase the minimum wage which is supposed to be a living wage, but nobody can live on $7.25 an hour. We need to raise the minimum wage in a way that is both helpful to those working those jobs and also to small businesses who are often paying these wages because communities can’t support higher wages. John comments that “If we’re providing government funded healthcare, then the businesses are not going to be paying into that so….”
Melissa in YouTube chat asks whether Jenny is finding it challenging to reach the people in the mountains in her district. We are doing traditional grassroots efforts Jenny replies, not just relying on TV or FB posts and or Twitter reach. We are (although cutting back over the holiday season) going out into the communities, talking to people and doing meet-and-greets. We will be knocking on doors, so we’re not waiting for someone to pick up the phone or for a phone bank, and we’re not waiting for somebody to catch us on FB, we’ll be at their doors as much as humanly possible.
Jenny has 7 children and she is definitely pro-choice. She doesn’t think it is the government’s right to interfere with a woman’s decision. Such decisions aren’t made lightly by the vast majority of women and it’s after much due consideration that they choose to do what they do. Rather than having the government regulate it, I would rather see them increase wages because we know that that is a factor in why some women choose to have an abortion. She’d like to see an increase in sex education throughout the country, and easier access to birth control, as there is no doubt that this reduces the number of unplanned pregnancies. We just have the research to show that those 3 things in tandem reduce the need for abortion, she says. And if that’s the end game we need to be doing those three things. Absolutely says John. Well stated! Don’t look at the burning issue that is abortion, Jenny continues. Let’s look at how we prevent women from actually needing an abortion.
Jenny believes that you should legislate from a Constitutional perspective and leave your religious beliefs for your own personal prayer/meditation… I don’t think the U.S. is a theocracy, so if we are not willing to legislate based on all religions, then we should base our laws on no religion, and use the Constitution as our guide, she argues.
Jenny was a part of Winston-Salem Pride. She wants to better “the lives of all our citizens”. She would like to see the LGBTQ+ community have legal anti-discrimination status, along with people of race, and religion etc. She thinks it is the only thing that we can do to protect those people who sole right it is to find somebody, fall in love, get married, not be discriminated in a restaurant, not be fired because of who they are and who they are married to...it’s the 21st century. We need to get with it. I think says John, even the Pope is there with some of that stuff. Jenny says “If I can speak on a biblical stance for a minute... it’s love thy neighbor, not love that neighbor or this neighbor. They’re all your neighbors. Love thy neighbor as thyself. You pretty much can’t go wrong with that one, but they’re sure not showing a lot of love in their heart when it comes to people that are different from them in those ways.”
John and Jenny speak about (a ruling) which says that as of 2017 judges in State courts must identify their party affiliation on ballots, making North Carolina the first State in nearly a century to adopt partisan court elections. Jenny tells him that they would like to get rid of the primary election for the judges too and just have a one-off race in the November election, and whoever makes it past the post … that’s the person who is the judge. So there will be who knows how many people on the ballot for one position. Oftentimes judges are the hardest to make decisions about, because we’re not sure where they stand on the issues, their conviction records, etc. she says. Now it’ll be Democrat or Republican, which is very unfortunate, as there are good people on both sides of the aisle, and very qualified judges who would pass these judgements and make those determinations based on the law, rather than on their party affiliation. Apparently a few judges changed their party affiliation because they were fed up with the Republican Party. One even stepped down before the GOP could name his replacement, because they circumvented our Governor, Jenny says. The GOP Legislature in N.C. calls special sessions at whim she adds.
What of President Trump’s tax plan? We are just getting less services, less of everything. We’ve seen Kansas. Kansas cut taxes, cut corporate taxes and they had to close schools. Early in the year they couldn’t fund their infrastructure bills and plans that they had already started. “We do not need a disaster nation-wide!” Jenny states. Virginia Foxx championed this tax plan and said it levelled the playing field. She said all of these things that didn’t sound like they were going to impact families and people living in the 5th District, but in fact they just benefit her and big corporations that can afford to buy hunks of machinery and instantly write-it-off. How does that help me get a pay raise? John answers that it doesn’t. “You’re not a member of the club Jenny and neither are we.”
Jenny isn’t taking corporate money, Super-PAC money, or any corporate lobbying money at all. Over 1200 individuals have contributed to her campaign - from all over the place (11/01/2017). This is a people-powered campaign and she needs you. We need people in this district with boots on the ground, but we need money coming in to this campaign to provide materials in their hands and provide them with the resources they need to go to the doors and hand people something they can look at, she says. They haven’t yet made a determination on what to do about Union or PAC money. Her campaign is attempting to secure several endorsements and is still trying to navigate what is allowed and not by these groups, all of whom want to know if you’re a viable candidate. Jenny is pro-union (and a member herself), so she’d like to be able to take her brothers’ and sisters’ donations and use them in a way that would benefit all of the people in the 5th District. Jenny does prefer individual donations because she thinks it means more when it’s coming from a specific person than an entity, and John agrees. He says it is complicated and one has to be careful, one doesn’t want to complicate things for individuals. Sometimes it’s best to err on the side of caution (and not take it).
On the subject of racism, Jenny thinks that we insulate ourselves from communities that are different to us. She’d be willing she says, to step outside of her role as a person running for office, and hopefully as an office holder, to facilitate people breaking stereotypes and making connections, real ones with those communities that they don’t normally associate with. She grew up in a virtually all white community and didn’t fully understand what minority communities went through until she moved to NC. Contact, conversations and communication with people opened up her mind. It wasn’t that she had had feelings of racism, just that, some of the things she didn’t (have to) think about. She tries now to be a better advocate for minority communities. Thank you says John. It is difficult for a white person to talk about this, especially when the other Democrat in the race (Denise Adams) is African-American.
And on the subject of community policing, Jenny says we need to look at our inherent bias when it comes to relating to people of different communities – when we do we will be better people for other people (by breaking some of those stereotypes…) regardless of what our job is. Police officers though hold a higher level of responsibility towards their communities and looking at those issues of bias and going back to being a part of their communities rather than just the long arm of the law, is just responsible policing. We need to train our police officers in how to de-escalate situations. Education and reflection of the officers – making sure they are being sensitive to the communities in which they serve and reflective of those.
Jenny Marshall’s dad was in the army and there was a gun in their household when she was growing up. Lots of her family members also carry guns and so she doesn’t find them scary. She does believe that a better job needs to be done of training, universal background checks, closing the gun-show loophole and generally being smarter about keeping guns out of certain hands. I don’t know a responsible gun owner who’d say - let’s let everybody just have guns that wants them, and in any amount that they desire to. John appreciates the answer, but questions whether the average citizen needs an AR-15 in the home. Jenny says that she certainly doesn’t want one in her home, but that she‘s going to “leave it up to our communities to temper what we do and don’t do, and take guidance from the community that we live in”. I don’t think there is a necessity to have one she continues, but reckons that the community should decide if they’ve had enough, and whether it should be taken definitively off the market as has been the case with others. John for his part thinks that the community has spoken, but that the government is listening to the NRA. Jenny says that that is highly likely, but that a lot of the community are too (John agrees), and until we can have a calm, reasoned discussion about the qualities of having or nor having certain weapons she says, we’re not going to get anywhere because people automatically get very defensive when it comes to gun rights and I understand that because again we have the 2nd Amendment. However it is also often truncated, but as said, we need to have a reasoned, calm discussion and not politicized commercials and hyperbole, name throwing and accusatory language that don’t get us anywhere.
With regard to U.S. military spending, Jenny says it is obscene. That money doesn’t even trickle down to our service personnel and our Veterans, so we’re spending it on equipment and contracts that go out to companies that are cashing in. There’s no reason that we (should) have active military that are on food stamps, but we do, while our military budget just keeps ballooning up and up and up. Our VA system needs to be revamped and improved. The efficiency of getting people the medical care that they need, needs to be modernised, and I believe that Bernie Sanders had a bipartisan bill that got killed years ago, that would have addressed a lot of these issues, but it got killed, and our serving personnel and our Veterans are the ones who pay the price for that. Absolutely says John, having previously mentioned the disgraceful and shocking fact that 20 Veterans commit suicide every day.
And now to education. What does Jenny have to say? Private schools used to be just opportunities within our communities, now they’re safe havens for people who want to make a dollar out of public tax dollars and that’s a shame. Charter and private schools are gathering money like never before and stripping our public schools (…) from much needed funding. That needs to stop. Public schools should get public school dollars, private schools should be self-funded. So, says John, you’re not a fan of Betsy DeVos then. Not at all, says Jenny. She ruined Michigan’s public education system. All of these bills from (the) ALEC … they’ve just done a number on public perceptions of public education, even though their own perceptions (..) of their own child’s school is often good and they have very favourable remarks. Public education in America has been taken to task for all of societal flaws. She speaks of the defunding and over-regulation of public schools. Do more with less is just not a business model that we can attain to. Right says John, and that’s the same philosophy that our government has with anything that it doesn’t really want to pay for or support. Here’s the least amount we could possibly give you, with the least amount of support, and if you fail we’ll just cut it some more. Jenny remarks that it’s almost like they’re doing it on purpose. John answers that he thinks they are. Jenny continues, saying that you should not have to spend thousands of dollars out of your own pocket to supply for your own school classroom. I mean it’s ridiculous, we keep having to fight for enough copy paper and a copy machine that doesn’t break half way through the year. We fight to have heat in the building, and modern day bandwidth and computers and Wi-Fi and we should not have to, because we have enough money –but we’re not choosing to invest it in education, which is what fuels our future in America. We haven’t been funding education for decades, says John.
To close, Jenny reminds us that this campaign is not about her. It never has been, nor will it be. It’s all about the People and bringing the power back to the constituents that live in the 5th District. But we also know, she says, that our Congress people do not legislate in a bubble, so whatever Virginia Foxx does in Congress, affects all of us across the country and even the world. We need to put somebody back into Congress that does things from a people-building and community-building perspective. And we need everybody’s help in order to do so.
Good luck on May the 8th Jenny Marshall!
Sam Ronan on helping Progressives to work together, universal healthcare, climate change and technology...