"On the Issues" with Michele Goodwin is a product of Ms. magazine—where we report, rebel and tell it like it is. On this show, we center your concerns about rebuilding our nation and advancing the promise of equality. Join academic and activist Michele Goodwin in conversation with feminist politicians, thought leaders and change-makers as we tackle the most compelling issues of our times.
New episodes drop every other Tuesday.
On Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. was elected the 46th president of the United States. Vice President-Elect Kamala Devi Harris made history becoming the first woman, the first Black person, and the first South Asian person to ever hold the office. This news resulted in widespread celebrations throughout the country and all across the world. Additionally, a significant number of down-ballot victories also mark historic milestones in U.S. politics—including countless firsts for people of color, LGBTQ+ candidates and women.
But while there is cause for celebration, there is more work to be done and more questions to be asked. Was the election free and fair across the nation? What did we learn from this election? Where and how did democracy flourish? What does the 2020 election mean for our democracy, our courts, and our state and federal agencies?
Dr. Goodwin and her guests answer some of your pressing election questions—and have a bit of fun. Let them keep you company (and keep you calm!) while you wait for results.
At the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, voting activist and civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer described the violent injustice she and others had endured while living under the South’s Jim Crow rules and fighting for the right to vote: “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!”
Over 50 years later, ahead of the 2020 election, we see record early voting across the country. Even so, serious efforts aimed at voter suppression persist, including curbing access to mail-in voting and shutting down polling locations.
So, what are the biggest threats to voting rights today? How is voter suppression showing up in the 2020 election? What can we do to ensure that our elections remain free and fair?
Recently, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Samuel Alito, lashed out at the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which guaranteed marriage equality, calling it ruinous for religious liberty. In response, the New Yorker posed a sobering question: “Does Clarence Thomas now speak for the majority of the Supreme Court on LGBTQ Rights?”
The use of religious liberty to discriminate against LGBTQ people is nothing new. And marriage is not the only issue on the line. Among other things, the Trump administration has worked to discriminate against gay parents in foster care and adoption, take away vital healthcare under the ACA, and prevent transgender people from serving in the military.
The attacks are not limited to the federal government either: This year alone, there have been clear, coordinated efforts at the state level to legalize discrimination against people based on their LGBTQ identity.
What is the current legal landscape for LGBTQ rights and justice? What is the significance of the impending election for the rights of the LGBTQ community? What’s at stake?
On January 15, 2020, Virginia became the critical 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, or ERA—a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that reads: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Virginia’s ratification raised important questions about the viability of an amendment that had been stymied for decades.
What does the promise of the ERA hold in the continued battle for equality and freedom? What roles have women of color played to secure the ERA? In the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, what is the modern platform for women’s equality?
President Trump has appointed and confirmed a near record number of judges to the federal bench in four years. In fact, nearly one-third of all active federal judges on the U.S. appeals courts have been appointed by Trump. On the federal courts of appeal, the president has not appointed one African American and only one Latino judge.
These issues are magnified by Trump’s recent nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—a nomination made 38 days before the Election Day, during a time in which some voters across the country are already in the process of voting. The passing of Justice Ginsburg and the promise of confirmation hearing, even during COVID and while the president is under medical surveillance, has now caused an uproar.
On today’s show, we focus on the question: Can the president suspend the elections? The short answer: No. But while the law is clear, President Trump’s efforts to delay the elections, sow distrust in our democratic processes, and wreak havoc on the U.S. electoral process are already well underway.
On July 30, President Trump tweeted mail-in voting will make this year’s elections “the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history.” (In reality, mail-in voter fraud averages 0.0025 percent.) This, just months after he and others dismissed as ridiculous Democratic presidential nominee Joseph Biden’s warnings in April that Trump might “try to kick back the election somehow” or “come up with some rationale why it can’t be held.”
The president’s tweets and public comments raise serious questions about the integrity of the upcoming elections. For example, what are the ramifications of Trump suggestions that we suspend the election? Will access to mail-in ballots (or lack thereof) impact voter turnout? Can Trump invoke martial law if he loses the election? What are the possible threats to our democracy come November?
From a frozen asylum system, huge camps on the Mexico border and family separation policies, to the worsening lack of healthcare and the aftereffects of COVID-19, Latinx communities are at a disadvantage both inside and outside U.S. borders. In this episode, we focus on events over the last few years greatly impacting Latinx communities: socially, economically and politically—as Trump administration immigration policies have resulted in child separation,huge camps on the Southern border, stalled immigration, and much more.
Meanwhile, those held in detention centers face an added layer of challenges—ranging from lost children, to an increased risk of COVID infections. Are detainees seeking self-deportation to avoid contracting COVID?
In this episode, in the midst of the centennial anniversary of women’s securing the right to vote, we focus on the 19th Amendment. The perpetual struggle for U.S. voting rights has been fraught with conflict, and the fight for women’s suffrage was no exception. Even after the 19th Amendment was passed, women of color were denied the opportunity to vote: Black women were kept from voting through insidious practices like poll taxes and long wait times (some which still exist today); Indigenous women, many of whom inspired the initial Euro-American push for women’s rights and suffrage, were not considered citizens; and Asian women could not naturalize for citizenship. In fact, until the mid-1950s, laws enacted by Congress—including the Page Act—made it very difficult for Asian women who immigrated to the U.S. to become citizens.
Because voting rights are central to our democracy, we devote this episode to the 19th Amendment, its history and the road ahead.
In this episode, we focus on why #WeHaveHerBack. You heard it recently in the wake of Sen. Kamala Harris’s selection as the vice presidential candidate for the Democratic ticket. #WeHaveHerBack is as a powerful challenge to newsrooms to avoid sexism in media representation. Tina Tchen, president and CEO of Time’s Up Now, joins host Dr. Michele Goodwin to talk the importance of having Harris’s back—and other women candidates’ backs, too.
Today’s episode also focuses on women’s political leadership, starting with the urgent need to repeal the Helms Amendment. Dr. Goodwin is joined by two pathbreaking members of Congress—Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Barbara Lee—to discuss why women’s leadership has been central to forging political representation, equality and fighting for reproductive health, rights and justice—at home and abroad. Their leadership helps to put in context why the #WeHaveHerBack campaign is so important, and why women’s leadership matters.
Since 1790, of the 113 individuals who have served on the Supreme Court, only four have been women. Similarly, in over 230 years, only three justices have been persons of color—two of whom presently serve on the Court. Under Trump, the vast majority of judges confirmed to the nation’s federal courts are white men. Thus, in over two hundred years, very little has changed in terms of the Court’s composition.
On this special episode, we focus on toxic masculinity in the U.S., including online misogyny, and how it translates into real-world violence—highlighted most recently in the horrific murder of Daniel Anderl, the son of U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas, and the shooting of her husband Mark Anderl. The person assumed responsible for those tragedies is Roy Den Hollander, a self-proclaimed “men’s rights” activist—part of a growing movement of men who describe themselves as frustrated by women. Some members of this movement are also known as “incels.”
We also turn to the everyday harassment women experience—even in Congress, like in the case of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who was accosted by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.). Representative Yoho called her “disgusting,” “a “f***ing bitch,” and at first denied it. Rep. Yoho claimed his “passion” got the better of him and offered what many would describe as a rambling floor speech in which his daughters and wife were centered. However, he did not apologize. For some women, this looked like typical workplace misogyny they endure all the time.
What lessons can be drawn from these incidents and others? Has toxic masculinity gone too far?
In June Medical v. Russo, the Supreme Court struck down a challenge to abortion rights in Louisiana, a state in which reproductive health care access is already fraught. The law would have required all doctors performing abortions to obtain hospital admitting privileges. Even though this case has put such challenges to rest, lawmakers in Louisiana have effectively undercut women’s access to reproductive healthcare, causing clinic closures and more. As our guests make clear, Roe is not enough.
However, it’s not just abortion rights or pregnancy at stake, with regard to women’s health. Reproductive justice matters, and bringing that lens into these conversations is urgent. The rise in criminalization of pregnant women for failing to comport to the state’s standards for behavior during pregnancy is alarming. Women have been threatened with arrest for refusing C-sections, falling down steps and attempting suicide during pregnancy. Where does this end? What should we be concerned about? What’s the future of Americans being able to exercise control their own reproductive futures, given the aggressive attacks at the state and federal levels? We close considering how organizations, doctors, lawyers and activists are fighting back.