The Problems and the Promise: An interview with activist and Ohio Congressional candidate Nina Turner.

AuthorNichols, John

In 2017, Turner became the president of Our Revolution, the political organization forged by Sanders campaign veterans, and joined the Democratic National Committee's Unity Reform Commission. She's been a regular on national media, as well as a sought-after speaker at progressive events. Now she's running for Congress, hoping to fill the Cleveland-area seat that came open when former U.S. Representative Marcia Fudge, Democrat of Ohio, joined President Joe Biden's Cabinet as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

With strong support from grassroots activists in Cleveland, Akron, and surrounding communities in Ohio's 11th district, along with endorsements from unions and national progressives including Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Turner is running in a special election that begins with an August 3 Democratic primary. We spoke recently by phone about her campaign and the problems and the promise of the moment.

Q: You have said that this is a time of great challenges but also of rising movements that have the potential to address them. Let's start by identifying the problems.

Nina Turner: The problems that I see are social and economic and racial and environmental. They are all of the factors and the variables that come barreling down on humanity, and it just so happens that, at this particular moment in human existence, we have a global pandemic that has exacerbated all of these challenges.

Q: The pandemic has revealed the nation's vulnerabilities and, frankly, its failures. What have we learned over the past year about the challenges we face as a society?

Turner: They're intersectional, they're multifaceted. I mean, pick your compound word. Look at all the social, economic, and racial variables that impact us as a country, look at all the challenges, and you'll see that they are compounding right now.

For example, we knew clearly that the Black community faced health disparities. But look at what COVID-19 has shown us. Black people are hospitalized at higher rates. Black people die at higher rates than our white counterparts.

When you start to peel back the layers, you know that--even before COVID-19--the racialized health disparities, of higher blood pressure, higher diabetes, dying earlier, not having the same access to health care, were there. COVID-19 is just turbo-boosting what was already a reality.

When we look at income and wealth inequality, we see that the ultra-wealthy in this country have increased their wealth by $1.3 trillion collectively during the pandemic. Meanwhile, back in the hood--meaning neighborhoods across this country, whether they're Black, brown, or white--we see that the average worker's salary or hourly wage has certainly not kept up with inflation.

We see the ravages of attacks on labor unions and how they have gone down, how they've been weakened, at precisely the time when we need them.

So it's just this maelstrom of factors that were already there. But now, because of COVID-19, they're dead-on in our face.

Q: And on the promise side?

Turner: No one in their right mind can deny that these things are true. Not anymore. So the promise, I...

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