Aug. 13, 2019

#77: Please, Please, Please Do A Good Job, Colorado

#77: Please, Please, Please Do A Good Job, Colorado
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In Episode 77, Quinn & Brian discuss: How Colorado can fix this wholllllle thing with one little election.

Our guest is Mike Johnston, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from Colorado and the first in our series of conversations about the 2020 elections.

The 2020 Senate elections are going to be really important because flipping the Senate is one of the only protections we might have from another four years of a Republican President – or, if we want to think a little more optimistically, it will allow a new President to make more significant and impactful changes to policies that affect everyone, everywhere.

Colorado is the state where we're most likely to flip a seat, so it’s really going to set the tone for the rest of the 2020 elections.

And we like what Mike has done with his political career so far. As a State Senator, he passed major legislation that opened the doors of college to undocumented students, invested in renewable energy, and won a fight with the NRA to pass common sense gun safety. As Mike said when he announced his campaign, “Colorado deserves a U.S. Senator who will run to our hardest problems and show the leadership to pass real progressive policy.”

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Quinn: Welcome to Important, Not Important. My name is Quinn Emmett.

Brian: And my name is Brian Colbert Kennedy.

Brian: This is the podcast where we dive into the specific topic or question affecting everyone on the planet right now, or in the next 10 years or so. If it can kill us or turn us into HAL 9000s, but good HAL 9000s, we're in.

Brian: Our guests are scientists, doctors, engineers, politicians, astronauts, even a reverend, and we work together toward action [crosstalk 00:00:37] ...

Quinn: Together.

Brian: Together. That's, yeah, where the emphasis is. Together.

Quinn: I was emphasizing it.

Brian: Toward action steps that our listeners can take with their voice, their vote, and their dollar.

Quinn: This is your friendly reminder, you can send questions, thoughts, feedback, cash in envelopes to us on Twitter at @importantnotimp, or you can email us at Got a couple people who emailed the past couple days about us investing in their company, and I had to explain to them, we do not do that.

Brian: Wow. I'd like to hear more about that.

Quinn: No, no, no, no, no, no. You don't.

Brian: Oh, I don't want to hear more about that. Got it.

Quinn: Yeah, no, you don't.

Brian: Did you just ask our listeners to send us money in small envelopes, by the way?

Quinn: You know what I was thinking?

Brian: [crosstalk 00:01:18]

Quinn: They could join thousands of other smart people and subscribe to our free weekly newsletter ...

Brian: Free.

Quinn: ... at

Quinn: This week's episode, Brian, is, "Hey, Colorado, Let's Do the Right Thing, Shall We?"

Brian: I mean, that sounds great to me.

Brian: And our guest is Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Mike Johnston.

Quinn: Mike Johnson.

Brian: This is the first in our series of 2020 conversations. And just a reminder that these will always be considered and conducted under the auspices of, how will this candidate affect the topics that we cover, the issues that are affecting, like we said, everyone right now, on the planet, or in the next 10 years or so?

Quinn: Yeah. We might not have your favorite people on. We won't get everybody, but we have a select list we're working on, people that fit that prism.

Quinn: So, [inaudible 00:02:11] ... one note, despite the best efforts of our incredible editors and producers, there are going to be some audio issues in this one. You can check our Instagram. Mike was on a trip with his daughter and crouching in a public library in Queens to try to get this done, so we appreciate it.

Brian: Such a stud. Amazing.

Quinn: We appreciate it, but public library Wi-Fi is not all it's cracked up to be.

Quinn: So, anyways, thanks to Mike, and please enjoy this conversation with Mike Johnson.

Brian: Great conversation.

Quinn: Okay.

Quinn: Our guest today is Mike Johnston, and together we're going to ask whether Colorado can handle the pressure. That is, atmospheric pressure, aka. will the jet streams stop working, and political pressure, aka. can we get two Democratic Senators in there, flip the Senate, and hopefully vote in some semblance of a World War II level climate, clean energy, and environmental justice mobilization to make sure that jet stream keeps working?

Quinn: No pressure, Mike. Welcome.

Mike Johnson: Thank you. It is good to know that the fate of the planet, as well as the fate of the U.S. Senate, rest in our hands.

Quinn: Yeah. That's the theme of today.

Brian: No big deal.

Quinn: It's all going to be fine.

Brian: [crosstalk 00:03:25]

Brian: It is a pleasure to have you. If you don't mind, let's just introduce yourself to everybody, let everybody know who you are and what you're up to.

Mike Johnson: You bet. I'm so grateful to be on your show. Thanks for having me.

Mike Johnson: My name is Mike Johnston. I am from Colorado. I'm a former school teacher and school principal, and then I spent seven years in the state senate, and now I am the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate race here in Colorado, and, as been alluded to, will be one of the most closely watched, and we think most consequential of the U.S. Senate races in the country in 2020.

Quinn: I mean, you could say ever. Maybe ever. But, again, the goal is to not make you feel any pressure here.

Brian: That's right. We're doing a swell job so far.

Quinn: Yeah. Yeah.

Quinn: All right, Brian, let's do it.

Brian: Yeah, of course. So, we'll get into it here. We just want to remind everybody, and let you know, of course, the goal of our podcast here is to provide some context for why we're talking to you today, and then we're going to get into some action-oriented questions that get to the core of why we should all care about you and what you're up to, and what we can all do to help and support you. Sound good, Mike?

Mike Johnson: Sounds wonderful.

Quinn: Awesome.

Quinn: So, Mike, we do like to start with one important question, and I will say, as I said to the other gentlemen recently, at this point, we don't have a lot of white guys on the show, because history's had quite enough of those. It didn't work out so great.

Quinn: So, basically, this had better be good. Again, no pressure.

Quinn: Anyways, Mike, instead of saying, "Tell us your entire life story," we do like to ask, why are you vital to the survival of the species?

Mike Johnson: Well, I am honored to make the cut to get to be on the podcast, because I think that your channel [inaudible 00:05:19] that we ought to be able to be more to get more diverse voices into leadership is a great one.

Mike Johnson: I don't know that I am vital to the survival of the species. I do think I happen to be in a moment and in a place in history where there is a tremendous opportunity. And what I think we've found is, when you look at ... I mean, Colorado really is excited for this chance at real impact, which is ... Yeah, if you look at the U.S. Senate right now, which will control the future of everything from climate policy, to the future of the U.S. Supreme Court, to immigration, to healthcare, you name it, and the control of that body, what is supposed to be the greatest deliberative body in the history of the planet, also, has proven to be totally dysfunctional. But it is only three seats away from being able to function again and being able to actually govern again.

Mike Johnson: And it's like that scene in every thriller movie where the spaceship is about to crash and you have the last three seconds to get a hold on the handle, and I think that we have these next year and a half to try to actually get a hold back on the U.S. Senate to be able to make sure we can steer this ship away from catastrophe.

Mike Johnson: So, we are in a moment in history where I think winning this Colorado Senate race can fundamentally change the trajectory of the next 50 years of American history and of world history, if we get it right. So, that challenge does feel huge, but we have a movement of people in Colorado who [inaudible 00:06:39] ... to step up to it.

Quinn: So, I love all that. I want to go back to the spaceship metaphor, because it's amazing.

Quinn: Of the people in that movie that weren't eaten by the aliens and that are remaining on the spaceship, which one are you, would you say? And then, also, if you could answer, which one is Brian? Are you the pilot? Are you the one holding onto the spaceship from the outside? Are you suffering in some ... Are you carrying an alien in your chest? I'm just [crosstalk 00:07:09] ...

Brian: I am dead, just so we're clear.

Quinn: Let Mike answer, Brian.

Brian: Oh, sorry, sorry.

Mike Johnson: Since my childhood, I always wanted to be Sigourney Weaver in that moment. So, my [crosstalk 00:07:19] is, I am the addled captain trying to fight her way through the aliens back to the front of the spaceship.

Mike Johnson: I think Brian is the appearingly mortally wounded colleague who you think is dead, but comes back right at the moment you need him most to actually kill the last [crosstalk 00:07:35] ...

Brian: This is my favorite conversation yet.

Mike Johnson: ... be critical to the end of the mission.

Quinn: And yet, you wonder, like, how is he still alive?

Mike Johnson: You're right.

Quinn: The math doesn't add up.

Mike Johnson: It doesn't.

Brian: And why is he in his pajamas, still?

Quinn: Still. We're two hours into a deep-space sci-fi movie. It's like, change your clothes, man. You're like Bruce Willis. Put on some shoes.

Quinn: Okay.

Brian: I'm like Bruce Willis. This is just getting better and better.

Mike Johnson: You might not even have legs. [crosstalk 00:07:59]

Quinn: It's true. It's true.

Mike Johnson: ... pulling himself along by his hands. That's why you can't see [crosstalk 00:08:03] ...

Quinn: You know that this is the last thing ... Like, he's going to save everybody, but after that, it's it. This is truly the last gasp.

Quinn: All right. So, let's do a quick little context. Sometimes, this is super technical, "Hey, here's how the ocean works," or antibiotics, or something like that. Sometimes, it's more ethical. And all our listeners are like the nerdy section [inaudible 00:08:26] of American listeners. We don't really need to get into the technicalities of how the Senate works and what's at stake.

Quinn: But, to be clear, look, like I said in the intro, this is the first in our series of 2020 conversations. We're talking to presidential candidates, Senate, House, State, local, judges, and we're going to do our best to amplify the folks that we think could make a big difference.

Quinn: So, Colorado has two Senators, like every other state, which, to be clear, is insane at that point, but that's a totally different discussion.

Quinn: Mike would like one of those spots. And it's important that you or one of your Democratic contenders gets that spot, because why? Because we don't have control of the Senate. Mitch McConnell does. Turns out, not great. It's not going well.

Quinn: So, we need to flip a few seats in the Senate. Colorado is one of our best shots. And then, Mitch is out of a job. The whole thing changes.

Quinn: But that's not enough, because of something called the filibuster, and because these presidential and senatorial candidates can talk all they want about all the great shit they're going to do, but it really doesn't matter unless we have a really serious discussion about the filibuster, because there's exactly less than zero chance we get to 60 seats, maybe ever again. Good times.

Quinn: But, regardless, Colorado and these other few states matter, because of why? Because of climate. And, as you mentioned, judges, and civil rights, and gun control, and healthcare, and immigration. And climate, and cancer funding, and climate, and clean energy jobs, clean air, clean water. All of these things that, for instance, the Democratic House has been doing since 2018, is just kind of throwing shit against the wall until we flip the Senate and hopefully the presidency along with it.

Quinn: So, we need Colorado, and Mike thinks he's the human to do it.

Quinn: So, the question is, is Colorado the make or break? And I want to get into this. So, Mike, we talked about this offline when we were first introduced, but we do have an agenda here, which is sort of a prism for all of our conversations and the work we produce. Basically, we only cover it, or when we cover it, it's exclusively through the lens of, will this thing or this question wipe out the species, or, on the other hand, upgrade us to something from Star Trek?

Quinn: So, climate is the obvious one, because no one will be unaffected. Colorado, certainly not immune from this. But we talk about jobs by talking about clean energy jobs, or we talk about civil rights through environmental justice, or medicine by digging into the diseases, and treatments, and cures that affect the most people. Same thing with drinking water and artificial intelligence.

Quinn: So, why don't we get the staples out of the way? Why don't you go ahead and spend a couple minutes just kind of telling us your platform when it comes to issues like those, in whatever order floats your boat?

Mike Johnson: I'd love to. And I think [inaudible 00:11:28] ... because I know your listeners are the advanced players in this game, and so I think, because you hear people say, "Oh ..." There's a lot of most important races. People say, "Oh, Maine is important," or, "Oh, Arizona's important," or North Carolina. And, so, I want for the [inaudible 00:11:41] ... discerning listener, why do I say your first focus should be Colorado?

Mike Johnson: Nate Silver's analysis of this, I think, is the best, where he said, "The Democrats winning Colorado doesn't guarantee they win back the U.S. Senate, but losing Colorado guarantees they won't."

Mike Johnson: So, the reason is, Colorado has to be the first place to flip, because it is the most winnable seat. If we don't win Colorado, then the wave is so low that there is no chance to carry other states. And, so, we are a state where Hillary won by six points, that Trump is now behind by 20 points in Colorado. There are no Republican Senators left in blue states that are that far away from Trump, other than Gardner. And, so, this is why we ought to be able to, we need to be able to pick up this seat early.

Mike Johnson: And when you look at it, the state [inaudible 00:12:30] ... is shifting more and more blue. In the last election, in 2018, Colorado, for the first time in 100 years, won every single statewide office. So, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, Governor, House, Senate, you get it. So, there was a big shift in Colorado turning blue at the same time that Gardner has voted 99% of the time with Trump, and Colorado's not a state where that fits anymore.

Mike Johnson: So, this is why it's not just one of the important races. We have to be the first. And, if you don't win Colorado, then you're fundamentally trying to draw an inside straight with the other races, which, as you know, not many outs in that situation.

Mike Johnson: So, that's why it's not just a talking point. That's why, factually ... I always say that [inaudible 00:13:11] ranking of your dollars, the first dollar should go to the presidency, probably, second ought to go to Colorado, because if you don't win there, none of the rest of the races matter. That's why it's important.

Mike Johnson: And I want to come back, also, [inaudible 00:13:21] ... to what you said about the filibuster, which I think is critically important, which is, you just made the case for why I believe you have to do away with the filibuster. Which is, the filibuster was made for a moment in history where all you expected government to do was to just sort of stay steady on a course and not crash. It was built for the ocean liner that had to just sail the ocean and not bump into anything.

Mike Johnson: Well, that ocean liner was the Exxon Valdez and just hit ground and is spilling billions of gallons of oil into the ocean. When you need the cleanup of that, you don't send another ocean liner. You send a speed boat, right? You send people that can move tactfully, and quickly, and surgically to get things done in an immediate and urgent way.

Mike Johnson: The crisis of climate is far too critical for us to say, "We're going to wait to get up to 60 votes." You simply can't solve the scale and complexity of the problems that have to be solved in today's world waiting for 60. Doesn't mean you cease to be bipartisan. That means I'll be aggressively bipartisan. But you have to aggressively bipartisan in getting to 50, or 52, or 53. But I don't think there's a path to meet the challenges at the moment at 60.

Mike Johnson: So, I just wanted to underscore. I think you hit two of the most important issues facing the country over the next decade.

Mike Johnson: And I'd love to talk about all of those issues. I am in the [inaudible 00:14:33] corner like you. I'd like to do a whole show on any one of those topics you wanted to mention.

Quinn: Sure. Yeah.

Mike Johnson: I'd say, for me, the big ones that I'll start with are, absolutely has to be climate first. As you know, without that topic, none of the rest of the topics matter. It's deck chairs on the Titanic. [crosstalk 00:14:47] ... we're talking about gun safety without solving climate first.

Mike Johnson: And that is about [inaudible 00:14:52] ... I've had success with this, how do you build the coalitions in still a very much western state? We have almost 100,000 oil and gas jobs in Colorado. How do you build the coalition in states like Colorado to be aggressive about climate? We've done that in Colorado. I was the first to come out and call to move Colorado to 100% clean energy by 2040. We're now on the path to do that in Colorado. I think there is a way to do that at the U.S. Senate with the coalition of not just environmentalists and mobilized parents and kids, but also business leaders who see it as not just a moral thing to do, but the economically wise thing to do.

Mike Johnson: So, I think there is a path to that, and that has to be first.

Mike Johnson: And then, I think, also critical ... The other questions would be, how do we prepare for the future of work? How do we think about how we prepare people for the jobs that are coming in a world where 30% of the jobs that they have may be gone in 10 or 15 years? When people are going to need to change careers 10 or 12 times over the course of their lifetime, how do we prepare people for that? I have a big idea on that I'd love to talk about.

Mike Johnson: And then, how do we think about solving the fundamental problems of immigration, and of gun safety, and, I think, of fundamentally protecting American democracy? There is a set of fundamental democracy reforms we're going to have to put in place if we're going to preserve people's belief that democracy still works in this moment.

Quinn: That all sounds pretty good. I like your "deck chairs on the Titanic" idea.

Quinn: And I think, now, we're about 77 episodes in, so I think people get the idea of what we're doing. It's not that, if we don't talk about it, we don't feel like it's important. It's more that there's certain things that are just way, way, way bigger and way, way, way more impactful, and it's really important we knock those things off ... not necessarily before those things. Like, clearly, gun rights is a horrendous issue. Climate change is not something we can go back on. The clock is ticking and we're way past it.

Brian: Way past it.

Mike Johnson: Yes. And the scale of losses there will dwarf the scale of losses we're seeing from gun violence, which doesn't mean you shouldn't do both, but it just means you have to triage the most critical threat first, and this is the most critical threat we've ever seen.

Quinn: Yeah. I think that's [crosstalk 00:17:00] ...

Brian: Sorry to interrupt. Let's start talking about getting some shit done, and then we'll take a step back.

Brian: Your potential opponent, Cory Gardner, who's been in the Senate since 2014 and was in the House before that, actually has been on a number of energy and science and resources-related committees. What is his track record on those? And, should you win, are you angling for any of those?

Mike Johnson: So, yes, I think the challenge is, there is, when you look at what Gardner has done or not done on climate, the evidence is damning, right? Which is, not only has he supported a president who denies that climate change exists, voting with him 99% of the time, not only has he supported everyone from Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA to Rick Perry to serve as Energy, he voted to roll back protections on water and air. I mean, he's been paywall on all of the issues that matter, and has just not in any way been willing to step up and lead on this in a way that's going to make a big impact.

Mike Johnson: And, so, I think Coloradans deeply agree this is one you want to take courageous action on. Because the thing is, in Colorado, climate is not just a quality of life, it's a way of life. If you live on the Western Slope and you work in the outdoor rec industry, because you have a mountain bike company, or you're on the Eastern Plains and you're a farmer that relies on water, those are not nice to have, those are have-to-haves. So, I think there is a coalition around climate in a place like Colorado that is really transpartisan, that I think makes it possible for us to get big things done, and is why people are so frustrated and, I think, feel duped by what Gardner promised to do and hasn't done.

Quinn: I mean, it's just so lazy to say that it's frustrating at this point, you know? But it just becomes such an imperative.

Quinn: I mean, and we saw in Virginia where literally one vote can decide things. But if we're keeping the system where every state gets two Senate seats, every one of those is just incredibly valuable.

Brian: [crosstalk 00:18:52]

Quinn: And, again, since it's not overwhelming majorities in either way in the Senate, I mean, each one of these ... When there's someone like that that's not just not getting the job done, but is actively working against it, on, again, the most consequential issues of our time, then they got to go.

Quinn: So, where do you see yourself, should you be elected ... What committees are you angling for or hoping for? Where do you feel like you can bring your experience to bear to make the biggest difference?

Mike Johnson: Yeah, for me, I think primarily about the policies that I care about most and how I want to make an impact on those. And, for me, obviously, the first one is climate. So, I want to be in a place where I can make that impact. Of course, I'd love to be on the relevant committees that could potentially have an impact on that, but I don't feel limited to the committee assignment driving that. It is going to be an animating force of my time there is, how do you build the coalition through the country, aggressively towards clean energy? So, I think that will be first and foremost.

Mike Johnson: If you look at health, education, labor, pension, agriculture, finance, every one of those, the all-consuming question for them is still going to be, what are we doing to prepare for and prevent the onset of climate change? And, so, I think it's all-encompassing. But I'd like to be in the spot where I can have the biggest leverage on that issue first, in addition to some other things I'm really passionate about, like immigration, and like education, and like gun safety.

Quinn: Well, it's certainly always invaluable to have ... Take away a lawyer and bring in an educator, because obviously our education system is such a vital piece of this puzzle, so having someone with that experience who's actually worked in and run schools ... It's like we're bringing Lauren Underwood in as a nurse last year. It's like that.

Quinn: I mean, of course we need a fucking nurse. These are the people who've been working in the system and can tell you exactly where and when it's broken, and what's going to matter and what's going to make a difference.

Mike Johnson: Yeah, I'll have to check, but as far as I've found, I think I would be the only teacher and school principal in the U.S. Senate, were I to get there, so that would be a unique, new set of skills.

Quinn: Wow.

Quinn: All right. So, I'm curious. Still talking about getting shit done here. Passing anything like the Green New Deal, whatever it ends up looking like, one massive undertaking, or probably a variety of connected measures over time, is currently going to require 60 votes. Again, I can't say enough, that's not going to happen. It's not going to happen. Best case, realistic scenario, we have 50 Democrats and a voting Vice-President. So, that's not 60, that's 51. And not all of those people are even remotely close to super progressive, even if they've got the Democrat label. That's just not how it works.

Quinn: Again, you agreed it's time to do away with the filibuster, because, I mean, look, keeping it ... we joke, might mean, like, a small segment of the human population must randomly draw straws to survive in caves until the next 10,000 years. So, it would be great if that didn't happen.

Quinn: Do you feel like ... And, again, I know they've talked about it some in these debates, the presidential debates, which are insane ... How do you feel about your potential colleagues? Putting your toe in the water on the filibuster thing, do you think Democrats will actually grow a spine and do the right thing on this?

Mike Johnson: You know, I have talked to some of them already about this, and there are certainly some that oppose it, disagree with me. But their argument has been, the fear is, what would Republicans do to us without the filibuster? And, if they only need 51 votes, what sort of terrible things will they be able to ram down our throats?

Mike Johnson: And I think we're already living in that world. In this world, inaction is the worst thing you can do. And, so, just Mitch McConnell's ability to allow us to do nothing is the worst situation we can face right now, on an issue like climate.

Mike Johnson: And, so, what I would rather do is, I'd rather actually put power back in the voters' hands to pay attention, which is, I would actually take ... If you had a Republican majority for two years, and they passed a bunch of things that people truly disliked, and they showed their true colors that they're going to actually double down and expand coal plants, and shut down wind and solar, if they actually did that, I think the American people would pay attention and vote them all out.

Mike Johnson: My coach in high school used to say, "Athletics don't build character, they reveal character." And I think the same is true of leadership. Like, political power doesn't build values, it reveals your values. And I'd much take a world where we can actually show our values, lead on them. Right now, where they'd fare better is a world where nothing gets done and everyone can point the finger at the other person and say, "It's their fault." I'd rather have real action and real accountability than perpetual inaction.

Quinn: But that's such a crazy idea, Mike. I don't know what you're talking about.

Mike Johnson: And the way I describe this is like, think about the Kavanaugh vote, right? The entire country tuned in, enraptured, to that vote, because, lo and behold, the U.S. Senate was actually voting on something of consequence. As you all know, the real evil in the U.S. Senate is not the votes that happen on the U.S. Senate floor, it's the votes that never get to the U.S. Senate floor. It's the votes that never get to a committee hearing. I mean, there are Senators who have served five, 10, 15 years, maybe have had one or two bills of consequence ever get a hearing, because the committee chairwoman or the Senate President, or Mitch McConnell, majority leader, gets to just decide what vote ever gets heard and what vote ever gets called. And, in that world, there's nothing for the American people to actually weigh in on and pressure on, because they know the best way to keep the American people silent is to not have a real bill, a real case and controversy for people to push on.

Mike Johnson: I think that is what has turned off most Americans from even following, because there's nothing ... It's like a football game with no football.

Quinn: It's really incredible. I mean, people talk about, understandably and correctly, what a horrific nightmare Trump is, in ... literally, pick from a multiple-choice question, whatever your topic of concern is. But the power that Mitch McConnell has and has wielded, and the strategy behind it, is ... It's incredible.

Quinn: I mean, should we have history books in 10, 20, 30 years, the biographies will be stunning. I mean, what they've done in this, arguably one of our most important stretches of elections ever. And 2018 went great, and we need these 2019 state elections, and obviously the 2020 ones, to go our way, or it's just going to be real bad. And it's incredible, the power he's had to shift that.

Mike Johnson: It is. And my fear is he'll go down in history with Rutherford B. Hayeses of the world to say, "You took a moment in history and you corruptly seized for power purposes a branch of American government you didn't have the right to seize." Rutherford B. Hayes famously loses the popular election, tell me if this sounds familiar, in 1868, or maybe it's '76 ... No, it's '76. It's after the end of Grant's term. And he loses. He contests the results in Florida. He wants a recount in Florida. And, instead, he strikes a deal in the middle of the night with a kind of faux electoral college, and he gets the Democrats in the South to switch their electoral votes to him in return for his willingness to withdraw all troops from the South.

Mike Johnson: And, overnight, you undo all of the progress of reconstruction. Two years later, Tennessee has this idea of, " [inaudible 00:26:25] ... by the 13th and 14th Amendment? What if we just pass a law? We'll call it Jim Crow law." And what is born is a whole ... It takes us 100 years to get back to where Lincoln and Grant had us almost. In the 1860s, we hate statewide elected officials who were African American in the South. That was happening already in the 19th century. And then, Hayes gave up a generation of that.

Mike Johnson: And, so, yeah, McConnell's equal grab to try to take back control of the Supreme Court through unprecedented measures, we may have lived through what will tip the tide of a moment in history that will be known for its Machiavellian, and I think soulless, approach to politics.

Quinn: Yeah. That's a pretty good analogy. It's true. It could set us back ... I hate to use the word "forever," but it's pretty shocking. There's also some great reading out there on reconstruction, if anyone is interested in it.

Brian: Oh, do you have a book to recommend?

Quinn: I'll put them in the show notes. We don't need to get into it here.

Brian: Sure. I'll add it to my list.

Quinn: Yeah, perfect.

Mike Johnson: I would add one to your list, too. Jill Lepore, These Truths, if you haven't read, I loved, which I thought was a great one on this era.

Quinn: That book ... Incredible.

Mike Johnson: Yeah, fantastic.

Quinn: I mean, you always think, "Oh, this thing has been done so many times," but the way that books reads is just ... It's amazing. It's like late-night fiction. It's incredible.

Mike Johnson: That's exactly what it is.

Mike Johnson: But this goes back to your point earlier, and I do think it's not yet irreparable, but I think the stakes of the 2020 election could make it so. I think, if we re-elect Donald Trump, if you send Mitch McConnell back to the Senate leadership, then you'll have two more Supreme Court seats that come up in the next four years, you have four to six more years of missed action on climate. That, then, could be a chapter in history we can't rewrite.

Mike Johnson: I do think it's only in pencil right now, but it goes into permanent marker if we don't get it right in 2020.

Brian: That's just so insane to know that we are at that point. We've come to it. It is now.

Brian: Mike, you've been really campaigning around Colorado for a couple years now, and you've been in the education system, like you mentioned. What are the fine people of Colorado ... where are they on climate change and clean energy?

Mike Johnson: There is a, I really think, dramatic interest in action. And, as I said, you find it in all parts of the state. You find people on the Eastern Plains who are conservative by other measures who are seeing changes in drought, or seeing changes in access to water, or seeing changes in crop, or seeing [inaudible 00:29:03] ...

Mike Johnson: All you have to do, I got to tell you ... If I was in person, you could see my belt buckle that has the example of it, but if you drive through Western Colorado right now, one of the best visible examples of climate change is right in front of your eyes, which is, there is a pine beetle that nests in pine trees in Colorado, and every winter, it lays eggs, and every winter, it gets cold enough to freeze all those eggs and kill them. In the last 10 years, the temperatures have risen just enough that they do not get frozen out, and they have decimated all of the pine trees on the Western Slopes.

Brian: Wow.

Mike Johnson: So, there are entire stretches of Western Colorado that are just standing dead timber, which, as you can imagine, are massive forest fire risks. Literally, you can't drive through Western Colorado to go river rafting, or to go to Vail, or Aspen, or [inaudible 00:29:44], or wherever you're going, and not look out and say, "Wait, why is half the mountainside dead?" Well, that's climate change. And, so, that's a climate crisis.

Mike Johnson: And, so, it is now so apparent to us on things that are right in front of our eyes that there is a very, very different and very powerful coalition that I think are ready for aggressive action, which is why we've seen Colorado move in that direction more than the rest of the country, is it's both clear the stakes are high, and, for us, it's everything.

Brian: Yeah. Wow, that is wild. It's crazy how it takes sometimes people to actually see with their eyes before they can sort of go, "Oh."

Quinn: But that's sometimes what it takes, right?

Mike Johnson: It is.

Brian: Yes, unfortunately.

Mike Johnson: I mean, literally, I had a superintendent who was brilliant who did this. We were trying to pass a mill levy for our schools to fund it, and we tried it three years in a row and failed. And we were taking cuts every year, teachers were taking cuts, they were freezing pay, doing longer hours unpaid.

Mike Johnson: And, finally, the third or fourth time she tried, she said, "Okay, here's the deal. [inaudible 00:30:45] ... make the cuts and no one knows we can't do it anymore. So, we're going to let voters decide. Just so the voters know, I can't afford to keep school open 180 days a year anymore, so I'm going to furlough the entire school district for seven days at the end of October. Just happens to be 10 days before the election, but you all just find someplace else to send your kids, because we can't keep the school doors open."

Brian: Wow.

Mike Johnson: And the mill levy passed. Once people realized, "Oh, wow, this place actually can't afford to keep the doors open. We better do something about it," their perspective changed.

Mike Johnson: I think, right now, unless you have that, "Oh, wow," the change right in front of you moment, it's easy just to stay focused on the job you got, and the kids you're trying to raise, and the parents you're taking care of. But when it's right in front of your eyes, it's harder to turn away.

Quinn: Well, you know, the analogy is healthcare, where the Affordable Care Act is still stuck in so many of the courts, but here's why ... And, by the way, it is not perfect by any stretch, and I believe was always intended to be adjusted as such along the way. Turns out, it hasn't been, because we know why. We've been talking about it for 20 minutes.

Quinn: But, if you have, for the first time in your life, been able to go to a primary care physician for the past eight years, and then someone tells you, "Oh, Mitch McConnell made it so you can't anymore," now you've had this tangible, practical association, this benefit that someone is taking away from you. And that is different than when we were voting on it the first time.

Quinn: It's the same thing as ...

Mike Johnson: That's exactly right.

Quinn: ... for the first time, someone in your life, or yourself, had a pre-existing condition, and, holy shit, now you have health insurance? Something that is completely foreign to the U.S. medical system?

Quinn: But now, oh, yeah, eight years later, now that you're 68 or 72, we're going to tell you you can't do it. You got to be fucking kidding me.

Mike Johnson: Exactly.

Quinn: So, it's why it's so frustrating it's being struck down by courts and by these judges that Trump's supporting, because the people would never let this happen again.

Mike Johnson: That's right. I mean, in Colorado, Coloradans have really noticed this. Gardner voted over, and over, and over to cut the pre-existing conditions protections for 800,000 Coloradans. So, literally, that is almost a million Coloradans who have pre-existing conditions who, with his vote, would now be told, "Yeah, you're going back to the world of 15 years ago where, yes, you have a serious cancer, and that means you'll never get insurance again."

Mike Johnson: And, so, that's the kind of thing people just don't ... How could you possibly be representing me and my interests if that's your decision?

Mike Johnson: And, so, I think those are the things that are unforgivable.

Quinn: And that's why I feel like, when I look at Virginia and we've got this election coming up in 95 days, where the whole House and the Senate are up for a vote, which is ... We got one vote, and we somehow actually managed to enact Medicaid, and 400,000 people got insurance overnight. And, so, we've got this election coming up again in 95 days, and it's like, this is what we're voting on, it's those 400,000 people who got to go to the doctor now. And now, it's up about whether they can anymore. So, you're going to take that away after two years? You got to be fucking kidding me.

Quinn: Anyways, hey, Mike, talk to me about ... Because, again, we spend most of our time in Los Angeles, where we don't technically have our own drinking water, talk to me about water rights. I mean, the Colorado River is such a huge issue for the Southwest in the future. Is that something that comes up a lot out there?

Mike Johnson: So, that's appropriate. I just moved over to the Game of Thrones section, [crosstalk 00:34:15] ...

Quinn: Oh, good, good, good.

Brian: Oh.

Quinn: Good, good, good.

Mike Johnson: ... George R. R. Martin seems to be now where the better reception is.

Mike Johnson: So, you mentioned water. So, water is an incredibly important issue in Colorado. We tell the joke in Colorado that whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting, which is like, water is one of the biggest causes for fights in Colorado. But there are also really common-sense things we can do on this. Let me just tell you one big idea that I've been working on.

Mike Johnson: Which is, right now, we have a place in Colorado where almost 85% of water used in Colorado is used in agriculture. As it should be. That's what grows all of our foods, supports all of our livestock, you can understand that.

Mike Johnson: [crosstalk 00:34:50] ... 85% of the people live on the front range, and, so, we're working a lot on conservation on the front range, you know, water your lawn less, et cetera.

Mike Johnson: The challenge is, the way our water rights are structured for those farmers is, it literally is a "use it or lose it" system. So, let me give you an example. If you have 100 acre-feet of water, which is your right, say you use an old flood irrigation system, right? You just put on the spigot, you put it into the ditches, and you try to flood your crops, flood irrigate your crops that way.

Mike Johnson: And you realize that's incredibly wasteful, and you think, "Oh, you know what? I could move to a drip irrigation system. And, instead of needing 100 acre-feet of water, I'd only need 50 acre-feet." If you did that and only used 50 acre-feet, you would lose the right to the other 50 acre-feet of water you did not use.

Mike Johnson: So, quite literally, it is to your massive detriment to conserve water and its usage, because you lose the right to it.

Brian: Wow.

Quinn: Oh, boy.

Mike Johnson: And, so, all we want to do is say, "It should be the opposite." And there should be a market in those water rights where a farmer [inaudible 00:35:49] ... if he only uses 50 acre-feet, he can lease, this is important, lease, not sell, he can lease his water rights to somebody else, which means he both does better for the environment, and he make money, himself.

Mike Johnson: You don't want to have him sell the water rights, because if you sell the water rights out of the basin, you actually sell it to a corporation on the other side of the divide, now, you can begin to drain basins of their long-term water supply. But you should be able to lease it to other people in the region.

Mike Johnson: So, I think, there, those are things where there are simple steps you can take that would dramatically change the incentive system and dramatically change the outcomes for water use, and I think we're going to have to do that, as our growth continues and water ... You know, water is the one non-renewable resource.

Quinn: Yeah, I mean, no water and things get real bad. Again, see Los Angeles. The Southwest states just struck a deal recently, in the past few months, six months, for the next few years, but it's still just ... It's not great.

Mike Johnson: It's a huge crisis here. And I'd say it'll be the most significant gating factor to growth. And people say, "Oh, well, how much carrying capacity does Colorado have?" We're one of the fastest-growing states. We love that. At what point do you hit carrying capacity?

Mike Johnson: You hit carrying capacity when we have some developments that have been built and abandoned, almost third-world style, because there's not a water supply to sustain those developments.

Brian: Geez.

Quinn: Yeah. It feels like that sort of stuff is really going to come back to bite us here at some point.

Brian: Yeah, I think so.

Brian: Mike, let's move on to ... I'm curious, how are you feeling about your fund-raising and your polling right now?

Mike Johnson: You know, we feel great about where we are. I mean, we have come out hard and early. We're working really hard. We've been all over the state. We have raised three and a half million dollars so far, which is ... We've broken records in Colorado on that.

Brian: Awesome.

Mike Johnson: One of the things we're most proud of is, we've actually raised from every one of the 64 counties in Colorado, which, if you all have been to some of the Eastern Plains of Colorado, you know there's only about two Democrats in some of those counties. We got both of them.

Mike Johnson: And, so, I think we both have a broad and deep reservoir of support. We have three times more raised than anybody else in the field. We have more cash on hand than the entire field combined. And, so, we're the only one who's really kept pace with Gardner at every step. We know he's going to have massive support.

Mike Johnson: I'll tell you, in the first quarter, we raised $1.8 million, Gardner raised $2 million. I am not taking any PAC money of any sort. Never have and won't. So, we raised 1.8 all from people. He raised $2 million. Of that $2 million, a million of that was from PACs.

Mike Johnson: And, so, when you look at what the force of incumbency is and the special interests that are going to rally around him, they're going to be dramatic. But we think we're in a really great position where there's overwhelming support from around the state from people who really want to see a change and are speaking with their contributions right now.

Mike Johnson: You know, we had an event where we had a guy who was serving pizza at a fund-raiser, who, at the end of it, stood up and gave $1,000. We had an event where a babysitter, at the end of it, came up and maxed out to our event, because people are just so passionate about this, people are doing things they've never done before.

Brian: So awesome to hear.

Quinn: You've got a lot of Democratic competitors. How are we feeling about that now?

Brian: Are there 10?

Mike Johnson: We do. There's somewhere around there. It's a great group of people. The wonderful thing about 2020 is everybody wants to make a difference, and a lot of people decided the best way to do that is to run for office. I think that's fantastic. So, it'll be a great debate, a spirited one.

Mike Johnson: I think that we have some real unique attributes that put us in the best position to both win the primary and win the general. Yes, we'll have the resources we need from the fund-raising, we'll have the political coalitions statewide. I grew up on the Western Slope, and, so, no one else in the race is from the Western Slope, means I could win back those regions the Democrats have not won historically. I'm a fluent Spanish speaker. 22% of our state is Latinx of some sort. And, so, I ran the first Spanish-language ads last year. We'll do them again in the years to come.

Mike Johnson: And, so, I think the ability to talk, and listen, and communicate in Spanish to win the rural parts of the state, and to be able to have the resources to tell the truth about what Gardner's done and hold him accountable for it, I think that puts us in the very best position of anyone in this race to both win this primary and win this general.

Mike Johnson: So, I like very much where we stand, but I have a great deal of respect for my friends who I get to run alongside.

Quinn: It's a hell of a crop of folks. So, again, happy that everybody is fighting for the chance to get out there and do it.

Quinn: Mike, we connected first about both having young families. Again, you're sitting there holding a sparkly backpack in a library. I was at swim practice today, taking my kids to swim practice, and I told a friend, I said, "I feel like my job at this point is, like, chauffer and hopefully get my work done in the minutes in between, I think." For some reason, I'm still surprised at the end of every day when I haven't gotten my shit done, and I was like, "I should stop being surprised at this point."

Mike Johnson: That's exactly right.

Quinn: So, we bonded over that, and being exhausted most of the time. But those are the choices we made.

Quinn: So, let's do something here. Let's "go back to the future." In 10, 20 ...

Mike Johnson: Whoa, nice.

Quinn: ... 30 years, when your children unplug the chips in their brains and ask, "Daddy, what did you do in 2020, in such a momentous time?," a crossroads for humanity, to put it lightly, what are you going to be most proud of? Where did you really take a stand?

Mike Johnson: So, I'm glad you asked that, Quinn, because that was literally the discussion we had as a family six months ago, nine months ago, when we decided to do this race, was, Courtney and I, my wife Courtney and I, we didn't know a clear path. We thought it was important. We knew the cost on family would be significant to do a race like this. And, unlike other state races, the cost on family is significant if we win. If I'm in D.C. three or four days a week, that's hard on my family, too.

Mike Johnson: So, I talked to my two kids about it, and one of my sons said, "Do you think you can make a difference?" And I said, "Yes." And he said, "Then why don't you do it?" And [inaudible 00:42:04] ... question, which was, in this moment in history, when my kids are going to look back and say, "What did you do in the moment when democracy was most at risk in our lifetime?" ... This is going to be like asking someone, "Where were you during the march at Selma?" And are you going to say, "Oh, you know what, I had a dentist appointment that day, I couldn't make it"? Or are you going to say, "No, actually, in the moment where I felt like the fundamental promise I have to pass on to you, which is a country where democracy works and you can solve big problems, and we're able to actually bring people together to hand on to the next generation something better than what we had, I gave everything we had to try to do that, and, actually, you gave everything you had. You were 11, and you were seven, but knocked doors and you drove to all 64 counties in Colorado, and you talked to people, and you made phone calls, and you gave up a lot of time from your mom and your dad to do that, and that was a massive sacrifice"? And, I think, one that they will be incredibly proud of.

Quinn: That's pretty awesome.

Quinn: So, you worked in the schools, and you were in the Colorado Senate. You ran for governor. I mean, you seem pretty hell-bent on affecting change.

Brian: Thank you.

Quinn: Yeah, thank you.

Quinn: Aside from your kids, or maybe it is just your kids, is there a specific relationship you can point to that was sort of a catalyst to get you to where you are today?

Mike Johnson: I mean, this was how I got into politics. There was a student in my high school named Ulysses at this last high school. I ran three high schools, but I was the principal of the third high school. When I was there, we successfully turned this school around from one that had about a 50% dropout rate into what became the first public high school in Colorado history where 100% of our seniors graduated and 100% of those kids were all admitted to four-year colleges.

Brian: Wow.

Mike Johnson: Which was a success for us for about three days. And, three days later, I'm standing in a cafeteria, supervising lunch duty, and Ulysses walks up to me, who's one of my seniors, who's the kind of kid that reads calculus books and composes music in his spare time ...

Quinn: Like Brian.

Mike Johnson: Yeah.

Brian: Same. Same.

Mike Johnson: And he comes up to me with tears running down his face, and he says, "Mr. Johnston, why did you make me do all this?" I said, "What do you mean, Ulysses? You're into college, you're living the dream." He said, "No, I did everything you ever asked me to do. I came early, I stayed late, I got good grades, I applied to college, and you know I'll never be able to go." And I said, "Why do you say that?" He said, "Mr. Johnston, I never told you this, but I'm undocumented."

Quinn: Ah, Jesus.

Mike Johnson: "And, today, in the State Senate, the bill just died that would've allowed undocumented kids to go to college at the same in-state tuition rate. So, now, my best friend Jeremy I, since second grade, have always wanted to go to University of Colorado. We're both in. He's going to go and pay $4,000 a year with financial aid. If I want to go, I'm going to pay $30,000 a year with no financial aid. And you know my mom, Mr. Johnston. She doesn't make that much money in an entire year."

Quinn: God damn.

Brian: Jesus.

Mike Johnson: That was a moment where I felt like, here, I'm just watching him fall through a hole in the floor. It was like your own kid. I'd known him for years. And there was nothing left we could do. He was prepared, our teachers had done an amazing job, he was going to rock it at CU, and he couldn't go without a change in the law.

Mike Johnson: And that was the day I decided to run for the State Senate. Because I said, "If that's what it talks to change the law, that's what we're going to do."

Mike Johnson: And, so, I left my school, I ran for the State Senate, I was fortunate to win. And, about maybe two, three years later, we finally were able to pass that bill, because it had failed for almost 12 or 13 years. I was the first one who was ever able to get an actual Republican to vote for the bill, because I found a State Senator in the Eastern Plains who had fought against the bill for a decade, and when I'm talking to him about why he'd never vote for the bill, he says, "Listen," he's talking, he says, "You know, I coach my son's Little League baseball team. I just think these kids are not the right choices," and I said, "Wait a second. You coach Little League baseball in a tiny farming and ranching town on the Eastern Plains of Colorado, run by immigrant labor. I'd bet you anything you got kids on your baseball team just like the kids at my school." He says, "No, no, I know all the kids on my team."

Mike Johnson: I said, "Just make me one promise. Before you vote no, just promise me you'll talk to the kids on your team. Then, you do whatever your heart tells you." And he says, "Fine, I'll do that."

Mike Johnson: So, he comes back to my desk on Monday morning, walks over to my desk on the Senate floor, and looks in my eyes and says, "So, my third-baseman ..." He said, "My third-baseman is undocumented." He said, "He's one of my son's best friends." He said, "Call the bill up for a vote today." And I did, and he became the first Republican in Colorado history to vote for the bill on the floor of the Senate, which meant the bill passed, meant that I got to stand behind the Governor when he signed it, and then, best of all, I got to get in my truck and drive back up to my old high school and see my former class of 9th-graders who were now finally seniors get to put on a cap and gown, walk across the stage, pick up a diploma, hug them, and know they have a place to go.

Mike Johnson: So, that was the very reason I got into politics, and it's the reason I've stayed. I deeply believe it is still possible to dramatically change people's lives for the better if you're willing to fight hard enough for the folks that need you the most.

Quinn: Well ...

Brian: Man.

Quinn: ... good news is, Mitch McConnell feels exactly the same way.

Brian: Same way.

Quinn: That was incredible. Thank you for sharing that. And it's just, that's true all over, isn't it?

Brian: I mean, yeah, what a shocker, if only you have a personal story of something that happened to you, then you can relate and understand, and see that change needs to happen.

Mike Johnson: And that it's not about you, right? It's not about, "Are people going to be mad at me? Are my poll numbers going to drop?" When you are fighting for something that's bigger than you, you're incidental. You're just in the way. And, so, then, my question is more like, what am I going to do in this moment to serve Ulysses, or to serve the woman that doesn't have access to healthcare [crosstalk 00:48:02] ... That's the real fight.

Mike Johnson: And then, I'm collateral to that battle. But I think what happens is, people so often get focused on themselves as the story, instead of themselves as just the vessel for somebody else's story, which I think is what politics is supposed to be about.

Quinn: Sure.

Brian: Yes.

Quinn: Awesome. Brian, if you could carry that emotion into action, go.

Brian: Yeah. As we mentioned at the very beginning, our goal here is to get to some specific action steps that our listeners can take to support you and what you're fighting for, and how they can do it with their voice, their vote, and their dollar.

Brian: So, let's get into that, starting with their voice, as always. What are the big actionable questions, specific questions, that the rest of us should be asking of our representatives?

Mike Johnson: I think the things you should ask are, "What actions have you taken directly to push forward the agenda items that I care about? And, specifically, what have you done to bring people on board that aren't on board right now?"

Mike Johnson: To say you issued a press release on something is not the same as saying you tried to find a way to fight to get the co-sponsors you need to actually pass it. And, "When have you been willing to disagree with some of your own friends who weren't willing to be courageous enough on this stuff to prove that it was worth it to you?"

Mike Johnson: So, I think that demanding that courage from people, and demanding proof of that courage, is really important. Because I think that's the way that you hold people accountable.

Quinn: Yeah, "Thoughts and prayers," isn't cutting it, folks.

Brian: That sounds lovely. No, sure isn't.

Mike Johnson: It does not. I mean, we don't have time to talk about that, but even that was one of the other major battles I fought, was, I was in the State Senate after the Aurora theater shooting, and, yeah, we had a lot of "thoughts and prayers." We had a lot of folks who said, "Gosh, too bad, we just can't do anything about it." And we said, "We can. We just have to have the courage to do it."

Mike Johnson: And, so, we took on the NRA, we passed the universal background checks, we passed magazine bans, which are our version of assault weapons bans. And the NRA, they sent hundreds of people to the capital every day to threaten us, and protest us, and tell us we'd never work again in the state.

Mike Johnson: And we actually passed the most aggressive gun safety reform in the country. We took on the NRA twice and won twice, because I was not answering to the NRA member who told me he wouldn't vote for me again, I was answering to the parents who were showing up who had buried their kids and said, "You have to just make sure no other parent ever goes through what I just went through. That's all I ask."

Brian: Not that big of an ask.

Mike Johnson: Not that big of an ask.

Quinn: I don't know if you saw ... I mean, I think everybody saw what happened in Virginia Beach a couple months ago. And then, the Virginia Senate tried to pass something, and the Republicans wouldn't. An incredible speech that the Virginia delegate made, who's ... I'm totally forgetting his name, of course. But his girlfriend was the reporter who was killed on air a couple years ago.

Mike Johnson: Oh, right.

Quinn: And his speech, we'll put in the show notes, is just incredible. I mean, and it's true.

Mike Johnson: Oh, wow.

Quinn: It's just like, "No, this shouldn't happen anymore. What is wrong with you?" Anyways ...

Brian: Anyways ...

Mike Johnson: I had the closing arguments on our floor debate on this, so I'll send you my speech from that, which was, my argument was ...

Brian: Oh, yeah, please do.

Mike Johnson: ... there are some things that you can do that matter, and if there are simple steps we can take to reduce class size in heaven, we ought to do that. That ought to be the first obligation you make. And I think that's one war that you can take action on.

Mike Johnson: So, I think these are ones where, yeah, just sending out a tweet is not the question. The question is, are you willing to stand in the fire and take it until the world changes?

Brian: Right.

Quinn: I like it.

Brian: Yeah. Please send that.

Brian: All right. So, what about their vote, Mike? When is the primary there?

Mike Johnson: You bet. So, our primary is June 30th of next year. So, yes, all of our Colorado voters, we need you to come out and caucus for us, vote for us.

Mike Johnson: If you are from outside of Colorado but you want to have an impact, also, we'll be doing text messages, phone calls for people who want to come out and spend a week and knock doors. It's like missionary democracy. Come spend a week and try to help us turn these people out. Because what we don't want to do is have the rest of the world tune into this race in August or September and have a candidate who's won the primary who can't win the general election, and then we've lost Colorado and we've lost the U.S. Senate.

Mike Johnson: So, I think the real crux of this race is going to be between now and next year.

Brian: Awesome. Good to know.

Quinn: And what about their dollar? What's your website, your URL, Mike?

Brian: Yes, where can we send [crosstalk 00:52:29] ...

Mike Johnson: You bet. I'm

Brian: I will put that in the note.

Mike Johnson: And, because I'm a school teacher, I did not put a four. It actually has to be spelled out.

Mike Johnson: And, yes, we would love your support, love to have you give financially, or if you have friends that you can send out information to, we're going to need the resources to compete with Cory Gardner, and the Koch brothers, and Mitch McConnell.

Quinn: Do you think Mitch McConnell's the one controlling your Wi-Fi right now? Do you think that's what's happening?

Mike Johnson: There are some people on my team who believe that my phone is bugged, because it is unreliable. So, I'm not sure if Mitch is involved yet.

Quinn: We can't thank you enough. Obviously, you're going to extreme measures to make this conversation happen.

Brian: Yeah, thank you so much, Mike, honestly.

Quinn: We really appreciate it.

Mike Johnson: No, I'm delighted to.

Quinn: And all you're doing out there.

Quinn: So, last couple quick questions. Getting specific, Mike, who is someone in your life that has positively impacted your work in the past six months?

Mike Johnson: So, I mean, one person that's actually had a big impact on my life over the last six months has been the author Jill Lepore, which, you read the book These Truths we talked about earlier.

Quinn: Sure.

Mike Johnson: I just think it tells the story of pivotal moments in American history where, for the courageous stand of a few, you really either reaffirmed who we are and what we believed, or you lost sight of that. And I think it's clear, we are in one of those moments now where it could go either direction. When the version of this is written 50 years from now, it will either say that democracy came under fire and we set ourselves back a generation, or a century, or it will say there was a courageous band of believers who said, "We think America is something more and better than this."

Mike Johnson: And there is still that chapter left to write for us, but we have to make sure we write it the right way.

Quinn: I'm down for that. And, yeah, that book, again, is really ... We'll put it in the show notes, as well.

Brian: Yeah, for sure. Might even be a answer to a upcoming question.

Quinn: Yeah.

Brian: Mike, what do you do when you feel overwhelmed, when you need some Mike time?

Quinn: Like, when your Wi-Fi isn't working and you're trying to have a conversation.

Mike Johnson: Right, right, right.

Mike Johnson: I like to read. So, I do two things. One is, I like to read, and I like flying airplanes, because airplanes, or [crosstalk 00:54:40] ...

Brian: Flying airplanes?

Mike Johnson: I don't fly, I just ride on them.

Brian: [crosstalk 00:54:44]

Mike Johnson: I'm just saying, I like riding on airplanes, because it is the one completely sacred space where you can sit, and read, and write, and think without much distraction. So, I have a little room in my office we call the airplane, which is a place where you can just go and read and write, uninterrupted.

Mike Johnson: And, so, for me, I like to come out of the chaos and have a little bit of time to think back. And, for me, it's often to sit with a text, or something that I find helps reground me in both where we are and where we're trying to go.

Mike Johnson: And then, the other one, from Quinn's point, is time with my kids. So, it's either creating obstacle courses in the basement for kids to climb over, which is [crosstalk 00:55:21] ... just completely joyous, or it's time to catch up and reflect a little bit with a book or some writing, are probably the two different kinds of solace that I find.

Brian: [crosstalk 00:55:31]

Quinn: [crosstalk 00:55:31]

Mike Johnson: I will say, what should be on my resume is, I make a mean obstacle course. And I'm kind of the guy where I can make it out of anything that happens to be laying around the house. I don't need special materials. So, it's probably my best dad skill.

Brian: Wow.

Quinn: That's a good one. That's a good one.

Brian: Into that.

Quinn: I mean, honestly, anything that exhausts them and keeps them busy is just the best.

Mike Johnson: Yeah. It's like mini American Ninja.

Quinn: Yeah. I'm totally down for it.

Brian: Mike, if you could Amazon Prime one book to Donald Trump, what do you think that would be?

Mike Johnson: I will not give a petty answer.

Brian: Good man.

Mike Johnson: So, my answer is, what I would actually do, if I knew he was going to read it, first of all, I think what I would want is, I find people are most moved by actual personal stories. I think it's very easy to retreat to ideology, and I think that what changes people's hearts and heads is when they actually come face to face with a person whose story compels them.

Mike Johnson: And, so, Helen Thorpe has a fantastic book about four undocumented girls in Denver who are winding their way through the school system, and I think I would send him that, because if you read [inaudible 00:56:47] ... of these girls and their perspectives, and what it's like just to be an undocumented kid in America trying to make it, I think it would have to change the hatred he's harboring in his heart for people that don't look like him, and I think that would probably be the biggest change we could make.

Quinn: I love that. That's a awesome recommendation. Thank you.

Quinn: And, to be clear, we accept both thoughtful and petty, because that's the state we're in at this point, but that was very thoughtful. So, thank you.

Mike Johnson: You bet.

Quinn: Well, listen, Mike ...

Brian: That's it, we got it.

Quinn: Yeah, we're going to get you out of here. Holy cow. I apologize. Thank you for all of your efforts here.

Mike Johnson: No, that's great. I'm going to send you two photos, one of me outside the Rochdale Village Queens Library and one in the book corner with Steven King.

Brian: Yes.

Quinn: Awesome.

Brian: I love it.

Quinn: You're the best. The people love it.

Quinn: Mike, thanks again. I'm glad we finally did this. Look forward to catching up soon.

Mike Johnson: Yeah, I can't wait to see you out in L.A. in person when I'm out there and you're back.

Brian: Yes.

Quinn: Yeah, absolutely.

Quinn: And, yeah, have a great trip, man. Have a lot of fun. The one-on-one time is special.

Mike Johnson: It is going to be a lot of fun. I'm trying to convince my daughter that we're really in New York, and she's like, "But, wait a second, I can't see any of the big buildings."

Quinn: Yeah. It's complicated.

Brian: [crosstalk 00:57:56]

Mike Johnson: It is ... The bur rough system, yeah, it's a lot to manage for a seven-year-old, but we're having fun.

Quinn: All right, Mike. Be good, man. We'll talk to you soon.

Quinn: Thanks to our incredible guest today, and thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute, or awesome workout, or dish-washing, or fucking dog-walking late at night that much more pleasant.

Quinn: As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at It is all the news most vital to our survival as a species.

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Brian: And please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this. And, if you're really fucking awesome, rate us on Apple Podcast.

Brian: Keep the lights on. Thanks.

Quinn: Please.

Brian: And you can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player and at our website,

Quinn: Thanks to the very awesome Tim [Blaine 00:59:02] for our jamming music, to all of you for listening, and, finally, most importantly, to our moms for making us.

Quinn: Have a great day.

Brian: Thanks, guys.