Congressional Corner With Joe Courtney | WAMC

Congressional Corner With Joe Courtney

Jun 23, 2020

Alan Chartock: Here we are in the Congressional Corner with Joe Courtney, one of my favorite people, a guy from Connecticut who knows all about boats, and you name it. And the Long Island Sound. And he's been with us for a long time. Welcome back Joe.

Representative Joe Courtney: Great to be here.

Okay. So, you know, there's a lot going on a lot of protests about police brutality, we're seeing a lot of young people turning out. What do you make of the whole thing?

You know, it's really having been around a bit, I mean, you can sort of sniff out, you know, when an issue is sort of manufactured or scripted, or created as opposed to an issue that is really organic and real. And this clearly falls into the latter category in a way that it's hard to remember something this powerful happening. And so, again, as you point out, I represent the sort of rural small town part of Connecticut 63 towns drew a line down the middle of Connecticut, everything to the right is pretty much the second district. So there really is no urban density in this district. The largest town is about 47,000 people. I'll tell you Alan, it has been amazing to watch in these small towns, vigils, marches, gatherings. In just this past weekend, high school students coming together and organizing it on their own, I mean without any, as I said, scripting or direction at all. And so in Waterford, Connecticut, which is one of those shoreline towns, there was about four or 500 kids out yesterday, really passionate and articulate. And, again, I could just rattle off one town after another where this is coming together and happening very mixed crowds racially which is really again, another indicator that something pretty unique is happening and special. And it's obviously shaking the walls in Washington with the introduction of the Justice in Policing Act last week, the hearing markup is going to happen this week, and we're voting next week. And, you know, the House obviously has shown an ability to move legislation over the last two years, but even in the Senate, I mean, we're actually seeing the tectonic plates starting to move over there.

How come? How come? Why are the Republicans taking notice?

Well, again, I think that, you know, the what happened, what's happening in eastern Connecticut is, I think, happening in communities all across the country. And I think there's a recognition that there's something going on here that they need to sort of, at least, present a gesture or an indicator that they're responding to. I mean, Trump signed an executive order that was complete fluff. But at least it talks about policing and some change in terms of policing tactics. Again, I think it's just political survival that is forcing the Senate to actually realize they cannot just stonewall this, like they did with gun violence, and DACA and so many other issues. I mean, this one, the numbers are just overwhelming in terms of polling, but really even more importantly, in terms of just the grassroots citizen participation that's happening all across the country.

Now, Joe Courtney, what do you think about the fact that these demonstrations are both white, as well as black, and young, very young? What does this all signify?

You know, that's what I think in some ways, is what shows that there's something happening here that is just not going to be a moment, that there really is some generational and cross-racial that I think has always made, in the past, getting people to respond in terms of issues of racial injustice and civil rights so difficult. Again, there have been moments, you know, like back in the 1960s with the Selma incident where I think, you know, the President Johnson actually going to Congress and addressing what happened there and passing the Voting Rights Act, you know, within a month afterwards. So, you know, there's moments when I think sort of the issue breaks out of just sort of, you know, racial or ethnic density or concentration and becomes biracial and, you know, broad based and I and I clearly that's happening right now. I mean, it's to listen to a guy like Tim Scott, Republican in the Senate, just talking about body cameras and chokeholds now is sort of a given in terms of whatever package that they come out with. I mean six weeks ago, you wouldn't in your wildest dreams have ever predicted that that would ever happen except for the fact that again guys like him, they're looking at their states and their communities and they're realizing they got to move.

Do you think this could lead to the Democrats taking the Senate?

So I think there's a lot of things that are going on out there that are pushing the numbers in a way that again, as far as I'm concerned, is very hopeful. I was looking at a Des Moines Register poll came out yesterday that has Joni Ernst down about four or five points. That race was really not one of the real top targeted races up until really just even a couple months ago, and we all know about Maine, and Colorado and Arizona as states where the Democrats have the potential to make pickups. But again, if you're starting to pick up states like Iowa, then you know this, this is really getting a lot more interesting in terms of hitting the magic number to take the gavel away from Mitch McConnell.

I was just gonna mention Mitch McConnell, because I've seen polls in which he's either running dead even or one point behind now, do I expect he's gonna lose in, you know, red state, Kentucky? No, but it is extraordinary, isn't it?

It is, and, you know, even he, you know, has again moved in the last two or three weeks. I mean, he now has said that he would actually support a new COVID stimulus bill. He wants one smaller than the Heroes Act that we passed in the House. But again, you know, two months ago, or a month and a half ago, he's talking about well let the states file bankruptcy, you know, and I think, you know, he realizes his own personal requires him to move and he's even made some comments, utterances that show some sympathy for police reform as well. Again, I think it's not going to come in the same realm as the house bill that we're going to vote on shortly. But you're right. I mean, I think that he's got a great candidate, Amy McGrath running and it sounds like she's got her own challenge in the primary and a good guy running there as well. So Kentucky, even Kentucky, he's sweating a little bit. He realizes he's, you know, it's not a slam dunk in political environment.

Okay, very quickly, then. What about the way in which we're looking at the presidential election? Do you think at this stage of the game, that this president is toast?

So again, you know, traditionally I would pretty much say well, you know, June is still an eternity away from Election Day, and the fluidity of events that are happening, but I really believe that we're starting to see some hardening. If you look at the, you know, approval and disapproval rating for Trump that are happening out there, and the Federal Reserve comments regarding the recession a couple of days ago shows that the notion that there's going to be a rocket ship recovery, as Trump says, is just total fantasy. And so now, this thing is starting to harden, as I said, and that I think is going to be hard for him to reverse. You know, in terms of just things that he's already done and said that he really can't take back.

Our friend Joe Courtney on the Congressional Corner. Joe from Connecticut, the beautiful second district. We are so delighted to have you with us when we come back the next time. I don't know let's talk a little bit of COVID, Okay.

Thanks, Alan.