Charles Booker Says Progressives Should ‘Show Up and Listen’ to Deep Red Districts

But there still weren’t enough progressive voters to get yourself and other candidates to victory. So how do you broaden your base in a way that makes people show up to the polls?

The real determinant in our race was money. It wasn’t building support in rural parts of Kentucky. I spent the majority of my campaign explaining how a Black person can win in rural parts of Kentucky and how the issue of rationing insulin is not partisan. And so when I tell my story of nearly dying from diabetic ketoacidosis, and explaining that’s why I fully support Medicare for all — because nobody should die because they don’t have money in their pocket — people get it.

I was in Estill County, a place that’s over 90 percent white, and they asked me to come to talk to them about Black Lives Matter and to participate in demonstrations. I was just being me, and explained how structural racism creates an environment where poverty is generational. And they knew what that was about, they related to it. It wasn’t about changing the message, but it was really about showing up with love.

But the reality here, in our primary, was that we were up against more money than essentially any other race in the country, as far as a primary is concerned, and still we came within 15,000 votes of pulling it off. That’s one of the things I want to help shine a light on, too, is that we don’t have to twist and curtail our message to bring more supporters on. If anything, that pushes them away.

Do you think that Amy McGrath will beat Mitch McConnell in November?

I think there is not any one person that would beat Mitch McConnell. It will take a movement. That was my message for the whole campaign: that he’s an institution. Beating him is not even the end goal. We need to get him out of the way so that we can do the work of transforming our future for Kentucky.

That’s why I reached out to Amy McGrath, to see if we can work together. My hope is that we can be on the same page. This isn’t just about turning him down, but inspiring people to believe things can be different.

So does that mean that you’ll campaign for her?

I’m campaigning for the people of Kentucky. I’ve got to make that clear. I am reaching out to the McGrath campaign to see how we can be helpful. I’m going to be committed to the work so more people can be heard at the ballot box, more people understand their power to organize and become citizen lobbyists and push issues. And most importantly, help make sure that everyone gets out to vote to get rid of Mitch McConnell. I’m on the front lines for that.