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Rep. Jasmine Crockett On Gun Control, LGBT Rights & Abortion Politics

Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas), a freshman member of Congress who represents a Dallas district, is fast becoming a rising star in the Democratic Party. In just a short time, she’s become known as an articulate and telegenic face for progressive ideas both on the House floor and on cable news.

Crockett recently sat down with uPolitics founder Erik Meers to discuss the debt ceiling, gun control, LGBT rights and post-Roe abortion fights for our series on rising stars in the Democratic Party.

When asked about abortion rights in states like Texas, Crockett noted the backlash by the American public from the fall of Roe v. Wade and the healthcare restrictions that have followed.

“What I think is really important to understand is the reason that we didn’t lose the way that the pundits said we were going to lose in the midterms was that the Republicans decided that they were going to be extreme… Right now, as far as I’m concerned, there is no Republican party,” she said. “There are only M.A.G.A., radical right extremists who do not align with too many folks in this country.”

Crockett also drew parallels between the fight for abortion rights and the fight for trans rights. She made it clear that she is not trying to “indoctrinate anyone into believing something they don’t want to believe,” but that Congress should stop viewing these matters as political issues and start viewing them as human rights issues.

“When we talk about the link between reproductive rights and trans legislation,” said Crockett, “because this session they decided they were going to go after hormone blockers in most of the state Houses. These are decisions that are made with local doctors, just like reproductive decisions have historically been made with doctors and were indoctrinated and protected under the Constitution as privacy decisions. I think that we can align those two really big fights under the same umbrella, and, honestly, everybody needs to join forces.”

On the topic of gun control laws, Crockett believes that Democrats’ policies are much more popular among the American public.

“They could not win on their policies and instead, they wanted to make sure they invoked voter suppression, voter subversion,” she said. “They refused to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, especially with us coming up on a new census and creating new districts. If you’re winning by cheating, and cheating means creating these far-right districts, then you basically have a minority rule. That is why you can’t get to a compromise. If we had real representation in our state Houses and in the U.S. House, then we would see legislation that really follows the path of the people. Unfortunately, the people have been stripped of their power, but I believe in the people and I believe that they are going to push back.”

When asked about the shooting that occurred at a school in Uvalde, Texas in 2022, Crockett reflected on the state government’s failure to learn from their own history. She also pointed out the hypocrisy of state officials in passing legislation to raise the legal age of buying cigarettes from 18 to 21, while doing nothing about gun restrictions.

“This is about saving lives,” Crockett said of gun control, “and this idea that we have all of these Constitutional scholars who believe that the Second Amendment means that everybody can have whatever they want, whenever they want. That is not what it says at all. Every amendment is supposed to be reasonable in some sort, and there is always a balancing test. We always balance the greater good, and that’s the part they always seem to forget.

Crockett shared that giving up her career as a civil rights lawyer to sit in Congress is something that she never thought she would do. While she does not foresee any future candidacies, she is not ruling anything out.

“If you would have asked me two years ago if I saw myself in Congress, I would have told you absolutely not,” said Crockett. “But I believe that we were worth the sacrifice, and I believe that the stakes were just too high in this country. Ultimately, if that is what I’m called to do, to run for a statewide office, then ultimately that’s what I’ll do.”

Transcription:

Erik Meers: Thanks so much for joining us today, Rep. Crockett. I know the big issue that everyone’s talking about right now is the debt ceiling, what do you think President Biden and the Democrats in Congress should do in this standoff with the Republicans?

Jasmine Crockett: I think that we should hold strong. The reality is that the Republicans are asking for something that is unreasonable and, frankly, not fair, not just to our constituents but to their constituents, as well.

They are wanting to cut access to SNAP benefits at a time when people are still trying to recover from the pandemic and when they’re still struggling through inflationary costs. We know, statistically, that rural America is actually using SNAP benefits at the highest rate, and most rural Americans are represented by Republicans.

The one thing that I want people to know is that this is not a partisan fight, even though they’re making it that. We are actually fighting for our veterans, our women and those on Medicaid and Medicare; once again, those in rural America stand to lose the most if they lose that access. We are fighting for everyone and, seemingly, the Republicans right now are only fighting for their rich donors.

EM: Texas has some of the most restrictive abortion laws since the fall of Roe v. Wade. What do you think Congress and the Biden administration can do to try to push back against states like Texas, which have really taken extreme positions on abortion?

JC: I knew that the next stance was going to be them going straight to Texas, trying to make sure that they could get something in play that would align with a national ban on abortion. So, I think it is really important that we make it clear that no state, especially these crazy Southern states, should be disallowed to say that no resident of their state is disallowed from leaving their state to go and seek the healthcare that they need. I think that that’s the next move, they will try to limit interstate commerce, which falls directly under our jurisdiction.

We know that the state of Texas has decided that they want to punish people criminally. We just saw the testimony of an amazing, brave woman from the state of Texas, Amanda, who sat before the Senate and talked about her near-death experience.

What I think is really important to understand is the reason that we didn’t lose the way the pundits said we were going to lose in the midterms was that that the Republicans decided that they were going to be extreme. I hate to even call them Republicans because, honestly, these M.A.G.A folks are giving Republicans a bad name and that’s saying a lot, especially coming from me. But this is not the same party, they are trying to school us and give us a lesson on who the Democrats used to be.

We aren’t talking about the old Democratic party, we’re talking about the current Democratic party. Right now, as far as I’m concerned, there is no Republican party. There are only M.A.G.A., radical right extremists who do not align with too many folks in this country. So long as they continue to seek these very radical positions, I think it will only endure to the benefit of the Democrats.

EM: I know that you’re a civil rights lawyer, what do you think Congress can do on some of these civil just reform issues? Ideally, what would you like to see, and what do you think is realistically possible in this divided government we have?

JC: I’ll just start with your last question first: I don’t think very much is possible with this divided government, not on common sense things that just make sense for everyone.

This week we did drop a bill, so we will see what happens. I have a Republican co-lead on it and the bill follows up on a criminal justice reform that I was pushing for in the state House, and now the Texas state House has finally decided they want to follow my lead after I’m gone.

The bill is to help with the fentanyl crisis. Republicans like to stoke fear and say “Fentanyl is a problem because of the border, or because of the Democrats.” But they have gotten quiet about the border ever since Title 42 ended and the numbers went down, now they don’t have much to say.

They keep trying to claim that fentanyl has been pouring across, but the reality is that we have been having a lot of drugs, a lot of dopamine, pouring across all of the borders. This idea that building a wall means that all of the drugs will be gone is a farce.

Right now we are going to vote, and that vote is to increase penalties as it relates to drugs. We saw what happened with the 1994 crime bill, so you can guess which way I’m voting on this. I’m not voting the other way because it doesn’t save lives. We have seen this play out. A lot of people who have overdosed on fentanyl are actually not trying to take fentanyl, they don’t know that the drugs are laced with fentanyl.

We are trying to decriminalize fentanyl testing strips so that they are not considered paraphernalia and people could test the drugs that they are using. I look at addiction as an illness, we need to treat the root causes of the illness and make sure that we are saving lives. Punishing the people that are peddling drugs is clearly not deterring them, so increasing the penalties is not going to save lives. I think that this is a smart piece of legislation.

I also filed tons of bills as they relate to marijuana decriminalization on the state level. I think we have a lot of leeway considering that the majority of states have actually legalized marijuana in some way. It is time to go ahead and get those federal protections and officially legalize marijuana. Those states that want to be engaged can be, and it also protects our small business owners who decided that they were going to engage because they still can’t put their money in a bank, which makes conducting business less safe.

Those are just some of the things, obviously, we know that drug crimes have historically been discretionary crimes, which means that you can decide you are going to use someone as an informant and never actually prosecute them, or you can prosecute them. Historically, there have been a disproportionate number of folks who are Black and Brown that are prosecuted for these crimes, and those numbers are disproportionate to who we know are committing the crimes. This would be one of those things that could hopefully bring about some equity, and obviously, I would want to clear their records, as well.

I also want to minimize the contact with law enforcement. Criminal justice is one thing and police brutality is another thing, but they are obviously closely aligned. We can minimize some of those attacks and encounters overall if we are decriminalizing when it comes to marijuana, as well.

EM: Yeah. Now, Texas is one of many states that are enacting anti-trans bills that have led to a lot of people leaving the state and families being really concerned about their kids. First of all, what do you think about the laws that have been passed in Texas, and, secondly, what do you think Congress and/or the Biden administration can do about it?

JC: It’s interesting because just yesterday, one of my “forever constituents,” little Libby, was one of four trans teens that organized a trans prom here in D.C., so I had the opportunity to see her and participate. Little Libby has unfortunately been testifying at the Texas House since she was 7 years old. When I was serving in the Texas House I was her representative, she is now out of my district but they are my family forever.

People need to understand that this is a human rights issue. I am not trying to indoctrinate anyone into believing anything that they don’t want to believe. But what they need to understand is that this is a fight for all of us. I, as a Black woman and a civil rights lawyer, cannot say that I will only fight if it’s a women’s issue, or a Black issue, because my fight today may be your fight tomorrow.

It’s like when we talk about reproductive freedom; I’m not necessarily asking you to subscribe to the underlying freedom that we are fighting for, but you should subscribe to freedom overall and understand that these are human rights issues. As it relates to what the administration can do, I think that this goes to privacy again. When we talk about the link between reproductive rights and trans legislation, because this session they decided they were going to go after hormone blockers in most of the state Houses. These are decisions that are made with local doctors and, just like reproductive decisions have historically been made with doctors and were indoctrinated and protected under the Constitution as privacy decisions. I think that this is still a privacy fight, I think that we can align those two really big fights under the same umbrella, and, honestly, everybody needs to join forces.

Obviously, we’ve got some issues with the Supreme Court, and I am one of those people who think we should expand the court. I absolutely believe that we have illegitimate Justices sitting on the court, I normally wouldn’t say it to expand the court because it’s definitely out of the norm. But, what we saw as it relates to this court about how they even got to this court is out of the norm. One of the things that I think Americans are looking for the Democrats to do is to match the energy of the Republicans.

The Republicans went way out of the norm, and broke all of the rules, to make sure that they could back the Supreme Court. Merrick Garland was supposed to be on the Supreme Court, but they would not allow him to go through. If they followed the same precedents at the very end of Trump’s presidency as they did at the end of Obama’s presidency, then President Joe Biden would have had the RBG seat, but they obviously changed the rules.

When they start changing the rules of the game, and decide that they don’t want to honor decorum and tradition, then we should push back with the same energy. We had two seats that were stolen from Democratic presidents, and they put on people that went before them and lied. They lied! They were asked about Roe v. Wade and they flat-out lied.

I think that we need to expand the court and we need to bring these issues up again, and hopefully, we can have judges that honor the true traditions of what it is to be a lawyer. If you are going to go outside the norm of precedents, it should be for something that is unique and different, and there was nothing unique and different about the Dobbs case.

EM: Yeah. Uvalde was a tragedy in Texas, and there have been many others all around the country. Texas has moved to loosen gun laws, but states like Michigan, for example, just enacted some pretty basic gun safety measures. What do you think Congress can learn from these two different examples, and how can they craft some sort of compromise, either in this Congress or future Congress, to address some of these issues?

JC: You’re still so hopeful, which is great! Working with these people, I am not half as hopeful as you are. The numbers are on our side. I mean, we can show you poll after poll that will show that Democrats, as it relates to policies, are winning. This is why they have decided to cheat, they could not win on their policies and instead, they wanted to make sure they invoked voter suppression, voter subversion.

They refused to reauthorize the voting rights act, especially with us coming up on a new census and creating new districts. So what did they decide? They decided they were going to cheat because they can’t win on their issues. If you’re winning by cheating, and cheating means creating these far-right districts, then you basically have a minority rule. That is why you can’t get to a compromise.

If we had real representation in our state Houses and in the U.S. House, then we would see legislation that really follows the path of the people. Unfortunately, the people have been stripped of their power, but I believe in the people and I believe that they are going to push back. Unfortunately, they have to push harder than they should have to push.

But if we were to look at legislation that makes sense, we would look at Michigan, where the school shooting took place. They decided that they were going to respond, and not in a way that somehow protected guns more than people. Instead, they responded in a way that says if somebody goes to court–so they’re going to get due process of some sort– and they are before a judge, there will be a decision that will be made. And it doesn’t have to be a permanent decision, it can be a temporary decision, right? Ultimately, you can come back and maybe get something more permanent as it relates to whether or not that person should have access to a firearm.

This is about saving lives, and this idea that we have all of these Constitutional scholars who believe that the Second Amendment means that everybody can have whatever they want, whenever they want. That is not what it says at all. Every amendment is supposed to be reasonable in some sort, and there is always a balancing test. We always balance the greater good, and that’s the part they always seem to forget.

Texas decided that, in the wake of El Paso, the session that I was in was the first session since El Paso. We know that we had someone who drove from North of my district, Collin County, where the most recent shooting happened in Allen, Texas. Someone drove from there seemingly stoked by the likes of Tucker Carlson and other radicals that said, “This is the great, White replacement theory. We have to take all these people out that aren’t White. Any of them, just go get them.” He went to El Paso with that intention, and it was a hate crime that was stoked by radical Republicans and their rhetoric, and he killed people.

Texas had an opportunity to just do basic, simple stuff, and they refused to do anything. Instead, they decided to go in the opposite direction, and right after they did that, what happened? We ended up, less than a year later, we ended up with Uvalde on May 24. We lost these beautiful children, and it was someone who tried to purchase a gun when he was 17 and was disallowed because he was too young. But you know what? Online they had been calling him the “school shooter,” because he had been talking about what he was going to do. Because he could not buy a gun, he wasn’t able to do it at 17, but he went back at 18.

Now, juxtapose that with the fact that this is the same Texas House that said that 18-year-olds are not mature enough to buy cigarettes, and raised the age to buy a cigarette to 21 because they are not mature enough at 18! But they are grappling about whether or not a 21-year-old is the proper age, in fact, the governor wants to argue it’s unconstitutional. Are you kidding me? This is the same chamber that decided that 18-year-olds can’t have cigarettes. This is what we are doing.

EM: Yeah, that’s crazy. So, finally, Texas is a changing state, we always think it’s about to go blue but not so much in the last election. When do you think that we will start to see that change that everyone’s been talking about for a decade, and do you see yourself someday running for Senate or governor and being part of that change?

JC: You have finally found the optimism in me! This is great. So, I believe that Texas is blue and I will tell you why. Texas has more African Americans than any other state, Texas is a majority-minority state, and I don’t know of another majority-minority state that is actually Republican-run. Texas is one of the lowest voter turnout states in the country, and I personally believe if we were deeply red, then the Republicans would not work so hard to make sure that they are continually instituting new ways to suppress the votes or subvert the votes as they are cast. They know what I know, unfortunately, the rest of the country doesn’t really believe or know it, but they know like I know.

Even when we looked at our last census, 95% of the growth in the last decade was due to people of color, we only added 180,000 new Anglos, everyone else was either AAPI, Latino or African American. With these demographics, we got what we need. It’s just a matter of engaging, it is very difficult and very expensive to engage in Texas. Obviously, land-mass-wise, we are huge, as well as the cost in Texas when it comes to our media markets. When you’re trying to really get your word out about your candidates and excite people and make people believe, it is very expensive to communicate to that many people, and then having the Dallas market and the Houston market, even San Antonio and Austin are not cheap. But Dallas and Houstons are definitely some of the most expensive markets in the country, so if we get the investments then we can do it.

And also, if we run and build our bench, I think that’s more of a Democratic issue than it is necessarily a Texas-specific issue, which is that we have to build the bench. You can’t just wake up one day and say “Hey, I’m going to run in a state of 30 million people and 254 counties and I’m going to get it done!” It doesn’t work that way, you really have to build on it.

And your final question about what the future holds, I’m going to tell you that I honestly have no idea. If you would have asked me two years ago if I saw myself in Congress, I would have told you absolutely not. I thought that they were crazy up here, I still think they’re crazy up here. But I just didn’t have that aspiration, I had to give up practicing law, which is something that I love and have done for almost two decades, to come to Congress. But I believe that we were worth the sacrifice and I believe that the stakes were just too high in this country. Ultimately, if that is what I’m called to do, to run for a statewide office, then ultimately that’s what I’ll do. But at this point in time, I definitely don’t see it.

EM: I see it even if you don’t! Well, Rep. Crockett, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, I really enjoyed our chat and loved to hear about your energy on all of these big issues.

JC: Absolutely, have a great one!

EM: You too, take care.

Ava Lombardi

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