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Politics, Parenthood, and Pivoting with Emily Tisch Sussman

Politics, Parenthood, and Pivoting with Emily Tisch Sussman

This week, Daniella and Emily Tisch Sussman discuss being a mother during this moment in U.S. history, future Supreme Court cases, and the recent shooting in Highland Park, Illinois.

Part of a Series

Political strategist, podcaster, and former CAPer Emily Tisch Sussman joins Daniella to discuss the challenges of being a mother in the workforce, defining career success, and ​staying engaged during this difficult time in U.S. history. Daniella also ​talks about the cases the Supreme Court will hear in its next term and the recent mass shooting in Highland Park, ​Illinois.

Learn more about the podcast here.


Daniella Gibbs Léger: Hey everyone, welcome back to “The Tent,” your place for politics, policy, and progress. I’m Daniella Gibbs Léger. If you listen to this podcast regularly, you know we love checking in with former CAP staff members who are doing really cool things. Today we’re welcoming back Emily Tisch Sussman, political strategist and podcaster extraordinaire, to share life lessons from her career, her journey as a mom in the workforce, and her exciting new podcast, “She Pivots.” But first, as always, we’ve got to get to some news.

So, let’s talk about the Supreme Court. It has finished up its latest round of decisions—thank goodness, they can’t do any more for this session—and there’s a lot to unpack. First of all, we’re still assessing the damaging fallout from many of the dangerous, out-of-touch opinions handed down by this MAGA extremist bench on guns, abortion, religious freedom, and environmental regulation. On the last day of decisions, we got a ruling on West Virginia v. EPA that, as expected, drastically limited the EPA’s ability to protect our right to clean air and a stable climate at a time when we desperately need to take action to—I don’t know—save the planet. And while the ruling didn’t completely eliminate federal agencies’ authority to interpret ambiguous statutes, as some feared it might, it did call into question what they can and cannot do. This chipping away of agency power could have dangerous consequences for a whole host of rights and privileges that we now take for granted in the future, like minimum wage laws.

But what’s really concerning me this week is the slate of cases the Supreme Court will hear next term. First, there’s the case of a web designer in Colorado who claims her free speech rights are being violated because she can’t discriminate against gay couples seeking wedding website design services. You know, the mental acrobatics that people perform really are astounding. This is basically the 2.0 version of the wedding cake case you may remember from a few years ago, the key difference being MAGA Republicans now have a supermajority they’re using to make increasingly radical decisions. We could see a ruling that makes it harder for states to enforce anti-discrimination laws. That’s especially troubling for the LGBTQI+ community at a time when state legislators are launching unprecedented attacks on their rights.

There’s also a chance we may not make it out of the next Supreme Court term with affirmative action intact, either. They’re planning to hear not one, but two cases on race-conscious admissions at UNC and at Harvard. Both challenges are being sponsored by Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit that claims white and Asian students are at a disadvantage when they apply to these schools, which—spoiler alert—is not true. Ketanji Brown Jackson, who served on the board of directors at Harvard, and the only Black woman on the bench, has promised to recuse herself from the Harvard case. Now, I personally think she could have ruled on this case without any issues. But nevertheless, imagine recusing yourself from a case in which you have a conflict of interest, Clarence Thomas …

And our free and fair elections are also in grave danger. In North Carolina, Republicans created a horrific new gerrymandered election map, which was struck down by a state court. Now, they’re trying to get the map reinstated. And if you have not seen this map, I highly recommend you Google it, and you will see how ridiculous it is. If the MAGA justices rule in favor of these Republicans in North Carolina, they could enshrine something called “independent state legislature theory,” which would give state legislatures unprecedented and virtually unchallengeable power over election results. This is a theory that was espoused [by] none other than John Eastman, the lawyer [Donald] Trump brought in to try and help overturn the 2020 election. And it’s especially troubling at a time when more and more state legislatures are dominated by MAGA extremist election deniers. The Supreme Court could hand these MAGA extremists the power to make their own rules and manipulate election results at a time when they are more than willing to do so.

Now, there are some solutions here, but they’re going to be challenging. We need Supreme Court term limits. It’s just ridiculous that there’s a MAGA Republican supermajority on the bench when a Republican hasn’t won the popular presidential vote in decades. We also need to reform the filibuster so we can pass laws to protect our rights on everything from abortion to voting. We the people do not want this extremist agenda pushed on us. And that’s why we also need to vote like never before in the midterms. In the meantime, I’ll be watching this space, and you should be too.

Now, I unfortunately have to turn to some news from over the holiday weekend. While many of us were —if not celebrating America, at least we were coming together around the idea of the America we want to live in—well, that dream was shattered for the community of Highland Park, Illinois, in yet another mass shooting. The victims, who were attending a Fourth of July parade, included Katie Goldstein, whose daughter described her as “the best mom in the world,” as well as Kevin and Irina McCarthy, whose two-year-old son Aiden survived only because Kevin was able to shield him with his body as he died.

I know I sound like a broken record, but I am just sick and tired of this. Do you know that there have been over 300 mass shootings this year in the U.S.? 300. We’re not safe at school, or the grocery store, or at town parades. And this shooting—all these shootings—are affecting me, in many different ways. But Highland Park looks a lot like the town that I grew up in, a suburb right outside of New York City. We have Fourth of July parades down our quote unquote, “Main Street”—very tiny town. Everybody knows each other. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere.

We’ve seen now that it is possible for Congress, though, to come together across the aisles and pass legislation to curb gun violence. Now, I wasn’t super thrilled with, you know, how much weaker the Safer Communities Act was made by Republican hedging. But because of the efforts of Democrats like Sen. Chris Murphy [(D-CT)], this legislation will help strengthen red flag laws in Illinois and beyond. And let’s remember, it is the first piece of gun legislation in decades. It is monumental. So, the Highland Park shooter had a record of past violent incidents, including threats to kill himself and his family. Illinois’s red flag law could have prevented him from purchasing the five weapons he did before carrying out this attack. But because of financial constraints and a lack of knowledge about the law among local police forces, it’s not widely used in the state, and that is something that is occurring across the country. The Safer Communities Act will send almost a billion dollars to states to make sure that communities like Highland Park can train law enforcement officers on these laws and implement them effectively. And MAGA Republicans always insist after these tragedies that gun reforms can’t stop mass shooters. But this recent legislation shows that this is not the case. Smart policymaking—however incremental—can save lives. And the Safer Communities Act we know is only the beginning of what’s needed.

And we also can’t lose sight of just how absurd MAGA Republicans have become on this issue. [Rep.] Marjorie Taylor Greene [(R-GA)]—I really just don’t like talking about her, but—Marjorie Taylor Greene actually suggested that the shooting was a quote, “false flag event” organized by Democrats and gun control advocates. Tucker Carlson dedicated the top of his show Tuesday night trying to explain away why mostly white men have been shooting up a bunch of public places as of late. You know, “outrageous” isn’t even the word for this type of rhetoric. It is dangerous.

So, we know we need to keep fighting for every scrap of progress that we can get. Among other things, we need a ban on military assault weapons ASAP, as Vice President [Kamala] Harris called for on Tuesday night when she visited Highland Park. And we need to let MAGA politicians know this November that their indifference to the deaths of children, parents, grandparents, and community members has not gone unnoticed.

As always, if there’s anything you want us to cover on the pod hit us up on Twitter @TheTentPod, that’s @TheTentPod. And I promise you the rest of this episode is going to be a lot lighter. Stick around and enjoy our conversation with Emily Tisch Sussman. I think it is the perfect thing to help you relax in this tense and challenging moment. Stick around.

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Gibbs Léger: Emily Tisch Sussman is a podcast host, women’s empowerment and family policy advocate, leading Democratic political strategist, and former CAPer. She previously hosted the podcast “Your Political Playlist,” where she interviewed leading women in politics like Stacey Abrams and Speaker Nancy Pelosi [(D-CA)]. Her new podcast, “She Pivots,” features conversations with a diverse and dynamic array of women who have pivoted in their careers.

Emily, welcome back to CAP and thanks for joining us on “The Tent.”

Emily Tisch Sussman: Oh, thank you so much for having me. This is my dream. We started the podcast, I think, in my last year at CAP. So, coming back as a guest, I’ve made it in my mind. Like, we’ve hit the heights.

Gibbs Léger: Yes, full circle. It’s the peak, the pinnacle really.

Tisch Sussman: Everyone knows it. I know, everyone knows it.

Gibbs Léger: Well, first of all, congratulations on your new pod. Everyone should give it a listen. And we’re going to dig into that in just a minute. But I want to, you know, back up a little bit in order for our listeners to better understand how you got to where you are now. Let’s talk about your time at CAP and in politics—how you first arrived at doing this work, like what drew you to political strategy initially. And can you talk a little bit about the work that you did in that space?

Tisch Sussman: Yeah, so I started—I didn’t always know I wanted to work in politics. I wasn’t a political science major in college. I just felt kind of fired up in a way that, like, didn’t really feel on par with my peers. Like, I felt like I was like boring everyone in bars in college. And I didn’t really know how to channel that. And there wasn’t like one particular issue. There were, like, a lot of issues that I cared about. I just felt like I had so much energy and I wanted to use it for good, but I didn’t feel like I had the tools to do it. Like, I didn’t have the confidence to do it. I wasn’t particularly good in school. So, like, I didn’t really think I was smart enough to do it.

And then I went to work on a campaign, on my first campaign, right out of college, and something just kind of clicked. And it was like, yes, these things that I didn’t know were skills actually made me incredibly successful in a campaign office—that I had tons of energy, that I could go all the time, that I could work with lots of different people and, you know, keep, like, different programs moving at the same time. [I] didn’t even know those were skills, because we don’t really consider them skills in school.

Gibbs Léger: No, we don’t.

Tisch Sussman: So, it kind of set me down a path. I went to law school right after that campaign, worked on the Obama campaign in Pennsylvania, moved to Washington, [D.C.], worked on a variety of issues, and ended up at CAP for my last six years in Washington, which was a great experience. And going to CAP, I had still kind of been figuring out, like, what is it that I do. Like, I had worked—you know, there’s a real distinction in Washington between people that know how to be an expert on an issue. So, like, you know, it’s a lot of the people that work at CAP and the think tank side, you know, like writing policy papers, advocating on that issue, like—you know—thinking up, like, great tax policy. And the policy that I was an expert in was not particularly relevant anymore, because it was military personnel policy. I worked on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” So, if I wasn’t going to continue with military policy, what is it that I did? And like, how did I transition to the next issue?

And from moving, from working on a variety of issues, I realized that the thing that I am uniquely good at—and I believe this about everybody, everybody has the thing they are uniquely positioned to do—the thing that I am uniquely positioned to do, given my skill set, is creating the structure of a campaign. So, I move it across issues. So, actually, I started consulting for CAP after the Manchin-Toomey background checks bill was getting pushed in 2013. I created the structure of a campaign there, of: How did we engage young people in gun violence prevention? We did not win that bill, but it did create a new relationship for me with new players who said, you know, “Emily, why don’t you come to, like, the next meeting and the next meeting?” And eventually, we got to the point where I said, you know, “I’m basically working here full time, like, should I work here full time?” And we created a new position at CAP for me, as the campaign director, meaning that I came in as a function expert. So, I was an expert on the function of a campaign, regardless of the issue. So, I worked across our different issue teams. So, if they wanted to figure out how to keep, like, a terrible immigration law from going into effect, I would work with that team on the defensive. If we knew a new rule was coming out of the EPA, but we needed to garner support for it, I would work with the climate team. If we needed to pass something through Congress, I would work with that team, and figuring out the specific campaign for every issue, and then how that also impacted elections. So that’s the quick version of what I did the last six years at CAP.

Gibbs Léger: Right, and there were certainly a lot of issues and campaigns to be had during that time.

Tisch Sussman: Never-ending. I mean, never-ending. I’ll never forget. So, this will actually transition into the next chapter, but I had my first kid during 2016, during the 2016 election. I went on maternity leave in August. My first day back from maternity leave was the Monday after Donald Trump was elected.

Gibbs Léger: Oh man.

Tisch Sussman: Oh my god. So, walking into the building, first of all, I’d say maybe a quarter of the people showed up. People were just, like, not coming to work. And everybody who was there was just crying. Like, there was nothing to do, because everyone had to refocus.

Gibbs Léger: Yeah, I remember that. I definitely want to talk about, like, the transition to having kids. So, I was very pregnant during the election, and I had my child like two weeks after Trump was inaugurated. And I just remember on election night thinking, “I’m glad I’m pregnant, because I might be drinking an entire bottle of whiskey otherwise.” Like, that’s how I felt on election night.

Tisch Sussman: Well, do you remember that our colleague Shilpa went into labor on election night and turned off the TV? God, I’d forgotten about this until right now. Shilpa now runs, like, women’s affairs in the West Wing. And she turned off the TV on election night thinking that Hillary had won.

Gibbs Léger: Yeah. Oh my gosh, I totally forgot about that. Yeah, I tried to block out a lot of that. But let’s talk about like the challenges—the joys and the challenges—of having a child. Like, I had one, you’ve had three, and, you know, both of us have …

Tisch Sussman: In the same time frame!

Gibbs Léger: Exactly, in rapid succession with you. Yeah. And look, we both have, like, varying degrees of privilege. And we should obviously acknowledge that, name that. But there’s still challenges that all mothers face in the workforce, regardless of who they are and what they’re doing. So, why don’t you talk a little bit about like some of the challenges you faced and how your perspective started changing when you had all your kids?

Tisch Sussman: Well, the big thing I’d say changed kind of between kid two and three for me—like I started becoming aware of it—when I came back from kid one, I felt like I was very determined to prove that I was the same professional worker that I had been before. I felt like I had a lot to prove. My only metric of success—for myself—up to that point was professional success. And I would openly talk all the time about the fact that sometimes you can win campaigns by outworking the opposition. And so, I really felt like that was how I was personally successful in my own career. That was how campaigns were won. You just worked. And I actually do believe that still, to some degree, about how you can win a campaign.

Like, it’s really hard working in politics and trying to balance it because there’s this sense that we’re doing the greater good. And so, nothing can balance. In the balance, nothing can outweigh that, you know? Your sleep does not outweigh that. Your mental health does not outweigh that. You know, to some degree spending time with your kids does, but like, not if it cuts into the campaign. So, I was really trying to balance, to figure that out as I came back, and I was much more concerned about reestablishing myself as a professional than I was about trying to like—I’m not really a baby person, like, even with my own babies. I found them, like, really uninteresting. And I felt a lot of guilt about that, that I was like, oh my god, like, I’ve ruined my career. And by the way, I’ve gained 100 pounds. Like, I ruined my health, I ruined my body. Like, shouldn’t it just be for some joy that I’m getting? Like, when people say they, like, had a kid and fell in love, that did not happen for me.

Gibbs Léger: And we should just note that, like, that is normal. Like the way that we are—I was gonna say “brainwashed.’

Tisch Sussman: Maybe!

Gibbs Léger: I mean, the way that we grow up in and we think about, like, motherhood and what those first couple of months are. It’s not all, like, roses, and peonies, and heart shaped, like, bubbles. No, it’s not, and every woman’s experience is valid, no matter what it is.

Tisch Sussman: Right? And it’s sleep deprivation. And it’s also, like, the only thing that I knew how to have as, like, a touch point for myself was my professional success. So, I was, like, antsy to get—I mean, he started to sleep through the night, like, the minute I went back to work, thank God, which is, like, a real problem for a lot of people. And I cannot imagine how they do it. But I was willing to keep putting the hours in. I was willing to keep figuring it out. And the problem was that I lost my child care at the end of you know, the workday, so I had to get home. But I tried to get back online after. And because it was the beginning of the Trump administration, the first few months were still the winding down of the Obama administration.

But the beginning of the Trump administration, what we ended up finding in those first couple of months, is that the pace was very, very different than it had been under the Obama administration. One, because—quite frankly—under the Obama administration, we weren’t surprised by things. We knew when they were coming out, so we could plan for them. But it wasn’t just the change of party, it was that nobody knew what Trump was planning to do. So, he would have huge, widescale policy changes by tweet that no one was prepared for. And then we had to run and figure out how to respond to it. But it was also that he did a lot of them on Friday nights and on Sundays.

Gibbs Léger: Yes.

Tisch Sussman: Do you remember that? And so, for any parent that will register as like, “Oh, my God, no child care.” So basically, the entire—I don’t know—first eight months of my son’s life, my husband and I spent every weekend fighting, where I was like, “I don’t know, just take this kid somewhere, because, like, we’re on a call.” And I also did a lot of TV on the weekends, which I would schedule during my son’s nap. I started doing the show during his nap because that was the one that worked the best for us. So, it was kind of a rough transition.

Gibbs Léger: So, talk to me then about, like, what happened between kids two and three and what, you know, sort of changed.

Tisch Sussman: Well, there was basically no time between kids one and two. I got pregnant again when my son was eight months old, so I was, like, just back at work. I had just stopped breastfeeding that week, so—that happens guys—got pregnant again and thought, “Oh no, I cannot do this again. I’m, like, barely getting my feet under me and yet here we have another baby coming.” So, the first two kids are 18 months apart. And then it was at the end of that maternity leave that I was, like, preparing to come back to CAP. And it was the last couple of weeks before I came back, and I just realized that I was kind of dreading it. And I always loved my job, like, this was my dream job. This job was created to fit my skill set. How could I—it had never crossed my mind to walk away from it. Like, the only measure of success I knew was professional success. And I started to realize that I couldn’t even figure out how to manage my job with the two of them. So, the first one was 18 months and the second one was just born, and I couldn’t even begin to manage, to think about it. And so, I started to think about, “Well, what if I could keep the parts that I’m good at, but I could maybe lose the structure? Like, that could that work?”

And so, at the end of the maternity leave, I did what I think, in theory, I thought was terrible. I didn’t go back at the end of my maternity leave and started doing political consulting with a couple of friends who, you know, already knew me in the space—so, I didn’t really need to convince them on my skill set —and tried to balance it. And then after about a year, I found myself working just as hard as I was at CAP. But I was doing it sitting on the floor of my closet because I had no office space, hiding from my children. And in that time, [I] thought, “Well, the thing that I’m really passionate about is breaking things down for people who are outside of Washington.” Like, that is what I really care about. And so I connected with some people who were starting a podcast company, and I started a political podcast doing exactly that. It was conversational in tone. It was called “Your Political Playlist.” And I brought on the experts who I called when I was going on TV to prepare me for segments. So, it just, like, opened up the conversation. And so that kind of launched me into the podcast realm while keeping the consulting, like—in varying degrees of time—like how much of my bandwidth it took up.

Gibbs Léger: So, let’s talk about your new podcast, “She Pivots,” which—obviously, you pivoted in your life. You know, so what other factors motivated you to make this, you know, jump, and what made you decide to, you know, change to talking about other people who are making pivots in their lives?

Tisch Sussman: Yeah, so it was a surprise. I got pregnant with kid number three.

Gibbs Léger: Surprise!

Tisch Sussman: Surprise, more kids are coming. So, I was still doing “Your Political Playlist” when I had the third kid. I interviewed Hillary Clinton five days before having her. I recorded a podcast as a guest the day that I went into the hospital to go into labor. I edited an episode with Sen. Maggie Hassan [(D-NH)] from the hospital room. So like, still doing it, like, I still do not know how to balance or do anything else. Like, I’m really a picture of balance. And anyway, but then three weeks later, the whole country went into a lockdown. And so suddenly, the support system that I had to be helping me take care of two toddlers and a three-week-old baby didn’t exist. You know, our preschool shut down. And any time I thought that I could have to potentially have a clear head and be thinking, you know, like, kind of switch into a work brain, just evaporated. Like, I always had my kids with me, and I always had multiple kids with me. I was trying to, like, line them up on naps. That was a disaster, it did not work.

Gibbs Léger: Oh, lord.

Tisch Sussman: That did not work. So, you know, I kind of had to rethink it again. Like, I kept “Your Political Playlist” going for a little while. But I started to feel the thing that really clicked for me, and the change, was that my metric of success was changing. Like, I actually cared less about what people thought about my career. Like, I think I’ve always held onto a very, like, an overarching driver. For me personally, like, this is like an internal thing, has been external validation, in that people recognize that I’m working hard. And that I’m doing the gritty work has always been a really important factor for evaluating my own success.

Gibbs Léger: That’s definitely a thing that a lot of women do. Yep.

Tisch Sussman: Yeah, but I felt like that was a marker for me. Like, if somebody else was recognizing that I was in the grit, that was a marker of success for me. And I couldn’t do it. Like, I literally didn’t have enough brain space to do it. So, I put “Your Political Playlist” on hold. And I had started, during that time, writing for some women’s magazines—I have over the last couple of years—for Marie Claire, for Parents Magazine, mostly explainers around elections and around, like, big legislative moments and being able to break it down. So, I started a relationship with Parents Magazine hosting an online show for them called “Moms Run the World,” where I had to interview moms who were sometimes not political. And those first interviews were terrifying for me because I was like, “I only know how to talk about political things.”

Gibbs Léger: Really?

Tisch Sussman: The first couple of interviews we did were with senators and the Commerce secretary—or, we did eventually have the Commerce secretary, but cabinet secretaries. And that kind of helped, because I knew how to have those conversations, like I knew how to get to the meat. But then I started interviewing nonpolitical women. And those were really scary in a good way, but a little high stakes, because everything’s live.

Gibbs Léger: Right, there’s no editing.

Tisch Sussman: No editing there. But that did give me a new pathway to think about, a new confidence that I could do it, but also, that there are other options there. And I started thinking if I don’t do legislative change—and also, by the way, in this time, we’ve moved out of Washington—so, if I’m not in the mix, if I’m not showing up to the meetings, and seeing the people, and being in the room, if I’m not working in legislative change, how do I work in cultural change? And that’s really what led to “She Pivots,” the podcast that I have now, thinking about how—I was thinking about changing my personal metrics for success. And my metrics for success are now that I want to build on the experiences that I’ve had, and I want to create something different. And I want to open up these conversations for women who don’t know either how to access them, or maybe they don’t know these are the conversations they need to hear. And that’s the cultural change that I want to be working on right now. And I hope that I’m succeeding with “She Pivots.”

Gibbs Léger: Well, you have definitely been interviewing some really amazing women. And they have incredible stories and different journeys. So, what are some of the biggest lessons that you’ve learned, or maybe some common themes that you’ve seen emerge from the interviews that you’ve done so far?

Tisch Sussman: So, a big important piece for me in this first season of “She Pivots” is that everybody has a different intervening life event, as I call it, like, a different thing that changed their perspective. And then they changed their career and found success as a result. But that intervening life event was not great—like, it’s not a good thing. For me, it was having three kids in three years. But I really wanted to be very specific that that wasn’t the entire show, because I think it would be, one, very depressing, and a little repetitive. And I wanted everybody to be able to see themselves in this show. So, I’d say, you know, maybe half of our guests have kids, but I’d say only, maybe, 20 percent, that’s their story. You know, it’s coming out as trans; it’s the death of the three most important men in her life; it’s trying to build a business as an interracial couple through the 1960s; it’s burnout. You know, all of our intervening life events, they’re all different. So, everyone can see themselves in these different stories.

I’d say the biggest thing that I see as a commonality across all of them is that not everyone knew how they were going to make it out of this event. Like, they didn’t always have this drive that was like, “Yes, this is going to lead to something greater.” Like, they didn’t really know where they were headed. They had to cope in whatever way was individual for them to cope with it. For some of them, it was like, keep driving. For some of them, it was grief. For some of them, it was like a hard cut from whatever had been there before. But I think that’s so human. And seeing that, you know, we have—I think—had a lot of narratives about perseverance—like, culturally, a lot of narratives about perseverance—you know, and heard from a lot of people who are at the top now saying, “Well, I always believed in myself, I always knew it there.” But that’s not relatable for everybody. And that’s not everybody’s story. And hearing from these women in their vulnerability and saying, you know, “I didn’t know that I was going to be a success. I wasn’t thinking about it, I just had to get through the day. And then once I could give myself perspective, then I could see that I had something new that I could follow down this pathway and build something amazing.”

Gibbs Léger: I think that’s such good advice for people who are maybe in the middle of their career, but also for people starting out who feel this pressure to, like, have that path charted out right in front of them. And it’s like, you don’t have to. You know, you’re putting way too much pressure on yourself if you do that.

Tisch Sussman: Absolutely, and actually, it’s more interesting if you don’t. Like, it’s more interesting to kind of follow opportunities, you know, follow interesting people to work with, like, follow different issues to work with. I felt that big-time when I moved to Washington, that I had not followed, like, a super traditional career path. But I moved to Washington when I was 27. And I felt like everyone was already like a comms person, or a policy person, or a counsel. Like, everyone was already in their lanes, and I wasn’t. And so, I couldn’t really figure out where I fit in. And it took me a little while to figure out it’s the pathway that made me more interesting as a worker, like, for others to hire me. It made me more interesting that I had a varied career. And so, when I was hiring, I looked for that. I looked for a variety of careers. And honestly, a lot of people that came from theater backgrounds was a big, appealing factor for hire for me.

Gibbs Léger: Yeah, I can totally understand that as a theater kid. This is all, like, really great advice. We love to try to end our shows, always, on a positive note. And I know many of our listeners are feeling not-so-positive right now: frustrated, discouraged, angry, and all the emotions around all the recent events that have been happening. So, since you are the queen of pivoting, I want to ask you, you know: How do you stay positive when things look as bleak as they do right now? And what advice do you have for folks who want to channel their frustration into something meaningful and positive, into action?

Tisch Sussman: Well, how do I stay positive? I stay positive through communities, I’m a big relationship person. That means a lot to me. We’ve moved eight times in 18 months over the last, like, since the beginning of the pandemic. And this is the first time that we’ve had a really settled home, and school, and community, and we found incredibly supportive relationships. And so, you know, anyone can do it. Like, you can find these relationships. They are everywhere. We moved that many times, and we still did it. But these relationships, and the friendships of women, and the friendships of other mothers who are not necessarily people I—you know, some people I would have thought that I would have been friends with, but not all of them. I think being in this moment is very bonding because the world is so heavy for us, that I think that I do find incredible joy and incredible satisfaction. I’m, like, gonna cry thinking about my female friendships. I like literally, I’m gonna cry right now. Like, I love them so much. And they’re so supportive. They’ve been so incredibly supportive of me launching this show.

And also the fact that I don’t know if I’m totally done with politics. You know, two months ago, I was like, “Yeah, I’m out of politics. I work for Marie Claire. I work for a women’s magazine. I do cultural change now.” And now it feels really hard for me to totally step out. So, I don’t know what it means. I’m not going to run for office if that is the next question.

Gibbs Léger: Very preemptively, don’t …

Tisch Sussman: Preemptively, that’s not going to be my role. But I don’t know what it is, to be honest with you. But I do know that I have an incredible network that is at the ready to fight together. And now I live in a swing district, which I never have in my entire life. And so, I started by getting in the car and driving around to all of my district offices and my member of Congress when I was just feeling super pissed one day, and they were all totally empty. He doesn’t have one single person working there.

Gibbs Léger: That’s remarkable.

Tisch Sussman: It’s unbelievable. I feel more dedicated than ever to my swing congressional district, you know? Start local. We actually did just have a Republican wave here last year in our local elections. So, I know there’s a lot that we can do locally. And I would urge everyone. Like, we had a big conservative sweep on our local school board. And then a couple weeks ago, our school board was up again, and we ousted them with write-ins.

Gibbs Léger: Wow, that’s incredible.

Tisch Sussman: Yeah, so there’s a lot of work to be done and a lot of impact to have at a local level.

Gibbs Léger: Yes, that is a great way to end this. All politics are local. It’s not an expression for, you know, no reason. It’s true. Emily Tisch Sussman, thank you so much for joining us on “The Tent.” One of my favorite memories that pops up is the first day I brought Max back to the office. You had brought Dean to the office and there are, like, all these cute pictures of when Max met Dean. Adorable.

Tisch Sussman: Yes, yes, they’re so cute. I definitely have them and I’ll send them back to you for, you know, like some content here for this episode.

Gibbs Léger: Okay. Thank you so much.

Tisch Sussman: Thank you, Daniella. Thanks for having me on.

Gibbs Léger: As always, thanks for listening. Be sure to go back and check out previous episodes. So, it was the Fourth of July and, as I mentioned earlier, you know, some of us have complicated feelings about this holiday especially given—I don’t know—everything that’s going on. But, you know, I’m in the camp of: I can be displeased with a lot of things happening in this country right now and a lot of people who live in it, but I have every right to also, you know, celebrate and be patriotic, as I choose. So, how I chose to celebrate the Fourth was by hanging out with my family. Yes, we cooked out. We did not do burgers and dogs like we normally do because honestly, we just did that a couple of weeks ago. So, we did the very Americana grill of grilled salmon. I still chuckle when I think about this. There was nothing Americana about our meal except that we grilled it. But we hung out at the pool, and it was a lot of fun. And we sat on our front porch and enjoyed the “hood-works.” Yes, in our neighborhood in [Washington,] D.C., and probably every other single neighborhood in D.C., the neighbors put on fireworks that rival what you see on the [National] Mall. And I had to actually put noise-canceling headphones on my child because they were so loud, but they were beautiful, and I didn’t have to go and deal with the crowds on the mall. So, that is always fun.

But I do have a question for you, listeners. What do you think are the best cookout foods? Is it hamburgers? Is it hot dogs? Is it chicken? I know it’s not going to be fish, but I’ll put it up there as an option. Is it fish? What do y’all like to do? Why don’t you share that with us on Twitter @TheTentPod?

Yeah, I’m gonna remind you that we’re still in a pandemic. I still have, like, a little lingering cough from COVID, but I feel much better, thanks for asking. I am hopeful that when fall rolls around, both Pfizer and Moderna will put out a new booster that can help protect better against Omicron and these lovely variants that we have. But, again, if you haven’t gotten boosted, please do. I really do believe that because I was boosted, I was able to escape from my time with “miss ‘rona” relatively unscathed. So, do that. Take care of yourselves. Take care your families. If you’re outside this summer, wear sunscreen. Like, seriously, wear sunscreen. I don’t care what race you are, like everyone needs to wear sunscreen. I’m not gonna go on my rant about this, but just do it. It is a thing. It is important. Thank you, take care. We’ll talk to you next week.

“The Tent” is a podcast from the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It’s hosted by me, Daniella Gibbs Léger. Erin Phillips is our lead producer. Kelly McCoy is our supervising producer. Tricia Woodcome is our booking producer, and Sam Signorelli is our digital producer. You can find us on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.


Daniella Gibbs Léger

Executive Vice President, Communications and Strategy


Erin Phillips

Broadcast Media Manager

Kelly McCoy

Senior Director of Broadcast Communications

Tricia Woodcome

Former Senior Media Manager

Sam Signorelli

Policy and Outreach Associate, Government Affairs



Explore The Series

Politics. Policy. Progress. All under one big tent. Produced by CAP Action, “The Tent” is a news and politics podcast hosted by Daniella Gibbs Léger and co-hosted by Colin Seeberger. Listen each Thursday for episodes exploring topics that progressives are focused on.


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