Sen. Debbie Stabenow on Making Government Work

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) joins Colin to discuss how Michigan is investing in workers, families, and voting rights and the Biden administration's economic agenda.

Part of a Series

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) joins the podcast to discuss President Joe Biden’s economic agenda, how Michigan is investing in workers and families, and voting rights reforms that are making the state a leader in strengthening democracy. Colin and Erin also talk about last week’s rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court.


Colin Seeberger: Hey everyone, welcome back to “The Tent,” your place for politics, policy, and progress. I’m Colin Seeberger. I’m here with lead producer Erin Phillips, who’s filling in for my co-host, Daniella Gibbs Léger.

Erin Phillips: Hey Colin, hope you had a fun Fourth of July.

Seeberger: I did have a fun Fourth of July, and the party just did not want to stop. We were having fireworks in our neighborhood until 3 o’clock in the morning last night. So we had a great time. It’s always quite a show. [Washington,] D.C., does it different, folks. If you’ve not been here for Fourth, you have to try it out some time.

Phillips: Yeah, we could definitely see a lot of those fireworks going on until 3 a.m. from our rooftop in northern Virginia just across the river. But thankfully, we cannot hear them too loudly. So I got a little bit more sleep than you, most likely.

Seeberger: Yeah, my dogs were definitely not fans.

Phillips: Yeah. Well, speaking of celebrating America, you had a really great conversation this week with a U.S. senator.

Seeberger: That’s right. I talked to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) from Michigan about how government is working for the people of her state. We discussed the president’s economic agenda, how Michigan is investing in workers and families, and voting rights reforms that are making the state a leader in protecting and strengthening democracy.

Phillips:  Really exciting stuff. But before we get to all that good news in Michigan, we’ve got to get to some not-so-good news from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Seeberger: Do we?

Phillips: Yes.

Seeberger: Yes, of course we do. We’ve got to break down some of these rulings that we got last week. It wasn’t necessarily unexpected, some of them, given that this is the second term where cases have been heard by a supermajority of MAGA extremist justices. But that doesn’t make them any less gutting in their substance. So the court opted to roll back Americans’ rights and benefits, give businesses a license to discriminate, and deny student debt relief to up to 43 million Americans. They’re rushing, it seems, to enforce their extreme out-of-touch views Americans don’t agree with. It’s just not the Supreme Court that I learned of in high school civics class, and I know it’s not for tens of millions of other Americans. It’s no wonder that trust in the court has fallen to its lowest point in 50 years, with only 18 percent of Americans saying they have a great deal of confidence in the court.

Unfortunately, as bad as the rulings were this term, as bad as they were last term with the Dobbs [v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization] decision, the next term doesn’t look very encouraging. They’ve already agreed to hear cases that could weaken government action to fight climate change, threaten Americans’ access to health care, further roll back abortion rights, and even politicize medicine. The fact that children today may have less rights than our parents or prior generations—that should alarm all of us. This just is the exact opposite direction of where we need to be heading as a country.

Phillips: Yeah, for sure. And one other thing is for sure: As you mentioned, this court is wildly out of touch with the American people. We just came off of Pride month, for crying out loud. So we have to talk about what a slap in the face the court’s decision on LGBTQI+ rights is. This far-right panel of justices has given businesses a license to discriminate by refusing certain services to same-sex couples. Let’s be clear: A claim of free speech cannot be used as an excuse to undermine laws that prevent discrimination in public accommodations. And the man cited in this case, who allegedly asked web designer Lorie Smith to design a website for his same-sex wedding, says he never even reached out to her. He’s been married to a woman for 15 years. It’s clear that this case should have been dismissed at the outset for lack of standing.

Seeberger: It’s bonkers. It’s just bananas.

Phillips: Mind-blowing. For decades, I have listened to politicians on the far right decry what they call judicial activism. If agreeing to consider the case of a made-up customer is not judicial activism, I don’t know what it is. The court has now opened the door to businesses and individuals being able to discriminate, and we know LGBTQI+ Americans will suffer as a result. This also begs the question of where the court will draw the line on rights of LGBTQI+ people in the future. Will they roll back rights to consensual intimate relationships, or marriage equality, as Justice Clarence Thomas has recently called into question? Or will they authorize businesses and individuals to discriminate against other protected groups like women, people of color, or people with disabilities? Justice [Sonia] Sotomayor spelled out in her really powerful dissent on this case how the ruling creates a slippery slope for many protected groups.

Seeberger: Yeah, and LGBTQI+ rights, of course, they were not the only ones that took a hit from this court in this most recent term. The court also ended affirmative action last week. And it’s just gut-wrenching—not just gut-wrenching for the moral signal that it sends to the American people, it’s also gutting for our economy too. This decision will go down in history as the day six justices took away one of the most established and effective tools we have to fight discrimination and promote equality. With this decision, they’ve upended nearly 45 years of precedent and dealt a major blow to efforts to bolster diversity in higher education. Race-conscious admissions policies have helped address historic inequality and promoted diversity in ways that focusing on economic disparity alone can’t. Affirmative action has also benefited women, led to more diverse workplaces, and helped millions escape poverty and earn a foothold in the middle class.

And we should be clear: Race-conscious remedies, including protections for voting rights and affirmative action, are supported by the Constitution. They have long been part of American history and are fundamental to equal opportunity. Affirmative action gave a chance to those historically struck out of the system because of their race, ethnicity, income, or identity. Case in point, the court left affirmative action in place for military academies. Apparently, as Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson noted in her dissent, the court believes racial diversity in higher education is important. It’s just that it’s only for military academies, when it, quote, as she says, prepares “underrepresented minorities for success in the bunker, not the boardroom.” Yikes. This all but ensures that the student population at colleges and universities will become less diverse. We’ve already seen in the states that banned race-based admissions policies in higher education that those bans resulted in dramatic declines in the number of minority students that were admitted. Now, we must fight to ensure that the same thing doesn’t happen nationwide. In the wake of last week’s ruling, colleges and universities need to double down on their efforts to seek a diverse student body and send a clear signal that the fight for equality is far from over.

Phillips: Absolutely. Now, there’s one more decision we need to talk about, also in the education space. The Supreme Court struck down the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness plan. This ruling takes away a lifeline for millions of households crushed by student loan debt. The administration’s debt relief plan met the urgency of the moment we’re in and restored the promise that higher education should lead to greater opportunity—not lifelong mountains of debt. Stopping this plan in its tracks will almost surely prolong the student debt crisis. It prevents millions of Americans from improving their financial security and creating a foundation for upward economic mobility. We know this decision will be particularly hard on women, people of color, and low-income Americans who have to borrow at higher rates in order to be able to afford higher education. And that will have far-reaching impacts on their economic stability and the stability of their families.

This decision also goes against how the Supreme Court purports to operate. They claim they follow the text of the law in deciding cases. Well, Justice [Elena] Kagan pointed out in her dissent that the HEROES Act settles the legality of the student loan forgiveness plan. And yet the court said differently. This decision just shows how important it is, now more than ever, for policymakers to step up and make student loan repayment easier to manage and higher education more affordable. On a personal note, Colin, I’m one of those millions of Americans that is currently going to have to take a look at my student loan repayment portal and figure out how to make things work. I mean, I’m lucky to have a manageable amount of loans, but I can only imagine what someone with three, five, or even 10 times the amount of debt as me is feeling right now. There are a lot of people scared and let down by this ruling.

Seeberger: Yes, that’s right. And it was important to see President [Joe] Biden came out on Friday afternoon last week and announced some new targeted actions that they’re implementing to make sure that, as borrowers start to repay their loans in the coming months, that they’re going to have additional assistance in that process: implementing some actions to make sure that borrowers who may be late on a payment or unable to make a payment don’t get sent to debt collectors; that the administration’s new income-driven repayment proposal that could potentially cut borrowers’ monthly payments in half is going to be in place by the time repayments start; and that the administration is going to try again to get their student loan forgiveness program in place. And they’re going to do so under—rather than the HEROES Act, which is what they detailed as their legal justification for moving forward with forgiveness—they’re going to try again under the Higher Education Act, which gives the secretary of education the full authority to suspend any federal loan that is given to a student borrower. So it’s a huge blow, to be sure, but it’s good to see the administration is really stepping up and taking concrete actions to make sure that people are held harmless.

And with that, that’s all the time we have for today. If there’s anything else you’d like us to cover on the pod, hit us up on Twitter @TheTentPod, that’s @TheTentPod. And stick around for my interview with Sen. Debbie Stabenow in just a beat.

[Musical transition]

Seeberger: Debbie Stabenow is the senior United States senator from Michigan. She was the first woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate from her state. Before that, she represented Michigan’s 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives and served in both chambers of Michigan’s Legislature. She got her start in politics serving on the Ingham County Board of Commissioners as a graduate student in the 1970s. Senator, thank you so much for joining us on “The Tent” this week. It’s great to have you.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow: It’s great. I just love your podcast. I’m so glad you’re doing it.

Seeberger: Thank you so much. So, to start, you obviously played a really important role in helping pass these significant economic investments in the American people, including the CHIPS and Science Act, the infrastructure law, as well as the Inflation Reduction Act. And these laws are helping create jobs and improve infrastructure, not only for big cities, but [also] across the U.S. in rural areas as well. That’s something I know is really important to you because you come from a rural part of Michigan. Can you talk about what these bills really aim to do and are doing for the country, and for Michiganders in all kinds of places, urban and rural alike?

Sen. Stabenow: Absolutely. Well, first, let me say I represent a state of 10 million people. I grew up in a little town up north. But it’s so important that everybody, no matter where you are in Michigan or across the country, [has] a better shot to succeed. And that’s really what this is about. And to back it up—these aren’t just bills. I mean, you raised—these are really significant. But it’s really a philosophy. We have seen for decades, and I’ve been constantly sort of battling the folks on the Republican side who’ve said, “No, no, no, just give all the money to the top, give all the tax breaks to the top, and the capital, and so on, and big corporations will make the right decisions. And it’ll eventually trickle down. It’ll trickle down to my hometown of Clare, or trickle down to Detroit, or trickle down to small businesses and farmers.” And, you know, we’re still waiting. We’ve been waiting a long time for that to trickle down—never worked, was never going to work. Because we give them the capital and the tax breaks, and then they look for the cheapest place to build or do whatever they’re doing, and they go overseas. So it’s been a race to the bottom. What President Biden is doing and what we are doing as Democrats through the things you talked about are turning that around and aiming right at the middle class. We believe in growing the middle class, and that is rebuilding America, whether it’s your roads, your bridges, your airports, high-speed internet now, which we’re very excited that we’re going to have every part of Michigan connected. And that’s going to be huge, whether you’re on the Upper Peninsula, or whether you’re in Detroit, or anywhere in between. And then when we look at what the CHIPS bill, it’s really about bringing jobs home. All those jobs that went overseas with all that capital racing to the lowest wage in the other countries—we’re bringing that back. It’s about making it in America. It’s about rebuilding those chips facilities, making sure all the supply chains in an automobile or an appliance, or anything else we make, are in America, which is critical. And then, the final piece is aiming at the future to grow the middle class, which is clean energy manufacturing. Literally in Michigan, I can take you around the state and show you places where these production tax credits are bringing jobs home. So I’ve been saying for years, it’s not just an investment tax credit where they can take it wherever they want. It’s a production tax credit, which means you only get the tax cut if you make it here. That’s a production tax credit. So we have Hemlock Semiconductor in Midland expanding what they’re doing on solar. We have the auto industry expanding in batteries and other areas. We have wind technology. That’s what that means, is you make it here; you create good-paying jobs here. I want those to be union jobs. We create opportunities for people to succeed in small businesses, or on their farm, or in their community. And then you grow the middle class. And so that’s a very different philosophy. And the great news is it’s working.

Seeberger: It’s working. And it’s working, I think, better than a lot of people may have even anticipated it was working, which is really exciting. Well, you did raise the auto industry. And we can’t talk about Michigan’s economic development without talking about the auto industry. Fifteen years ago, there were some politicians in the U.S. who were calling to let Detroit go bankrupt and to hollow out the auto industry in the United States. Today, the picture looks really different, in large part due to the changes that these laws are initiating. Could you share your take on how these policies are breathing new life into Michigan’s auto industry and what that really means for the state, both economically as well as just culturally too? And as we look into the future, what do these investments mean for American auto manufacturing, you know, in the future decades to come?

Sen. Stabenow: Well, you’re giving me horrible flashbacks to a time when I was fighting about why it matters to have an American automobile industry. I had Republican senators saying, “It doesn’t matter where that car is made, as long as we can buy one.” It’s like, are you kidding me?

Seeberger: The pandemic sure proved them wrong. Correct.

Sen. Stabenow: Exactly. And it’s not just the manufacturing facilities. Most of our jobs are in the supply chain, all those parts, all those ways in which you put it together. And there, at least at the time when we did this—I don’t know the latest number—but at the time when we rescued the auto industry, there were 120,000 auto dealers all across the country selling automobiles, selling those trucks. And so it’s [a] huge impact, not counting the military. I mean, everything that we do in terms of supply chain, the Army uses. We have a whole military supply chain. So it was—it would have been horrible if we eliminated manufacturing and auto manufacturing. So we started then under President [Barack] Obama—again, somebody aiming at the middle class—and we not only did the loans that they repaid quickly, but I was involved in creating a tax credit at that time, something called 48C, to invest in clean energy manufacturing. And I authored a loan program, again, to retool for the kinds of jobs and the auto industry coming in terms of electric vehicles and so on. Both of those things now we have strengthened, and President Biden is using [them] now as well. And then I also led something with a funny little name called Cash for Clunkers. So, as they were coming out of the bankruptcy, we were incentivizing people to go buy a new vehicle, both [a] cleaner vehicle—cleaner in terms of carbon pollution—but also to incentivize things. And so that worked, and thank goodness—a lot of hard work, the auto industry, our autoworkers, and so on. So then you jump to now. And now, after, again, going through this whole debate about high-end tax cuts during the Trump administration and all the money they spent to add it to the deficit but didn’t create jobs, didn’t grow the middle class. We now have President Biden, who is taking what was done in terms of manufacturing under President Obama, and is taking it to the next level so that we are now doing those new technologies—the things that we need to do. The reality is that about 30 percent of the carbon pollution that is hitting us right over the head in the climate crisis comes from transportation. And so we need to make sure we’re using clean energy technologies, and we’re racing around the world. The truth is, if we aren’t doing electric vehicles, China’s going to be in here selling them to us, and we’ll be driving Chinese vehicles. And so we want this in America. We want this technology in America. And so that’s what all of this is. Bring the jobs home. Rebuild America. And focus on making sure we have these great-paying jobs here.

Seeberger: Sounds like a great deal. Well, we know that over the course of the past several decades, communities of color, in particular, have really been marginalized and both economically and culturally hollowed out at times by big infrastructure projects. How are Michigan leaders making sure that doesn’t happen this time around as we’re using these significant federal resources that have been passed by you and your colleagues? And what guardrails are really in place nationally to make sure these investments go to the communities that really need them the most?

Sen. Stabenow: This is such an important part of our Democratic agenda because everything that we’ve done, everything we’ve passed, has an element focused on economic justice as well as environmental justice. We know where those big plants—those big polluting plants—have gone over the decades, and the air pollution, and the asthma, and all of the other issues. We know the communities, the neighborhoods who have been hollowed out. And these funding mechanisms now require that we [are] making that a priority, reinvesting in communities that have been underserved—or harmed—in the past. And I think of one huge project in Detroit, rebuilding what was called I-375, which back in the 50s literally took out an entire Black neighborhood and business community—it was called, Black Bottom, right downtown there—to put in a highway. They took out thousands of homes, and businesses, and so on. It was that moment, for us, of just real, I think, shame in terms of what was happening at that time. And that’s being redone as a neighborhood, rebuilding—an opportunity for businesses and parks, down to [it being] not a highway anymore, but two-lane roads and rebuilding a part of Detroit, both that should be done from an economic standpoint, but most importantly, understanding what was done before was wrong. And we want to rebuild that opportunity for neighborhoods. I’ve talked to a number of people who had businesses—a woman who had a pharmacy at that time, [and] their whole business was taken. And so, whether it is making sure that we are dealing with air quality and water quality issues, or urban trees—I chair the [Senate] Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee—we want to make sure that tree canopy is available in city parks, and neighborhoods, and streets and that we are doing those kinds of things that are rebuilding the quality of life and communities that for too long were left behind. And that is a big part of the agenda.

Seeberger: I know that has been a real focus of the White House in recent weeks. They’ve embarked on this Invest in America 2.0 tour to spotlight a lot of these transformational investments and how they are really rectifying and righting some of these decadeslong trends that have historically left too many communities behind. So, excited to hear about that change that you’re seeing in Detroit and I-375. In addition to the investments in the projects and jobs that are being created from them, many of the policies that you and your colleagues passed also are helping get at what is, we know, a huge issue for the American people, and that is lowering the cost of living. It is—I think for a lot of people who may be in America’s middle class, that may not feel as secure as it once was, and part of that is the cost of living. And the laws that you’ve passed are helping lower prices of things like broadband or prescription drugs, health care premiums, the cost of utilities. How are these policies going to ease cost pressures for families in your state and across the nation?

Sen. Stabenow: It’s so important, particularly coming out of COVID, which was such a scary time for everybody. I mean, I hope we don’t have to live through anything like that again, or none of our kids or grandkids do. But it was so destabilizing for everybody and trying to figure out what was going on. And all the cost inflation that came out of that initially because supply chains were broken down and so there were more costs and so on. But then I also think, and we’ve seen evidence that, even as we have been able to do more things, for instance, around food—we’re now focusing on local and regional food processing so it’s not just four big meat processors in the country who control everything—so getting back to local regional efforts and so on. But we have seen big corporations take advantage of this and actually admit that everybody thinks prices are going to be up so they might as well raise them too, which has also been unfortunately a part of this. But what we’ve done is to create—and we’re still doing it, it’s gonna take time—but more competition in every area so that we can bring prices down. And part of what we did, of course, in the Inflation Reduction Act, which is why not one single Republican in the House or Senate voted for it, is that we took on the drug companies, which they will never do.

Seeberger: Finally!

Sen. Stabenow: Yeah, we pay the highest prices in the world. Back when I was in the U.S. House, I was the first person to take a busload of seniors across the bridge from Detroit to Windsor to demonstrate we could cut prescription drug prices by 40 percent. And then other colleagues started doing that as well. But it’s been a long time coming. And the fact is that we took very important steps. And again, not one Republican would join us. I mean, we put in place a $35 cap on monthly insulin costs for anyone on Medicare—$35 a month. For many people, it was $600, $700, $800, or more. It’s $35 now. We tried to get that for private insurance as well. But that was something that Republicans could filibuster, and they did. So we didn’t get it. So we’re still working on that part, although the president has been pushing the drug companies, and we’re seeing some movement there. But as an example, in terms of costs, we capped insulin at $35 per month. Republican colleagues gave a 40 percent tax break to Big Pharma. That’s what they did when they did their big bill.

Seeberger: It’s not like they’ve used that money to go actually do research and development and invest in new therapies that are actually doing the innovation that we need. We know that most of the innovation that the drug companies are doing is actually federally funded. It comes from American taxpayers.

Sen. Stabenow: Exactly. And that’s one of the things that I’ve been pushing on for years is that we fund the basic research. And then we give them a tax break for taking that research and taking it to the next step and so on, and give them other tax breaks for advertising, which is something that I think should never have been done. And then, all we want is at the end of it to actually get a break here. American taxpayers are the ones investing in this, and we pay the highest prices in the world. And so, in addition to $35 insulin, we’re beginning the process of negotiating Medicare—although drug companies have now taken the federal government to court over that. So it’s going to be a big fight. It’s saying, somehow, we can’t negotiate the best price for people. And the other thing that—among other things that we did, several things that we did—we said, if the drug companies are raising prices right now above the cost of inflation for [Medicare] Part B—which is an infusion, a cancer medication, a cancer drug, something you get in the doctor’s office or the hospital—if they’re raising it above the cost of inflation, they’re going to be penalized and have to roll back the price. And just now, just on July 1, they said that they’re going to be rolling back certain prices, about $470 a dose. That’s cancer treatment, a dose. So that’s the kind of thing that that we’ve tackled. We’ve also taken on the oil companies, although there’s more that needs to be done here because they are price gouging and manipulating all the time. But costs to help people insulate their house, bring down the costs of their electric costs, their heating, their cooling costs. There’s a number of things we’ve done to give people support and tools to bring down their costs. And there’s more to do, and we’re laser focused on it.

Seeberger: That is great to hear. Now, before we go, in addition to being a leader in implementing these economic investments, I did want to talk to you about—Michigan has also been doing some really important work to strengthen democracy in the state. Could you talk about some of the changes you’ve made in recent years and what they’re doing to support democracy? And how and why other states, you know, they should do the same?

Sen. Stabenow: Well, this is so important, and we should not view it as just one action or one year. We started after Donald Trump won in ’16, after we lost Michigan, and, as I’ve said so many times, I either was going to jump off a bridge or do something to reorganize and strengthen what we were doing in Michigan. So I chose the latter, and I was on the ballot in ’18. All the seats were open. So we were able to elect our great governor and lieutenant governor and secretary of state and attorney general. But we went to work organizing, not just in the election year. We used the attack on the Affordable Care Act to organize and go door to door and engage people. Then in the election year, we activated people and kept it going in 2019, 2020, and right on through. We have people year-round now that are doing this. And on top of that, though, wonderful citizens came forward looking ahead at redistricting in 2020. And a wonderful group called Voters Not Politicians collected signatures, put on the ballot a more fair redistricting plan. Other citizens got involved to do more through something called Promote the Vote to strengthen our voting and the no-excuse absentee voting, a whole range of things. And both those passed in ’18. Both of those passed, then set us up to go forward. And I made sure that we were still funding what I call the One Campaign for Michigan, in ’19, in ’20, and so on. ’20, suddenly COVID happens; we have to turn on a dime and go virtual. And the wonderful people that were doing this organizing did that, actually. And so we just went right online and kept right on going. And President Biden won in the highest voter turnout ever for a presidential year. And then when the lines came out in redistricting, and they were more fair—son of a gun, more fair—we took back the state House and state Senate because [before that] people were voting statewide for Democrats, but the lines were not fair. So 2022, the highest voter turnout in a nonpresidential year. And so we have a wonderful statewide leadership team. I’m deeply involved in now going forward more for 2024 to ramp up even more what we are doing and our communications infrastructure and so on. But to do this right, you have to do it all the time. You have to be engaged all the time. You have to be organizing, communicating, showing people the difference between our vision of growing the middle class and the Republicans’ vision of giving everything to the rich folks at the top and hoping it trickles down. So that’s what we’re doing. And I’m excited about 2024.

Seeberger: You know, it is really a testament to the power of democracy that following last year’s midterms, you talked about it being the highest turnout for a midterm election in the state of Michigan. We saw even higher levels of particularly Black turnout too in the state of Michigan following some of those voting reforms that you mentioned. It’s also a real testament to the strength of democracy that following those elections, we’ve seen the state take on the gun lobby [and] passing things that are so commonsense and evidence based, like implementing extreme risk protection orders, strengthening universal background checks, securing people’s constitutional right to make decisions about their own their own bodies and their health care, cut taxes for retirees and hardworking families. Those things are things that happen when you have a truly representative democracy. And so it’s been heartening to see, obviously, greater levels of engagement, but that those greater levels of engagement are proving that government can work and can be responsive to the things that people want. And that’s really the whole point here. And so it’s been great to watch everything happening on the ground in Michigan and all the hard work of your colleagues that you mentioned, in the governor’s office and in the state House and Senate. And it also, I think, should be a real example to other states across the country that when you engage your citizens to make democracy more reflective of the people’s will, you’re gonna get more turnout. You’re gonna get government actually doing things that work for the masses, not just for the top 1 percent of the 1 percent. So it’s been really exciting. And I hope that you and your colleagues continue to preach the gospel about the importance of making democracy stronger because it’s going to make a lot of people’s lives safer. It’s going to make them more stable and secure. It’s going to help realize the vision of growing the economy by growing the middle class.

Sen. Stabenow: Absolutely. If people are going to vote, if they’re going to trust that it’s important to have a democracy, they have to see that it works for them and their family. And I believe that. Our Democratic colleagues, our great people we have in Michigan believe that. I know President Biden believes that. And that’s why we focus so much on getting things done. We want people to feel it, that it makes a difference. It’s worth voting. And that if you vote and participate, we can really do the kinds of things we want to have happen for ourselves and our families.

Seeberger: That’s right. That’s right. Well, Senator, it’s been so lovely to talk with you. I really appreciate your time. And thanks so much for joining us on “The Tent.”

Sen. Stabenow: Absolutely, great to be with you.

[Musical transition]

Seeberger: Thanks so much for listening. Be sure to check out previous episodes. Now, our very own Taylor Swift correspondent Kelly McCoy is back from Cincinnati, where she just saw the Eras tour again, the encore performance. Kelly, how was it?

Kelly McCoy: I’m enchanted to be here, Colin.

Seeberger: I am sure you are.

McCoy: It’s great to be back. I feel like I’m buying my way onto this podcast, though I do work on it. At this point, I feel like Taylor should start giving us some free tickets, merchandise, ideally all of the above for all the promo that we’re giving her.

Phillips: Taylor episode, when? Where’s the Taylor interview?

McCoy: Yeah, are we like the Swift tank now?

Seeberger: Well, if there’s one thing that Taylor is desperately in need of, it is more free earned media.

McCoy: Exactly. So we’ll pile on. Yes.

Seeberger: Favorite era?

McCoy: OK, oh, so this is tough. I thought at the beginning—so I saw her, for those that don’t recall from all the times we were talking about Taylor Swift lately, I saw her in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. And then, surprise, last Friday I saw her in Cincinnati. I thought after seeing her in Philly, that “Reputation” would just be hands down my favorite era. But I think “Red” might take the cake. It was—I was about to say incredible—magical, amazing. I give the whole concert 12 out of 10. Now, part of the reason why it was such a wonderful experience in Cincinnati was—so, in Philadelphia, I was a little lackluster in the attire. I just bought a “1989” shirt and called it a day. I learned from that mistake in Philadelphia. So this time, my friend and I went as our own interpretations of “Lavender Haze.” We may or may not post photos on social media. We’ll have to determine whether we want to do that.

Seeberger: Follow us @TheTentPod, folks. @TheTentPod.

McCoy: I basically looked like if Grimace and Harry Styles had a love child. This is what I looked like. I’m showing photos now.

Phillips: Wow.

Seeberger: Incredible.

McCoy: Basically, I had this shaggy jacket on top.

Phillips: Where did you even get that?

McCoy: I had lavender sequined pants—all like $25 on Amazon, I will share in the links—Lavender Haze T-shirt, lavender—well, more purple—sunglasses, necklaces.

Seeberger: Iconic, Kelly.

Phillips: It’s great.

McCoy: So I got the taste of what being a D-list celebrity feels like, and coming off of that high is pretty tough. I literally got stopped by one, two, three, four—at least five different people to take our photos with. One woman approached us in a restaurant and was like, “I have to get pictures with you all.” I have no idea who this person in the middle of this picture I’m showing you is. We got into the stadium. This woman approached me and was like, “Can you take a picture in my sunglasses?” And I was like, “Would you like to be in the photo too?” And she was like, “No.” OK, this is bizarre.

Seeberger: You’re a star.

McCoy: We were walking in the streets and people were in restaurants, in a separate restaurant behind glass, standing up, waving at us, cheering us. It was amazing.

Phillips: Remember us when you’re famous, Kelly.

McCoy: Yeah, seriously. But our seats also were awesome. We were on the floor. So she had a couple of openers, one of which was MUNA, which is one of my favorite bands.

Phillips: Love that.

McCoy: And they didn’t—at that part—they didn’t make us stand in our seats, so we were able to go up to the front row right by the stage. I locked eyes with their lead guitarist at least twice. I was like the person that I make fun of at other concerts where you’re jumping up and down, waving and screaming names, hoping that people will look at you. I became that person.

Phillips: I love that for you.

McCoy: Yeah, but so MUNA was awesome. And then the concert itself was a borderline religious experience. I think I was joking earlier, Colin, I kind of understand what cults are like now. And I would weirdly, gladly, continue to give her just inordinate amounts of my money to continue to go on these concerts. I haven’t come off of my high, clearly, yet, but I’m going to be really, really sad—borderline depressed, I think—when I realize that I don’t have another concert of hers to go to lined up in the works.

Seeberger: For a while, for a while—she will be back, I am sure because she is now, I think, approaching billionaire status.

McCoy: I believe that’s right.

Seeberger: And is probably one of the most successful female artists for sure out there. And yeah, I mean, this tour has been, I’m sure, quite lucrative for her but also, just from my own observation, attending in Minneapolis, just an incredible economic engine for the cities where she’s doing the tour. I mean, there was a Taylor Swift drag brunch happening the morning of the concert.

Phillips: That’s right, yeah.

Seeberger: Pretty much every shop had some sort of Taylor-themed something happening.

Phillips: It’s the Swift economy.

Seeberger: That’s right. It’s the Swift economy. So I think she may be back for one or two more tours. But on Friday of this week, we get the “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” album, so hopefully you can find some solace in jamming out to “Speak Now” all weekend and hopefully not get too depressed about it.

McCoy: And so, we discussed last week, features on that album include Fall Out Boy and Paramore. And they just announced that in the U.K., Paramore is a special guest of hers.

Phillips: That’s right, yeah.

Seeberger: Stop it.

McCoy: I may have to be London girl and figure out how I weasel—I would go stand in the parking lot. I would go stand literally anywhere just to go watch that thing again. With Paramore?

Phillips: Hayley Williams and Taylor Swift in the same stadium?

McCoy: Hayley Williams is also an amazing performer.

Seeberger: Yeah, she is. OK, we also have to talk about the season that we’re in, and that is “Bachelorette” season. The show kicked off a new season last week, and I think after last season, the bachelor Zach was not my guy. I like Charity so far this year. I am very intrigued to see how things pan out for her. I think some of her guys are definitely hits, and some of them are definitely misses. But I do have one bone to pick with this season, and they have moved the time for “The Bachelorette” to 9 p.m. start time for a two-hour show. Guys, I have nearly an 18-month-old. I cannot.

Phillips: That’s too late. That’s simply too late.

Seeberger: Yeah, it is way, way, way too late, and it is kind of a struggle to make it through. I do find myself having to hold my heavy eyelids up in order to make it through.

Phillips: Who wants to be watching that at 11 p.m.?

Seeberger: Thank you. Thank you.

Phillips: Well, we have a few more weeks until we get Daniella back with us. So maybe I will have to, for the first time ever, give “The Bachelorette” a watch so that we can talk about some things next week.

Seeberger: Oh my.

McCoy: I’m particularly excited for your reviews.

Seeberger: I look forward to the reviews, Erin. That’s right. That’s all the time we have this week. Thanks again for tuning in. Please be sure to stay cool. We had the hottest day potentially on record this past Monday, so stay cool. Enjoy your summer vacations if you’re on them, and talk to you soon.

[Musical transition]

“The Tent” is a podcast from the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It’s hosted by Daniella Gibbs Léger and me, Colin Seeberger. Erin Phillips is our lead producer. Kelly McCoy is our supervising producer. And Sam Signorelli is our digital producer. Jasmine Razeghi provided production support for this episode. 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


Colin Seeberger

Senior Adviser, Communications

Erin Phillips

Broadcast Media Manager

Kelly McCoy

Senior Director of Broadcast Communications

Sam Signorelli

Policy and Outreach Associate, Government Affairs

Jasmine Razeghi

Media Relations Associate



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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