Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev

Preaching to the Choir with Justin Kanew

January 02, 2023 Kosta Yepifantsev Season 2 Episode 50
Preaching to the Choir with Justin Kanew
Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev
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Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev
Preaching to the Choir with Justin Kanew
Jan 02, 2023 Season 2 Episode 50
Kosta Yepifantsev

Join Kosta and his guest: Justin Kanew, Writer, Producer and Creator of TN Holler, an audience-supported progressive news site with a series of active social media feeds that seek to amplify voices throughout Tennessee.

In this episode: The creation, vision and Mission of TN Holler, why Tennessee voters often aren't voting in their own self interest, how the 2022 congressional maps have impacted the votes of millions of Tennesseans. 

Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev is a product of Morgan Franklin Media and recorded in Cookeville, TN.

Find out more about TN Holler:
https://tnholler.com/

Find out more about Kosta and all the ways we're better together:
http://kostayepifantsev.com/

Show Notes Transcript

Join Kosta and his guest: Justin Kanew, Writer, Producer and Creator of TN Holler, an audience-supported progressive news site with a series of active social media feeds that seek to amplify voices throughout Tennessee.

In this episode: The creation, vision and Mission of TN Holler, why Tennessee voters often aren't voting in their own self interest, how the 2022 congressional maps have impacted the votes of millions of Tennesseans. 

Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev is a product of Morgan Franklin Media and recorded in Cookeville, TN.

Find out more about TN Holler:
https://tnholler.com/

Find out more about Kosta and all the ways we're better together:
http://kostayepifantsev.com/

Justin Kanew:

The story that gets told by the supermajority about our state is that everybody's doing great. The healthcare is great, you know, low taxes, businesses are great, but that's really not true. You know, we're number one in medical bankruptcies, we're at the bottom and poverty at the bottom and infant maternal mortality. And these are statistics that they just don't hear enough. Around here. Not every county is Williamson County's what we say all the time.

Morgan Franklin:

Welcome to Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev, a podcast on parenting business and living life intentionally. We're here every week to bring you thoughtful conversation, making your own path to success, challenging the status quo, and finding all the ways we're better together. Here's your host, Kosta Yepifantsev.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Hey, y'all, this is Kosta and today I'm here with my guest, Justin Kanew writer, producer and creator of Tennessee holler an audience supported progressive news site with a series of active social media feeds that seek to amplify voices throughout Tennessee. Now Justin, our listeners may know you as the founder and editor of Tennessee holler but you are also the former vice president of production and development for the National Lampoon associate producer on the coming to America sequel with Eddie Murphy and two time contestant on The Amazing Race on CBS. How did these experiences shape and inspire the Tennessee hauler?

Justin Kanew:

Well, it's nice to be here. First of all, thanks for that intro. I think it's really about storytelling. You know, making content and films is really about storytelling, connecting people with the story. The Amazing Race is about telling stories about connecting with the contestants. And I think with the Howler we're really trying to connect people with the stories that are at the heart of so many of the issues that we face every day here in Tennessee. So people care more when they care about the people putting a face on these issues, whether it be health care, whether it be gun violence, all kinds of things that we face here in Tennessee. So it's really storytelling, making a consumable, and connecting people with the issues so that they care, and they want to get up and do something about it, like voting, and volunteering, like amplifying. So storytelling is at the root of so much of it, even politics. And I think that's what my time in the entertainment world really helped me bring to the hauler,

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Justin, 10 years ago, would you have imagined yourself sitting here and running this organization,

Justin Kanew:

not even for a second. It's crazy. Not even for a second, I never thought about politics when I was younger, I think probably when Obama got elected. So that was, I guess a little over 10 years ago is when I started paying attention. But getting involved with politics was never something that was on my mind. I was in the entertainment world, living in LA, I thought that was what I was gonna do forever. But then, you know, there was a bit of a political earthquake in 2016 when Donald Trump got elected. And I just felt like I had to get involved somehow, some way. So I ran for Congress, and 2018, I lost to a guy named Mark Greene, who's still up there now. But that kind of got me involved in the political world. And I wanted to stay involved in the holler became kind of my bridge to staying involved in being a part of this world.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Did you develop the Tennessee holler kind of to help you with your campaign? Was that the initial intent?

Justin Kanew:

No, the holler was sort of an extension of when I ran for Congress, I felt like there was a real lack of outlets for what I thought was the truth about what's going on in our state. You know, there was the Tennessee star, which was kind of our Breitbart here in Tennessee. Yeah, that was very pointed on the conservative side of things. And it didn't feel like we had a counterbalance to that. So unless the Tennessean was letting people write an op ed, other than that, we didn't really have an outlet. So it felt like instead of waiting for someone to hand us the microphone, we should build our own sound system.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

And that's what the hollers How did you come up with the name?

Justin Kanew:

That's actually a funny story. We had a lot of really bad names first, you know, there was the yodeler at one point and oh, wow, kinds of terrible names when we were kind of developing it, but then once the holler came into our minds, it just that was it, we were like, Oh, that's it right there, the holler. And we wanted it to be something that would resonate not just with the urban part of our state, but also with the rural parts of our state. And, you know, the holler means something different in rural parts of the state where, you know, it's the rolling hills of Tennessee, that it also means yelling, so it kind of had a double meaning.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Yeah, so let me ask about the operations because I know there's a Cookeville holler right and there's Knoxville holler, I believe so do they all operate under this Tennessee hauler umbrella? Are they like your employees? Are they volunteers? How does that whole thing work?

Justin Kanew:

So we're all connected. The regional haulers, which I think are kind of the most important things that we have, you know, focused on local issues. And I tell them, the more local the better county commission school board races, they're kind of, in my opinion, taking the places of a lot of the county papers that kind of really just propaganda outlets in a lot of ways. We're all a part of, I think a team, we all communicate, but I try to be as hands off as I possibly can with them. I provide infrastructure for them, I'll pull clips, you know, use my editing background to help them when they need it. But yeah, they're their own thing. Most of them are on a volunteer basis. Initially, we had Memphis, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, were kind of working for us. And then we grew out of that. But they're really, they're all different. They all have their own voice. And, you know, I tried to let them do their own thing while also helping lift them up. But the reason that I thought it was important to do that was because when we started the Tennessee holler, we were talking to people in Nashville and Memphis, about things that politicians from rural parts of our state were doing. And that's kind of not that useful. You need to be talking to the people who can actually vote for these people and letting them know what's really going on in Nashville and what they're doing at the Capitol. So the regional hollers are connecting the messages to the people that can actually do something about it. And I think that's kind of the most important thing that we do.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Is this your full time job? Yes. Okay, great. How do you measure success? And what I mean by that is you were talking about, you know, getting people informed involved in their local communities, you've got a 53,000 followers. How do you measure success with your organization? Is it getting out the vote? Is it getting people more engaged on your website? Is it just increasing followers?

Justin Kanew:

Yeah, I don't think there's a single answer to that. I mean, obviously, some progress electorally in the state would be great. But you know, we're in a tough spot when it comes to that we have such an entrenched supermajority, and they've just gerrymandered us even further. So you know, there are other ways to look at it, too. One of the first things that happened when we started was we helped make Glenn Cassidy, the shortest serving speaker in Tennessee history by we didn't like that fire. I think Phil Williams kind of did, but we certainly pour gasoline all over it. And we didn't let that go, you know, helping to get that kk k bus removed from our capitol was another part of it. So there are victories along the way where we expose things and help lift up the great work that other people are doing. Also, you know, not a week goes by where I don't have somebody come up to me when I'm wearing this hat that I never take off and saying, you know, thanks for what you guys are doing. So that's success to me knowing that there are people out there in the state that felt unheard felt alone, that now know that there's a place that they can talk to and have their stories told and also have their voice heard. And so that's success. And then in our inbox, you know, so much of what we talk about just comes from people throughout Tennessee who are sending us stories that might not get told any other way. And so our inbox and the engagement is really a level of success, too. So while I'd like to see electoral change in the state, there are definitely other ways that we're seeing our impact felt and we're growing and yeah, so you know, it feels like we're filling a void.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

On the note of electoral change, you know, you ran for Congress, you understand how the system works. I was at session when they redrew the the maps for congressional district five, six and seven. Now, the Republicans have picked up a seat. So it's what eight Republicans to one Democrat now in Tennessee. But what I keep saying and I talked about this with Cindy, who you had an interview with before, there is now three congressional districts drawn into Davidson County, and you guys have a pretty significant influence. So you know, 53,000 followers and growing. Do you see the future of Tennessee being a Republican stronghold? Or do you think that if you motivate enough people and you turn out the vote in Davidson County, that you can start flipping these congressional districts and it backfires on the Republicans?

Justin Kanew:

Well, the state didn't become a Republican supermajority overnight. And it won't point flip the other way overnight, either. It's going to be a long term process. I do think that there's an element of playing with fire, where Republicans kind of drew these deeply red districts into Nashville, and now over time, may end up paying for that. I don't know, I'm not going to say that that's gonna happen right away. But there definitely is a hope that, you know, as people start to turn out, and as Nashville grows that these guys maybe feel the fire a little bit. The thing to keep in mind about those districts is Rose green, and ogles. They all live miles from Nashville, not a single one of them lives in Nashville, right? They don't go to Nashville, they're not going to hold town halls in Nashville. So this notion that now they're triply represented in Congress is an absolute joke. You know, this was a racist racial gerrymander that has really silenced the voices of a city where the black population has been growing. And you know, it's taken a 40% democratic state and given them 11% democratic representation. So I think we need independent fair districting This country, I think that's why we need that bill at a federal level, because you can't ask blue states to disarm. And that way when red states don't, it hurts everybody. Because the more entrenched these politicians are, the less they have to listen to people. And the less they have to listen to people, the more people get

Kosta Yepifantsev:

hurt. Yeah, absolutely. And I think they are less motivated by bringing more funding to Tennessee, which is very badly needed for our schools for our healthcare system. And you're absolutely right.

Justin Kanew:

And that's really why we started the haulers because the story that gets told by the super majority about our state is that everybody's doing great, the healthcare is great, you know, low taxes, businesses are great, but that's really not true. You know, we're number one, and medical bankruptcies were at the bottom and poverty at the bottom and infant maternal mortality. And these are statistics that they just don't hear enough around here. Not every county is Williamson County's what we say all the time. So those issues, and telling that story is really why we started the holler because somebody needs to be out there telling the truth about what's happening in our state. And it's not the story that gets told by Governor Lee.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Right. And we're What 47 Or like, 48th in education,

Justin Kanew:

right? Yeah, yeah. Education. I mean, go on and on crime. Yeah, you know, there is a cost to the way that we go about our business here. We're also one of the most federally dependent states in the country. So we get 40% of our state budget from the federal government. Meanwhile, we run around saying how irresponsible the federal government is, and how wrong it is that we're in debt, but we have no problem taking that money. So there's a hypocrisy to what goes on. And then the money that we do get sits in a bank account somewhere, we I think we're hoarding more money than any other state in the country, I think we have a couple billion now, I'm gonna say this on this podcast, and you know, maybe a few people will hear it, but it's the kind of thing you have to say, over and over every single day so that people out there, we'll say it, and there has to become this kind of echo effect, where we all understand what's really happening. And that, to me, is where the change comes from.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

But you were in entertainment. Yeah. And now you can connect these very complex dots. Do you think that other people are going to be able to follow suit and start connecting the dots like you have?

Justin Kanew:

I do think so. Yes. I mean, I have an optimism about that. I don't have any illusions over how easy that's going to be. That's what we try to do every day is make that dot connecting happen in a way that's really accessible, you

Kosta Yepifantsev:

know, that take you to be able to develop that skill, because there's, I mean, it's impressive when you can take a social issue, and then actually find the root cause and the unintended consequences and be able to articulate that.

Justin Kanew:

I don't think I'm done learning it. You know, it's something that you're always learning. None of us are ever done learning when it comes to this. I've gotten better at it over time, being around really smart people who knew this stuff when I ran for Congress, friend of mine, and Kristen said to me, you need to data your soul. Because when I started out, I really didn't know all this stuff. And I would get asked about Medicaid. I don't think I could even tell the difference between Medicaid and Medicare when I started out. So you have to data your soul, you have to get to the point where this stuff just spills out of you. And you know, with the holler, especially, one of the criticisms that we get is that we're preaching to the choir, you know, that we don't really cross over to Republicans enough as much as we should. And that's a fair criticism. But what I would say is, the choir needs to understand what's happening, because then the choir can talk to other people to about this stuff. So yes, maybe we are preaching to the choir, but the choir needs to get educated. Yeah,

Kosta Yepifantsev:

absolutely. You're 100%. Right. You've taken this kind of alarmist news production approach, and it's very similar to how a lot of other conservative media channels have lent. Is that part of the strategy like for people to actually listen, like it needs to be alarming. If you just sat there, you know, like Tom Brokaw and just read the news. It just it wouldn't get anywhere.

Justin Kanew:

Yeah, I think alarmism is a fair word. And, frankly, I think people need to be alarmed. You know, I agree that it happens. on the conservative side. Also, my argument would be We're actually right in our alarmism and they're kind of not fun. You know, I think alarmism happens for a reason. It does kind of trigger an emotional reaction in people. And I think connecting it to their emotions is what needs to happen to get the kind of change that we need. And also I think the alarmism has over time proven to be warranted. I mean, our capitol got attacked, we've got the most anti LGBT bills in the entire country here in the state. All the statistics I just rattled off are reasons for alarm. So I think there's a lot of reasons for alarm. And part of our job as the holler is to let people know that, you know, wake up before it's too late.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Do you think that this is all from a lack of education and generational oppression?

Justin Kanew:

I don't think generational oppression can be understated or overstated, frankly, you know, yes. We're not that far removed from a time when you know, we had separate water fountains and slavery even frankly, so yeah. Over time, that stuff has an impact under funding education. We see that every single day The underfunding everything in general, you know, really has an impact on our communities, especially on people of color. I think we're at a point now, where we're starting to see a backlash to the notion that that has really taken hold that we hit a point where suddenly everything's fine. And we need to stop talking about that stuff. And I think it's really important to stand up to that idea, because we do need to continue to own the systemic oppression, we need to continue to own the underfunding of education, especially in those communities of color, and everything's not okay. So, you know, there is sort of a level of comfort where you go, Okay, now that we're not having separate water fountains any more than everything must be fine. And, you know, there's a backsliding that happens, and I think we're starting to see it.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

But why do people keep electing the same politicians into office? If everything is not okay.

Justin Kanew:

Yeah, it's a really good question. You know, Republicans in general are really good at finding the wedge issues, and making them the most important issues in their constituents, eyes. And both sides, frankly, suffer a little bit from tribalism, and just voting for the letter next to people's names. In Tennessee, especially, we are the highest percentage of evangelicals in the entire country. So I think that's at the root of a lot of why we're not changing in a way that some of the other states are, you know, I'm not in those churches, I don't know what's being said in the churches. But I do know that, you know, the anti gay stuff, the abortion stuff, that's at the top of their priority list. And, you know, in many ways, they basically prioritize that over health care over education over crime. And Republicans are really good at their messaging. They're all on the same page, the radio stations are saying the same thing, as Fox News is saying is the same thing as Breitbart saying, and, you know, having been inside the kind of messiness, that is the Democratic side of things, it's not really the same thing. It's harder to get everybody on the same page. Now, I would point to a reason for that, which is, there's a lot of money in Republican politics, Republican politics is an investment. You've got billionaires that are trying to lower their taxes. And there's a huge return on an investment, whereas there are wealthy people on the Democratic side, but it's really more of a philanthropic thing, because the rich people on the Democratic side are kind of voting against their best interests. Yeah. So you know, when you've got that much money swirling around and sloshing around right wing media, you can get people on the same page pretty quickly.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Justin, from where you're standing, what do you think is the best pathway to change?

Justin Kanew:

I think the best pathway to change is inevitable. It's young people getting more involved. It's young people running for office, it's young people owning their power, and it's gonna happen. Yeah. So you know, I think the inevitability of young people running for office and being empowered is part of why the backlash is so strong right now, because the clock is ticking. Yeah. On the whole, that the people that are in power have over this.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

And I saw that so I grew up in Atlanta. And I saw that in Georgia, cultivating over the course of my entire middle school, high school, you know, even when I came back and visited after high school, like I saw the change and the shift. But the overarching question is, do you think that more people are going to move to Tennessee and have the values that you have? Or do you think they're going to have more Republican values, because people are moving here, and even though we're underfunding everything, people are still continuing to move here.

Justin Kanew:

Yeah, the people that are moving here, mostly conservative, you know, they're coming from California, but they're the conservatives that are fleeing California, as opposed to the other way around. But that being said, young people are coming of age and becoming voters every single year, you know, that's why they're trying so hard to clamp down on education and what they call indoctrination, which is actually just education, because it kind of it insulates them from buying into, you know, what I see as hate and a lot of the lies that are going on. So that's why I'm so excited about people like Justin Jones, Charlotte and Oliver that just ran in one in Nashville, and are now going to be up there in the legislature yelling what I think is the truth. And I think over time, we're going to see more and more young candidates that are not here for that stuff that are going to be inspiring others to get involved, and it's just inevitable. And that's what gets me out of bed every morning. That's what's so exciting to me is time is on our side, right? It's just gonna take a while

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Republicans weren't always this Republican Party. And if you go back in history, they were honestly if you consider they were more democratic, you know, in terms of their principles. Do you think that this is a political party issue? Or do you think that there's some type of ideology that seated in the people that participate with this type of, I guess you could call it Christian nationalism, essentially, ignoring separation of church and state? Do you think that it's a political party, or do you think these are just the individuals that will eventually leave politics because they get to a point where they're so old that they can't participate anymore? They may not be alive, and young people will come in with a different mindset.

Justin Kanew:

Yeah, well, I mean, I think that's what we're seeing. The numbers just show that, you know, younger people are less inclined to be going to church these days, they're more independent from a voting perspective. But do I think the Republican Party has kind of always been there. Since the civil rights movement, we've kind of seen that the Republican Party has taken that turn and, you know, made a deal with Van Jellicle church that they've, you know, become kind of side by side in this fight. And, yeah, there's a Christian nationalism, Tennessee's a theocracy. And I think that's kind of at the root of so much of what we're seeing. Now, if you ask me, the message that Jesus was preaching was taking care of the poor, taking care of the stranger taking care of your neighbor. And I think we see that a lot more in progressive policy ideas than we do in the policies that are being pushed by the Republican parties. And I say that to say, Democrats need to do a better job of speaking that language. You know, as much as I believe in the separation of church and state, I still think you need to meet people where they are 75% of the country's Christian 52% of the state is of angelical, you need to be talking to them and appealing to that part of their hearts and saying, you know, this is why we need to do this thing. When we say separation of church and state, we're not going to have that conversation. Republicans can easily paint Democrats as the anti God party, which they are very much not. So there are people that I think do that. Well, Pete Buda judge, ironically, as the gay candidate was somebody that was speaking to people of faith in a way that I think more Democrats need to. So I think they need to be more intentional about having that conversation of reclaiming that ground.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

What are the dangers of Tennessee being considered a theocracy? And just explain for everybody what a theocracy is.

Justin Kanew:

So theocracy is, you know, a group of people that are ruling based on religious ideals, like I ran. Sure, like I ran Exactly, yes. And I think if you asked Tennessee's supermajority, if you ask Governor Lee, if you ask any of the legislators, what they're serving for, they're gonna tell you they're serving for Christ, they're gonna be very open about that. If you just ask them, they will tell you, and what comes out of that far too often our anti gay policies, what I think are tendencies, that silence opposition, you know, you're not ruling from a democratic place or ruling from a place of religion first, and I think a lot of people get hurt. Now, I'm not saying that it's the Mulas and ISIS and Iran, right, where they're executing people for their beliefs. But it is along the lines of quelling opposition, not listening to the people. And when you feel like you are serving in that way, a lot of times you're willing to excuse a lot of bad behavior, because you're thinking, Well, I'm serving God. And so you know, a lot of things get left by the wayside. So I feel like we've left a lot of our democratic principles behind in Tennessee.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

So here's the million dollar question. What do Tennessee voters really want?

Justin Kanew:

Yeah, I think that's a good question. And I think, honestly, our supermajority is in a lot of ways afraid of that, because what they really want if you ask them, you know, we just had a Vandy poll come out that showed that 75% of the state wants exceptions for rape and incest and our abortion ban that we don't have, right? Most people want Medicaid expansions. Most people want marijuana legalization, I would say progressive is mainstream. If you actually ask people what they want policy wise, a lot of that stuff is going to be pretty progressive. But then there are these wedge issues that get used as a cudgel to preserve power. So at the end of the day, I think right now, they're voting Republican, because there's a tribalism happening, and they want to be in power. But policy wise, I think we have more common ground than we realize, and getting that message out is hard. But there's just this something about the letters next to people's names, it almost doesn't matter who the candidate is at this point. That is the spell that needs to be broken. And I'm not sure how that gets done. You know, maybe there is like the perfect candidate that could could break through in a way that we haven't really seen yet. I don't know. But until we have that happen, it's really just a branding issue.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

I mean, I think Republicans are going to have to step up. I mean, I think something like affordable housing, which is very important to me, because I work with people that are elderly seniors, essentially, and their ability to access housing and it be affordable is like in the single digit percentage points. You know, it's it's so difficult for people on fixed income to be able to make ends meet. I think that Republicans are going to have to start coming through in the next couple of terms or people might catch on to like, let's see, you're investing all this money in infrastructure, and you're building all these buildings, and you're bringing in all these businesses to Tennessee. But are our lives getting better? Right,

Justin Kanew:

and they're not but the tough part is, you know, the way that these districts are drawn, the way that the gerrymandering has gone, a lot of these guys don't even have primary opponents, let alone general opponents so they really don't have to listen. And when you have So much of our state that's really without a messaging arm that can get through to them. And what they're hearing is that everything's great. It's tough. So, you know, I think part of it not can't just be the hauler. I'm not just saying it's the hauler, but there has to be some sort of messaging that gets through to them on a regular basis that lets them know that their lives would be better if they weren't just so robotically voting for people that aren't serving their best interest.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Are you thinking about running for office ever again?

Justin Kanew:

I mean, not anytime soon. You know, it put a lot on my family, especially. I mean, it was it was a hard work for me. But you know, my wife, we had a little kid at the time now we have two of those. So I think those kids would have to be a little bit older before I'd be willing to do it again. I have no regrets. There's no better way to meet your community to get to know the people around you than to run for office. Put yourself in those situations. So you know, maybe at some point, I would do it again. But right now I think with the hauler, I'm kind of doing more good than I might, you know, if I was just up in DC, sitting next to Andy Ogle, I

Kosta Yepifantsev:

mean, why not run? Why not run for state office, though? Because isn't Todd is Todd Warner, your district? Rep,

Justin Kanew:

I'd have to look at the way they just read through it. It's been casted for a long time, and now he's gone. So I think it might be bolso. But you know, state office? Yeah, I could. Honestly, I think it might be harder to win that than it would be to, you know, run for governor good. Where I live in Williamson County. But again, you know, with the holler, we're able to talk to everybody in the state as opposed to just our little district. So you know, I'm gonna keep hollering for a little while and see how it goes.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

When you talk to people that are running for office, specifically candidates that are democratic, and you are at the Capitol and at the Cordell hole building often so you understand how the system works. And you understand the frustrations that Democrats feel being, you know, a super minority. Yes. What do you tell them? And the reason that ask that question is because I'm curious, because I've had a lot of conversations with Democrats during the internship. I'm curious to see if what you guys say kind of align? What do I tell Democrats? Yeah, that are going to be up in Cordell Hall and essentially beating their head against Yeah,

Justin Kanew:

well, you know, it's kind of the same thing I'm saying to you, which is like, gotta break the spell. Yeah. And the only way to break the spell is with the truth and yelling it really loudly all the time. You know, not by like, playing nice up there, frankly. And so you know, people like Gloria Johnson, people like Justin Jones will be up there now. Charlene Oliver, Heidi Campbell does it John Ray Clemens GA Hardaway, Vincent. There are a lot of people that do it. But it has to be done all the time, constantly, regularly. And you know, I'm always encouraging them to like, get louder about it. The holler is here to lift it up when they do that, and Republicans do when they do it. I mean, there are times where Bob Ramsay will do it or, you know, people will stand up. I actually think it's more important for Republicans to say the truth when they do Kersey Oh has said it a few times. Now he's gone. But you know, we're not opposed to lifting up Republicans when they're saying the things that we believe in. But you got to do it all the time. And regularly. That's the only way change comes. It's not mentioning it, and then hoping people pick up on it. It's saying it every single day until other people are saying it to and people start to get the message. We can't do it alone. It has to be other people doing it with us. And over time. I'm hoping that breaks through

Kosta Yepifantsev:

if a Democrat wins a congressional district in the next five to 10 years. Yeah. Are you gonna throw a party? No,

Justin Kanew:

you know, it depends which Democrat honestly. And you know, an answer. It depends what they stand for. You know, I know that at times, it probably seems like we're just like an arm of the party or whatever. But we're not we are here to fight for progressive ideals. We are here to push for things like Medicaid expansion, equality, we are here to push for higher wages for workers stand with unions. And it just so happens that right now my opinion, Democrats are the ones fighting for that. Not all of them. And when some of them don't, we'll call them out to you know, we're not afraid to do that. So it depends on the Democrat if a Republican who is pro union and pro equal rights and you know, wants to expand Medicaid wins will happily, you know, push for that person also, I just haven't seen a lot of those. And frankly, it feels like Republican supermajority is getting more extreme rather than less. So

Kosta Yepifantsev:

I am astounded that we haven't expanded Medicaid and it is now about to be 2023. And Tennessee has one of the worst track records for hospital closures.

Justin Kanew:

Yeah, we're number one in rural hospital closures capita. I don't know if we still are but number one and medical bankruptcies, which is outrageous, you know this better than most with based on what you do. We've lost $22 billion since we didn't expand Medicaid. So it's an economic issue as much as anything else. And there's no reason for it. We pay those taxes, we just don't get them back. So that money is going to other states. It's absolutely outrageous. And there is no justification for it. You know, over time, we've seen more and more Republicans come out and say we should have done it, especially in counties where their hospitals closing.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Let's say we went the opposite direction. Not only did we not expand Medicaid, but we also decided that we were going to be the only state To have a block grant Yeah, for our Medicaid dollars,

Justin Kanew:

right. So we want to give the people who showed that they were cool with human suffering. Yeah. The Block Grant meaning give them all the money, let them decide what

Kosta Yepifantsev:

no categorical grants no strings. Right. And I mean, there it is, it really is because that I don't I don't think people really understand this. But any money that saved on Medicaid can be used in other sectors of government spending.

Justin Kanew:

So it incentivizes them to cut costs, a cut can serve as theory too. And you know, one of the things that we focus on more than anything else, and something that I think is a bipartisan issue of corruption, corruption is rampant. All over the place. I run into Republicans all the time, who were like, you know, I don't agree with you about everything. But you guys are not here for the corruption. And I'm with you on that. And so our state has been full of that. We've seen it time and time again. I mean, Kelsey just lost his law license. Dickerson paid off Medicare fraud, you know, a lot of these guys have been up to no good up there. And it's part of why they want to be up there, I think. So when you have a block grant that's essentially going to give them a license to steer money to their friends, that is something that we can't abide.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Yeah, it's interesting when you're watching kind of the events unfold during session, and you have somebody like Katrina Robinson, who was convicted of one charge out of like, 48 charges, and she's calling these people out on the floor. And there isn't anything else said about it, like the corruption that you're describing is ongoing, and people are still in office that have been implicated. And no one saying, Okay, we need to remove this individual for Medicare fraud, like you were saying, but Katrina Robinson gets convicted on one count at a 48. And she's gone.

Justin Kanew:

Right? Yeah, I think that really highlighted the double standard. That's up there, not just for Democrats, but also for black women. She calls it a procedural lynching. And I'm glad you're pointing out that it was only one charge, you know, they had what was it like 40 charges for a charge look at her right. And at the end of the day, it was really about like one which was an accounting thing at her. She wasn't accused of misusing those funds by the federal government that was giving her those funds. This was a witch hunt. And you know, it really showed the difference when she was railroaded out of there. Meanwhile, Brian Kelsey, who has now just lost his law license and pled guilty was given a standing ovation and a big giant plaque. So I think that really says it all about where we are as a state.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

So we always like to end the show on a high note, who is someone that makes you better when you're together? Other than

Justin Kanew:

my wife? Or can I say my wife, you can say, oh, okay, my wife makes me better or together. She's now a doctor, the first doctor canoe She's a PhD. And you know, my wife is a rock star. She handles our kids handles me and runs a clinic in Murfreesboro for kids with autism. So my wife makes me better. But then, you know, there are other people in the political world. I mean, a guy that I really am a big believer in is Justin Jones. I've learned a lot from him. He's young, but he's a powerful voice. I know he gets a bad rap with a lot of people on the other side of the aisle, but I've seen that guy affect change in many different ways. And I think we're lucky to have him here in Tennessee.

Morgan Franklin:

Thank you for joining us on this episode of Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev. If you've enjoyed listening and you want to hear more, make sure you subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. Leave us a review or better yet, share this episode with a friend. Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev is a Kosta Yepifantsev Production. Today's episode was written and produced by Morgan Franklin post production mixing and editing by Mike Franklin. Want to know more about Kosta visit us at kostayepifantsev.com We're better together.