The Signal’s editor Kevin Nix spoke to Democratic Senate candidate Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez today by phone about health care, impeachment, capitalism, and what gets her up in the morning. The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Texas Signal: I think that Texans like the rest of the country still need to be brought along on Medicare for All and educated on it. It’s a relatively new way to look at our healthcare system. The question is, what would you do to get more Texans to jump on board with this idea of Medicare for All?
CTR: You know, what I see is that Medicare for All of one of the country’s most popular policies and as people understand, people who every day know that we’ve created one of the most expensive health care system by allowing private health insurance companies to profit off of our pain and illness and suffering, and with some of the worst healthcare outcomes of any industrialized nation. That by any measure that is a failed system. So when you talk to people about the fact that if they were sick, if their child was sick, if they needed serious medical care, whether they could work or not, that they could have it. That they could go to the doctor. That if they had cancer or serious illness, that they would get the care they need. And they would be able to leave the hospital without warning about how they would pay for it. People are seeing more and more that that should be a basic human right, especially in the richest nation in the world. And when you explain that you’re not gonna have copays or deductibles, or premiums, I find that most people are on board with us.
I see that in this country that one of the few public benefits we have is Social Security. And we fight to protect Social Security because of the benefit for every single American. And when I talk to people about Medicare for All who are entrepreneurs or small business owners, I find that they are some of the most passionate in their support of Medicare for All because it’s a burden for small businesses that want to have health care, quality health care for their employees, and sometimes they’re not provide it because their new or small businesses trying to compete with major corporations. But if they didn’t have to do that, it would be an equalizer for them and you would have entrepreneurs be able to start new businesses. That really could be the accelerator for enterprise in our country if we had Medicare for All.
TS: On Trump’s impeachment…[MJ] Hegar this morning, at the Texas Tribune said she hasn’t seen all of the evidence, “all” being the key word here, for impeachment. Do you need to see all the evidence?
CTR: I think the evidence we’ve seen shows that our president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors, that impeachment was a mechanism given to our democracy to make sure that someone wasn’t acting like a king, that someone was being held accountable to act in the best interest of the American people and by our own president’s admission and his words, the transcripts that have been released, the evidence we have seen, I see that he has acted in a way that is not in the best interest of the American people, that does rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors. This is greater than a president, greater than an election or a party. And our entire democracy is on the line. And I am grateful that the House has acted in the best interest of the American people and if I were in the Senate is at this stage with the evidence we’ve seen, I would open vote for impeachment.
TS: Switching gears. In terms of economics, do you consider yourself a capitalist?
CTR:I believe in a mixed economy. I think that you need capital enterprise to scale to the level to create businesses and products to serve the American people. So, you know, I think that there is absolutely a role for a capitalist enterprise in our economy.
TS: The reason why I ask this is this whole label and [the GOP] painting all Democrats as socialists. The latest examples…Pierce Bush…who is running for Congress railed on Democrats for being socialists the other day. Do you worry that there should be an effort to push back on the socialist label in Texas?
CTR: Every Democratic candidate in this race is going to be called every name imaginable by the Republican Party. They’re gonna be called socialists. They’re gonna be called communists. They’re gonna say that they are against the white working class and the interest of them. These are just the beginning of the tip of the iceberg. What we know is that these are the politics of distraction, that Republicans know that it is likely that they could lose Texas in 2020 and that that doesn’t just change political outcome of our state or an election cycle. But it changes the political outcome and possibilities of our country for a generation.
For Democrats to win, I think we have to be bold. We have to be strong on real economic issues that you have right now in the country. That 60% of Americans don’t have more than $1000 in savings, that by 2023 estimates show that 40% of student debt borrowers could be in default on their student loans, and that half of those over the age of 55 has $0 retirement. There is an economic crisis in this country that begs for real economic change, and the candidates answer to build on those economic needs, those economic realities, they will win. And that is what Republicans are afraid of.
TS: You had a good number of Beto staffers and senior advisers support you. Talk a little bit about those endorsements.
CTR: So you know, I was asked to run, by some of the folks that ran that ran the O’Rourke Senate race. I got to know them during that historic race and the reason they asked me to run and the reason they’re supporting me is because I share many of the same values and vision, out of the candidates that we see in the field, look similarly with Beto O’Rourke. And also because they believe I’m the best bet to win. They know because they brought us close as they did to winning in Texas. That was an amazing candidate but it also took a massive operation. Thousands of volunteers, a dynamic and incredibly smart team that knew Texas, and were willing to do things differently, and they learned a lot. They learned about the diversity of Texas. They learned that people wanted a real progressive that had real vision and was willing to stand up against the politics of hate. They see that in me, and I’m proud to have their support from some of his top staff, including his campaign manager Jody Casey.
TS: What generally drives you? What gets you up in the morning? Forget the campaign for a second. I’m just looking for something that shows who you are.
CTR: You know, I am not new to trying to build political power and I’m not new to trying to make our government works for ordinary people That’s what I’ve given my life’s work to. I deeply believe that ordinary people, when they come together, can change the course of history and in fact that’s the only thing that changed the course of history for the better of our society, for the better of our environment, the better of the poor and working class. And I have consistently brought people together to make government do that. It’s what drives me and fulfills me when people against all odds are able to make substantial change when they are underestimated and are able to prove people wrong.
I feel in this moment I see that in this election and I see and feel something happening in Texas with people that previously did not feel their power because those in power didn’t want them to see or recognize it.
What also drives me is that it makes me really angry when I see things that are unjust or unfair. I can remember from when I was like that in middle school and I would see someone say something that was homophobic, and it would make me stand up because I didn’t think it was fair or right. Today when I see people try and deny people their right to vote or try and tell people that they don’t deserve a living wage, I see those things as unfair and unjust, and that drives me to try and fix it.
Photo by Cristina for Texas