Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth is an Iraq War veteran, the first senator to give birth while in office, and a fierce advocate for women's rights. I caught up with her on Sept. 29, just an hour before the first presidential debate of 2020. "I think the American people want someone who's going to give them solutions," Duckworth said as she anticipated Vice President Biden's debate night. "The great thing about Joe Biden is that he's empathetic, and he cares, and he understands where people are suffering." We also talked about the crises America is facing, how she stays motivated in the face of those challenges, and her debate-night snack of choice (it's Cheetos). Read on for highlights from the conversation with Sen. Duckworth, and watch our Instagram Live in full below:
On Fighting Trump's "Grab For Power" SCOTUS Nomination:
"We're going to do everything we can to fight this grab for power," Duckworth said. "It's not just about filling the seat; it's about the fact that he's trying to fill the seat before the election happens, which means that this Supreme Court nominee will be there to help decide, if there's a contested election, whether Trump gets to be president again. So he's actually stacking the courts to help steal the election. It's something he's been trying to do, whether by discrediting mail-in voting — I mean, he's taken mail-sorting machines out of post offices and blue mailboxes off the streets to try to slow down mail-in voting. Also, seven days after the election, on Nov. 10, the Supreme Court is set to hear a case that will eliminate, potentially, the Affordable Care Act, and take away health care from 20 million Americans, and take away health care from those with preexisting conditions. That happens seven days after the election. This is why they're trying to seat this justice this quickly."
On How to Ensure Your Vote Is Counted and Your Voice Is Heard This Election
"We can all reach out to our friends and family and make sure that everybody has a plan for voting," Duckworth said. "If you go in person, then have a plan for how you're going to go. You may have to wait in line, so bring lunch, bring a snack, bring hand sanitizer, bring your own pen. Have a plan for that. If you're going to do vote-by-mail, have a plan for how to fill out the ballot. The day the ballot gets to you, have a plan that you're going to fill it out and take it to the post office that same day. Make sure that five other people that you know that have the same concerns — whether it's about health care, whether it's about reproductive rights, whether it is about fighting the pandemic, supporting our military men and women — have that plan to vote and let other people know. I'm calling all my friends and family, my mom network, my daughter's kindergarten class."
On How She Stays Motivated and Hopeful
"I learned in the army," Duckworth said. "I'm the worst runner. I hate to run. And in the army, they force you to run. They get you up at like 3 in the morning and force you to run, and then the call it a 'fun run.' It's not fun! It's miserable! But all of those runs I learned just put one step in front of the other. I might be in the middle [of a] five-mile run and I hate it, and I don't want to be there, and it sucks, and it's raining, and they're making me sing. If I can just run to that next tree, or stoplight, and just keep powering on — that's where I am right now. The goal is to flip the Senate on Nov. 3. To win the White House. And then we can start working on all the promise we have in this country. So for me, it's one day at a time, one mission at a time. And we can get there."
On What's at Stake in This Election
"What's at stake is really the heart and soul of our country and our future. And my daughter's futures . . . I want to make sure the America that I grew up believing in is there for my daughters, and unfortunately those promises are not there right now for the generation that's growing up. They're not going to have a better life than their parents before them — not unless we do something about it . . . It's the millennials and the Gen Z-ers who are going to save this world, and I'm going to be with them every step of the way."