How This National Policy Leader Got Politicized in Oakland

Tracey L. Ross (Tracey L. Ross)

With all that's going on in the world, some folks might overlook the presidential election that's in less than three months. But not Tracey L. Ross.

Tracey, who was raised and politicized in Oakland, currently works as the Director of Federal Policy and Narrative Change at PolicyLink.  This means she serves as a bridge between policy researchers and elected officials.

She has a unique sense of America's national political landscape and she wants to make sure people are aware of what's at stake this coming fall, and how that will inform elections to come.



Listen to the full episode in the player above. Below are lightly edited excerpts of my conversation with Tracey L. Ross.

Pen: What do you do at your job?

Tracey: So for the organization, I lead and coordinate our federal efforts. And the narrative change part of that work is helping to advance messages and communication to enable the kinds of policy changes we want.

Pen: Gotcha. Do you have any examples of what that looks like?

Tracey: So right now I'm helping out with a big housing narrative change project. We want to be able to advance housing policies that are pushing us toward seeing housing as a human right, making sure that people aren't being priced out of their neighborhoods, that people have just cause for their evictions. So in order for us to be able to have these more progressive and wide-sweeping policies, we need to get the idea that housing is a human right to catch on. And housing isn't just this commodity or something as a wealth-building opportunity.

Pen: Does it make a difference who gets elected this coming November? 

Tracey: Absolutely, 100 percent. I appreciate why people might not be enthusiastic about their choices, and that happens every year. For me, it's always a strategic choice. I'm not voting for a candidate who is a reflection of, like, my soul. I'm voting for the candidate that in my strategy and my advocacy is the one that I would prefer to push. And the reason why it really matters is we're six months into a pandemic... I'm skipping over the past few years of harmful policies. But we're six months into a global pandemic. And the current president is just now saying, maybe you should wear a face mask. He's asleep at the helm. And it's incredibly dangerous. Elections matter because the kinds of people that would be filled in the administration would believe in science, would be able to call out the kinds of racism and sexism and blatant things that have been upheld for the past few years. And so, you know, Biden is not a perfect candidate by any means, but he's the candidate I want to push. So it absolutely matters.

Pen: The common term is the lesser of two evils, but not necessarily the person you want as your soulmate or who you see your soul reflected in. 

Tracey: Yeah. Yeah, that's right. I know sometimes people be like, you know, this candidate doesn't inspire me. I don't look to politicians to be inspired. I'm inspired by movement leaders. And if the policies that they're seeking have a better chance of being realized under one administration versus another, that's reason enough for me to lean towards one side.  I think in this moment, everything that's happening is requiring us to think bigger.  And I'm hopeful that the election is going to be kind of a mandate on that, that people are saying we're ready to go bigger, we're ready to change our country in fundamental ways. even if, again, the candidates aren't people's top choices, we're at a time where the public is getting so fired up and sophisticated and imaginative about what our country can be That I'm hopeful for what the people can do with this election.

Rightnowish is an arts and culture podcast produced at KQED. Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts or click the play button at the top of this page and subscribe to the show on NPR One, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.

Sponsored