Jamarlin talks to Eugene Craig III, former vice chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, about why he says f*ck MAGA and how the GOP has become the party of power at all costs. They discuss “What about Baltimore,” holding local elected officials accountable and starting a Kanye West PAC.
This is a full transcript of the conversation which has been lightly edited for clarity.
Jamarlin Martin: You’re listening to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin. We have a go hard or go home approach as we talk to the leading tech leaders, politicians and influencers. Let’s GHOGH! Today we have Eugene Craig, the former vice chairman of the Maryland Republican Party and entrepreneur. How’s it going Eugene?
Eugene Craig: It’s been good man. Glad to be here at the GHOGH team, ready to have some fun today.
Jamarlin Martin: Let’s talk about your story. You obviously are a leader in the Republican party here in Maryland and nationally, an up and coming star, but you don’t come across as a Clarence Thomas-style Republican.
Eugene Craig: Oh No.
Jamarlin Martin: So let’s talk about how did you get here and your story, your background.
Eugene Craig: I like to describe myself as 100 percent Black, 100 percent Republican. My politics may lean right, but my culture is still hundred percent Nigga, be honest about it and I’m 100 percent black, it is what it is. I’m a hip-hop kid, I grew up with Jay-Z, Nas, Takeover beef, by the same token I grew up understanding that opportunity lifts people up. People should be free to make decisions for themselves. People should be free to build the communities that they believe they went to live in, and so that’s where I defined myself, where my cross section comes in. So I’ve always kind of leaned to the right.
Jamarlin Martin: Is that going back to high school?
Eugene Craig: Yeah. Going back to high school. I went to a small private school and in order to graduate you have to essentially write a 20-page thesis on a particular topic. And my topic was essentially a right versus left, conservatism versus liberalism. And I leaned right, and in college that kind of further developed, a little more nuanced and whatnot. I discovered libertarianism at the time. I was a campus coordinator for ‘Students for Liberty’, part of whole Ron Paul revolution in 2012, and then watched the very, very slow yet fast decimation of the Republican Party for the last five or six years since then, but in that same time span, got actively involved in 2012 also with Dan Bongino’s U.S. Senate campaign. There was a time when Dan actually was not off the rails, actually a sensible guy. Gave him a start. Started out as an intern, two weeks later was a youth coordinator, a week later I was a statewide youth coordinator. And then two months after that, throughout the rest of the campaign, I was Dan’s body guy. And then I learned a lot. Dude was a former Secret Service agent. So I learned how to read people, how to read situations in a totally different way. Got to see political theatrics up close and personal from a couple of different angles. And from there I just stayed active. In 2014 got elected vice-chair of Maryland Republican party and then all hell broke loose.
Jamarlin Martin: What about your parents. Did you grow up like a Cosby kid, kind of middle class?
Eugene Craig: Grew up middle class. My parents were professionals. My mom was a biologist, my dad was a doctor. They taught me really great values, hard work pays off.
Jamarlin Martin: Did they lean Democratic?
Eugene Craig: They’re hardcore Philly Dems.
Jamarlin Martin: So you went against the grain?
Eugene Craig: I went against the grain, I’m a rebel. My dad’s probably more moderate these days. He’s a Hogan fan. They both were Hogan fans. Everybody’s a Hogan fan these days.
Jamarlin Martin: You launched a political action committee for ‘Kanye for president’. So Kanye was recently in the news, of course with pro-MAGA statements, he’s very open and he’s banging from MAGA. That’s what he’s representing.
Eugene Craig: He’s trolling for MAGA.
Jamarlin Martin: How do you feel about that? You’re the one who set up a political action committee.
Eugene Craig: That was a fun time. That was actually a really fun time. So during that time span we had another PAC, I forget the name of it. I’ve had so many PACs. It was essentially young minority conservatives. Our goal was a group of us, young Black, Hispanic conservatives, we said, look we want to be able to support candidates that essentially want to help minority communities and so what I did was during the whole, I believe 2015 MTV Awards, Kanye had his rant and his whole 2020 rant. So we had a PAC and everything and wanted candidates to support it, issues that affected minority communities. So during the whole 2015 MTV Awards Kanye had his epic rant that he’s running for president. I hit the group and said, ‘Hey guys, I think we might be living in a moment here’. When I work with a team, at least when I work close with people, I try to make sure before I do anything crazy, they’re OK with any potential blowback that may come. And they were fine with it. So around midnight that night, we figured we’d do it under the cloak of darkness when nobody’s paying attention. Of course we ignore RSS feeds, right? We filed the paperwork, by 8 a.m. that morning, I had 37 press requests for interviews, quotes and all the good jive. I gave my first quote to Dave Weigel at the Washington Post, only because I knew him from his Bloomberg days. During that time span I was also working with Rand Paul’s presidential campaign, essentially one of the Maryland co-chairs and one of the African-American young professional co-chairs. And we had fun with it. After the Weigel piece hit, AP picked it up and everybody else covered it.
Jamarlin Martin: Was it about fun or were you really thinking that Kanye could really be in the race?
Eugene Craig: I will say this. If I’m looking at Kanye circa 2003 to probably through Washington’s own dark, twisted fantasy, through Jesus, Kanye is actually a woke dude, that probably falls within the mainstream of Black political thought and mainstream political thought. Now we’re talking pre-MAGA Kanye here. My thought process was this: any party that takes Donald Trump seriously as a candidate sure as hell could take Kanye West seriously as a candidate. And so there was some level of seriousness there, but there’s also some level of, ‘Hey, let’s capture this moment before somebody else does’. And that’s what we did. There are a couple of folks that bought websites and this and that. But our one leg up was that we filed the official paperwork. We filed actual federal elected committee paperwork on it and whatnot. And from there we had fun with it.
Jamarlin Martin: What do you say to the folks in the community who say, ‘look, we need to stop getting our political guidance, cultural guidance from rappers, from singers, from dancers, from comedians’. We’re overweight leaning on entertainers and celebrities and artists for serious issues in the community. Meaning that we overvalue them, and we need to get away from that. So, why would we assign so much currency to Kanye to really have an impact on some of the problems in the community.
Eugene Craig: I will say this. It’s a conflict. It’s a conflict I even dealt with. There’s a micro issue and a macro issue. The micro issue in particular to Kanye. Kanye is in a roll-out right now for his album and whatever else he’s trying to sell. He’s been on a constant roll-out for about a year now, and that’s what I kind of attribute a lot of this to. I don’t defend his Trump antics or defend his MAGA antics. I don’t agree with them.
Jamarlin Martin: You’re not banging for MAGA yourself?
Eugene Craig: No. I was the one of the biggest never-Trumpers and I’m still a never-Trumper.
Jamarlin Martin: Would you come out and say f*ck MAGA?
Eugene Craig: F*ck MAGA. I know I’m cussing, but it’s f*ck Trump every day a week and twice on Sundays. I literally supported three other candidates to try to stop this guy.
Jamarlin Martin: If you’re a Republican, I imagine you’re in a very lonely position as a Black man. But when you come out and say, f*ck MAGA, how do they respond to you?
Eugene Craig: It’s a juxtapose. There are some Republicans that actually understand it. Hey, look Trump thinks that Mexicans are rapists and murderers. He still thinks Barack Obama was born in Kenya. He still has not apologized for Central Park Five. So it’s a mix. It’s the same thing talking to black folks. Some folks say you’re cool for Republican, and others just don’t understand it. And so it’s an issue of when you get down to the individuality of the person, the red or blue hat really doesn’t matter. For folks that say, hey, we probably shouldn’t lean on our entertainers or artists for a political guidance. I somewhat disagree. I think those folks don’t necessarily know their history. You don’t have an overwhelming success f the civil rights movement without the black arts movement. You don’t have King’s overwhelming success without folks like Harry Belafonte and Aretha Franklin helping fund these movements. And the bigger thing is that what artists and rappers and hip hop is able to do with the reach is literally elevate an issue overnight. When you’re able to get to the folk that drive the culture and the culture will always be 10 steps ahead of politics because politics moves slow.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. To me that’s a separate issue where, hey, we want the X Clans, the Public Enemies, we want Jay-Z talking about all this conscious stuff. That’s good. But when it comes to policy and how do we solve these complex problems? Do we want to even give Kanye one minute? Because he says he doesn’t read books.
Eugene Craig: Yeah. Which I think is absolutely crazy, but I think it falls on the political individual side to educate. Everybody’s not going to be a Pusha T that’s been working in criminal justice reform for the last 20 years. You’re going to have folks that have reach like a Kanye. Just imagine you had somebody that would like sit down and say, listen, these are your talking points, this is the crux of the issue. Then he’s able to go out and throw it out on his megaphone. You could probably see movement, a lot of things overnight if you properly inject the culture into it.
Jamarlin Martin: Is Kanye an Uncle Tom?
Eugene Craig: I don’t believe in using the term. I wouldn’t qualify him as such. Don’t get me wrong. I know some folks that probably fit the description perfectly, but that’s not a term that I would necessarily use.
Jamarlin Martin: What is the black community getting wrong about brothers in the Republican Party? What would you say?
Eugene Craig: I don’t put it on the black community. It’s the Republican Party’s job to do outreach and engagement. It’s black Republicans’s job to do outreach and engagement. I don’t think the community gets anything wrong. I can’t get upset with you or fault you if you never come speak to me. If you’ve never come to engage me and my only perception of you is what I see and if all I see is, Ron DeSantis is telling him he’s going to monkey it up, or Donald Trump saying the Central Park Five is still guilty 20, 30 years late, you say Barack Obama was born in Kenya. If that’s all I see. If I see Steve King saying, Hey these guys have cast aside cantaloupes to carry marijuana, if that’s all I see, I can’t fault the community. I’ll put it on the RNC. I put it on state parties. I put it on local parties.
Jamarlin Martin: So from your perspective as a Republican.
Eugene Craig: As a vice-chair of a state party with a huge black population.
Jamarlin Martin: You’re saying black folks are right in banging against the Republican Party?
Eugene Craig: It’s not my job. As a voter, it’s the parties, the candidates, the operations job to come and engage me. It’s not my job to come out to say, ‘hey, take my vote, just take it’. No, it’s your job to come and earn it. And Michael Steele will tell you the same thing. Kay Coles James will tell you the same thing. All the black Republican elders will tell you the same thing.
Jamarlin Martin: Trump obviously has a cloud of treason, collusion, cheating on his wife, sexual assault, corruption, money laundering. So there’s a big cloud over Trump. What do the Republicans tell you in terms of, ‘hey, we still have to support him’, even though these clouds are all over him in terms of we’re supposed to be about moral values.
Eugene Craig: The rules of this game have changed. You’re in a fight for power. Absolute power. Historically the U.S. Senate has been the the water on the fire to cool things down, to slow things down a bit. Without a 60-vote filibuster, it’s a Senate majority, we get whatever we want, whoever has the majority. And that’s what you’re seeing now. Folks want judges, they want to develop a whole generation of judges on federal benches and appellate benches, that’s what you’re getting. You want to fast-track policy that would have taken decades. Policy is written in decades. We got Obamacare 20 years later after Hillary pushed essentially medicare for all, which is a Heritage Foundation idea that Newt Gingrich pushed shortly before that. The irony of it. So the thing is that what folks understand is Trump’s ignorance, because the guy is very ignorant. He does not know much when it comes to policy. They give him talking points if he does not divert from them. And when he does divert, we see what we get, the longest press conferences in the world. The thing is this. What congressional Republicans have understood, is that they have absolute power right now. They have a president that will literally sign anything they put in front of him. It’s the truth. He didn’t know what’s in a tax bill. He’s not reading a thousand-page bill. He doesn’t know what’s in a monstrosity of a $3.8 trillion budget that was just passed. He doesn’t know how adding a trillion dollars of debt is going to devalue the American dollar and hurting American families that he claims to care about. That’s what they understand. And so it becomes, ‘hey, we have this window to get whatever we want, let’s get whatever we want and what we can get’. So what do you see? You see an expansion of the Patriot Act powers.
Jamarlin Martin: So it’s just a matter of, hey, we know he’s most likely corrupt. He could be an asset of foreign Russian government, but we’re getting all this stuff.
Eugene Craig: We’re getting all this stuff and we know that he won’t be impeached as long as we control one house of Congress.
Jamarlin Martin: And so essentially we’re ok with dabbling into treason, corruption, money laundering. As long as we get this stuff.
Eugene Craig: We’re okay in dabbling in absolute power. Lindsey Graham laid it out for you the other day at one of the Kavanaugh hearings very clearly. While he’s pointing the finger at the Democrats about absolute power, folks forget that they kept Merrick Garland’s seat open for 10 months just for the opportunity for Trump to come in to make the appointment a month after the election.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. So if the Republicans are going to ignore a lot of the unpatriotic stuff that Trump, I believe, has dabbled in or has participated in, why do you think the public linked the Republicans being ok with Trump being soft on Russia, working with Russia, most likely doing shady and corrupt things with Russia, but then coming back on the other side and saying that these black athletes are unpatriotic, but I can work with foreign intelligence agencies to accomplish something, but that’s patriotic because I’m powerful and white and I get to define what is patriotic and what is not.
Eugene Craig: I think it’s part of it. The Russia collusion case is a very complex issue. The average member of the public can tell you not one of the names of the Russian actors. They probably couldn’t tell you…
Jamarlin Martin: No one knows the name of Kisilyev.
Eugene Craig: They probably could not pronounce it.
Jamarlin Martin: They don’t know that most likely he was the handler.
Eugene Craig: But I’ll take it a step further. They couldn’t probably tell you who Roger Stone is. And so what you have is, one issue is really simple, one is really complicated. If I come and tell you, hey, it’s unpatriotic. That’s something that I understand and I feel. But the polling is also pretty split on that. I do think there’s a huge pushback from the public. We saw it with Doug Jones in Alabama. Part of that was Roy Moore being so bad, but one more time even with horrible candidates when you have a state like Alabama where your typical Republican is running up the board 20 points, it’s a little bit more than Roy Moore being a child molester there. But you’re seeing it and I think you’re going to see it come November 6. You’re going to see a sweep across this country that very well may determine both houses of Congress over to the Democrats in a major way.
Jamarlin Martin: Have you ever crossed over to vote for a Democratic candidate?
Eugene Craig: I haven’t. There have been times where I’ve written in candidates. I just haven’t had a democratic candidate I feel comfortable voting for. Part of that is I believe people should be able to make their own choices for their lives. I believe people should be able to keep their money. I believe you know how to spend your money much better than any government or politician does. And that goes for Republicans or Democrats. I am openly, publicly supporting Beto O’Rourke right now. I think Ted Cruz is pure hot f*cking trash. His stance on Botham Jean, his stance on other police shootings.
Jamarlin Martin: Reminded me of Bobby Kennedy a little.
Eugene Craig: Oh yeah. It’s going to get interesting down there. My thing is this. I’m a fiscal conservative. I’m socially libertarian. All that shit goes out the window the second you tell me that you don’t care if I die the next day by a bullet from an actor of the state, an actor of the government, that goes out the window. Me surviving as a black man supersedes everything. And so from that perspective I’m warming up a little bit, but the economic side and I just can’t get with it to be honest with you.
Jamarlin Martin: But a lot of folks in our community they say, ‘just vote, just vote, you guys are making it too complicated. Just vote. You have people who will say our people died for the right to vote, just vote. You’re doing the community a disservice. You’re setting us back when you do not vote.’ But my point of view is that the Democratic Party has abused the black support promiscuously for so long that if we’re supporting them at 90 percent, actually not voting is a weapon for this corporate machine that’s been abusing you. So essentially, not voting strategically in an organized way, if people are just going to say, ‘hey you niggas are going to be voting any way at 90 percent, so I don’t need to do much’. Maybe the community needs to consider that we need something hanging over where we may not show up…
Eugene Craig: I’ll give you a better scenario. What if there was actually an alternative for you to vote for? This is where Republicans f*ck up. Alright, I’ll give you an example. Baltimore city’s a complete shit-show right now.
Jamarlin Martin: Man, I had this on my list. I was driving through the other day.
Eugene Craig: It’s a complete shit show. The roads are f*cked up, the police department’s f*cked up. I’m going to say f*ck a lot here. There are no f*cking jobs, businesses are f*cking struggling, and Catherine Pugh and city council has time to deal with styrofoam f*cking containers. It was enough for me to say, ‘really, this is what we’re f*cking dealing with, styrofoam containers?’ Where you have an out of control rat problem. Where you have potholes that are causing bubbles on people’s tires and breaking rims left and right. Where you have a dysfunctional mass transit system. Where you have a police department where you have officers that are trying out for Bellator’s next MMA event rather than actually doing community policing. Where you have an out of control with drug problem. I mean this is what you decide to focus on. Now, part of the issue, and this is in Baltimore, Chicago, New York, Miami, Houston, Atlanta, a lot of major black population centers, is that the local Republican parties are so f*cked up that people don’t have an opportunity for an alternative. Now I’ll present you a different scenario. We’re in Maryland. Governor Hogan right now in the last couple of poles, even going back to April, has been polling somewhere between 25 percent, 35 percent of the black vote, which is unheard of for a Republican. That’s his entire margin when it comes to being over Ben Jealous. You know, 16 points is pretty much 35 percent that he’s pulling black votes from Jealous, and so the difference is that in that particular race, and this could be a model going forward for Republicans, is that black folk have an alternative.
Jamarlin Martin: You’re saying that he’s a real alternative that’s not anti-Black?
Eugene Craig: A real alternative. But the thing is this, I told a buddy that works for a prominent member of the CBC, I said, ‘Y’all could probably double your numbers overnight if you guys support black candidates in places that aren’t necessarily majority minority districts’. I think it’s ridiculously crazy, and now we can use Maryland, we can use Congress, that in the state of Maryland, where Democrats have controlled things for the last 50 or so years, that we’re just now getting the criminal justice reform. I will say this, if I’m a Democrat, I’m a black Democrat in 2008, 2009, and I just got a black president elected, healthcare is cool, you could f*ck up the healthcare system if you want, but hey we got folks that are hurting in the black community that just turned out at record numbers. They may not be donors, but they gave you the votes that went. Dollars don’t vote, people vote. And I think part of it, one more time, part of the issue is that Republican party, and I put it all on the party. I don’t put the fault on the community. The Republican party has not given the black community an alternative.
Jamarlin Martin: But back to strategic non-voting. You do believe that more black voters need to weaponize not voting?
Eugene Craig: Absolutely. Every other group does. Conservatives have been weary of their typical white moms not voting or not turning out. Not Turning out is an option. But the thing is this, it only works when there is a threat of your person losing to somebody else. I’ll use Baltimore city. If Catherine Pugh has a no-name candidate on the other side of the ballot, even if half of the folks that typically will turn out don’t turn out, she’s still going to run up numbers and win. So I think non-voting when coupled with a viable alternative can be very powerful, but you have to have the threat of that person taking a loss, literally hold this L for the next four years.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. I think about how a David Axelrod, or a Mark Penn or a Hillary Clinton. How these people think is ‘hey, if you niggas are coming out 90 percent for the Democrats anyway, and you don’t have anywhere to go, why should I invest? Why should I throw out all these goodies? Because you guys are gonna vote for us anyway.’
Eugene Craig: That’s the thing. I hope Hillary and the Democrats learned their lesson in 2016.
Jamarlin Martin: No. I don’t think they have.
Eugene Craig: 20,000 votes in Michigan, 100,000 votes of Florida and Hillary Clinton’s president right now. And a big part of that was that team Hillary essentially said ‘f*ck black voters’. Now I’m going out on a limb and taking Omarosa’s word on that. As somebody that was at that table at the time, she was at the table, I wasn’t at the table, but looking at the way they engaged black voters, they didn’t put the money behind it. ‘Y’all might want to f*cking put your money where your mouth is when it comes to black votes and black engagement. Donna Brazil said she had to go beg them for money to actually turn some stuff out. So thing I’m pretty sure they haven’t learned their lesson, only because the hate against Trump is so bad. But the thing is this. If Hillary turns out 20,000 more voters in Detroit and Flint, she wins Michigan.
Jamarlin Martin: Would you agree with this? That based on the lack of options for the Democrats, getting black voters on board is the cheapest in the country. Meaning that we flip elections, we turn elections, we have a lot of power, not financial power, not PAC power, not lobbying power, but at the vote. But they can get our vote the cheapest in the country.
Jamarlin Martin: Absolutely. I mean it’s the lowest cost per vote of any party in any election. But I will say this, when 2020 comes around, if I’m black voters of the Democratic Party, I’m saying, f*ck Iowa, New Hampshire. The first primary that you’re going to take seriously is South Carolina. Now you can go to bat after that, but when Super Tuesday comes around, we’d better see you in every goddamn hood.
Jamarlin Martin: In our community we have this thing, ‘hey, what’s your top five, dead or alive?’ But what’s your top five in terms of policy specifically for black voters in which you put attacking lobbyist corporate money in politics in the top five?
Eugene Craig: You’re never going to get rid of the lobbyist corporate money.
Jamarlin Martin: It’s not about getting rid of all of it…
Eugene Craig: The only way you do it is systematically over probably a 30, 40-year time span or 2030 year time-span elect folk. But just say, ‘hey I’m not meeting with lobbyists or I don’t care for lobbyists’. I’m a huge Justin Amash fan out of Michigan state. Justin’s a great guy, young dude, Republican, Libertarian Republican, but he didn’t really take meetings with lobbyists. He has an issue that he cares about and he has a stance, and they are what they are, you take it or leave it. You’re only going to come across a Justin once every once in a while.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. I would argue that it needs to be in the top five across the country for our people because a lot of the things that we’re working towards, it moves slower because it’s competing with corporate voices out of Google. Google has had the claws on the Democratic Party or Facebook or the oil industry or some of the banking industry were competing…
Eugene Craig: Well, yes and no. I will say this, part of it is that these industries are able to work through party structure. The bigger issue when it comes to black voters, black electives is general party structure. Ben Jealous Right now in Maryland is dealing with the party structure that does not want him as their nominee. So they’re not endorsing him and not turning out the way they normally would. One of the other guys would have won.
Jamarlin Martin: What’s that about?
Eugene Craig: Well, for them they lose power with a Democratic governor. Mike Bush and Mike Miller, the heads of the respective houses of the Maryland GA, they now had the control to the power of the governor if he wins, as the new de facto head of their party. But when it comes to money and politics, party structures, up until probably about 18 years ago, could determine who were the nominees, who were the players, who got contracts, who got hired, who got fired, who got elected, who we’re going to back, what candidates were dead on arrival. I actually think, and Democrats are waking up to this now. I think it’ll open up the flood gates with Citizens United and Super PACs have leveled the playing field dramatically. I use Florida for example. You could see Tom Steyer come in and drop half a million dollars, a million dollars, $5 million on a candidate and say, ‘listen, I want to make you viable overnight’. It was what fuelled the tea party wave in 2010. It’s what fuelled the last couple of Democratic semi waves, I don’t call them waves, but semi waves. What it allows is the mobilization of resources in a way that can combat a party structure, which only could be matched by a person self-funding if they had the resources to do it.
Jamarlin Martin: What are your thoughts on breaking up the box of a two party system? Should there be more energy to try to break out that box and we need a third or fourth option.
Eugene Craig: I think you need a third or fourth option. I think with the third or fourth option, Congress would get really interesting really quickly. But I think the way things stand right now, the Libertarian Party is a joke. I have some folks that are friends that are LP. And the Green Party is a bigger joke. It’s going to them winning. I think the LP, with what we have to work with, I think the LP probably could be a viable third party 10, 15 years down the line, which is a short period of time, but it’s going to take them winning some election and getting a W somewhere. But yeah. I’m all for it. I don’t think people actually fall within traditional left, right, conservative, liberal, Democrat, Republican norms. If you ask me, depending on what issue, the Republican party as a whole doesn’t necessarily represent where I fall on every issue.
Jamarlin Martin: When Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, they weren’t looking for any handouts. They were really about, ‘hey, I got to go build my future. I have to go rationalize my future. I’m not waiting for this country or white America to change. I’m going to go do the damn thing’. And so nobody helped Elijah Muhammad in terms of building the empire, the institution out where you saw businesses across the country sprout up. You saw international trade sprout up, but they weren’t like, ‘Hey, I need some help’. They knew the country was racist, but they’re like, ‘I’m not waiting for this man to change. I gotta go do the damn thing’.
Eugene Craig: And I think that’s something that black America can learn from today. If I actually ran for mayor in 2020 in Baltimore city, the top of the agenda would be a thousand new black businesses in the city. The average small business creates probably about somewhere between 10 to 15 jobs. You create 10,000, 15,000 jobs right there in the community overnight, and there are ways to do it, there are ways to do it but I think that’s something that I think black America should revisit, should turn back to. I think probably the moral and self cleansing and all that, that aspect of it probably folks won’t touch that today. That’s a different level of discipline. But if you were to walk into the hood or any economically-depressed community and say, ‘listen we’re going to come in and put money in everybody’s pocket and this is how we’re going to do it’, essentially take that ROC Nation model and apply it to small businesses. I think you see a whole, entire new generation of black wealth develop.
Jamarlin Martin: And how did that message of, ‘Hey, we need to clean ourselves up. We need to unify and work together. We need to invest and we need to do for yourself. We’re responsible, we got to build this thing up’. Right? And so the lot of the famous leaders were preaching ‘do for self’. But now they’re throwing a lot of people in boxes. ‘Hey, you’re blaming the victim’. ‘Hey, you can’t do anything, we’ve got to wait for the government to change’. ‘There’s so much racism you’re not going to move the needle’. ‘You can’t blame the victim’.
Eugene Craig: I think it starts with one individual at a time and I think it may be a little easier these days, a lot easier. They did all that without the Internet, without real mass communication. And we have those tools. So I think the opportunity’s there for it. Is the willpower there, that’s something to be determined. I’m running on top five, starting off, this is an economic development. You get folk money right, you’re building families. You get folk money right, you’re building futures. You get folk money right, you’re building opportunities. You want to make communities safer, alleviate the stress that is driving a lot of that instability and economic depression and social depression. Number two, I’m probably gonna come and deal with education. You can’t reasonably tell me that you’re going to re-elect somebody that is dealing with a $3 billion deficit and school construction. Sorry, that’s sad, that’s piss poor. So probably come in and fix your school, you’ve taken care of next generation overnight. Then dealing with criminal justice reform in a major way. Pre-trial detention, only blocking up probably the most serious of offenders and repeat offenders, repeat violent offenders. Looking at marijuana, looking at what California just did where they’re pretty much automatically wiping out previous convictions that probably wouldn’t be convicted under the current law. We’re doing it under the auspices of keeping families together and rebuilding families. The reality of it is this. You could be charged with a crime, be given a hefty bail bond amount, you can’t meet that. So you’re sitting for the next three, four, five, six, seven, maybe a year or two while your entire family’s destabilized. That’s crazy.
Jamarlin Martin: You mentioned criminal justice reform. When Trump was elected, a lot of the private prison stocks went up like 150 percent. They’re like, ‘Hey, the Obama administration was coming against us. Now MAGA is back’. They’ve been lobbying Trump. They’re close to Trump. The private prison stocks are like, ‘Yes, We need to lock up more people’.
Eugene Craig: I’ll tell you this, it’s not even that. It’s not necessarily locking up more people. It’s Immigration. Where all the kids being round up. ICE going in raiding and grabbing people that are being held in private prisons. While prison reforms happen on one end, immigration is what’s keeping these beds still full.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. It goes to the point that this is another interest lobbying group that buys policy decisions in Washington.
Eugene Craig: They’re the biggest and strongest.
Jamarlin Martin: But what you were saying is that you wouldn’t prioritize going after the promiscuous lobbying of private prison groups. They want to get their stock up, they want to lock up more people, they want to make more profit and let’s figure out how do we stop allowing these lobbyists to drown out our votes.
Eugene Craig: Part of the issue is this. Because something is outlawed doesn’t necessarily mean something’s going to be stopped. All of our major drugs have been outlawed for decades. I’m pretty sure everyone in this room, if they wanted to, could probably walk out of this building and within probably a five-block radius, get whatever drug that they wanted. It is the reality of it. Lobbying, you can outlaw it tomorrow. It’s just going to resurface in a new way. I’m of the belief that in order to combat something with a beast, you have to create another beast of equal or bigger size. How that beast takes form is to be debated, but I don’t think we will ever be able to deal with cigarette lobby or a private prison lobby or a gun lobby or any of these major lobbies that have a stranglehold on a lot of elected officials. But what you can do is come and provide positive incentive. I give it a little bit more plain for the listeners. NFL. People boycott the NFL. I think boycotting the NFL is ineffective. I’ll tell you why. You can’t boycott something that’s already huge and ubiquitous, but what you can do is provide positive incentive and positive reward for positive activity. So you say, Oh hey Kenny Stills and Eric Reid are going to be still kneeling and whatnot. I may not be able to do something, do some damage to the NFL. But what I can do is support their efforts and what they’re doing and provide a positive reward. And I think the same applies to lobbying in this country. You’re not gonna be able to take down the private prison lobby. But what you can do is say, hey over the next five years we’re going to build up the criminal justice reform lobby to be bigger than a private prison lobby. And every single elected official in this country has to now come to us. We can raise money, we can turn out voters, and we decide if you win or lose.
Jamarlin Martin: Now you’re talking about just interest groups and who has the bigger wallet, who has the best organization.
Eugene Craig: That’s what it comes down to.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. I just think that if money is more influential then voting, for example, Barack Obama, one of the Facebook co-founders help Barack Obama get elected from a digital marketing perspective. Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, Google, they saw Barack Obama as an ally and you didn’t have much talk of regulation over eight years, right? These companies are becoming monsters and monopolies, but Barack Obama is considering his friends at Google, his donors that are affiliated with Silicon Valley when he’s thinking about privacy, consumer rights, competition, these people are his friends, these people help them get elected. So when it’s time for him to get an office, there’s no regulatory regime even looking at this stuff. But you say, let’s keep going with it.
Eugene Craig: I’m for the freest of markets possible. Personally I’m for the freest of markets possible. I think governments should be just the right size to protect your rights. Nothing more, nothing less, because then it becomes an infringement on your rights in some way, shape or form. But in that particular case, I mean, who do you think it was cutting a 10, 20, 30,000, $100,000 checks for re-election campaigns and joint committees and whatnot. I mean some folk talk a big game when it comes to money and politics, but everybody needs it. Money is the lifeblood of politics. Everything costs. Advertisements cost, digital marketing costs. Let’s use the Obama campaign from a digital standpoint. They got credit for creating a new way of engaging voters and engaging donors or whatnot. But being honest about it they did the math and took the bet. Hey I could probably raise 20 bucks for every dollar we spend in political, digital advertising and engagement and targeted engagement. If I can come and grab these list of voters that I already know are supporting me and build a model that engages voters, we can win.
Jamarlin Martin: I do think that there’s there’s some traction on the Democratic side where Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, they both, because of the pressure coming from the justice Democrats and kind of the Bernie Sanders wing of the party, they have said, we’re not going to accept corporate PAC money anymore. Which I think is a positive step.
Eugene Craig: I will say this, if either one of them run for president, don’t be shocked that they have a Super PAC supporting them. Everybody needs his sugar daddy in politics or sugar mama.
Jamarlin Martin: Okay. Let’s go back to Baltimore. How much agency do we have on black or Democrat controlled cities such as Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, where you’ve had the hip hop mayor in Detroit, other black mayors, in Baltimore. Hey, Democrats are in power. Hey, you guys had your black politicians, but it looks like hell, absolute hell. You guys wanted political power. You guys wanted mayors, you guys got all this stuff. But why do the places look like hell? There’s of course as you know, a side that says, ‘It’s white folks. That’s why Baltimore’s like that. That’s why Detroit’s like that. It’s all white folks’. But what are you going to say about, ‘hey, there’s black politicians, there’s black police chiefs in a lot of these places. Black people have a lot of influence on how that city is run. Even if it was 90 percent white supremacy, it should not be to the level of hell that some of these areas are in.
Eugene Craig: I agree 100 percent with you. We can take Baltimore for example. When it comes to the city council and the mayor of Baltimore, spurring development. She’s not worried about developing the depressed black areas. You’re not seeing all these incentivized dollars moving into Sandtown and Pigtown and Park Heights but you saw what happened on Harbor East, you saw what they did at Fed Hill. You see what they’re doing in a lot of these places where you’re seeing new high rises and you’re seeing the redevelopment and you’re seeing the refurbishing of buildings and you’re seeing the moving of businesses. Local government does play a major role in a lot of things, more so than state government, federal government. It’s easy to blame the president or even governor for something, but the mayor is where a lot of the power is held. You want a police department that doesn’t abuse black citizens. The mayor could demand it overnight, he could demand it overnight and then demand overnight, you hire a commissioner and then you have the commissioner the directive to say, okay, X, Y, Z policies that we’re going to put in place. What we’re looking at today in Baltimore is a result of when Martin O’Malley did. When Martin O’Malley was mayor, one in five black men were arrested. That’s a lot of f*cking people. You can be walking down the street and the jump out boys grab you for no reason, throw you in holding for two days or whatever, the maximum they can hold you and release you, no charge. But the arrest numbers were through the roof. That was the police policy. That policy is directed by those elected and I think a lot of folks don’t necessarily make that connection between politicians promising me things that I don’t see in another three years. But in election years they’re making these promises, but then two years later, three years later, I’m dealing with the Freddie Gray situation.
Jamarlin Martin: Is your point of view, let Republicans run Detroit and Baltimore. This shit would be cleaned up.
Eugene Craig: No, not at all. My point of view is let’s get good people elected and I think part of getting good people elected, you have to have some level of competition over your resource. Right now Democrats will take black votes for granted because there’s no other side. They’re saying, ‘Hey, give me your vote. This is what I’ll do. This is what I can do’. And there is a playbook to running and winning a deep blue city. I may or may not have it all figured out, but a big part of it is letting me know how much you care before I care about how much you know. A lot of times people will come in and say, ‘hey do this, that, and the third, but I don’t care about what you’re talking about because I know you don’t really care about me.
Jamarlin Martin: More than a few entrepreneurs have started by-black mobile apps where they’re connecting conscious black consumers with black businesses. You have invested in your own app. Where’s that today?
Eugene Craig: Oh. We got rid of it. It was a good and fun experiment.
Jamarlin Martin: And what challenges did you have in scaling it.
Eugene Craig: Part of the issue was how do we properly monetize, on one end? But on the other end, it takes a village, it’s going to take a major team to properly identify black businesses across the country and maybe it’s a situation where you have smaller apps feeding into something major, a team in each major city or something like that. But part of our issue is that, yeah we can identify the popular spots. I mean everybody knows about Park and Horace and Dickies and Florida Avenue Grill and all the popular places, but an app like that benefits the true black-owned small business that may not have the big advertising budget, but you can drive traffic to them. And one of the issues that we came across was identifying those small businesses, but they aren’t easily identifiable, unless you’re not in the ground in a particular place.
Jamarlin Martin: Today, Amazon announced that they’re raising the minimum wage to $15. And so on the liberal side, Bernie Sanders said, ‘oh this is great, hundreds of thousands of workers got a pay raise with this announcement’. What’s your reaction to that from a policy perspective in terms of how you view minimum wage increases?
Eugene Craig: It works for Amazon. It may not be something that works for a lot of companies. Do I think people should be compensated fairly for their work. Absolutely.
Jamarlin Martin: So you look at it as most likely it’s a positive thing?
Eugene Craig: It’s a positive thing because it works for Amazon. Amazon is super flush with cash. I don’t think that is this was five years ago, Amazon would be making that particular move.
Jamarlin Martin: Your Thomas Sowell and other Republicans they may say are libertarians or populous. They may say, ‘hey, Amazon may raise the minimum wage, but the only thing they’re gonna do is they’re going to have less workers and they’re going to invest more in robots, automation, where they’ve opened Amazon stores where there’s no people’. Right? Uh, so while it makes you feel good as a Democrat or liberal, it feels good. Hey, people are going to get pay increases, the capitalist business is just going to have fewer employees so some people are not going to be employed because they’re going to probably want to hit the same numbers and they’re going to say, you know what, instead of having 5,000 robots out next year, maybe I’ll have 500,000 robots.
Eugene Craig: I think that that may be one of the unintended consequences of a new Nafta or U.S. MCA, whatever Trump wants to call it, is that you may see more manufacturing, but you’re also going to see more robots building cars rather than people. The economy’s changing, economies change and people have to keep up with the economy. I think we’re to a degree moving back to what could be a pre-industrial, and just using this as an analogy, what things were like before the industrial revolution, where folks had a farm and they sold their crops or whatnot. And a return to individualism and entrepreneurship rather than going and working for the big corporation. You come clock your hours, do your job and roll out. I think that’s where we’re moving to with the advent of the internet, with the development of the internet, with the internet being such a tool that, hey, I can now distribute any service or product to millions of people at almost zero cost. That is ridiculously amazing. And so I think when it comes to the minimum wage in particular, now I’m not necessarily somebody that argues for a minimum wage. I believe in it, let’s keep raising the maximum wage. Let’s keep raising the most somebody can make, but also I think people, if you have the stomach for it, go out to start your own thing. Get some equity. Pay off that debt and equity, and really build something out that you can pass on to your family, the next generation and change what the starting spot is. You might’ve started at zero and your kids got to start at zero.
Jamarlin Martin: What’s your point of view to the black political observer who says, ‘Look, William Jefferson in Louisiana was caught with $90,000 in his freezer’. Kwame, the hip hop mayor in Detroit, he’s in prison for corruption. Ray Nagin, the Katrina hero. He’s in jail, I believe, still involved with corruption. What’s your view to the political observer who says, look, all the white politicians are doing the same thing, these black people just got caught. Do you think that’s the right kind of point of view that we should take when our political leaders are fortunate enough to get into office, but they’re riding dirty, they’re not doing the things that they’re supposed to be doing and they’re corrupt?
Eugene Craig: I have zero tolerance for political corruption, white, black, Democrat, Republican. I think Jack Johnson, the county executive… I don’t understand people getting caught with massive amounts of cash. You’re living on $150,000 a year salary. How the f*ck are you walking around with 90K in cash. Just being honest about it, it’s crazy, right?But by the same token, you have Duncan Hunter, him and his wife pretty much using their federal campaign accounts as a slush fund. So, I have zero tolerance when it comes to political corruption.
Jamarlin Martin: So you’re not buying into that…
Eugene Craig: No. The thing is this. You’re getting a great salary, and if you can’t necessarily live on that salary, you probably need to increase your income legitimately somewhere else or two, if you can’t balance that checkbook, how can I expect you to balance this billion-dollar cheque book or multi-million dollar cheque book and budget. I think that that goes to the deeper part of it, but it’s not a black or white issue. I hate when folks were making that argument with Bill Cosby. They’re like, ‘oh my gosh, Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump, they all did the same thing but they got the black guy’. Cosby’s a serial rapist, he should be in jail. I mean maybe somebody has served him a putting pop…
Jamarlin Martin: And they’ll believe him. If he says a prisoner..
Eugene Craig: … ‘gave me the pudding yet last night’. He deserves it. You’re a nasty Nigga. He earned his nasty reward.
Jamarlin Martin: I don’t think being soft on black political corruption is going to be helpful for our community at all. And if the white folks are out molesting kids, doing corrupt stuff, shooting people, that doesn’t mean that we want to promote and make excuses for when we do these things in our community. You need to clean the mess up specifically in our own house. Who cares if white folks are doing all these evil things, you want to be able to be evil to, that’s not the way to rise out of oppression.
Eugene Craig: Not at all. Not at all. Lock them all up now. Those are the people who actually deserve to be in jail. You give somebody power and abuse it, make them feel the wrath of the power that they had.
Jamarlin Martin: I want to thank Eugene Craig for coming on the show.
Eugene Craig: Appreciate it. We love the GHOGH team, man.
Jamarlin Martin: Thanks everybody for listening to GHOGH. You can check me out @JamarlinMartin on Twitter, and also come check us out at https://moguldom.com/. That’s M O G U L D O M.com. Be sure to subscribe to our daily newsletter. You can get the latest information on crypto, tech, economic empowerment and politics. Let’s GHOGH!