When Toure Met Danielle: Mutual Appreciation, Sibling Rivalry and a Fond Farewell
This week on democracy-ish, our hosts reflect on 119 episodes of arguing like siblings and Toure bids farewell to the show.
After more than two years co-hosting the show, Toure is leaving democracy-ish, but Danielle will keep your feed burning.
Our hosts reminisce about their favorite topics and episodes, break down their on-air chemistry and speculate about the motivations of Black conservative pundits.
If you’ve ever wondered how they met (and what they thought of each other) or whether they’ve buried the hatchet after the Simone Biles episode, read on.
“Extremely sad news to report,” says Toure. “This is my last episode of democracy-ish. Danielle is going to continue on with other people.”
“Somehow,” says Danielle.
“We still love each other. But I have new chapters opening, and other chapters must close for new doors to open. For now, what I can say is: This labor of love that I have enjoyed immensely is coming to an end for me.”
Over more than two years, democracy-ish has covered the waning days of the Trump presidency, the Democratic primary, the COVID-19 pandemic, the summer of Black Lives Matter protests, the general election, the insurrection and Trump’s second impeachment. It’s been a long, strange trip.
It all began when Toure and Danielle were both booked as panelists on “A.M. Joy,” MSNBC anchor Joy Reid’s weekend show (before she took over Chris Matthews’ primetime slot).
“I was so impressed by Danielle — her energy, spirit, professionalism and deep knowledge of what we were talking about,” says Toure. “And her warrior spirit.”
He felt an instant connection on set. Afterward, in an impromptu green room chat, he realized there was “real chemistry” with Danielle. “It felt like we had been doing stuff together for years,” he says. “I was like, You’re really good. We should do something together.”
About a year later, the opportunity arose: “I was like, This crazy presidential election is happening. And there’s no podcast looking at the election from a Black perspective, the way that I want one to exist. Danielle was the first person that I called.”
Danielle was a longtime fan of Toure’s work and was psyched to appear alongside him on “A.M. Joy.”
“I always thought that you were really smart and funny,” she tells him. “When the opportunity presented itself to do democracy-ish I thought, Hell, yeah. I want to talk shit once a week with Toure. And it’s been a really great time.”
“It’s been an honor to ride with you,” says Toure.
Episode Highlights — It Was a Wild Ride
It began as a show about the 2020 election (-ish)
Initially, Danielle and Toure planned to do this show for a year — it was framed as a countdown to the 2020 presidential election.
“But because you all were so engaged with us, we were having such a good time, and the world seriously seemed like it was going to continue to fall apart, we wanted to continue having the conversation each and every week,” Danielle says. “And I think each and every week, it got better.”
Toure notes that he and Danielle’s signature signoff (“… if we still have a country”) emerged organically. Danielle “just said it in the moment,” he recalls. “We just kept saying it and thinking about it.”
That’s because for a long while, it seemed as if they couldn’t “be certain we’re going to have a democracy six days from now,” he adds. “We feel like the train that is American democracy is teetering on the edge of a mountain and the least little wind could blow it down the hill.”
Boom goes the pandemic
There were many weeks, Toure says, where they’d both be “screaming — not at each other, but at America, and what’s going on in America.”
When the show began, they were in a studio every single week, “trying to figure out what the hell Trump is doing to the country and what Democrats aren’t doing,” says Danielle. “We were in a groove, and then — Boom. The pandemic hit.”
For a time, they felt like the world was falling apart.
“Everything stopped,” says Danielle. “But we kept going.”
Like so many of us, they pivoted to remote work. They recorded dozens of episodes from their respective homes. But as we all did, they also wondered: What now?
“That’s exactly why we kept saying at the end of each show: We guess we’ll be back,” she adds. “We have no fucking idea.”
The ‘yin/yang’ of it all
It’s been an extraordinary time to do a show that covers politics, says Toure. When he was co-hosting “The Cycle” at MSNBC, the news was centered around the second Obama administration.
But that was nothing compared to the nonstop drama of the last few years. Through it all, democracy-ish kept going week after week — with almost zero editing, which “takes an extraordinary partner to pull off,” says Toure.
He adds that “Danielle is always ready. We often decide what we’re gonna talk about seconds before we press record. She needs no time to prepare, in terms of knowing all the facts and all the reality behind the situation, whatever political thing we’re talking about. And she’s always angry.”
The rapport between them — “the yin/yang, the back and forth — it’s not something you can achieve with just anybody. And it’s been exciting to be in that groove with you,” says Toure.
The chemistry is real
Danielle tells Toure he has pushed her to pay more attention to culture, not just news. Now she has “a wider perspective on what’s going on in the Black community,” she says.
“I’m really happy we have this archive of the growth of our relationship, because the funniest thing that people say is that we fight and banter like brother and sister. I say Toure is the brother I never wanted — the much older brother that I never wanted.”
Even Danielle’s oldest sister agrees that Toure seems like a brother, and that she can imagine him being part of their family, “which I always thought was super cute and lovely,” she says.
During such uncertain times, “to have the norm of at least knowing that once a week, we were going to be able to unpack it and feel a little less crazy together … has been a beautiful experience,” she adds.
She thinks on-air chemistry can’t be manufactured or faked.
“We pretty much have done this show like we’re sitting down at dinner. Like, What’s the theme for today? And then going back and forth. That’s what felt so natural.”
The power of the clash
Danielle asks Toure about moments from the show, or topics they’ve covered, that stand out as particularly memorable. For him, the biggest impact has been seeing the world through Danielle’s eyes.
“In some ways, we come from different corners of the world,” he replies. “You are so Black, but your queerness is an important lens on the world for you also. And it’s a corner of the world I had to learn about.”
Toure, who turned 50 this year, says queerness was “not something that was discussed a lot when I was growing up,” he says. But he does distinctly remember just how pervasive anti-gay bigotry was.
“It was not uncommon to throw around the ‘F’ word just messing around with each other, not realizing somebody might walk by who was gay — at that point ‘LGBT’ was not used at all — and that it might offend or traumatize or trigger that person.”
It wasn’t until he went to college that he made friends who were out, learned what it meant to them, and came to fully accept them. So he particularly appreciates Danielle’s perspective.
That being said, Toure and Danielle usually agree on the issues of the day. So “the ones that really leap out to me are when we disagreed,” he says.
‘Knives out’ over the GOAT, Simone Biles
One of their fairly recent conversations is a good example. Toure says Danielle texted him about 10 minutes before recording to ask what they’re talking about, and he replied: Simone Biles.
Danielle responded with: If you come for Simone Biles, I will cut you.
Toure wrote back: Knives out, bitch.
“And you sent me a GIF of a dagger, because your whole commentary was that mental health doesn’t matter,” says Danielle.
“Whatever — that is a gross and disgusting reduction of the point I made,” he says. “But I remember having a really interesting and, I think, valuable joust with you. Our politics overlap a lot, but where we could find areas in which we disagree, it was very powerful. I felt like we fought without being disrespectful, annoying or obnoxious.”
He says the only hard part of co-hosting democracy-ish has been dealing with rabid @DeeTwoCents fans on Twitter who love praising her — and throwing virtual tomatoes at him, “because you love being a contrarian,” says Danielle.
“I’m not a contrarian. I’m right,” Toure fires back.
Civil disobedience is inconvenient — ‘that’s the point’
Some of Danielle’s favorite shows were the ones they made over the summer of 2020 that covered the Black Lives Matter uprisings on the streets of America. While Toure was marching across New York City, Danielle was on Long Island self-isolating to protect her mother, who had brain surgery just months earlier. She really appreciated Toure’s on-the-ground perspective.
For a while, the protests were “the only thing I would leave the house for,” he says.
“But I was leaving the house all the time. Where I live in Brooklyn, you could quite often hear people marching down our block or a nearby block. If I heard the noise, I’d grab my shoes and run out there with them.”
He recalls one particular protest he clambered outside to join, “and they were marching down the sidewalk,” he says.
“I was like, This is civil disobedience. We are trying to slow down capitalism. We are trying to inconvenience people. That’s the point.”
Marching on the sidewalk doesn’t work, he adds.
“You have to march in the streets so the entire world slows down and sees what you are doing.”
‘Central Park Karen’ and the Black birdwatcher
Some of Danielle’s favorite episodes were their discussions of the infamous incident between Black birdwatcher Christian Cooper and a white woman named Amy Cooper who refused to leash her dog when he politely asked her to do so.
She remembers it “not because it’s enjoyable to talk about ‘Karens,’” but because even as a queer Black woman, she was “taken aback” by the constant threats Black men face.
“I was just like, God damn, you can’t even do the most mundane activities,” she says. “Birdwatching might be the most non-aggressive, non-threatening thing to do.”
That was just one instance when Toure’s perspective, both as a Black man and as a father, was particularly meaningful for Danielle.
“I’ve always taken it into great consideration and esteem because it’s a perspective I don’t have,” she says. “While I can feel unsafe for a variety of different reasons, that conversation was really eye-opening.”
Unapologetic Blackness vs. ‘double consciousness’
Sometimes, those who come from a less dominant or oppressed community adopt a worldview that centers around the majority or oppressors.
“I think one of the key notions of maturity in Black people is not having a white-centric perspective,” says Toure. “Centering yourself with what W. E. B. Du Bois called ‘double consciousness,’ to understand what white-centrism looks like, may save your life — or help you survive or help you thrive. But to see the world in a Black-centric way, and for a queer person to see the world in a queer-centric way, is really important.”
One of the things that emerged for Toure during the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 was “to become even more unapologetic” about saying what he really wanted to say.
“Don’t worry if it makes white people uncomfortable,” he adds. “I think I was already there, but 2020 pushed me even further.”
He tells Danielle he admires how she has “always been comfortable seeing things in a queer-centric way and to inject your queer perspective, forcing me and others to take your perspective into account and to take it seriously.”
That’s not always natural for cisgender people, “but it’s important,” Toure adds.
The ‘bizarro’ episode: ‘MAGA-ish’
Speaking of unfamiliar perspectives, Danielle and Toure both fondly recall the “MAGA-ish” episode, in which they put themselves in the (fictional) roles of privileged white Republicans named Josh and Brittany and argued … well, against everything they believe in.
A sample, ICYMI:
Brittany doesn’t understand why people are lining up to get the vaccine. “We all know that it’s filled with baby embryos and pig’s blood,” she says.
“Why are we being forced to take a vaccine when COVID isn’t even a real thing? Don’t talk about what the media has told you. Tell me — do you even know anybody who has COVID?” Josh asks.
“Nobody in my gated community has it,” Brittany replies.
“It was so good,” says Danielle. “I don’t know why we decided to do that. But it was like: How long can we keep it going?”
“There was nothing burning in the news that week,” Toure says. “And it was like, Let’s do a bizarro episode. You’re so good as a broadcaster that you were able to stay in character for 30 minutes … I loved ‘Josh and Brittany’ and I wanted to bring them back, but the opportunity never came because the real world was so juicy.”
Black conservative pundits: Performance artists or true believers?
Danielle wonders if they should have sold the “Josh and Brittany” concept to Fox News or NewsMax.
“We’d be multimillionaires,” she says.
Toure admits he’s thought (briefly) that if “things got really hard, I could go to Fox and be like, I’ve had a change of heart. You guys were right all along. I’m on your team. Because the Black people who are willing and able to spew that bullshit … make a lot of money.”
The money a Black leftist pundit can make is “peanuts, compared to if you’re able to sell your soul and be a Black conservative,” he adds. But he couldn’t do it for any amount of money, even if he tried. He wonders how many Black right-wingers are better at playing a role.
“I don’t know that Candice Owens believes what she’s saying,” Toure says.
Danielle doesn’t think Owens and most of her ilk are pretending to spread ideas that are damaging to marginalized communities.
“I think that they believe the hot shit that comes out of their mouths,” she says.
The ‘true believers’ and the great pretenders
Toure points out that this is “a classic argument on the left: Do right-wing media stars believe in what they’re actually saying? Or are they performance artists?”
He once met a conservative who referred to some of his fellow right-wingers, like Glenn Beck, as a true believer.
“I took that to mean there are others who aren’t,” Toure says.
And although it’s nearly impossible to believe that Sean Hannity really thinks: If only we could get to single payer — or that Tucker Carlson privately thanks God for the vaccine — there’s no doubt some Black pundits are “performance artists … ramping up the anger and the outrage,” Toure argues.
“Do they really think that Obama wasn’t born here? Do they really think the election was stolen or that 1/6 was Antifa? No, they don’t. But they see it as a game. They see politics as a sport. They see that if they can ramp up an audience, they will get paid a lot of money.”
“And then they can sell horse dewormer and panic food on QAnon sites,” says Danielle.
Democracy: -ish or no -ish, pray about it
“It was somewhat cathartic and somewhat bluesy and somewhat maddening, but there’s nobody who I would rather watch the country fall apart with than you,” Toure says to Danielle.
“And I do feel brotherly toward you. Our friendship will continue past this day. Even without this show to bond us, I love you and I know you will continue to have great success going forward because you are an extraordinary broadcaster and a very important voice.”
“Thank you, Toure,” she replies. “I will miss our banter on-air but it will continue off-air because you harass me on a regular basis. Folks should know that. And will we have a country left?”
“God only knows,” says Toure.
Check out the frustration, rage and absurdity that was the 2020 election on democracy-ishas Danielle Moodie and Toure discuss the current state of the political climate and our country from a Black perspective.