'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, September 9th, 2012
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
September 9, 2012
Guests: Mickey Edwards, Judith Browne-Dianis, Dorian Warren, Valerie Kaur, Amaney Jamal, Eboo Patel, Kenji Yushino
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning, the campaign is just
getting hot, but it`s already time to think about the challenge of
governing. And nearly 11 years sings September 11th. When will we make
peace with each other?
But first, we are going to Pennsylvania. Because believe it or not, there
is a plan to rig this election.
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
If you are old enough to be a baby nerd back in the `70s, you remember
learning for the first time on school house rock how a bill becomes a law.
Remember just a bill sitting on Capitol Hill when he told us his life
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I started I wasn`t even a bill. I was just an
idea. Some folks pack home decided they wanted a law passed and called a
local congressman and said you`re right there, ought to be a law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, this morning, I would like to look a little more into
the life story of a law that`s not quite as innocent as our little friend
Bill on Capitol Hill.
Pennsylvania`s voter ID legislation. This week, it will find its way into
Pennsylvania`s Supreme Court, where the American civil liberties union and
other opponents will present oral arguments against it. Pennsylvania`s law
requiring voting identification at the polls is one of the strictest in the
Opponents at this week`s Pennsylvania Supreme Court hearing will be
appealing the decision, a commonwealth court judge Robert Simpson. Last
month, Simpson rejected a preliminary injunction request that would have
kept the law from being implemented at the polls on November 6th. Simpson
based his decision on a U.S. Supreme Court case. Crawford versus Marion
county, a 2008 ruling in which the court upheld voter ID law in Indiana.
You see, prior to 2006 when the Indiana law passed, no state ever required
a voter to produce a government issued photo ID as a condition to vote.
Indiana was the first. And in it argument before the Supreme Court, the
state of Indiana, just like the state of Pennsylvania in the lower court,
admitted that it could come up with no -- that there zero, zilch, zip,
goose egg, no cases of in person voter fraud. Which is the very thing that
the law is designed to protect against.
But the Supreme Court upheld it anyway and set a precedent that merely the
threat of voter fraud was enough to justify a voter ID law. Only that
threat, it doesn`t exist.
According to the Brendan center which released an extensive analysis of
voter fraud in 2007, quote "allegations of voter fraud, especially polling
place impersonation fraud, almost always prove to be inflated or
inaccurate. The truth of the matter is that voter fraud, in other words,
votes knowingly cast by ineligible individuals, is exceedingly rare." I
love this line. "One is more likely to be struck by lightning than to
commit voter fraud."
So, at this point in the story, our law finds itself in a bit of an
existential crisis. You see, its whole reason for being is a myth. What`s
very real, however, are the people who could be denied their voting rights
because of the law. 12.8 percent of registered Pennsylvania voters, more
than one million people and 12.6 percent of Pennsylvania voters who voted
in 2008, that`s more than 750,000 voters, lack a valid photo ID under the
law. And those least likely to have ballot identification are not you
pretty diverse group, African-Americans, Latinos, young people, the poor,
people with disabilities.
Here`s the one thing they always share in common. They have tendency to
vote for the Democratic Party which brings me to the beginning.
The Pennsylvania law grew up to attract national attention, but it had
humble beginnings in a Republican-dominated state legislature. You see,
before 2010, Democrats had run the house in Pennsylvania for four years,
and Pennsylvania`s first attempt to pass a voter ID bill, which have been
vetoed in 2006 by the former governor, Ed Rendell. But after the election,
Pennsylvania flipped from a blue state to a red one with the house, Senate,
and governor, all dominated by the Republican party.
And to this guy. Pennsylvania state representative Daryl Metcalfe. Think
of him as the bill`s daddy. He first introduced it under its formal name,
the Pennsylvania voter identification protection act. Coincidently,
Metcalfe also a member of the American legislative exchange council. You
may remember it by its acronym, ALEC.
You also may remember the name Alec being mentioned in connection with the
Trayvon Martin case. Imagine if a bill from the hill had its origins not
in some idea from some folks back home, but an organized group that brings
corporations together with hundreds of state legislators who are
sympathetic to the interests of those corporations. And instead of those
folks back home calling their local congressman to write a bill, ALEC
drafts model legislation for those legislators to take back to their states
to pass into law. Stand your ground was one of those model laws, so was
voter ID the bill, drafted by ALEC in 2009, according to a report from news
21. The investigated reporting project of the Walter Cronkite school of
So, representative Metcalfe told the Philadelphia Enquirer last month that
Pennsylvania`s voter ID law was based on the Indiana law that was upheld by
the Supreme Court and not influenced by his ALEC membership. And yet, news
21`s analysis found more than half of the 62 voter bills introduced
nationwide were sponsored by members or conference attendees of ALEC.
But, of course, correlation does not equal causation, which may leave us
with more questions about the life of the Pennsylvania ID law and how it
began. Fortunately, Daryl Metcalfe`s colleague in the Pennsylvania`s
statehouse representative Mike Turzai has given us all a clear answer about
where he hopes it will end.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE TURZAI (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We are focused on making sure we meet
our obligations that we talked for years. Pro second amendment, the
council documents, done. First pro life legislation, abortion facility
regulations in 22 years, done. Voter ID which is going to allow governor
Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: With me at the table, Judith Browne Dianis is the co-
director of the Advancement Project, Kenji Yushino is a professor, NYU,
Dorian Warren is an assistant professor at Columbia University, and Mickey
Edwards is a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma.
Thank you all, for joining me today.
Did I get that about right, Judith?
JUDITH BROWNE DIANIS, CO-DIRECTOR, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: Yes. You hit it
on the head, you told the story. Here we are in Pennsylvania, advancement
project discount in that case. That will be in the Supreme Court next
week. And we know, no evidence of voter fraud, we know who would hit, one
group that also hits are veterans who don`t have expiration dates on their
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I was thinking, why would veterans have IDs? Was it
because they don`t have expiration day.
DIANIS: That`s right. They expire I guess.
HARRIS-PERRY: Pause and explain that, right?. Because I want to be clear.
I think a lot of viewers may not realize, it is not just you have to have
something that shows who you are, but there very specific rules about it.
DIANIS: That`s right. What`s important, the way the laws have been
crafted and really crafted for partisan gain by politicians who want to
manipulate the laws for their own gain, for their party, is that they
surgically crafted them so that they actually hit the people that they want
to suppress the votes. And so, the way that they have been crafted is that
their state issued, photo ID with a current address no, expiration date.
And so for example, in Pennsylvania, over 80 percent of the colleges and
universities actually did not have an expiration date on their IDs, so
those students faced with not being able to vote.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think it`s the surgical nature of it that feels to me like
we`ve gone to a place where -- like this just can`t really be about the
notion of voter fraud, because you know, if you can sort of show basically
it`s clear this is I am who I am, then you wouldn`t have a problem within
DORIAN WARREN, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: So, let me give you another
example of how this is a coordinated national campaign. So, in the state
of Minnesota, Republicans took over the legislature for the first time in
40 years and immediately passed a similar kind of law. It vetoed.
So, what did they do? They put a constitutional amendment on the ballot
this fall that would essentially do the same thing. It would end same day
registration. It would end basically absentee voting because if you are a
soldier in Afghanistan, you can`t prove have you an ID, right, when you go
to vote. So, same thing, the chair of the state party of ALEC, the chair
of ALEC in the state was the lead sponsor. So, this was coordinated with
the intention of disenfranchising the voters of a certain party.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, Mickey, because I`m making a claim that this is
about parties, and you and I are going to talk more specifically about your
book a little later in the show. But, this notion that one party has a
specific interest. Let me clear, historically, it was the Democratic
Party, right, conservative Democrats at the turn of the century who passed
the kind of Jim Crow laws and now we have the Republican party. Is there
any way that we can imagine voting rights not being a partisan issue, but
being sort of a more broadly American concern?
MICKEY EDWARDS, AUTHOR, THE POLITICS VERSUS THE PEOPLE: No. It`s not
going to change until we stopped thinking about deciding everything, based
not on the common good, but what`s good for our political party. And
that`s done not just on voter laws, but it is done on almost every kind of
a law. You see it in Washington all the time. So, just in legislature
sits what helps my party trumps, what`s the right thing to do for the
And so, no. That it`s not going to change until we address that much more
HARRIS-PERRY: Is there something here about America`s rapidly changing
demographics? I mean, I know that Chris Hayes talked about this on "Up,"
that it feels like the end of the last reconstruction when - once you saw
to black and brown people beginning take power? Is that what this is? Is
this about the fact that demographics are not in favor of the Republican
Party and therefore, rather than battling it out to win votes, they will
just suppress those voters.
DIANIS: That`s right. I think I t definitely has a correlation. And
also, you have to go back up to redistricting also.
DIANIS: So, the Republicans gain control of several legislatures in 2010,
they redistrict themselves into power and then they start to pass these
laws that will keep them in power for a long time. And in places like
Texas, for example, where they passed a very strict voter ID law, where you
can vote if you have a gun license, but not if you have a college ID,
right? That`s a place where we see changing demographics happening very
quickly. And so, there this kind of scramble to make sure they can hold on
to their power in light of that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. It feels to me, and you know, I guess part of the
reason I wanted to tell that story is that there`s kind of a discursive
language here about suppression and trying to -- but, really if we just
walk through what we actually know, the pathway seems very clear and then
we have, of course, Turzai saying this is about electing and allowing Mitt
Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania. Is there any -- I want to -- is
there any good legal or ethical or democratic with a little "d" reason to
have a voter ID? Like does it improve the quality of democracy in some
KENJI YOSHINO, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: I don`t
think so. My favorite line about this all. And my favorite line about
this is actually from (INAUDIBLE) for bringing it to my attention. But the
line is "men feared witches and burned women." "Men feared witches and
Burn Women." In other words, he was talking about a different right, the
right to free speech, but he was saying this communist threat in that case,
is just being jiggered up in order to prey on people`s paranoia, and the
people who are actually getting hurt are innocent.
So, if you translate like that into this context, as Ben Carlo (ph) has
done, the idea would be men fear imposters or voter fraudsters and are
burning, right, legitimate voters, right? So again, This boogie man that,
again, every court that has looked although this at least recently,
including the Crawford court and including the Pennsylvania court that
we`ve just been talking about, has said there is no evidence of voter
fraud, so we teach to do this on the basis of some Chimerical (ph) threat
that exist out there, right? And real people are getting hook by this.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, even we take the most na‹ve hypothesis and we say, OK,
this is really is just about some desire to protect democracy from
fraudulent voters, even then, the sort of solution to it is --
DIANIS: ID does not fix it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. ID does not fix it.
DIANIS: Right. I mean, this - because first of all, this is not about
preventing fraud, it was about preventing voting. And really, this is an
issue where you have -- you don`t have Mickey mouse going to vote as Judith
DIANIS: But have you people trying to live off that fear so they can
conjure up the rhetoric to actually push these laws through and then in a
way that kind a makes sense to the average, you know, person. Oh, an ID to
go vote. Well, in fact, we all want integrity in our elections, right?
And because that`s what our democracy is great because we all get to
participate. We want integrity. But actually passing laws to manipulate
the system so that you can win is not about integrity.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right. Voter has supposed to choose their elected
officials, not elected officials choosing their voters. So, just in case
you think that what we`re talking about isn`t real, just for a second you
think voter suppression tactics aren`t going to impact the election. Wait
until you see what we found inside from voter`s pockets down in
Pennsylvania. That`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: According an online database, the commonwealth of
Pennsylvania includes at least 190 institutions of higher education. That
means the state has some 6 665,000 college and graduate students, and they
are the very folks least likely to have identification under the state`s
new laws. And, therefore, they may not be able to vote.
They are also overwhelmingly likely to support President Obama. And in
2008 President Obama won 18 to 29-year-olds in Pennsylvania 65 percent to
senator McCain`s 35 percent.
Now, I want to know do those young people have any idea what`s going on?
to answer this question, I sent a young person to find out. Our very own
NBC page Kristin Bucaria, a 2012 graduate of Bucknell University. She went
back to her old stomping grounds in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.
KRISTIN BUCARIA, MSNBC PAGE: You can tell me about the voter ID laws?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t, because I don`t know much about them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know there is this new change going on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do know you having to have the date on the ID
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Didn`t know if it actually passed.
BUCARIA: Basically, students have to have an expiration date on their IDs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
BUCARIA: So, this is Brock`s, not Barack student ID can I see your ID? Do
you have it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, absolutely.
BUCARIA: The thing that matters is there is no expiration date on it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. So, I need an expiration date.
BUCARIA: You need an expiration date on it in order to vote?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why?
BUCARIA: That`s part of the new voter ID laws.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
BUCARIA: Yes. What do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s ridiculous. Absolutely, ridiculous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are living here. We are 18. We should be able to
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it`s just makes it harder like or makes it
less convenient to vote. So, it`s like, oh, my not going to go to
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just think it`s a hassle. The students may not know
about getting the extra sticker or being able to do - go over those steps.
BUCARIA: This new vote every ID law has never been around in Pennsylvania.
What do you think the purpose of it is?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To detract a large population from being able to vote,
and a lot of kids will not -- a lot of kids will not know exactly what is
going on when they go to try and vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pennsylvania could be swayed by a number of students
here like in here, they might --.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the number of people who don`t have a license at
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The poorer population also might not have an ID, for
example, a driver`s license. Not everyone has a driver`s license. There
is public transportation that everyone can take.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People who really in to it and who really want to
vote, they are going to find a way to vote.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it`s a smart idea. I mean, you don`t want
people to say coming up and randomly voting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Honestly, personally, I don`t think my vote matters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People have died, friends of mine, giving us a right to
vote, freedom, stuff like that. So, if people are trying to take that
away, that`s absolutely un-American.
HARRIS-PERRY: And now Kristen, the NBC page, joins us.
Kristen, that was great reporting, but honestly I`m a little freaked out.
Are there any college students in Pennsylvania who are going to be able to
BUCARIA: Hi, Melissa the more proactive ones will, but for the frightening
thing is, that for most students, their school ID is the main form of
identification. In 2008, when I was a freshman, I was able to vote with
just my student ID, and now that will not the case. The Pennsylvania
public interest research group found that 115 schools in the state provide
student IDs without expiration dates which means she they don`t satisfy the
new voter requirements.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So, if universities are providing IDs without the
needed expiration date, is there anything the universities can do about
BUCARIA: Well, Bucknell, my alma mater for example, will provide students
with expiration date stickers for their IDs that comply with the new law.
But what I found when I went there for you, is that many students don`t
even really want to go through the trouble of figuring out how to get the
sticker. And you know, they -- some of them are undecided voter whether or
not they are even going to vote. So, it`s just an added hassle to them and
HARRIS-PERRY: Kristin, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking
the time to go down the Pennsylvania for us and stay tuned because I`m
going to send you out on assignment again.
When we come back, we`re moving beyond Pennsylvania, because the efforts to
rig the vote are under way in multiple battleground states. Stay with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: Remember last week when we told you about these small voting
rights victories in places like Texas, and Florida, and Ohio? Not so fast.
Late last week, a federal judge in Ohio ruled against the state`s
elimination of early voting, the weekend leading up to the election. Then
this week, the Republican secretary of state John Houston said he is just
not going to comply with the court`s order, because it would quote, "only
serve to confuse voters."
In the same judge who reinstated the weekend voting, ordered Houston to
appear in court this coming Thursday. Houston then backed down, issued a
formal apology to the court, but that`s not the end of the. Now, Ohio`s
attorney general, Republican Mike DeWine (ph), says he`ll appeal the
judge`s ruling and once again, try to eliminate early voting the weekend
ahead of the election.
Folks this battle is apparently going to continue. Ohio is doing this
differently. This is not a voter ID issue. What`s going on in Ohio?
DIANIS: So Ohio, just like Florida, eliminated the weekend voting, which
is early voting right before the election, you can go and vote. We know
that in places like in Ohio, 56 percent of the early votes that were cast
in places Cuyahoga County where Cleveland is, were African-American. We
know that in both Ohio and Florida, this is where you have the souls to the
polls program, where African-Americans churches went down to the polls
after church and voted in unity.
While here we have a state that`s -- two states have decided we have to cut
off early voting opportunities. But Ohio decides to be recalcitrant,
right? The secretary of state is like I`m not listening to that court.
Obama for America actually filed that case, and they didn`t want to listen
to it. So the judge pulled them up.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to play a little bit history here because, just
as - so we got Ohio. Ohio is having the battle around early voting. We
got Pennsylvania with the ID. I want to listen for a moment to -- to
congressman John Lewis, who spoke about what it took to get voting rights
in this country, and it`s such a powerful moment, from the DNC, when he was
talking with MSNBC`s own Andrea Mitchell. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I would never forget the three young men in
Mississippi Andy Guttmann (ph), Mickey Sherman (ph), white, James Shaney
(ph), African-Americans, they died by trying to encourage other people to
become registered. And it would be an affront for what they died for and
all of those people that struggled for us to allow people to keep people
today from registered and voting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Now, I want to set that against a new ad that
the state of Pennsylvania is playing, about getting your -- about getting
your voter ID. Here we have John Lewis, saying it would be an affront to
our history as Americans to require this, but here is what Pennsylvania is
saying about the requirements to get a proper ID.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you care about it this election.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you care about this election.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you have an opinion.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you want a voice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you want a voice.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you want to make a difference.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you want to vote, then show it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you care about this country, it`s time to show it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So if you care about the country, pay your poll tax. Like
go get your voter ID.
YOSHINO: That`s what it is.
HARRIS-PERRY: Those two versions was like, to be a good American, we
should make voting easy, versus to be a good American, basically, you know,
jump over the hurdled. Is that what we`re looking at here? A battle about
of that fundamental meaning?
DIANIS: I think there are two things going on. One is that our elections
really should be free, fair and accessible. But we have a really
underlying discussion going on in this country about whether or not voting
really is a right or a privilege. And we are going to have to have that
conversation. Most believe would believe this is a right. It`s
fundamental to our democracy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, Kenji.
YOSHINO: And not only that, it is a right. But it is a right preservative
of all other rights. That`s very important, has told us that. Because if
you don`t have a right to vote, then are you are actually not part of the
policy. People don`t have to engage you, they don`t have to persuade you
because you are basically outside of the conversation or outside the
policy. Oftentimes bring up the first day of constitutional law, why is it
that we hold such filty to the conversation that was created by white,
property, male, dead people owners?
HARRIS-PERRY: But we love it than the last.
YOSHINO: Exactly. Oftentimes, the answer is because the notion of the
status based exclusions to win the people was kind of confronted and
overcome. So, four of the 27 amendments or constitution expand the
franchise of the fifteenth amendment in the basis of race. The ninth is
the amendment in the basis of gender. The 24th the basis of wealth. No
poll tax, 26th amendment, ways of age.
So, we have this gradually expanding electorate. So, I`m with John Lewis,
I mean, to say that, you know, all of these hard-won victories bought with
flood and immeasurable suffering would suddenly be turned back, even
chipped away around the edges with this voter ID law really a travois to
HARRIS-PERRY: And Mickey, I wanted you to speak because they are saying,
show it. If you care about the country, show it. So, you showed me
something amazing during the break.
EDWARDS: I still have my congressional ID card and it doesn`t have an
expiration date. Even though I`m no longer in Congress. And so, I could
walk into a polling place and show that I`m a member of the United States
Congress and that would be not enough to get me in those cases the right to
But, you know, this is not just about the immediate legislation. We`ve
always made it hard for people in the working class to be able to vote. We
have this system where for the most part in those states, the polls is
closed at 7:00, you had to vote near your home, you have to vote on a
weekday, a work day. Well, you know for a lot of people, you can`t walk
off from your office and say I`m going to go vote. And it made it very
difficult for people who worked in factories, 20 miles from their home or
whatever to participate. It`s a bigger problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. If you are working shift work and particularly in an
economy when folks don`t have -- I will let you in on it. I`m also got,
you know -- Kenji, bring it to the table to talk me through the
But also, when we come back, I want to know, is this going to the Supreme
Court? And if does, what does it mean? Stay with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: Think about the statistic reported by Ari Berman of "the
Nation" magazine. Eight of 11 states of the former confederacy have passed
restrictive voting laws since the 2010 election. Now, we told you last
week about a federal court blocking the Texas voter ID, and why it won`t
affect the 2012 election, it is likely the state will appeal.
Closing argument involving South Carolina`s voter ID law begin later this
month with all of the legal challenges surrounding voting rules in so many
different states, it`s hard to see how this issue doesn`t eventually land
before the John Roberts Supreme Court.
And that`s the topic, we turn to Kenji.
So, Kenji, two things here, obviously we have Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Neither one of those states are under the preclearance rules of the voting
rights act. But Texas is, South Carolina is. Explain to me the different
courts in which these things will be challenged.
YOSHINO: Absolutely. So, just to take a step back for viewers. What
we`re talking about is the voting rights act of 1965, and under that voting
rights act still in effect, under section five of that act, there are
certain states that have such a negative history of restricting the
franchise on the basis of race, that they have to engage in preclearance
before they make change to the election law.
So, Texas and South Carolina are two of them, right? And the reason that
this isn`t an issue in say, Ohio or Pennsylvania, is that those two states
are not preclearance states. So, the voting rights act doesn`t control
HARRIS-PERRY: They were free states during slavery. They were states that
were part of the union and they didn`t have a Jim Crow history.
YOSHINO: Exactly. So, the voting -- this is a huge boon voters in states
like Texas or/and South Carolina or any other that they are covered
jurisdiction. Because it basically places the "on us" on the state rather
than the disenfranchised individual, potentially disenfranchised individual
to make their case.
And so, what has been happening in Ohio and Pennsylvania, is that the court
is saying, well, we are going to weigh this, you know. And basically we`re
going to look at the potential for voter fraud, and we are going to look at
the burden on potentially disenfranchised voters.
The voting act says, because of the negative history that this particular
state has had, the thumb is heavily on the scale against the state and for
the plaintiff, right? So what is happening now, is a lot of states are
complaining and saying the voting rights act itself is unconstitutional.
And that town, we don`t need to wait, Melissa, for either Texas or south
Carolina, because there are cases that will actually go up to the court
this very upcoming term. So, Supreme Court terms are like academic years.
So, about 2012, 2013 term is a term which the Supreme Court could consider
a challenge to section five of the voting rights act.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, there is some possibility that the voting rights act of
1965, which helps protect folks and make voting possible --
YOSHINO: That preclearance could be struck down. Not the voting rights
act in its entirety. But that preclearance section. And in fact, in a
2009 case, (INAUDIBLE) case, chief justice John Roberts sort of there`s an
A1, this came up before the court, an A1 decision. The court took a buy
and found a loophole on the statue, not to address squarely the
constitutional question. But the constitutional question is does Congress
even have the power to enact section five of the voting rights act? And
that question is could be squarely presented before the court as early as
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And a court that has generally been on the side of not
thinking of the federal government.
DIANIS: And it`s because these states are saying we don`t discriminate any
longer, that was a long time ago. So, this is unconstitutional as applied
to us now. And so, we are going see that happening, but we have to
understand the right wing has been setting this up for a long time to have
section five of the voting rights act struck down.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And we are, you know, we are not done this with this
issue, that`s why we`re calling it this week in voter suppression. Every
week is there is something new.
Kenji, thank you for joining us at the table. The rest will be back for
And up next, we are on the eve of 9/11 anniversary, and I want to ask about
how we view the word "terrorism."
HARRIS-PERRY: Tuesday is September 11th. Eleven years ago on that date,
America entered a new age of terror. The attacks on New York and
Washington, D.C. made us feel uniquely vulnerable. And this sense of
vulnerability has directed our foreign policy for more than a decade.
It also influenced actions here at home, leading to unprecedented
restrictions on civil liberties and leading many to presume to know who
among us is threatening dangerous and potentially a terrorist.
That presumption is based on our definition of terror. What it is, and who
commits it. Now, terrorism is more than simply violence, assassins and
mass murderers are not necessarily terrorists.
Terrorists shoos their victims because of their identity and because of
their connection to a government. Terrorist act with the goal of creating
and paralyzing fear. That`s why September 11, 2001 was not the first act
of terrorism in America.
For example, for decades, the Ku Klux Klan terrorized black community. In
1995, Timothy P. McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Mura building in Oklahoma
city to shame and terrified the government. But these acts of terrorism
did not lead is to define all white men as potential threats to the safety
and security of the United States.
But the horror of September 11th, 2001 led far too many to assume that all
Muslims or assumed Muslims are potential threats. Terrorism not only makes
people afraid it makes them feel alone, it hampers dialogue, connections
and shared experience.
Terrorists win when we turn on each other like when we protest a symbol of
reconciliation, such as the so-called ground zero mosque. It opened last
year with a gallery of photographs featuring children in New York city.
Eleven years later, I want to ask, not about the foreign wars that 9/11
initiated, but whether a domestic peace is possible.
Joining me now to ponder these questions are interfaith youth choir founder
and president Eboo Patel, Amaney Jamal, a politics professor at Princeton
University and author of empire and citizens pro-American democracy or no
democracy at all, and Valerie Kaur, a Sikh American filmmaker and advocate
who chronicled hate violence against the Sikh community for more than a
Thank you all for being here.
I want to start with you. Tell me a little about the data I made a claim
that post 9/11, we developed a new notion of who is the other, who is the
threat. Do the data show that?
AMANEY JAMAL, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Absolutely. If you look at public
opinion favorability scores toward Muslim-Americans after 9/11 and looking
at them today a decade later, people -- the average American is far more
worried and suspicious of the average Muslim than they were a decade ago
right after 9/11. So in the last decade, things have gotten much worse for
the Muslim community.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that sense of anxiety has actually grown over the past
JAMAL: Absolutely. Coupled with an environment and an atmosphere that has
complicity and explicitly promoted Islamaphobia (ph) whether it`s from
public officials, the media, public opinion, Islamaphobia (ph) today is far
worse than it was on the eve of 9/11.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m a little obsessed with your book. I`ve been spending a
lot of time with it. It`s got sticky notes on it. But exactly this idea
is part of what I felt resonating in it. You write about feeling like
there was never a moment previously, before 9/11, where it was even really
a question to imagine yourself as both Muslim and American. But that
particularly the so-called ground zero mosque became a moment of
recognizing just how much of identities have pulled apart.
EBOO PATEL, AUTHOR, SACRED GROUND: So you know, during that discourse, my
mom called me and said about my two kids, who are five and 2-years-old.
They are watching right now. She said you should change your kids` names
because they sound a little bit too Muslim. That`s how afraid, Muslims
But I have to say that that fear has also transferred into something
different for me. I spent spending a lot of time reading about the civil
rights movement. What struck me so much about that, is that the people in
this nation, African-Americans who have experienced the harshest side of
American prejudice decided that they wanted to build America`s promise.
They decided that America was not a life, but a broken promise and they
gave their bodies and blood to save that. I think about this line from
Langston Hughes. America never was America to be, and yet, I swear this
oath America will be. And that`s inspiring the work we are doing at
interfaith, youth core, inspire me to write this book "Sacred Ground."
This notion that all names are American names, that the bridge, that the
hyphen between Muslim and American is a bridge, not a barrier.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I heard Ben Jeles talk about this idea, that he has a
great grandfather who was born of slave and died a senator. And that idea
that, you know, when that happens, one is a sort of expansive story about
America. But the other piece is, who in the world who was born into
slavery would think, oh, I know. I`ll run for office in that government,
right? That sense of hope and possibility.
And, yet, Valerie, and you I have talked a lot about how post 9/11 violence
against Muslims. But then misdirected violence that was meant to be
directed against Muslims but gets directed against the Sikh community. And
so, when I heard about Oak Creek, I couldn`t believe that it was happening
more than ten years later. Remind us what Oak Creek tragedy is.
VALERIE KAUR, SIKH-AMERICAN FILMMAKER: So, a gunman who is cultured in the
ways that hate in America, came with a product of hate groups in America,
walked into a sacred house of worship on a Sunday morning and opened
gunfire on August fifth.
I spent most of the last month in Oak Creek with the families and the kids
who lost their parents in that massacre, six were murdered. Their pain and
their grief is profound. You know, tor the Sikh community, the tragedy is
not the greatest tragedy in Sikh-American history, but it is a moment of
violence that has shaken us in the last decade, even in the last 100 years
in history, as of moment that calls us to action.
But what was unprecedented was that, we received unprecedented national
attention, that flags were lowered, thousands of people attended vigils,
that grounds were oddly seminary alone collected and delivered 4,000
letters of support.
So, what I saw was that kind of support really emboldened young people in
Oak Creek and really across the country to face the sea of cameras and to
tell the story of their faith. And to call for an end to hate, not just
against Sikh-Americans, but really all people still struggling to live as
free and equal Americans.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it feels to me like part of the challenge that Sikh-
Americans face is, even what we`re seeing our president facing, which is
every time you do a Muslim denialist, every time you say I`m not a Muslim.
You actually re-enforce Islamophobia.
JAMAL: Right. Right. That`s exactly right. I mean, the big problem for
the Muslim community, at least from a spectator perspective is that, every
time an event like Wisconsin happens or Obama is accused of being Muslim,
immediately you will see, well, they weren`t really Muslim. Obama really
isn`t Muslim. Almost by default saying if they were, all the better.
KAUR: That`s right. That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. If it were Muslim it would be illegitimate to
be president of the United States.
JAMAL: A Muslim should not be president of the United States, and Obama
has gone to a great extent -- President Obama has gone to a great extent in
denying any, you know, any roots that are actually Muslim.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. We have much more when we come back, we`ll talk about
the 9/11 legacy that we need to extinguish.
HARRIS-PERRY: Our guest, Valerie Kaur, got her start as a documentary
filmmaker shortly after the September 11th attacks with the documentary
entitled "divided we fall" in which she explored how life was for Muslims,
Sikhs and other marginalized groups who are stereotype as terrorist in the
aftermath of 9/11.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The minute I saw it happen, I told him Sikhs are in
for a hard time, be prepared.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically, I don`t care where you`re at.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s a lot of backlash. He said what do you
expect? You expect people to come around and give you roses?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So post 9/11, there is this backlash.
KAUR: It`s troubling that it`s been 11 years later, and we`re still
struggling to be seen as fully American in this country. You know, Oak
creek though, it`s not just a Sikh-American tragedy, it`s unique among
American tragedies that could be the largest racially motivated mass
shooting in recent U.S. history.
So, what I`m really proud, is that Sikh Americans are coming out and saying
we need our government to do more to combat hate against all groups in
America. We need to look at domestic terrorism. We need our Congress to
hold congressional hearings that look at hate groups. And I am very proud
to say we`re working with the interfaith youth program for auburn seminary
to bring that kind of dialog to combat hate on U.S. college campuses.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And Eboo, Valerie brings up the U.S. congress. As I
was reading your text, "Sacred Ground" which I think more than anything
else, it`s interesting you talk about the civil rights movement because it
is the kind of language about beloved community, right? The way in which
American exceptionalism could be understood as our pluralism. But you tell
this story about Newt Gingrich that I was riveted by. Tell the viewers.
PATEL: So you know, just briefly, our beloved community. I want to see
that it is obviously
Martin Luther King Jr. who would vent us the idea in America and I`m here
to do this talk (INAUDIBLE) logical seminary, Monday night at the
interfaith influences of king.
And so, as I sit with you all, I think to myself, interfaith cooperation is
such at the heart of the American story, and we`re looking for a new
generation to rise up and write the next chapter.
Having said that, Newt Gingrich was interestingly part of that positive
story of interfaith cooperation not so long ago. My friend, Suhail Khan,
who was a Republican Congressional staffer in the mid until late 1990s
needed a place to pray in the capitol. Juma prayers on Friday afternoon.
The speaker of the house at that time was Newt Gingrich and provided him
that place to pray. We need more Americans to stand up be the 1996, 1 997
version of that, right? To be welcome in the contributions of all
communities in this country and nurturing cooperation between them because
that`s what America is about.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, what I loved about the story. It`s like OK.
So, as speaker of the house, Newt Gingrich is prepared in that moment to
provide space for the Friday prayers, almost like a second (INAUDIBLE).
But that`s not the Newt Gingrich we see today, and it`s not so much just
because Gingrich has changed, but because the incentive structure has
changed for an American politician.
JAMAL: Is has become now socially acceptable, if not socially desirable to
be anti-Muslim in the United States. So, it`s the whole campaign, you
know, where you see - in terms of the right, if you may, it has been on
this Islamophobia bandwagon. And it is basically who is going to join in,
who is going to join it more fiercely. That`s the irony of all of this.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. There`s an anti-Shariah law plank, right, in the
Republican convention -- party platform.
JAMAL: Basically, there anti-Shariah campaigns in about 33 states in the
United States. Shariah laws, which never even emerged. I mean, if you
would ask me, somebody who studies the Muslim world and the Arab world,
what is the content of these laws, they really don`t exist.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, let me ask you one last piece on this. The
Democratic Party, and President Obama`s re-election campaign is very much
making the death of Osama bin Laden a central foreign policy achievement
which I think, you know, Americans would agree with. But I also -- also
always have just a little bit of a like -- is there any way which that
continues to make us think that Muslims are, in fact, our enemy?
PATEL: Let`s make the death of hate in America our most important
achievement as a nation. You know, the most American thing you can do is
stand up for the dignity of somebody else, and I`m so proud that Muslim-
Americans are praying and standing with Sikh-Americans. I`m so proud that
we`re a nation that recognizes although there are people we`re preaching we
are better apart or better divided. What we know at interfaith youth core
ground swell is that we are better together and we have to build that
KAUR: That`s right. What gives me hope is a rising generation that has
comes of age in the shadow of 9/11, but is now stepping out to the light.
The kids in Oak Creek actually, Melissa, asked me to give you this gift.
It`s an orange bracelet that simply says August 5th, 2012. They want me to
thank you for not forgetting them this 9/11 anniversary.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you. I will not cry on television. OK.
I thank all of you for being here. Thank you to Eboo Patel and to Amaney
Jamal. Valerie will stick around for the next hour.
And when we come back, the solution to our divided government.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
At the conventions, both Republicans and Democrats made their cases for the
respective candidate. And now that they are done, it`s time for the voters
to pick sides and decide whether they will be wearing an elephant or donkey
pin come November 6th. Whichever candidate voters ultimately choose, will
have to make his way through the increasingly partisan waters of
Washington, D.C., because the likelihood of one party winning the White
House, the Senate, and the House of Representative is quite slim, although
In without that majority, in the current partisan political world,
it`s impossible to have a monopoly on compromise. So, absent majority, how
can a president govern across party lines? See, that`s the word again,
The two-party system has long dominated the political landscape. And
it`s not only making nearly impossible for a president to get anything
done. It`s doing nothing for the image of Congress. A recent Gallup poll
shows that just one in 10 Americans approve of the job that our elected
leaders are doing in Congress, one in 10.
And as for what Congress is getting done, well, it isn`t much. As of
mid-August, only 61 bills out of 3,914 introduced have become law -- 61.
Folks who say the system is broken is an understatement.
So, how do we fix it so the politicians we elect are more productive
The new book "The Parties Versus The People: How to Turn Republicans
and Democrats into Americans" offers the argument that we`ve surrendered to
the parties, and that they function no mother than private clubs that have
hijacked our democracy and are more interested in retaining power than
serving the people.
But the book`s author suggests that we`re not without hope. We can
get our democracy back on track by doing a number of things.
First, we can have open primaries so that multiple candidates can be
considered, not just the one selected by the parties. We can also take the
power of redistricting out of the hands of legislators that are influenced
by parties, put it into the hands of nonpartisan panels so that politicians
can`t just cherry picked their districts and voters. As far as Congress is
concerned, a nonpartisan congressional leadership should be established
which can establish nonpartisan processes to help get more done.
Is this all of this just a little political science fantasy, or can
these measures work? Or are we too far gone?
Let`s ask the author himself. I`m joined by the author of this book,
former Congressman Mickey Edwards, who also serves as vice president of the
Aspen Institute, director of the Consortium project.
All right, Mickey, did I get it about right? That the argument of
MICKEY EDWARDS, AUTHOR, "THE PARTIES VERSUS THE PEOPLE": Yes, that`s
the argument pretty well. And what`s amazing, Melissa is that every two
years, voters go to the polls to take back their country. No matter who we
elect, we want to take back the country.
And the problem is it`s not who we elect. It`s the choices get
narrowed in the party primaries. So, how in the world does somebody like
Akin in Missouri get to be a nominee of a major party? Because he has a
closed party primary that washes out everybody else and those people can no
longer be on the ballot, or the example I like to use is what happened a
couple of years ago in Delaware.
HARRIS-PERRY: Christine O`Donnell.
EDWARDS: Yes. Well, Delaware has a state of a million people. She
only got 30,000 votes in her primary, but that was enough to keep Mike
Castle off the ballot and that happens in state after state. So, you know,
what we`ve done is allowed the parties to rig the system and say, you know,
I don`t know you very well. But I know you want choice in phones, you want
choice in shoes, we tell you, when you go to the polls, I`m sorry, you get
A or B, that`s it.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`ve really appreciated this book, because it takes
what I think what`s become a mime, kind of an American media. There`s too
much partisanship, or there`s too much polarization and it explains both
what it really is and also how it`s not just like there`s bad people,
right? You know, if we get a nice guy in, it will all be solved, but
rather than, there are incentives and structures.
You write that partisanship, which is not a conflict over principle,
but a combat between private organizations, each seeking political
advantage, but this is what is creating a system which stirs not
confidence, but rage.
So explain to me, what -- when you say these are private -- basically
private businesses rather than sort of large democratic with a little "d"
EDWARDS: Well, what they are groups that aren`t looking at what`s
the best welfare of the country, how do you win the next election?
EDWARDS: So, that if you are serving in Congress, as I was, and you
want to be member of the ways and means committee, because you have
expertise on those kinds of issues, you`re going to be told by your party,
here are our positions, it doesn`t matter your experience, you haven`t seen
the bills yet, you can be on the committee if you promise in advance you`re
going to stick with the party line.
And so, you -- what you have to do is prove your loyalty to the
unwavering support of your party. And then whether you -- the incentive
system works, that if you`re running for office, Melissa, it`s not the
people of your state, Louisiana, in this case, who are going to decide.
It`s the people who show up in the primary, a small number of people.
And most states have sore loser laws. So if you run in the primary,
very popular in the state, but you can`t win your primary, then you can`t
run in the fall.
HARRIS-PERRY: They call them sore loser laws.
EDWARDS: That`s great.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to look quickly of the American approval
ratings of Congress, because I found this, particularly given our last
conversation about post-9/11, I found this really interesting. Right now
at a minimum, you see how low we are, but that height, that little spike of
an 84 percent approval rating, occurs around the beginning of 2002, which
says to me that is the post-9/11 spike, that is when American Congress is
getting a lot done, but that the things that they are getting done are
things I would generally not be supportive of, particularly restrictions of
So when I saw that, I thought, hmm, I wonder if there`s a tradeoff.
Maybe it`s better not to have everybody on the same bandwagon and getting
EDWARDS: No, I don`t think we should have that. In fact, I am
deliberately not a centrist, because most of the great movements, the civil
rights movement, the labor movement, the women`s movement, those didn`t
come from the center. But what we have to do is to have the ability to
talk to each other and to compromise when we need to.
I mean, there are 310 million of us, we`re diverse, we have all kinds
of experiences -- racial, political, religious experiences and what we need
to do at some point is act as a single country by finding -- you may have
one set of a views, and I have another. But at some point, we have to say,
OK, where we can we find an area of common ground so we can act together,
as Americans, not as Republicans or Democrats.
But on issue after issue -- budget or stimulus or Supreme Court
nominations, whatever it, all Democrats on one side, all Republicans on the
other side, and they are acting like private clubs.
HARRIS-PERRY: And these are things that are -- that don`t
necessarily or inherently have to be partisan. We`re going to keep talking
about this, but also try -- we`re going to bring you some other voices and
start talking about what are the solutions.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I appreciate for really explaining what the
fundamental problems are. Let`s start thinking about the solutions.
So, when we come back, we have some news this morning about the
party`s potentially coming closer to together than we would have ever
HARRIS-PERRY: We are awaiting President Obama at a campaign rally on
day two of his swing through Florida this morning. We will take you there
in a little while.
But first, I want to take a look at something from earlier today. In
an interview aired on NBC`s "Meet the Press", Mitt Romney made news when he
alluded to the fact that he`d keep significant parts of the president`s
health care plan if he is elected president. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I`d say we`re going to
replace Obamacare. And I`m replacing it with my own plan and you, even in
Massachusetts where I was governor, our plan there deals with preexisting
conditions and with young people.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: So, you`d keep that as part of the federal
ROMNEY: I`m not getting rid of all of health care reform. Of
course, there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that
I`m going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with preexisting
conditions can get coverage. Two is assure that the marketplace allows for
individuals to have policies that cover their family up to whatever age
they might like.
I also want individuals to be able to buy insurance -- health
insurance on their own as opposed to only being able to get it, on a tax
advantage base from their company.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: How is that for a bit of compromise?
At the table, former Congressman Mickey Edward, author of "The
Parties Versus the People," Judith Browne-Dianis, co-director of the
Advancement Project, Columbia University assistant professor Dorian Warren,
and Valerie Kaur, director of Groundswell at Auburn Seminary.
OK. So, what we heard there is, you know, the presidential
candidate, Mitt Romney, saying, OK, there are aspects of Obamacare that I
would keep. There is part of me that wants to cheer that, and say, well,
of course, you passed something very similar in Massachusetts. Is this an
example of sort of a bipartisan recognition? Or is the very fact that he`s
against the thing that he was originally for an indication of how bad
partisanship has become?
DORIAN WARREN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: I think it`s actually two
things. One, an attempt to appeal to moderate and swing voters. And
second, it`s an attempt to take away an issue from President Obama as we`re
getting closer to the debates because he`s obviously very vulnerable, on
the fact that Obamacare was really Romneycare first.
WARREN: How can he say he wants to repeal something that he`s
already implemented as on governor of Massachusetts? So, I think it`s both
of those. It`s actually kind of a smart of strategy. You take away the
issue that you`re most vulnerable on and you try to appeal to swing voters.
HARRIS-PERRY: But, see, I wonder if even sort of -- in our desire to
do that, to talk about whether it`s a smart strategy or bad strategy, that
we missed the expansion of health care to Americans, and the extension of
access to people who don`t have it now is good, full stock, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: And we may have disagreements about free market
versus, you know, individual mandate and all of that, but it is good for
more people to have greater access to quality health care.
JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: And he`s acknowledging
that, finally. He didn`t acknowledge it at his own convention, now he`s at
the independent convention, convention after convention, how do I get to
sway these people I didn`t have an opportunity to talk to. I had to talk
one way when I was with my people. Now, I get to go to another convention
and start changing my tune.
EDWARDS: Now, he`s talking to the country and he`s able to say, here
is what I think, as opposed to here is what I have to say in order to
please this small subset that will determine whether I can move forward.
HARRIS-PERRY: Valerie, you want to jump in on this one.
VALERIE KAUR, SIKH-AMERICAN FILMMAKER: I think people can see
through means to ends politics. In traveling through the country, I talk a
lot to young people, and I know that people in my generation, millenials
born in the `80s and `90s, are deeply disillusioned with partisanship in
American and with the institutions we`ve inherited.
You know, I remember, I traveled to Guantanamo in 2009 to report on
the military commissions, I was there for a hearing of Omar Khadr, a young
Canadian citizen imprisoned at 15. Looking at him, he was 23. The guards
who are sitting next to him are 18, 19. I was just a few years older.
It occurred to me, the captives, the prisoners, and the one called to
bear witness were all young. That we had all come of age in the shadow of
9/11, that we had inherited dysfunctional institutions like Guantanamo and
were asked to preserve them.
So, I think what we`re really called to do, whether it`s the economy
or criminal justice system, is to try to make sure that our generation
doesn`t become despondent by the weight of what we`ve inherited.
And this is why Obama`s politics of hope, recovering that, like we
saw in the DNC, is deeply resonant.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I like this idea of inheriting broken institutions.
Mickey, I was reading, this blew me away, that the Congressional
Management Foundation gives out to new members of Congress, sort of how to
set up your office, where are the bathrooms, right, in the Congress.
EDWARDS: I needed that information.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that their guide for 112th Congress, that`s our
current Congress, included a special section titled "increased partisanship
and lack of civility." So for the first time, they actually said, hey,
welcome to a broken institution. You are going to now be engaging in an
institution where we no longer behave in a way that`s civil.
Is that like the inheritance of that brokenness?
WARREN: Well, I think if that`s the case, we`ve inherited a broken
institution since the founding, because polarization isn`t new. In fact,
it`s the norm in American politics, the thing that Thomas Jefferson said
about John Adams would make us blush today, and I don`t even blush.
WARREN: So the idea that somehow we were in the golden age of less
partisanship and polarization, but that`s the norm in politics, a civil
war, post Reconstruction Congresses were much less divided than recent
Congresses, although now we`ve basically tied those Congresses. So I want
to put some perspective here on that.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s exactly what we`re going to do. As soon as we
come back, we`re going to take off the rose colored glasses. I want to ask
you as a former member of Congress whether or not there really was a time
when things were so much better.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Why does cooperation work
better than constant conflict? Because nobody is right all the time and a
broken clock is right twice a day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was former President Bill Clinton at the DNC on
Wednesday, speaking about why cooperation in politics is better than
conflict. He also spoke about how he personally reached across the aisle
when he was governor of Arkansas to work with Republicans. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: When I was a governor, I worked with President Reagan and
his White House on first round of welfare reform and with George H.W. Bush
on national education goals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Clinton also worked with Republicans when he got to
the Oval Office. And one Republican in particular made mention earlier
this year on how he got things done together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: As speaker I came back,
working with President Bill Clinton, on a very Reagan-like plan, less
regulations, lower taxes. Unemployment drop to 4.2 percent. We created 11
Now, those are real numbers that people can verify out in the open.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so it`s true. Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton
worked together, but I got to say, I don`t quite remember it as like some
big kumbaya happiness of bipartisan behavior. There was after all the
whole "shutting down of government" thing and the small matter of
impeaching the president.
Look, politics is hard, but does it have to be difficult? And what
makes it tough is when certain politicians would rather stand in the way of
progress for people, rather than trying to help it along. If President
Obama able to win a second term in November, maybe it will send a message
to obstructionists that their behavior was not rewarded. But maybe it
If Mitt Romney wins, it will be interesting to see if he`s able to
work across the aisle or if Democrats are going to learn from this
obstructionist win and block his path.
Back with me now are my Congressman Mickey Edwards, Judith Browne-
Dianis, Dorian Warren and Valerie Kaur.
Mickey, that felt to me like golden age of partisanship, you know,
roast rose colored hogwash. Was there a time when it was better?
EDWARDS: Well, as Dorian says, it was never a golden age. But
Medicare, Social Security, both were passed by majorities of Democrats and
Republicans, the most controversial Supreme Court nominees, Douglas,
Frankfurter, Brandeis, confirmed overwhelmingly. And so recently now,
imagine Sonia Sotomayor or Elena Kagan, it`s party versus party.
So, there was a time when people have strong feelings then just like
they do now. But they found a way to come together so that we can govern
as a nation.
So, there has been a time when you did on all kinds of budget issues
and spending issues, you would come together and say, OK, we`re going to
get something done as a country.
HARRIS-PERRY: Some sense of -- I got to say, I`m wondering is that
when we talk about a time there was more bipartisanship, is that just
because of blue dog Democrats? Is that just a group of Southern
segregationists Democrats who kept voting with Republicans, so it looks
like there was more bipartisanship?
WARREN: That`s true. I think racial issues and civil issues for a
long time create an internal division within the Democratic Party, which
allowed Southern Democrats to vote with Republicans. So it made it look
like there was more bipartisanship.
And, in fact, there was, right, because we saw those cross-party
HARRIS-PERRY: But there wasn`t -- but the cross party coalitions
didn`t mean necessarily mean that there was this ideological give and take
and discursive like moving people forward.
EDWARDS: But the example that I just gave, it was Republicans,
whether its Brandeis or Frankfurter and Douglas or Medicare Social
Security. It was Republicans fighting Democrats. There was more you
diversity and they were not as focused as on how they got through these
narrow partisan primaries.
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the things you suggest in the text is that
privacy might actually be valuable, a little bit of closed door might
actually be valuable for making things work. We tend to think of the harsh
light of media as improving things, but, you know, Valerie, you`ve talked
about how we`ve sanctioned a discourse of hatefulness and if that discourse
of hatefulness also infects our campaigning and our politics and at every
point, every vote is being tweeted out and reported on the media, like is
it actually better to have a little bit of closed door politicking in order
for people to make compromises?
KAUR: Perhaps. You know, I think the hateful rhetoric that has
dominated the public discourse does make it far more difficult to come to
the table together. Look, my father was a Republican and I grew up in a
Republican household. And when I came home, my progressive politicians in
college, we disagreed with each other, they made for a colorful
Thanksgiving conversation, but we loved and respected one another. It was
OK to have a difference in policy.
In the aftermath of 9/11, my father actually left the party, because
he saw how his party gave into expansive federal powers, but he also noted
how hateful rhetoric that was on the fringes before took center stage.
Fast toward to 2012, we see politicians like Newt Gingrich, like
Michele Bachmann, like Peter King, calling for investigations into Muslim
American communities, and when Mitt Romney is asked how would you respond,
how do you respond to Michele Bachmann`s demand for investigations, he
simply said this is not his campaign. This is not a way to lead, when you
think of President Bush, how he came out, say what you will about President
Bush`s policies, but he did come out after 9/11 and repeated that we`re not
at war with Muslims.
So, this has consequences, Republican Party 89 percent white, polling
zero percent in the black vote, and has lost people like my father who has
seen it gone astray.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s also interesting thing point that you said that
your father`s distaste with the Republican Party becomes both their
willingness to expand federal powers, you know, in the context of Patriot
Act, right? So part of what I sometimes hear is if you`re a small
government, party, that ideology should not allow you to for example want
to restrict who wants to get married if you are a small government, then
you have a small government position.
Talk to me a little bit about how you see the role of a president in
helping to bring about bipartisanship? Because you talk about the
Congress, you say there is a role for the president.
EDWARDS: Got a chapter in there about the presidency because one way
that the Reagan presidency was successful and the Jimmy Carter presidency
was not, was the degree to which they had really good congressional
outreach, you know, where they took seriously members of Congress. You
know, the president is not the head of government. He`s the head of one of
EDWARDS: And the other branch, Congress, is the one that has most of
the power. The president to be successful, has to be able to not just
summon and lecture members of Congress, he has to say, let`s sit down
And when the president and John Boehner able to just get together
quietly among themselves, they could have done something.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s interesting. We could actually imagine Boehner
and President Obama coming to an agreement if there weren`t all of the Tea
Party noise and the Norquist pledge, that sort of thing.
BROWNE-DIANIS: The other thing to consider is money in politics, the
amount to which the system has been flooded with money -- money in/people
out. And that also has created this great divide, because, you know, if
you are getting money from Americans for Prosperity, then you better line
up with that agenda, line up with the ALEC agenda and keep every -- all
your ducks in a row so the party can keep getting money so they can keep in
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. So what happens come January when the dust
settles and power in Washington is still divided, is anything going to get
done? We ask that question, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been talking about the partisanship that has
become our current political reality. This morning, we saw two of our
national leaders speak to just that topic. In an interview with Scott
Pelley that aired this morning on CBS` "Face the Nation," President Obama
was asked about his willingness to compromise with Republicans in Congress
on a grand bargain on the budget.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are some
programs that are worthy, but we can`t afford right now, and I`m willing to
do more on that front. I`m -- you know, more than happy to work with the
Republicans, and what I`ve said is, in reducing our deficits, we can make
sure that we cut $2.50 for every dollar of increased revenue.
SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS: That`s the deal they turned down, Mr.
OBAMA: Well, you know, that`s part what that election is about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And in response to President Obama`s statement on
compromise, Congressman Paul Ryan had this to say during his interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, I had been
more than happy to work with him. But he hasn`t been acting like that.
You know, what we`ve learned in this presidency, he says one thing and does
another. He gave us four budgets, Norah, each of which had trillion dollar
deficits. None of which ever, ever proposed to actually balance the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, as we all know, division doesn`t usually breed
compromise. So for elected leaders are so divided, does it leave any room
to actually solve today`s big problems?
All right, panel, that`s the question. Is there some way -- let`s
assume good will, right? So, which may be a big assumption. But let`s
start by assuming good will. What are the actual processes, the incentives
by which we might be able to get solutions to our big problems?
EDWARDS: Well, part of it is the question you raised before. And
that is, you you`ve got to have some place where it`s not totally
transparent. You`ve got to have some place where people can sit down
together behind closed doors and talk to each other. But with the Tea
Party watching and Occupy watching and everybody watching every move to
make sure that you are not going to cave, you know, it becomes really hard
to do that.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that`s tough, because on the one hand, like I`m
with you, right. As a parent, you know sometimes mommy and daddy or mommy
and mommy or daddy and daddy, have to get together behind closed doors and
give a unified front to the kids, right? You don`t have the argument in
front of the kids, because then they will hold you to it later. But I know
that you really want, right? So we get that.
On the other hand, the very nature of democracy is that we need to
know what our politicians are doing, so that we can hold them accountable.
How do we balance that accountability concern with that like actually
getting things done concerned?
EDWARDS: Well, when you get the spinal bone, it has to be open, it
all has to be transparent. You know? So --
KAUR: I have to say, though, that there are moments when I do not
want the president to compromise. I mean, I thought that I was voting in
campaigning hard for a revolutionary president, and the president has been
nothing but the king of compromise.
And this has been most devastating to me personally on the issue of
civil liberties, with Guantanamo remains open. He supported indefinite
detention, drone strikes, racial profiling, the use of torture in some
instances and this kind of record on civil liberties makes it so that he
had to work hard to make me feel any kind of hope for any kind of a second
HARRIS-PERRY: Wait, it`s an interesting point, because this has been
I think a challenge in holding together President Obama`s coalition, a left
that has had a great deal of anxiety.
Now, it`s interesting to me to hear you say of a revolutionary
president, perhaps because he been my state senator and my senator --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean, he`s always been a very solid,
progressive, moderate, you know, who sort of moves the ball. I mean,
that`s been true of his legislative record, but also that the very idea of
a revolutionary president is very hard to imagine. To be in the structure
is to be in the structure.
WARREN: So, there`s a recent book out by your former colleague,
Marty Gilens at Princeton which shows that the most affluent Americans
almost always get their way in Congress, over the bottom 2/3 of income
distribution. So that actually highlights a more fundamental problem that
a certain group of people, the most elite people in this country, almost
always get their way, over and against everybody else. So that`s --
BROWNE-DIANIS: The other fix here is our civic duty to engage in
democracy doesn`t end on Election Day, right? We get the conversation
totally gets hijacked; by these extreme voices, like the Tea Party, right?
And in the midst of that, there are regular Americans that need to continue
to be engaged after the election, but they are not. And so, those voices
of the every day people who could sway politicians just doesn`t get heard.
KAUR: And this is why I still have hope, because I think it was our
failure. Like I stopped, we stopped on Election Day, because we expected
to invest our hope in him. What he said at the convention was like, no,
no, I have hope in you, and he`s calling for to us have hope in him too.
And in the moment where we have agitate, and he did come out and
repeal "don`t ask, don`t tell." He`s kind of came out for marriage
equality. He created a pathway for citizenship for young, undocumented
So, there has been enough that to me that he`s done revolutionary to
hope for a second term.
HARRIS-PERRY: And also think that Mickey`s point was of that we
don`t want to miss. He`s not the head of government, right? He`s the head
of one branch of equal branches, right, so at each point, there is -- the
founder is purposefully coming out of King George did not vest all of the
power in one person. And part of what we lose in a presidential election
cycle is we start imagining Mitt Romney will be free to do whatever, or
that a President Obama free to do whatever.
It`s simply not true.
WARREN: An irony of the discussion of parties and that is in 1950,
the American Political Science Association, our professional association,
issued a report calling for more responsible two-party system. And one of
their recommendations was more party unity so that voters have more choice.
So, we`ve actually gotten there. That`s the irony of this conversation and
it`s in many ways an indictment of --
HARRIS-PERRY: Maybe not so much ironic if you know like how bad
political scientists are at real politics, right? I mean, we`re really
good understanding what happened 10 years after it happened, not so much
about the perspective.
EDWARDS: The American Political Science Association had me write an
article about the difference between politics and political science -- a
pretty big difference. But, you know, I do have hope.
But I want to make clear, you know, kind of the point you made. The
willingness to compromise and come together, doesn`t mean you compromise on
everything. I was just as upset.
I was very critical of the Bush administration, and one of the
reasons that I was, because what he did, no concept that there was a
Constitution that he had to follow. And that on all the areas you just
mentioned, Barack Obama has been just as bad.
And so, there is a requirement to stand up and speak out and not feel
I`m locked in to being true to my team. Speak out for something of value.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I think that`s an important point, and one that,
you know, if we look, for example, at the history of Martin Luther King and
the civil rights movement, you know, when he was asked to wait and to
compromise, he writes why we can`t wait. Why we can`t compromise.
Up next, the policy and politics of foreign affairs, in particular.
You guys have taken us to that, has maybe the hardest part of actually
governing, a pretty tough part of campaigning. So, let`s talk about that
when we get back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Take a look at this part of President Obama`s speech
in Charlotte on Thursday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: So now we have a choice. My opponent and his running mate
are new to foreign policy. But from all that we`ve seen and heard, they
want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost
America so dearly. After all, you don`t call Russia our number one enemy -
not al Qaeda, Russia -- unless you are still stuck in a Cold War mind warp.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s what you might call a commander-in-chief muscle
flex, taking a shot at Mitt Romney`s fun foray into foreign affairs.
And as we`ve been talking about what wasn`t talked about during the
convention is something we can`t ignore -- Governor Romney, could, however,
ignore the war in Afghanistan. The GOP`s standard bearer`s failure to
mention U.S. troops in Afghanistan during his acceptance speech has been
the subject of lots of questions from many sources, even from FOX News.
Here`s how Governor Romney responded to their question on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: Do you regret opening up this line of attack -
- now a recurring attack -- by leaving out that issue in the speech?
ROMNEY: I regret you repeating it day in/day out. When you give a
speech, you don`t go through a laundry list, you talk about the things that
you think are important, and I described in my speech my commitment to a
strong military, unlike the president`s decision to cut our military. And
I didn`t use the word troops, I used the word military. I think they refer
to the same thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So that`s what you might call damage control. But
President Obama left some key areas of foreign policy out of his address on
Thursday night. He did obviously address a name check al Qaeda, but there
was nothing said of America`s most complicated foreign relationship with
Pakistan or the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria or continuing
controversy, even right here at this table of Guantanamo Bay. And perhaps
the reason that some of these things were left unsaved when it comes to
governing, it can be really, really hard.
And so, the one thing I agree with from what Mitt Romney is saying,
it`s not a laundry list, you do choose what you think is important. The
president did not in his conversations about -- part of what he`s doing,
saying I`m a good commander-in-chief. He didn`t talk about Arab spring.
He didn`t talk much about the potential collapse of the euro and the
way that might be impacting our economy. He didn`t talk about the
emergence of Africa as a possible trading partner.
He didn`t talk about Pacific Rim influence except maybe sort of a
China -- you know, scary and bad sort of thing and didn`t talk very much --
certainly said climate change is not a joke, right? The rising of the
oceans. But that international question of how we`re going to address
climate change, is it just because there are no votes to be gotten on those
KAUR: Let me say, Afghanistan is not something to be considered on a
KAUR: It shows how out of touch Mitt Romney is with the American
people. And frankly with millennials who see our classmates to come home
I have a friend who was teaching children surface arts in Afghanistan
who just lost a young Afghan man. It`s not just U.S. soldiers. It`s a
population in Afghanistan, too.
So, that kind of failure to me indicates once again a candidate who
is willing to figure out how to score political points, avoid the delicate
sensitive issues, rather than then speak truth to what`s really happening.
HARRIS-PERRY: Although, do you win political points by not -- it`s
an odd moment, because typically Republicans are like the rah-rah
WARREN: That`s interesting about the last four to six years, is that
the Republican Party has lost its historic advantage on foreign affairs,
and the roles have really reversed, so now the Democratic Party and
President Obama is seen as stronger on foreign affairs than Republican
But I think to your first question, it`s going to require us reading
the party platforms to get any sense of what positions are on foreign
policy and foreign affairs, we didn`t get a sense of that from the
conventions, from the speeches, and most Americans aren`t paying attention
to that anyway, for better or worse.
I would like to us be conversant in Guantanamo Bay, and Pakistan and
Arab Spring. But most Americans are going to -- you know, the conventional
wisdom is most Americans concerned about the economy.
WARREN: So that`s all we`re going to hear.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet foreign affairs a place where I`m perhaps most
afraid of deep partisanship. I do not want partisan concerns, re-election
concerns making decisions with what we`re going to do in Pakistan. Like
that terrifies perhaps more than anything else.
Is there reason to think that our Congress is so currently partisan
divided, that partisan concerns will determine foreign policy?
EDWARDS: Well, you know, when you are stopping whatever the
president does, you know, then it does. I mean, you start looking at
things through if we support the president on this initiative, it`s going
to hurt us or help him in the next election.
But there are so many issues, that I don`t think either party really
is addressing very well. Hillary Clinton just had real tough time in
China, you mentioned Pakistan which is a serious problem. Chinese are
expanding their influence in Africa and Latin America, just the way the
Soviets used to do.
You can`t really elect a president of the United States without
looking seriously at what`s this person going to do in foreign policy? And
in Obama`s case, I`m sorry, but killing Osama bin Laden is not a foreign
policy thing. OK, you got that done.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is an accomplishment. I mean --
EDWARDS: It`s an accomplishment, but it`s not sufficient. There are
too many other problems.
BROWNE-DIANIS: Actually foreign policy, it was more about us, than
it was about foreign policy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. I mean, the Osama bin Laden one is interesting.
It`s a legitimate accomplishment, one in part about sort of harkening back
to a Bush era that said that getting and capturing and killing Osama bin
Laden was the key to closing the chapter of 9/11.
So, on the one hand, he has every right to take credit for that, and
the desire to take that credit away from him, I find disturbing. On the
other hand, that now done, the issue of Pakistan, the issue of nuclear
Iran, our relationship with Israel, how all of that plays out, does feel
more urgent even than sort of a justice seeking around 9/11.
KAUR: Let me say, foreign affairs is not the only place where we
need strong bipartisanship. We need it looking at threats in our own
country assist well. DHS released a report in 2009 that tracked the
alarming rise of white supremacist groups since the president`s election,
most notably anti government groups. But there was so much backlash in
Congress that the DHS has dropped it. The government did nothing.
Here we have now the FBI reporting that in 2010, hate crimes against
Muslims jumped by 50 percent, at a time when anti immigrant, anti-Muslim
rhetoric flooded the last election season. We`re in the next election now,
the threat of domestic terrorism, the rise of hate in America ought not to
be an aftermath. Oak Creeks calls upon us to have a national conversation
about hate in America, which means our candidates, we should watch how they
campaign, we should watch what they promise to do to protect this country.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I think it`s a good point, that how we campaign is
in part how we`ll govern, and the issue we talked about in the first hour
around voter suppression, whatever else we ought to be able to agree on, it
ought to be on the health of our democracy at the core level, right, that
we want more people in our system.
BROWNE-DIANIS: And our voices need to be heard. Unfortunately, to
get to your point about the partisan piece in Congress, issues like that
don`t come to the table any longer, because you can`t get a hearing. It`s
shut down. There`s no discussion. Oh, we can do a briefing, but we can`t
do a hearing, because the Republicans control who gets to have a hearing
what it will be about.
KAUR: We are calling upon the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a
congressional hearing investigating domestic terrorism and the rise of hate
groups in America. And it`s not just Sikh Americans. It`s groups across
the board. And we`re hoping that this happens before the election.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I know. I need another hour and a half, and we
will have more in just a moment.
But, first, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT" --
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: I just need a couple of hours before you
get to your extra hour and a half, OK? Yes, I get it. Here we go.
We`re going to talk about this, everyone. Meet Mitt Romney. Wow.
Let`s give that time to her, right?
Mitt Romney is down on "Meet the Press," his new comments on health
care reform might surprise you. Is he changing his mind on so-called
New polls out today. Is the president seeing a bigger convention
bounce than expected?
In office politics, the matchbooks that helped U.S. capture
terrorists. We`re going to look at that.
And is America safer as we approach the 11-year anniversary of 9/11?
Plus, I will talk with the writer who did the first and only post-RNC
interview with actor Clint Eastwood. Did he really mean all that he said?
We`re going to get to the bottom of that coming up -- Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: We were talking about empty chairs earlier on the
WITT: Yes, we`ll get a little more of that coming up for you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Alex.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, my footnote on suffering, hope and faith.
HARRIS-PERRY: For today`s "Footnote," literally a footnote as
President Biden might say. A common wisdom has already emerged about
President Obama`s convention speech on Thursday. The wisdom is that it was
a workhorse, a policy talk, good, solid, necessary, but also less soaring,
ambitious and inspirational than we`ve come to expect.
I disagree. Primed by the years I spent as a seminary student, I
heard President Obama`s speech as a recitation of the familiar biblical
chapter, Romans 8. Even if you`re not from a Christian tradition, you may
have heard of Romans 8. If you`re part of the tradition, I know you`ll
recognize it immediately.
Roman is the Apostle Paul`s definitive letter. Written on the brink
of a great journey, it addresses divisions of identity within the nascent
church. It is more than anything else a letter of encouragement.
And Chapter 8 is the most encouraging of all. Its optimism is built
on three key insights.
First, remember that the problems of the moment are transitory, not
permanent. "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be
compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
Second, getting through the tough times requires patience,
perseverance, and hope. Paul reminds us that "Hope is not about what you
see at this moment, but what you believe to be possible, because hope that
is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?"
Finally, no matter how bad things are in the present moment, holding
tight to faith and unflagging hope ensures that we are more than conquerors
in the long run.
On Thursday, President Obama followed a similar argument. He
acknowledged the continuing problems we face as a nation, but he encouraged
Americans to believe in our history, in one another, and in the powerful
but difficult work of self-government. Rather than running from hope, he
doubled down on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won`t
promise that now. Yes, our path is harder. But it leads to a better
place. Yes, our road is longer, but we travel it together. We don`t turn
back. We leave no one behind.
We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories and we
learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that destined
horizon knowing that providence is within us and that we are surely blessed
to be citizens of the greatest nation on earth!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama was not demanding or assuming that
voters believe that the Bible is an inspired, sacred text. He was asking
voters to draw encouragement from its lessons.
Hope is not vain or silly or misguided. It`s powerful. It keeps our
eyes fixed on a brighter horizon. And once we can see the hopeful future,
we have to do the work of walking forward together to achieve it.
And that is our show for today. Thank you to Mickey Edwards, Judith
Browne-Dianis, Dorian Warren and Valerie Kaur, for sticking around.
Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going to see you again next
Saturday, 10:00 a.m. Eastern. And next week, I will have an exclusive
interview with the author, Maya Angelou.
Coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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