October 20, 2012
Guests: Judith Browne Dianis, Melanie Roussell, Victoria Bassetti,
Christopher Achen, Cristina Beltran, Steve Perry, Gillian Tett, Rick Tyler
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST, "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY": This morning
it`s not the binders full of women that worry me. It`s the intimidating
Plus, how what`s going down can change what`s up? We`re going down
And challenging the cult of personality in the classroom. But first,
if Mitt Romney is Thelma, why America doesn`t want to be Frances.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Everybody I know loves a
good bargain. Whether it`s tough economic times or prosperous ones, a
bargain is a bargain. So this week`s presidential debate has me wondering
when we are making our choice for president, are we bargain hunting? Are
we looking for a deal, somebody who will give us everything we want but
cost us nothing?
Well, you know what they say, buyer beware. A bargain is not always
a good deal, which brings me to the beloved children`s story "A Bargain for
Frances." Frances is a little girl who decides to have a Tea Party with
her friend, Thelma. Now, Frances` mother reminds her to be careful because
every time she plays with Thelma, Frances seems to get the short end of the
stick. Frances knows her mother`s warning, but she goes off to her Tea
Frances tells Thelma that she is saving up for a tea set, a real
China set with pictures on it in blue. Thelma says that her tea set is
actually better because it has red flowers, and since it`s plastic, it
won`t break easily. But Frances is clear. She wants a real one. Thelma
insists that her plastic tea set is better and asks Frances, how much money
have you saved up? Frances tells her $2.17. So, Thelma goes in for the
kill. Maybe she`ll sell Frances her set and, oh, by the way, they don`t
even make the one that you want anymore.
Frances is convinced. She goes home. She gets her money. She
brings her money back, and Thelma sells her the tea set, and then she says
no backsies. Frances happily walks home with her dolls and her new plastic
tea set. That is until her younger sister Gloria tells her that the tea
set is ugly and that the local candy store does, in fact, sell the China
tea set that Frances wanted for $2.07 cents. Frances walks to the store.
What do you think she sees? That`s right.
That wretched Thelma using her money to buy the China tea set that
she wanted, but Frances won`t go down without a fight. She goes home and
places one penny in the plastic sugar bowl. Then she calls up Thelma who
immediately he tells her no backsies, but Frances says, OK, well, then I`m
going to keep what`s in the sugar bowl. Thelma asks her, what is it?
What`s in the sugar bowl? And Frances says, never mind, no backsies and
Sure enough, Thelma calls back not remembering what`s in the tea set.
Thelma guesses a few things, but Frances tells her no backsies, so she
doesn`t have to tell her what`s in the sugar bowl. But Thelma wants the
tea sets back. Frances offers a new deal. Give her back the money and
Thelma can have back the plastic tea set. Thelma is caught. She admits
that she can`t give back the money because she bought the new tea set, the
one that Frances wanted all along. So, they strike a new bargain. Thelma
gives Frances the China tea set, and even the extra dime.
You can imagine when Thelma opens the sugar bowl and realizes there`s
only a penny, she tells Frances that she is tricked, and now she`s going to
have to be careful around her. At which point Frances reminds Thelma of
the trick that was played on her in the first place and says, it`s not so
much fun to be careful. It would be better to be friends.
All right. It was a little indulgent to tell you that story, but
look, here`s the deal, the point is that you, dear voter, are Frances.
She`s basically an ordinary American. She knows she wants the real thing.
Real opportunity, real recovery, real fairness, real security, the real
China set with blue flowers, but when she`s looking for a short-term
bargain, sometimes this voter will get the short end of the stick, and the
bill of goods that the GOP and Mitt Romney are trying to sell you is
basically not the real thing. It`s a plastic tea set with red flowers.
According to the center on budget and policy priorities, the Bush tax
cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will account for almost half of
the $18 trillion in debt under current policies. The nation will owe by
2019. The stimulus measures and the financial rescues will account for
less than 10 percent of the debt at that time. And what about the tax plan
and the budget bargains that Mitt Romney is trying to bargain you for?
Well, an analysis shows that if the tax base isn`t broadened,
Romney`s plan would cut taxes by $481 billion by 2015, which would mean a
$4.9 trillion revenue loss over the next decade. And how do you think he
will make up for that loss? In capping federal spending at 20 percent of
GDP would require massive cuts in entitlement and discretionary programs.
That means the safety net of the 47 percent would be in great danger under
a Romney administration. Folks, Frances` story is your story.
But don`t just take my word for it. It`s in the endorsement of the
presidential race from the Salt Lake Tribune, a paper you would think would
be a give me for Governor Romney. It secures the republican standard
bearer for his seemingly never ending shape shifting by writing this.
"From his embrace of the party`s radical right wing to subsequent
portrayals-himself as a moderate champion of the middle class, Romney has
raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign, who is this guy
really? And what in the world does he truly believe!"
The editorial board concludes with this. "Our endorsement must go to
the incumbent, a competent leader who, against tough odds, has guided the
country through catastrophe and set a course that while Rocky, is pointing
toward a brighter day. The president has earned a second term. Romney, in
whatever guys, does not deserve a first."
Indeed, instead of being talked into making a sketchy deal based on
deception so that the top one percent can buy their new China tea set, we
need to be patient as our economy comes back from the brink and not be
talked into a bad trade.
Joining me now, Gillian Tett, assistant editor and columnist for the
Financial Times. And Christopher Achen, a professor of politics at
Princeton University. It is so nice to have you both here.
GILLIAN TETT, ASSISTANT EDITOR, FINANCIAL TIMES: Thank you.
PERRY: All right. So, yes, I did start with my favorite children`s
book, but it`s, in part, because as I was reading it, I kept sort of
thinking to myself as I was listening to them in this debate that we were
in a bargain for Frances` moment, that we were being told something that
just wasn`t accurate.
TETT: Absolutely. I mean, the other met for I would use apart from
the children`s book which is the great metaphor, is about going on a die on
trying to lose weight. I mean, you get sold all these quick-fix instant
solutions that tell you just pop a pill, and you will lose weight and
you`ll be happy. The reality is anyone knows it takes a lot of discipline,
it takes a lot of time, and it takes a combination of measures. That`s
You have to watch your weight, you have to watch your food, and you
have to exercise, and you have to be organized. And it`s lot of like that
with fixing the great big problem of America`s debt. Unfortunately, there
is no magic wand. And no matter whether it`s a republican campaign or a
democratic campaign, anyone who says right now that we have an easy
solution for these problems, frankly, is lying to the voters.
PERRY: Right, because this is profoundly complicated, right, Chris?
I mean, in our study of American politics, we know that there`s this sort
of truism, right? When the economy is good, the incumbent is likely to
win. When the economy is bad, the incumbent is likely to lose. But what
do we mean when we say the economy is good? Do we mean sort of beginning
to show recovery? Do we mean absolutely measures? Do we mean how people
feel and perceive it? What is that good and bad that we`re talking about
CHRISTOPHER ACHEN, PROF. OF POLITICS, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: This is
not an easy question, Melissa.
ACHEN: We have -- the data that we`ve used to look at this over the
last couple of decades have been in very different times from the times
we`re in now, and so the question is going to be, is the situation which
the incumbent president inherits a disastrous economic situation, are the
voters going to give him a little bit of credit for that, or are they going
to do what we think they usually do, which is look back one year and ask
themselves whether times are good, and that is not certain at this point.
PERRY: Yes. This inherited issue is really interesting, right? We
were looking at our favorite wonk, ever -- right? And the sort of visual
image here is very clear. The President did, in fact, inherit the
financial crisis that we`re looking at. Mitt Romney did have that great
line about, you know, oh, just blame it on the last guy, but look at this,
right, if you look at that projected public debt, the vast majority of what
that debt is are those Bush era tax cuts. It is the wars, and if you look
at that kind of gray area underneath, that`s what the debt would be if we
weren`t still managing those other crises. But what does that going to
mean for the president come November?
TETT: It means he has a very difficult position right now, because,
you know, he is essentially trying to find a way to deal with that
problems, which for the large part he inherited, didn`t just create, and
trying to get any buy-in for a sensible multi-pronged policy approach is
extremely difficult in the current political polarization. But that`s one
of the thing which I wanted to talk about on the issue on how people
perceive the economy. Until now, everyone has presumed that economies were
forged on the basis of GDP and growth and if the economy is growing, then
people felt good, they support the incumbent. If it`s not growing, then
Something have changed in this election, and it has been forged as
much on what people are not going to simply gain if the economy is growing,
but what they might lose.
TETT: And the question of entitlement programs is critical. And I
suspect that at the end of the day when people make that decision on
November the 6th, it`s not just going to be about whether the employment
rate is 7.8 percent, 8.1 percent. Will the economy grow? It`s also going
to be, what are they going to take away from me in the future in terms of
PERRY: Yes, Gillian, I think there`s such a good point, and a kind of
nuanced one, right? It`s not just, will I be doing better next year than I
am this year or that, you know, that question, ask yourself, are you better
off now than you were four years ago? But will I -- you know, the whole
time what I wanted was, you know, the real thing, right? Are you willing
to be patient enough to wait and save up for the real thing or do you take
the deal of saying, OK, maybe there`s more money in my pocket tomorrow.
But then when I retire, there`s no Medicare there for me, there is no
Social Security waiting for me. How should we expect Americans to discount
something like that? We just based on what we know about how Americans
think about voting, can -- will they be thinking about the fear of loss
more or the possibility of a short-term gain more?
ACHEN: In the current climate, I think fear of loss is going to be a
big issue. The other thing I would like to point out, though, is that a
year that`s a lot like this one is 1936.
ACHEN: And the unemployment rate was not good in 1936, but things
have perked up, and Roosevelt had done a lot of things to try to protect
people`s livelihood in extremely difficult times. One thing that I have
been amused by is that republican commentators here are fond of saying this
year that no one has ever been re-elected in the last 50 or 60 years with
an unemployment rate like this. They carefully don`t say 80 years because
if they did, then they would be reminding all of us that Roosevelt carried
46 out of the then 48 states in 1936.
PERRY: I only, on nerd land, we end up in 1936 in our first segment.
See you right there. We have much more on this, and we are going to add
some more folks to the panel. We`ll get rid of the binders. I`m sorry, I
couldn`t help myself. Contraception coverage is not just a health issue.
It`s an economic issue. We`ll going to talk about that when we come back.
Let`s see if there`s anything in the sugar bowl too. Oh, there is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: When Governor Romney says, we
should eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, there are millions of
women all across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood for not just
contraceptive care, they rely on it for mammograms, for cervical cancer
screenings. That`s a pocketbook issue for women and families all across
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: As the President was saying at Tuesday night`s debate,
women`s reproductive rights are not just about the polarized debate that
has inspired the proverbial war on women. No. Having access to
contraception is an economic issue that makes a difference for not only
women, but ultimately their families.
Now, the binders have been moved at the table, and in their place,
we`ve got Gillian Tett of the Financial Times, republican strategist Rick
Tyler, who is now an advisor to Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, Melanie
Roussell is the national press secretary for the Democratic National
Committee, and Christopher Achen, professor of politics at Princeton
Melanie, I want to come to you on this, because I felt like the
President made exactly the connection that had needed to be made now for
weeks, which is, yes, on the one hand, there`s this issue about
reproductive rights, but those reproductive rights issues are pocketbook
issues for women.
MELANIE ROUSSELL, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Absolutely. And
this week -- just this week the CDC came out with a study that backs that
up. If found that contraception use is very closely tied to income. Only
19 percent of women who are at 150 percent of the poverty rate are using
contraception. That`s why we need the affordable care act`s protection and
coverage of contraception for all women who are insured. Many women have
simply when forced to choose between contraception and food or
contraception and child care --
ROUSSELL: -- have made the choice to go with their child care or their
food. It is absolutely a pocketbook issue, and we`ve known this for years,
and this study certainly backs it up.
PERRY: And I mean, even if we just look at international indicators.
I mean, in places where women have control over their reproductive
capacity, they have higher educational gains, they have a higher income,
they have smaller families. I mean, in every critical way, being able to
space pregnancies and make determinations about when you have kids has an
enormous impact on women`s equality and their economic lives, which feels
to me like why this debate around so-called war on women needs to be
talked about in part in an economic way because we do have differing
ethical or moral positions on this, but in the end if we`re going to
improve the economy, which is, you know, what Governor Romney is telling us
is the number one issue, the reproductive rights become part of this story.
RICK TYLER, ADVISER TO REP. TODD AKIN (R-MO): Remember, George
Stephanopoulos asked this question during the debate and everybody was
shaking their heads including all the candidates, and Romney answered this
question because we had no idea that point where this is going, and now we
do. I think this issue in a large way -- and I don`t want to diminish or
demean it, but in a large way it`s a distraction from Romney`s record -- or
from Obama`s record. The fact is contraception is available. Nobody
denies though unless we can name some people are against making
contraception illegal. The question --
PERRY: Rick Santorum. We can name one.
TYLER: Well, the question -- I don`t think Rick Santorum said, he
would make contraception illegal. What has been said is, can we make the
Catholic Church -- this is amendment one first sentence, OK, in the bill of
rights. Is the question should we make religious institutions namely the
Catholic Church, but there are others, pay for women`s contraception when
it goes against their religious liberty?
PERRY: We know they`re not paying. I mean, that is a distortion,
right? No one is asking them to go to the store and purchase condoms or --
TYLER: But they want to make it part of their insurance program.
ROUSSELL: That`s --
TYLER: And the President wants to mandate that.
ROUSSELL: It provides for religious institutions.
TYLER: It does for now, but, look, it says --
ROUSSELL: It does for now because the President made it a priority.
TYLER: But this is the problem. Throughout history the first
institution always to go when the people -- when the government wants to
impose its will and on the people that you will all have to believe X and
it has to be the church, right, because --
PERRY: Oh, OK. So, you know, it`s easy for you to say that because
TYLER: It`s true historically. It`s not my opinion. That`s a
PERRY: Well, OK. Let`s pause.
TYLER: All right. I`ll back -- let me back up.
PERRY: I think we want to be really careful about the idea that it`s
a historical fact that we throw out religion first, right? In fact, part
of what we`ve managed to do in this country is develop a pretty robust
capacity to have a secular government that can operate despite the fact
that people have very deep religious beliefs. We`re much more religious,
for example, than --
PERRY: So, I want to be really careful because I want to stay on this
bargain, right? If you are telling me that the bargain I have to cut for
economic growth is that I have to give up reproductive rights and access to
TYLER: Of course not.
PERRY: But you have --
TYLER: That`s a powerful historic fact.
PERRY: You have a presidential candidate who has said that he would
support putting justices on the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe V.
Wade. And that says to me, even if I were to buy the Romney economic
story, that I as a voter have to make a decision between, am I supporting
someone who is going to have the legacy of overturning Roe V. Wade and the
TYLER: Roe V. Wade -- overturning Roe V. Wade first of all wouldn`t
make abortion instantaneously illegal. That`s not true. What it would do
is make -- return it to a state issue and being a state --
PERRY: Yes. Well, I live in Louisiana, and I know when it comes
down to the states, there`s plenty of states that are happy to make it
TYLER: Except for yours.
TETT: I think to a certain degree, there`s confusion right now about
what Governor Romney would or would not do at that point. Which partly
reflects the polarization inside the Republican Party. But I mean, on one
hand he appears to be supporting some pretty hard lines in terms of
potential Supreme Court picks. On the other hand though, he has been
trying to say that, actually, he is pro-choice, he will -- what they want
ROUSSELL: That is just his Romnesia. That is the condition he has
that the affordable care act luckily protects because it protects
preexisting conditions. The condition he has that makes him forget the
previous positions he has taken.
PERRY: And, you know, and so the Romnesia was the President kind of
getting his swagger back, and he got his funny joking. But I do want to
see that the Salt Lake Tribune which I quoted earlier in the show in their
conversation about Romney, they say, look, the problem was we don`t know
which Romney is going to show up, right? We don`t know whether this is
moderate Romney or whether this is Romney who saves the Olympics or whether
this is anti-Roe V. Wade Romney.
But I just want to -- as we go out, before we come back, I want to
also show, it says that, to claim as Romney does that he would offset his
tax and spending cuts except for billions more for the military by doing
away with the tax deductions and exemptions is inaccurate. It`s not
Melissa, but, yes, right? But that, in fact, the tax plan that Mr. Romney
has given us has a similar kind of Romnesia in it.
So, when we come back, I want to talk more about exactly this issue
with the tax plan and the continuing issue of what counts as an economic
issue for the American people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I care about
100 percent of the American people. I want 100 percent of the American
people to have a bright and prosperous future. I care about our kids. I
understand what it takes to make a bright and prosperous future America
again. I spent my life in the private sector, not in government. I`m a
guy who wants to help with the experience I have the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: So, Mitt Romney says, he cares about 100 percent of the
American people and that he wants them to be prosperous. Even though he
says that 47 percent of them depend on government and believe they are
OK. Gillian, if I`m going to take Governor Romney at his word and
believe that he wants to do good for 100 percent of the people, what are
the policies, what are the indicators necessary to take people in a
socially mobile way up the economic ladder?
TETT: Well, it`s a very interesting issue. Because the post-war
compact in America has very much been that yes, there was incoming equality
but there is real income mobility and social mobility between the
generations. And really in the last decade, something very interesting has
happened, which is the level of mobility between generations has started to
not just decline, but on the some measures, actually fall behind some
And that was his real questions about, what is going to happen to the
current generation and to what degree are you going put a fine measure to
the -- that undercurrent of anger that`s developing amongst many ordinary
Americans, and that have a lot to do with the taxation system, to do with
the education system, to deal with the opportunities, and these are issues
that people are touching on -- in that presidential debate. They`re not
really confronting square on.
PERRY: If we go back to Chris` 1936 argument, right? I mean, it`s
one thing to face poverty in this moment or inequality, but it`s another
thing if you think that your children will also be unable to escape it. Do
we end up with a different kind of voting behavior? Do we end up with
middle class people voting differently from wealthy and working class
people if they think that these are permanent conditions for their lives?
ACHEN: This is an excellent question, and I don`t think we`re sure
yet how this is going to play out. What we do know is that contrary to
what a lot of people imagine, it`s the upper middle class and the
prosperous who vote more on social issues. When you are toward the bottom
of the economic distribution, you vote on economics.
PERRY: Pocketbook. Straight up.
ACHEN: Straight up.
ACHEN: And so, the struggles of that group of people as Gillian was
just saying over the last ten or 20 years, their incomes in real terms are
almost flat. The solution to that is not something you can wave your hand
on and fix the first day you`re in office. It`s a longer term thing.
Better education. Better training. All of those things. That`s going to
have to be done primarily with government programs, not by letting the
private sector do something about it.
PERRY: Yes. This is really the key. When we look at the FDR moment,
when we look at what has brought us out of recession before, I mean, I hear
Governor Romney saying, I`m from the private sector, and, therefore, I know
how to fix it, and every time I hear it, I think to myself if that`s true,
then why not just stay in the private sector and fix it? Like, why come
over to government? You must believe the government has a role.
TYLER: Because the government has made it too difficult for the
private sector to hire people. Look, FDR came out of the great depression
we know now because of World War II, not because of his economic policies.
I think FDR was probably one of the greatest politicians of the 21st
century, but set that aside.
PERRY: George W. Bush`s wars drove us into this recession. That`s
where that debt and deficit comes from.
TYLER: Well, look, you have to -- look, one of the things that the
government is supposed to do well is supposed to defend the country and
defend freedom. We do that well. We historically -- on that well. We
have crowned no princes, we`ve taken no territories, and, yet, we`ve done
this. But look, as my friend, former Congressman Bob McEwen (ph) likes to
say, we`re four percent of the world`s population. We created a third of
the world`s wealth. We have more innovations, more inventions, more
entrepreneurs, more peace, more Nobel prizes of all types than all the
other nations combined. There`s a reason for that, and --
PERRY: Massive influx of public education provided by the government
for free to every American citizen.
TYLER: OK. I`ll agree with you. Let`s say publication is good.
Show me the classes -- show me the classes both in the preliminary
education post-secondary education that are teaching entrepreneurism and
that are teaching success, teaching people how to -- because the way the
economy works is, I have to create a service or a product that rich people
and others want, and, in other words --
PERRY: Well, actually, you`re better off if you create a product that
ordinary folks want and will --
TYLER: And that`s fine too. That`s the way the market works.
PERRY: This is our Wal-Mart conversation --
TYLER: I bless you with my dollars because I want what you have more
than the dollars in your pocket. That`s how wealth is created. Government
can`t create wealth. All they can do is take money from one set of people
and give it to another. Nothing is created. Nothing is sold. It doesn`t
ROUSSELL: And that`s what we`re talking about here. We`re talking
TYLER: Government can create opportunity by -- the economic policies
and conditions for people to succeed.
ROUSSELL: You cannot say that the GI bill did not force opportunity
and -- to an entire generation.
TYLER: Because it gave people an opportunity to get an education.
And I`m not against education but look -- what are we teaching?
ROUSSELL: That was a government program and one of the most
successful government programs in history.
PERRY: Right. Right.
TYLER: I`m not anti-government.
TETT: If you look back, why the (INAUDIBLE), one factor actually was
the education was available for a wide swath of people through things like
the GI bill. The question affect the market today`s, how do you create
that similar kind of program without something like World War II to justify
PERRY: Yes. And the fact Gillian, I would go further, I`d say that
the GI bill gave us the Human Capital Investment that the fair housing acts
provided for us opportunities to invest in sort of individual wealth
creation through real estate ownership and then that the interstate
transportation act created the infrastructure necessary to make it
possible, but all of those -- those great programs --
TYLER: There was also a time when women came into the work force, but
that wasn`t a government program. That was a result of the condition.
PERRY: You know, but these were all related, I think, fundamentally
to government spending. In fact, I`m over and over again thinks if there`s
any extent to which this system did not work, it is only because it was not
Gillian, thank you so much for being here. I hope you`ll come back
and hang out in nerd land with us again. The rest are back for more, and
up next my letter to the president of the United States. Think about that
performance on Tuesday night.
PERRY: OK. I watched Tuesday`s debate in my living room, and I`ll
be honest, I did take a moment to stand on my couch and give our nation`s
leader a well deserved round of applause for a job well done at the second
presidential debate. But I thought I would go a step further and put pen
to paper for our commander in chief.
Dear President Obama, It`s me, Melissa. I just wrote to say thanks.
Thank you for bringing your A game on Tuesday energized, caffeinated,
prepped with data points and comeback arguments. Thank you for reviving
the base and showing the country that you can carry the burdens of the
presidency and still have room for a little swagger. You made clear
arguments for why you should be re-elected. You cogently packaged the
argument against your challenger. All told, good night of politics for
you. But, but, but just a couple of things. Remember when you said this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: We`ve opened up public lands.
We`re actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous
administration, and the previous president was an oil man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: OK. I get that running away from a strong national energy
policy is hard in this recession era election, but touting an aggressive
oil drilling directive as an achievement with no mention of the real life
and death and livelihood consequences of the drill baby drill mentality is
a little troubling. Now, I know many Americans have already forgotten the
devastating effects that BP`s drilling in the sensitive echo system of the
Gulf Coast had on the human and animal communities there. But I wanted you
to remind them and your opponent, that wasn`t simply a case of a few birds
The biggest national oil spill in history didn`t even get a mention
Tuesday night. How could it be that nearly five million barrels of crude
oil that gushed into the open water and the two million gallons of toxic
chemicals used to prevent the oil from flooding on to our shores weren`t
worth a mention when talking about the pros and cons of our national energy
policy or what about the billion dollars that the job creator BP had to
cough up to clean up their mess. Those of us who live on the Gulf Coast
know how important oil is for jobs, but we also know how important our
healthy coast is for our lives. And then just one more. What about this
moment, Mr. President?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We`re not going to eliminate everybody who is mentally
disturbed and we`ve got to make sure that they don`t get weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: I`m not sure if you meant to imply that the mentally ill are
primarily responsible for gun violence, but you said that not once, not
twice, but three times during the debate. Mental illness is all too often
criminalized and far too often stigmatized in this country, and while some
high profile cases of gun violence are traced back to an individual
struggling with mental illness, statistically only three percent to five
percent of violent acts are attributable to serious mental illness, and
most don`t involve guns at all.
In fact, those with mental illness are four times more likely to be
the victim of violence than the perpetrator. The shameful violence
snatching the lives of young men in Chicago, which you mentioned on
Tuesday, is not about so-called crazy shooters. It`s about guns being
easier to access than economic opportunity. Let`s keep our focus on
changing that equation. So, once again, good job, great job, but as you
warm up for Monday, just remember what you leave out can be just as
important as what you get in during the debate. Sincerely, Melissa.
PERRY: Republicans need only a net gain of four seats in 23 races
this fall to gain a majority in the Senate. Now, it`s not likely, but
there is a chance, and the two men at the top of the ticket, these guys,
President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will
undoubtedly influence the down the ballot races like those for Senate, the
House, and other state contests, but can it also go the other way? Can a
down ballot race swing the electorate so drastically that it helps either
of the presidential candidates? If this is going to happen anywhere, it
might be in Missouri.
That`s where Congressman Todd Akin, who infamously said in August
that there is something called legitimate rape, is seeking to replace
incumbent democrat Claire McCaskill. As of Friday, Senator McCaskill held
a five point lead in the Real Clear politics polling average, and in a
debate Thursday night, both candidates ignored the legitimate rape comment
in favor of trading blows centered around the presidential contenders. The
key question from the last presidential debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Claire McCaskill was the first to endorse Barack
Obama, and she was his strong right hand passing legislation, voting with
him 98 percent of the time.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: He supports the boss being able to decide
whether or not you get paid less just because you`re a woman. And if you
look at Congressman Akin`s office, in fact, he is the boss that does that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: Mitt Romney has a comfortable lead over the president in
Missouri, but could the desire for the show me state to show Todd Akin the
door move that state into the President`s column?
Still with me Melanie Roussell, Christopher Achen, Rick Tyler, and
joining the panel, Cristina Beltran, associate professor, social and
cultural analysis at New York University, and the author of "The Trouble
All right. Rick, you know, I`m coming to you because you work for
the Akin campaign and here is the kicker for me, you joined him after the
legitimate rape comments. Now, it was like, you know, sometimes you`re on
somebody`s team, and then they just go off the rails and you`re, like,
well, you know, loyalty. I`m here. But you joined that campaign after
that moment. Why?
TYLER: I go where the fight is. Look, I think what the Republicans
and others did to Todd Akin and distort his record and what he said and
their overreaction to it. Remember, he apologized for it immediately. And
so, I think it was a gross distortion of what his position is, what his
PERRY: Well, tell me how it`s a distortion. Because I saw it over
and over again. Tell me how that`s a distortion.
TYLER: Well, he made a misstatement. You know, like Joe Biden makes
misstatements, like the President makes misstatements. Everybody makes
misstatements. He made a misstatement, and he immediately apologized for
PERRY: But he really -- it wasn`t a slip. I mean, he really did say
-- he made a claim, a very clear claim, that women`s bodies have the
capacity to basically reject pregnancy in the context of a rape, and so
even -- let`s take the word legitimate out, right? Let`s just say, in the
context of rape that women`s bodies have the ability to tell the
difference. Let me also point out that Joe Walsh recently made comments --
you don`t work for Joe Walsh, but you know, Joe Walsh also recently made
comments which I would like to take a look at here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE WALSH (R), ILLINOIS: There`s no such exception with modern
technology and science you can`t find one instance. There`s no such
exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same
thing. With advances in science and technology, there is -- health of the
mother has been -- has become a tool for abortions any time under any
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: We`ve got Representative Joe Walsh saying, Science and
Technology means you don`t have to have to have a carve out for life and
health of the mother. You have got Congressman Akin saying that, in fact,
women`s bodies in sort of in the primitive way that can do this. I got to
say, if I`m the Obama campaign, I`m trying to tie the up ticket to the down
ticket here. I`m trying to put Mitt Romney in a class with Joe Walsh and
ROUSSELL: Mitt Romney is absolutely in a class with them. When you
look at -- and Paul Ryan as well. Paul Ryan co-sponsored the Akin
amendment to redefine rape, and he is on the ticket. He is at the top of
the ticket. Mitt Romney says he wants to defund Planned Parenthood, he
wants to overturn Roe V. Wade and would appoint Supreme Court justices to
do that. He doesn`t support contraception coverage in the affordable care
act and wants to repeal the whole thing. When you look at the broad bases
of where the republican candidates from top to bottom stand on women`s
health issues, and this is very much what Joe Walsh said, there`s no -- I
mean, it`s outrageous to start, and it`s just not based in fact.
PERRY: So, Cristina, is this effective? I mean, can you -- because
look, Governor Romney has been trying to moderate his position. He is
saying, actually, I`m not in that camp. Is that an effective sort of
strategic position to say listen to these guys down ballot and let`s swing
what is happening at the top with that?
CRISTINA BELTRAN, ASSOC. PROF., NYU: Yes. I mean, I think it`s
really interesting that even -- I mean, I think it might be. I mean, I
think it`s important to realize that we are now having a debate about
women`s access to contraception. I mean, so what`s really interesting to
me is that the debate went from choice, you know, and abortion rights,
which is a complicated issue to the rights of contraception. I mean, we`re
really kind of having, you know, there is a republican war on women
essentially right now, which is really fairly alarming.
But I think -- and I think it is going to be interesting if women in
Missouri are going to feel like they might want to, you know, cross over
and vote for, you know, a party they feel like is more supportive of
women`s rights, but, I mean, Akin does not have binders full of women
around him who support this. So, I mean, I think this is going to be a
question. Are women going to come out and support?
ROUSSELL: I think one thing that is lost in this discussion on
contraception is not just that birth control pills are for contraception.
There are also numerous health benefits --
TYLER: Birth control pills. Who?
ROUSSELL: We`re talking about affordable access. And that`s what the
affordable care act is about.
TYLER: No, and most insurance policies cover it, and most employers
do. No one wants to take it away. The only difference here is somebody is
saying the Catholic Church and others are saying --
ROUSSELL: No one is saying that the Catholic Church has to pay for
it. There is an exemption, a religious exemption.
TYLER: And I don`t believe it`s enforceable. But look, look, first
of all, Todd Akin made clear that his -- he made a misstatement. It was
not correct. OK? The other thing that McCaskill -- let`s talk about
McCaskill for a second. I mean, her position -- you can say that of the
three exceptions people being against the three exceptions in the radical
position, you`re entitled to that, but some people would want to say that
the Left`s position or Claire McCaskill`s position on abortion is also a
radical position because she would like to have abortions up until I think
the senior year of high school.
PERRY: Oh --
TYLER: No, I`m sorry, she moderated her position. It`s only now in
the ninth month, all right?
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
Hold on. Hold on.
ROUSSELL: Fourteen million dollar in Missouri lying about Claire
PERRY: When we come back, I promise --
TYLER: Let me correct the record of a couple of things.
PERRY: Well, but Claire McCaskill does not think that one should be
able to kill one`s teenager.
But coming up, I do want to talk a little bit about some of the other
down ballot races, and particularly what`s happening with some of these
gubernatorial races and that when we come back.
PERRY: We`re back and talking about whether or not down ballot races
can impact the presidential race. Chris, I wanted to ask you. There`s two
things particularly interesting to me. But one is North Carolina where you
have a gubernatorial race where it looks like the Republican is highly
likely to win this race. This is Pat McCrory. He is polling way ahead of
the democrat. And yet, it`s really quite tight in the presidential race,
but then the Romney campaign just pulled out their folks.
So, we`re at 47, 44 with the President with a bit of a lead, but that
goes back and forth depending on the polls, and you`ve got the Romney
campaign pulling their people out focusing on Ohio as though to say, we`ve
got this covered in North Carolina. Can one of these races impact the
ACHEN: They certainly can. And there are instances of that. I think
that there`s a good argument, for example, that in Ohio in 2008, that was
the difference in the presidential election was the winner of that race,
and it was quite close in Ohio. That having -- this isn`t quite a down
ballot race, but a down ballot issue. The gay marriage amendment there may
have raised turnout enough to give the election to the Republicans. I had
a student that did a senior thesis for me. He was an Ohioan, and he looked
closely into this, and he made a pretty strong case that that was what the
difference was. Now, we can certainly see that with especially
gubernatorial races as well.
PERRY: So, who are these people? Who are the folks? What kind of
voter goes in and says, I`m picking President Obama for re-election, but
I`m also going to vote for Scott Brown, you know, in Massachusetts, and I`m
going to send Scott Brown back to the U.S. Senate, and I`m going to send
him there knowing that he is a republican, that we have very high levels of
partisanship, and then he is likely going to be a vote against the
president who I`m sending in. Like, who is that voter? What are they
thinking at that moment?
BELTRAN: I often think about these folks. Because I always think,
you know, we`re not talking enough about party, and I think there`s an
anxiety around independent voters don`t like partisanships. So, there`s an
anxiety to say this is what this party stands for, and this is what this
other party stands for, and you get to choose. But if we, you know, this
kind of cross-ticket voting that goes on, you are basically, you know, you
are buying gridlock, I mean, you are committing yourself to a gridlock kind
So, I actually feel like there`s something -- we have an odd view of
independent voters, and we feel like we can`t talk like about party
ideology and really just make a case for like if you vote for Scott Brown
and you vote for Barack Obama, you`re going to have trouble. Like, you`re
going to have real trouble with getting -- what are your political ideals,
what are your visions? What are your values? Because you`re actually
voting at cross purposes with yourself.
PERRY: Right. Yes.
ROUSSELL: But I think you also have to look at what Scott Brown has
done in campaigning with ads up about his support for President Barack
PERRY: Yes. He`s kind of nudging over. He is not -- I`m with --
I`m with this guy. Me and him are big buddies.
ROUSSELL: And really trying to moderate himself and when his votes
don`t reflect -- certainly don`t reflect the person he is trying to
portrait himself as.
PERRY: Have you seen that the Republican Party in Massachusetts has
got folks wearing these t-shirts that say Obama voters for Brown.
PERRY: And they`re actually -- they`re paying -- you know, I`m from
Louisiana. I understand getting paid to do -- they`re actually -- some of
them are homeless folks, and they`re wearing these shirts. Obama
supporters for Brown, which is an actual organization, but there are voters
who are Obama supporters who are also planning to vote for Brown.
TYLER: Americans like gridlock and in fact the founders put -- they
do, they like it. And it`s a reaction, as you say, it`s a partisanship.
They don`t like the partisanship, so they said, the heck with the -- and
you guys go and get along and get it solved. Except in this case because
the large Romney pro-Romney vote up until recently has been an anti-Romney
vote, and the trouble Romney has had is converting that anti-Romney vote
into a pro-Romney -- an anti- --
PERRY: Yes. An anti-Obama vote.
Yes, yes, yes.
TYLER: Except that happened I think in the first debate. Simply
because people look at Romney and said, you know, what? He`s not what I
thought he would be and he`s acceptable. And so, this polls has began to
shift -- and because people are hyper on both sides paying attention to
this race. If you`re in fact an anti-Obama voter, you understand that if
you will vote for Romney and vote for the democrat in the Senate, you will
be stuck with Obamacare, you will be stuck with trillion dollar deficit,
you will be stuck with the tax -- you will be stuck with government --
PERRY: No, you will be stuck with the ability to go see the doctor.
What could be worse?
TYLER: By the way, that can definitely be true in the Missouri race
with Claire McCaskill. People are not going to vote for Romney and vote
for McCaskill. And by the way, what she said about women being --
PERRY: Well, we`ll see. I mean, I think, in fact, they might.
TYLER: Let me just correct the record on what she said in the debate
the other night, she said that women in Akin`s office are paid less than
men. That is patently untrue. The average woman in the Akin office I
checked it is $3,300 more.
PERRY: But look, here`s what we do know. Here`s what we certainly
know. That at the top -- that at the top of the ticket that former
Governor Romney has not indicated that he supports the Lily Ledbetter act,
that in fact when asked directly about it in the last debate, he hedged and
gave us the great binders full of women narrative, which --
TYLER: Binders full of women resumes.
PERRY: Sure. That`s right.
TYLER: He dropped a word.
PERRY: Granted, but here`s --
No, no. But it`s not the dropping of the word. It`s the dropping of
the facts that he did not actually go and ask to find women. That those --
TYLER: Because he assumed -- no, no. You are taking it out of
context. He assumed that women would be provided, and the Democrats who
would run Massachusetts --
PERRY: No, no, no, no. They were provided by a non-partisan
organization for women.
TYLER: -- have no women in the administration.
PERRY: They provided a binder -- they provided binders of women`s
names to both candidates. He was not the one. Thank you.
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
ROUSSELL: He had nowhere to pull from. He didn`t have any women in
PERRY: Yes, that`s right. All right. We got to go. We got to pay
bills around here. Thank you too Rick Tyler, and the rest are sticking
Coming up, back by unfortunate demand, this week in voter
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
It`s 11:00 on the East Coast and you know what that means here in Nerdland,
it`s time for -- "This Week in Voter Suppression".
This week, you may be feeling a bit of deja vu because someone who
has been making regular weekly appearances in voter suppression, as
recently as last week, is still at it. It seems that Ohio Secretary of
State Jon Husted just won`t give up on his crusade to use his political
power and influence to place restrictions around voting in the battleground
state. He continues to take a stand for suppression, even after not one,
not two, but three courts have told him have a seat.
First, there was the federal court judge back in August who sided
against the Ohio law to block voting the last weekend before Election Day.
Husted didn`t like that court`s decision, so he tried another one. When
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the sixth circuit heard his appeal, a three-
judge panel agreed with the first court and decided unanimously to also
strike down Ohio`s early voting restrictions.
But like Goldilocks and the three bears, Husted still hadn`t found a
court that was just right for him. So, he tried the third one, the U.S.
Supreme Court. And this week, even that court wasn`t trying to hear it.
With no dissent -- no dissent -- with no dissent, the Supreme Court issued
a one-sentence order denying Ohio`s appeal and approving voting for
everyone in Ohio the final three days before November 6th.
Now, most people would concede defeat at this point. Not Jon. When
stopped from limiting the early voting days, he resorted to limiting the
hours Ohioans can vote on those days.
As "The Nation" writer and friend of Nerdland, Ari Berman, reported
this week, Husted restricted voting on Saturday, November 3rd through
Monday, November 5th to 16 hours for all three days. Compare that to 2008
when early voting was available in Ohio`s highly populated counties for up
to 24 hours in the three days prior to the election. And even then, some
people waited in line for up to two and a half hours to vote.
Still with me, Cristina Beltran, NYU associate professor of social
and cultural analysis; Victoria Bassetti, author of "Electoral
Dysfunction." That`s kind of the whole point. Chris Achen, professor of
politics in Princeton University; and Melanie Roussell, the national press
secretary for the DNC. Also joining us from Washington, D.C., one of our
"This Week in Voter Suppression" superstars, Judith Browne Dianis, co-
director of the Advancement Project.
Nice to see you, Judith.
JUDITH BROWNE DIANIS, THE ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: Nice to see you,
HARRIS-PERRY: So, OK, Ohio is -- I mean, it`s all going to happen in
HARRIS-PERRY: This is the most important state for this election.
What are the most pressing concerns about voter suppression in that place
between now and Election Day?
DIANIS: Well, you know, in Ohio, we continue to have this relentless
effort to restrict the right to vote, and it started off with politicians
trying to do it, and we will see as we get closer to the election that
there will be political operatives, individuals and organizations that will
engage in efforts to restrict the vote.
And so, we have Husted trying to continue to go to the courts. Oh,
that didn`t work? OK. Let me do it through the administrative process.
I`ll cut back on the hours on my own.
And now, we have, you know -- we are concerned about the efforts with
regard to the billboard that is we saw in Wisconsin and Ohio --
DIANIS: -- which advancement project and other civil rights
organizations put up countervailing billboards where we --
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Judith, before you go any further, pause right
there and just remind folks that they were watching last week and they saw
those billboards in Pennsylvania, but remind people what those billboards
DIANIS: Sure. So the billboards say that voter fraud is against the
law, that there`s a $10,000 fine and three years of imprisonment. Put all
in black communities in Milwaukee and in Ohio and some Latino communities.
And so, we know that these billboards are put up to intimidate
people, scare them off from voting, because there`s a lot of mythology
around what happens if, for example, you vote and you didn`t pay your
parking tickets or you vote and you didn`t pay child support or you voted
and you didn`t show up for jury duty. Those kinds of things make people
think, uh-oh, I need to stay away.
And so, what we had to do is we have to educate voters. We have to
do a countervailing balance because we know that there are people who don`t
want African-Americans and Latinos to vote.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you about this countervailing because
it seems to me that part of what happens is if you take what folks are
meant to be doing, what their actually jobs are, and you say, OK, instead
of doing that, or you have to do that but you also now have to educate
voters, have you to put up new billboards, then you actually add this kind
of additional burden, this additional cost to folks for just attempting to
Is that what this is? It`s sort of in the end that no matter what
these judges have said, because every court has said, no, you can`t do
these things, that nonetheless, just causing the confusion, causing the
stress is enough to suppress the vote?
DIANIS: Well, yes. That`s what we`re concerned about. This will
make it harder for people to vote.
In Pennsylvania, for example, just yesterday they had to file a
petition with the court because there continues to be a campaign of
confusion by the state telling people, oh, get your id, and then in small
print in their ads it will say it`s not required. You know, so we had to
file, you know, something with the courts saying stop it, stop the campaign
And so, yes, we are worried that people are going to be confused,
but, you know, the civil rights community, voting rights community, we`re
doing a yeoman`s job of try to get out the word, that you don`t need ID,
and you have a right to vote.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you one more question because I`m really
interested in the fact that True the Vote, as you point out, it started
with politicians. Now we`ve got those one-off organizations like so-called
True the Vote that are -- that are upping their intimidation tactics and
True the Vote is suing Jon Husted for not doing enough to suppress the vote
HARRIS-PERRY: Like this one is the one for me, I was like, are you
serious? So, explain that to me.
DIANIS: That`s right. True the Vote wants him to go further, you
It is just ridiculous. True the Vote wants to do purging right
before the election. You know, they -- they`re True the Vote. They`re
called Election Integrity many some states, and, you know, we are seeing
those efforts really starting to take hold. They want to make sure that
they can get people off the rolls before this election.
And we`re really concerned about that, but we`re also concerned about
the real voter fraud that`s going to happen in the next few weeks. I`m
sure that over the next few weeks, Melissa, in this week in voter
suppression, you`ll be covering things like the intimidation, deceptive
practices, all the kinds of last-minute things to block people from the
Thank you so much, Judith.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, undoubtedly, we will still be on this week.
DIANIS: We`re fighting back, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I appreciate that, and that, you know, critically
is going to make all the difference for the quality of our democracy.
Thank you to Judith Browne Dianis in Washington.
HARRIS-PERRY: More voter suppression still to come. That`s a tease
for this show, and it`s also a prediction for our system. I`m bringing in
the panel when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been talking about the billboards that are
sounding the alarm about the penalties of voter fraud in Cleveland, Ohio`s
low income neighborhoods of color. The words warn of a $10,000 fine and a
three and a half year prison sentence. But the message received by people
in the community was something else entirely: vote at your own risk.
It`s a message that`s been replicated on 60 billboards in both
Cleveland and Columbus, and 85 billboards in and around Milwaukee,
Wisconsin, according to an NPR report.
And now, we`ve caught wind of a different message in a different
language on a billboard in Pennsylvania. Take a look at this. For our
non-Spanish speakers, that translates to -- if you want to vote, show it.
The "it" that billboard is referring to is a photo ID, which was a
requirement to vote under Pennsylvania`s voter ID law before the law was
largely invalidated by a judge earlier this month, making the billboard`s
A photo ID may be requested, but you do not have to show it to vote
in Pennsylvania. One more time, you do not have to show your ID to vote in
Pennsylvania, even if someone asks you for it.
Whatever the language, the message is on all of these billboards
translate to intimidation and confusion for voters.
All right. What is going on? Is this the new normal?
MELANIE ROUSSELL, DNC NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think the
problem is that Republicans have lost every legislative effort they`ve had
to change laws in these states. Of course, and shut them down in Ohio, in
Pennsylvania, Iowa, Wisconsin.
And so, they`re resorting to their old-school tactics, which are a
little more subtle and less direct -- like you mentioned, in North
Carolina, where the Romney campaign is pulling out of North Carolina.
That`s a head fake. They move one staffer to Ohio.
ROUSSELL: And made a big deal out of it on the first day of early
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Early voting, so it makes you want to -- it
decreases your sense that it`s a competitive space.
HARRIS-PERRY: People are less likely to show up if it doesn`t seem
like it`s --
ROUSSELL: There`s an effort to depress the vote on the first day of
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, that is like diabolical, evil thinking in the
brain kind of. Diabolical, right? This idea of, OK, early voting
starting. We know the President Obama supporters are so much more likely
to vote early. He has this huge margin in early voting.
ROUSSELL: They had lines around the block that day.
ROUSSELL: Even despite their best efforts.
ROUSSELL: The Obama campaign is on the ground, driving voters to the
polls. This is one stop shop voting in North Carolina where you can
register and vote at the same time.
ROUSSELL: We`re going to turn out those voters and they`re afraid of
that. And so, they`re moving to these more subtle tactics like billboards
and letters in Arizona and Joe Arpaio`s county sent out a letter to Spanish
language voters saying that the election was on the wrong date.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m going to need to just so that we don`t miss just
how bad it`s getting. So this is the vote by phone scam, right? So we`ve
got -- this is reported in Richmond, Virginia.
Voters targeted with false information on ability to vote by phone,
especially seniors receiving calls and being told that they can vote by
phone, and they`re simply calling them up and they`re saying to them, you
know what? I can take your vote, I can take it right now over the phone.
And that sounds like who can fall for that? But, look, we live in
the land of "American Idol" and everything else, and, I mean, this is --
this is -- there`s not really another word for it. It`s simply disgusting.
VICTORIA BASSETTI, AUTHOR, "ELECTORAL DYSFUNCTION": Yes, it almost
feels like a coordinated race to the bottom, on a state by state basis to
see who can figure out the most effective way to suppress the vote with all
of them sharing information and data about how to do it throughout the
We now have every four years, a more intense, more coordinated,
better funded effort to suppress and drive down voter turnout. We`ve got
people who are capable of using Excel spreadsheets and figure out if he can
just turn -- depress turnout by 0.5 percent in this particular demographic
group, we can win the election.
So, how do we do it? Let`s share the information. Let`s share the
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Victoria, I want to -- this is important. I want
to pause on this for just a second because I heard you say two things.
Well-coordinated and well-funded because this suggests that -- because what
we hear -- what we hear is this kind of one-off -- this is about state`s
rights. We should get to control our own voting system.
But then I hear you saying this is well-coordinated and well-funded.
BASSETTI: Sure. They`re voter fraud evangelists who travel around
the country conducting training sessions for various voter suppression
groups. True the Vote has got -- has spread its message throughout the
nation. They`ve got little groups in Ohio. They`ve got their own group in
Arizona. They`ve got their own group.
They set up shop all over the land. They`re funded. They share
tactics and methodologies. And they go attack on Election Day.
So, what kind of tends to happen is about a year out from the
election, we`ve got these broad, strategic efforts to suppress the vote --
from voter ID to voting hours. And then in the last four weeks before the
election, it becomes a street battle. It becomes almost a precinct by
precinct polling station by polling station effort to suppress the ballot,
and cumulatively it has an effect.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, Chris, couldn`t we just solve it if we got rid of
the Electoral College? I mean, we`re just -- I mean, we which is really
not a joke.
The whole idea that this is all going to come down to three or four
states is because we don`t just count -- every vote doesn`t count equally.
Those voters in Ohio are more important than me because I vote in
Louisiana. And so, you know, pretty clear what`s going to happen down
How -- is there any possibly that we can make a conversation about
the big terms under which we vote, into a sexy conversation?
CHRISTOPHER ACHEN, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: That`s a good question.
I`m not sure the Electoral College is the heart of the matter, Melissa,
because you get vote suppression efforts in gubernatorial races, for
example, within a single state.
ACHEN: Democrats are upset about this, but they`re not the only
ones. My Republican students are -- some of them -- are quite nervous
about this kind of thing, specifically targeting minority communities. Old
white people like me are increasingly not that large a chunk of the
electorate anymore. They`re getting smaller.
If you have alienated African-Americans and you have alienated
Latinos and the gay community and on down the line, then you get in
HARRIS-PERRY: You don`t end up with a electoral majority on the
other side of that.
ACHEN: And 20-year-olds who are Republicans and politically
ambitious are not foolish about this. And so, there`s a kind of short-
sighted blowing your feet off here that I think deserves mention, too.
There`s a lot of opposition to this.
HARRIS-PERRY: Chris, because you just finally gave -- I have been
trying to figure out how do you get Republicans on board for thinking
about, you know, this is important to our democracy, right? And so -- but
that is what it is, right?
Of course, it makes sense that it`s Princeton, right, because these
are young kids who are thinking about running, right? They`re going to be
in charge of the world at some point. And so, they`re thinking, OK, since
I`m going to be running --
ACHEN: They think so.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Well, I mean, there`s a lot of good, empirical
evidence that they`re going to run the world after they graduate, or at
least the country -- and I love that idea that if you are 24, if you are
20, if are you looking at political ambitions and you are Republican, you
don`t want a legacy where your party is associated with this kind of
CRISTINA BELTRAN, AUTHOR, "THE TROUBLE WITH UNITY": What`s amazing
to me is that the GOP is looking at these changing demographics and has
just decided double down on intimidation and exclusion and confusion,
right? You have people like Karl Rove who really are even making a call
saying, look, this is really bad for our party. We cannot become known as
the party of exclusion, but he is not the voice they`re listening to at
this moment, which usually I`m glad about.
But in this case -- but I think the thing we keep forgetting a little
bit are not, we should be talking more about how dangerous this is for our
BELTRAN: Like, I think we forget sometimes how traumatic 2000 was
and the fact that -- you know, there was a real question of, is this a
legitimate president? Is this a legitimate election?
If we have a second election and we`ve had increasingly close
BELTRAN: -- you know, ever since 2000, if we have another election
and if people look and don`t think that we have elected the president
BELTRAN: -- that is a very scary thing for our country. That is
something we should be really alarmed by. Both parties should be really --
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re not talking birth certificates here. We`re
talking about counting votes. It`s exactly that topic that you have
brought us to, Cristina.
We`re going to come back and talk a little bit to Victoria as well
because, in fact, this question of how deep this is, how old this is, and
how potentially traumatic it is goes all the way back to our Constitution,
when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: The widespread attempts to rewrite the roles of
voting. We`ve seen in the last two years is possible, in part, because of
our Constitution. Not so much what it says, but what it doesn`t say. That
history has been detailed by one of my guests today, in a soon-to-be
released documentary, "Electoral Dysfunction".
You know, I love your book, "Electoral Dysfunction," from which the
documentary comes. And you talk very early on, on the text about Thomas
Payne who had his own traumatic experiences, as a founder of the American
system who nonetheless, in part because of our understanding of voting as a
people ends not being able to cast the vote in a very country that he is a
founder, that he found.
Is there something deeply embedded in who we are as Americans and
hope to explain what`s going on in our current voter suppression efforts?
BASSETTI: America has almost from the beginning had a complex
relationship to voting. When you think back to 1787, only wealthy white
men essentially could vote. There were few exceptions. A few states that,
for example, in New Jersey women for a short period of time were allowed to
vote in the late 18th century, but that quickly went away.
So, we`ve also had a real kind of internal fight. Is voting a right
or a privilege? No one doubts that we`re a democracy, but there`s a lot of
question about who should vote, who gets to vote, who were the right people
to vote, and we have struggled with it over the course of our entire
We`ve had civil wars. We`ve had massive social movements. We`ve had
the epic law making of the 1960s. And by the time the late 1970s rolled
around, it seem like we had reached an equilibrium of the respect for the
ideals of universal suffrage and widespread turnout as being necessary
through the modern democracy.
It feels like some of those old fights from the late 18th century and
the mid-19th century are reinserting themselves at this point of the game.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And I have to tell you, you know, it was part of
what the president was so incredibly genius at in 2008, was providing us
that long look of history in saying, yes, we started in a place of great
inequality, but we`re moving and have consistently move towards a space in
which our country is more and more fulfilling its democratic promise --
with a little D, not with a big D.
And so, so I think maybe that`s part of what feels so shocking that
then in the re-election bid of this president, you see this very narrative
that he trumpeted as being papered over by these new efforts?
ROUSSELL: Well, I think it is -- it never really -- it never really
went away. We started in 2008, but it was less so I think than we -- I
think people reacted in 2010 with Tea Party movement, and I think what you
see with the Tea Party Republicans and a lot of these districts and a lot
of these states is that this is how -- this is how they`re going to win,
and they don`t have a problem with that.
HARRIS-PERRY: And they`re very coordinated.
HARRIS-PERRY: You were talking in the break a bit about sort of the
-- there are clear figures that the GOPP has been supporting to do the work
of voter suppression.
ROUSSELL: Right. Like Nathan Sproul who has been a figure in voter
suppression activities since around 2004 and continues to be hired by
Republican campaigns. He was hired by John McCain in 2008. He received
$80,000 from the Romney campaign this time around, was hired by the RNC to
do voter registration in several states.
And there are allegations in Florida and a few other states that his
voter registration efforts were voter registration fraud. He is being
accused of voter registration fraud in at least three states.
HARRIS-PERRY: To the extent that there`s fraud in the system, it
appears to be being introduced by the very people who claim to be
legislating against it.
ROUSSELL: And all he does is change the name of his company. The
RNC -- actually it was reported that the RNC asked him to change the name
of his company because he had an image problem. He has been accused of
these types of activities for quite some time. And so, they`re just
papering over it.
BELTRAN: I think the parties should have a real conversation about
who do we think is part our polity. Because I think it`s a fundamental
question here sometimes. It`s like, do you think the homeless are part of
our polity? Do you think people -- can they vote? Do you think that the
very poor can vote?
I think underlying this whole debate often is when you`re not really
sure I think -- on the right, on the Tea Party side of things, I`m not
really sure they think those are citizens. Are they really members?
And if they`re not really members, they don`t deserve the right? And
when they do vote, that`s sketchy. There`s something sketchy about that.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s certainly right, the argument is former felons
don`t deserve the right of citizens anymore.
BASSETTI: Yes. America has -- like I said, we have these ethical
social movements, the civil rights movements, the women`s rights -- the
women voting movement, the women`s rights movements, and they seem -- we
seem to have reached this state of equilibrium, like I said in the 1970s,
and then yet after 2000, it seemed to begin to rollback. I mean, who are
we the people?
I think voter citizens are America`s and democracy`s most precious
natural resource. Yet, we`ve got this movement today that seems to be
treating substantial numbers of them with this vindictive, hostile
attitude. It`s a real turnoff.
HARRIS-PERRY: Victoria, really on that we leave. But I appreciate
you asking the question on exactly that way: who are we the people?
There are counter billboards to those voter suppressive billboards.
Billboards that say, "Stand up and have your say. Vote. You have the
right." It has a phone number there that you can call, and it is the
We are we the people.
Thank you, Victoria Bassetti.
The rest are back for more.
And coming up, now that we have celebrity chefs and celebrity
athletes and celebrity housewives, do we need to have celebrity teachers to
save our education system? That`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week, Democrats were cheered by President Obama`s
impressive debate performance. The swagger is back.
Once again, he was the charismatic high-achieving in the limelight
snatching it away from his challenger. Yay! But, frankly, good or bad
debate performance tells us very little about how either of these men will
actually perform in the White House. You see, inspiration and charisma do
matter, but too often, the attention paid to the single influential
individual obscures what it really takes to create systemic change.
The trap we sometimes fall into when we believe, for example, that
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was more important than the movement that
he led or act as though President Franklin Roosevelt was the sole architect
of the New Deal rather than an executive who worked along and in tandem
with a vigorous Congress -- that it is true in politics, but the thing is
it`s also true in problem solving, especially in something like education
reform. We still seem to be hoping that there is one silver bullet teacher
out there who has the antidote to our failing school system.
But does overreliance on that heroic panacea get in the way of
sustainable education reform? Instead of saving metropolis, we all end up
just waiting on Superman.
Joining my panel is, quote, "America`s most wanted educator" himself,
Dr. Steve Perry, host of TV One`s "Save My Son", and teacher and school
administrator for many years.
Steve, nice to have you at the panel.
STEVE PERRY, EDUCATOR: Thank you. Glad to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, I started by saying we have this
celebrity -- if there`s a celebrity teacher in America, it`s got to be you,
right? Like, and so that`s exactly why I wanted to have you here, is to
talk about how do we figure out on the one hand the role of an inspiring
figure that helps us to catalyze what we need to do, a Martin Luther King
Jr., a President Obama, a Steve Perry, and the systemic work they have to
do. The Affordable Care Act, the actual, you know, Civil Rights Act, the
work that has to be done in a school.
PERRY: Well, the systemic issue is the issue. One of the reasons
why our children are failing is not because they don`t have amazing popular
teachers or principals, but because the way the schools are designed,
they`re designed to fail. So, we keep getting failing schools. They`re
designed to insure that the only people who benefit from them are the
employees themselves as opposed to the children.
So, we continue to have conversations about teacher rights as opposed
to children`s rights, as opposed to parents` rights. The systemic issues
of what we need to focus on -- however, we can never overlook the impact of
inspiration. One person can decide to change their life simply because a
teacher says, you know, you`re smart.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. I mean, I have had those teachers, right, those
moments. But after my teacher said to me, you`re smart. Then there was --
there were some good classes that I could take and there was a safe
neighborhood for me to go home to, and there was plenty of nutritious
breakfast in the morning, right?
PERRY: Those are sometimes overstated, and I want to make that
clear. We`re not going to be able to move every kid out of the hood.
We`re not going to be able to move every kid out of a failed school system.
But we can find ways in which we can create systemic success within failing
Specifically, we know that if we attach teacher performance to their
ability to keep their job, based upon the way students perform on
standardized tests, we can begin to determine which teachers are most
effective. We can argue whether or not which tests we want them to use,
but at the end of the day, something has to measure whether or not a child
learned. We call -- every profession has its purpose. Teaching very
simply is to teach.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s talk a little bit about teachers because I heard
a couple of things as you were talking about. This one was the schools
serve the professionals rather than the students, and, look, in the
probably the thing we have talked most about around education this country
this year was the teacher strike in Chicago. What we heard from the
teachers in that moment was they were saying, this isn`t us versus our
students. This is us standing up for our students.
PERRY: Not true.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is us asking for the kinds of things that our
students need to be supported because, yes, you can make our school day
longer, but if you make it longer, we`re just warehousing them. We`re not
serving them longer where.
PERRY: They`re not fighting for children at all. In fact, they`re
fighting to make sure they can keep their jobs. They`re fighting to make
it harder for principals to let go failed teachers.
At the end of the day, everybody in the building knows who the worst
teachers are, yet, still, there`s this thin blue line where no one wants to
snitch on the bad teachers.
We all know who the bad teachers are. It`s possible to have bad
teachers and bad principals. What the unions often wish to do is to insure
that we can`t get to them.
So what happens is it takes a year or two or three or four to get rid
of one bad teacher.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yet, when we look -- you know, if I just sort of say,
OK, if you sell me the story that what a student needs -- all the student
needs is an inspirational teacher or great charismatic voice in the
classroom, the fact is, again, even if I get sort of an inspirational
narrative, if there aren`t the structures around me to provide me with
assessment that, in fact, I need eyeglasses or with an assessment that, in
fact, you know, I am dealing with kind of a post-traumatic stress disorder
of living in a poor neighborhood and I need a counselor to see on a regular
basis -- you know, I think it feels to me like that idea that there`s
teachers` interests and students` interests, and they`re counter to each
other strikes me as unproductive and systemic change.
PERRY: While it may seem at its core to be unproductive, it is
discourse, which is essential for us to begin to move forward, and at the
root of why we`re failing our children is because we`re focusing on the
wrong things. We do know how to run good schools. In fact, if we want to
study something, we should study whether water is wet or fire is hot.
We know how to run good schools, and the way in which we do that is
we look at successful schools. Successful schools are essentially run the
same. They find a way -- they don`t make the school smaller, but they make
them feel smaller. They have some sort of advisory system or something
like that. They just don`t have a longer day, but they have more effective
individuals teaching in those longer days.
See, when you hear the conversations especially in Chicago and places
like that around the rights of teachers, they do run counter to the rights
of children because at their core, at their core, the things that they say
they`re asking for like a smaller classroom, doesn`t in and of itself make
for a better academic experience. In fact, you could have a very small
classroom with a very bad teacher, and not learn any more.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, well, we have a lot to talk about on this, and
we`re going to come right back on this. We`re going to brought it up to
the rest of the panel because you and I fundamentally disagree despite
having the same last name -- OK -- when we`re back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEOFFREY CANADA, HARLEM CHILDREN`S ZONE: I was in the fourth grade,
but my mother -- I was, like, you know, mom, you think Superman -- she
said, Superman is not real. I was like, it`s not? What do you mean? No,
he`s not real. She thought I was crying because it`s like Santa Claus is
not real, and I was crying because there`s no one coming with enough power
to save us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem
Children`s Zone and a celebrity educator, setting the structure for the
2010 documentary "Waiting for Superman".
As much as we need fresh answers to the problems facing our national
education system, the question remains, could a superhero side reformed be
brought to the scale needed for all of our nation`s students?
All right. I want to open it up to the panel a bit, because there is
this question about, like, the inspirational Superman figure on the one
hand and the systemic change on the other.
And, Steve, I hear you saying, no, it`s not one or the other. It`s
that you put inspirational people in the classroom. But I -- you know, I`m
sort of interested. Where else the rest of the folks are on this?
ACHEN: We were a far better educated country than the rest of the
world 50 years ago, and most economists think that a large part of our
wealth and prosperity is due to that. That we invested in public education
from a much earlier time than most other countries did. And it is a
partnership between government initiatives of that kind and then private
sector that`s a big part of the economy. It`s that combination that works.
Not the other two.
That just isn`t working as well right now. We are not anything very
special anymore. I would like to hear some thoughts from Steve about that,
particularly how you reach the people whose incomes have stagnated in part
because they lack the education.
PERRY: Well, one of the reasons why the American conversation around
education is so important is because I spoke to the ACT, the people who run
that examination in Iowa last week, and they said 75 percent of all
children who took the ACT were not prepared for college.
We`re not talking about poor black kids in the hood. We`re not
talking about Chicago or New York or Hartford. We`re talking about
children, most of whom would be white and upper middle class who take the
ACT who are not prepared.
We have failed to educate our children in the United States of
America even to our own college system.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, Steve. Let me suggest -- let me ask you
this question, all right?
PERRY: All right.
HARRIS-PERRY: What if I go with you and I say, all right, teachers
are -- our current crop of teachers aren`t adequate to the task. They are
failing our students. Then I might say, well, why?
I mean, it could be because they just suck. They`re just bad people.
They don`t like students. They`re just, you know -- they`re incompetent or
incapable, or it could be -- I think this is -- so, in other words, I don`t
think most people think that.
But it could be also that we actively recruit not from the top of our
potential labor force into teaching, but somewhere from the middle to the
bottom of our potential labor force and that the main reason that the very
best students in the very best universities aren`t dying with a burning
hunger to go out to be public school teachers is because we pay them almost
PERRY: Not true.
HARRIS-PERRY: And now we are willing to say not only will you be
paid very little, you`ll have little job security as well. So, it feels
like if we`re on the same page and you need great inspirational teachers,
you know, we don`t have a problem recruiting lawyers in this country. We
don`t have a problem recruiting surgeons in this country because those are
PERRY: But we do. There are more teachers than there are surgeons.
So, the argument --
HARRIS-PERRY: No, the good quality ones. The good quality ones,
from the top --
PERRY: By numbers, we don`t have trouble if that`s your analysis.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, no, I`m talking about from the top. From the top.
PERRY: OK, let`s take -- I`ll follow you down on that argument.
PERRY: I`ll say this to you. The fact is that the conversation
around low teacher pay doesn`t take into consideration the facts. In a
town like Chicago, the per capita income or average income for a family in
the city is about forty-something thousand dollars. The starting pay for a
21-year-old teacher: $52,000, an eight months worth of work. I think
that`s doing all right.
HARRIS-PERRY: They don`t work just eight months.
PERRY: Yes, they do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Come on, you`re a teacher. No, no, but you understand
that just because you`re not in the classroom doesn`t mean that you`re not
working for your students.
PERRY: OK, most people would take that deal that I get three months
off during the summer to also work at my own pace with none of the people
who I`m supposed to be being paid to educate in the same place as me.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I`m a little surprised because you`re an educator.
My experience of being both myself an educator and the child of educators
isn`t that people are just sort of flaking off --
PERRY: Taking the summer off?
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s an easy job. Yes, no --
PERRY: If they weren`t doing that -- if that`s not what`s happening,
and people are working straight through the summer, then how do we keep
getting these results?
The fact is that we have found many schools throughout the United
States of America in some of the worst and best circumstances that are
performing. And one of the reasons why they`re doing that is because we
have first high expectations on the entire school. They have a very
Now, effective doesn`t mean necessarily coming in swashbuckling. It
may be a manager, because some schools only need a manager, whereas other
schools need someone to come in and gut the place. You get the right
leader for the right set of circumstances.
Let`s not overstate or understate the impact of inspiration. When I
hire teachers, what I want them to do is wow me. I want them to make me
want to sit and hear them because that`s really what we want children to
do. We want a child to be able to sit still and listen.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m a fan of a great teacher. I just think they ought
to have -- I think they ought to have -- be able to work just one job, not
have to work after school at a second job because they`re not being paid
enough, and I think that they should have some job security for being great
And I feel like the likelihood that you get that wow candidate is
much more likely to happen in circumstances where people have that kind of
ROUSSELL: I think I fall somewhere in the middle of you two. I
agree that teachers should be paid well to be good teachers, but the key
there is good teachers.
And I am the child of educators. I grew up in public schools. I
knew that there were bad teachers --
ROUSSELL: -- in my school who weren`t teaching.
ROUSSELL: They absolutely weren`t doing their jobs.
ROUSSELL: And my father was a school superintendent, and because
they were tenured, there was nothing he could do.
But my mother as a teacher and my mother is a good teacher, and I do
very much believe in unions and the ability to organize, and I believe that
there are very good teachers in these teachers unions who believe very much
in the success of their children.
ROUSSELL: So I think the key here is getting good pay for good
teachers and having the flexibility within the school system to make the
ROUSSELL: That`s why the president created Race to the Top to
inspire local communities to do what`s best in those local communities and
waive some of the really strict requirements of No Child Left Behind so
that systems could do what works best for them.
That`s also why the Department of Education created Promise
Neighborhoods based on the Geoffrey Canada model to address some of the
things you were talking about earlier, the broader set of issues that
affect children outside the school.
HARRIS-PERRY: Melanie, I love the idea that perhaps President Obama
is the peacemaker between Perrys all these questions today.
PERRY: This is what`s like in the Perry house typically.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right, that`s right.
So, more in just a moment. But, first, a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: All right. Thanks so much, Melissa.
I`m talking, everyone, to Los Angeles mayor and the chairman of the
Democratic Convention, Antonio Villaraigosa. Right now, he`s in Iowa. He
is campaigning for the president. We`re going to talk about the race and
how the Latino vote is playing out campaigning for the president.
Also, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, how`s he voting?
His support has gone back and forth over the years. So, we`ll ask him to
And network news anchor Carole Simpson. She moderated a town hall
debate just like last week`s. We`re going to talk with her about her
impression of what she expects on Monday night`s debate.
And in today`s office politics, we have our "MORNING JOE" team. Joe
is going to talk about life in Congress. Mika is going to share why she
thinks Joe is a savant. That should be interesting. And both will discuss
the future of "MORNING JOE".
And with that, I`ll send it back to you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks so much, Alex.
HARRIS-PERRY: In the next 17 days, we`re going to elect a president.
We`re going to have to start healing the divides that opened during our
election. We can learn something from our foot soldier, and that`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Our foot soldier this week is Father Michael Lapsley,
an Anglican priest and social justice activist who serves in South Africa.
As a young man, he was called to the priesthood, but he was not
particularly political. Then he found himself living in the midst of South
Africa`s apartheid regime.
He had a choice to make. And his was a choice to work toward
liberation. Father Michael was a chaplain for the African National
Congress and forced to live in exile for 16 years.
In 1990, his political efforts made him the target of a letter bomb.
He lost both of his hands and the use of one of his eyes.
But this did not deter him. He returned to South Africa two years
later and found, quote, "The nation was damaged by what we`d done, by what
had been done to us, and by what we`d failed to do."
Both Father Michael and South Africa needed to heal. And to help, he
created the Institute for Healing of Memories. The program focused first
on repairing damage done during apartheid in South Africa. In a sense
grown into a multinational initiative that addresses our collective, often
Here in the United States the institute holds weekend-long workshops
led by trained facilitators where participants share painful experiences in
a spiritual yet non-sectarian atmosphere of deep listening and mutual
Among others, Father Michael works with homeless veterans, female
survivors of abuse and prison inmates. And here is how Father Michael
describes his work in his own words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FATHER MICHAEL LAPSLEY, SOCIAL JUSTICE ACTIVIST: At some point in
everybody`s life, there`s some kind of trauma from which they need to heal.
But where people have been particularly oppressed, where people have gone
through situations of war or oppression, then there is an even greater need
for healing to take place.
And so, human beings everywhere need to find the way of detoxifying,
if you like vomiting out the poison of the things that have happened to
them so that they may indeed integrate into their lives what has happened
but also lead free, fulfilling and whole lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Key to the process for healing is creating a space in
which people interact with one another. And when it`s time to heal, we
must be able to tell our stories. But that`s only part of the process.
For healing to occur we must also be willing to listen, to bear witness to
others telling their stories, even when it`s painful, even when we feel
implicated in the suffering.
Sometimes the scar seems too big to fix. But Father Michael is not
afraid of big work. Honesty, consistency and love are the first steps to
the healing of even the deepest wounds. For reminding us that the bigger
the gap, the more important it is to try to bridge the divide, Father
Michael Lapsley is our foot soldier of the week.
And to read our full interview with Father Michael, check out our
blog at MHP.com.
And that is our show for today. Thank you to Cristina, Steve,
Christopher and Melanie for sticking around.
Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going to see you tomorrow
morning 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Coming up right now, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".
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