November 10, 2012
Guests: Laura Flanders, Wade Henderson, Nancy Giles, Randi Weingarten
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning. I`m Melissa
Harris-Perry. You already know the big news of the week. On Tuesday
night, Barack Obama was once again elected president of the United States.
But this year`s party in Chicago had nothing on 2008. Back then, more than
a quarter million people crowded into Grant Park.
Mother Nature even seemed sure of the outcome, offering up an
unbelievably warm 60 degree Chicago night. And the place was crowded with
more black VIPs than the Essence Music Festival.
This year was more modest, a single podium draped with a touch of
bunting. A far more typical cold, gray November day greeted the just about
10,000 supporters who found their way into Chicago`s unremarkable McKormack
Place Convention Center.
There was plenty of enthusiasm, hugging, dancing. But the tears were
more from relief than from inspired awe.
But be careful. Because if you decode this election night on the
optics alone, you will believe them to be more different than they really
are. Despite a two-year halt in legislative accomplishments, brought on by
a recalcitrant Republican party, an anemic economy, whose recovery is sure
but painfully slow, and a bruising campaign that lacked the historical
fervor of the first, President Obama nonetheless won re-election with
nearly every state he initially won four years ago.
And while turnout was down nationally over the past election, it
wasn`t fueled by an Obama enthusiasm decline. His core supporters surged
in several key demographics and in the battleground states. And something
else was remarkably similar, the man who was elected president. The rock
solid steadiness of No Drama Obama is best exemplified in his two
In 2008, President Elect Barack Obama stood before hundreds of
thousands and gave a speech that began with recognizing history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s been a long time
coming, but tonight because of what we did on this day, in this election,
at this defining moment, change has come to America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: He graciously responded to the campaign of his
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Senator McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he
has fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: He sketched a governing agenda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There`s new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new
schools to build and threats to meet, alliances to repair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And he was infused at every step with a deep sense of
national unity borne from the creative possibility of diversity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So let us summit a new spirit of patriotism, of
responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and
look after not only ourselves but each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In 2012, President Obama followed the same pattern. He
once again rooted the moment in American history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Tonight more than 200 years after a former colony won the
right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Once again, he thanked his opponent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: For George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has
chosen to give back to America through public service. And that is the
legacy that we honor and applaud tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: He gave us the outline of an agenda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our
immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We`ve got more
work to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And once again, the entire speech was crafted to
reflect the national motto of e pluribus Unum, out of many, one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitious. And
we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and
forever will be the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So steady and familiar was the president`s acceptance
that if Malia weren`t two feet taller than during the last election night,
a viewer might have felt that he traveled back in time. This similarity,
dear nerd land, is illustrative of an argument I`ve repeatedly made about
By my reading, President Obama is a procedural Democrat. He has a
deep and abiding faith in the processes of democracy. And it`s on these
processes, on these ways of engaging that he rests his fait in our ability,
in our system`s capacity to eventually reach just and fair outcomes.
The president fully understands that ours is a history riddled with
inequality, injustice and strife. But he believes we can be perfected
through engaging, individually and collectively, in public life.
For the president, the health of the union is measured in the health
of democratic institutions, the openness of the franchise, the quality of
deliberation, the degree of transparency, and the mechanisms for
Now this is different than leaders who are most interested in ends,
policy ideologues. They insist most vehemently on the ends they want to
achieve. And then they work backwards to craft a strategies that meets
those goals. These too can be great leaders.
But for a process president, the means are the ends. On Tuesday night
President Obama spent the bulk of his speech praising not the outcome of
the election, but the process by which it was achieved: active
participation by citizens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I want to thank every American who participated in this
OBAMA: Whether you voted for the very first time --
OBAMA: -- or waited in line for a very long time.
By the way, we have to fix that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Did you catch that? The thing that needs to be fixed?
The quality of the process. Now the pundits have spent the latter half of
this week dissecting what signals the American people were sending on
Tuesday night. But determining the will, the corrective will of more than
120 million people is complicated.
Ascertaining the inclinations of a man as consistent as President
Barack Obama is somewhat more straightforward. By giving such parallel
speeches in response to both of his victories, President Obama offers us
tremendous insight into who he is as a president. He is a man who
understands his place in history, refuses to vilify his opponents, knows
that his individual success is a result of collective work of family and
staff and volunteers, has an agenda, but will always pursue that agenda
within the constraints of a democratic process that honors diverse
Now this commitment to process means that the left will soon be
irritated that he is not brave enough. And the right will soon seek to
exploit his commitment to process by using the institutions that they
control to block his way. But even for those looming likelihoods, the
president has a response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The roll of citizen in our democracy does not end with your
vote. America`s never been about what can be done for us. It`s about what
can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary
work of self-government. That`s the principle we were founded on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: With me are Steve Kornacki, MSNBC host of "THE CYCLE"
and a senior writer for Salon.com, and Wade Henderson, president and CEO of
the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
It`s so lovely to have you both here on this first nerd land after the
election. Wade, do you think I have that right? Is this a president
fundamentally interested in process?
WADE HENDERSON, THE LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE: Melissa, I think you have
it right. And I think that was a great introduction to what is truly an
historic and game-changing election. Before we talk about process though,
let me just say three things.
First of all, as important as the first Obama election was
historically, this is almost as equally important.
HENDERSON: Because it validated his presidency. It preserved his
signature legislative accomplishment of the Affordable Health Care Act. It
also repudiated the importance of money, the super PACs in the process.
And it showed that the overreach with respect to voter suppression didn`t
pay off. It actually galvanized our community and we came out strong.
And then thirdly, it really helped to set the agenda for the future.
I think this guy has done an incredible job. And we should give him credit
for having run the smarter of the two campaigns. But he helped rewrite the
political makeup of a successful campaign. He exposed how America has
HENDERSON: So I think you`re absolutely right. And I think one of
the things that he has done -- in the past -- he`s the only president who
faced the challenge of an entrenched opposition that was prepared to
elevate partisan interest over national interest. And I think the debt
ceiling debacle was a reflection of that.
So he has had to walk a really delicate line between being overly
aggressive and overly assertive, which many presidents have done and would
not have gotten him the Affordable Care Act, had he done so, but at the
same time to steer the direction and the discussion in a way that allowed
people to see him as the president of all America.
HARRIS-PERRY: Steve, as I was thinking through this notion of the
president as a process president, I was thinking about the health care town
halls. On the one hand, this Republican narrative emerged that he rammed
through partisan legislation. But I kept thinking, well, part of why it
ended up being sort of a soft act and not sort of single payer is because
he was committed to process. Is that the sort of thing that we can expect
in the second term as well?
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Yes. Well, I guess the first test of
it is going to be on this whole -- the term everybody uses is fiscal cliff.
I say call it the gradual fiscal slope. But that`s a whole other thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: I like that.
KORNACKI: But I mean, this is sort of a test of it I think. Because
the Republicans came out after the election, John Boehner and Mitch
McConnell, and basically said, on taxes nothing has changed. The
Republican party position for the last two decades of no rate increase for
anybody, especially the rich, period, under any circumstances, stands.
Obama came out yesterday and said his bottom line on this is that the
Bush tax cuts for the top two percent have to go. Let`s see how these
negotiations play out. But I really think we`re going to get to the end of
December with this deadline approaching, and the Republicans basically
making the bet that they don`t have to budge and that they can blame Obama
if we go over this cliff.
I`m curious. I don`t know what he`s going to do. I`m really curious
to see how that plays out.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s fascinating to see what he looks like as a second
term president. We`re going to stay on exactly this issue. We`re going to
bring a couple more voices into the table because I want to see what
President Obama`s tears meant for us this week. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: -- you guys have done means that the work that I`m doing is
important. I`m really proud of that. I`m really proud of all of you. And
((END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That moment was from President Obama`s emotional speech
to his Chicago campaign staff the day after he was re-elected. We`re still
here talking about President Obama`s passion for the process.
Joining our panel are attorney Raul Reyes, an NBC Latino contributor,
ad Nancy Giles, a writer, comedian and social commentator.
So Raul, when I saw the president choke up about that -- and he had
also gotten emotional the day before the election talking about the fired
up and ready to go, a volunteer who chose not to come to Chicago that night
so she could stay and organize. I was like, that`s it. That`s the
What he cares about isn`t -- certainly he cares about his domestic
accomplishments, but he got emotional about the idea that he has inspired a
group of activists to go out and be part of the process.
RAUL REYES, ATTORNEY: Right. And you know, people at that level --
at that level in politics are under so much pressure to keep a certain
amount of their personality in check, to keep themselves -- to moderate
themselves. But those moments, when you see the tear or when he really
connects with people, that`s what draws people in. That`s what reminds
people of this long journey that he`s been on, that he`s had these
I found that -- watching that myself very moving. It`s almost
profound, because it reminds you, at this level, you don`t get to that
level without people waking up early on Saturday and going and annoying
people by knocking on doors. That is beautiful. That is wonderful raw
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s like the inverse of the 47 percent video, right?
When you get to see someone with their defenses down, what story do they
tell you about themselves?
NANCY GILES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Isn`t that amazing. It`s so true.
Because there you see the core of who the man. And what struck me after
those two appearances where you saw him cry was there were some
commentators that were like, this is a side of Obama we`ve never seen
before. He`s so sensitive.
And I`m like, what are you talking about? I have only seen the heart
and the thoughtfulness. And my best friend Portia, whenever she sees him,
she`s sobbing. She -- we cry all the time. Or she cries for me. Because
I have to just say, there is still this visceral reaction -- I could do it
now -- to see him up there, and especially in those two moments, after the
pressure he`s been under. It blows my mind how many lives he`s touched,
including mine, and the kind of pressure that he`s under. I love those
moments. I loved it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yet we know that this -- for me, part of it is the
embodiment of the American state within a black body, all of the things
that he represents. But I also think it shows up in his governing. So
Steve, before the break, you were talking about sort of the fiscal cliff or
the fiscal slide. And Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman this week said go on
over that cliff.
I`m thinking, is that the guy who this president is? It always feels
to me like he`s so interested in deliberation that he wouldn`t just sort of
drive us off the cliff.
KORNACKI: I don`t think that`s the president he wanted to be when he
was elected in 2008. And it`s not the president he governed as from
January 2009 until I would say August 2011. He tried to be sort of a
compromising, incrementalist for all that time, really did try to get
Republicans to help with health care, to help with the stimulus, all of
these things, all the way to doing the grand bargain -- the attempt at the
grand bargain with John Boehner.
He thought he was going to get that. I think when Boehner pulled
back, when Boehner could not deliver a single really Republican vote for a
tax hike, I think that was instructive for Obama, that these guys are just
never going to cooperate with me, particularly on taxes.
And there was a much more populist tone to Obama`s economic message
from that point forward. He put the American Jobs Act out. And so I think
this -- my guess -- and this is a guess, but my guess is this really is a
bottom line issue to him. It bothers him that the Republicans forced him
to extend the Bush tax rates in 2010. It really bothers him how they
behaved with the debt ceiling.
And he looks at this as it`s not going to happen again. And if I have
to go past January 1st, I`ll have leverage because all the tax hikes -- all
the tax cuts will go away then, and I can propose the Obama tax cut for 98
percent of Americans.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting, Wade, because it feels like there is
one other place where as much as I really buy that the president is a
process president, and would argue for it on domestic politics, he is sort
of a different duck in the foreign policy land. Like -- in fact, I think
many liberals would have a critique of some of his lack of process in some
of the foreign policy stuff.
Is part of what Steve`s saying, that the recalcitrance of the
Republican House might bring out that aspect of President Obama?
HENDERSON: Well, I think there are two things. First, I think Steve
is absolutely correct. The Republicans forced his hand. And by showing
that they were going to be entrenched opposition that could not be reformed
or changed, he had to assert himself eventually. The debt ceiling debacle
was the place where it all came together, because I think the country saw
how the resistance would not move. And his progressive allies were
profoundly disappointed that he was, in fact, rolled by the Republicans on
So I think in the foreign policy realm, he was determined to show that
as a Democratic president, he could be strong. And obviously his effort to
get Osama bin Laden was a big piece of that. But his policy towards Syria,
his policy toward the Iraq War, his effort with Afghanistan was all
designed to blunt that effort.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s true.
HENDERSON: I think, though, as much as he is committed to process, he
is also committed to an outcome that means a lot to people. So he`s now
dedicated obviously to addressing the jobs crisis. It`s profound. He
wants comprehensive immigration reform and he knows he has a mandate now to
The rights of women to protect their own bodies, this issue has now
been elevated to the point of real political asset for him.
GILES: He connects it to his daughter and his wife and his family.
It`s such a strong thing. Can I just say, because this has really bothered
me, that right after he did his acceptance speech, he called John Boehner
and he called Mitch McConnell and they were asleep and wouldn`t come to the
HARRIS-PERRY: That was kind of crazy.
GILES: I don`t want to rush by that, because that is completely
unacceptable and disrespectful. They would never do that to Bill Clinton.
What if he was calling to say the bomb has been dropped. What?
HARRIS-PERRY: I got to say, both in the way that he talked about
McCain and in the way that he talked about Romney -- and one of the things
I loved about what he said about Romney was he drew it in as a whole
family, talked about George Romney, Lenore Romney.
GILES: So classy.
HARRIS-PERRY: It really was, I thought. And it forced that crowd to
applaud Mitt Romney, which for me is part of the process. You have to knit
everybody back together.
I promise, we`re going to stay on process and specifically on the
process of how we got here, in other words, through voting. How do we keep
voter suppression and gerrymandering on the agenda even after the win?
HARRIS-PERRY: As we look ahead to the beginning of a continuing
administration for President Barack Obama, we have a reminder of why a
president`s legacy looms so much larger than a four or even eight-year
term. Yesterday, the Supreme Court announced that the Voting Rights Act
and specifically Section 5 of the act is in its cross hairs.
Section 5 required mostly southern states with a history of
disenfranchising voters to get federal pre-clearance before they can make
any changes in their voting laws. That`s anything from redrawing
Congressional districts to moving polling locations.
In this year`s election, Section 5 was the shield that the Justice
Department used to defend democracy against voter suppression in those
southern states that tried to implement new laws. Now it`s up for
So if this is a process president and one who`s also a Constitutional
scholar, how do we keep -- despite the Obama win, how do we keep voter
suppression and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act on the agenda for the
HENDERSON: Yesterday`s decision by the Supreme Court was a troubling
indication of why the Supreme Court and judicial appointments are so
important. So we`re glad that he won.
HENDERSON: But certainly the election also showed that voter
suppression, voter intimidation, barriers to the electoral process are
alive and well. We saw it in Florida. We saw it in Ohio. We saw it in
Pennsylvania. So if ever there were a need to justify why having
interventions like the Voting Rights Act and other laws are in place, we
I think there is now clearly an emerging consensus. How extensive it
is, we don`t know. But I think both Republicans and Democrats saw those
eight hour lines, they said you can`t have this in Kabul and Baghdad. And
now you have it in the United States. We have to address that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask this. Much of it was not happening in the
south. Some of it was. It was happening in pre-clearance states. But a
lot of this was happening in states that aren`t pre-clearance. Is that
exactly the reason to do away with pre-clearance and say, well, you know,
if it`s happening in Ohio and Pennsylvania?
REYES: No, absolutely not. I think that this president absolutely
has to use the bully pulpit, just to an extent -- he`s a former Con law
professor -- to explain to the country why this is so vital and important.
Because so many people, when they hear things about Supreme Court cases and
illegal things, they just kind of check out.
GILES: They glaze over.
REYES: This is something that affects everyone. It affects women.
It disproportionately affects people of color. I always tell people, this
is a case of like a parent and a child. If the child acts up and lies and
misbehaves constantly, the next time the child comes to the parent, the
parent is going to monitor everything he does.
That`s what this case with the voting rights is about. These are
states that have a very shameful, very unfortunate legacy of trampling on
the Voter Rights Act. And the fact that it`s happening in the other states
doesn`t meant hat you --
GILES: I have to say, also, doing things like having this
conversation and coming from people who can break down what the laws are,
how they affect people. I always questioned why voting had to be a state`s
right matter anyway.
GILES: Even before all the suppression. I always wondered why aren`t
voting hours, especially for presidential elections, uniform. Why isn`t
the ballot the same?
HARRIS-PERRY: You know the answer to that. The answer to that
question is that, of course -- speaking of process, our country is the
grand compromise between slave states and free states. Right? We`re still
dealing with the legacy.
KORNACKI: In the wake of the 2000 election, we did have the Help
America Vote Act. I do sense there is a moment here. I don`t think the
Republican party is going to reinvent itself overnight. I think it`s going
to be an ugly, long and drawn out evolution for the party after this
But I think I`m already detecting when it comes to immigration a sense
of urgency amongst some Republican leaders that was never there before
about this basic demographic reality. The way it sort of works for our
party right now is untenable going forward.
So I think there might be a window there for maybe more federal
standards about like voting machines per capita.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you one other aspect about this, because we
talked a lot about voter suppression, but less about partisan
gerrymandering, which is perfectly legal. Yes. So look at Ohio. That`s
Ohio District 9, right? You can see obviously by the way it`s shaped that
it`s one of these sort of insane gerrymandered districts.
When you look at the vote totals, Democrats running for the U.S. House
of Representatives received more votes overall on Tuesday night than
Republicans running. But republicans very much held their seats in part
because in 2010 -- elections have consequences -- you have decentennial
census. You had partisan gerrymandering. Anyway that we get that on the
REYES: That has to be I think a state level thing. So you have Iowa
right now does the total nonpartisan legislative. California had the new
system that went in place this year. It looks like Democrats actually are
going to make gains in California, or could make gains in California.
But I think that`s something that has to come at the state level.
Look at the -- the perfect illustration of the consequence of 2010 is
Pennsylvania, a state that Obama won by I think five points, comfortable
that Democrats have won it since after 1988. I think the delegation of
Pennsylvania is going to be like 13 to 5 Republican coming out of the --
HARRIS-PERRY: Because they drew those districts.
GILES: I`m sorry, it just brings it back to the fact that all
politics are local. If I ever learned anything before, I`ve learned that
about this presidency and how it`s not just one man that can do things. We
have to really pay attention.
GILES: People don`t.
HENDERSON: I think our chances of getting universal registration,
same day voter registration are far better than ending the problem of
gerrymandering, which Steve is right, is at the state level. Look,
Democrats in the House won by over 500,000 votes, in comparison to their
Republican counterparts, and yet they only picked up eight seats. I can
assure you they`ll fight that.
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come up next, I`ve got a letter. You all know
you love my mailbag. My letter today to Ohio`s John Husted. Stay with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: Given all of the focus on Ohio this past Tuesday and
then the results, I felt like my letter this week just had to go to one
particular Buckeye. Dear Secretary Husted, it`s me, Melissa. Can I call
How you feeling today? Still a little sore, I`d imagine. Getting
beaten so forcefully with all that backlash had to sting a bit. Probably
going to leave a mark. After all, you spent the better part of this year
throwing the full force of your power as secretary of state into
restricting the right of some Ohioans to vote.
And on Tuesday it boomeranged back up side your head something fierce.
After Ohio Governor John Kasich and state Republican legislators tried to
restrict early voting the weekend before the election, President Obama`s
campaign sued to restore early voting for all Ohioans.
When a district judge agreed with the Obama campaign, you gave us the
first indication of just how far you`d go to stop people from voting. Not
only did you appeal that decision, you also ordered county election boards
to defy the judge`s order and not restore the early hours. Fortunately,
that judge called your bluff and ordered you into court to explain
You backed down rather than go before the judge. Maybe because you
thought you`d have better luck with the appeals court. But no, they, too,
agree that Ohioans should be allowed to vote the weekend before election
day. So what did you do? You appealed again, this time to the Supreme
Court, who promptly shut you down with a one sentence statement from
Justice Elana Kagan.
But John, I`ll give you this: you are nothing if not persistent,
because denied of all your attempts to limit the days, you limited the
hours. You shortened the time available to vote last weekend, compared to
the same weekend in 2008.
You`ve been a busy guy, John. Between all that time spent trying to
block voting on the weekend before election day, you somehow managed to
eliminate early voting on all other weekends where it had been previously
allowed, and fired two Democratic election board members who tried to
permit it. With only four days to go until election day, you attempted to
twist the knife one last time.
Last Friday, you issued a directive in opposition to Ohio election
statutes to put the burden on voters for mistakes written on provisional
ballot forms, all but ensuring that some of them would get thrown out.
Once again, the courts will not be fooled by your shenanigans.
In a hearing disputing your directive on Wednesday, a federal judge
said that, quote, "it was filed on a Friday night at 7:00 p.m. The first
thought that came to mind was democracy dies in the dark. So when you do
things like that that seeks to avoid transparency, it appears then -- that
gives me great pause, but even greater concern."
The voters response to your tactics, not only did African-American
voters not get suppressed, we turned out in historic numbers. In Ohio,
African-Americans comprised 15 percent of the electorate. That is up from
11 percent in 2008 and nearly 200,000 more votes. Latino voters also
turned out in larger numbers and made an even stronger showing for
President Obama than in 2008.
That`s all despite the long lines that wrapped around blocks and hours
long waits in frigid temperatures to vote. Because you see, John, those
voters that you tried to suppress have a long memory. They remember when
people like them faced literacy tests and poll taxes and arrests and
beating and lynching and burnings and shootings all in the pursuit of the
right to vote. So they would not be deterred by a lack of patience and an
And they would certainly not be deterred by you. And John, there is
something else you should know about the memory of those voters. In 2014
when you`re up for re-election, they`re also going to remember what you
tried to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me say this slowly to make sure it sinks in: 88
percent of the people who voted for Mitt Romney were white, 88 percent.
Only 56 percent of President Obama`s electorate was white. And yet
President Obama won. Mitt Romney lost.
There is a new electoral math in America. And in the past, if you got
only 43 and 39 percent of the white vote in two straight elections, odds
were you were going to walk away a loser twice. But for President Barack
Obama in 2008 and 2012 respectively, those percentages were enough.
Because as you can see here, the impact of the white electorate has
been on a steep decline. In 1980, the portion of the electorate that was
white was nearly 90 percent. In this week`s election, it was a mere 72
percent. When President Obama wins 93 percent of the African-American
vote, 71 percent of the Latino vote and 73 percent of the very broad group
that constitutes the Asian-American vote, given the increased proportion of
the electorate that those groups represent, his was a coalition that won
So we know that these minority groups will only continue to grow until
people of color in the United States are the majority. The demographics --
demographics are not electoral destiny. Which is more important, that
there are more diverse citizens participating in the electorate, that these
voters have a more diverse array of candidates with appealing policies from
which to choose?
It`s all very complicated. Joining me now to answer all those
questions again, Steve Kornacki, Wade Henderson, Raul Reyes and Nancy
Giles. All right, I think that the news of the demise of the white man is
vastly overstated. Am I -- it`s been a weird couple of days.
GILES: It`s been weird to watch white people report on this. I`m not
trying to -- you know when you just showed that graph of the decline of the
numbers, I thought maybe that`s why they`re trying to eliminate all these
abortions. They`re trying to build up the race. Maybe.
HARRIS-PERRY: There is always eugenics associated with these
GILES: How crazy. I`ll tell you one thing in the whole thing that
did bug me. And I`m looking at you because I don`t want you to be
offended. The constant talk about the GOP reaching out to Latinos,
Latinos, Latinos, Latinos. Nothing mentioned about African-Americans.
Latinos. Why even bother? Why even try?
HARRIS-PERRY: It does feel like -- part of it is because it`s been a
long time since 40 percent of the black vote went over to the GOP. But
Latino voters under George W. Bush gave President Bush 40 percent of the
REYES: Right. The funny thing -- first of all, I have to say this.
This was a really good week to be Latino. I`m not just saying that because
President Obama was re-elected. Really for two generations, Hispanic
voters have been the sleeping giant. And people always wonder why we don`t
show up in proportionate numbers at the polls. Where were we? That`s
always been a nagging question.
For so many people, Republicans and Democrats alike who are Latino, we
finally feel like, all right, we are fully engaged in the civic process.
There`s tremendous pride in our community just for that alone. But, you
know, with the Republicans are already talking now about all this Hispanic
outreach and reaching out to Latinos. But what they don`t realize, they`re
focused on their messaging and toning down the debate. It`s not the
GILES: It`s the policy.
REYES: Right. Their messaging was loud and clear. We know what
their messages are and people rejected it. Now their Plan B, which they
are going to, is promoting candidates such as Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and
saying, OK, now we`re going to dress up these policies that no one likes
with a brown face. That`s still not going to work, because Latino voters
vote policy. We do not vote for co-ethnic.
KORNACKI: I`m fascinated. It`s interesting the difference between
the black and Latino vote and how it`s being treated this week. It`s a
very rough parallel, but I think the relationship with Latino voters and
the Republican party right now is about where the relationship of black
voters and the Republican party was around 1964.
KORNACKI: The Republican party was historically the home of black
voters during Reconstruction and all of that. And what happened was
Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater, the anti-civil rights senator, LBJ
signed civil rights. And there was this big shift.
But now the Republican party learned in the wake of that, we can never
be officially anti-civil rights as a matter of platform again. So Richard
Nixon was pro-civil rights and all that. But they did then was it was the
southern strategy and these northern white ethnics. We`re going to subtly
stoke resentment among --
KORNACKI: Crime, welfare.
GILES: And we remember still.
KORNACKI: So the result is since 1964, there hasn`t been an election
when the Democratic party has got less than 80 percent of the black vote.
So the question to me is, yes, I think Republicans are probably in the next
year or so going to line up as a party behind comprehensive immigration
reform. That will not solve it. That would be like the Republicans after
`64 saying we`re for civil rights now.
The question is does the tone of the message change in a way it didn`t
with Republicans and black voters after 1964?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, but I -- there`s a weird thing that`s going on.
At least it feels like it`s going on in so much of the punditry since the
election. It feels like there`s this white folks are done. The cover of
the "Newsweek "-- on the one hand, it shows the president represented as a
Napoleon figure. But at the top, if you can see there, it says, "you`re
old, you`re white, you`re history," right at the top.
I`m thinking, actually, no, if you`re old and white, you also probably
control most of the economic resources. You have a longer life span. You
have better health. Your children are likely to be in better schools. I
think we have to be really careful not to assume that being part of a
multi-racial winning electoral coalition necessarily means that with it
goes all of the other goodies of democracy.
HENDERSON: I think you`re absolutely right that the idea of the white
vote demise is vastly overstated.
HARRIS-PERRY: Have you seen the Senate?
HENDERSON: Right. We`ve seen that. Thank you. Let`s also
acknowledge the fact that, look, obviously it`s not just about
demographics. It`s about policy. I think Steve highlighted the
relationship between the Republican party and the African-American
But I think going forward, the question is going to be what kinds of
policies will both the president and the Republican party embrace.
Certainly comprehensive immigration reform is needed.
I found the interesting statistic, though, to be the Asian-American
HENDERSON: Because the Asian-American community doesn`t have the
homogeneity, the cohesion that people have talked about. You`re talking
about South Asians. You`re talking about Vietnamese and others. The fact
that they gave 73 percent of their vote to the Obama presidency tells you
that it really is about policies and not about demographics alone.
They are the community that is most likely, it would seem, to align
with the Republican party because of their economic interests.
HARRIS-PERRY: When you have -- I can certainly see if you`re East
Asian, sort of the rhetoric of Romney on China, the whole shooting that
happened at the Sheik Temple and, of course, George Allen back on the
Virginia ballot, all of that has a force for South Asians as well.
Coming up, we`re going to stay on this topic. But I want to talk a
little bit about a kind of old racial cleavage, that black/white one.
Because yes, something happened at Ole Miss. Yes, some people said the N
Word. But no, it was not a race riot. How it`s the same but very, very
different when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Since the president`s re-election, we`ve read ugly
Tweets, heard ugly sound bites and seen some ugly behavior. One incident
of particular concern occurred at the University of Mississippi, known as
According to the student newspaper, "The Daily Mississippian," on
Tuesday night, hundreds of Ole Miss students exchanged racial epithets and
violent politicized charges in response to the announcement of President
It was 50 years ago last month that lethal riots broke out at Ole Miss
when the university admitted James Meredith as its first black student.
This thing that happened Tuesday night wasn`t that.
But it does speak to a need for more sophisticated racial
conversation, one in which we don`t assume that the entire south is full of
unreconstructed white racists, but in which we also don`t assume that the
south is entirely out of reach for this new multi-racial coalition.
So, you know, I live in Louisiana. I kind of always hate the like,
oh, look the racists have shown up in Mississippi. You know, because Ole
Miss, on the one hand, yes, this is happening. Ole Miss also elected its
first black homecoming queen this year, right?
So, yes, you have the James Meredith moment, but then you also have
the -- there she is. There`s Ole Miss`s homecoming queen this year, right?
So I want to peg this and say, yes, this is ugly. But I also want to be
like it`s sort of not that big of a deal in other ways.
HENDERSON: But you`re very right, Melissa. Look, racial bias is not
a geographically specific problem, OK? So it`s not limited to the south.
You talked earlier about lines that were barriers to voting in Ohio, in
Pennsylvania, other parts of the country. That happens.
Fifty years ago, James Meredith integrated Ole Miss and began a
revolution in higher education for people of color. One hundred and fifty
years ago, we celebrated or commemorated the Emancipation Proclamation. A
lot has changed in our country. And we need to recognize.
At the same time, we need to recognize that more change is need. It`s
slow. It requires public education. It requires leadership from the top.
We`re not getting that from many of our elected leaders.
Obviously, President Obama is unique. But you don`t see that at the
state and local level, which is really where it`s most important.
HARRIS-PERRY: But what I love is that President Obama isn`t quite as
unique or like all by himself as he was. I love the "Business Week"
article this week says that come January, women and minorities, for the
first time in U.S. history, will hold a majority of the party -- this is
the Democratic party -- House seats.
So a minority of House Democrats are white men. This ain`t 50 years
REYES: The flip side of that is the House Republicans are still 91
percent white men. I agree with what you`re saying, that not all southern
people are racist and -- but we do need more, you know, leadership. Yet we
are in a position where people who are driving the discussion at the
national level, people like John Sununu, are out there talking about the
Food Stamp President, calling him lazy and throwing out not even racial
coding but sometimes very blatant assertions on people.
And this past election and this election cycle, we have heard so much
of the we have to take our country back, that mantra. What I really
believe in going forward for the Republicans, what they need to do, they
need to take their party back. They need to reclaim their party from these
fringe elements, from the extreme right wing, who have gone to the center
and are driving their party. Because otherwise, they won`t have a future.
And many of those people who in a different time would have been
considered nuts, fringe elements, they are front and center. That`s very
dangerous to the public discourse.
HARRIS-PERRY: I like that so much, that like rather than focusing on
a group of teenagers who are Tweeting -- Jezebel, which is a site that I
love and read regularly. But they did this whole kind of expose on a bunch
of teenagers in high schools who were Tweeting racist Tweets about the
president. I just kept thinking, but yes, focus on John Sununu. Focus on
those who are in power.
GILES: Also have a real conversation when that kind of thing happens.
Don`t keep saying, as a lot of people do, let`s not talk about the race
thing. It`s not racist. It`s other things. Because when John Sununu said
the only reason Colin Powell supported President Obama is because -- and
then he kind of -- this cultural -- well, Colin Powell actually worked for
a white Republican guy, remember? And Colin Powell didn`t support Herman
GILES: The thing I loved about Colin Powell, and getting back to your
point about the Republicans taking the party back, they need more people
like Colin Powell. They need thoughtful people that will make the entire
REYES: And the older generation has to get with it. Excuse me.
Remember when we talked about George Will, who said the only reason that
Obama is going to get re-elected is because he`s black. Like, oh man, he`s
got it made. He`s African-American. Who thinks that? He is a respected
HARRIS-PERRY: I`ll give you the last word, our last 30 seconds.
KORNACKI: Yes, I just -- depending on where you look in this country,
you can get really encouraging or really depressing sort of demographic
lessons. You talked about Mississippi. What bothers me there is the
partisan polarization is almost entirely on racial lines in Mississippi
now. You talk about Obama getting 39 percent of the white vote nationally,
less than 10 percent in Mississippi.
But the flip side is I was in northern Virginia on election day,
Prince William County, and it felt like I was seeing the future. It`s a
majority minority county. But what you don`t -- it`s completely integrated
economically. You go through these neighborhoods and there`s Asians in
this house. There`s blacks in this house. There`s whites in this house.
The growth there is explosive. And that`s the future.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that. Steve, thank you for joining us. I`ll
tell you, you want to put Mississippi in play, you end lifetime felony
disenfranchisement. And the next thing you know, Mississippi is in play.
Thank you to Steve Kornacki. And the rest of us are back for more in
our next hour. Coming up, stronger unions, the legal use of marijuana,
same-sex marriages -- ha ha -- it was a liberal party Tuesday night.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: Welcome back to the second hour of MHP.
I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
On Election Day, we saw some big time muscle-flexing and it wasn`t
just by President Obama. Oh, no, my friends, it was as if the left wing of
the Democratic Party felt the steel, dropped down its notoriously jelly-
like spine and won several major victories in the form of ballot
initiatives for the liberal agenda.
Teachers unions racked up victories in Indiana, Florida, and South
Dakota with the ousting of a Republican superintendent, fighting off
vouchers and by defeating laws and measures that would have taken away
their bargaining power.
If they stick, the state of Washington and Colorado may become some
of our more popular tourist destination as both passed initiatives to
legalize recreational marijuana use, although it remains to be seen if they
face resistance from the Justice Department.
While Minnesota defeated a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage,
Maine, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. passed ballot initiatives which now
allow same sex couples to marry. Excuse me, Washington. And they join the
six states and the District of Columbia that have already passed such
So, what can these victories teach us about the larger Democratic
For one, it tells us there is a little power in the left wing of the
Democratic base. And while they may not have won everything, small
victories can add up to major change. But I think it also tells us that we
need to be a little careful because, for example, people having the right
to marry whomever they want is a fantastic step in the right direction, but
I submit having the civil rights of anybody on the ballot is a cause of
At the table, Laura Flanders, author of "Blue Grit"; Wade Henderson,
president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights,
attorney Raul Reyes, an NBC Latino contributor, and Nancy Giles, a writer,
social commentator and one of my favorite people at the Nerdland table.
NANCY GILES, SOCIAL COMMENTATOR: Gosh.
HARRIS-PERRY: Laura, "Blue Grit" looked like it was occurring.
LAURA FLANDERS, AUTHOR, "BLUE GRIT": What was so fascinating was
that book was written a few years ago. What we`ve seen in the coverage of
these ballot initiatives is as if they just dropped from the sky and people
went out and vote voted.
FLANDERS: These are the result of long-time organizing initiatives,
quite different in fact from many of the initiative we know from the right
-- the civil rights initiative, the campaign against affirmative action.
You know, there`s two ways to go on this. One is super exciting.
Progressives took the lead on issues that political leaders have shied away
from for years. Parties tend to do all the numbers, decide what`s the
winning issue before they try to win on it.
Here you have the marijuana initiative, which were really about the
war on drugs.
FLANDERS: All this idea of recreational use is smoking while skiing.
FLANDERS: It`s plugging into a concern about the war on drugs.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s pause there and make that really clear for
viewers, because I do think some of the coverage, we`ve been sort of teased
apparently on Comedy Central about like the giggling of all the pundits
whenever we talk about the recreational drug use question -- it`s because
we spend millions of dollars and destroy millions of lives by locking
people up in our federal and state jails for very small possession charges
FLANDERS: And I think what you saw in these two states which are now
in conflict with the federal government potentially is the pulling together
of a coalition that I hope the Obama administration looks at. It`s not
just a left wing liberal smoker, it`s also libertarians who want the
government out of their lives.
FLANDERS: It`s also conservatives looking at the fiscal numbers
behind incarceration and it`s a whole lot of moral folks who say it has
been wrong for many years for us to be sending people for a long time in
jail for nonviolent, small drug crimes on the basis of these three strikes
you`re out laws, things like that.
Beside which, it`s not working as law enforcement question.
FLANDERS: Or it`s the drug reduction issue.
So, this is actually an area that I think the ballot initiative
movement could be nudging the administration and obviously some of the
other topics that were raised in ballot initiatives, included things like
money in politics, Colorado and Montana. Let`s hope they take action on
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Wade, let me ask you this, about this idea of
people`s rights being on a ballot. Because on the one hand, man, same-sex
wins with like -- I mean, it made 2012 so much easier than 2008, when you
had the Obama win, but you had to eat along with that proposition 8.
WADE HENDERSON, THE LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE: Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: And maybe it`s good because now the Supreme Court
can`t say that it`s always defeated. But it makes me nervous.
HENDERSON: It should make you nervous. I mean, when you think about
the electoral process, the democratic process, if you allowed civil and
human rights to be on the ballot, I`d still be a slave, OK? So, let`s
I thought the Maryland initiative, though, was particularly
significant. I completely agree that it should not have been on the
ballot. And as I know, the state legislature this spring actually enacted
the law that allowed it to be validated by the ballot itself.
But Governor Martin O`Malley was very smart. He knew that if he
wanted to get support of the populace there, he had to sort of open it up.
Then he began a campaign which was endorsed and completely uplifted by the
NAACP and the African-American community --
HARRIS-PERRY: After President Obama came out.
HENDERSON: OK. After -- well, and actually, I think it helped, you
know? He did make a huge difference by declaring his support for this.
HENDERSON: But to have Julian Bond, OK, on TV and radio --
HENDERSON: -- saying that this is a matter of fundamental rights,
human rights, it made a big difference.
FLANDER: Well, the NAACP made a huge difference around the marriage
HENDERSON: That`s what I`m talking about, yes, in Maryland. It was
RAUL REYES, NBC LATINO: It is such a mixed bag, though. I mean, the
great thing about these ballot initiatives -- I mean, this is true, direct
democracy. You know, the people get together. You know, it`s a snapshot
of where the country is now. So, that`s right.
But when we get into these issues, some people civil rights are up
for a vote. I mean, we can be happy about it now maybe because we`re
supporting same-sex marriage. But, you know, what if it had gone the other
way, Prop 8. It`s such a mixed bag. And yet at the same time there are
different takeaways and lessons that we can draw.
You know, for example, also in Maryland, the DREAM Act there passed.
Their version of the DREAM Act which will give in state tuition to
undocumented students, which is terrific. But I think one of the largest
lesson of that is Maryland is a state with less than 3 percent Hispanic
population. So, it`s not that all the Hispanics were supporting it. They
formed the coalition with the people who supported same sex marriage and
they were able to educate people and bring support. And that`s very
That shows it can be done. It can be done.
HARRIS-PERRY: This was my favorite part of the initiative, right?
As much as I have anxiety, people, civil rights, that over and over again,
these were coalitions where people were supporting privileges and rights
that weren`t fundamental to them.
REYES: Each other.
HARRIS-PERRY: They were doing it for each other. And that feels
like something that is durable. Like that feels to me like the most
correct last time. But, Nancy, one of the things we know about Democratic
voters, they do a great job in on year election, they show up. Get
yourself a good person at the top of the ticket and out we come.
GILES: And then we sleep.
HARRIS-PERRY: I know.
GILES: We can`t do that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Democrats just nap it out.
GILES: Well, here`s a couple of good lessons. Number one, this is
an example, one of the few, like were like picking the steps and states
doing these things -- state`s rights actually can be effective. You can
build on those things.
But again, we`ve got to wake up. I mean, that`s the one thing about
legalizing pot. Oh, my God. Some of my progressive friends, they`re going
to fall asleep even more.
GILES: We need to wake them up. But, again, keeping these things in
and talking about them is going to help. I get so frustrated with that.
FLANDERS: These initiatives were a product mostly not of Democratic
Party election campaign machinery, but really grassroots organizing. And
that`s I think what made the difference, whether you`re talking Maryland,
the DREAM Act initiative or the marriage equality stuff. This is the
product of years.
The same with Maine, I went back and look. 2004 is when Maine put a
nondiscrimination initiative on the ballot. You had states passing laws
gradually, cities -- Cincinnati, Topeka. I mean, you`ve got real progress
over a decade and, again, sometimes in our coverage we just say, wow.
GILES: But you know what, the process isn`t sexy. That`s not what
gets the coverage.
And I think partly because of social media and everything. Everyone
thinks that change is going to happen like that.
GILES: But I know I would get in arguments especially with my
progressive friends who were like, it just happened now. I was like stop
sounding like Veruca Salt --
HARRIS-PERRY: And, you know, this goes maybe all the way back to the
beginning of the show where we were talking about President Obama as the
process president. When you live in a big, diverse democracy, you`re going
to lose about half the time, right?
That`s just -- it`s sort of the nature of the process. You`re going
to go in, you`re going to lose, you`re going win. That`s why my
nervousness about fundamental civil rights operating in an election.
But the winning or losing as you point out, Laura, it`s not
immediate, it`s about long term processes. So does this now -- you have a
second term president. President Obama will never face another election on
which he is on the ballot which is undoubtedly why he let Jay-Z close.
HARRIS-PERRY: So does the left now kind of go in on the -- like is
this the moment where whatever punch polling there was, and there wasn`t
necessarily a lot, do they start making demands on this administration?
FLANDERS: Altogether now, yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Yes.
FLANDERS: I mean, I think that the message from this vote needs to
be taken loud and clear. It`s a 3 million vote popular majority. You`ve
got an extraordinary, across -- we were not waiting to count the votes on
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, yes.
FLANDERS: This was a clear-cut win. And I think we need to say very
clearly that it was a clear-cut win against tremendous odds and against a
tsunami of money messaging -- messages people did not buy.
HARRIS-PERRY: And in fact --
FLANDERS: Around things like austerity, which now needs to be seen -
- the fight against austerity won and we need to now see an agenda against
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s what I want to talk about when we come back is
about the unions, because they seem to be back. I`ll explain that, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Johnson and progressives wanted to give the people a check
on corporate political power, so they introduced the ballot initiative.
And with the help of people, the poll tax abolished, the university system
funded, and corporate power finally kept in check. The ballot initiative
started with progressive roots and became law in almost half our states.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So while the ballot initiative has early 20th century
progressive roots, it is making a comeback in 21st century politics. It`s
not always progressive. But this Tuesday, unions -- be it labor, education
-- were able to wield the power of the ballot initiative in their favor
this election cycle. It remains to be seen if they can keep that momentum.
So, I`m interested, there was a bit of a mixed bag for unions.
Michigan there was a bit of a loss, particularly around this, I think it
was called the Working Families Amendment that would have put collective
bargaining in the state constitution. But there were other big wins
especially for education unions.
Is this the -- I mean, you know, I was saying we had the push back
against voter suppression. Was this the push back against the kind of
Wisconsin/Scott Walker behavior since 2010?
REYES: I think so. But I also think it`s just -- you know, we`re
hearing all this talk already that labor unions are back and labor has
strong presence. I think more than anything, it bespeaks to the absolute
need and how vital it is to have that grassroots mobilization. It`s not
enough to say I have a union with 10,000 members. That means nothing if
those people are not willing to get up there and vote and, also, you know,
to discuss the issues, to talk to people. I think it really be speaks to
the tremendous grassroots efforts that they did in places like Ohio, also
maybe to a lesser extent in Wisconsin.
But, you know, in the Midwest, they were able to energize their
members and base and get them to turn out for things that directly affected
them, to involve them in the process.
GILES: Even with -- when Wisconsin lost, when they weren`t able to
recall Scott Walker, that was an amazing example of the power of unions and
numbers that are in unions.
GILES: I am a member of SAG and AFTRA. And I sit on the SAG board
and SAG and AFTRA now have been merged for a few months. And a lot of our
members went to support other unions. They are their grassroots equivalent
No, go ahead.
HENDERSON: I think Ohio really exemplifies it, because obviously in
Ohio, you had John Kasich, the governor, proposing a ballot initiative to
weaken unions that last year or two years ago, the union came strong and
beat that back. And Lee Saunders, who is the new president of AFSCME --
HENDERSON: The largest public sector union, and Rich Trumka and
Arlene Holt Baker with the AFL-CIO really helped target Ohio. They turned
out, they organized, they put people on the ground. They made a huge
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, your point about Ohio I think goes back to
some of what you were saying earlier, Laura. There`s a kind of symbiotic
relationship between the parties who are trying to put candidates in office
and sort of the ballot initiatives that are trying to pass.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Ohio is the perfect example because it is the
battleground state, right? It becomes the focus. You end up with tons of
advertising and focus right there. So they can work together. Then you
see these weird sort of things happening in other states that weren`t sort
of battleground states where you get sort of split decisions between those
ballots and what was happening in terms of the election.
FLANDERS: It`s not only -- you know, ballot initiatives are loud and
they`re easy to whip up people behind sort of yes and no decisions. But
what we`ve learned over time is ballot initiatives, that kind of yes/no,
black/white thing is really shallow. It really depends on the people`s
positions, their voting positions that depend on their sense of
relationship to politicians, people who pursue these issues and their
understanding, which is to say the quality on the ground organizing.
So, in Michigan, for example, you had a win on the question of these
emergency manager laws, because people have got it. And they`ve
experienced it in their communities. But the fact that the unions lost on
the collective bargaining initiatives, I think it`s fascinating that this
issue has yet to be really communicated even by unions to union members and
not to get entirely on their case.
It`s also a product of I think 30 years of media bashing unions.
GILES: Oh my goodness.
FLANDERS: And most Americans have lost any idea of what unions are
GILES: What they mean.
FLANDERS: What collective bargaining.
HARRIS-PERRY: If you are watching me at home on a Saturday morning
right now, that`s because of unions. That`s why you have time to be home
Up next, the change that you can buy for $6 billion.
HARRIS-PERRY: The estimated price tag for the 2012 election is more
than $6 billion -- $6 billion. Six billion dollars, it`s an amount of
money so staggeringly large that my brain can`t quite think of what it
could buy. I mean, I like stuff, but there aren`t enough cars or summer
homes or vacations, $6 billion. I can`t possibly compute what I or you
could buy with that kind of money.
But here`s what it buys you in an American election in 2012 -- a
President Obama, a Democratically-controlled Senate and a Republican-
controlled House. Yes, it buys you exactly what you already had.
HARRIS-PERRY: The Democrats increase their Senate margin by a
couple. The GOP might pick up, you know, one or two in the House once the
final races are called. But of the 11 governor`s races from Tuesday, one
resulted in a party switch.
And for anyone still wondering, we can safely say it`s not a change
election -- for office holders at least. When I come back down to the
ballot measures, change did happen, $1 billion. That`s the estimated cost
of what was spent on either supporting or opposing ballot measures across
the country in 2012, 174 is how many statewide measures voters considered,
1,000 plus is the number of local decisions that were on the ballot.
That`s a whole lot of voting influenced by a whole lot of money leads me
too ask this question -- for Democrats, will the ends of passing
progressive ballot initiatives justify the means of using a
disproportionate amount of money to either champion or defeat them?
Citizens United or campaign finance reform? Anyone, is the fire out
of the campaign finance reform --
FLANDERS: Well, two initiatives did pass on this very issue,
Colorado and Montana both voted to pass -- in Colorado, to pass a
constitutional amendment against Citizens United. This is a sobering one
because you talk about what that $6 billion could do. I mean, let`s be
clear. That was money spent on both sides.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right. Altogether.
FLANDERS: It didn`t just buy the Democrats. But, you know, New
Orleans, Staten Island, Long Island, I mean, how many billions --
HARRIS-PERRY: Do you know how many levees that can get you $6
FLANDERS: Right. And then we have to remember who was the first one
to actually run for office and let of any public financing to model up
front campaigning without financing, that was Barack Obama.
FLANDERS: Open these floodgates. I still don`t think democracy by
dollars is democracy at all, particularly in a country where 42 percent of
the wealth is held by 1 percent of the people.
HARRIS-PERRY: I just wonder, though -- did the fire go out like if,
you know, if we spent -- we spent the two years saying Citizens United is
the worst thing that ever happened. And people show up and vote for the
people they want and it turns into win, they say, oh, well, whatever, money
is not such a big deal.
RAUL: That`s a (INAUDIBLE) out. And, you know, I agree with you.
You know, I feel conflicted.
But the fact is, because of Citizens United, this is the game. That
money is going to be out there. The question is: are you going to compete
in this game or are you going to stay in it?
I mean, unfortunately, for the Democrats, it`s almost like you have
to -- I mean, it would be great to be principled and to go back to that and
say, we`re not going too do that and still push for campaign finance
reform. But I just know if that`s possible anymore.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s not all bad, right? It`s stimulative.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, that explains --
REYES: It`s good for the economy.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, they didn`t take it -- yes, right. It`s
created jobs for people. They spent that money. I mean, you know, they
paid local television stations for ad time. I mean --
GILES: But you know what? The truth of the matter is, even in
repealing Citizens United, that`s going to cost money to get that going.
You know, I don`t know how we unwind this. I don`t know.
HENDERSON: But don`t assume that because Tuesday`s results turned
out as well as they did and we wanted them that money is really -- has been
discredited completely in this process.
HENDERSON: I can assure you those who embrace Citizens United will
come back strong in the midterm.
HENDERSON: If we are as complacent next time as we were in 2010, I
think the results could be very different.
FLANDERS: There`s two things I want to ask. One, what`s the record
around voting rights? We all see voting suppression panic right before
FLANDERS: And then the guys in, they kind of don`t do that much
about voter suppression.
FLANDERS: That`s one concern.
The other is this question of whether change might come from someone
in surprising places. There were some candidates that were pretty fed up
with the ads that ran, they discredited them but want their responsibility
or at least they didn`t have control over. There were some donors who were
really pissed at Karl Rove this week.
FLANDERS: I was wondering if the system is really working for anyone
or if again we might see interesting coalitions of people saying --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
FLANDERS: -- you know what? This is really quite a waste of money.
HARRIS-PERRY: I like this idea that Republican donors are like, wait
a minute, I paid you how much? You couldn`t give me good polls in Ohio.
I mean, there is this possibility. But, you know, I think your point
-- incumbents are always inherently bought into the system in which they
just won, whether it`s around voting rights or around money, like they now
know how to navigate the status quo, right?
FLANDERS: They worked.
HARRIS-PERRY: It worked, right? So the question is: how do you get
then folks who are incumbents to make those changes?
HENDERSON: But, you know, progress is never a linear straight line
between a problem and where we`d like to go.
HENDERSON: So, both in terms of the advancement of civil and human
rights and issues like we`re talking about. Now, you have fits and starts.
Sherrod Brown was the, you know, senator who probably had the most
amount of money thrown at him and it was a dreadful deal.
Claire McCaskill had tons of money. She ran the most strategically
HARRIS-PERRY: Didn`t she?
HENDERSON: That was amazing, OK? Yes.
GILES: Focus on what Laura said, then both of you, in fits and
starts. Anything that makes people pissed at Karl Rove, that`s a step in
the right direction.
HARRIS-PERRY: There we go.
GILES: And in case -- because I`ve thought about that billion, what
is billion -- $6 billion is 6,000 million dollars. That`s what that is.
GILES: Can you believe that? Six thousand million dollars.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Nancy. We appreciate you being. Yes,
And the rest are sticking around.
But up next, Randi Weingarten. She is the president of the American
Federation of Teachers. She`s going to join us. Her union helped to get
the president re-elected but are she and our friend Arne Duncan about to do
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want our kids to
grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the
best teachers, a country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader
in technology and discovery and innovation, with all the good jobs and new
businesses that follow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Almost every president has run as an education
advocate and yet this campaign cycle, education was dealt short shrift.
While the Obama administration promised to strengthen its policies, Race to
the Top and common core standards, little has been outlined for the next
So, what does the president`s re-election provide for an education
mandate in the second term?
To help us answer that question is one of the most influential voices
in education, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of
Teachers, who is dressed in her hoodie sweatshirt because you are out doing
work around Sandy recovery in the schools, right?
RANDI WEINGARTEN, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: Exactly.
We`re doing, we`re working -- we have several -- we have hundreds of
volunteers today that have come from -- from different cities throughout
the United States. AFT volunteers to help with community recovery on Coney
Island, and in the Rockaways, and help in Staten Island. So, we took a
moment from that --
WEINGARTEN: -- to be here. And then I`m going back in my sweatshirt
So, thank you for having me this way.
HARRIS-PERRY: Of course. Absolutely.
All right. The president is re-elected and stands once again in
Chicago to accept the presidency once again that the American people have
given to him. And so I was there that night and, you know, I`ve got a long
history in Chicago. My thought is, yes, this is great, this is exciting,
and this is the site of the Chicago strike.
This was the whole moment where the whole education question came to
a head. Chicago teachers saying, yes, we can have a longer school day but
we`ve got to have nurses, and social workers and activities in the school,
not just longer hours in the seat. But then -- and you have parents
supporting them. And also people saying this is the union being against
What did the Chicago teachers strike provide in terms of capital that
you can now spend in the second Obama administration?
WEINGARTEN: That`s a great question. Most importantly, what happens
is -- I`ve been involved with education for a quarter of a century now, and
watched great reforms go bye-bye when new people were elected and just
wanted to simplify what is a really complex pursuit.
The rhetoric about education and the reality about education are
WEINGARTEN: So it`s really easy to say we want all kids to learn and
then actually doing it is the hard work. And when it takes too much time,
somebody then starts blaming a single party and demonizing.
And that essentially -- if we could actually get that message across,
that -- and change that, that would change education, because everyone --
frankly, everyone has to step up. Everyone has some culpability in this.
WEINGARTEN: And everyone has a reason to push through. So take even
the Chicago strike, what Karen Lewis and the teachers and parents --
because parents were hugely supporting --
WEINGARTEN: -- were saying, look, let`s actually do something worth
while in a longer day.
WEINGARTEN: If you just have five periods of mathematics done the
same way, as we tried to do at one point in New York City, it`s not going
to work. But let`s make sure we have things like in the Edwards School in
Boston, I use these examples because there are examples where we see things
WEINGARTEN: -- but then let`s use it to engage kids. Like we know
if kids are engaged in music, they don`t drop out. We know if you actually
figure out what will spark an interest in kids, whether it`s robotics,
whether -- for me, it was civics because I was a social studies teacher,
whether it`s music, whether it`s arts, whether it`s physical education, or
sports, if you spark an interest in an adolescent, they`ll stay in school.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`ll go a step further. It seems like there was a
time, Randi, where parents were at fault, right? You keep hearing, well,
you know, schools are doing what they can, but parents, parents, parents,
right? And still you get a little bit of that.
Now, it`s teachers are fault. Teachers are just insufficient,
inadequate. You know, we got -- we particularly can`t have them making
living wages or any of those kinds of things, right?
WEINGARTEN: Right. Really, really important but we`re going to bash
them and we don`t want to hear their voice.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it feels like not only do you need these kinds of
things to keep students engaged, teachers in order to feel excited about a
classroom, in order to feel like you can make a difference, you can`t have
50 kids in a classroom and be teaching to a standardized test and feel at
all points like you might be fired because of a statistical one standard
Can the president -- can the administration make any difference in
that? Is this too much of a local issue?
WEINGARTEN: The president can actually make a big difference in that
in two ways. Number one is through the bully pulpit, which he is
extraordinary about, extraordinary.
WEINGARTEN: Number two is, and, you know, we were full on supporters
of the president.
WEINGARTEN: And it`s clear that this election was a real victory in
my judgment for Americans and for trying to figure out how everyone gets to
the American dream. That`s also the issue in terms of education.
We -- you -- there can be federal policy that helps enable
opportunity, enable innovation. It can`t be stifling. I think what
happened with No Child Left Behind, as important as it was in terms of
shining a spotlight on kids who were left behind --
WEINGARTEN: -- what happened was all of that testing became
stifling. So it actually stifled innovation because if people are too
focused on what the test results are, as opposed to the steps and stairs of
how we help kids really learn and engage, number one, then they`re too
afraid to fail, just stumble, and to try new things.
Number two, everything became about testing. I`ll give two examples
which were -- just rocked my mind. I was in Albuquerque, in New Mexico,
the Emerson School. I went to a fifth great class.
This is a school that is totally turning around, people are working
together, doing the common core, doing things that -- doing good strategies
that are going to work -- that will probably work.
Fifth grade class -- I said to kids, what do you want to learn?
Hands shot up, hands shot up. Science. Science? Great.
I`m like, what, all of you, science? I`m an old social studies
teacher. Anybody want to learn about the president, the election? This is
a month before the election.
WEINGARTEN: Why science? They hadn`t had science ever. And why?
HARRIS-PERRY: Because it`s not on the test.
WEINGARTEN: It`s not on tests. But even beforehand, it`s not on the
test. There was such a fixation about the test. And this is stem
WEINGARTEN: Meryl Johnson (ph) in Cleveland told me last week, she
actually just retired. She -- great English teacher, Cleveland, a place
where we`re trying to work together.
WEINGARTEN: The austerity -- thank God the levy just passed.
WEINGARTEN: The austerity in Cleveland over the last 16 years, she
has 55 kids. In each of her English classes. She had five English
WEINGARTEN: Do the math. How do you differentiate instruction for
each child with 55 kids?
So the issue becomes -- if we stop the blame game of parents, if we
stop the blame of teachers -- look, if somebody can`t do their job, they
shouldn`t be there.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
WEINGARTEN: If we stop this make crow blame game and really start
doing what is working and how do you sustain it and scale it up in other
places, then we will turn this around for all kids.
HARRIS-PERRY: Randi, stay right there. It`s exactly on this issue
of all kids.
We`re going to bring the panel back in, because I want to talk about
the fact that the public school population looks an awful lot like
President Obama`s winning coalition in terms of, sort of, who is sitting in
those classroom seats.
HARRIS-PERRY: The so-called minority groups that helped re-elect
President Obama account for 37 percent of the national population, and
represented a record 28 percent of the electorate in this election. Both
of those numbers are only going to grow larger. As of 2010, 46 percent of
U.S. public school students are minorities.
Perhaps for politicians looking to court the minority vote, they can
begin by addressing the needs of their future electorate.
Welcome back to the panel. Randi Weingarten, Raul Reyes, Laura
Flanders, and Wade Henderson.
So, the public school ethnic makeup, you know, looks fascinatingly
like the Obama re-election coalition. You see sort of a decline of white
students in public schools. An increase of students of color over those
years, particularly African-American, Hispanic, primarily South Asian
students. And you see East Asian students, kind of that growing brown
When we talk about school reform and public school reform and who
it`s impacted, it is disproportionately students of color.
WEINGARTEN: Right. And, you know, it`s also -- if you think about
it, it`s also, at the turn of the last century, it was a different wave of
WEINGARTEN: At the turn of this century, it`s a different wave of
WEINGARTEN: But what we don`t do enough is understand that it`s a
false choice to say poverty is on the one side and education is on the
other side. We have to actually -- we have to stop that debate and say,
how do we make schools just like they were at the last century, the center
of community? And have services around and do things like that so that we
can actually help the whole child and help whole families?
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And the engine of social mobility, right?
WEINGARTEN: Exactly right.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is how they made their American story was through
REYES: You know, when we look at the different studies on Latino
community, you know, Hispanic students tend to be in underperforming
schools, you know, in areas with high poverty rates where there`s a
shortage of bilingual teachers. And sometimes I can tell when I`m talking
to people, you know, I can tell that they do think of it as -- hey, this is
a Latino issue.
It is not. That`s the biggest message that we have I think it`s
important to get across. This is not a Latino issue, African-American
issue. This is public education. So much in education, it centers on
charter schools and the success. I always wonder, what about the kids who
are not in the charter schools, in the public schools? We cannot live them
behind, you know?
FLANDERS: You know, you started by saying who`s in the public
schools. Right now in the area that`s hit by Sandy, who is actually
physically in some of those schools? It`s not just the students. It`s
their entire families. They`ve gone there for refuge as evacuation
I`m just wondering and this is complete, sort of just wondering. But
I`m wondering how many parents are looking around in those schools and
people who aren`t parents entering those buildings for the first time
saying, what shape are they in and how desperately we need them? And wait
a minute, this is my issue.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you know how many people voted in America in
schools, right? I mean, they also are polling places, right?
HENDERSON: You know, it`s almost cliche. I want to pick on
something that Raul said. It`s almost cliche to say that education is one
of the keys to opportunity in America. But it`s really more specific than
that. Jobs, job readiness and educational attainment, strong correlation.
But the educational testing service just issued a report called the
fault lines of American democracy. They drew a correlation between
poverty, the age of the individual and educational attainment. So, kids
without a high school diploma are less likely to be engaged civically, less
likely to vote, which means older Americans, regardless of race, are making
decisions that affect their lives and they`re not participating in that
HENDERSON: We have to really turn that around to draw and link the
fact that education is tied to civic health of the country.
WEINGARTEN: Exactly. But I think -- so, you know, just of Laura`s
point, I was -- again, I was in Staten Island, P.S. 38 in Staten Island.
The school is going to be OK. People -- kids are coming back to the
school. The city has done a lot to try to put schools back on line.
Sixty-five percent of the kids are dislocated from their homes. And
so that`s a whole other issue, because this is what schools do. We take
care of kids first and foremost.
WEINGARTEN: And then we educate kids secondly.
WEINGARTEN: I know we want to educate kids first and foremost and
take care of them secondly, but we actually -- but then what we have to do
is -- and Wade`s point is totally right. The economy has hugely changed.
We have to help all kids, not some kids, regardless of where they start and
we have to actually help enable opportunity, critical thinking, applying
knowledge because that is the only way kids will be prepared for college
and for career and then also civic engagement.
HARRIS-PERRY: I wanted to pick up on that a little bit because it`s
the one thing that I -- you know, I always have anxiety about, the job
readiness as the role of education. On the one hand, yes, of course, we
know there`s a huge givens between a high school`s graduate, college
graduates, lifetime earning.
But it was also what you said earlier, Randi, this notion of making
mistakes. So, you know, from where I sit at the end of the educational
process, at the elite universities, every kid who ends in my classes ends
is somebody who`s been in the circumstance that isn`t high stakes testing
where you can`t make any mistakes. They`re from schools where you`re
encouraged to make mistakes, where you take science class.
And, you know, your experiment fails and then you learn from that.
Or if you try and organizing effort, and you learn, because that -- to the
extent that it`s about civic education, you`ve got to figure out things
which means it`s got to be safe to fail.
REYES: A lot of process.
FLANDERS: It goes back to where the administration is going to be in
January. We have some months between now and January and where I hope
pressure and influence will be applied.
You`ve got a situation where the administration on testing has riled
the unions and teachers and families and kids all over the country and
parents. But on austerity, on spending has kept teachers in work, has
hired new teachers. They made another pledge in this campaign to hire more
Again, it goes back to what we were talking about in the last hour.
This election result needs to be seen as a loud call for less austerity
thinking, more stimulus thinking, more talking about how we`re going to
sustain ourselves. It shouldn`t be with all due respect, our teachers, we
need to look at our kids when they`re in crises in their communities.
What they should be able to do is spend their time teaching. They`re
spending their time feeding, clothing, looking after --
HARRIS-PERRY: Laura, I`m going to take that as our -- this should be
an election for stimulus. Let`s stimulate their little brains, let`s
stimulate their jobs. We`re going to take a moment now and I`m going to
give you a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
Hi, Alex. How are you?
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: I`m here with that. I`m doing well. And I
love your dress, but I just thought I would say.
All right. Here we go.
The David Petraeus resignation. What more do we know about the FBI
investigation that led to the discovery of his extramarital affair? I`m
talking to someone who knows him well.
And President Barack Obama`s reelection was certainly be in the
history books. I`m talking to his biographer, a man who studied his life
and tried to figure him out, the author of "Barack Obama: The Story".
At least one state has passed a tax on the wealthy. So, does that
mean the rest of the country will agree? I`m talking to the former
governor of the Golden State, Gray Davis.
Plus, in office politics, what do the elections say about America?
We have unique perspective from that man there, "The Washington Post"
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, Eugene Robinson. So, I`m looking forward
Back to you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Alex. You got some great guests today.
WITT: I know, trying to match up with you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Alex. And when we come back, we`re going
to talk about the fact that they lost their homes and their possessions
during hurricane Sandy but they didn`t lose their right to vote. Our "Foot
Soldier" is next
HARRIS-PERRY: For most of us, Election Day is the chance to flex our
individual civic muscles and contribute directly to our ever evolving
democratic experiment, the United States. It`s a time where individuals
endure hours-long lines to spend those few precious moments citing our
nation`s future. Typically, we go alone into that voting booth where
everyone is able to exercise this franchise -- well, almost everyone.
For many displaced by hurricane Sandy, getting to the polls on
Tuesday became not just a hardship, it became an impossibility -- an
impossibility that our foot soldier of the week, Lydia Beasley (ph),
refused to accept.
Lydia, a freelance children television producer, began volunteering
at her local YMCA after it was repurposed into a storm shelter, with 500
beds populated mostly by displaced elderly and special needs citizens.
During some down time, Lydia sat listening to evacuees seriously
debating the presidential election. She asked them, "Will you be able to
vote?" The resounding and unanimous answer was, no.
Lydia decided that no matter how difficult the process, she would
help the people in the shelter have their votes counted and it was hard.
You`ve heard of campaign volunteers going door to door, well, Lydia,
together with 12 other volunteers that she organized, went bed to bed,
making sure everyone who wanted to vote could.
Thanks to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo`s voting extension rules in
the wake of Sandy, Lydia was able to collect 75 affidavit ballots to be
signed by storm victims and then delivered on Tuesday before the polls
closed. She even found time to cast her own vote.
The cake topper, Lydia secured a first-time registration from a 79-
year-old New York City native named James who told us, quote, "I should
have done this before. I`m glad she convinced me. And if I`m around the
next four years, I`m going to vote. I really will."
Lydia told us that making the democratic process accessible to those
displaced by Sandy was just part of her goal. She also wanted to bring
those that lost their homes, their possessions, their sense of security
just a little sense of normalcy.
For understanding the power and potential of the vote, Lydia Beasley
is our foot soldier of the week.
And that is our show for today. I want to thank Raul Reyes, Randi
Weingarten, Wade Henderson and Laura Flanders.
But also especially thanks to you at home who are watching and also
all those students and professors at Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee. I
was moved to know that you were going to watch the show and have a post-
election forum today. Eat those donuts and have a good time.
I`m going to see you tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".
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