'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, December 23rd, 2012
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
December 23, 2012
Guests: Richard Kim, Bob Herbert, Angela Rye, Raul Reyes, Allen Zerkin, Lizz Winstead, Judith Browne Dianis
JOY REID, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question, when it comes to voter
suppression, are we finally ready to fix that? Plus, the cabinet shuffle.
Why Chuck Hagel is beginning to look a lot like Susan Rice. And the NRA
CEO speaking out again, only this time, he`s taking questions. But first,
President Obama and Speaker Boehner are home for the holidays. Bah humbug,
REID: Good morning. I`m Joy Reid in today for Melissa Harris-Perry. This
week, every member of Congress had something in common. They had lost one
of their own. On Monday, Senator Daniel Inouye passed away at the age of
88. He was one of the Senate`s most senior members having served his home
state of Hawaii for half a century. Members of Congress crossed the aisle
to stand shoulder-to-shoulder at the late senator`s memorial on Thursday,
bowing their heads to honor their colleague as he lay in state in the
Capitol rotunda. And on Friday, many of them came together again for a
somber recollection of a man who represented an era now long gone.
President Obama delivered the eulogy remembering the Senator`s key role in
the congressional investigation of the Watergate scandal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: As I watched
those hearings, listening to Danny ask all those piercing questions night
after night, I learned something else - I learned how our democracy was
supposed to work. Our government of and by and for the people. And we
have a system of government where nobody is above the law. Where we have
an obligation to hold each other accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: President Obama was not only honoring a public servant who inspired
him personally, but also paying homage to a comparatively bipartisan past
or at least a functional one. A past that is a mere flash in the rear-view
mirror of this Congress, because this is the Congress of today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: As you know, the House did not
take up the tax bill last night because we didn`t have the votes to pass
it. It`s not the outcome that I wanted. But that was the will of the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: It was the will of the House to do nothing? On Thursday night, the
Republican members of our elected House of Representatives decided it was
not their will to do their job and to take a vote on their own leadership`s
proposal. But proposal which was itself a horrible proposal, would have
exempted the first million dollars of income from a tax increase. It had
no chance of being passed into law as the president made clear he would
veto it. Even if the speaker`s Plan b - or even if the speaker`s Plan b
somehow passed the Democrat-controlled Senate. Now, this was a Republican
proposal. House Democrats would not have supported it. But Democrats
couldn`t even agree to vote on it. Instead, they just walked out and went
home for the holidays.
Forget about bipartisanship, this obstructionist House couldn`t even
achieve partisanship. As the speaker explained it, his fellow Republicans
wouldn`t vote on his proposal because they didn`t want to be perceived to
be tax raisers. Perceived. And now, the speaker is once again, at a loss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: Many of us believe on both sides of the aisle the fundamental
reform of our tax code will help us get our economy moving faster and put
more Americans back to work and more Americans of the tax rules. How we
get there, the God only knows.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: God only knows? Mr. Speaker, you`re supposed to know. You are
supposed to lead your caucus. However, you clearly cannot. Taking the
last word of the day on Friday, President Obama explained it this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Nobody can get 100 percent of what they want. And this is not
simply a contest between parties in terms of who looks good and who
doesn`t. There are real world consequences to what we do here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Ah, but what if the goal is to do nothing? Then, a certain faction
within the Republican Party is getting 100 percent of what it wants. For
the Republicans obstructionists refusing to vote on any sort of a deal at
all is their mandate because the ideological emphasis has apparently
shifted from politics and policy altogether and over to the process itself.
The goal? Do nothing. On purpose. Bring government to its knees and if
possible, drown it in a bathtub. But in the process, will they do the same
to our nation?
With me at the table today is Richard Kim, executive director of
Thenation.com, Bob Herbert, senior fellow at the liberal think tank Demos,
Angela Rye, general counsel for the Congressional Black Caucus and attorney
Raul Reyes, who is the contributor to NBC Latino. Where do I begin?
REID: I`m going to go over to "The Nation." Richard Kim, can you please
explain us, what in the world is going on here?
RICHARD KIM, THENATION.COM: Well, you know, what you are seeing is the
real intransigence of the Republican Party. The last time a congressional
Republican voted for tax increases that people noticed, "New York Times"
had it today. 1990. 1990, Pete Domenici. So, you are dealing - and I
feel bad for John Boehner, I have to say, you know. They are dealing -
he`s dealing with a party that has blanketly refused to raise taxes.
Meanwhile, 74 percent of Americans say, they want the increase on taxes for
those making $250,000 or more.
KIM: Two-thirds of the richest Americans, the top one percent, these are
people who make more than $350,000 say they want tax increases on
KIM: So they are really trying to adhere to this dogma while the country
have moved in a different direction.
REID: Right, the country has moved in a different direction. So, Angela,
I have to go to you. Because you do work with these folks on the Hill.
ANGELA RYE, GEN. COUNSEL, CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: Right.
REID: You sort of understand their psychology, I guess if anyone can,
having dealt with them. You know, what do you think the game is here? Is
Congress to the point I just made or at least the Republicans in Congress,
is the perception that they just want to bring the government to a
standstill and do nothing (inaudible?
RYE: I think there are a couple of things happening here. You did call it
a game. And I think that`s an unfortunate reality. I think first and
foremost, you have a situation where there`s not just the fiscal cliff
ahead, there`s a leadership cliff ahead. You have Speaker Boehner who has
now demonstrated that he can`t lead the most conservative wing of his
party. I think that he has been trying to compromise, but the reality of
it is the rest of the party does not. And so, they want to continue to
represent this top two percent of America while they are - there are the 98
percent that aren`t a part of this. So, as long as you govern for the
party and not for the people, you have danger ahead.
REID: So, is this the result of absolute stasis? Because I want to show a
graphic - which will just sort of give you an illustration of just what had
REID: So, just in terms of how many votes they called, forget how many
things they`ve been able to pass. But 112th Congress, and we can show
that, has called less than half as many votes as the 110th Congress under
then Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
REID: So when Pelosi was there, they were able to do considerably more.
Just bringing things to the floor isn`t happening. So, for Boehner, is it
that he just have no ability to lead his caucus ideologically or
structurally does he just have a part of his caucus, the tear point,
governing for the one percent is doing nothing?
RYE: Well, I think there are a number of dynamics. It`s not just that he
can`t control, if you will, this very conservative hyperpartisan arm of his
caucus, I think that there are multiple things at play. They can`t agree
on anything, so he`s been trying to avoid the type of embarrassment that
you saw last week by not bringing much to the floor. It`s not called the
do nothing Congress, just time for nothing.
REID: Right. And Raul I mean, OK, so the do nothing Congress, it is
personally embarrassing, obviously ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
REID: For John Boehner. But what about the rest of the people? I mean
Angela talked about the constituents and how they are responding? How do
you think people are going to look at this Congress? How are people
reacting to it out here, in the real world?
RAUL REYES, ATTORNEY: Well, I think, you know, you mentioned some of the
numbers. And I saw polling this month that showed, you know, it`s
obviously, you know, majority of Americans, 68 percent want this problem
solved, but they want it solved with compromises. And within those
numbers, 59 percent of Republicans want it solved meaning they are willing
to accept some tax increases. And that`s the change, because in the past,
the Republicans, you know, electorate was generally not in favor of taxes.
But I think also, strategically they are boxing themselves into a corner.
Because where do you go from here if you have this absolutist approach.
You know, it`s not good for them just in terms of going forward. And I
also think, you know, for us as a country, when we talk about this
dysfunctional Congress, the do nothing Congress, we really need to call
them out and say it`s no, it`s one party that is creating this dysfunction.
It is one party that is dysfunctional party. It`s them. Not everybody.
REID: It`s a good point. I want to ask Bob, though. On the other hand
REID: On the other hand, given the fact that the House of Representatives
is in the control of a very conservative, some would say extreme Republican
Party, might it be better for progressives - for them to do nothing? I mean
if there`s one thing that the sequester does, it cuts defense spending,
something you would never be able to do without this kind of a deal.
BOB HERBERT, SENIOR FELLOW, DEMOS: I absolutely think progressives should
do nothing. You know, Steve Schmidt, who was John McCain`s campaign
manager, he said just before the election, if Mitt Romney lost the
election, that there would be civil war within the Republican Party. And
this is what we are seeing now. And what was so weird about this last
episode is that this caucus was in a room, which was virtually like
fantasyland, because they were arguing over a proposal that made no sense
and that was going nowhere. It had - and they are like tearing each other
apart over it. So, this is a party that not only I love your line where
you said that they weren`t even able to achieve partisanship. This is a
party that is no longer capable of governing.
HERBERT: So you just can`t let them be part of the process if they are
going to behave like that.
REID: Right. And Richard, I mean that`s the point. If they can`t pass a
bill that essentially exempted $999,999 of increases ...
REID: ... then what can they do?
KIM: Well, so, you know, I actually think, though, the intransigence saved
Obama from himself, because the deal he was offering to Boehner to raise
taxes only on people making $400,000, alter the chained CPI revision to
Social Security, it was a really bad one, right? So, so now we get to come
back to a new Congress. You know, what he needs to find is to get the
House Democratic caucus in line and pick up 20 Republican votes in the
House. 17 Republican votes in the House. And that`s the coalition that is
going to pass something I think in the House ultimately. So, going off the
cliff, I think, is a good thing.
REID: Right. Going over might not be the worst thing. You actually set up
perfectly what we want to talk about next. Since you brought up Social
Security, you brought up the compromises the president was going to make,
which a lot of progressives were saying he shouldn`t have even be making
REID: We are going to talk about that. We are going to take a quick
break, and when we come back, Social Security is it at risk, some Democrats
say. People are worried the president is willing to cave. We`ll talk
about that when we come back.
REID: At the beginning of the week, when a deal between the White House
and Speaker Boehner seemed like it just might be taking shape, one proposal
had progressives calling foul. A suggested change to Social Security would
swap out the current method of calculating cost of living increases in
favor of time benefits for something called, the chained consumer price
index. That model predicts that people will simply buy cheaper goods if
prices go up. In the end, benefits for seniors would be slimmer, no matter
what the rate of inflation. So when asked about it, House Minority Leader
Nancy Pelosi had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you consider that a benefits cut?
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D), MINORITY LEADER: No. I don`t. I consider it a
strengthening of Social Security. But that`s neither here nor there.
There`s no sense even discussing that, because we don`t even know if we
have the plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Well, call it a cut or not, as we await a deal, one of the most
looming questions we face is just what aspects of Social Security are on
the table. So, back to the panel. And I want to go to Richard first.
Last week, we had 102 Democrats sign a letter and they were demanding that
chained CPI be left out of the deal making. Do you think that they are
right to be concerned?
KIM: Absolutely. And I`m, you know, a little disappointed and surprised
to hear Nancy Pelosi say that it`s not a cut. It is absolutely a cut. And
it`s going to be a cut down the line for thousands and thousands of dollars
a year for senior citizens who live on fixed incomes, who have no other --
many of them who have no other source of income, who are facing rising
costs in health care and food. And so, the idea that, you know, when
chicken gets too expensive, you buy tuna. And when tuna gets more
expensive, you buy what? Cat food. I mean, that`s really the sort of
principle behind the chained CPI, and -- and we are taking from the most
vulnerable level of the population.
REID: But let me push back on just a little bit. Two things. Number one,
the president`s proposal to go to chained CPI included holding harmless
poor seniors, right, he wanted it to be means tested so the poor seniors
won`t be hit by it. And then the other thing is that progressives have
proposed this, too. The Center for American Progress back in 2010 put out
a report, and they called for all of these reforms in Social Security,
adding same-sex couple benefits to it. And having a minimum benefit for
the poor. Having increased benefits for people over age 85. They had this
sort of comprehensive proposal. But on about page 24 of their proposal ...
REID: They want to go to chained CPI.
KIM: Right. Right. Right.
REID: And they have said that the reason to do this is that chained CPI is
considered a more accurate measure of consumer price index, because the CPI
is based on a sort of unrealistic measurement, and they calculated it would
result in a 0.3 percent reduction in the average benefit.
REID: So, that`s the pushback on that.
KIM: Well, the reduction actually accumulates over time, right? So you are
on this sort of arc that goes like this. So, actually, in the long term,
in 10-20 years, it`s quite a big reduction, because it accumulates, right?
But, you know, the problem with all of this is that Social Security is not
REID: That`s the big issue.
KIM: We don`t need to be discussing this to reduce the deficit.
KIM: We need to talk about the Bush tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, and stimulus spending to get the economy back.
REID: And I know Bob, that`s I know it`s your issue. And then it`s true.
Because Social Security does not contribute to that.
HERBERT: Richard is so right. It should not even be part of this
discussion. You know, the Republicans have been on the march against
Social Security since the 1930s. I would say, defend it. Don`t allow any
change here. And, you know, so, it`s just really, it`s really horrible,
REID: Well, Raul, I mean is there any way to get to a progressive solution
that addresses - because OK, Social Security solved until 2037. But at
some point you do have to deal with it, right?
REID: Why not deal with it now? Can progressives get behind that?
REYES: I just -- one thing I think progressives do not like it, because
President Obama specifically campaigned, he says, Social Security would not
be on the table in this - this instance. So it`s very fresh in people`s
memory. I also have to take offense with, I think part of the reason that
this is going through is because, you know, chained CPI, it`s a concept.
It`s complicated, and most people like -- what does that mean even if they
know about it. And I feel like it`s almost a way to try to slip something
KIM: All right.
REYES: But you know what? Also, I`m going to be the official scrooge at
REYES: I really think they should have stayed there in those negotiations.
It`s nice to be home at Christmas, but when you have the responsibility of
the nation, and you are responsible - have so much power and you have so
much influence, I don`t think it`s right to say oh, OK, it`s Christmas Eve
we are all going home, I`m going to get on Air Force One and fly to Hawaii.
REYES: The Republicans are going. I don`t think it`s right. Across the
country, people at McDonald`s work on Christmas.
REYES: I just don`t think they have this right to vacation. They need to
stay in that room and work something out.
REID: Right. At this point, I think we are going to make Angela to have
to speak for the members of Congress. Unfortunately, we are putting you in
this position because you work with these folks. You know, is this -does
Raul have a good point? Should they have just stayed and powered through
the holiday to get a deal?
RYE: First and foremost, as a Hill staffer, I will say that there are
RYE: That`s true, and I think the other unfortunate reality for my side
is, that we`re not in the majority right now, so we also don`t control the
congressional schedule. A lot of the members of the Democratic leadership
thought they should have stayed as well and said so. That is my - that the
harsher reality is that there aren`t real negotiations happening. There`s
posturing in the media. There are hard statements and burnt lines drawn in
the sand, but there are not real negotiations happening. That`s why
Speaker Boehner has so much time to talk with ...
REID: But - I mean is there any talk, Angela, on the Hill of people saying
look, if we just went over the cliff, we would get a deal in two weeks.
Because I`m sort of that opinion, that if you just -- you took them over
the cliff and made them face this after January 3rd, they could actually
come to a deal.
RYE: There are a variety of opinions. There are folks that say, we should
just go over the cliff. There are folks that say if you go over the cliff,
the sequestration process would harm so many of the most vulnerable
communities. You know, the Congressional Black Caucus is called the
conscience of the Congress for a reason. That`s something that the members
don`t want to see happen.
REID: Right. Because there is more than just defense cuts, there is
obviously cuts to social programs, there are automatic ...
KIM: The repeal of the Bush tax cuts. I mean that`s the most important
element here, it`s not just the sequester, it`s that all the tax cuts
REID: Right. And that includes the payroll tax cut, which really is
progressive and helps people of lower incomes. It includes unemployment
insurance. I mean, there`s a lot more on the table. We are just talking
HERBERT: The payroll tax cuts shouldn`t - the payroll tax cuts need to be
reimposed. I mean, that is the opening to go after Social Security, for
example. But I always thought that all the Bush tax cuts should expire. I
think everybody should have skin in the game. I think you should have a
progressive tax code. And if you want to deal with the deficit problem,
the two things that you have to have are people working and you have to
have people paying taxes. All of this -- you cannot cut your way out of
our deficit problem.
REID: OK, well, quick exit question. This is just a yes or no. Do we get
a better deal if we go over the cliff? Yes or no.
HERBERT: Well, I can`t do yes or no.
REID: OK. We have very little time.
HERBERT: I`m sorry. You know. A cliff might really be terrible. But if
there is a terrible deal that`s proposed by the Democrats and President
Obama, then I think it`s better to go over the cliff. But you have to see
what the deal is.
REID: OK, quickly.
KIM: Take it to the brink, Obama.
REID: Take it to the brink.
REYES: Don`t go over the cliff. No. No.
RYE: Absolutely not.
REID: OK, all right. We have a table divided. Stay right there, up next
the art of the deal: Are negotiations about policies or personalities?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: No vote tonight?
REPORTER: Will there be a vote tomorrow?
REPORTER: Are you ditching Plan B?
REPORTER: Will there bee a vote today?
REPORTER: What happened tonight, Mr. Cantor?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Talk about the face of futility. And that was House Majority Leader
Eric Cantor Thursday pretty much spelling out where things stand as our
elected representatives left Washington for holidays. We are nowhere. We
got nothing. Nada. Zip. But Americans want something. And the most
recent NBC News "Wall Street Journal" poll showed that now the majority of
Republicans - Republicans, 59 percent want the compromise on the budget.
If that is the case, then what is the deal with making a deal? Is it
ultimately about the personalities at the table? That`s what I`m going to
ask the guest joining the table now.
Allen Zerkin is a professor of public administration at New York
University`s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service where he teaches
courses in negotiation, conflict resolution and public involvement. Thank
you very much for being here.
ALLEN ZERKIN, WAGNER SCHOOL OF PUBLIC SERVICE, NYU: My pleasure.
REID: Alan, and just give us your overall assessment of the negotiations,
at least that we`ve seen publicly so far between John Boehner, for House
Republicans and President Obama.
ZERKIN: Well, it`s so hard to know what`s actually happening at the table.
My speculation is, that at some point, the president said to the speaker,
so I have made some compromises already. I put some things on the table.
What do you have to put on the table? And that may have been what triggered
Boehner having to go back to the House to get something passed because he
couldn`t speak for his members.
REID: But he doesn`t speak for his members.
REID: So, then given that, did it make sense for the president to put
something on the table that really did seem to be a departure from what he
ran on, right?
REID: He said $250,000 and up. He then comes to Boehner, who really is
playing no hand. He has nothing. He`s got - you know, a heart and a jack
or something (ph), but no numbers that match in his hand.
REID: And did - it make any sense for the president to put one - he`s
really put a generous offer, to say, OK, I`ll go to $400,000?
ZERKIN: And the Senate was saying they might be willing to go to $500,000.
REID: And then adding chained CPI.
ZERKIN: So I was concerned about that. Richard spoke about that before,
that he was concerned that Obama was -- the president was putting too much
on the table. And I was concerned about that as well. In terms of the
relationship here, I don`t think that`s the major story. I think they have
enough of a working relationship. They have been cultivating each other --
the birthday acknowledgment was a nice gesture. I thought that played
well. So, I think they are beginning to have a better - and enough of a
working relationship that that`s not the issue.
REID: Right. Well, let me -- at this point, with Boehner being so weak,
and he clearly is at a bad point. And his speakership - his speakership
has been bad all the way through, he`s not been able to get much done. But
if the president knows that Boehner is at his most vulnerable, is it to the
president`s advantage to now go in for the kill and instead just say, look,
man, you get nothing? We are going back to my original deal, take it or
leave it, or is it better for him to try to help Boehner save face here?
ZERKIN: Yeah, well, he`s put the speaker in an awkward position with this
new bill that`s going to come out in the Senate. Big if as to whether that
could possibly pass. Is Mitch McConnell going to agree not to filibuster?
Is the speaker going to be able to bring this to the floor, which is going
to be viewed by his right wing as a complete sell out? That he threw (ph).
Because if he brings it to the floor, the Democrats and the votes, it`s the
number -- 17, 20 you mentioned -- might be enough to pass it. And that
would be the end of his speakership.
ZERKIN: So he`s going to have to say no to bringing it to the floor. So,
the president looks very good. I think the real story here is, that if I
were the president, I would not want to make a deal now. I think things
get better for him ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
ZERKIN: As time goes on.
REID: But at the same time ...
ZERKIN: And that`s a critical part of negotiations. It`s always thinking
about, oh, if we don`t make a deal ...
ZERKIN: ... what will happen. What`s likely ....
REID: ... to happen.
REID: At the same time, the American people are clearly on ....
REID: ... the side of wanting both sides to compromise.
ZERKIN: Very good job, by the way.
ZERKIN: And - because it seems to me, what he`s doing is, my expectation -
- what I think is happening here is that the president really doesn`t want
to make a deal now, but he has to show that he`s doing everything possible
REID: To do it.
ZERKIN: ... to make it. He has to show that -- the public wants to see
him acting as a bipartisan. And he`s saying all the right things, he`s
acting in all the right ways, and I suspect he hopes that there`s no deal.
REID: Right. Well, let me just put up - let me just put up some numbers
to back up what you are saying. There was a recent poll, "Washington
Post"/ABC did a poll asking about both sides and their willingness to
compromise. So, for President Obama, 57 percent of people said that he`s
not willing enough, not willing to compromise enough. And "too willing"
was 28 percent. But for the House Republicans, it was considerably worse.
76 percent saying they were not willing to compromise enough, only 14
percent saying they were too willing. So, both sides are doing very poorly
in the polls in terms of people thinking they are too intransigent. But
the president relatively better.
REID: So, I mean, and given that, the president has at least some
incentive to continue to appear to want to compromise.
ZERKIN: Oh, clearly. And he should be doing that right up to the 11th
ZERKIN: He needs to keep showing he`s willing to be at the table and do
whatever it takes to make it work, knowing full well it`s not likely ...
REID: That`s right.
ZERKIN: And probably hoping it doesn`t ...
REID: Happen at all.
ZERKIN: This seems to me something - some important things start to happen
in January. Not only do the tax cuts go away, and you are starting from a
different - you have a different starting point for the negotiations here.
You`ve got what you wanted.
REID: You`ve got what you wanted in terms of the taxes.
ZERKIN: And there are some prices to be paid. You know, the unemployment,
long term unemployment benefits going away.
ZERKIN: And all that serious price to be paid short term.
ZERKIN: But then the new Congress comes in, the filibuster rule may be
changed by Reid. You may have a new speaker or maybe Boehner, but because
he doesn`t bring it to the floor ...
ZERKIN: ... does --
REID: He may have - what -- be in a strong ...
ZERKIN: He`d be in a strong position, because he got reelected.
REID: I want to ask Angela because you are actually there in the middle of
this process. So, the question is, this is still the old Congress. And I
think we sometimes forget that when we are talking about it. Because we
are still talking about this rotten Congress that couldn`t pass anything.
Is there perception on the Hill that with a new Congress, you can get a
stronger negotiating position for John Boehner in the House?
RYE: I don`t know if that`s the case. He loses Republican members - the
amount of folks that he needs on board increases, because he needs to make
sure that he doesn`t have another embarrassing situation and a debacle like
I also think, you have more Democrats at the table, which strengthens our
negotiation and leveraging power.
REID: But let me ask you this very quickly. Does John Boehner, from your
perspective, is he willing to do a deal that has an overwhelm majority of
Democrats voting for it? And just a handful of Republicans?
RYE: I don`t think he does. I don`t think he does, and the reason for
that is, if he starts kind of getting that out in the public domain now, I
think that he really compromises his ability to maintain the role of
REID: And is the perception that his speakership is at risk?
RYE: I think so now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
RYE: I definitely think so now.
ZERKIN: But that`s why he can`t do something now.
REID: That`s why he can`t do something now.
ZERKIN: It could change mid-January.
REID: All right. Well, thank you very much. And we really have
appreciated your expertise. And I want to thank you, Angela Rye and Allen
Zerkin. They are leaving the table. Thank you so much for being here.
The rest are staying. For more, and up next, go figure why 93 million
people didn`t vote this year.
REID: Leading up to last month`s election day, we here in Nerdland did our
best to bring you the stories of voter intimidation, confusion and
disenfranchisement that were happening all around the country. Remember
those calls telling voters they could vote by phone and the billboards that
tried to intimidate voters in neighborhoods made up predominantly of people
Nearly two months after the election, we are still fielding the data on
just how badly this country needs election reform. The need is so clear
that on Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to find
out why only 126 million people cast their ballots in last month
presidential election. That`s still less than 60 percent of the more than
219 million eligible voters in the United States. And for those who did
vote, the process was, at times, daunting with long lines and confusing
Seven hours. That`s how long some voters in Virginia and Florida reported
waiting in line on election day. Partially because of things like the 12
pages that made up the ballots in places like Miami-Dade. An obstacle
election officials failed to consider when estimating how long it would
take each person to vote. And there were fewer days to vote. Six. That`s
how many days were cut in Florida allowing eight days instead of 14 for
early voting. 15 states didn`t allow early voting at all. And only eight
states and Washington, D.C., allowed for same-day voter registration.
Then there was the confusion at the ballot box. 19 polling places in
Hawaii ran out of paper ballots. At least five other states saw voting
precincts run out as well. And while we can`t know how many turned up to
vote but gave up in frustration, we do know that 93 million eligible
Americans did not vote in the 2012 presidential election. And according to
a new survey from Ipsos Public Affairs, more than 25 percent of them did
not vote simply because they were not registered.
As President Obama said on election night, we have to fix that. When we
come back, we`ll tell you how we can.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I want to thank
every American who participated in this election.
(cheers and applause)
OBAMA: Whether you voted for the very first time ...
(cheers and applause)
OBAMA: ... or waited in line for a very long time ...
(cheers and applause)
OBAMA: ... by the way, we have to fix that.
(cheers and applause)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: That was President Obama speaking the night of his re-election. And
the fact that he addressed the voting drama in his victory speech
underscores just how much chaos there was at the ballot box. To try and
fix that, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Wednesday on the
state of the right to vote. But the partisanship that made this such a
contentious campaign issue could make finding a solution just as
contentious. Democrats at the hearing argued that things like voter I.D.
laws and early voting restrictions unfairly target minority voters.
Republicans insisted that these measures fight voter fraud, but offered no
evidence that it`s a widespread problem.
During the election, the GOP`s efforts inspired Nerdland series "This Week
in Voters Suppression." Sadly, it could be an eternal series, because
though the election is over, the voter suppression effort is not. South
Carolina and Pennsylvania have passed voter I.D. laws that while suspended
by judges for 2012 could impact elections next year. And in some states
like Wisconsin and Missouri, Republicans are considering enshrining voter
I.D. laws in their state constitutions. So while some want to fix voting
problems, it`s clear that others think things are fixed just fine.
Back with my panel, Richard Kim, executive editor of Thenation.com. Bob
Herbert, distinguished senior fellow at Demos, joining our panel now, Lizz
Winstead, author of "Lizz Free or Die," a political satirist and co-creator
of "The Daily Show," and NBC Latino contributor Raul Reyes.
But let`s first go to Washington, D.C. , because we are joined by Judith
Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project. And Judith, I want
to start with you. What do you think is the most important thing that we
need to do to reform our elections process?
JUDITH BROWNE DIANIS, CO-DIRECTOR, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: Well, thanks for
having me. You know, we have big things that we have to do. Voters are
really fed up with a broken election system and politicians who have tried
to manipulate the laws so that people can`t participate for their own
partisan gain. And so, what we have to do to fix this is, we need to
either go big or go home. And what I mean by that is it is time for us to
have national standards around running state and federal elections. In
order to get there, we really are going to have to have a federal law that
is passed or a constitutional amendment that will give us these national
Do you know that right now, we have over 13,000 election jurisdictions in
this country that run elections 13,000 different ways? And so, that`s the
part that we have to fix. If we get the national standards, if we make it
explicit in our Constitution, that we have a right to vote, all else will,
you know, will come from that, including fixing registration, fixing the
time that it takes us to vote. So that`s the big idea of where we have to
go in this country to fix the system.
REID: Right. Judith, it`s a great point that you`re making. I have seen
that point made before in editorials. Where they say the problem is that
states have less money and resources than federal government. And then
localities have less than the states, and the more you drill down to the
local level, the more problems you are going to have.
REID: To the point that you just made about federalizing some aspects of
our elections, Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States, he
had something to say on this issue. And what he said was that "By creating
a system of automatic portable registration, in which government officials
use existing databases with appropriate privacy protections to
automatically register every eligible voter in America and enable their
registration to move when they do, we could not only improve the integrity
of our elections, but save precious taxpayer resources."
DIANIS: That`s right.
REID: So back again with you, Judith, do you think that could be a first
step? At least making sure everyone is registered?
REID: So we get beyond the questions of voter I.D.?
DIANIS: Sure. I think I mean registration really did cause a lot of
problems. Because what happens is, that if you think you registered, you
show up to the polling place, they don`t find your name on the polls, that
leads to the long lines. There are a lot of people who were disappointed
when they found that out. Registration is too hard in this country. And
why are we doing that? That`s actually - it`s archaic to actually have -
have to go down to a particular agency and vote. And if you move, it
doesn`t move with you. And so, we do have to get to the point of
modernizing registration. But the problem that we have is that when we do
that, we are doing what we should be doing, which is - is making free fair
and accessible elections. And not all politicians want everyone to vote.
And so, that`s going to be the obstacle.
REID: Right, and that`s the big point. And Richard, I want to go to you
on that. Because the other issue here, is that not only the states have
fewer resources in the federal government. In some cases there are
actually officials that have a partisan interest in making it harder to
KIM: Absolutely. I mean this whole thing is around this myth that there`s
widespread voter impersonation, you know. And the Bush Justice Department
looked into this and they found something like 80 cases in five years that
were even prosecuted. So, it`s just entirely a sort of fake problem that
was ginned up for partisan gain.
My real concern going forward, also, is that some of the way these laws
have been written is though to produce the appearance of voter fraud,
right? So, in Florida, they made these laws that make it very difficult to
registered voters, right? And so like you have to turn your card in within
48 hours. There are reports of mailings out to felons that were on banned
list saying you can vote, right? So, now what the Republican Party is going
to come back with, in 2014 and say look, there actually is voter fraud ...
KIM: ... because they changed the way that voter fraud is measured, and
they`ve produced the conditions to make it happen.
REID: Well, Liz, not only have they -- there`s the sort of the idea that
Richard was talking about. But there was some voter fraud. It just
happened to be a bunch of Republicans that ...
REID: In high profile cases.
LIZZ WINSTEAD, POLITICAL SATIRIST: Yeah, exactly - I mean - and that`s, to
your point, it`s just, you know, there was more cases of female prostate
cancer than there was of voter fraud in our country.
WINSTEAD: And -- I have relatives in Oregon. And their smug superiority
of mail-in, it`s crazy. They are so happy. They never have any problems.
They mail in their vote. They are so excited. Like and it is confusing.
Even me living in Brooklyn, knowing that my vote is going to be fine, I do
get a bit of agita going in -- because I lived in California, I lived in
Minnesota, now I live here. The ballot is different in every state.
WINSTEAD: You look at it, am I going to -- is the thing going to be next -
and just all of that needs to go. People need to be excited and know that
their vote is going to count. And how we make that happen has got to be
REID: Priority one. And probably there was also a good bit of ethnic
targeting this year. It`s just ...
REID: We need to go there. There was a little bit. And this time, it
wasn`t people who looked like me, it was people who looked like you, were
the primary targets.
REYES: That`s right. You know, and we saw it in Florida and Texas. And
there were also tremendous problems in Arizona. I think it was the Hart
Research Group found that people of color, African-American and Latinos on
average, you waited two to three times longer -- or two to three times more
likely than other voters to wait more than 30 minutes to vote.
REYES: And what is very, very troubling right now is that the Supreme
Court is reviewing the voters rights, section five of the Voter Rights Act.
REYES: And that was used to fight a lot of these suppression efforts. And
there is a very good chance that they`ll strike it down. I mean, that was
used in South Carolina and Texas with the redistricting in Florida. And
so, there is a great danger that they are trying to weaken the Voter Rights
Act. So, this could - this problem can just get worse. And I do have one
big question I wish someone had asked at these hearings. I want to know,
how does cutting back on voting on Sunday, how does that prevent voter
REID: Well, it prevents the churches from getting ...
REID: We are going to get on this. And I know Bob wants to get in on this.
We`ll do that right on the other side of the break. Coming up, a Supreme
Court challenge to voter rights, so that`s coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT TRANTER, GOP CAMPAIGN CONSULTANT: A lot of us are campaign officials
or campaign professionals, and we want to do everything we can to help our
side. And sometimes we think that`s voter I.D., sometimes we think that`s
longer lines, whatever it may be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: So that was Scott Tranter. Right. That was Scott Tranter. He`s a
Republican campaign consultant, making it plain as if there was any doubt
about how Republicans feel about these laws. That they are meant to confer
a political advantage on one party. Bob Herbert. You had a thought.
HERBERT: Such candor is unusual.
HERBERT: Yes. I mean, folks have to just understand what is going on
here. We`ve got these big demographic changes in the country. The
Republican Party sees it as well or better than anyone else. And so, it`s
in their interest. It`s become, basically, an all-white party. It`s a
virtually all-white party. There`s no indication that that`s going to
change as we can tell from the fiscal cliff.
HERBERT: So, you know, they want to make it as difficult as possible for
Latinos and African-Americans to vote. And the fewer they vote, as they
see it, the better it is for them. And I think that that`s true.
REID: And they are sort of admitting it. I want to show a map there of
the 33 states that have actually passed these voter I.D. laws. And you can
just look at that map and see that big sweep across the south. You could
take California off the table and you really are talking about a
stranglehold the Republicans already have on the deep South, which they are
strengthening with voter I.D., but now they are starting to sort of move
into these more northern states to try to do it.
I want to go back to Judith on that point. And you talked about our
needing to federalize elections. What can be done, though, now, when these
laws are already on the books, in a lot of cases being upheld by a higher
court? So, it`s not that these laws can be undone. So, with 33 states
already having voter I.D., what do you think are the realistic things that
we can do to make voting easier, on -- and federalize it, as you said
DIANIS: Well, I mean, of course we have the problem of, you know, a
Congress that is going to be deadlocked around this issue. The Senate, and
Senator Durbin will probably try and move something. And there`s some good
bills pending on the House side. But are Republicans ready? I mean, you
know, this is an issue where, you know, the Republican Party, just like on
the demographics issues, on immigration, they need to check the pulse of
Republican voters and Democratic voters are fed up with the broken system.
They don`t want politicians manipulating their vote. Because people know.
This is your voice. And so, for them to actually decide that certain
people shouldn`t vote and we should have long lines, I waited for seven
hours in line. And I`m in Maryland. And I know that that is a horrible
thing to have to go through just to exercise your right to vote.
And so, the GOP really needs to check the polls, because clearly 80 percent
of people in the Pew study actually showed -- said that they want national
standards. And so, it`s time for us to look at these national standards.
But in the short term, I think we`ll get some of the smaller fixes. I
think people in the states will be fighting against these early voting
cutbacks, et cetera. And so, we`ll have the state fights, but we really
need to get Congress on board to move this. And Republicans have got to
step up and listen to the voters because this isn`t a Republican or a
Democratic issue. This is a democracy issue.
REID: Right. But I mean, and this is for the table. I mean this - this -
this all makes sense. We all sort of agree with what was just said. But
aren`t we at risk that as we get farther from the election, people are just
going to let this go? That this won`t be the top running, we`ve got fiscal
cliff and all of these other issues? We might just forget it.
HERBERT: I might have said that before this election. The thing that
really surprised me about this election was the way people turned out
despite all the voter intimidation.
REID: And probably because of it.
HERBERT: I assumed the African-American - the African-American vote would
go down from 2008. I assumed young people - the vote among young people -
I was sure that was going to go down. Neither of those things happened.
So people want to vote. And the Advancement Project and other groups are
fighting really hard. It may not go away.
REID: Right. And listen, that is the point. Right, I mean I think
because people felt that they were being targeted, as women, younger
people, minorities ...
WINSTEAD: Oh, yeah, I mean, I think women said, if I was on the fence, I`m
not. And then they said, if you want to have sex with me ever again, you
are going to vote.
REID: Is that what they said? Is that specifically what they said?
WINSTEAD: I polled. I have data on this. And I think that people went,
this is real. My -- the lifestyle that people are living has been under
attack. It`s like common sense became a passion. You know, you never hear
the term knee-jerk moderate, but I think knee-jerk moderates came out and
said, what the heck, this is insanity. And anything I thought before, but
I don`t even know what these people are talking about.
KIM: In addition to Winstead public polling ...
KIM: I do think technology had a role in this. I mean, for the first
time, people were actually taking pictures of these lines, they were
posting them on Twitter and on Facebook. So you saw, you know, that happen
in real-time across America. And I agree with you, Bob. I think -- I
think this might be the year that, you know, we sort of shifted the
politics on this.
REID: All right. Well, we`ve got to go to a little break. But we are
going to thank Judith Browne Dianis in Washington, and coming up in our
next hour, President Obama`s cabinet shuffle. Is he losing the fight
before it`s ever - even been fought?
REID: Welcome back. I`m Joy Reid in for Melissa Harris-Perry. Even
before President Obama begins his second term, the second-guessing over his
next cabinet is in overdrive. Everyone is focusing on who`s in and who is
out. And who`s in the wings. Among those likely to be out, Treasury
Secretary Tim Geithner, who has hinted strongly that he`ll leave. And
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is definitely leaving. Her likely
successor was nominated for, on Friday, by the President.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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