'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, October 19th, 2013
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
October 19, 2013
Guest: Glynda Carr, Hakeem Jeffries, Andra Gillespie, Kristen Soltis
Anderson, Joe Brewster, Michele Stephenson, Seun Summers, Parry Aftab,
Parris Lloyd, Shannon Cuttle, Carmen Wong-Ulrich, Josh Bivens
MELISSA HARRIS PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning. My question - just how
hard is it to be an American teen today? Plus, why a white president won`t
solve our governing crisis. And it`s time to start your holiday shopping.
Wait until you see these dolls. But first, hold off on the end zone dance.
This is only the two-minute warning. Good morning.
I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. After weeks of Republicans making a series of
desperate plays to score a win, the Democrats unwilling to give a single
inch of ground and with the clock running down on the United States
deadline to repay its financial obligations, game over, an 11th-hour vote
in the House of Representatives Wednesday approved a Senate plan to raise
the debt ceiling and finally reopen the government after 16 long days of
being out of business. President Obama made it official with his signature
just after midnight on Thursday. And waking up the morning after the news
of the night`s big event, everyone really just wanted to know one thing --
what`s the final score? Because if Americans understand nothing else about
the events of the last few weeks, we`ve all been watching a big political
game. And now that`s it`s all over, we want to know the answers to the two
biggest questions on everyone`s mind after game day -- who won and who
Now, unfortunately, these political news guys do love nothing more than a
good politics/sports analogy. And so, we were more than happy to oblige.
Wherever you turned for your news on Thursday, it was hard to miss a final
tally of who emerged victorious and who slunk away in defeat vowing to
fight another day. Topping everyone`s loser list was the Republican Party.
The GOP limped off the field of play, broken by a rift between traditional
Republican moderates and the ultraconservative Tea Party minority. And
battered by Americans who believe they are at most mostly to blame for the
deeply unpopular government shutdown.
Now, of course, no one on their team took a bigger "L" than captain of the
team House Speaker John Boehner, who couldn`t even manage to corral his
players into a huddle to agree on the game plan, not to mention letting
himself get upstaged by a rookie, Senator Ted Cruz, who emerged as a winner
only because he was playing a completely different game, one where winning
is measured in fundraising dollars and Tea Party popularity.
Now, Americans aren`t exactly in love with the Democratic Party either but
they can still put a "W" on the board if for no other reason than such a
big Republican loss gives Democrats a win by default. Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid gets an MVP award for holding together a strong team in
the Senate giving his party some backbone by sticking to his refusal to
make concessions and making the final drive on the deal that finally got
passed. Absent from the playing field through all of this is Democratic
team captain, President Obama. He mostly watched from the sidelines,
taking an occasional, you know, trash-talking opportunity for the
opposition while Congress got their jerseys dirty on the field. But he
president can claim a win because Obamacare and his approval ratings
emerged from the fray without so much as a scratch. Now, as a football
fan, I understand the need for there to be a clear winner and loser in the
game, some decisive moment to bring clarity and closure to all the chaos
and conflict. But I want to rewind the game tape just a bit to a time
before we called this political game. Because last week did I learn a
lesson, a lesson I just choked Steve Kornacki for, and it`s a lesson that
five seconds, in those five seconds complicated my perspective on the last
two weeks. There I was, minutes before the final play of the NFL showdown
between my beloved New Orleans Saints and those New England Patriots, all
ready to gloat over the Patriots` loss and the Saints unblemished six and o
record! After all, the numbers on the board made it pretty clear that this
would be ending with one minute left in the game. The Saints were up 27 to
23. Who they say they are going to beat them Saints? It turns out we got
the answer to that. In the game`s final five seconds. Just enough time
for Tom Brady to throw a 17 -- OK, I`m not going to cry -- a 17-yard
touchdown and give the Saints a heartbreaking loss.
And that`s what happens when you rush to declare a winner prematurely. You
might miss out on the real loss that`s coming your way, the drama of the
government shutdown and the debt default may have played out like a
political contest between Democrats and Republicans, but the economic
impact on America, the real loser, and all of these, was not a game. Our
slow economic recovery just got a little bit slower thanks to the $24
billion slight shaved off the American economy by the government shutdown,
including $3.1 billion lost in government services, 152 million per day
lost in travel spending, 76 million lost each day that the national parks
were shut down, 217 million in daily losses in federal and contractor
wages, just in Washington, D.C. alone.
And while the last-minute legislation managed to keep the full credit of
the United States intact, it`s clear that the world has lost faith in our
economic integrity. Just take a look at these international headlines.
America`s global reputation for sound, risk free, fiscal policy undermined
by the new perception that we are willing to throw it all away on a
political game. And what`s worse? The deal to end this manufactured
crisis creates deadlines for three more in the next four months. So the
game isn`t over. We are just in a time-out.
Joining me now, Carmen Wong Ulrich, host of "Marketplace Money" on American
public media, Josh Bivens, research and policy director at the Economic
Policy Institute and author of "Everybody Wins Except for Most of Us,"
Andra Gillespie, associate professor of political science at Emory
University and author of "The New Black Politician Cory Booker, Newark and
Post-Racial Politics." And Kristen Anderson, who is vice president of the
Winston Group in Washington, D.C., based opinion research and political
communications firm. Thanks to all of you for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
JOSH BIVENS, ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE: Thanks for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, I just want to take a look for a moment at what
the actual resolution said, Carmen, and just sort of what it takes us to
now in terms of setting these additional deadlines. We are still going
forward with a resolution that at this point is going to have us, you know,
needing to once again do this whole battle. How much did the economy --
how badly did the economy lose in this game?
CARMEN WONG ULRICH, HOST MARKETPLACE MONEY ON APN: Those numbers are just
the tip of the iceberg. Because using the game analogy, think of it this
way. Consumers - think of them as the fans. At least that`s what the
people in charge say. They`re the fans. They`re just watching us. We are
a consumer-driven economy. The consumers, the fans, are actually in
charge, and the holidays are coming and they have lost a tremendous amount
of confidence in the system, in the economy. They`re going to feel it.
They`re going to feel it for months, maybe years. We should have come out
of this recession stronger by now, and we haven`t, because of all this
WONG ULRICH: And the fans are saying you know what, we`re not going to
WONG ULRICH: We`re not going to buy tickets, we`re not going to buy
tickets to this game. We`re finished. So, this holiday season is going to
be really interesting.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re only funded through January 15th. Debt ceiling is
only raised till February 7th, right? So, these are all ...
WONG ULRICH: So ...
WONG ULRICH: For the end of the December.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. On the back end of the ...
WONG ULRICH: Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: ... of the holidays. Now, I want to ask you, Josh, I want
us to look at what Paul Krugman said in "The New York Times," in his
article about the damage done, he says, "The economic damage from
obstruction and extortion didn`t start when the GOP shut down the
government. On the contrary, it`s been an ongoing process dating back to
the Republican takeover of the House in 2010 and the damage is large.
Unemployment in America would be far lower than if the House majority
hadn`t done so much to undermine the recovery." So, we`ve been focusing on
this element of the game, this quarter of the game, but, in fact, Krugman
is saying this is a much longer-term set of damage that`s occurred.
BIVENS: That`s right. I mean instead of game I almost want to say side
show for the past couple of weeks, because I think it distracts us from
sort of the very long run destruction straggling of the economy that we`ve
done by undertaking historically unprecedented austerity in the past two or
three years. I think that the popular notion that spending somehow
increased a lot under the Obama administration, it just could not be more
historically wrong. You compare this recovery to every other recovery
since World War II and government spending is far, far beneath any other
recovery. I mean and to put it really crassly, if we`d spent like Reagan
did during his economic recovery, we`d have about 5, 6 million more jobs in
the economy today, we would essentially be fully recovered if we just spent
at the normal historic average.
HARRIS-PERRY: And at the average of the sort of conservative standard
there, which is part of where I want to come to you, because on the
question of polling and particularly polling with conservatives or with
Republicans, this notion that the president has exploded the national debt,
that spending is out of control does feel to me like it`s a widely accepted
belief even if, in fact, what we see empirically is a quickly declining
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, VP., THE WINSTON GROUP: Well, no, we don`t see a
declining national debt. And that`s the number that people focus on. You
keep hearing the number that 17 trillion is now the new benchmark.
And for a lot of folks that number sounds incredibly scary, and so when
we`re talking about how confident people feel in the U.S. economy. If
they`re not economists, they hear that 17 trillion number and they think
not only am I concerned about this Christmas, I`m concerned about Christmas
20 years from now. How is our country going to get out of this? And so,
there`s deep, deep concern for the direction of the country. At the end of
this shutdown I`ve seen numbers that are sort of like historic lows for the
number of Americans who think our country is on the right track and that
deep concern doesn`t necessarily have a strong ideology to it. It`s just a
sense of I feel like we`re drowning. Someone, please fix it.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so on the one hand, I agree with you, but it doesn`t
seem as ideologically positioned in part because on the left we conceded
somehow that deficit was more important than growth. And I wonder if that
was - if part - it sort of - as long as like we gave them the first ten
yards by instead of making the argument that we needed the big stimulus, we
said, oh, yeah, deficit is the thing that matters. And although debt is
growing. Deficit is shrinking. Right? I mean the deficit has simply been
shrinking pretty massively in part because of the austerity measures.
ANDRA GILLESPIE, PROF., POLITICAL SCIENCE, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Well, I think
there are a couple of things to consider here. One, people think about the
national economy. They think, but they think about their personal
economies, and that`s ...
HARRIS-PERRY: A bad way to think about it.
GILLESPIE: And so because of that, it`s actually really difficult to try
to explain to people that debt is good. I think also people misunderstand
the sources of our debt and they think China owns everything. No, it`s our
savings bonds. So, when I buy them for my nieces for their birthdays or
for their birth, I`m actually sort of contributing to that debt and I
expect the return on that later, but, you know, they`ll get that 27 years
from now. So, I think if people really understood politics and understood
how a national economy works, they might be more comfortable. So, I think
it`s largely a framing issue.
ANDERSON: Well, some people do understand that debt is important in their
own lives. Take, for instance, you know, Americans that take out a
mortgage on their house.
ANDERSON: They know ...
HARRIS-PERRY: Student loan debt. Yes.
ANDERSON: They know that they can`t necessarily fork over the hundreds of
thousands of dollars right off the bat. And I think the real question is,
is what we`re spending, is what we`re taking this mortgage out on, is it a
worthwhile capital investment in our country that`s going to be lasting or
is it not?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, and when we come back, I want to talk a little bit
more about that, because, you know, this claim that we haven`t spent
enough, right? When we, in fact, haven`t taken on the big enough mortgage,
in order to be a real investment. So, stay right there, because the other
piece I want to talk about that was part of this whole shutdown is, of
course, Obamacare. And, in fact, this shutdown may have been the best
thing to have happened to it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Perhaps, the best thing that could have happened to the
launch of Obamacare was Republicans` decision to shut down the government
on the very same day, because the shutdown completely overshadowed the
other big headline of the week, that the rollout of President Obama`s new
health coverage plan was kind of a mess. The glitchy healthcare.gov
website prevented millions from logging on and signing up for coverage on
the federal exchanges and the site has been sending confusing information
to insurers about consumers who did manage to get enrolled. Two weeks into
the rollout, the broken website is still in need of a fix. Only now, the
government opened and the default didn`t happen. So, plenty of room on the
front page for everyone to see Obamacare`s struggles. So, I want to come
back. It does feel to me like this is the winning and losing piece. On
the one hand, Obamacare is winning at that moment, but will now the Tea
Party have another chance to win and we will forget about this whole
shutdown situation that happened.
BIVENS: You know, it`s a good question. I do think it`s been a huge favor
for the rollout of Obamacare to have this distraction. And I`d say there`s
something really ironic here, too. I mean the Tea Party goes after
Obamacare and they are the same people who claim they really care about
deficits and debt, to the degree there is a valid concern at all about debt
in this country, it is in the long run and it`s entirely driven by our
dysfunctional health system.
BIVENS: ... which the ACA set out to reform. I think it`s going to do a
lot of good. In the meantime, just in the past three years there`s been a
huge slowdown in projected health care cost growths, which even future
deficits look much better than they did three years ago so that it`s
hilarious that the one big reform we`re doing to address the one ballot
concern about debt in this country, the people who claim they`re obsessed
about debt actually wanted to kick it away.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you about this, because we have talked
several times on this show about sort of the administration fumbling on the
public discourse about Obamacare. And on the one hand, you do need to make
the individual argument about how this is good for your family. But why
not a stronger position on that big economic argument? This is good for
the country. Even if you are on the kind of deficit hawkish side.
BIVENS: You know, it`s a great question. I think they tried a little
early on, like back in 2010, when people talked about Obamacare. There`s a
lot of talk about bending the cost curve down.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s a sexy way to sell your program.
BIVENS: So maybe they just said it badly, but I think they got the lesson
that that doesn`t really move people that well. What moves people is
telling them if you lose your job you`ll still be covered.
BIVENS: You won`t be scrambling and we`re going to help the people who are
too poor, too unlucky, too vulnerable to get coverage on their own. Not
obvious that was a bad choice, but there are huge long run benefits that
people should know about.
WONG ULRICH: That`s, actually, part of what you just said, you used the
"P" word, poor. Because that`s part of what others latch onto and say,
see, we don`t - they don`t - they need to pull themselves up from their
bootstraps and pay and get a job with benefits. And there is such a
disconnect in terms of how we help the underprivileged and in terms of the
information. So going back to what we talked about, who`s getting what
kind of information, in fact, the small business argument, totally moot,
because 96 percent of small businesses are actually bigger or smaller.
They`re not going to have to get this coverage. Right? Then all of the
ones who have to have coverage, over 90 percent already do. So it`s a
percentage of a percentage of small business that will have to do something
about this, but that`s not the reality.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, the fire`s going to continue. We saw Jim DeMint
say in "The Wall Street Journal" that they are going to continue to fight
this battle. Right? And that, in fact, so Jim DeMint is saying we are not
going to back down on Obamacare, that, you know, even after this whole
thing we`re going to keep coming after it. Does the -- do the website
problems which are probably mostly technical in nature create an argument
that is more systemic in nature for DeMint and others to keep coming after
GILLESPIE: I think they`ll try to leverage it, which is why, even though I
agree with addressing immigration reform, I think the website technicality
issue is probably something that needs to be addressed first.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, fixing the website is actually the first order of
GILLESPIE: I think that should be the first order of business. And if you
want to blame it on the fact that somebody was furloughed and couldn`t
actually like, you know, work on it, then that`s fine.
GILLESPIE: But one of the things that actually gets me about this whole
discussion is as a social scientist, I`m used to experimentation. And
experimentation is a bad word. And so, once you let the process go and
once the people have spoken and Congress has weighed in and the president
has signed a bill, you put a policy into effect, and then you judge whether
or not it`s good or bad, and if it`s bad then you change it. And so, the
fact that they`re trying to preempt this is, actually, really, troubling.
And I actually think that in many ways it`s anti-intellectual to do it that
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, that notion of empirical evidence and sort of pausing
as we go forward, the part of what I want to talk about as we come back
because this is I think for us in part a question about what is governing
in this country anymore. Right? So there`s the debt and deficit and debt
ceiling question, there`s the shutdown question, but there`s also sort of
this, is this how we now govern? Josh Bivens, thanks for joining us today.
Up next, we`re going to keep talking about this question of how we do
politics, and specifically the politics of persecution, when losing is
winning and why we may all be on cruise control for some time to come.
HARRIS-PERRY: If you go by the numbers, there`s no doubt that the biggest
loser in the political showdown over the shutdown is the Tea Party. In the
latest poll released this week from the Pew Research Center, the Tea Party
is less popular now than they`ve ever been before with nearly half of the
public giving them the thumbs down. But what if looking like losers is all
a part of the Tea Party strategy to win? The idea of the Tea Party as a
persecuted, embattled minority standing up against the big government
goliath was certainly a winning line with the audience at last week`s
ultraconservative values voters summit. And Congresswoman Michele Bachmann
milked it for all it was worth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, (R ) MINNESOTA: This is the time to fight! This is
our moment for posterity!
BACHMANN: And I thank God that we finally have the will to stand up, take
on this oppressive president, and stand for what is good and righteous and
true! It`s a battle of our time!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Wow. But there`s no doubt that being on a losing team has
actually been a big win for Senator Ted Cruz, who in the last three months
has made a 27 percent leap in popularity with his Tea Party base. Joining
the panel now is Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York. And I
needed you here, congressman, because I just - whatever was happening,
where you work seems really mysterious and intense to me. And I just want
to ask, like, inside, on the floor, with your colleagues, are people -- are
the Republicans who are at this moment are spinning it, this is actually a
kind of a win, do they legitimately believe that or is that just spin?
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, (D) NEW YORK: Well, I think from the Tea Party`s
standpoint there are some who might actually believe that this is a
successful effort that they undertook. In fact, what was very interesting
is that when John Boehner came into the room to indicate that he was going
to put the Senate bill on the House floor, he received a standing ovation.
Now, the pundits had suggested that this may be a moment where John
Boehner`s speakership would be put into jeopardy as a result of him
conceding defeat. But in reality, the fact that he received a standing
ovation I think suggests that there`s this mindset amongst some that they
fought the good fight, that they`ll live to fight another day. Now, you
know, the American people were the real victors in terms of the reopening
of the government, even though they had to withstand a $24 billion hit.
JEFFRIES: And I think governance by extortion was the loser here.
JEFFRIES: As a concept and hopefully we won`t see that any further. But
there`s a real Alamo mentality amongst the Tea Party and some in the
Republican House and that Alamo mentality, of course, leads them to believe
that perhaps this was a victory before they fought hard.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, that Alamo mentality is a really nice way of
framing it, it gives us a historical narrative on it. And in fact, when
you look at the headline from today`s "New York Times," right. It tells us
that Ted Cruz is actually more popular in Texas, right? So, Texans are
sticking with Cruz despite the defeat in Washington, and if you look at
"The National Review" headline, they`re saying that it`s Mitch McConnell
who`s the one in trouble. That they`re actually going to put -- the
conservatives are going to put big money behind McConnell`s primary
challenge. So, on the one hand, you have on the floor, right, a standing
ovation for the speaker, but these headlines tell me that there`s a group
for whom this feels like a win.
ANDERSON: There is a group for whom this feels like a win. There`s an
interesting divide on the right where you have some who would say -- I
think the quote is I`d rather have 30 really, really conservative senators
than have 51 where some of them are a little squishy (ph), if you will, and
I have put myself in the camp where I`d rather have 51 or 60 who sort of
put on the jersey of my team even if they`re not with me all of the time.
But this is a real divide. What`s fascinating, though, is there`s all this
conversation around, you know, did Ted Cruz win, has the Republican Party
been taken over by this far right-wing fringe? And actually think that, if
you take a look, for instance, at what the Republican primary electorate
looks like, let`s take a state like South Carolina, not a purple state by
any stretch of the imagination. The Republican primary elector in South
Carolina, in 2012 was 36 percent very conservative, 32 percent somewhat
conservative, 32 percent moderate or liberal. So, really this very
conservative group only makes up a little of a third of the primary
electorate in a really red state.
It`s that somewhat conservative that`s the real center of gravity. And I
think what you`ll see as we come upon these coming new deadlines and we
make - we worry are we going to watch the same movie over again, is there
are already some conservative folks, who say, look, I don`t like the
Affordable Care Act, but I don`t know if I want to do that again.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Right.
ANDERSON: I think - I think the calculation will be different. There will
be some that say let`s keep fighting again and again. They think that the
political pressure will be different on Democrats the second time around
ANDERSON: But I think there`s a group that just doesn`t have an appetite.
WONG ULRICH: And the money is not fair, though, right? I mean this is the
one thing, the Tea Party is loud and it`s popular and all that, but if the
money doesn`t flow, the traditional Republican funds, right, the big
businesses, those guys, they are more likely to be the moderates. Right?
They`re the ones with the ovations. So, if the money flows that way,
what`s going to fuel the Tea Party beyond that?
HARRIS-PERRY: Carmen, this has been the question that I keep - so, the one
thing that I always feel like I could sort of rest easy in, is whatever the
ideological battles on the right or left were, that who was really in
control was Wall Street. And so that was a thing I felt I could, you know,
rail against, but also felt like, well, but they`re only going to allow
Armageddon to go so far. But suddenly, it feels to me, I`m like wait a
minute, since when do the Republicans become the party that cannot hold
discipline together? That was always the last (inaudible) to do that.
GILLESPIE: Right. So, I mean, you know, we could see a splinter and could
have a third-party movement that will end up petering out and then they end
up all having to come back together again. That`s usually been the case
with third parties in the United States. I think the other thing to think
about is that, since we`re right here in October 2013, we`re not quite sure
exactly what`s going to transpire in the next year.
So, I think that for Democrats in particular, if they want to make hay out
of this situation, then they need to develop the frames now and keep on
honing it in and honing it in and honing it in if they want to be able to
push the needle in certain districts to be able to make some changes. The
other thing that I would remind people, is that, you know, people like the
Koch brothers who, you know, do sort of represent big money and don`t
represent your traditional thinking types of interest. You know, they pour
- they pour money into elections, but they don`t always win elections.
Case in point last year, President Obama is still president. You know ...
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, but they took the whole state of North Carolina. So
they lose the presidential election, but Art Pope buys the state of North
Carolina and generate a set of new policies that could mean come 2016 --
GILLESPIE: That he could have that. The other thing, to sort of think
about, if you look at Ted Cruz, yes, he had a great fund-raising week. So
did Allen West after he insulted Debbie Wasserman Schultz. He`s not a
member of Congress, meanwhile. So if he keeps this up, sooner or later I
think rational voters will vote irrational legislators out of office.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with us because I want to ask you about the reasonable
Republicans that you work with and whether or not any of them were thinking
about, you know, switching sides, becoming Democrats. When we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. We have a member of Congress at the table, and
so I want to ask you, Congressman, when you see this divide that`s going on
on the right, it`s kind of clearly visible. Is there a conversation about
that you hear in the hallways about -- and from moderate Republicans about
how they`re going to sort of gain control of their party again after this?
JEFFRIES: I think certainly subsequent to the shutdown and its resolution,
there are any number of moderate Republicans who took to the microphone who
publicly said we`re going to have to re-evaluate how we perceive and do
business in the House of Representatives, and we are going to have to
retake our party.
Peter King from New York was very vocal throughout the entire process, but
as we went from day five to day ten to day 15, you saw any number of
Republican moderates increasingly vocally indicating that this is a
problem, the strategy was a failure, and we have got to retake control of
the House of Representatives.
Now, I think Democratic unity was very important throughout this entire
process. The White House, Leader Pelosi, Harry Reid, members of the rank
and file all did a tremendous job. And what we see now is an emerging
civil war. I think there are three factions. You have got the business
faction, which largely includes moderate Republicans, you have the Tea
Party faction, which is responsible for the reckless shutdown, and now
we`re going to see the power of the defense faction, traditionally
Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, because we are still in the sequester cuts at this
JEFFRIES: We`re still on the sequester cuts. And what`s very important to
know is that on January 15th, when the next round of sequester cuts take
effect, the burden is disproportionately borne by defense. $20 billion for
defense, $1.6 billion for nondefense discretionary. That`s a significant
hit. Will the power of the defense industry Republicans be able to take
hold, give us an opening to re-evaluate sequestration?
HARRIS-PERRY: I love this point about defense. I hadn`t heard it
articulated previously. One of the things I did wonder sort of and whether
or not your polling shows or whether or not you have the sense of it on the
ground, is whether or not the shutdown changed the minds of any sort of
ordinary Republican voters about the fundamental question of whether or not
government in fact does something for them. Right? Part of what we kept
seeing was people going, wait a minute, that`s government? That`s closed?
I can`t go there? Is there any sense at this point that there may be a
shifting ground in terms of the incentive that these lawmakers are facing
from their ordinary voters?
ANDERSON: I don`t know that it`s going to have a long-term impact in that
regard. I think that actually, what a lot of this debate was about within
the Republican Party was not so much about policy or about the role of
government, but about tactics, that many of the moderate Republicans you`re
talking about, they don`t have a necessarily different view about whether
or not the Affordable Care Act is a good idea, but they have a very
different view about what is or is not a smart strategy for changing it or
repealing it. And so what this was is this was a tactical decision.
That`s where the real friction was on this on the right. But it`s
particularly those who are more of the Tea Party faction. They view this
as if you oppose the Affordable Care Act, then you had a duty to stand up
and fight, fight, fight. And so this tactical difference has turned into,
you know, trying to make it seem like there`s this big policy divide on the
HARRIS-PERRY: Andra, we just talked about growing up, both being from
Virginia. And the Virginia governor`s race is an interesting sort of
moment where we can sort of see this division happening, where Ken
Cuccinelli is running at about a little under 40 percent, 38 percent, Terry
McAuliffe is much closer here to the 50 percent mark. Looks like McAuliffe
is not a particularly strong candidate, but is likely to win this race just
because Cuccinelli is now painted with that far-right Ted Cruz brush.
GILLESPIE: Right. For as long as I`ve followed him through his career, I
viewed him as an extremist. He`s a graduate of the University of Virginia.
He tried to get a professor, a tenured professor fired because he didn`t
like his research, because he didn`t believe in climate change. If you
think about some of things he`s done with respect to women`s health, like
they seem to be draconian even by pro-life standards.
HARRIS-PERRY: Cooch watch.
GILLESPIE: My favorite names have been cuckoo for cocoa puffs or coochie-
coo, but when you sort of look at what happens here, even people who are
conservative leaning say, you know what, that`s a little extreme and sort
of to take it back to the shutdown, I was actually appalled by Republican
members of Congress getting upset that the World War II memorial was torn
down. I`m like, you did that. You mean to tell me that you didn`t know
that that was a consequence of your actions?
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right. You shut the government, right, and then you
go and protest the government being shut by standing there at the war
GILLESPIE: Yes. So what is the strategic value of selectively opening
certain things that you think will help you win points? No, if you`re
going to go in, go all in. And so if I were a Democratic media consultant,
I would take that b roll from those events and just play it over and over
and over again, and hopefully voters would, you know --
HARRIS-PERRY: And this is what Republican hypocrisy looks like.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s Wall Street and defense--
HARRIS-PERRY: Starting Monday, New Jersey joins 13 other states and
Washington, D.C., in establishing marriage equality. New Jersey`s highest
court ruled Friday same-sex marriages can go forward. While the state
appeals, and so what we will see is New Jersey`s new senator-elect
reportedly plans to begin marrying couples right after midnight on Monday.
And that is not the only way that Cory Booker is making history. That
story is ahead.
But first, the man behind a much different and a more damaging shutdown.
My letter of the week is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s one thing to shut down the government. For some
people, government sounds vaguely evil, even tyrannical. So combine
shutdown with selectively reopening a few popular programs, like military
death benefits, and you might convince people that you`ve done a good
thing. But to hold back funds specifically destined and already approved
for the education of some of the neediest students, all in order to get a
better hand in union negotiations, that`s a different ball game. It is
never OK to take school kids hostage in a political negotiation.
And that`s why my letter this week is to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett.
Dear Governor Corbett, it`s me, Melissa. It`s really great of you to
release the $45 million to Philadelphia schools this week, but it would
have been better to have never held it hostage in the first place.
Philadelphia`s 150,000 public school students are suffering enough. The
district faces a $300 million shortfall and has only been able to buy
needed school supplies by raising money from the community and private
But that $45 million that you withheld, the schools could have opened on
time this year without a last-minute $50 million loan taken out by the
Now, the district can rehire 400 teachers, guidance counselors and other
staff members; music, education, and sports will be restored, and fewer
students will be packed into classrooms with peers from different grades.
The state of Philly`s public schools will become slightly less dire, but it
could have happened months ago.
But for what? You said you wouldn`t release the funds until the teachers`
union agreed to $103 million in concessions. And they still haven`t. So
you hurt some of the most vulnerable in your state and got nothing out of
it. Does that sound familiar? Are you following the congressional
Republican model of governance? You saw how that turned out. Right?
I mean, you should know from experience, because your approval ratings are
worse than the Republican party, worse than any other Pennsylvania governor
in modern history. Your office made sure to let Philadelphia parents know
that your decision to release the $45 million was based on, quote,
:improvements in the district," which closed 23 schools this summer. You
made sure Philly`s parents knew that your decision had nothing to do with
the death of 12-year-old LaPorsche Massey (ph), who died in September after
an asthma attack. Her family claims that she may still be alive if there
had been a nurse at the school to recognize her symptoms and get her
medical help. But we may never know what would have happened if there was
a nurse there that day.
But the case brought our attention, the nation`s attention to the sad state
of Philly`s schools, and the money will not be used to rehire any of the
more than 100 school nurses the district has let go in the past two years.
Because as your administration said, Philly schools meets the minimum
allowable by state law, one nurse per 1,500 students. Apparently, that`s
enough. This in a city where 22 percent of children have had asthma in
their short lives, and more than half have ended up in the emergency room
because of it. It`s the highest rate in the state, and asthma rates are
worse among black children, poor children, and children living in inner
Governor, open your eyes to the fact that the kids in Philly public
schools, disproportionately black and poor, are needier than most. That
means they need more, more from you, and not just the bare minimum
required. If we want these kids to have a chance of becoming happy,
healthy, employed, tax-paying residents of the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania, shouldn`t we acknowledge that they need some more to get
there? Shouldn`t these kids be the last ones who have to suffer from your
Let me remind you of something that you said this week when you signed a
bill to slightly improve the children`s health insurance program. You
said, and I quote, "in Pennsylvania, we take care of our own." Sincerely,
HARRIS-PERRY: News of the shutdown had a way of pushing everything else
off the front page. If Congress hadn`t been backing slowly away from the
precipice of global economic annihilation on Wednesday night, the headlines
on Thursday might have been all about how the members of Congress now have
a new colleague, the one whose election doubled the number of African-
Americans in the Senate, going from one to two.
Wednesday night, Newark Mayor Cory Booker won a special election to fill
the seat of Frank Lautenberg in New Jersey after defeating Tea Party
Republican Steve Lonegan by almost 11 points. Booker told his campaign
rally crowd how he plans to approach his new job.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN.-ELECT CORY BOOKER, D-N.J.: I heard it all over New Jersey, north to
south, urban to suburban to rural, from Democrats, independents, and
Republicans. I heard it from everybody. They all said to me, if we put
you in Washington, don`t go down there to score victories for a party or
for politics, but go down there to work for people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: When Senator-elect Booker goes to work for people in
Washington, he`ll only be the fourth black person elected to the Senate to
do so in America. Ever. And looking at senators who were appointed rather
than elected, like current South Carolina Republican Tim Scott, this is
every African-American U.S. senator that has ever served or been elected.
Once sworn in, Cory Booker will make nine total African-American U.S.
senators ever, as P.B.S. Pinchback you see in this graphic won election but
Shortly after his historic win, Booker received a congratulatory call from
the last black man to be elected to the U.S. Senate, President Barack
Obama. And even though observers can`t resist making comparisons between
Senator Booker and President Obama, Booker has made it clear that he does
not want to be thought of as a black senator.
Watching Senator Cory Booker navigate the politics of race in the Obama era
is instructive for understanding a new generation of African-American
elected officials. Joining the panel is Glynda Carr, who is co-founder of
Higher Heights for America.
Andra, I want to start with you, because you wrote, literally, wrote the
book about Cory Booker, "The New Black Politician: Cory Booker, Newark and
Post-Racial Politics." How does the election of Mayor Booker to Senator
Booker tell us? What does it tell us about where we are right now?
GILLESPIE: In many ways it validates the use of deracialization or de-
emphasizing race in order to get elected. Booker was able to put together
a national coalition of donors and volunteers by presenting a racially
transcendent type of figure, and by being a politician that didn`t sort of
belie (ph) all types of racial categories. It is very effective, but in
his early days in Newark he actually had a lot of trouble and a lot of
pushback from people within Newark`s black political elite in particular.
HARRIS-PERRY: Effectiveness of it depends on what constituency is voting
for you, so we know for example that President Obama was able to win the
Senate in Illinois but could not win that Second Congressional District in
Chicago in part because he faced some of what Cory Booker faced when he was
running in Newark against Sharpe James.
GILLESPIE: So deracialization as a strategy is predicated on the fact that
you de-emphasize race to reach out to non-blacks, but it assumes that
blacks will turn out and vote in record numbers almost uniformly for a
HARRIS-PERRY: A black Democratic candidate.
GILLESPIE: Yes, Democratic candidate, let`s be clear about that. But one
of the things that is actually important to know is that recently we have
seen instances where black candidates cannot keep an African-American
coalition together. So when you use deracialization as a strategy, buyer
beware. You can`t automatically assume that blacks are going to vote for
you just because you`re a black and you happen to have a D behind your
HARRIS-PERRY: I like this language of buyer beware. I want to look at --
Rod Digger (ph) actually wrote a piece in the Grio that in certain ways
reflects this anxiety, this racialized anxiety about Cory Booker. I want
to look just for a bit of this. He says, "His riveting speeches and PR
exploits have enhanced his heroic reputation. But he`s not demonstrated a
strong interest in carrying out the kind of work it takes to transform the
entire city," that was of Newark, "beyond the rebuilding of its downtown
Is this the kind of critique about Senator Booker -- Mayor Booker that
might follow Senator Booker now?
GLYNDA CARR, HIGHER HEIGHTS FOR AMERICA: I don`t necessarily think so,
because you are now talking about him governing an entire state versus a
city. I mean, I think some of the lessons learned when we look at the case
study moving from a local elected to a statewide electorate, someone that
can run nationally, is the ability to govern during the position you`ve
been elected to while developing a coalition for which you aspire to be.
So I think there was some lessons learned for now Senator-elect Booker in
regards to his national ambitions, or his statewide ambitions, and being
able to understand that he`s in the now. I think he did some adjustments
in the latter part of this last term for mayor to be able to be in the now,
and I have some work that I need to do locally, in building local-based
coalitions that would transcend as he does his statewide runs.
HARRIS-PERRY: So you talk about the move from the relatively local to the
statewide, but it`s also a move here from being the executive, being the
mayor, to being in the legislature. What are the kinds of lessons that a
freshman senator now may have to learn that you as a new congressman have
had to learn in the House?
JEFFRIES: For me it was important to recognize that I stood on the
shoulders of those that have come before me, the pioneers of the
Congressional Black Caucus, John Conyers, Charlie Rangel, Shirley Chisholm,
as well as the people who are currently in the Congress, John Lewis, the
civil rights icon, Leader Clyburn, third ranking Democrat in the House,
because, one, we can draw strength from their experiences, from their
accomplishments, from their vision and sacrifice, but it`s also important
to know that in Congress, you have to be able to work together to get
HARRIS-PERRY: Or not.
JEFFRIES: Or not. Right? There are really two models in recent
experience of the celebrity senator going in one direction or the other.
There was Senator Hillary Clinton, who entered the body with great
discretion and worked together to serve others, and it inured to her
benefit within the institution. Then of course there`s Ted Cruz, who is on
a solo mission. And while it may have increased his celebrity, it
certainly will have reduced his capacity to get anything done, even amongst
his Republican colleagues. I would assume Senator-elect Booker will follow
the Hillary Clinton model.
HARRIS-PERRY: I wanted to make a claymation of Senator Cruz and Senator-
elect Booker because they do both now have sort of celebrity status and the
question of what kinds of techniques they will use. But part of it for
Senator-elect Booker that is different is the question of race, which I
want to stick on a bit as we come back, because there is much more on Cory
Booker`s election, including how he might reshape the Senate on
thegrio.com. But coming up next, why some critics of the president say
they`re afraid of being labeled racist. And the powerful new documentary
on race, education and class, 13 years in the making. There`s more
Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Remember this guy? No, I won`t fault if you had trouble placing him.
After all, it`s been years since Samuel Wurzelbacher, known by his nom de
plum, Joe the Plumber, first got then candidate Barack Obama to say this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My attitude is that if the
economy is good for folks from the bottom up, it`s going to be good for
everybody. If you`ve got a plumbing business, you`re going to be better
off if you`ve got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you.
And, right now, everybody`s so pinched that business is bad for everybody,
and I think when you spread the wealth around, it`s good for everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Spread the wealth around. Remember that? Republican
presidential nominee John McCain seized on the comment and gave Sam, the
Joe the plumber, a name -- turning him into an avatar, quote/unquote, "Main
Street America." Since then, Joe the plumber has become an author, a war
correspondent, and in 2009 a former Republican.
Yet, here he was in 2012 running as a Republican unsuccessfully for a
congressional seat in his native Ohio and backing a different guy for
president, Herman Cain. I remind you of all of this because Mr. Plumber
reposted on his site this week, this blog by conservative radio host and
author Kevin Jackson, who is African-American.
Yes, that`s the headline. "America n needs a white Republican president."
It begins, quote, "Admit it. You want a white Republican president again.
Admit it, America."
Wait until you see where this goes. Jackson writes, "Now before you start
feeling like you`re a racist, understand that you are not." Jackson goes
on to assert that Ronald Reagan`s white Republican presidency was great for
black Americans while Barack Obama`s black Democratic one has been bad,
bad, bad. His central point remains that we could criticize President
Reagan because he`s white while criticizing President Obama gets you called
And if that risk has limited the criticism that the president gets, I
haven`t noticed. Anyway, Jackson concludes by writing that at least if we
had a white president, black people might have a shot of regaining a
modicum of respect. Oh, yes, if only.
Now we know that as ludicrous as all that sounds it`s hardly an outlier.
This is the latest taste of how people, some people, see even some black
people might have reacted to having an African-American president. It`s
not just an issue of an angry blog post or Confederate flag showing up in
front of the White House as one did last week during a Tea Party shutdown
protest. The biggest problem here is in suggesting that being called
racist is worse than the harm of the effects of racism.
And this week, it was the far right madness of the blog that Joe the
plumber reposted. But the idea that the president`s blackness is an
impediment to governing is not restricted to the fringes. Every time the
left argues that Tea Party obstruction is caused by having a black
president, it`s actually a subtle argument that a white president would
receive less aggressive opposition, that it would be easier to govern
without the barrier of presidential blackness.
Maybe I`d like to call Mr. Bill Clinton and ask him about that one.
Joining me now to look at how America continues to react to black political
power: Glynda Carr, co-founder of Higher Heights for America; Democratic
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York; Emory professor university Andra
Gillespie, who is author of "The New Black Politician, Cory Booker and the
Post-Racial America"; and Kristen Soltis Anderson, who is pollster with the
Winston Group in Washington, D.C.
OK. Is it racist to disagree with President Obama?
GLYNDA CARR, HIGHER HEIGHTS FOR AMERICA: Well, recently, it kind of has a
racial overtone, which many of these have been. What I love about that
headline, you know, we want a white Republican president. What`s missing
in that but it`s underlying is they`re not talking about a white Republican
woman. They`re talking about -- we want a white Republican man.
And looking at the forecast in 2016 that you might have Hillary Clinton
running for president and being a viable candidate that will potentially
win, you`re now going to then move from a racist undertone critique of a
president to a sexist undertone of a president. So you can critique a
president or a congressional member, a senator, but you can`t be doing it
with a racial undertone, overtly or covertly.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is -- I like what you`ve done here because you move
away -- I mean, the substance, like sort of the motivation for critique,
and then there is strategy. And, you know, my argument has been, oh, no,
obstructionism is part of this, right? Just like we saw the obstructionism
against President Clinton.
But the strategy is racial because that`s the thing that is the weakness
for this president, right? They came after President Clinton with what he
was week on and right in this case race becomes the thing that can
galvanize the critique of the president.
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: Apparently, Joe the plumber didn`t get
the memo that his 15 minutes of fame were up. But, you know, beyond that,
I think it`s important to look at the nature of the criticism and this
president has been subjected to a level of disrespect almost unprecedented
in modern American history.
You`ve got a sitting member of the House of Representatives crying "You
lied" during the midst of a joint presidential speech before the United
Congress. You`ve got a governor, Jan Brewer, from Arizona, wagging her
finger in the president`s face on the airport tarmac. You`ve got Newt
Gingrich, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, accusing him, I
believe it was Kenyan anti-colonial behavior.
JEFFRIES: And you`ve got, you know, random Americans with no credibility
calling upon the president to produce his birth certificate. These aren`t
public policy critiques. These are person ad hominem attacks.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
JEFFRIES: And so, it`s legitimate to ask the question, what`s the
motivation behind them?
HARRIS-PERRY: Again, I appreciate because this is -- it feels to me, for
example, like the Congressional Black Caucus also has a difficulty in
managing the realities of a black president because normally, CBC could
just rail, right, at a president, but in ways here the legitimate policy
critiques, right, get connected in our experience of presidential criticism
with the birth stuff, with the ugly nasty racial attacks. So, you want to
be hands off because this president is taking a kind of attack that we
haven`t seen previously.
Then, it makes it harder to make substantive policy critiques because you
don`t want to be lumped in with the birthers.
ANDRA GILLESPIE, PROF., POLITICAL SCIENCE: Right. I mean, if you take a
lot of people, including our colleague Fred Harris, seriously, that
HARRIS-PERRY: (INAUDIBLE) Fred Harris serious in terms of his critiques.
I`m sorry. Go ahead.
GILLESPIE: But one of the critiques is black people have not gotten the
things that they probably would have wanted if they had pushed this
HARRIS-PERRY: But, see, that`s why -- I`m sorry. I know this is a little
off top on this one, but really, like this president, the notion if you
just pushed him harder -- and I think this is my feeling in part about the
like, oh, of people can`t criticize because they get called racist.
Apparently, that doesn`t give anyone -- I can`t imagine a president who`s
been pushed harder, right? He`s got an awful lot of push.
GILLESPIE: Right. But not necessarily for the issues that certain members
of the Congressional Black Caucus care about. So, if they really wanted to
push the issue of targeted job training programs for inner city youth, then
that`s something they need to kind of continually raise and not worry about
necessarily what the racial consequences are.
Like I agree with you, not all the critique of the president is racial.
Some of it`s substantive. But the problem that the Republicans have in
particular is that: one, the Republican Party has been as a perceptual
disadvantage for almost the last 50 years. That`s legitimate. We cannot
deny that that was a Southern strategy. You can`t deny that segregation
started in 1964, to move away from the Democratic Party toward the
Republican Party. And then, we also have to look at the public opinion
data. So, "The New York Times" has done it.
Our colleagues at the University of Washington have done it. We can look
at people who sympathize with the Tea Party, probably the most vocal
critics of the president, and they tend to harbor higher levels of racial
resentment than your average American.
So, it`s hard to sort of disentangle the two.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that`s exactly what I wanted to ask you in terms of what
you see from Republicans who are being polled, ordinary Republican voters
at this point being part of this party, where these kinds of racialized
attacks are emerging, does, in fact, paint you as -- I mean, so I`m
wondering sort of the extent to which ordinary Republican voters feel
angst, not because the president is black but because they`re in a party
with people who are engaged in some pretty vile racialized attacking.
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, VP, THE WINSTON GROUP: I think that there`s
definitely a big question for Republicans about how to you sustain long-
term winning elections if your primary strategy is let`s win a lot of white
There was an article last August -- it was written by Ron Brownstein,
"National Journal". He did an interview with one of Romney campaign senior
strategist that went unnamed. But they said our goal is to win 60 percent
of white voters, and if we hit that mark, we think we`ll be good. And this
is the kicker -- this will be the last time anyone tries this.
One time too many, because that`s not what America looks like anymore. So,
the GOP needs to make inroads with understanding that America doesn`t look
like a country club anymore.
On the other hand, I am proud of the Republican Party for some of the steps
that they have made. I think that there are certain things like around
birthism where I wish people had been more aggressive about calling out and
saying that`s not OK.
But recently, there was -- it was about two months ago, there was a really
disheartening incident in Illinois. There`s an exciting young black woman
candidate running for Congress. Erica Harris, who used to be Miss America,
she`s running against an incumbent Republican in a primary. No matter who
you are, that`s going to be a controversial move for the Republican
establishment, because a local Republican county chair who just sent out
this horrible sexist, racist screed, and I can imagine in the past people
going, well, we don`t want to be too politically correct, that doesn`t
reflect us, but let`s talk away.
This time, Reince Priebus came out and said, no, that`s not what we stand
for and you need to step down. I think the Republican Party needs more of
that. They need to be afraid of the political correctness. They need to
call people out and say that`s not OK.
HARRIS-PERRY: Have a little bit of racial courage.
Stay right there. We`ll talk more about this topic as soon as we get back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He also says of Cory, you have to learn to be African-
American and we don`t have time to train you. All of this is when he`s
speaking on the record.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We ask all black children to be educate and they do and
we go away. It`s sad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was from the documentary "Street Fight," an early piece
about now Senator-elect Cory Booker when he was running for Mayor of
Newark, unsuccessfully the first time.
Hakeem, I wanted to ask sort of what sort of new black politicians, right,
the new group of elected officials coming now, inheriting the civil rights
generation positions, what do you feel are the lessons now learned from the
Cory bookers and the President Obamas of the world?
JEFFRIES: Well, you know, I think a couple things. On one, it`s important
to recognize as a result of the struggles of the civil rights generation,
opportunities in higher education, on Wall Street, in the professional
sectors all across America, were opened up for a new generation of
individuals. They either get that education, go on to Wall Street, work in
Some of us have actually chosen to take the education that we benefitted
from and our professional experiences and go and work on behalf of the
community. I think so we`ve got to honor and respect the doors that were
opened for us, but also recognize in the instance of Cory booker, for
instance, he`ll represent an entire state.
Now, he should continue to fight hard for the needs of the African-American
community who are disproportionately suffering in Newark and Essex County
and Camden and others, but he also has to be able to appeal to a broader
cross section of communities, even in the district that I represent, I`ve
got a majority of black population, but I`ve also Eastern European Jewish
immigrant, they are very important to the community and South Asians and
Latinos, and everybody deserves high quality representation.
HARRIS-PERRY: So what you just said there to me, Andra, is part of, like,
irritation with Fred Harris` claim, we should have pushed President Obama
to do more, because I wanted to push every -- like I think there is this
thing that happens. So, as much as we`re worried about being called racist
if you`re on the right and you critique, the thing that I find more
racially distressing is the idea that we would not expect white Republican
or white Democrats to be strong advocates for concerns of people of color.
GILLESPIE: I completely agree with you. But I think, especially in the
era of President Obama, that a lot of people just assume that he could do
it on his own. And I think --
HARRIS-PERRY: The magical presence of President Obama made magical by his
GILLESPIE: Right, and that`s really faulty. I think when people were
disappointed, because they had unrealistic expectations what he could do,
and they forgot that he`s a politician like anybody else and he responds to
feedback and he responds to protest and those are still parts, you know,
arrows in the quiver and that they need to be used when groups want things.
I think some people thought automatically, he was going to be sensitive to
And, yes, he is sensitive to those issues but no politician acts unless
they have an incentive to act and that`s where the outside kind of struggle
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this question of outside versus inside struggle as a
sort of racial strategy, I wonder about what given what we are seeing right
now with the Tea Party push. So, here you have an ideological group in a
political party that decides to challenge its leaders, challenge its
leadership, and to me, that doesn`t look like precisely the model that we
would want to be following. In fact, there may be an inside strategy.
I wonder if this new group of African-American politicians coming through
with a very different set of practices, having been educated in
predominantly white institutions, not necessarily coming from a civil
rights protest struggle, might actually teach us something new about how to
CARR: I agree, but the other piece of it, talking about the inside, is we
need to build a larger bench of the new black politicians so the notion we
need to expand black leadership is not just about running African-Americans
and historically African-American districts, that Cory Booker`s victory,
although he`s -- you know, day one he`s running for re-election, is an
opportunity to show that there is appeal to be able to run African-
Americans in a majority district but also run statewide. So there are some
HARRIS-PERRY: And I want you to push that one more because it`s not just
the district, it`s also getting enough black women.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, right? When we talk about this new bench, that
bench also should have more women sitting on it.
CARR: Yes. So there are real tunnels, women make up over 50 percent of
the electorate. So, African-American women can logically grow a natural
multiracial coalition. So, for example, Attorney General Kamala Harris in
California is a viable candidate to run for governor of California.
Or you have State Senator Nina Turner in Ohio who is running for secretary
of state, which by the way, for that particular state is very important
because that is a position that governs over the board of elections. So,
there are, in the next several year, we need to develop a multipronged
infrastructure to expand black leadership. And at that, we believe at
Higher Heights, that there is an opportunity to elect black women across
HARRIS-PERRY: Can you mention a sister as the governor of California and
the secretary of state of Ohio? That is a different-looking sort of
Glynda Carr, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Andra Gillespie, and Kristen
Soltis Anderson, thank you all so much.
Up next, a powerful, sometimes painful look at education and race. We`re
going to talk to the filmmakers behind the bold new documentary "American
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s a movie 13 years in the making. Filmmakers and husband
and wife team Michele Stephenson and Joe Brewster chronicled the story of
their son, Idris, and his best friend Seun from kindergarten through high
school as they attended New York City`s elite Dalton School. It`s a
compelling and often painful story of what it means to be a young African-
American in an academically exclusive and racially homogeneous school.
Take a look at Idris questioning his father.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IDRIS: (INAUDIBLE) lonely fight.
JOE BREWSTER: I`m not sure that it works that way.
IDRIS: Guess what, if I was white, then I`d be better off. Do you know
BREWSTER: You asking me?
BREWSTER: What do you think?
IDRIS: Yes. Well, at this school.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m pleased to welcome to Nerdland the winners of the
special jury prize of the Sundance Film Festival, Joe Brewster and Michele
Stephenson, along with Seun Summers, was featured in the film. Good
morning to all of you.
MICHELE STEPHENSON, "AMERICAN PROMISE": Good morning.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me start by saying thank you, because as the parent
of a sixth-grader at a racially homogeneous academically elite school, this
has been incredibly useful to me, to the two of us to watch together. So,
I know why it`s valuable to me. Why did you want I mean, 13-years to make
-- why do you want to make this film?
STEPHENSON: You want to start that?
JOE BREWSTER, "AMERICAN PROMISE": We`re filmmakers. We love filmmaking.
The initial idea was to make a film that celebrated diversity.
We were promised the school would begin to look like the city of New York.
We e thought that would happen in that kindergarten class. And so, we
thought it was worth watching.
HARRIS-PERRY: The mood of the film shifts. It starts with the sort of
images of Seun and Idris little boys in kindergarten, you know, they`re
sort of happy, and then the mood of it becomes more foreboding as they get
STEPHENSON: We actually had picked that school because we were trying to
actually shield our son from the achievement gap in education for black
boys. We thought that by picking this, we would be protecting him from it.
Contrary to what our thoughts were, we ended up right in the thick of it
trying to figure it out along the way and kept the camera rolling.
HARRIS-PERRY: Exactly on that point, Seun, I want the listen to your mom
talking about this question of the achievement gap as it shows up at Dalton
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: White kids have problems in the school, but when the
school talks to you it seems to me it`s sh-sh, hush-hush and very
secretive. But 95 percent of the black kids have problems in that school.
Some type of issue. There`s something unnatural. There`s a huge
imbalance, you know? I don`t understand that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Seun, what is your response to what your mother is saying
SEUN SUMMERS, "AMERICAN PROMISE": It`s true, you know. When you grow up
in a school, since I did, since kindergarten, you know, when you go through
the stages and you go to the next grade, you know, you don`t think about
certain things like complicit bias because you`ve grown up with these kids,
you know, and you feel like this is your home.
But when you grow up, you realize these things that not everyone perceives
you in a certain light that you would like to and that you are supposed to
do what you do based on those expectations.
HARRIS-PERRY: You left Dalton after eighth grade and attended high school
at Banneker in Brooklyn.
HARRIS-PERRY: Very different school. Talk to me about those differences.
SUMMERS: It was a very sweet transition, you know, because like I said,
you know, I grew up in Dalton all my life. But making the move the go to a
public school, a predominantly black public school in Brooklyn, you know,
it was an uplifting experience, you know, being able to be around other
people of my race or my ethnicity. And it wasn`t just all black people,
too, you know, Chinese, Latino, all types, and I was able to be
comfortable, you know? And it wasn`t just the students. It was also the
teacher who made you feel comfortable.
HARRIS-PERRY: One of my favorites is you and other students from Banneker
are in Africa, have gone to West Africa, and you`re sitting around and
talking about your experiences. What did that mean?
SUMMERS: It meant a lot. When I went to Africa I didn`t think anything of
it except I was going to Africa. But when I stepped foot on there, I felt
just like magic, this spark, and everything was just vibrant and alive. It
just made me think what direction am I going.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to come back to the two of you and the challenges you
had as parents in trying to make this decision about how to find this
balance. And so I want to listen to your son talking about balancing the
expectations of race on his basketball team and the expectations of race at
Dalton. This is when he`s quite young.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IDRIS: My basketball team, I sometimes get made fun of. They say, oh, you
talk like a white boy and stuff. Sometimes I change my voice and I go,
like, hey, y`all, what`s up? Or I change my voice. I don`t talk like I
talk at Dalton so they won`t make fun of me. I talk slangish or something.
I don`t get made fun at Dalton. I talk like I usually talk. I think I
feel much better in Dalton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I just feel like my whole heart came out and laid on the
table watching that part, because that sense of the of on the one hand,
wanting to feel uplifted in racialized communities but then also feeling
alienated and separated from those communities as well. How did you try to
help your son to bridge that?
BREWSTER: We`re in there now. We`re reliving this watching this film, but
we were faced with a dilemma of supporting him academically and balancing
that with some social, emotional support.
We expected to get that in part by a large core of African-American
students that were not there at that time. They did not really appear at
the school until high school. And so, we have to provide it for him in the
That attempt to put him in that environment in basketball was an attempt on
our part to provide that kind of support. And then we encountered another
kind of resistance, another kind of issue we had to help him solve.
STEPHENSON: But I think ultimately it`s really about trying to help our
children become more resilient around these issues, around the pressure and
experiences, but also that they`re going to experience. But also that I
think that experience brought him later to be able to be multilingual, the
ability to really -- to cope with and live in different environments and
respect the people in the different environments.
And it`s learning another language. It may take time along the way and can
be painful but at the end of it you come out with advantages.
HARRIS-PERRY: Idris in college now, way out in California. So, he`s not
here at the table with us.
You`re in college here in New York?
HARRIS-PERRY: Just on a final note here, there was a moment when the two
of you asked -- it was about the inauguration of President Obama. We`ve
just been talking about President Obama. Has watching his presidency, as a
young man, made you feel more optimistic or pessimistic about the
possibilities of racial engagement in this country?
SUMMERS: Well, of course, I feel optimistic, but I try to lift things
beyond race, you know? I used -- growing up in Dalton, like Michele says,
you`re able to be able to integrate into two different scenarios. So --
and what I learned from Dalton is to look past all that.
And, yes, Obama is something to look forward to and it shows that black
people, black young men can do whatever it is they aspire to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Bu not without cost.
SUMMERS: Yes. Exactly.
So, thank you for being here today. Thank you all for being here today. I
know there have been critiques of the intensity of your parenting, which
you were I think very honest and open about as filmmakers. But I`ve got to
tell you, as a parent of one of these kids, I know it is a tough, tough
balance and I appreciate the film.
BREWSTER: Just wanted to say we`re in theaters now.
BREWSTER: And going nationwide.
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. Folks should see this one.
Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson and Seun Summers, thanks.
And up next, I`m going to let this statistic sink in. Since 1980, there
has been one cause of death for children ages 10 to 14 that has gone up 128
percent. What is it and why, when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF GRADY JUDD, POLK COUNTY, FLORIDA: We weren`t schedule to be here
and speak with you today. But the reason we rushed this arrest quicker
than we wanted to is because of this post. "Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she
killed herself but I don`t give a" -- and you can add the last word
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Polk County, Florida, Sheriff Grady Jude on Tuesday
explaining why he arrested a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old for felony
aggravated stalking. Their victim, 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick --
jumped to her death in September after allegedly being tormented for more
than a year. The bullying she endured continued even after her parents put
her in a different school because the alleged bullies reached her via
Here Sheriff Judd explains why the charges against the two young girls in
this case are so serious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDD: Bullying in and of itself is not a crime, but bullying makes up the
predicate acts for stalking or aggravated stalking. The reason this is a
felony, the reason this is a third-degree felony as opposed to a
misdemeanor is because our victim, Rebecca, was only 12 years of age.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: While the guilt of the two alleged tormenters is for the
court to decide, there is one fact that cannot be ignored -- Rebecca Ann
was just 12 years old. And while the rates of cyberbullying are tough to
track, suicide rates are not.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to
24. And each day in our country, there`s an average of 5,400 suicide
attempts by young people grades seven to 12. What is worse is that
according to the authorities, the bullying Rebecca endured was online for
everyone to see on such sites as Ask.fm, which allows those who choose to
bully to be anonymous.
And while anonymity may be great tool for people to express themselves it
can also have horrific consequences, as in the case of this 12-year-old
At the table, Parry Aftab, who is executive director of stop
cyberbullying.org; Parris Lloyd, a 17-year-old high school senior who`s
part of Teen Angels, an online safety ambassador program for the Wired Kids
Project; Shannon Cuttle, who is managing director of anti-bullying
initiative for Garden State of Equality; and Carmen Wong-Ulrich, who, like
me, has a tween daughter.
So let me start with you.
PARRY AFTAB, STOPCYBERBULLYING.ORG: Sure.
HARRIS-PERRY: I -- these cases always sort of paralyze me with grief, but
I want to put that down and ask what are the meaningful interventions that
can happen to keep something like what happened with Rebecca from occurring
AFTAB: Well, the only good thing about these cases is it causes us to pay
attention. So, cyberbullying doesn`t always kill, but it always hurts.
So, parents need to recognize that.
Kids have told there are 68 different reasons they will not tell their
parents they were cyberbullied. Only 5 percent will ever tell their
parents, if they don`t come to us because they can`t trust us not to do the
mama drama thing or under-react, or do whatever it is we think they`re
going to, do they have no place to go.
We need to teach them that we are to be trusted, we can be their trusted
adults and they can come to us or their aunt or uncle or teacher for help.
If we give them help and we intervene soon, we can save lives.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, as a parent here, is that the sort of thing you hear
that, in fact, young people don`t want to go to their parents or teachers
about what`s happening online?
PARRIS LLOYD, HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: Yes. A lot of kids think if they go to
a parent or teacher they won`t believe them or they think the adult will
think they`re over-exaggerating. It`s important as a teen angel they know
they can talk to us because they know as a teen or child, that we`ll
understand what they`re saying and we`ll do what we can to make sure that
HARRIS-PERRY: Do we as adults underestimate how painful and how important
kind of -- the social media interactions are? In other words, do we say
just ignore it, it`s just Facebook, it`s just twitter or something?
LLOYD: I think that that can happen with some adults just because they
think it`s via technology, that you can be misinterpreting what someone`s
saying. But I think it`s important to know that a lot of what people are
saying does have malicious intent, so they should know the kid might not be
exaggerated. It might be a case of serious cyberbullying, that every
possible threat should be taken seriously.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, sometimes I feel like in this conversation we go
immediately to the individual. So this 12- and 14-year-old, you know,
alleged bully tormenters here, that there`s something wrong with them,
something wrong with their households and potentially that the victims, you
know, parents also weren`t paying enough attention.
And although clearly that matters, I also wonder again about the structural
or the systemic big ways that we can make a difference.
SHANNON CUTTLE, GARDEN STATE EQUALITY: Right. Well, I think on the issue
as a whole, is that this is an issue that involves the collective
community, that, you know, bullying is everyone issue. And to give
students the tools that they need, to give parents the tools they need in
order to combat bullying harassment, we have to come together as a
collective community. We have to be able to do prevention and intervention
and be proactive and not be reactive all the time, you know.
And I think a lot of times when we tackle this issue, schools and
communities come at the back end instead of being at the forefront.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you say on one hand bullying affects everybody, but not
We know that the kinds of things that people tend to get bullied for have
to do with socially marginal identities.
HARRIS-PERRY: Girls being shamed, girls and boys shamed around queer
identity. So, I`m wondering like, on the one hand, we can say bullying is
everyone`s problem. But the fact is, some kids are much more vulnerable to
it than others.
CUTTLE: Right. The statistics show students of marginalized populations
and specifically those of LGBT students are at higher risk for experiencing
bullying, harassment, in a variety of ways both online and off. I mean,
when you have stats that show 8 out of 10 LGBT students experience bullying
harassment and if you look elsewhere, 1 in 5 on average of all students
experiencing bullying harassment, I mean, those are clear signs that
something needs to be done.
HARRIS-PERRY: Carmen, I kept thinking as I was reading these stories,
well, what else should young people think? Given how adults behave, given
what we just saw in Congress, right, for our weeks on end, we are modeling
nasty, bullying, name-calling behavior at the highest levels of how we
CARMEN WONG-ULRICH, MARKETPLACEMONEY ON APM: Oh, absolutely. And my
daughter`s only in second grade and she`s already come home to me with
bullying, people bullying her. I`m so glad she can talk to me now.
But I was encouraged, but this is second grade, let`s see what happens
later. What`s really terrifying to me, though, that she`s at the stage of
what I`m seeing going forward, is what you mentioned beginning in terms of
how she changed schools and they still found her. Technology and access to
technology -- Facebook just changed their rules, allowing teens to be able
to post publicly things.
This means that access to these teens is almost as if -- and stalking is
perfect in terms of thinking about how they get to you. So now there are
more ways to find you and to get a message to you that they want to get to
you that parents have to be so incredibly tech savvy. And I plan on, like,
hiring a hacker to hack everything and make sure that nobody -- but still
even so, she`s going to go to her friend`s house, she`s going to go
They can get to you through the technology. So, what is that? What is the
responsibility of that? What can we do as parents to protect them?
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, I want to talk about exactly that because
I allowed my kid to have one piece of social media which I`m now
obsessively and constantly checking her one piece of social media thinking
who has times for this, right?
And so, in fact, there are real challenges at the same time of being a
responsible parent, when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDD: Ladies and gentlemen, when it comes to cyberbullying, and a lot of
this occurred online, when it comes to cyberbully, it`s very, very
important parents understand they`re the first line of defense for either
the person being bullied or the person doing the bullying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Polk County, Florida, Sheriff Grady Judd, speaking
about the first line of defense in preventing cyberbullying, the
cyberbullying that led to the suicide of 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick,
The latest developments may demonstrate while there was a lack of it in
Vivian Rosberg (ph), the mother of the 14-year-old arrested was herself
arrested yesterday on two counts of child abuse with bodily harm and four
counts of child neglect. These charges are unrelated to the Sedwick
bullying case but they come after a video posted to Facebook in July
showing Rosberg punching one of the fighting juveniles in the face and
another in the back of his head and between his shoulders.
If the mom is on a Facebook video engaging in abuse, I keep asking what
does justice look like in a case like this when you have a the arrest of a
12- and 14-year-old -- the 14-year-old being raised a parent who clearly
isn`t demonstrating good behavior?
AFTAB: Oh, I`ve known Grady Judd very well. I`ve known him for many, many
years, and he is truly an expert on cybercrimes and cyberbullying. He got
an award in 2008.
So, he knows this. He was not quick to judgment on this one. He waited a
long time I suspect to see if parents were going to step up. This is a
parent who didn`t step up.
And if parents don`t, you have no option but to look to somebody else, in
this case, unfortunately, the sheriff`s office had to play the parent. But
what do we do when our kids don`t listen to us? That`s one thing. But
when we don`t try to care about getting them to listen to anybody? Those
are parent who is shouldn`t be parents and maybe the best thing that would
happen to this 14-year-old is that that she`s parented by someone else.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, there`s new environment. And I got into big trouble
talking about the possibility of our children belonging to all of us. But
I did feel as I was reading this case, like, yes, we have a social interest
in you not raising a sociopath because then it actually harms other
AFTAB: I just don`t understand how we got into trouble for that because we
are a community and if we don`t start looking out for neighbors and family
and people we know and people in the schools, everything`s going to fall
apart. So, all of us have to take responsibilities for ourselves and
others, respecting others and self-respect. That`s what it`s all about.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, Angel, that`s precisely what you do, you help to model
that notion of, the language you were using in the break is of, empathy for
other young people. What are the skills or tools you like to try to teach?
LLOYD: One we like to teach people to not fight back. If you`re being
cyberbullied, we have something called take five, where you take five
minute, get away from your computer, your phone, whatever, and just calm
down. That way you don`t make any irrational decisions. And we like to
make sure people are educated, because a lot of people don`t know what to
do if you are cyberbullied.
So, we give them resources such as wiredsafety.org and then we just teach
them, go talk to another adult, or talk to another teen angel, or someone
you trust, to make sure that you`re safe.
AFTAB: Parris, tell us about stop, block, and tell.
LLOYD: Stop, block and tell is when you stop what you`re doing and block
the person who is harassing you, cyberbullying you, and you tell an adult.
That way you protect yourself and get whatever help necessary to make sure
that you`re OK.
HARRIS-PERRY: I like the stop, block, and tell. You have a right to say
actually you don`t get to be in my cyberspace, if you don`t get to be over
Are these the kind of tools that you think are sort of the effective
interventions that we can have for young people? Are there others that we
need to be thinking about?
CUTTLE: Sure. I mean, the first thing that we need to do is make sure
students are self-aware and, you know, that they hold the power, right, to
create change, change the climate and culture of bullying and harassment.
The other is making sure parents are informed. A lot of times parents
themselves don`t have a clear understanding of exactly what happens within
the cyber world, and specifically speaking into this case. I mean, just
because somebody has a smartphone or has a Facebook account, they might not
have ever learned how to be what digital citizenship is, right, what
modeling that behavior is.
The next step after that is making sure your child`s school -- what kind of
parameters the school has set up. Talk to your child`s teacher, to your
school principal, look at the student handbook. Ask the hard questions to
school counselors, what kind of policies and procedures are in place? Does
the teacher have a good awareness around what types of policies are in the
school, around smartphones and how we use electronics in the school?
HARRIS-PERRY: It also feels to me, you know, just as a parent, this
ability to stop, block, and tell requires you first value yourself enough
that you believe when someone is saying something ugly and awful to you
that it`s not true. That it is a bullying. And that part of clearly
what`s leading to the young people to suicide is the sense that mew that is
true, that they do deserve to die, that they are bad people.
So, like part of it is you have to build our babies up so that they feel
good enough to stop and block and tell.
Parry Aftab and Parris Lloyd and Shannon Cuttle and Carmen Wong-Ulrich,
thank you so much.
After the break, one woman, her dolls and a revolution in hair. Our foot
soldier of the week is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Little girls and their dolls. The relationship is not just
about playtime. It`s about developing a sense of self, affirming what is
beautiful and learning how to love and nurture.
And for a long time, little black girls can didn`t have dolls that can look
like them to help teach these lessons. The first mass produced black baby
doll Patty Jo was introduced in the1940s and Mattel gave us Christie, the
first African-American Barbie in 1968. Check out her awesome fro.
But over the years, Barbie style dolls have given up the fro and generally
walked waist length straight wave. They represent only one version of
Our foot soldier this week, Karen Byrd was out shopping for dolls with her
daughters in her Bay Area neighborhood when she noticed just like her
childhood toys, the dolls of today all had long straight hair. Karen told
us every culture is beautiful but if you don`t have something that
represents who you are, you start of kind of have a self-loathing feeling,
like you`re not as beautiful as everyone else.
Now, it`s practically a rite of passage for little girls to one day look at
their dolls and cut off their hair but Karen an artist and natural hair
blogger took it can doll hair into her own hands. Karen either replaced or
manipulated the original hair in order to create dolls like these. She
transformed her home office into a doll hair salon in 2011 and she started
with her own daughter`s dolls and posted the results on Facebook.
Requests to buy her stylized dolls began rolling in from friends and
family. And today, Karen`s hobby is a booming full-fledged business called
Natural Girls United. She gives dolls dues like locks and afros and spiral
curls and more than a dozen other styles.
Customers like Sheree Murphy (ph) who bought a doll for her daughter
couldn`t be more pleased. Murphy told us, I`m so glad through Karen`s work
my daughter and so many like her can see a reflection of themselves in
these dolls and feel recognized but affirm that they are beautiful.
For giving young girls like Nia toys that reflect their natural beauty, for
teaching young women of all ages to embrace their true crowning glory and
for telling me what I`m buying for Christmas this year, Karen Byrd is our
foot soldier of the week.
And that is our show for today. Thanks you for watching.
Tomorrow morning on the program, Chipotle politics -- how the restaurant
chain is ruffling feathers throughout the food industry. I hope you`ll
Coming up right now, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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