November 3, 2013
Guest: Mark Alexander, Cristina Beltran, Ari Berman, Katon Dawson, Maya
Wiley, Joel Berg, Carolyn Maloney, Joel Berg, Maya Wiley, Katon Dawson,
Beverly Bond, Daphne Brooks, Joan Morgan
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: But first, yes, Virginia, there is an
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
If I asked you what day is November 5th and you answered, Melissa, it`s
Tuesday, instead of, enthusiastically offering the alternate correct
answer, it`s Election Day in America! Well, you`re in good company.
Because it`s Election Day 2013, an odd number, which makes this an off year
election. And well, to be honest, we tend not to get too excited about off
year elections if voter turnout is any indication. In fact, it`s not
uncommon for voter turnout percentages in some off year state and local
elections to be in the single digits. And that`s among people who live in
the jurisdictions that will be directly impacted by the outcomes of those
elections. Given the level of disinterest among people who actually have
to live with the consequences of off year elections, finding a reason to
care about the electoral politics of a state where you don`t live is
probably asking a lot.
But here`s why you might want to start paying attention. Because you may
not be one of those civically engaged citizens who will be voting on
Election Day 2013, but chances are, you will be part of the slightly larger
percentage of Americans who will be checking a box on Election Day 2014,
and the significantly larger population of Americans who will cast a vote
for president in 2016. And the decisions made by that small minority of
voters on Tuesday could have an outsized impact on the electoral choices
we`ll have all to make in the next three years. Especially in the two
states whose gubernatorial elections are the country`s most closely watched
contests-- Virginia and New Jersey. The only two states whose citizens
elect a governor the year aft the country elects a new president, making
them a bellwether for the future direction of national political wins
especially this year.
On the heels of a deeply unpopular government shutdown orchestrated by an
even less popular and highly divided Republican party. The political fates
of Chris Christie in New Jersey and Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia, the two
Republicans in the running have a lot to tell us about just what kind of
Republican can get elected these days.
Now, on the one hand, you have Christie, who, if recent polls showing him
clobbering his Democratic opponent, Barbara, what`s her name, by a 19-point
margin are any indication, it`s the kind who wins elections. Correction,
the kind of Republican who can win elections in a blue state that gave
President Obama 58 percent of the vote in 2012.
Now, on paper, Chris Christie is as conservative as they come. Opposition
to reproductive rights? Check. He defunded Planned Parenthood and refused
to fund New Jersey state family planning centers. Standing strong against
marriage equality? Check. He recently backed down from his efforts to
block same-sex marriage from moving the forward in New Jersey, but only
after a long, long fight to keep it from happening. Advancing economic
austerity policies, check. Opposing organized labor, check. Suppressing
votes by politicking a plan for early voting, check. Slashing public
education budgets, check. That`s the policy record of Chris Christie.
But policy is not perception. And when it comes to winning elections, who
you are as a candidate matters, but not as much as who voters believe you
to be. And when we consider the perception of Chris Christie, we think
about this guy, the one shaking hands with President Obama out of gratitude
for coming to the rescue of his storm-ravaged state. The one hugging
President Obama and letting President Obama touch him, actually touching
the same president who is positively radioactive among his fellow
Republicans, looking much like a reasonable Republican, if ever there was
Then there`s this guy, Virginia Republican candidate for governor, Ken
Cuccinelli, who despite numbers showing an increasingly close race between
him and Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, still can`t manage to shake
off his second place spot in the polls. This in a purple state, that
despite going for President Obama in the last two presidential elections,
hasn`t previously picked a Democrat for president since 1964, and gave
victories to GOP candidates at the state level in both `09 and 2010.
Which may say something about what voters think about the Cuccinelli kind
of Republican, the kind that has the same conservative policies as Chris
Christie, but who also does things like waging a war on sodomy, and who
actually wanted the Supreme Court to weigh in on where he thinks consenting
adults should and should not put their parts and said that, out loud, where
we could all hear him.
Though some people who were listening, apparently liked what they heard.
To the tune of $20 million that have poured into Cuccinelli`s campaign
coffers. Of course, it falls far short of the $34 million that Terry
McAuliffe has raked in. But all those millions do tell us something else
about what`s to come from these campaigns, because according to the
nonpartisan group, Virginia public access project, most of the money for
both campaigns came from outside the commonwealth of Virginia. And if the
interest groups who did all that spending decide after Election Day that
buying themselves a governor was a good bargain, you best believe they`re
going to be reaching into their pockets again, maybe this time to buy a few
members of Congress, maybe even a president.
Of course, all the dollars don`t add up to much without a key ingredient in
the secret sauce for winning an off year election. What is it? I think
public enemy`s Chuck D. said it best.
(AUDIO CLIP PLAYING)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, base. Except for Democrats, the question in Tuesday`s
election is of base, how many can you turn out? Because it`s only the most
motivated of voters who make up the off-year electorate, and the party
can`t count on the motivation mustered by the Democratic base when
President Obama was at the top of the ticket. So all the campaign dollars
and crazy conservative opposition won`t amount too much for Democrats on
Tuesday if they can`t fill up the polls, what is it again, Chuck?
(AUDI CLIP PLAYING)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now are Ari Berman, contributing writer for "the
Nation" magazine, Cristina Beltran, associate professor of social and
cultural analysis at New York University, Mark Alexander, a law professor
at Seton Hall University and former senior adviser to President Barack
Obama and Katon Dawson, national Republican consultant and former senior
adviser to Governor Rick Perry.
Thanks for all for being here.
So Katon, because the last person I quoted was Chuck, I`ve got to come
straight to you on this. I promised you yesterday I would give you a
chance to sleep on it overnight and then come back and tell me, right, what
kind of Republican is the kind that can win? Is it the Cuccinelli
Republican or is it the Chris Christie Republican and will the Republican
Party take the lesson of a Cuccinelli or a Christie win into 2014?
KATON DAWSON, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Obviously, Chris Christie has
certainly all the Democrats worried. I mean, he spoke to the base. He
spoke to the issues. He`s legislatively has a good record. And the
confusion from the liberal Democrat side is, how is this guy winning? They
like him. He`s a likable candidate. He`s personable. He`s represented
New Jersey. And he`s a jersey boy. He is. But how well that transfers
out of New Jersey is going to be the question of how they pivot when they
do -- and it`s obvious they`re going to pivot. And you put him, Bobby
Jindal, that we like, that you don`t.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right!
DAWSON: I got it I got it. And you put a whole string of our stars out
there that are running states, the Nikki Haleys, the Bobby Jindals, the
Mitch Daniels, the former governor now of Indiana. You put all those out
there and put them on the stage, our problem is, our stage is going to be
so large, that the Republican Party is going to have to define who they
The Democrats did a really good job in defining who they are. Nobody
thought Barack Obama was going to win. He was in last place. So, it`s
early yet, but the nice thing is, is everybody here today is worried about
Chris Christie and we on the Republican side are right proud of him.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, look. There is no doubt, Mark, that the gubernatorial
bench, and governors are easier to elect to the U.S. presidency, that the
gubernatorial bench is just deeper for Republicans. But that said, I mean,
part of why we wanted to point out that Chris Christie and Ken Cuccinelli
are the same kind of Republicans substantively is like once you start
digging into a Chris Christie, can he really win in a big, in a
MARK ALEXANDER, LAW PROFESSOR, SETON HALL UNIVERSITY: Right. And the
reality is, he`s a very conservative person. And that may really appeal to
some folks, some voters, but also he has a personality. He plays in
jersey. You know, in my state, he`s a jersey guy. People have resonated
with him. He does nothing that we really agree with. And the question is
does that personality translate into other places? Who will it translate
in South Carolina in a primary? I don`t know that that appeals so well.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, the polls in New Jersey shows Chris Christie with 30
percent support among African-Americans. Look, if Republicans could get 12
percent, much less 30, right? I mean, that`s a pretty enormous number.
Ari, as we have been looking very carefully at these elections, though, the
fact that Cuccinelli is hanging in as closely as he is in Virginia makes me
want to say, OK, the notion that there`s some great, reasonable Republican
train coming your way in 2014 is probably not quite accurate.
ARI BERMAN, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NATION MAGAZINE: Well, and he`s
hanging close because of terry McAuliffe, because nobody`s excited about
BERMAN: This is the classic lesser of two evils election. But the thing
is one evil is so more magnified than the other. I mean, electing Ken
Cuccinelli would be like electing Ted Cruz. I mean, he really is that far
right. And he has done nothing to moderate his image. It`s not like Bob
McDonnell, the governor now, who was pretty conservative, but ran as a more
And what we are seeing in the Republican Party, it`s not a split between
moderates and conservatives. It`s a split between conservatives, two
different kinds of conservatives. Chris Christie is the more reasonable
conservative. Ken Cuccinelli is the more extreme conservative. But they
are both conservatives.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you. Let me go back to for a moment to the
McAuliffe problem because that feels to me like to the extent that
Democrats are going to face their own problems come 2016, it is exactly
that. That, in fact, that stage of people who have been hanging out for
Terry are the same folks we have been hearing about. In other words, the
Clintons are coming back and we`ll see the Clintons again in 2016. And
honestly, I`m thinking, there are a lot of Democrats who think that`s the
way to go. And yet it may begin to feel like, you know, is it the `90s
again in the Democratic Party?
BERMAN: I think that McAuliffe represents one of the more seeder elements
in Hillary-land. I think that he is not going to hurt her. She has her
own brand that`s distinct from her brand. But it is true. I mean, he
represents this Clintonian (ph) centrism that there`s not a lot of
enthusiasm for in the Democratic Party. She`s popular a lot because of her
personality, kind of like Chris Christie. People may disagree with some
things she`s for, but they like her personally. And if McAuliffe loses,
obviously, I think it would be really bad for Hillary. But if he squeaks
through, they`ll say, it`s another victory for the Clintons, let`s move on.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let`s ask you about the base piece, though, right?
Because in the end, whatever all these big factors this money are, I mean,
it will come down on an off year election to go-TV, to getting that vote
out. Who`s better at that these days, the Democrats or the Republican
CHRISTINA BELTRAN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Well, it is
really going to be interesting by state, right? Because on the one hand,
in Virginia, there`s a lot of new Latino and Asian-American voters. And
this is going to be their one chance to take a stand on immigration reform
and their frustrations. So, that segment of the base may be really
mobilized in this particular moment.
But the thing that really struck me that you pointed out was that you have
two states in which, you know, Christie is going to get elected in a state
in which the majority of voters don`t agree with his policies, right? So,
this is about his question of style and sort of messaging and his ability
to do that, it`s about rhetoric, not policy, right?
So the question of whether or not, you know, we can really think about, you
know, how do voters respond when it`s about rhetoric? And the fact that we
sort of look at these two and say, they`re similar, you know. They are
really similar. But people say, well, this one talks one way. But they
vote the same.
HARRIS-PERRY: It maybe about rhetoric, I would also suggest as much as
terry McAuliffe is not a particularly exciting candidate, he is nonetheless
better than, who is running on the Democratic side in New Jersey? Like in
other words, you know, the other great truism is you can`t beat somebody
with nobody and Chris Christie is definitely somebody.
BELTRAN: But you have to feel sorry for Virginia voters, because I keep
thinking of Chuck Robin, only north.
HARRIS-PERRY: You took us back to an ugly, ugly moment in the
Hold for me right there. We`ll stay with more on Virginia and New Jersey
and what it has to do with the big election picture, specifically this week
in voter suppression, election edition. What that is all about, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are back. And we have been talking through the whole
break about Election Day 2013. Tuesday`s outcomes in New Jersey and
Virginia will be decided by candidates and messages and mobilization
efforts on the ground, but as we look forward to 2014 and `16, there is
another key factor that might decide elections. The 180 new voting
restrictions introduced by Republicans in 41 states and passed in key
battlegrounds like Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, under the
guise of stopping voter fraud. And the push to curb voting rights has
accelerated since the Supreme Court`s decision, with seven states passing
or implementing new voting restrictions that disproportionately impact
people of color. That warning comes from my guest, Ari Berman, writing for
"the Nation," in his new piece, "Jim Crow II," a history of the fight for
voting rights and the move to restrict them once again.
So we did not see the voting rights measures in 2012 have the effect that
we had originally had anxiety about. If anything, they had a bit of a
boomerang effect. But now, going to 2013, 14, and 16, do you see these
laws as potentially affecting impacts?
BERMAN: Absolutely. It`s a lot harder for them to be impact clash. In an
off-year election, it is going to a lot harder without Barack Obama on the
ticket. I want to bring in one more sell, we haven`t discussed that which
is Texas. And Texas is also voting on Tuesday for constitutional
amendments. Their voter I.D. law which was block under section five of the
voting rights act in 2012, is now effect because of the Supreme Court`s
decision overturning section four of the voting rights act.
And we`re already seeing the outcome of voter I.D. in Texas. Just
yesterday we learned that former speaker of the house, Jim Wright, who`s
90, was denied a voter I.D. in Texas, because his driver`s license has
expired, his TCU faculty I.D. is not accepted. He`s 90-years-old. He
showed up at the DMV, was told, you don`t qualify. His assistant got a
copy, a certified copy of his birth certificate and now he`s going to be
able to get an I.D. That costs $22, by the way, otherwise known as a poll
tax. How many 90-year-olds are going to have an assistant to be able to do
By the way, we`ve also seen, a judge had to sign an affidavit to be able to
vote. Wendy Davis, candidate for governor, had to sign an affidavit to be
able to vote. Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for governor, had to
sign an affidavit to vote, because his name on his I.D. is not the same as
his name in the poll book.
BERMAN: So we`re seeing at the very least a lot of people get
inconvenienced by this law. We know 600,000 to 800,000 registered voters
don`t have the I.D. there. This is only an off election for constitutional
amendment. Can you imagine what it`s going to be like in Texas when Wendy
Davis and Greg Abbott are running against each other for governor?
HARRIS-PERRY: And you know, and the Greg Abbott piece has the sense of
poetic justice, like at least he`s getting caught up in the drag net of his
own thing. But of course, obviously, the point is that Greg Abbott has a
sort of resources available to him that others don`t.
But as you talk about Abbott in Texas, it`s also a reminder that in
Virginia, the other seat that is open here, where there`s a big fight. In
fact, maybe the last one that is competitive in that state at this point is
the attorney general`s seat. And that Mark Obenshain is somebody who
particularly, reproductive rights advocates are pushing to make sure he
does not win that attorney general seat in Virginia.
BELTRAN: Right. Folks are really organizing against him, which is
exciting. But I mean, you brought up this question of turnout and I really
do think that, you know, we have two things going on. I think one is, you
know, we all know that voter fraud is not an issue. We don`t have a voter
fraud problem. We have a voter turnout problem. We have a problem in our
democracy that you began, that not enough people are, you know, active
members of our democracy. They`re spectators rather than participants.
But the other side of this that I`ve been thinking more and more about is
how does the right think about voters in terms of they don`t think they`re
the silent majority anymore. They think they`re the true America
Americans. And the true Americans aren`t necessarily the majority of
voters. So I think this effort towards voter suppression is an interesting
-- I think there`s something going on around trying to protect the
electorate from the majority, which they don`t really see as real America.
And I think that`s one way -- I try to figure out, how do they justify
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s a very good point.
BELTRAN: Just logic. And I think it is that way.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Katon, I think Cristina brings up really an interesting
point here about the sense of, because there was this silent majority, and
now there is this like we are the persecuted minority. We have seen this
in Alabama. There is this kind of incredible race going on in Alabama,
that is the battle between the relatively more reasonable conservative
Republican and the tea party conservative Republican, and the money is all
coming for the more mainline conservative Republican, which is just
emboldening the tea party guy who`s saying, well, that`s right, I`m running
against the establishment here. At some point, you do need an actual
party, an actual establishment that can whip your folks into line, so that
you don`t have things like the government shutdown.
DAWSON: Well, we have a problem in the Republican Party, and it`s not
conservatism, and it`s not our governors. It is probably defining inside
the base. The beautiful thing we said back in the room is the nice thing
the liberals don`t have is they don`t have an organized wing to come from
primaries up against their people. It is not theirs, we do.
HARRIS-PERRY: That depends on whether or not you write for "the nation".
DAWSON: Actually, the gathering news on the Republican side is pretty easy
to do. So, we have got the wagons circled and we got people riding in them
like Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz. We got a lot of good Republicans
sitting out there. And we`re all firing the guns at each other, inside
primaries. And that`s causing us pause, because they`re ugly, they`re
tough, and this next cycle, we get to define with the Chris Christie, with
the Bobby Jindals, with the Nicky Haleys, with the Rick Perrys, we get to
define who we are.
And that`s our problem, Melissa. We`ve got that internal fight on what our
party is about. We also have had the White House for eight years. We also
have George Bush on the ranch. You all have got Bill Clinton out there,
doing a lot. So we`re a little leaderless. We`ve got an RNC, but we are
sitting out there wondering. John Boehner, in my opinion, has done a
marvelous job. We`ll keep the House. The bog race is going to be on the
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. On that --
HARRIS-PERRY: Because that made my brain melt and flow out of my ears,
that John Boehner is doing an excellent job, I`m going to go to commercial
on that. But I`m going to come back on exactly this question. There are
17 seats that are going to determine whether or not what Katon just said is
true or false. We`re going to talk about those when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Most of the Election Day attention may be focused on two
races. But the magic number that we`re going to be looking to after
Tuesday is 17. That`s how many seats Democrats would need in order to flip
the 2014 midterm to secure majority in the House of Representatives, and
then maybe a law or two could get passed, you know?
A win for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia`s gubernatorial election
could bolster Democratic hopes that Republicans (INAUDIBLE) voters might
put the number 17 within their reach. Of course, a lot can happen in a
year. And there`s also the weight of historical precedent hanging over
Traditionally, the party that wins the White House goes on to lose the
Virginia gubernatorial seat. And the post-shutdown polling that gave
Democrats an eight-point advantage in the 2014 midterms has since been cut
to just four points, making rumors of a Republican demise in the U.S. House
So, Mark, Katon tried to convince me yesterday that Republicans can run
against Obamacare again, come this midterm election. That will be part of
the kind of narrative. Is 17 completely impossible for Democrats to do or
are there some ways to target? Is it possible the Democrats can re-take
ALEXANDER: Sure, the Democrats can do at. And the question is if the
Republicans continue to say no to everything. That, I think, becomes a
problem for them. Right now, they are seen as saying no to Obamacare, not
offering another option. They`re seen saying no, we`re going to shut down
the government. They`re constantly saying no, offering no vision at all.
And Democrats come forward with a vision in district after district.
Things can change. But, you know, the challenge is, really, that there`s
got to be a strong, positive message from the Democrats.
These problems we`re seeing with the initial rollout of the affordable care
act have to be pushed aside. But as we were talking about before, too, the
Democrats have President Obama, vice president Biden, Hillary Clinton, Bill
Clinton, the leaders who people respond to. And right now the Republicans,
they`re in this battle for their soul. And who knows where they stand.
That`s, I think, going to hurt them ultimately, because they`re lacking a
strong, clear leader, and I think that`s where the opportunity lies in
HARRIS-PERRY: So, if I was being as generous as I could, I would say, OK,
so Democrats have a strong, clear leader, but not much of a bench. So, in
other words, in order to win these seats, we have to have people to run for
them, right? And particularly what the Republicans have been doing since
the `80s, like from dog catcher to president, right, they want somebody in
every single seat, there are no safe seats anymore. But -- so if they`re
lacking a leader, we have a leader, but man, they`ve got a bench. Their
bench is a bunch of, you know, whacko birds, as John McCain called them,
but in fact, there are a lot of people prepared and willing to run, often
with very few resources on the Republican side. Do we have people to run
for those seats?
ALEXANDER: Yes. There are people to run for those seats. But again, this
cultivation has to be happening now. And the Republicans for a long period
were very successful at doing that. But the reality is, the Republicans
are these (INAUDIBLE) battles here, you were talking about before. They
are, now, the tea party is killing off their chances.
They`ve lost the chance to get to the Senate several times, right? And if
the tea party folks k saying, we`re going to destroy the party, that`s just
a better opportunity for the Democrats. And it`s a battle for the soul of
Republican Party, which Katon and I were talking about this during the
commercial break. Right now, the Republicans are in big trouble. It`s a
big problem, their cycles.
Right now the Republicans are in a very bad one. That will change. And
the question is can the Democrats take advantage of that now, because this
is the opportunity politically speaking for Democrats.
BERMAN: But remember, the first thing that Republicans did after taking
power in 2010 in all these places was redistricting the lines to secure the
majority. That`s not the only reason why they`re more secure, but that`s a
big factor. So Democrats have to run in a much tougher map. There are 17
districts that Obama won, where the Republicans have House members.
Seventeen is what they need to flip it. So obviously, if they can win all
these seats, they would be able take back the house. But that said, they
have to win all the Democratic seats, all the lean Democratic seats, all
the toss-ups, and then the lean Republican seats. It`s a very, very
HARRIS-PERRY: But let me ask that. I actually think, as much as it would
be fun to take the House, right, and just to sort of see what it would look
like to governor, I am interested Katon, in the possibility that the more
important thing for democracy might be less about whether or not Democrats
take those 17, than whether or not there is an organized set of business
interests they can push reasonable Republicans, rather than tea party
Republicans, into those spaces. Has redistricting created a situation
where chamber of commerce and others simply can`t even get centrist
Republicans, centrist conservative Republicans?
DAWSON: Let me unpack it first. We didn`t just redistricted we won
governors offices in states. And that`s how you redistrict. Governors`
offices are up now, like Chris Christie, like Terry in Virginia. So, that
was the first place. You had to go in from my side, we had to go into
statehouses is and start winning statehouses before you can redistrict. We
didn`t invent that system. We just took it to a new level. Second of all,
the difference in the Republicans right now and what you`re talking about
in the chamber of commerce Republicans, and Republicans we have, it`s the
same thing with the Democratic seats. They`ve moved so far to the left,
they`re not negotiating --
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, there are no left Democrats. You go show me one. I
mean, seriously, there are like four left Democrats left.
DAWSON: And what I say is, Mark and I don`t agree on much, but we like
each other and at least we can govern. That`s our problem now. We`ve got
a governing problem now of where folks are, so it`s not just Republicans
keeping their seats. And we`re going to keep the House, the Senate is
going to be competitive, and what happens in the next three or four months
is going to --
BERMAN: If you look at your South Carolina --
DAWSON: I know it.
BERMAN: The Democratic districts are more Democratic, the Republican
districts are more Republican than they`ve ever been before because of
HARRIS-PERRY: And we are going to talk a little bit more about that
Also, about the big dogs who have been out and whether or not the star
power on the right can shine as much as the star power on the left.
HARRIS-PERRY: Election Day is not just about the strength of their
candidates, but also the surrogates, who are rallying their supporters. In
Virginia`s gubernatorial race, democrat terry McAuliffe broke out the big
dogs with high-profile names like Bubba and Hillary Clinton, and the
nation`s number one democrat, president Barack Obama will be speaking at a
McAuliffe rally in just a few hours today.
For his part, Ken Cuccinelli has drawn the support of Republican Party
stars, who appeal to a much narrower slice of the GOP electorate. Names
like, you know, FBJ, forget Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, and
former Texas state representative, Ron Paul.
So, look, I -- it just -- the Clintons and President Obama are in a
different league than a Ron Paul and a Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal.
That said, the fact that Katon can keep saying all these names of brown
people who are governors on the Republican party makes a certain part of it
is a little surprising, given what you we saying about the new majorities,
that we can`t name the people who will inherit the Obama and Clinton
BELTRAN: Yes. We have a really, on the one hand, you have this sort of
star power, but it`s a somewhat dated grouping of folks, you know? I mean,
the Clintons, I mean, they`re incredible. They have all this star power.
Hillary, who knows what`s going to happen, she`ll probably run.
But we don`t have, yes, what is that next generation of folks, I think is
an interesting question. But the other thing is, the Republican Party
right now, in terms of surrogates, whoever they bring up is divisive.
Because they`re having a fight in the party, whoever shows up there is
going to be an argument about -- it`s not going to mobilize the entire
base. It`s going to cause one segment to go, that`s exciting, and one
segment to go, I hate that job.
HARRIS-PERRY: And particularly in Virginia where a quarter of Virginian
residents work for the federal government. To bring Mr. Ted shutdown Cruz
in to stump for you seems like a bad idea.
HARRIS-PERRY: Although I will say one thing, I do think that the party is,
you know, we were talking before about what it means to win back the house.
And I think the Republican Party, despite all its inciting, is still
driving the debate. We`re talking about their arguments and their
policies. And a lot of times we`ve been winning elections by just saying,
like, look at that guy. That`s really bad. And so we need to figure out
in the next period of time how do we articulate an agenda that isn`t just
reliant on pointing to the crazy guy next door and saying, I`m not that
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I mean, this is how I was feeling at the point we
were celebrating re-opening the government, Mark. And I thought, excuse
me, like now we`re having a celebration that people are going to return to
work and we`re going to return to sequester levels. And like the notion
that we can`t even push past that, because whatever failing and inciting
there, they aren`t still driving the debate at the moment.
ALEXANDER: Absolutely. And that`s a complete shift, you know, at Seton
Hall where I teach, we always talk about how the rules shape the outcomes.
And, you know, what has happened is a lot of folks have taken the rules in
the primary to get tea party folks into office.
You know, small voter turnout in a primary, get yourself elected in the
district we are talking about for Ari, totally right. Districts, when
they`re redistricted, heavily Republican, then you`ve got folks who are
sitting there saying, we are now going to shape the outcomes and the debate
will be, do we keep the government open or not, that`s a crazy debate.
BERMAN: And in a post Citizens United world, we`re going to get elections
like in Virginia.
HARRIS-PERRY: All the money from the outside.
BERMAN: All the money is coming from the outside. Voters aren`t that
enthused about either candidate. You have tons of money pouring in. And
so, you`re getting more money, less participation. And unfortunately, I
think, what`s happening in Virginia is a trend for things to come if we
don`t do something about how we figure out who`s going to run for office.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, when you invoke Citizens United, it is a reminder
that perhaps, the biggest issue at stake going forward in three years in
the 2016 election, is that if you end up with a Republican president, we
know that our current court is already conservative balance. But also,
that the young people on the court are mostly the conservatives and the
more elderly members of the court are people who were appointed, for the
most part, by Democratic presidents.
If a Republican wins in November of 2016, do you think all the Democrats
will retire -- all the people who had been appointed by Democratic
presidents will retire between November and January 19th, in order to --
ALEXANDER: Confirmation battles take too long. You know, the reality is
that, you know, if we get to any time in 2016, whoever`s retired has to be
retired to be replaced before the election comes. There`ll be a total
shutdown of a Democrat or a Republican.
DAWSON: We were yelling at the base during this last election, that this
election is about the Supreme Court. And it resonated in the base. You
know, Terry McAuliffe there bringing out the Clintons, that`s a big hitter.
We bring out the others and we`ve got our president George W. Bush in
Texas. And one of these days he is going to come off the ranch and he is
going to help us. I know y`all don`t believe that, but we need a leader to
HARRIS-PERRY: You heard it from Katon Dawson, that when George W. Bush
comes off the ranch, it`s going to help Republicans and John Boehner is
doing a great job! This is why we love Katon!
DAWSON: There you go.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks to Ari Berman and Cristina Beltran and to Mark
Alexander. Katon is going to stick around a little bit more.
My special message is next. It`s to a young woman who is facing a struggle
that far too many girls know all too well.
HARRIS-PERRY: In just a few minutes, we`re going to have a conversation
about hunger in America. Hunger that is about to deepen for tens of
millions of Americans, because the federal budget for nutritional
assistance has been slashed.
But before we do, I want to talk about hunger of a different kind, the
hunger that some young women impose on themselves because they suffer with
disordered eating. This week, I received a letter from a woman in a small
town. She is terribly worried because her 14-year-old granddaughter is
suffering with self-imposed starvation. She barely eats 600 calories a day
and has developed low blood pressure and has stopped hanging out with
friends or even pursuing the activities that she loves.
Now, grandma reached out to me because we hear on MHP show sometimes send
words of encouragement to young people who are navigating the challenges of
growing up. These are challenges that so many of us in Nerdland have
faced. We know what it`s like to feel different and we know what it`s like
to look different. And we have felt the sting of rejection and worried
about fitting in.
In my teen years, in the aftermath of surviving sexual assault, I, too,
succumbed to an eating disorder. My battle with bulimia raged for years,
and I still struggle with disliking the woman I see in the mirror. But I
was blessed to have family and friends and teachers who allowed me to see
myself through their kind and forgiving eyes when the glare of my own lens
was too harsh.
Now, grandma asked me to protect the confidentiality of her 14-year-old
granddaughter, so I`m just going to say to you, dearest girl, please reach
out and grab the loving hands that are being offered to you. If you`re
recovering from a trauma, I beg you to tell someone you trust. And if
you`re feeling alone, I`m asking you to believe that you`re surrounded by
love. And more than anything, I`m asking you to try to eat, just a little
bit, just today. Try feeding the beautiful self that is you. Feeding your
body can help to clear your mind and eating affirms your right to exist.
Give yourself permission, today, to feel full. Start with today as the
first day that you don`t have to starve to prove that you are worthy.
And grandma, don`t you give up, because your love and care may be the one
thing that makes all the difference. Nerdland is with you.
HARRIS-PERRY: On Friday, SNAP funding connected to the 2009 stimulus
expired, cutting $5 billion from the food stamp program over the coming
year. Households of four will lose about $36 a month, which is a
meaningful loss when monthly benefits nearly always run out by the third
week of the month already. That means more hungry days and the slashing of
SNAP is not done yet.
A conference committee began working this week on reconciling the house and
Senate farm bills. And the farm bill traditionally houses any changes to
SNAP funding. Both the house and the Senate have proposed more cuts in
their version of the farm bill. The Senate bill would cut about $4.5
billion from the program over ten years. One house bill would cut almost
ten times that amount, $39 billion. It`s all but certain that billions
more will be cut from SNAP, a program that helps feed $47 million
Now, we`ve said it before and we`re going to say it again. This is
shameful. This is hurting tens of millions of Americans. Children, the
elderly, the disabled, and for an amount that will not balance any budget.
And what`s more is that lawmakers clearly find it politically beneficial to
cut food assistance. Some find it so beneficial that they`re willing to
lead the charge to take food out of the mouths of children, like
Congressman Marlin Stutzman of Indiana, who helped write the bill that
would cut $40 billion from food stamps. When the cuts were first proposed,
he told "the Wall Street Journal," it`s a big victory.
Joining the table now, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Democrat of New York,
Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against
Hunger, Maya Wiley, the founder and president of the Center for social
inclusion and still with us, Republican consultant, Katon Dawson.
So Congresswoman, let me ask you this. Why is it politically,
strategically beneficial for any of your colleagues to lead the charge
against food stamps?
REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: Well, you`ve got to put it in
perspective. This is the same team that closed the government for 16 days,
that cost the economy, by some economist measures, $24 billion. This was a
self-inflicted wound. So they put this pain on the public and then they`re
causing more pain by not continuing the recovery money, the $5 billion,
that is so desperately needed.
This past week, I went to two of the centers in the district that I
represent, and when you see the faces of the children and the adults, many
people are working, but they`re on minimum wage. They need this supplement
for their families. Many of them are looking for jobs. Economists tell
us, for every job opening, there are three people waiting in line, and one
in seven people in America are on food stamps.
And to me it`s unconscionable that the most prosperous country in history
is getting food lines that are going to be longer and longer. And this is
on top of to put it in perspective, the sequestration, which is across the
board cuts, and on top of the conference committee now that is looking at a
$40 billion cut versus a $4 billion cut. So it`s very serious and it`s
very wrong, and we will fight that and hopefully change it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Joel, the congresswoman`s point that one in seven
Americans rely on some form of food assistance over the course of the year,
right? So not everyone is on it all year long, but people especially
because of seasonal work, often need it in their households, and yet in
states like mine, in Louisiana, 20 percent of the population, so one in
five. In Mississippi, almost one in four people relying on SNAP, and yet
those are precisely the elected officials. Those Republican elected
officials from the deep south, most likely to be standing on the side of
cutting those benefits. Why?
JOEL BERG, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEW YORK CITY COALITION AGAINST HUNGER:
I`ve heard it said on the right that somehow Obama is buying votes with
this program. But out of the 20 states that have the highest level of food
stamp SNAP participation in the country, 16 voted for Mitt Romney. Now,
there are two lines of Republican attack. One is legitimate, but I think
mistaken, and one is illegitimate.
The legitimate attack is, so many people are unemployed, it`s Obama`s
fault. If the economy wasn`t in such bad shape, we wouldn`t need this. I
agree with that, although the people making this attack are the ones who
causes collapse of our economy.
The second attack, I believe, is race-based or at least racially tinged.
The implication that people are somehow takers and the implication that
they`re non-white, even though the majority of the people on the food
stamps program, always have and still are white support.
HARRIS-PERRY: Look. That point that there is -- that people vote against
their own interest, people on SNAP raging against the takers, in part,
because that -- those people are someone else. But I also want to point
out that it was in -- that the SNAP extension was in the stimulus bill for
a reason. Food stamps are economic stimulus for everybody, whether you`re
part of SNAP or not.
MAYA WILEY, FOUNDER, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION: That`s a
really critically important point. Not only do we have a ballooning -- I
mean, it is a political conversation and that`s legitimate, is about the
deficit, right? And about what it means to be having a program that has
ballooned as large as SNAP. But SNAP`s ballooned because people are out of
work and have been out of work at record numbers for over a year.
So -- but one of the things that the congressional budget office has said
is that number one, this is not our fiscal problem, because by 2019,
without Congress doing anything, by 2019, it`s going to shrink and it`s
going to be at 1995 numbers in terms of gross domestic product. So it`s
not our economic problem, and for every dollar we spend on a food stamp to
feed someone who is hungry, we get $1.70 in economic activity.
WILEY: That`s bang for the buck, as well as just right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean, I just don`t want to miss that, right? That
when -- that what we do is we create elasticity. And right, Republicans
are supposed to get this, right? You guys are supposed to be the ones who
get the numbers of this. That we create elasticity in the budgets of
people living at the margins, right? So once you provide a food
assistance, then more dollars can be spent on gas and can be spent on
heating and can be spent on even consumer goods, that, of course, because
we live in a consumer based economy, prompt the economy.
Katon, this is actually bad for the thing that Republicans should care
about, which is, growing the size of the economy.
DAWSON: Growing -- what we`re stating here is that growing government will
grow the economy. That dollar that we talked about is not free. That is a
taxpayers` dollar. And we are back to your first argument is legitimate.
Forty-seven million people out of 315 million need assistance. But our
disagreement from the Republican side is, that dollar is not free no matter
what the program is. It creates economic activity, but that dollar is
coming from, we`ve had to borrow it or get it from the taxpayers.
HARRIS-PERRY: But our taxes are --
DAWSON: -- woman gets to make their choice on what are the priorities. We
talked about mental health yesterday.
HARRIS-PERRY: But our taxes are at historic lows, Katon, our taxes are at
historic lows. And the fact is, there isn`t any other entity big enough
and worthy enough and willing enough to give the kind of stimulus
necessary, right? What we`ve seen is that private industry, despite its
huge profits, is holding on to job creation, it`s holding on to dollars,
it`s not investing, and in fact, when you shut the government down, they
become even less willing to.
MALONEY: And Melissa, to your point, and Katon, all of these dollars,
they`re not going to be saved. They`re going to go plowing right back into
the economy, to the small business, to the grocery stores.
HARRIS-PERRY: So they can then hire another --
DAWSON: Do you agree that we`ve got to start prioritizing our spending
some time --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I would say we prioritize feeding children!
Coming up next, the faces behind the figures from the SNAP cuts, we are
going to meet just a few of the 47 million people in the crosshairs. And
if you missed it last night, don`t worry, because we`re going to show you
how scandalous things got on "Saturday Night Live."
We stand for Kerry Washington in Nerdland. And there`s more Nerdland at
the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Now, we`ve been talking about this week`s devastating $5 billion cut to the
supplemental nutritional assistance program, also known as SNAP or food
stamps. The cut happened Friday after a temporary boost in SNAP funding
expired on November 1st. The boost was part of the 2009 stimulus, intended
to help people through the recession and expired on Friday despite the fact
that unemployment remains well above where it was before the financial
crash. There are 47 million people in the SNAP program who will be impacted
by these cuts.
Now, this story, thankfully, has been getting some of the attention it so
desperately deserves. But telling the story is complicated, especially on
TV. We can`t put 47 million people on TV all at once, and we can`t
interview 47 million people. So, to show you who they are, we`re left with
We can either tell you a lot of statistics and hope that they shape a
picture in your mind, like these facts, that more than 80 percent of SNAP
benefits go to households with children or the elderly or people with
disabilities, or we can show you just a few people who we think are
emblematic, and who we hope that you will trust us that these people are
who you should think of when you think of the 47 million people who need
help to keep from going hungry.
Our colleagues at the FOX News Channel want you to think of people like
this 28-year-old wannabe rocker and proud beach enthusiast as the face of
those 47 million Americans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Meet Jason Greenslate, food stamp recipient.
JASON GREENSLATE: Another day in the life of Jason living the rate life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But here at MHP, we`ve presented viewers with a decidedly
different face of hunger, like Tiana Gaines-Turner, a working mother of
three who relies on SNAP to feed her family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIANNA GAINES-TURNER, FORMERLY HOMELESS: Everyone has something to say
about someone who lives in hunger and poverty, but yet they`ve never sat
down to the table, they`re not involved at the table, they`re making
decisions in which affects our lives without even having conversations with
us. They think they have the answers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And this week, my colleague Chris Hayes on his show "ALL IN"
offered a report that shreds the FOX News notion of who relies on
assistance to get food.
Here`s just an interview with a mother who struggles to feed her children
on food stamps and turns to a local food pantry for help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every day, you count your money, if you have $307,
you`re going to spend $200 this week. You can`t go over. Once you go
over, then before the month up, if it`s three or four days, your kids don`t
have enough food to eat. So, it`s very hard, and to cut it, you know, a
lot of people are going to suffer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me back at the table are Congresswoman Carolyn
Maloney of New York, Joel Berg of the New York City Coalition Against
Hunger, Maya Wiley of the Center for Social Inclusion, and Republican
strategist, Katon Dawson.
So, Joel, you see some of these 47 million faces on a regular basis. What
do we need to know?
JOEL BERG, NEW YORK CITY COALITION AGAINST HUNGER: You need to know, first
of all, the attack against their food isn`t about deficit reduction. The
very same people who voted for an orgy of corporate welfare in the last
stand-alone farm bill, some of whom are benefiting personally to the tune
of millions of dollars going to their family`s pockets, all of a sudden,
when it comes to the $1.40 or $1.50 per meal are outraged that our
government would spend money feeding our neighbors.
Second, we need to know, this is about working families. Eighty percent of
the able-bodied adults on the SNAP program were working the year before or
the year after, getting this help, and most households with a working adult
are still on the program because they can`t get higher wages. So, I
challenge the other side, if you`re against the spending, then join the
president`s call to increase the minimum wage. That won`t cost a penny of
HARRIS-PERRY: Congresswoman Barbara Lee was on set when Ms. Tianna Gaines-
Turner was on with us. And Congresswoman Lee was so impressed by Ms.
Turner, she said, look, I want you to come and speak to Congress on Paul
Ryan`s hearing about this. And Ryan refused to let Tianna come to speak.
Congresswoman, isn`t it the obligation of elected officials to talk to the
people who are directly impacted by policy, before making policy?
REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: They should be. And if they go back
to their districts, I can assure you, every congressperson`s district has
food pantries and soup kitchens and churches and synagogues that are
providing food to people. And they`re telling me in my district, I bet
it`s the same across the country, that attendance is up 40 percent, because
of the economy, the Great Recession, and because of these cutbacks, it`s
going to be even greater.
And, again, in the richest country in history, that we`re not going to feed
our people, and provide food to them, and children who are hungry can`t
learn. So, it becomes a cycle of poverty and lack of opportunity and the
least we can do is continue -- we should be adding to these programs, not
cutting them. And I agree with Barbara Lee, we should have a Democratic
hearing n our own if they won`t let her speak.
MAYA WILEY, CENTER FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION: So, one of the -- I really want
to underscore Joel`s point, because there`s a woman who`s 27 years old in
Chicago, who`s been working at McDonald`s for 10 years. She makes $8.25 an
hour. OK, that`s $1 above minimum wage an hour. And when she -- and she
can`t feed her family at the end of the month.
When she called up -- McDonald`s has something called McResource for
employees, to help them with things like health benefits and -- and what
McDonald`s told hero do was to apply for food stamps. So, either we can
tell McDonald`s, as a lot of workers are, pay a fare wage, then maybe we
could have a principled conversation about how we bring down the rolls.
Because I think we all want to see people not having to rely on these
programs. But it should be because they can feed and take care of their
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to underline two things that you said there, that I
just don`t want folks to miss. One is this point about the money running
out before the end of the month, which we also heard in the "ALL IN"
report. About 90 percent of SNAP benefits are spent in the first three
weeks of the month.
So, what that means in part, in our public schools in New Orleans, you and
I were talking about this before the show, Congresswoman, is that we see a
discernible uptick in behavioral problems in school, a discernible uptick
in our crime rate as a result of SNAP benefits running out and people
actually being too hungry, children being too hungry to do work in schools
in that last week.
WILEY: I was in Mississippi a few weeks ago, talking to families, and
these are the stories I was hearing. There are children in high school
right now who are getting these supports right now, which are not
sufficient, do not feed the family at the end of the month.
And here`s what they do in school -- they know which kids will not eat,
which portions of their lunch. So, after they`ve gotten their free lunch,
right, their subsidized lunch, they then wait in the cafeteria, so that
they can collect the food items off the plates of other kids who leave
those items, so they can take them home and have dinner.
MALONEY: What it translates to is $1.50 a meal.
MALONEY: And with these cuts, it will be $1.40 a meal. You can`t even buy
a Starbucks with that.
WILEY: And it`s 21 meals a month.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to point out your point about corporate welfare. The
fact is, even food stamps that are feeding people are still a form of
I just want to talk about Wal-Mart for a second. Wal-Mart gets 18 percent
of food stamp spending. So they pay an insufficient wage, then their folks
get food stamps, who are undergirding their profit, and then they go and
spend them at Wal-Mart.
And when asked about the fact that this bill was going to cut, they said,
well, no problems. Wal-Mart actually hopes the change will help it to gain
market share, because having less money to spend could make shoppers more
price conscience, which Wal-Mart says is a potential -- so actually cutting
the food stamps could increase their market share.
I`m sorry, that makes me a little nauseous, the idea that Wal-Mart is
excited about that.
Katon, there really is a fundamental, moral question on the table here.
KATON DAWSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: There is. And it comes down to
something, I think, the difference in the political parties. Jack Kemp in
1998 at the Republican convention sort of defined the difference in
political parties. Jack said, Democrats measure compassion by how many are
receiving government aid, and Republicans measure compassion by how few
And I think the two parties are going to have to come together, because
it`s the dignity of a job, not just a job, but the dignity of a good job
and an economic climate and an environmental, to pull us out of this
economic -- I would guess, economic downfall that we`ve been in, with
everybody`s got shared responsibility in it.
So, it`s really the dignity of a good education and the dignity of a really
good job to move us away, because I don`t think anybody here applauds the
fact that we have a country with 47 million people.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure, sure, sure. But that -- there are no more Jack Kemp
Republican -- for one thing, you guys like buried Jack Kemp. I don`t know
if y`all should say his name anymore.
DAWSON: We did.
HARRIS-PERRY: But beyond that, that idea of people not needing it. I`m
down, I would prefer people have the capacity to purchase food. And in
fact, as you said earlier, Maya, the CBO suggests that we`re going to see a
down -- that already, as a share of GDP, the amount of the food stamps is
going to tick down on its own, as people get jobs.
Not so much for dignity -- I mean, dignity is great. I`m all down for
dignity, but I`m also down for eating all four weeks.
WILEY: You know, it`s interesting because when we talk about -- Joel was
mentioning this earlier, when we talk about the farm bill, one of the
things at the House, while it wants to cut so deeply into food stamps, has
not been willing to cut as much as the bipartisan Senate version of the
farm bill, is these commodity subsidies.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, let`s go there.
WILEY: Seventy-five percent of these subsidies to farms for certain kinds
of products like wheat and soy goes to 10 percent of farmers, 10 percent.
HARRIS-PERRY: Maya, let`s go there. Let`s take a break and then go
exactly there. And ask whether or not these Republicans had any dignity at
all when they take this orgy of corporate welfare. What maybe the most
important part of a former House speaker`s legacy, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Some of you might be wondering why are food stamps part of
the farm bill, anyway? Well, the answer lies in the 1970s when a group of
lawmakers, including former House Speaker Tom Foley, who died just last
week, decided that the only way to get city-dwelling lawmakers to vote for
billions of dollars in subsidies for farmers was to attach food assistance
for urban residents to the farm bill.
As Congressman Fred Richman, a New York Democrat, and chair of an
agricultural subcommittee who combined the bills told "The New York Times"
in 1977, "We forged a real working urban-rural coalition. The average city
fellow up to now has automatically voted against every farm bill."
So, the question is, how do we go from using food stamps as leverage to add
votes to the farm bill to a place where everyone, Republicans and
Democrats, want to cut food assistance to the poor?
So, Congresswoman, I love this story, in part because we tend to think of
things like earmarks or log rolling or favors as bad government policy.
But, in fact, the farm bill is emblematic of how sometimes you`ve got to
put things together in order to get things passed. Is something like this
even possible in our current Congress, in the 113th?
MALONEY: I`ve never seen us so divided, as we are now. Not only on
nutrition. You think you would be united on nutrition, you think you would
be united on keeping the government open.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, raising the debt ceiling.
MALONEY: You think you would be united so many areas, but it`s the worst
I`ve ever seen it. And 80 Tea Party Republicans signed a letter that they
would not vote for any budget, unless it totally defunded Obamacare,
providing health care to 30 million people who need health care. I`ve
never seen anything like this in my life. And the whole shutdown was a way
to slice away at Obamacare, which they were not successful at.
It was a new way of governing. We used to have an election. You`d pass a
bill. It was upheld by the Supreme Court, reaffirm by the Supreme Court,
went out in another election, it was a defining issue of the election, the
president won with 5 million votes and it`s still on the floor being
It used to be, we would have a difference of opinion and come together and
vote on it, but now, they want to add all these unrelated things to the
budget vote, and it`s very divided and hopefully will be decided in the
next election, people will decide that they don`t want this type of par
extremism, and it`s the same team that pushed to close the government, that
is pushing on the food stamps and the nutrition programs.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that same team that is willing to shut down the
government and that says the government is bad, and that is willing to take
food off the tables of poor people are also, sometimes, the very same
people getting these massive subsidies or big, crop insurance, that we see
in the farm bill. Why is it that food stamps are so easily politicized,
but the farm part of the farm bill is still kind of off-limits?
HARRIS-PERRY: I love the clear answers.
WILEY: I mean, this is -- you know, poor people don`t have a lot of money
for very expensive lobbyists. So, no offense. I`m sure you`re quite
WILEY: But, you know, honestly --
DAWSON: And available.
WILEY: OK. And you`ll work for some (INAUDIBLE)
It`s really about money and politics, because these are huge, huge
corporate contributors. They`re extremely important, particular in the
states, which are highly rural and have a lot of these products. And poor
people, frankly, don`t have as much political clout. It`s that simple.
HARRIS-PERRY: And look, I don`t want to hate on farmers. Look, family
farmers are -- but that`s, for the most part, not who`s -- it`s mostly not
family farmers, it`s huge agribusiness. And soybeans and corn, right?
BERG: And significant numbers of people with addresses on this island of
Manhattan get farm subsidies for land they`ve never seen. Agro businesses
have donated over $600 million to federal campaigns over the last decade.
Now, look, I know the SNAP program, the food stamps program, is a big
target. But people need to understand, it`s the only part of the poor
people`s safety net left. Welfare, as we know it, is gone.
I worked for President Clinton`s administration and I supported welfare
reform to move people to more living wage jobs, but less than 10 percent of
even the food stamps recipients in America get cash welfare. Housing
assistance is gone. This is the last thing that low-income people used to
HARRIS-PERRY: This is such an important point. We stopped building
affordable housing, right? We have stripped away the social safety net
over and over again. The one thing -- so, we talk about this massive
expansion of the food stamp program, but it`s because it was the only thing
left to catch people.
WILEY: Well, this is really important because I think it`s actually
incredibly important that we have rural communities. It`s incredibly
important that people be able to farm sustainably. And, you know, a lot of
the crops that poor people can`t afford, fruits and vegetables, the farm
bill was not subsidizing those crops. So, they`re much more expensive.
It`s a lot cheaper to buy a bag of potato chips and a soda than it is to
buy, you know, a tomato.
WILEY: And that doesn`t make sense. So we`re not even necessarily -- I`m
not against subsidies for farming.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes --
WILEY: In fact, I think we need some subsidies for farming, because as we
see climate change, we need more food. We need the right food and we need
to make sure family farmers, medium farmers can be in the game, and that
people in their communities can get that product.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is sort of that whole big story, right? You subsidize
corn, corn becomes all of those sugar substances that go into packaged
food. Packaged food is cheap. People with very few food subsidies have to
buy that. They`re buying it from the Wal-Mart.
So the people who actually end up enriched from this whole process are the
most wealthy people, and yet, it`s the only thing that we have left.
Katon, maybe folks could really get down with a shrinking of this part of
the social safety net if there was also a willingness to have a discussion
about how farm subsidies currently work and the ways in which they
subsidize the wealthy.
DAWSON: And that becomes the discussion of how Washington works, you hit
it. It`s the powerful lobbies. It`s the subsidies that go out to wherever
they go, and I think one of the answers is the small farmer.
We had it last time we talked about SNAP. We had the administrator of one
of the small farmers programs. And that`s one that we see in my home state
of South Carolina whether it`s farmer`s markets or whatever it is, and
they`re becoming fairly successful courtesy of the restaurant industry.
But the crux of the problem is, you`re talking about changing Washington.
That`s what you`re talking about.
HARRIS-PERRY: But a restaurant industry, which still pays less than
minimum wage to people.
DAWSON: But they do provide jobs.
Thank you to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, to Joel Berg, to Maya Wiley,
and to Katon Dawson.
I`m going to shake this off a little bit, because up next, did you stay up
late last night? If not, don`t worry, because we`ve got highlights of what
happened when "Scandal`s" Kerry Washington hosted "SNL."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY WASHINGTON, ACTRESS: It`s fun to play a strong, fearless woman who`s
not afraid to constantly drink red wine in a white pantsuit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Olivia!
WASHINGTON: Hi, Bobby. It`s Kerry, actually. We talked about this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever, listen, I need your help.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Look, if you`ve been watching this show, then you know we
love us some "Scandal" here in Nerdland. We are gladiators, as Olivia Pope
might say. The actor who portrays her, Kerry Washington, is the primary
reason we are glued to this show every week.
So you might imagine, we love it when she is able to stop by and talk to us
about her amazing hit drama. Or to prove our addiction, we even had a
"Scandal" watch party right here on the show. So, there is no way on earth
that we`re not going to take a moment to notice Miss Washington, when she`s
been working down the hall from us at "Saturday Night Live" all week.
And last night, she became only the eighth black woman to ever host the
iconic sketch show, which currently doesn`t have any black female cast
members. Which they recognized right off the top of last night`s episode,
where Washington starts outplaying first lady, Michelle Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michelle, it`s -- this is such treat. I feel like it`s
been years since I`ve seen you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am so sorry to interrupt, but Oprah Winfrey has
arrived for the dinner and she would love to pop in and say hello.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that`s wonderful.
WASHINGTON: What a nice surprise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn`t it? Don`t you think you should go and get
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So that Oprah can come in?
WASHINGTON: Oh, because of the whole --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, exactly.
WASHINGTON: And Keenan won`t --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nope.
WASHINGTON: Well, in that case, I will leave and in a few minutes Oprah
will be here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mrs. Obama.
ANNOUNCER: The producers at "Saturday Night Live" would like to apologize
to Kerry Washington for the number of black women she will be asked to play
tonight. We made these requests both because Ms. Washington is an actress
of considerable range and talent, and also because "SNL" does not have
currently black women in the cast.
As for the latter reason, we agree that this is not an ideal situation and
look forward to rectifying it in the near feature, unless, of course, we
fall in love with another white guy first.
WASHINGTON: I`m here!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And, perhaps inspired by us here in Nerdland, Kerry also did
a political discussion sketch, with cast members, Kenan Thompson and Jay
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would it take for Barack Obama to lose your
support? Would Barack Obama lose your support if he left the Christian
church and converted?
WASHINGTON: Converted to what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Islam.
WASHINGTON: Assalamu Alaikum, Barack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judaism?
WASHINGTON: Mazel tov, Baruch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scientology!
WASHINGTON: All hail Xenu, my thetan brother.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, what if he becomes an atheist.
WASHINGTON: Mm-hmm, no, no, no, no, no. I do not think I could trust a
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel you, sister.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So does he lose your support?
WASHINGTON: He does not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: There is only one person we stand for like that, who can do
no wrong in our eyes, and that is Kerry Washington. But that doesn`t mean
she`s the only black woman star who deserves some shine. We`re going to
talk about some black girls and how they rock, coming up next.
HARRIS-PERRY: This semester, I`m teaching a course entitled Feminism and
Hip Hop. My students and I are working through scholarly texts about youth
politics and gender and sexuality and hip hop culture.
One of the key questions to which we keep returning is, what difference
does it make when women take the mic? When women run the show, do we get
different representations of women or different politics?
One thing we know for sure, young black women are ready to take the mic and
ready to rock. Let`s let me allow a few young ladies to tell you why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Black Girls Rock.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I hear the phrase, "black girls rock", I see
someone with a determined face. Someone who is strong and confident.
Maybe like a fist up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I rock because I`m creative.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m an "A" student.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love to help people in my community.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people that came way before me rocked.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m a black girl.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m a black girl.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m a black girl who rocks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Those young ladies, at least one of whom I hope you
recognize from the Nerdland table, they get it. But all too often, young
African-American women find themselves underrepresented, if they`re
represented at all in media and society. And instead of starting with a
clean slate, young black women often have to deal with society stereotypes,
and misconceptions of who they are.
Black Girls Rock was founded in 2006, to combat those stereotypes and to
build self-esteem and self-worth among young black women. Tonight, on BET
at 7:00 p.m., the Annual Black Girls Rock Awards Show airs, for women like
Venus Williams and Misty Copeland, Marian Wright Edelman, and Queen Latifah
will be celebrated for being positive role models.
Now, while we work to applaud those who continue to work to uplift young
African-American women, we must remember that this particular struggle
continues and it`s far from over.
At the table, Beverly Bond, founder of Black Girls Rock. Also, Daphne
Brooks, professor of English and African-American studies at Princeton
University. And Joan Morgan, cultural critic and author of "When
Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: My Life as A Hip Hop Feminist."
Thanks to you all for being here.
Beverly, tell me about Black Girls Rock. Why initiate this program?
BEVERLY BOND, BLACK GIRLS ROCK FOUNDER: You know, as a hip hop deejay and
a woman who has a platform in music and entertainment, I probably was more
aware and conscience of a lot of messages that were being directed to
women, and particularly to women of color, from people who look like them,
that were damaging.
And as an adult, certainly, I can navigate my way through, you know, having
critical media literacy, I understand how to, you know, maneuver. But I
kept thinking, how are these messages affecting our young girls and our
young boys coming up and what does this do? What does this do to them 10
years later? What does this do to them 5 years old when they ingesting a
lot of this material?
So what was initially the thought of starting a mentoring program for Black
Girls Rock, and I tell this story a lot, it was actually a teacher`s idea,
and it was teacher, and immediately as I started writing down the different
names of women who rocked, I was just going down a list and it just
overwhelmed me. I was like, this is so much bigger. It was almost like
those ancestors at that moment, like, this is bigger, and I`m like, I have
to do this. I`m doing an award show and I`m going to -- because I feel
like they need to see what they`re sheroes really look like.
And I also felt that there needs to be -- we need to step in and be this
village and mentor our girls.
HARRIS-PERRY: The language that you use there, critical media literacy.
Daphne, I wanted to come to you on that, because I think part of what can
happen, and I think actually Black Girls Rock doesn`t do this, but I think
sometimes what happens in our discourse, especially around hip hop is it`s
negative and bad, and what we need is positive and good.
And I always think, well, no, obviously, we`ll know what we need is
authentic and diverse, right? So I want to hear what black girls say and
some of what they`re going to say is not positive or nice or friendly.
It`s not all puppies and kittens, right?
So what happens when girls get a chance to take the mic? What kind of
expressions do we get from women?
DAPHNE BROOKS, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Sure, I mean, it`s about creating a
public voice. Being table to seize a cultural space in which you can
change the narrative, you can perform yourself.
You know, I would say rock `n` roll is a self-making act in every way. You
know, I want to also say, I`m thrilled and honored to be at table with the
both of you. Joan Morgan, who is a groundbreaking journalist in every way,
who has changed the narrative about hip hop for years now. Black Girls
Rock is an organization that`s near and dear to my heart.
I`m with a sister organization, if you don`t mind me saying that.
BROOKS: Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls named after big Mama Thornton, who
sang "Hound Dog", recording "Hound Dog" three years before Elvis Presley,
BROOKS: And in that camp, we`re teaching our camps, it`s open to all
girls, but we teach anti-racist and anti-homophobic politics. We`re
teaching them to read the media critically, right? We`re teaching them to
cultivate a voice through music.
We`re teaching them to formulate a relationship with other girls. We`re
teaching them to formulate healthy, self-affirming definitions of
themselves. And we`re teaching them to use their voices to change their
community. So, it`s a multi-faceted kind of process.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love the language you use there, forging alliances with
other girls. I mean, Joan, I have talk your book now for a long time. I
mean, I`m realizing now how long it`s been that I`ve been teaching your
book and this idea of hip hop feminism, which you coin.
But you know, always the conversation in classes, well, what does it mean
to be a hip hop feminist. And it`s got to be at least in part about
forging alliances with other girls and women, seeing girls and women as
your cohort, not as your competitors.
JOAN MORGAN, CULTURAL CRITIC: Absolutely. I think even by those of us who
do critical work around black women, black girls, black women`s bodies, we
often tell the story about what`s wrong and what we don`t really realize is
that we don`t impart to young women, where your power actually lies. That
it lies in being able to see yourself, in knowing your history, in knowing
that there have historically been these fabulous alliances among black
women. Like we`re how we got through.
So I think unless you champion those stories, and not play down, because
they have to know that, you know, the ways that we`ve suffered, but you
have to be really careful, not just breaking down, like, the pathologies or
just -- feminism just can`t be about dissecting racism and what
intersecting oppressions do to us. We have to give them their power from a
sense of pleasure and a sense of joy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love this. That we`re how we got through.
HARRIS-PERRY: And every time I watch Black Girls Rock, you know, as much
as it`s for the girls, it seems like the grown women are the ones having
the most fun. Like, when do we get to be in space, where we just get to --
like, yes, we like each other.
BOND: What it is, it`s definitely about connecting and uplifting and
affirming who we are, not necessarily always looking at the negativity,
because Black Girls Rock, in itself, it`s an affirmation, and I was
inspired by so many black women, like a Joan Morgan, who are out here
rocking and doing incredible things and are real supporters, before I even
started Black Girls Rock, you know?
I was inspired by all the women who just appreciated that I represented
women well as a deejay, you know, a male-dominated field. All my support
was from women. So I was just like, you know, this is something that, it`s
not to say that other girls don`t rock, but there are so many beautiful,
wonderful, empowered black women who are doing so many things, on so many
levels, and I just felt like that needed to be celebrated and said and
Stick with us. We`re going to talk more about this and particularly, about
one of my favorite rocking black girls, which is Queen Latifah, when we
But I do want to say this, I mentioned earlier I`m teaching a course on hip
hop and feminism this semester. We`re reading Joan`s book, of course. And
as an extension of that class, my Anna Julia Cooper Project conference is
hosting a mini conference on gender, sexuality and hip hop next month in
New Orleans. So, you can get more information about the conference at
cooperproject.org and Joan is giving the keynote.
Up next, a message from the queen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUEEN LATIFAH, MUSICIAN: I mean it`s just great to be in your company.
You know, this is cool. I just want to say that I did take ballet, but I
was too big, but I did get up on my toes, but I was really kind of -- you
do have the body for it. Some things, got to be honest with yourself, is
what my point is. Keep it real, and be truthful!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That is just a small part of Queen Latifah`s acceptance
speech, which you can see more of tonight on the Annual Black Girls Rock
Awards Show that airs on BET at 7:00 p.m.
So, Daphne, part of the reason I wanted to talk about Latifah is because
she represents all these multiple ways of representing black womanhood at
various points in her career.
How do you read someone like Miss Dana Owens?
BROOKS: Well, I read her as being a symbol of, you know, black womanhood,
across the ages, being extremely versatile. So she starts out as a rapper.
She`s a singer, she`s an actress, she`s an entrepreneur, she`s a talk show,
et cetera, et cetera, et cetera -- talk show host.
The thing that we need to remember is that black women have been multi-
faceted through the ages, you know? We think back to someone like Anna
Julia Cooper you were discussing, right? Having to occupy all these
The blues queen that we think of being conventional and one dimensional
were performing on a variety of deferent spaces. They were on the
vaudeville circuit, if you think of somebody like Mimi Smith, right?
And that`s a tie-in to Kerry Washington, I want to underscore, from "SNL,"
that she performs in a variety of different roles. She refused to be seen
in one way only on that show. And that`s something that black women have
been doing through music for many, many, many years. And so, Latifah is
another iteration of that. She`s extraordinary.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, I wonder, if part of what`s happened in the
industry, Beverly, particularly around hip hop, has been a constraining of
the kinds of roles that women can, in fact, body. So I love Nicki Minaj, I
listen to a lot of Nicki Minaj. She has got me through some very hard
But I also wonder when we had Salt-n-Pepa, when we had Latifah, they
weren`t -- it`s not like I want Nicki to go away, but I also want these
other possibilities to exist.
Is there still space for that in the industry?
BOND: I think we have to make space for it. I mean, there was a space for
Black Girls Rock. There was a space for this message, especially coming a
deejay in hip hop.
But when I tell you, this is really embrace, especially within hip hop,
more so than people think. You know, I have rappers all the time like Bev,
thank you, because I have daughters.
HARRIS-PERRY: The idea that hip hop is 40 now, you know -- so, Joan, I`m
thinking that you and I, we are of an age when our entire musical lives
includes hip hop. There`s no possibility. I mean, we both think of
ourselves as African-American feminists, yet we also, there`s no part of
our lives that doesn`t have hip hop as our sound track, right?
And I guess part of the question is whether or not we still believe in it
as something that can help us feel like we rock, or whether or not we`re
always fighting with both hip hop and rock and just sort of the
representations of us in media. Is there a way for us to be -- have that
critical media literacy, and yet also be consumers of this space?
MORGAN: Well, I think it`s absolutely necessary. I mean, one of the
things, the questions that are coming up for me all the time is how do you
grow up in hip hop? Like -- I mean, like, really grow up. Not grow up,
but grow up.
Like become 48 and have a teenager. And just, you know, it is very much
youth culture in many ways. So, for me, it`s always very critical to
remember that hip hop informed -- you know, my aesthetic love for hip hop,
certainly informed my feminism, but it also gave me a particular advantage
point to critique hip hop culture and critique, also just to be honest,
popular culture at large.
MORGAN: And so I think that it`s quite fine to become comfortable with the
role of the critic in. And acknowledge when the music is not speaking to
you in particularly ways, I also just --
HARRIS-PERRY: Is it just us being old? Is it just that like now we`re old
people and we`re like, oh, our music was better than their music. It`s a
MORGAN: No, and I know this for a fact, because when young people are
exposed to the hip hop we came up on, they love it. They absolutely love
BOND: And I can tell you that even with my mentees, what they key into is
actually music that is more classic and older than they are and what they
prefer. Their favorite artists are still -- if you ask them their favorite
female artist, they will tell you, MC Lyte and Lauren Hill every time,
HARRIS-PERRY: Literally, the sonic, the sound of her voice is something
that is no longer available to us, a woman with a voice that has that
certain kind of androgynous, you know, wonderfully sexualized appeal, that
doesn`t feel like it`s a commoditized sexuality.
BOND: And also content. Like, they are, like, we don`t give young people
enough credit and we should make smarter art. You know what I mean? We
should try to be better and try to put the best of what we have to offer
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. I like this idea of smarter rather than just more
positive, because what I don`t ever want to do is become the old lady
respectability police, that says, you know, pull up your pants!
HARRIS-PERRY: Exactly! I like the idea of smarter, more complex, more
authentic in some ways.
BROOKS: And then we`re talking about an artist like Janelle Monae, who
scholars really love and we hope that will cross over more.
But here`s an artist who is so deeply citational, historical. You know,
she`s got a little Richard Pompadour. She`s got the James Brown cape,
right? She`s got the Prince, you know, soundscape.
She`s got this androgyny that`s working at a vocal level. She`s doing some
Michael Jackson from the "Off the Wall" era. And the fact that she`s using
this kind of performative access, right? She`s denying -- she`s resisting
the idea of being defined as only one way, as a black woman.
So, I think she`s really -- and in terms of musical genre, too, you know,
hip hop, punk rock, you know, after punk, classic (INAUDIBLE).
So I think it`s really important to be able to identify these women who
kind of working on the fringes trying to do some different ways of, you
know, being black women in American culture today.
HARRIS-PERRY: Daphne, I miss you! I haven`t seen you in a long time and
you just told me that Janelle Monae was citational.
Oh, man. I -- sometimes, I just -- I know, sometimes, I self indulge. I
just put the people on the table that I love.
Beverly Bond and Daphne Brooks and Joan Morgan -- thank you, ladies. And
we are all going to be tuning in tonight, because black girls, do, indeed
rock. And it`s one of those shows that just makes you feel good.
Up next, this is the most ridiculous thing that we`ve ever done on
television. Yes, even more ridiculous than that ridiculous.
KORNACKI: Here in Nerdland, we share a floor and a work schedule with our
good friends from "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI," which as many of you know airs
right before this show.
Now, during the last few weeks, I have seen many contestants come and go,
rise and fall, all while testing their smarts in Steve`s popular political
game show "Up Against the Clock."
Now, the brilliant minds that have graced the podium range from game show
veteran and "Jeopardy" champion, Congressman Rush Holt to "The Washington
Post`s" Jonathan Capehart, and even fellow MSNBC host Lawrence O`Donnell.
But more important than the jackpot price and gifts that the winner
receives, you get a little bit of intellectual credibility from one of the
smartest people around, Steve Kornacki. So I was really honored when Steve
came over to my office and invited me to be a contestant on the show next
But, see, here`s the thing. My team and me, we consider ourselves nerds.
While the folks over at "UP," we call them wonks. Now, nerds handle the
analytic part of interpreting information. Tell us what happens, and we`ll
tell you what it means.
But wonks, they just know everything. So in order to make all of my
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY viewers proud, I have spent the last week in serious
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m ready, coach.
Jimmy Carter loves peanuts.
LBJ was president in 1964.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, kid. Give me 25 reps.
HARRIS-PERRY: I got it.
Oh, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan.
It was hard, the Confederacy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You call that reading?
I know they keep them around here somewhere. Where are those "Up Against
the Clock" podiums?
Ha! Yes! There it is. I`m ready. Where`s my coach?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hit the buzzer! I said hit the buzzer!
According to Standard and Poor`s, how much --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- how much --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In what is termed a voyeuristic tidbit, the Salt Lake -
HARRIS-PERRY: Mitt Romney.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Girl, you are ready.
HARRIS-PERRY: That is what we call nerd pride. Thanks to my coach, my
executive producer there, Eric Salzman.
That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going
to see you next Saturday 8:45 a.m. Eastern for "Up Against the Clock".
And then, of course, for MHP at 10:00 a.m.
Right now, a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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