January 5, 2014
Guests: Julian Zelizer, Amy Goodman, Dorian Warren, Susan del Percio, Adam Smith, Ralph Becker
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question. Who that
say they going to beat them saints? No, just kidding.
Plus, we have a breaking Doc McStuffins (ph) news.
And how everything we need to know about 2014 could be happening right now
But first, break time is officially over. Washington, like it or not, is
about to go back to work.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Tomorrow is Monday, January 6th. And it`s a big day for parents. The kids
are going back to school for their first full week after the holiday break.
Now, for some, like the kids in Boston, who were supposed to go back to
school on Friday, but got a snow day instead, it will be the first time
back at all after two weeks of tearing around your house, hyped up on
holiday sugar and cabin fever.
Now, not everyone`s going back to school, though. The governor of
Minnesota has already canceled all classes tomorrow due to extreme cold.
The high temperature is forecasted to be 15 degrees below zero.
Elsewhere, across the country, most kids will be headed back to school
tomorrow, perhaps evoking a relieved sigh from parents and caregivers. And
some other people are also going back to work this week.
President Obama is returning back to D.C. today, after a two-week vacation
in Hawaii. The Senate returns tomorrow, and the House comes back on
So when our kids go back to school tomorrow, we know what they`re going to
be working on. We know they`re going to be learning about the second world
war or how to calculate a high pot news or conjugate your regular verbs in
Spanish. But what will Congress be working on?
Now, in that case, the answer is a little less clear. Comprehensive
immigration reform, maybe not, at least not right now. Raising the minimum
wage? Nope! Maybe extending SNAP benefits? No. How about restricting
access to firearms or common sense economic legislation to expand the
middle class and help the poor? Nope.
And then there`s long-term unemployment insurance, which allows people out
of work to collect benefits for up to 73 weeks, nearly a year and a half,
in states where unemployment is especially high. Without it, most people`s
benefits last only 26 weeks. And that long-term benefits program expired
last month, three days after Christmas. 1.3 million Americans lost their
unemployment benefits. Collectively, they lost $400 million in their first
Now, the Senate says extending the benefits is priority number one. On
Monday, their first day back, Senate majority leader Harry Reid plans to
hold a procedural vote on a bill that would extend the benefits for another
three months. The bill, so far, has one Republican cosponsor, senator Dean
Heller, Reid`s colleague from Nevada.
But President Obama is also pushing Congress, and especially Republicans,
to get on board. Here he is, in his weekly address.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just a few days after
Christmas, more than one million of our fellow Americans lost a vital
economic lifeline, the temporary insurance that helps folks make ends meet,
while they look for a job.
Republicans in Congress went home for the holidays and let that lifeline
expire. And for many who have their constituents who were unemployed
through no fault of their own, that decision will leave them with no income
at all. So when Congress comes back to work this week, their first order
of business should be making this right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The president is expected to speak again on unemployment
benefits from the White House on Tuesday, while surrounded by people who
have lost their benefits. And things are a bit different over in the House
of Representatives, there are no plans to vote on an unemployment extension
on the congressman`s first day back.
In fact, in a memo laying out the Republican leadership`s agenda for the
month of January, unemployment insurance is not even mentioned at all.
Repealing Obamacare is on their, finishing up the farm bill is on there.
Eliminating certain environmental regulations is on there. Even
immigration -- excuse me, immigration and flood insurance get honorable
mentions as things to be addressed in the coming months but, not
Joining me now is Julian Zelizer, professor of public affairs at Princeton
University and author of "Governing America, revival of political history."
Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of Democracy Now, Public TV and
radio "Newshour." She`s also a syndicated columnist and best-selling
author. Her latest book is "the story of majority, stories of uprising,
occupations, resistance and hope." Also with us, Dorian Warren, associate
professor of political science and international in public affairs at
Columbia University. And Susan Del Percio, who is a Republican strategist
and MSNBC contributor.
Thank you all for being here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I actually want to start with you, Susan, on the
question of the Republican leadership`s agenda item, and the fact that
unemployment insurance does not appear there. Is this primarily an
ideological position or a set of beliefs, or is it about believing
politically that it would be harmful to them, given this is the start of an
election year, right, to take up unemployment?
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think it`s based on the
fact that there`s been no mention of a pay -for here. I think this is
something that is going to have to be addressed immediately. Because
unlike everything else that you discussed in your introductions, this is
happening now. These unemployment benefits, if they`re going to be
addressed, have to be addressed now. Not in a month. You can`t do an
extension on them again, because people are being hurt immediately.
I do think there`s a potential that we`re going to see some form of pay-for
come in, and that there is the potential for a three-month extension.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, even though it`s not showing up as a priority agenda
item, you actually think there will be movement on that.
Do you agree, Dorian, that we are going to actually see them take up
unemployment insurance as a central issue? Because it does feel like, as
she point out, because it`s happening now, because there are real people
who saw income go out of their household, that it`s a sort of thing that
would have political and electoral consequences.
DORIAN WARREN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, the
president, obviously, is going to keep it on the agenda, as the majority
leader Reid is going to try to keep it on the agenda. The question will
be, if it comes up now and the Republicans deal with it, what will they do
three months later? It`s not going to go away, even if they extend it. So
this will -- they`ll be forced to grapple with this issue, much like, I
think, they`ll be forced to grapple with both immigration reform and
minimum wage later on in the year. So, it might not be explicitly on their
agenda, but it will be forced on the agenda by other folks.
DEL PERCIO: But three months from now, the other difference is that
they`re going to continue to be hit, besides unemployment, this SNAP issue,
food stamps issue, as well as other budge tau their things that will have
immediate impact like the minimum wage. How many hits can the Republicans
take in 2014 and still hope to be successful at the end of the year?
HARRIS-PERRY: But the March issue -- I think the other thing happens in
three months, Julian, is that the primaries there largely be over for
Republicans, who are being tea partied from the right. So, is part of this
a strategy to actually sort of pull back, allow that there to be no vote
now, in order to sort of give those moderate is probably not even the word,
but those folks who are facing tea party challengers, space, and then they
can go a little more moderate on the other side?
JULIAN ZELIZER, PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Absolutely. I mean,
Speaker Boehner is facing this huge challenge as the year begins.
Everybody`s looking at the midterm elections. He has a tea party caucus,
which wants to stand firm on a lot of these issues. And at the same time,
he has moderates who are asked, not really moderates, but more moderate
than the tea party, who are asking for help on especially these bread and
butter issues, like unemployment compensation, which can really hurt in the
reddest of districts.
And so I think there`s this balancing act of a short-term extension, but
also trying to figure out a long-term strategy, to balance these two
HARRIS-PERRY: So you brought up Boehner. And I`m wondering, Amy, is there
any reason to think that over the holiday, Boehner got better at his job?
And all that I mean by that is in his ability to move that Republican
caucus towards being able to actually make policy. Because what we know
about the 113th is that for the most part what they do is nothing. It`s
not like you can with mad about what the policies there are. For the most
part, there`s no policies.
AMY GOODMAN, HOST, PRODUCER, DEMOCRACY NOW: Right. There was an
assumption in your lead there. You talked about them going back to work
HARRIS-PERRY: As though they`d previously been at work.
GOODMAN: But I mean, the issue of unemployment benefits goes right to the
heart. How could anyone, whatever their political party, say no to people
who are desperately out there, looking for work.
We`re talking about 1.3 million people. There are simply not enough jobs.
And what`s astounding about this story is it`s stimulative to the economy.
It`s a win-win all the way around. Dean Heller, who is the senator from
Nebraska, who`s joined with the Democrats in calling for an extension of
unemployment benefits, I thought he said it very well. Providing a safety
net for those in need is one of the most important functioning of the
I mean, the fact that you get more money back out of the economy. Because
people who are desperate, who need money and get that money, they spend it
right away. Unlike the CEOs, who are making millions of tax-subsidized
dollars, they put them in offshore accounts. This helps America.
HARRIS-PERRY: Look. And this one -- I just want to point out, that the
Democrats on the ways and means committee, so this is a partisan set of
numbers, but the Democrats on the ways and means committee have estimated
that people lost $400 million in the first week alone. And again, even
beyond the question of a sort of ethical response to those households, this
idea of $400 million, it doesn`t go into stimulating the economy.
And when we look at long-term unemployment, 4.1 million people have been
unemployed longer than six months, 37 percent of the unemployed have been
out of work longer than six months. And the average length of unemployment
now is nine months.
So, when we talk about -- it does seem excessive, when you very first hear
that like 72 weeks of unemployment. It`s like, come on, surely you can
find a job in 72 weeks. But in fact, apparently not, right? This is what
we`re now looking at, this new normal.
ZELIZER: I mean, rationally, all the arguments are there. There is need.
You can see why Republicans wouldn`t want to do this in a midterm year.
And you can see the economic effects. That said, we said the same about
immigration reform after 2012, and many people in the Republican caucus
balked. And symbolic politics are very powerful. And it really depends, I
think, how dug in they get, either on a deal for other kinds of spending
cuts, or broader debate that emerges all of a sudden on unemployment
compensation. I don`t know which way to go.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I wonder on that symbolism, because you brought up the
SNAP benefits earlier, which is another stimulative effect for households.
But I wonder -- I guess, unemployment insurance, it always seems like it
has a more broad, symbolic appeal than SNAP, which has often been
stigmatized in a way.
And so, I`m wondering, the other really big agenda item here is the farm
bill. Do you think we`ll get a bipartisan agreement on farm bill, and do
you think it`s going to in any way back off from the billions in SNAP
ZELIZER: Well, I don`t know. I mean, the farm bill has been looming. We
still have a budget issue. More budgeting that has to take place. A lot
of Republicans are upset with the farm bill. So I think of all the issues,
that`s the one where you`re most likely to see movement.
That said, you`re right about unemployment insurance. It`s always been
kind of the first tier of our social welfare programs. It`s not
stigmatized, it`s not associated with welfare. But I think we`ve seen a
change in the debate in the last year, as the Republican party has changed.
DEL PERCIO: But there is a little bit of a problem for Democrats right
now, because they`re also trying to push that the economy is doing well.
We`re moving forward. So if unemployment is better, if unemployment, we
start seeing a six, which is possible in a couple of months. You mentioned
the midterm elections, the primaries in three months, a lot can change in
those three months, of what needs to be done or how far some of the
Democrats are willing to push that message, and against pushing a positive
economic growth message.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. It`s a tough message to say, the economy is so much
better. Man, we really need unemployment insurance for the long-term
unemployed. You can`t say both of those things at the same time. You`ve
got to pick one of them to be running on.
When we come back, there is one issue that we know that lawmakers are going
to be facing this year. Some want to, some don`t, but almost everyone can
agree that refusing to do anything means political peril.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think 2014 needs to be a year of action. We can get immigration
reform done. We`ve got a concept that has bipartisan support. Let`s see
if we can break through the politics on this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was one of President Obama`s stated missions when he
gets back to Washington, D.C., getting immigration reform done, and soon.
But, while the speaker of the house, John Boehner, has indicated that he is
potentially on board, house majority leader Eric Cantor told Republicans in
a memo Friday that the party`s agenda for January consists of Obamacare,
government funding, Iran, the farm bill, and EPA reform. As for
immigration, that may be brought to the floor, may. And only over the next
So, read the tea leaves, as we did on unemployment insurance. Do you
think, facing these political realities, that we`re going to get action on
WARREN: Yes, but two qualifications. One, second-term presidents don`t
usually have big breakthroughs. It`s much more of a muddling through. So,
I think most of all --
HARRIS-PERRY: To you, a political science -- I feel like I`m back in
American politics 101.
WARREN: Come on back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Muddling through, yes, here we go.
WARREN: Muddling through. And so, I think we`ll see much more executive
and administrative action this year than we will congressional action. And
the context of also, a Congress that is on pace to be the least productive
The second factor though is also the Republican party strategy has been in
action, don`t do anything, say government is broken and doesn`t work, and
go out and run on that in the next election. And so, I think that`s a
The other factor that they can`t plan on is disruptive social movement
actors. Grassroots immigrant right activists, who are going to keep the
pressure on, especially throughout Republican primaries this year for the
HARRIS-PERRY: -- which is what happened with the hunger strike, across the
street from the White House.
WARREN: That`s right. So -- and this is, again, this is the power of
movement, his agenda setting and forcing things on the agenda. So, I think
we are going to see a lot of action from grassroots immigrant rights
activists over the year to try to push that issue on the agenda to force
the house to deal with.
DEL PERCIO: -- which almost works counter intuitively, of what they want
to do when you`re dealing with the Republican majority in the house. And
what I mean by that is we`re not going to see most of the primaries done
until really closer to June, state primaries, in general. So that`s going
to be the winner for immigration reform.
If the president uses executive action too often or you see too many
protests pushing the backs up against Republicans, that`s going to lead to
more inaction. There needs to look like, and I think that`s why Speaker
Boehner made some indications, that they are working on something.
Let`s not push too hard, too fast and back the Republicans in a corner
because at the end of the day, the Republicans well, I should say, there`s
a responsible group of Republicans who do want to see reform and the
business community wants to see reform.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, right. So I want to talk about exactly those groups,
Amy, and I want to throw that to you. Because I think you laid them out
beautifully, Susan. Because on the one hand, you have these groups, these
big groups, we saw it on "the Wall Street Journal" saying, look, we think
immigration reform the necessary. We need it because it is part of what --
I`m sorry, that`s "Chicago Tribune," right? Business groups actually bank
on the house acting on immigration reform.
On the other hand, we have heritage action, right, which is a powerful
conservative group saying, basically, you better not act on it or act on it
in a particular way, because if you do, you know, we`re going to score you
in a way that is problematic. And let`s listen quickly to Boehner, who
although he was not talking about immigration reform in this case, was
talking about what those outside interest groups do. And in this case, was
yelling at them about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There just comes to a
point where some people step over the line. And you know, when you
criticize something and you have no idea what you`re criticizing, it
undermines your credibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So what do you think? Do they go with business community
pushing them from one side, or with the kind of heritage action pushing
with the other?
GOODMAN: I mean, it was very interesting to see how Speaker Boehner
responding to the tea party overall, and all the groups that he feels are
getting in the way of any real success, ultimately, for even the Republican
party. But I think that the grassroots groups that are making the
difference here are the -- for example, the young dreamers. Why did they
get legislation passed? Why did they get executive action? Young dreamers
getting a pathway to citizenship. That can be expanded because still
families are destroyed. Like if a dreamer gets to stay and their mother is
sent home, that breaks up a family.
Conservatives say they`re for family values. Immigration is a no-brainer
for most everyone, I think. But the Democrats are also at fault. I mean,
you saw President Obama in San Francisco giving this speech, and right
behind him, like the hand-picked people behind him, he is yelling, stop the
deportations now. President Obama has presided over more deportations, he
single handedly can stop that, than any other president in U.S. history.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this to me is such an interesting point around this
question you brought, about second-term presidents and their ability to do
anything more than muddle through. Because you asked that question, how
did the dreamers get DOCA (ph)? When they can`t get the dream act, how do
they get doca (ph)? Or because they basically write it and they send it to
the president and they say, this is the thing you can do without that
Congress, right? So, we -- if you want to take action, do this.
Of course, the other thing, the other side of it is to stop the
deportations. But I wonder, Julian, even as the Republicans are bouncing
multiple viewpoints and constraints, so, too, is the president. So, I`m
wondering if the deportations are part of what then give him credibility,
as he enters into an immigration fight. Because he can say, look, I have
been tough on, you know, sort of holding the line and keeping law, not
trying to just let everybody in. So, you know, yes, he could stop them,
but then, also, would that take any power he has away from that immigration
ZELIZER: Well, I think he is going to try to use that as leverage. He`s
going to call for tough border control restrictions, which are in the
Senate bill. And I think he`s going to stand by that. And I do think he`s
a president who thinks of this kind of leverage.
He wants to recreate Reagan in 1986, second-term president, who had one of
those breakthroughs on immigration reform. The question is, does the house
throw something much smaller out? And does Boehner try to solve his
problem with a much narrower bill, that doesn`t include a path to
citizenship, and causes a lot of problems for the administration. Do they
go with something small, get the breakthrough, but not solve the big
problem of the day or does he stand firm with that kind of leverage and
call for something --
HARRIS-PERRY: He does have a lot of Reaganism in the way that he thinks
about governing. Not that they have the same ideology, but in the way he
thinks about governing.
Up next, the biggest thing on the minds of many members of Congress, as
2014 begins. This is the one thing they really care about. This is
political science 101 too.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, one thing we know for sure our Congress and senators
will be working on in 2014 getting re-elected! This is an election year,
folks, and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and a third of the
Senate seats are up for grabs this year in November.
The Democrats need 17 more seats to take the House, and the Republicans
need six to take the Senate. Tens of millions of dollars have already been
raised on each side. $70.2 million for House Democrats, $56.4 million for
house Republicans. $48.7 million for Senate Democrats, and $32.7 million
for Senate Republicans. And those are just the official campaign
So, the big question, for all that big money, what`s the game plan?
So Julian, I want to ask you kind of an historical question here. In a
midterm election, if you are the congressman from whatever district, do you
run on an all politics is local, I`m here for my members of the district,
or do you run under kind of Newt Gingrich, we are a party, we have a
banner, we are the challenge to that other party. Do you run national or
do you run local?
ZELIZER: You used to run local, but you don`t run local anymore. I mean,
the midterm elections have become nationalized because of the way the media
works, because of the way the party works. And it`s unlikely that you`re
going to see many legislators just running local anymore.
Republicans are going to run on President Obama, on health care, on
arguments about the economy. And a lot of Democrats might separate
themselves from President Obama, but they`re going to talk about extremism
in the Republican party, they`re going to talk about the need for a higher
minimum wage. This is an era of national midterm elections. And I don`t
think we`re going back to that older style.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, the fact that they put Obamacare at the top of his
legislative agenda, I think, is important. I want to look at Boehner
saying this about ACA repeal. This just happened, in which Boehner says,
the heavy emphasis will be on oversight. The law cannot truly be fixed, so
we`ll have to make the case for repeal by highlighting the endless negative
consequences of the law. That is a spokesman for House Speaker Boehner who
said those things.
But then I want to listen to some sound from Congressman McDermott, who
says that democrats ought to run on ACA.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: For the first time, many people have
health care. And that`s going to be an issue that Democrats, I think, can
run on and be very proud of. And the other side will have a hard time
explaining why it is good for people to have health insurance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that`s Congressman McDermott speaking to colleague.
Thomas Roberts, here on MSNBC.
So what do you think, is Obamacare once again the national issue on which
these local elections will be taught?
DEL PERCIO: Most likely, but again, it depends. And I agree with Julian`s
take on how you have to respond nationally. Because if a Republican
candidate says something about rape, for example, any Republican running
nationally -- or, I`m sorry, across the country, is going to have to
address that comment.
DEL PERCIO: However, if you`re in a swing state or in a swing district,
like, for example, New York, you may have a -- you may not be able to run
as hard against Obamacare in New York as you can potentially in another
state or another district. So, it does become local in that regard.
Overall, the message will be, because, right now, when you implement any
big plan, anything like Obamacare, there`s going to be a lot of negative
stories. They have a lot of fixes they`re going to have to make. But
those are going to be the headline stories. So it will help in an overall
fashion, where the Republicans -- and it goes into your introduction, where
they`re going to raise all that outside money.
GOODMAN: You know, this could be a big year for someone talking about
Medicare for all, right? The old way doesn`t work at all. How many
millions of people who are unemployed. Obamacare, what President Obama
said, is we get more people covered.
But ultimately, I mean, you`re talking about saving $400 billion a year,
when you simply have Medicare, which is extremely popular, and drop the age
to zero. You don`t have the bureaucracy, you don`t have these health care
problem, Web site problems. And by the way, just a correction before,
since I know the difference between New York and New Jersey too and the
states. I said Dean Heller was from Nebraska, he is from Nevada which is
ground zero for unemployment.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, you know, and this point that you are making, I think
is one that had not previously considered. But Katrina Vanden Heuvel said
it yesterday as well, when this idea that if the argument becomes, not that
we have to repeal Obamacare, because as Congressman McDermott said, who is
going to say that health care is bad, now that people actually have it?
But that the problem is the administration of it, the Web site, the problem
of bureaucracy, well, there is an answer to that, and the answer is, right,
Medicare for all. And as soon as you do that, I mean, it begins to
undercut this other -- because what we have here is what was closer
initially to a Republican plan for how to do health care reform, which is
the establishment of a marketplace. And that seems to be glitchy to say
WARREN: I think this is a risky strategy for Republicans to run in the
midterm for two reasons. One, they have essentially have to go out and
say, we want to take away your health care, vote for us. Number two, and I
don`t make predictions, but by October of 2014, I guarantee you that an
annex of this issue will have been totally changed. Because so many more
millions of people who have been signed up, this will be a very different
issues in terms of how we talk about it.
DEL PERCIO: And so many millions will be paying more when it comes to
middle class, and middle class on Obamacare. And they`re going to have
higher premiums to meet --
WARREN: We don`t know that for sure.
DEL PERCIO: They do and we see it. We see it happening. This is going to
be a really tough first year. And the fact that it`s happening in a
midterm election the going to be problematic for Democrats.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I think there`s -- I do think there`s two points. The
one that we are seeing some people who are having premiums go down, others
were seeing premiums going up, and that part of it maybe is the capacity.
This maybe are where those -- the premium of running for office going up.
The capacity to get the story line, the narrative out, that you want to
have out. And also whether or not we see overall health care costs
But stay with us. We`re going to talk a little bit more on elections.
Because I want to talk about the Senate race that could make history, no
matter who wins.
HARRIS-PERRY: We have just gotten started in 2014, so we`ll have all year
to talk about some of the most interesting races. But I want to focus on
just a few today.
First up, Tim Scott of South Carolina, who was appointed senator by
Governor Nikki Haley last December. Now, he`s up for a special election in
November, and he made history as the first African-American to serve as a
senator from the south since reconstruction. His likely democratic
opponent, Rick Wade, who is also African-American. He`s a former commerce
department official and was the national African-American vote director for
President Obama`s campaign in 2008. He`s also credited with early
organizing efforts that help then Senator Obama take the primaries in both
Iowa and South Carolina that year.
So that Senate race stands to make history in South Carolina, where an
African-American has not one statewide office since reconstruction. And
I`ll also point out that the last time that there was a Senate race between
African-Americans, the winner of that race went on to become the president,
right, because that was when President Obama, then state senator Obama, ran
against Alan Keyes. Now, that was a very different kind of race.
But I`m wondering, you know, they`re in South Carolina, right? They`re in
a state that we wouldn`t normally think of as competitive in this way. You
end up with a competitive race between two African-Americans for this seat.
I mean, this, for me, is a fascinating possibility.
ZELIZER: Well, it reflects some of the changes that have been going on in
the south, in the last, you know, decade or so. A lot of Democrats are
eyeing this race and others in Florida for this very reason. Places that
have been very Republican, very conservative, are changing. And I think
we`re looking for these kinds of measures to see how the matter dynamics
might shift in this region.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, here`s the question, though. If you are running as the
Democrat who has those kinds of ties to the Obama administration, for a
statewide office in South Carolina, because you talked earlier about if you
were the Republican running in the state of New York, how -- I mean, on the
one hand, you need the president and you need the president`s fund-raising
machine, you want the president to come stump for you. On the other hand,
you don`t want to be anywhere near the president, you want the president to
stay away from you. How do you balance that?
WARREN: Well, you know, midterm elections are different from presidential
elections. They are two different electorates. Midterm elections tend on
older, whiter, and more conservative. If you have worked for the
president, you know that almost a third of the voting bloc in South
Carolina is African-American. So you focus on turning out the base and
energizing the base, while letting -- and by the way, I think Lindsey
Graham is also up this year and has a tea party challenger.
So let them do that, focus on turning out the base, in terms of the
African-American vote in South Carolina, and let the tea party dynamic
handle itself with both Wade`s opponent and Tim Scott, as well as with
DEL PERCIO: That`s an interesting point, because while you have that tea
party primary, and we know things can kind of get ugly among Republicans at
times, you`re also going to see a lot of independent expenditures. And
these candidates are going to have a very difficult time trying to distance
themselves from what both sides, I think, are going to try to do
politically, and in the game of politics, if you will.
The statements, the ads, those things coming out of both sides, I think
there`s going to be a lot of negativity on that, and it`s going to put
these candidates in a very difficult position.
HARRIS-PERRY: So we`ve been talking about the tea party challenges on the
right. But I wonder also about challenges on the left within the context
of the Democratic party. We`ve got new polls showing that when it comes to
raising the minimum wage, 76 percent of Americans support raising the
minimum wage. We know that there is broad support, for example, for the
possibility of, you know, Medicaid expansion in these states where, in
fact, there haven`t been, yet, a Medicaid expansion, because Republican
governors have stood in the way.
I mean, do you see, also, in these races, the possibility of actually
pushing some Dems to the left?
GOODMAN: I mean, those kind of issues will affect Democrats and
Republicans. Most people don`t realize this kind of broad support for
increasing the minimum wage. For who is going to be affected. And these
states where governors, Republican governors, have denied the state getting
expanded Medicaid, that`s Republicans, as well as Democrats, who are poor,
who are not getting this massive amount of money. And they are going to
But on the minimum wage, it`s also another story of how grassroots action
makes such an enormous difference. It wasn`t an enormous group of people,
though there were about a hundred protests recently when I went out to the
McDonald`s in New York at Times Square, that was one of many hundreds of
sites where the people, the workers, and their supporters said, hey, we
should be making more than $7.25.
And now, you`ve got proposals for $10 an hour, you`ve proposals for $12 an
hour, at a municipality in Seattle near the airport, $15 an hour passed.
So, I think the big story of 2014 might be issues over candidates. And how
candidates from all the parties respond to that. We have a much more
progressive population than the leaders, the so-called leaders that
ZELIZER: It`s the old issue that political scientists like to talk about.
That on specific issues, Americans are pretty liberal when you ask them, do
you like this program, do you want the minimum wage, do you like Medicare.
If you ask them philosophically, do you like government, they say no.
And so, I think what some Democrats, sometimes awaken to is the idea that
if they talk about these specific issues, they can gain huge traction with
the population. It`s not necessarily moving to the left. It`s just moving
to where a lot of the population is. That`s why --
HARRIS-PERRY: This is populism, right?
ZELIZER: It is populism. And I think that`s why a lot of republican
governors have been quite nervous about this Medicaid expansion, often
battling with Republican legislatures, where they actually want to do this,
but they`re getting --
HARRIS-PERRY: And you know, I want to throw one more race real quickly I`m
watching carefully, the Senate race where I live, and that is Mary
Landrieu. She`s got a very slim lead right now in terms of the likelihood
of her winning just 41-34, in a state where the other elected officials at
the statewide level are pretty much all Republicans.
How do you run as a Mary Landrieu? You can`t go very far left, but you
have to turn out that base, particularly to Democrats in New Orleans.
WARREN: To turn out that base, you can say, hey, may brother is very
popular as mayor of New Orleans.
HARRIS-PERRY: He`s running right now. We`ll see.
WARREN: So, you`re right. She has a very narrow window through which to
maneuver, in terms of building a reelection coalition. She hasn`t won any
race over 52 percent, by the way. So, this, she`s going to cut it close
here as well.
There are four states, by the way, four conservative states where minimum
wage will be on the ballot, which I think will be important -- Arkansas,
Alaska, New Mexico, South Dakota. Four states with important Senate races.
And if the minimum wage on the ballot can turn out democratic voters, it is
a clear strategy to do so, then it can make those races much tighter.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. It could. Or you could end up with a split, where
you`re like, I`m going to get my minimum wage and my Republican, because I
hate government, but like my big minimum wage.
Before we move on, we want to update you on the bitter winter weather
taking a toll on much of the country.
This morning at New York`s JFK airport, a plane from Toronto slid off the
runway and into the snow. Luckily, no one was injured. The airport
temporarily suspended flights because of the icy runways but has now
Also, in Chicago, a plane skidded off the tarmac last night at O`Hare
international airport. Again, no injuries were reported.
The snowy and icy conditions come amid record-breaking cold. One of the
coldest arctic air masses in nearly 30 years will blast through the plains,
parts of the Midwest, and the south over the next couple of days.
I am going home to New Orleans at the end of the show.
Up next, solving the unsolvable. Homelessness and the proof that it can be
a thing of the past.
HARRIS-PERRY: Every year, people come up with resolutions and strive to
make personal changes in their lives, like weight loss or paying off debt
or spending more time with loved ones. But what if we made our resolutions
about more than just ourselves. What if we included others in the positive
changes we want to see in the world.
So although, there has been a decline in the percent of the population who
is homeless, more than 600,000 people are still without permanent housing
and nearly 100,000 people are considered chronically homeless, meaning they
have experienced homelessness for more than a year or at least four
episodes homelessness in the last three years and have a disability.
Shortly after President Obama entered office in 2009, he made history by
becoming the first sitting U.S. president to demand an end to homelessness
for veterans. Then in November of 2009, Veterans administration secretary,
Eric Shinseki, laid out the administration`s five-year plan to end veteran
Many cities heard the president`s call. In 2010, the city of Phoenix,
Arizona, identified 222 homeless veterans through its annual census, and
employed a program to give veterans permanent housing. The thinking was
that once the issue of housing was solved, veterans could focus on other
issues. In August of last year, President Obama praised Phoenix`s efforts
to end chronic homelessness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Here in Phoenix, thanks to the hard work of everyone from Mayor
Stanton to the local united way to U.S. airways, you`re on track to end
chronic homelessness for veterans, period, by 2014.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And just a little more than four months later in December of
2013, the city of Phoenix declared it had become the first city to end
chronic homelessness among veterans by allocating an additional $100,000 in
funds to house the remaining 56 homeless veterans.
Now, while Phoenix may have been the first city to complete its mission to
end chronic homelessness for veterans, it is not the only city in America
to take on this resolution.
When we come back, we will speak with the mayor of another city that is
working to do the very same thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: In March, 2005, Utah approved something once thought
impossible to achieve. Utah approved a ten-year plan to end chronic
homelessness and significantly reduce overall homelessness. That puts Utah
on the same timetable as the department of Veterans affairs, which is
aiming to end veteran homelessness by 2015 too.
Salt Lake city is very close to joining Phoenix, Arizona, in ending chronic
homelessness among its veterans, and is making strides to ending all
homelessness. Wherever do I get to say, there`s a problem, and we have a
Mayor Ralph Becker noting recently, that we`ve been able to make a huge
dent in our chronically homeless population. I know we can achieve that
goal of ending homelessness together.
Mayor Becker joins me now from Salt Lake City.
It is lovely to have you hear.
MAYOR RALPH BECKER (D), SALT LAKE CITY: Thank you. Great to be with you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Mayor, talk to me. Why did you -- I mean, you know, a
mayor has lots of different things on the agenda. Why did you make this
decision to make it a key initiative for Salt Lake City to end
BECKER: Well, in a society like ours, it is inexcusable, unacceptable to
have homeless folks roaming our streets and out there in the cold in the
winters and not having the support they need and shelter overhead. So this
is a decision that was made by the whole community and we`ve been dedicated
to it, as you said, for many years.
HARRIS-PERRY: So talk to me about that idea of the whole community because
I`m interested in how you get buy-in. I mean, you know, we`re in an
economic downturn. I know that Salt Lake City is actually doing extremely
well in terms of employment at only four percent unemployment. But that
said, how do you get people to say, all right, we`re willing to commit
municipal resources to do this?
BECKER: Well, it really centers around a community, and this is an
incredibly generous community. So whether it`s state government or Salt
Lake City government or other local governments or the private sector, both
the nonprofit side and the profit side, everyone has come together and
worked together in an unusually collaborative way among all sectors of
government to be singularly focused on ending homelessness. We made a
decision early on that the chronically homeless were a quarry to enabling
to us address this issue. And we`ve been, as I said, just focused on that,
really, ever since the decision was made, and the resources, while never
enough, have come forward from every part of the community.
HARRIS-PERRY: So let me also ask about the other partnership. So, there`s
all of this partnership occurring in the municipality, in the city, in the
community. What about the partnership between Salt Lake City, the state of
Utah, and the federal government. Where are the resources coming from in
terms of HUD and the VA?
BECKER: Well, they`re coming from all sectors. And as you mentioned in
your introduction, that with the focus on veterans homelessness by
President Obama, the resources have increased and has elevated our ability
to be able to address veterans homelessness in Salt Lake City in a way that
we really couldn`t have imagined just a few years ago.
And so like Phoenix, we really have gotten to the point now where we can
say, we have ended veterans homelessness in Salt Lake City. We have done a
census like Phoenix. We`ve got this wonderful, friendly competition I do
with Mayor Stanton and we now are down to eight veterans who have
indicated, at this point, they`re not interested in having homes, but we`re
continuing to work with them and making sure we`re keeping our census up to
So it`s a commitment, it is also resources. It`s every level of
government. It`s public sectors, private sectors, our nonprofit community
has stepped up. But the resources have been there. That makes a huge
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to back up one second and ask my panel a question
So Dorian, again, part of the thing I love about this story is how often
can we just say, there`s a social problem? Look, here are some people who
have solved it. Not who have founded an organization around, but, just,
yes, they figured it out, they solved it. They made sure the folks had
housing and wraparound services. Is this a model, given everything we
spent the top of the hour talking about, how difficult it was to get things
done, is this a model for getting things done?
WARREN: Absolutely. This is a model for solving intractable social
problems. They made a commitment, they might have the resources and guess
what, government works. Government can actually works to solve problems.
Here is what I would offer as the one critique. There is still -- the
question is, can the circle of care be widened to not just include homeless
veterans, but all homeless people. We`re living in a city right now, New
York city, I am, with 50,000 homeless, the highest on record. Half of
those are children. Can New York city, for instance, learn from Phoenix
and Salt Lake City, to focus not just on veterans, but all homeless people?
HARRIS-PERRY: So let me ask you that, Mayor. I love that there`s a
friendly competition between you and the mayor of Phoenix. This is my
favorite kind of municipal competition to be going on. But what would you
say to a place as complicated, as, say, a New York or a Philadelphia in how
they might begin to address this problem?
BECKER: I think your panelist identified, really, the key. And that is,
we -- what we have done with veterans is what we`ve been doing with our
homeless population across the board. We have focused on the chronically
homeless and getting them housed. And we`ve reduced, by 75 percent or
more, the homeless population in Salt Lake City by focusing first on
providing those services.
And it really takes everyone working together. And the federal government
is a critical partner in providing resources in many ways. Some of it
financial, some of it expertise, some of it sharing ideas that come from
And the private sector has been unbelievable. Every organization has
played their role to the hilt. And that`s what it takes. If we`re going
to be able to address problems like homelessness, which we should be able
to address in a society as wealthy and successful as hours. It takes
everyone working together.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you so much, Salt Lake City mayor, Ralph Becker. Gave
me good news to report this morning, which I always appreciate.
We are going to move on now, but there is so much more to get to today,
including the one party rule spreading throughout the states and the
bellwether looming large in Florida. But most important, an update on Doc
McStuffins. Seriously, Doc McStuffins breaking news.
You know you`re in Nerdland and there`s more of it at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
When we imagine the picture of our country`s political map, we almost
always paint it in primary colors. By now, our understanding of the United
States partisan landscape is indelibly painted in shades of red or blue.
In fact, the portrait of a bi-color America has been a favorite rhetorical
of the president, when he`s wanted to illustrate the differences that
divide us, but do not define us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The pundits like to slice
and dice our countries into red states and blue states. Red states for
Republicans, blue states for Democrats. But I`ve got news for them too.
Americans that sent a message to the world, that we have never been just a
collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.
We are and always will be, the United States of America.
We remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and
forever will be the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: He really does love that line.
But if we look closer, beyond the boundaries, separating one state from
another, a different picture emerges. Some reds and blues, but also a
beautiful blend of purples and violets and magentas, too.
This map created by the University of Michigan cartographer was widely
circulated after the 2012 election. He broke down election results by
states, then by counties, and added shades of purple to break it down even
further by percentage of voters for each party in the counties.
And what he revealed is a more detailed, nuanced picture of who we really
are. Still divided, but separated by a much smaller distance than our old
fateful red and blue map might suggest. It`s only when those differences
translate to governance, that those binary colors emerge into stark
In our democracy it is, you know, winner take all, which in our two-party
system means, in the famous words of New York Senator William L. Macy, to
the victor belong not only the spoils, but also the ability to plant a red
or blue flag to claim the entirety of contested political terrain. In our
national government where neither party is fully in control, that is
translated into gridlock and inaction that we have all come to know and
But at the state level, it has come to mean something else entirely. As
"Washington Post" chief correspondent Dan Balz wrote this week in "The
Washington Post," "Political polarization has ushered in a new era in state
government, where single-party control of the lovers of power has produced
competing Americas. One that`s grounded in principles of lean and limited
government, and on traditional values, the other is built on a belief in
the essential role of government, and on tenants of cultural liberalism.
Today, three quarters of the states, more than at any time in recent
memory, are controlled by either Republicans or Democrats. Elected
officials in these states are moving unencumbered to enact their party`s
With me once again, Julian Zelizer, author and professor of history and
public affairs at Princeton University. He`s the author of "Governing
America." Amy Goodman, with Democracy Now TV, and radio news hour, author
of "The Silenced Majority." Dorian Warren, associate professor of
political science and international and public affairs at Columbia
University, and Susan del Percio, Republican strategist and MSNBC
So, Julian, how -- so 37 of the 50 states are currently under unified, one
of party control. How different is that then our -- than our history, as a
JULIAN ZELIZER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: It`s been changing. I mean, that
article looks at 1980, 1990, and we`ve seen a slow expansion of the number
of states in these decades that are under unified control. And you have to
combine that with a Washington or a federal government that is having
problems producing a lot of legislation.
So you have more unified control, and more pressure on the states to deal
with issues. Either way, Republican or Democratic, and I think it is
changing. And we have a different kind of configuration right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, there`s no doubt, Amy, that states are getting more
done, just in terms of the amount of stuff that is happening, but, it`s
also true that you can get even better than that. You can get yourself a
dictatorship or a king, or like, the more that you narrow down the
contestation, the more will get done. But that`s part of democracy. It`s
meant to be messy. You`re supposed to have to take in competing world
AMY GOODMAN, DEMOCRACY NOW: Well, you know, as Ralph Nader pointed out
yesterday. It`s not only at the states. You might talk about party rule
in the United States right now, because of how close the corporate
Democrats and Republicans are, and all of the issues that are being left
For example, health care. Real, universal health care. For example,
dealing with issues like climate change and global disruption, global
What is key is to have a great diversity of opinion represented at all
levels. And I think the greatest threat to that was money in politics. We
were talking earlier about what Mary Landrieu should do in Louisiana.
GOODMAN: Maybe she should raise the fact that she and two other women
governors like Hagan in North Carolina, Shaheen in New Hampshire, are being
targeted by the Koch brothers, by Americans for Prosperity, for supporting
Obamacare, and they`re pouring millions into ad campaigns. What about
across the country.
Raising this issue of this other person, right? Corporations have become
people. And say that this is what`s changing, more than anything else, the
dynamic of American democracy.
HARRIS-PERRY: So that changes the hues of our map, right? If we were to
then paint that map in relative levels of green, right? So where the
darkest green would represent the most expensive seats in terms of how much
it took to win that seat, and then maybe we would see something around, for
example, populism versus elitism, that is different than a Democrat and
Republican, it would force us to think a little differently about who are
our opponents, who are our allies, right, in any given struggle.
Because I think that is important to point out, that there`s a way in which
the notion of Democratic one party rule is necessarily progressive, would
be inaccurate, right? At least empirically.
DORIAN WARREN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, that`s actually the big test for
2014, we`ll have to exam. A decade ago, 12 of the largest American cities,
six of them were run by Republican mayors. Now 12 of the largest cities,
all Democratic mayors, including Bill de Blasio, explicitly progressive,
just inaugurated here in New York City.
The question will be this year for these 12 mayors of these large,
Democratic cities, what progressive policies can they try to enact, given
that they can govern over large cities, but how will that translate in any
way into state politics? Many are in Republican-controlled states.
WARREN: So, you have this interesting bifurcation. You have power
concentrated in blue islands and red --
HARRIS-PERRY: I was going to say, if you look at that map, right, if you
really pause and look deeply at that purple map, you see there really are
almost no blue states. There`s just blue cities, right? And then those
cities are either powerful enough and populist enough to kind of generate
that purpleness out, so you see those cities along the -- basically, it`s
all along the coast, where you see blue, and it`s all in the middle, where
you see red, which is a different way of thinking about what the allies
SUSAN DEL PERCIO: And yet, in New Jersey, that has a Democratically
controlled legislature, is working with a Republican governor, and you look
at New York state, and you talk about Bill de Blasio, who you wants to get
a tax hike through, a Democratic governor, Cuomo, and right now, he`s
pushing back on it, because for him to do things, there`s still a
Republican state senate, which balances out the power there.
And there always has been a real -- you know, in New York and a lot of
other states, there tends to be at least one branch that would at least
represent another idea, which is now not going to be represented in a lot
of states, and that`s just plain old dangerous for governors.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, that`s what I`m thinking. Like is there a way
that we could actually sort of say, all right, let`s take New Jersey as an
example, right? And say, do you actually end up with better outcomes,
And we`d have to figure what we mean by better, right? Do we mean somehow
more representative of public opinion, or do we mean, sort of, you know,
longer -- I`m not sure exactly what our terms would be. But do you end up
with something that is a better outcome in a New Jersey, where you have
split governance, than Deep South states or Midwestern states, where you
end up with all the folks --
DEL PERCIO: A lot of ways, you do, only because a lot of people who are in
the statehouse want to run for governor or governors want to run for
president or Senate. So they have to worry about, are they getting the
base of their constituencies, for example, in New York state, you have to
get at least 30 percent of very -- more than that, of very progressive New
So, if you`re a Democrat, and you have to represent the whole state, you
have to be careful how far middle of the road you go, because you want to
be able to get --
HARRIS-PERRY: So the political ambitions of the elected officials
themselves, when you have divided government, allows them to be more
Stay with us. More on this, because as much as we`re thinking about this
in this level up here, I want to come and talk about it at the very clear,
bodily personal level. The impact of one-party rule on reproductive
rights, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the consequences of single-party dominance in state
legislators is a growing number of places in the country where women are
denied access to reproductive health care. According to the Guttmacher
Institute, 22 states enacted 70 abortion restrictions during 2013. At
least 63 were in states were Republicans were in full or partial control of
Tomorrow, one of those laws will take center stage in the first
reproductive rights battle of 2014, as the federal appeals court in New
Orleans hears arguments about the Texas measure that caused one third of
the state`s abortion providers to close.
So, Amy, you know, there`s the big thing about whether we end up with
better or worse policy, and then there`s just on the ground reality that
Republican-controlled states have gone, really, effectively against
GOODMAN: Over the last few years, hundreds of restrictions have been voted
against, of reproductive rights. Everything from the closets have to be
bigger to doctors have to have admitting rights at hospitals, and these may
not seem critical. But altogether, they closed clinics down, which means
women`s health is imperiled.
But it also has really galvanized women`s rights activists, women and men,
all over the country. Look at Wendy Davis, who`s now running for governor
in Texas. She was the one in the pink sneakers who stood up in the state
legislature and said, no, and held that filibuster for how many hours.
And she had to do it alone. No one could even touch her. She couldn`t
break at all.
So you have the push and the pull. And you have the whole movement now
saying, it`s bigger than abortion rights. Women`s rights are about
economic rights, workplace discrimination, violence against women, child
care that`s supported, and broadening this out.
And then you have the pushback even against the Democrats to get ride of
the Hyde amendment. He was a Republican, but the Democrats have gone along
with it, that poorer women should be able to have federally funded
abortions. So I see this push and pull, but there`s no question that
hundreds of laws have been passed against women.
HARRIS-PERRY: Texas is such an interesting case. I mean, if we look at
it, here, Julian, we just looked at the University of Texas did a poll
about abortion support, for people living in Texas. And found that only 16
percent of those polls say that they think that 4 abortion should never be
Now, you don`t end up a majority anywhere, but you do end up with 49
percent saying it should be generally or always legal, and another nearly a
third saying, well, in the cases of rape, incest, life of the mother.
So, a vast majority when you add those two latter categories. But you have
a state legislature that`s governing that`s trending much more towards that
16 percent than towards that 69 percent.
ZELIZER: Yes, what they`re doing, it`s the politics of restriction. So,
first we move the debate away from Washington to the states, as we said.
This is where the action now is. And then within the states, I think the
strategy for many Republicans has been to fight for different kinds of
restrictions, gradually curtailing access, so that you get around that poll
problem, so that you get around the grayness in the polls, but gradually
limit the number of abortions that are available.
And I think it`s been a very effective strategy. One-party rule is not all
it`s made out to be, and there`s all kinds of reasons that you can`t push
everything through. But this is one area where we`ve seen Republicans be
HARRIS-PERRY: I have to say that for me, part of what`s surprising, and
when you look at the categories where there are big differences between
states that are one-party ruled with Republicans, and what party ruled with
Democrats, they end up being reproductive rights, education, minimum, labor
and organizing rights, same-sex marriage.
And it feels to me as though if these were legitimate, political,
ideological fights, then the big differences, maybe minimum wage, but they
would be primarily economic, they would be about the budget, they would be
Rather than being about reproductive rights and educations and same-sex
marriage, for example.
WARREN: I think what we`re seeing, especially in the 30 states in
Republican rule is a form of Jane Crow and Jim Crow politics. Jane Crow
politics in terms of restrictions of women`s rights. Jim Crow politics in
terms of restrictions on the voting rights, in terms of voter ID bills and
targeting especially Democratic voters and people of color.
And here`s the risk of this, especially around reproductive rights. We saw
the backlash of trying to limit black and Latino voters in the last
election cycle. I think women, if the activists and organizers can really
keep this issue around reproductive rights in Texas and North Carolina and
other states, on the agenda in terms of the public consciousness, this
could actually backfire on the Republican Party in those states, much like
voter ID did.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I mean, you`ve agreed before, Susan, that certain kinds
of outrageous statements that were made in the last election cycle around
Republicans, in terms of some of the things they said about women and rape
for example, those are the kinds of things that clearly turn off all women
voters, whether they`re Democrats or Republicans. But this is very
Reproductive rights is very different. It turns out that women are -- that
there`s a majority of women, but not an overwhelming majority of women that
support, for example, abortion. So do you think that it is still
relatively safe for single party Republican governing to go after
reproductive rights, especially in these ways that are a little more
technical and around the edges?
DEL PERCIO: Right. And it`s problematic for Republicans nationally,
because, again, you see people who, like, in red congressional seats,
they`re primaries. It`s about, you take these types of issues and they`re
very easy, because for Republicans to say, I`m more conservative than --
and they can push those.
So that does affect them on the state level. But then you also have to
look at where in blue states, for example, again, focusing on New York, you
have a law that says that a 12 or 13-year-old girl can have an abortion, no
questions asked, but if she wants to get a the tattoo or her ears pierced,
she needs a letter from her parents.
There has to be room for other points of view. And I think that`s one of
the reasons why single-ruled states, you know, politically ruled states is
problematic, because there has to be room on that other side.
But when it comes to reproductive rights, it is going to be problematic for
Republicans in the long run.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. OK, in the break, I`m going to make an argument for
why I think that a 13-year-old should have to have permission for a tattoo
and not for an abortion. It`s mostly because there is always the
possibility that the person who got the 13-year-old pregnant is the same
person from who she would have to ask for permission.
DEL PERCIO: And I don`t disagree with you, except to say, there has to be
some conversation. If you say that the girl is mature enough to do that on
her own, but she needs consent from her parents, I agree with you in there.
But there has to be some room there, or at least allow different points of
view to come together.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, the fight over voting restrictions, the battle
lines clearly drawn along party lines.
HARRIS-PERRY: On the red state side of the political guide, legislatures
controlled by Republicans have been employing a strategy that just happens
to have an outsized impact on those unlikely to vote for them. Last year
after the Supreme Court`s decision to gut the vote rights act, five states
rushed to advance voter ID laws within 24 hours of the ruling.
This week, in a column for "The Daily Beast", Jamelle Bouie writes of the
findings of a University of Massachusetts study. What they found was
surprisingly straightforward. Between 2006 and 2011, if a state elected a
Republican governor, increased its share of Republican legislatures, or
became more competitive while under a Republican, it was more likely to
pass voter ID and other restrictions on the franchise.
Likewise, states with unencumbered Republican majorities and large black
populations were especially likely to pass restrictive measures. Their
broad conclusion, in other words, is that these laws are the result of
fierce partisan competition.
And this, Julian, I guess, for me is the problem. I am a fan of, if you
get elected, you have the right the right to govern. But maybe also to a
point that people you like to govern with. But that`s a different issue,
right? You have a right to govern.
But you don`t have the right to restrict the ability of people to hold you
accountable, by either saying, we`d like to return you to office or we`d
like to take you out of office.
ZELIZER: It`s a remarkable development. Fifty years ago, this country was
in a heated, bloody fight with the right to vote. That culminated with the
Voting Rights Act, product of the civil rights movement, Lyndon Johnson,
the 89th Congress, where the government, the whole point was the federal
government guarantee that those kinds of restrictions could not happen.
The Supreme Court knocked that down, and what we`ve seen is over 90
restrictive laws proposed since 2013, and a very aggressive move in many
states, Republican states, to impose restrictions that will have racial
effects, that will have effects on immigrants -- all kinds of potential
problems, with very little evidence of corruption, or very little evidence
that the measures would prevent the kinds of problems that allegedly exist.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, so if you think there`s --
ZELIZER: It`s a good story.
HARRIS-PERRY: If you think that voter fraud is a problem, ending early
voting does not address voter fraud. In fact, early voting ought to give
you more opportunities, if you think there`s voter fraud, to address voter
fraud, because it gives you more time to vote.
ZELIZER: Right. And the problem with voting in America is not enough
people vote. I mean, that`s the issue. So by standards of other
centuries, not enough of the population comes out for presidential
elections, under 50 percent, they don`t come out for midterms.
So, there`s the issue of rights and then there`s the issue just to the
health of our democracy, the government, state, local, and federal should
probably be focusing on just the opposite, turning the vote out.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, getting more people voting.
And look, Dorian, we know, as empirical political scientists, that
causation and correlation are two different things. So what this study
found was correlation, not causation. But there is a strong correlation
there between Republican control and the size of the African-American
population and voter turnout.
Now, that suggests to me, in part, that not only is this about fierce
partisan competition, but also a little bit of demographic angst about the
changing American electorate.
WARREN: Yes, and we also have on the record, Republican politicians who
have said very explicitly, I`m thinking of either the governor or
legislature in Pennsylvania, who said explicitly, this is about preventing
black votes from going to the polls and voting for the Democratic Party.
We saw this before --
HARRIS-PERRY: Or that wonderful "Daily Show" moment when that guy said, if
some black folks just don`t make it there, they don`t.
WARREN: Exactly. We saw this before at the end of reconstruction, a whole
wave of voting restrictions, pushed through legislatures, especially in the
South, to prevent blacks from voting, which created one-party rule for
almost a century in the South.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, that said, there is an important distinction that I --
you know, there`s always change over time, and as much as those laws have
some similarities, it`s also true that those laws were enforced by massive
acts of violence that were safeguarded by governments that did not address
And so, one of the things we saw so different in 2012 was that although
those laws came in as restrictions, it mostly had a backfiring effect.
People showed up in even greater numbers. And so I wonder, Susan, just on
the political calculation, it feels to me as though, given what happened in
2012, that places that had these restrictions, even more people showed up.
Why not stop trying to restrict?
DEL PERCIO: Here`s the thing. I have no problem if there`s a voter ID
law, if you were required to show an ID when you registered to vote, which
all of the states that have implemented these laws do not have a
requirement, because you can send it in by mail. So that`s the way I kind
of look at it. If you`re not required to show ID when you`re registered to
vote, why should you have to show ID when you go to vote?
So it`s really kind of that simple. If they want to look at change of the
laws, which they`ll never do, then you could start implementing that kind
of thing. And absolutely, the Republicans, again, are digging themselves
in. If we can`t win with our ideas, if we can`t win on saying, this is how
you succeed in America, and you should vote for us, then they don`t deserve
HARRIS-PERRY: Amy, health of democracy on this?
GOODMAN: I mean, you know, in other countries, people die for the right to
vote. They get gunned down at the polls. We are one of the lowest voting
countries. This is ridiculous that less than half of the population goes
out to vote.
But I think with the Republicans, you know, the concern about immigration,
for example, for the next election. I think it`s not only immigration to
get Latinos voting, it`s also voter rights. And it`s ability to get to the
polls. The fact that Mitt Romney, for example, got less than 30 percent of
Latino vote, I think it`s these issues go beyond immigration.
HARRIS-PERRY: And after Republicans had been building their share of the
Latino vote, it wasn`t at all clear where Latino voters were going to go.
They had been growing, for example, for George W. Bush and they contracted
ZELIZER: I think the calculation is a little like the discussion of
abortion rights. If you talk about, you know, ID, or you talk about
certain new rules to prevent fraud, it won`t necessarily be translated as
restricting the votes, but I think voting rights advocates have really
pushed back much more aggressively than a lot of Republicans anticipated to
frame the issue.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with us, we`re going to go to Florida, which had a lot
of these conversations. We`re going to go to Florida next, and you`ll
really want to go to Florida, because before we move on, we`ll provide you
with one more update on the brutal weather conditions impacting much of the
One of the coldest arctic air masses in nearly 30 years will blast through
much of the country over the next couple of days. High temperatures will
only reach 5 to 20 degrees below zero from Minnesota to Indiana on Monday.
GOODMAN: Beware of climate change, folks! There`s something we can do
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, it`s a pretty safe rule in a national
election year. If you`re going to have national elections, we`re going to
be talking about Florida. Everything you need to know about Florida, when
we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Florida, land of Mickey Mouse and orange juice and one-party
rule. With Republican majorities in both houses of the state legislature
and the governor`s office, Florida is likely the most consequential
Electoral College swing state governed by a single party.
Now, Florida`s former governor is trying to change that. Charlie Crist,
governor from 2007 to 2011, is running for his old job in 2014. And since
he`s a former Republican-turned-Democrat, he`s now saying Democratic-shhh-
sounding kind of things.
Like on Friday, when he apologized for previously backing Amendment 2 to
Florida`s constitution, which in 2008 defined marriage as a union only
between one man and one woman, banning same-sex marriage and civil unions.
In an interview with the LBGT online daily "Watermark Online", Crist said,
"I`m sorry I did, it was wrong, I`m sorry." He has a sizable lead over the
man he hopes to defeat in November, Rick Scott.
A recently poll showed Scott trailing Crist by 7 points, and underwater in
his approval ratings with only 42 percent approving of Scott job
performance as governor. In another setback, a federal judge on Tuesday
struck down a law Scott championed that required drug screening for welfare
recipients. Scott says that he`ll appeal.
And the Democrat who Scott defeated in the 2010 gubernatorial election is
now a candidate in the congressional race, expected to be a bellwether for
Alex Sink has a massive money lead over her GOP opponents in her bid to
replace the late Congressman Bill Young in Florida`s 14th congressional
district. Young held the seat for more than four decades, and the district
is split almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans.
The special election is set for March. Joining us now from Tampa, Florida,
is Adam Smith. Not that Adam Smith. You know, Adam Smith, the political
editor of the "Tampa Bay Times."
Nice to have you, Adam.
ADAM SMITH, TAMPA BAY TIMES: Thanks for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Adam, how important is this particular special election?
And why should all the folks snowed in right now in these other place
around the country, why should they care what`s happening in this election?
SMITH: The temperature here has plummeted to 70 degrees.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stop, stop!
SMITH: There are so few truly competitive House districts in the country.
And this is really a truly swing district, 50/50, Barack Obama won it twice
by about a point. Rick Scott lost it in the last governor`s race by about
So, this really is a district that is competitive as you get. And if the
Democrats want to have any argument that they can take back the House, if
they can`t win this seat, it`s hard to make that argument.
HARRIS-PERRY: So if they win this seat, then does this become the sort of
poster child of, we can win, then this does become the sort of poster child
of we can win, that allows them to raise money for other congressional
races, for the year?
SMITH: Sure. I think they`ll capitalize heavily on that. And this is not
an easy seat for them to win, but they do have, Alex Sink is a very well-
known former gubernatorial candidate, and they`ve got the Republican
nominee, who is likely to be a fairly obscure, little-known candidate.
HARRIS-PERRY: Adam, I want to ask you a question. One of the things we`ve
been talking about at the table here, both Amy and Dorian bringing this up,
the idea that there have been ground swell populist movements, and one of
the most important places where that has been happening is in Florida,
around the Dream Defenders and others who have been pushing back against
what they see as Rick Scott`s overreach, because of the one-party control
How important is that for sort of Florida politics going forward?
SMITH: You know, it is -- to cover politics in Florida, it`s a bizarre
situation. Where you have presidential races, where the Democrats really
can win, if they get their vote out. They`ve won more than they`ve lost,
in modern history.
And then you go to the state capital, Tallahassee, and the Democratic Party
is truly irrelevant. They`re just almost nonexistence.
So this is absolutely a one-party state. But it`s also, you know, the
ultimate and biggest battleground state. It`s a bizarre situation.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Stick with us, Adam. But I do want to come out
to you, Susan, and ask, so if you were advising whomever is running against
Crist, what would you say to them about how to spin or challenge what Crist
is doing in terms of the move from being Democrat -- I mean, from being
Republican to Democrat, and flip and say, if you were advising Crist, what
you would be telling him?
DEL PERCIO: OK, well, don`t forget, there was also his independent run,
Charlie Crist`s independent run for senate, where he flipped a few times.
And that`s his biggest problem. He`s really done more somersaults and
twisted himself into a pretzel, like you rarely see a politician do.
And I don`t think, you know, under normal circumstances, that would be
really difficult to come out of. However, on the flip side, you have
Governor Scott, who just has such low approval ratings that all you have to
do is simply say, "I`m not him". As a matter of fact, Charlie Crist would
do pretty well for himself to not to mention his own record and say, "I`m
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I`m not Rick Scott.
DEL PERCIO: Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, is that in part I`m wondering Julian, was Rick Scott led
down a path that happens in part when you have one-party rule, that doesn`t
push back, that doesn`t sort of encourage you to mediate and moderate?
ZELIZER: Well, part of it`s the story of the state. Part of it is Scott,
as part of this new Republican Party, that has shifted to the right. And
he was one of the key figures in that, taking on the unions very
aggressively, making provocative statements. And it is a product of that.
And Crist is the opposite. On the one hand, he`s someone who changes his
views. On the other hand, you can see him as someone who`s shifted away
from a party that left him and he`s trying to find a new home. That`s --
DEL PERCIO: I don`t think he can say he`s evolved on the issues.
ZELIZER: But I do think there is a story there that is appealing to system
Republicans, in terms of him taking on Scott. So it reflects probably the
problem of the party.
GOODMAN: His campaign could be, I`m not Rick Scott and I`m not Charlie
HARRIS-PERRY: I know I look like I am, but in fact, I am not. It is true,
my main beef with Crist is a flip-flop he made way back in college, because
for the first few years, he went to my alma mater, Wake Forest, was even a
quarterback on our football team, and then flip-flopped and went to Florida
state. What kind of mess is that?
All right. Stay with us, Adam. I want to ask you a little bit more about
some things that we may not understand, if you don`t actually live in
Florida, about how some fundamental Floridian policies that are on the
agenda, in fact, are understood in Florida.
We`re going to talk stand your the ground when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: A potential bellwether case in the fight over Florida`s
stand your ground law was decided Thursday in Miami, when the local appeals
court agreed with Gabriel Mobley`s claim of self-defense in the fatal
shooting of two men, Rolando Carranza and his friend, Jason Jesus Gonzalez,
outside of a Chile`s restaurant in February of 2008.
Now, this is how Mobley justified the shooting in a hearing last April.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GABRIEL MOBLEY, ACCUSED: I freaked, I was scared, you know. And I`ve seen
this other guy coming up from the back. And he reached up under his shirt.
So I was scared. I thought they were going to shoot or kill us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: If one of the men was reaching under his shirt, it wasn`t
for a gun. Both men were unarmed. Carranza`s sister, Joyce, spoke to NBC
station WTVJ this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s going to get away with murder. He`s going to
get away with executing my little brother. He has a gunshot wound to his
hand that exited out of his elbow, and that means that he`s trying to stop
it, with his hands, he`s trying to stop a bullet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Thursday`s ruling not only overturned a judge`s previous
rejection of Mobley`s stand your ground defense, but it also marked the
first time a local appeals court has granted immunity to a defendant under
the stand your ground law.
Two other stand your ground cases that we`ve been talking about go to trial
in Florida very soon. You may remember Michael David Dunn who claims he
fired his gun several times in self-defense at an SUV filled with unarmed
young men, killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Davis` parents settled a
civil lawsuit against Dunn on Friday, but Dunn`s criminal trial is still
scheduled to begin on February 3rd.
And in the trial of Marissa Alexander, the Jacksonville mom who allegedly
fired a warning shot in her home to stop abuse from her husband, that trial
will be begin on March 31st. So I want to come back to you for a moment,
Adam, because I think so many in national media assume that stand your
ground is very unpopular, in part because of the cases that I have just
laid out, that have gotten a lot of attention. But, in fact, in Florida,
this is much more of a consensus issue, right?
SMITH: Yes, there are really -- for better or for worse, there really is
no fight over stand your ground in Florida. The polling shows that it`s
got roughly 60 percent support. There are certainly some people with
serious concerns about it, the legislature appointed a special committee to
look at how it might be changed, and the legislature who`s put in charge of
it declared at the outset, he`s not going to change one single comma.
So, just politically, there is no effort to change and no will to change
stand your ground.
HARRIS-PERRY: Amy, I guess, honestly, sort of, knowing that leads me then
to a set of questions that are maybe even broader than one party rule, and
are really about states as laboratories. So, if you have a policy like
this, one that is popular and then enacted by the democratically elected
members of that statehouse, who is anyone else to say that it shouldn`t
And yet, I feel like there is a responsibility for the rest of the nation
to say, hey, wait a minute, we`ve got to take a look at what happens when a
man can gun down two other men who are unarmed and claim immunity from it?
GOODMAN: You know, we have to also look at the American Legislative
Exchange Council. If we are going to look nationally, at an organization
that affects what`s happened state by state. When you say something as
simple as, well, if it`s a democratically elected group of people -- well,
let`s talk about what is the money that`s going into these -- all of this
legislation. The American Legislative Exchange Council has corporate heads
together with governors and state legislators that are incubating bills and
sending them all over the country.
And you know, I think that they have suffered a tremendous setback in the
last few years. Clearly, corporations, one after the other, have pulled
out. Even though stand your ground stays in Florida, George Zimmerman, how
many times has he been stopped and arrested since he was acquitted of the
killing of Trayvon Martin? Let`s look at ALEC.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting, when you bring occupy the ALEC point, it
does then lead us to ask a set of questions about how -- because I think
part of the -- as you said, the unpopularness of it, or even the fact that
you can say ALEC and people now know something about it. It had been
relatively cloistered and quiet. We didn`t really know that much about it.
Suddenly, we learn that it is impacting our legislature.
So, why wouldn`t that have an impact? I just imagine, if I`m living in the
state of Florida and I find out that stand your ground actually comes not
from an indigenous set of beliefs of lawmakers themselves, but from an
organization outside, that that alone might make you feel anxious, even if
you don`t initially oppose the law.
WARREN: Well, I think Amy`s point is right on. There has been an amazing
campaign targeting ALEC by color of change, which has forced a lot of
corporate sponsors to pull out of ALEC, and not just around the stand your
ground laws, but ALEC is now trying to repeal a wave of minimum wage and
living wage ordinances across the states.
This has been one of the most successful issues for progressives in the
last 20 years, is raising wages a to the state and local level. This is
now ALEC`s target, is to repeal those efforts, or to at least repeal the
authority of cities, to try to raise wages in terms of income and
inequality. So I think ALEC is squarely going to be on the agenda in 2014
in terms of people looking at its influence.
And I think the more voters get educated about the fact that there is a
centralized, political organization, with lots of money, spreading these
laws across the country, I think they might begin to change their opinion
GOODMAN: But, where did ALEC get the model of this law, stand your ground?
From the National Rifle Association.
HARRIS-PERRY: But, Adam, let me bring you back in for just one second
before we head out here. And just to ask you, whether or not these
nationally sort of focused on cases, Jordan Davis and Marissa Alexander,
and now, undoubtedly, the Mobley case, whether or not that does start to
move folks in the state of Florida.
SMITH: First I should say, Florida, to its credit or discredit, the stand
your ground really came from the legislature, ALEC then adopted it and
spread it around the country. But so far, we just haven`t seen that.
We`ve done, my paper has done a big package on stand your the ground. We
compiled a database of nearly 200 stand your ground cases and found all
kinds of consequences and it still hasn`t moved the needle in terms of
political or public opinion.
HARRIS-PERRY: I have sort of have to remind folks, in part because I live
in Louisiana, that gun culture tends to cross ideological boundaries, cross
racial boundaries, cross class boundaries, for folks who don`t live in the
south, who don`t live in places where guns are sort of ordinary part of
It can seem odd, right, to recognize how of is part of it. So, thank you
so much for joining us Adam Smith. I hope sometime, you will come up from
that 70 degree weather and comes sit here in Nerdland with us.
Also, to Julian Zelizer and Amy Goodman, and Dorian Warren, also to Susan
del Percio, who just as we got out, I`m going to play the one little thing
that she did want us to play. So, I`m going to play because it`s a fun
sort of moment in the Florida congressional race.
But before we get to playing that, I`m going to let her set it up. Before
that, I just want you to know that when we come back, we have got breaking
coverage of Doc McStuffins.
But take it away, Susan.
DEL PERCIO: The most exciting for me in the Florida 13 special election is
Bob Barker is now involved and apparently the choice is right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Let`s play it as we go out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB BARKER, TV GAME SHOW HOST: With Jolly, the choice is right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: For today`s footnote, I have some breaking news. Breaking
Doc McStuffins news.
If you`re a regular viewer of Nerdland or if you have young children in
your home, you already know who Doc McStuffins is. Doc is the wildly
popular Disney character for preschoolers. She`s a 6-year-old African-
American girl with a stay-at-home dad and a mother who is a doctor.
Inspired by her mom, Little Doc opens a clinic for her stuffed dolls and
toys in a Disney series follows the adventures that ensue.
Now, Nerdland loves doc. At the joint insistence of my daughter and
executive producer, we featured McStuffins as a foot soldier. It was the
highlight of my year to have a one-on-one interview with the McStuffins
creator, Chris Nee.
One of our favorite guests is Dr. Aletha Maybank, a founder of the Artemis
Society, or as she`s known around here, the real Doc McStuffins. So, you
can only imagine our glee when we learned this week there was breaking Doc
McStuffins news. It`s about another real Doc McStuffins.
Her name is Dr. Myiesha Taylor. And she`s an emergency room physician at
Texas Regional Medical Center and president of the Artemis Medical Society,
which supports women`s positions of color.
And as of Friday, January 10th, she will become the name sake of the
heretofore unnamed mother of Doc McStuffins. Doc`s now become Dr. Myiesha
The real doctor, Myiesha Taylor, told our producer that she is honored,
saying, quote, "It`s not just me this cartoon represents. It`s all of us
that have been involved. All of us from the college, all of us in the
Artemis Medical Society. We all identify in the same way, with both
characters, the little girl aspiring and now her mom. It`s bigger than
And the creator of Doc McStuffins, Chris Nee, is also pretty thrilled about
the news, telling us, quote, "I love giving tribute names. It`s an easy
way to give a wink to the people who are important to us. No one is
greeter friend of the show than Dr. Taylor. We knew we wanted to find a
way to incorporate her name into the show. And at first, we were trying to
find a great toy, but when the idea came to name Doc`s mom after her, it
seemed to perfect. By the way, Myiesha McStuffins just rolls off the
You know what? I think we have got to figure out a way of how to induct
Doc McStuffins as an official member of Nerdland. That`s our show for
today. And thanks to you at home for watching.
I`m going to see you next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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