'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, January 12th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
January 12, 2014
Guests: Daniella Gibbs Leger, Nina Turner, Judith Levine; Avik Roy; Bryce Covert; Carolyn Maloney
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question. Do
American women need their own museum?
Plus, they`re blocking the vote down in North Carolina.
And, Nerdland went bowling in Texas.
But first, lawmakers who try to walk a mile in the other guy`s shoes.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Nerdland, today I want to talk about empathy. Not just the empathy all of
you should be having for me right now because of that New Orleans loss last
night, but, no, empathy in the biggest sense, the ability to put yourself
in someone else`s shoes. To see what life might be like for them. To
understand how your actions affect them.
It seems like it should be a controversial thing, empathy, but we have seen
otherwise. Do you remember back in may of 2009, when Supreme Court
justice, David Souter, announced his retirement? Here`s what President
Obama said that he would look for in a replacement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will seek someone who
understands that justice isn`t about some abstract legal theory or footnote
in a case book. It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities
of people`s lives, whether they can make a living and care for their
families. Whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own
nation. I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying
what people`s hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving
at just decisions and outcomes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So this wasn`t a new idea. The president had spoken about
the importance of empathy in his book, on the campaign trail, and as a
senator, when voting against two of President Bush`s nominees to the high
President Obama pointed to the brown versus board of education case, as an
example of when empathy played the right role, leading the court to strike
down the idea of separate but equal, as fundamentally unjust. And he
pointed to the Lily Ledbetter case as the opposite. A time when the court
should have had the empathy to see that the plaintiff could not have filed
suit before she knew that her wages were less than those made by her male
coworkers. The president called for empathy on the courts and outrage
Here`s just one example, from Senator Jeff Sessions, during Sonia
Sotomayor`s confirmation hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: I fear that this empathy standard is
another step down the road to a liberal, activist, results-oriented,
relativistic world where laws lose their fixed mean, unelected judges set
policy, Americans are seen as members of separate groups rather than as
simply as Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And the outrage, that particular outrage, it conflated
empathy with sympathy. Now, we can, I think, agree that judges should not
just rely on gut feelings or the tugging of heartstrings. But that`s not
what empathy is.
Empathy is able to see going into a crumbling, ill-equipped school while
the white school across the town is gleaming is fundamentally unfair.
Empathy is understanding that one cannot sue before one knows that you`re
being cheated. Experience is not necessary to develop empathy, but it does
You`ve probably heard a lot this week about the 50th anniversary of the
declaration of the war on poverty. President Lyndon Johnson`s commitment
to eradicating poverty was a product of both a political strategy, but also
a deep personal experience, based in his own history. LBJ grew up poor and
often hungry. His family in constant fear that the bank would take away
their home. He knew that poverty is not always the fault of the poor, but
poverty can be addressed by government programs and by structural changes.
And so, 50 years ago, empathy fueled public policy. Medicare, Medicaid,
head start, the department of housing and urban development, the legal
services cooperation. All of these were created under Johnson`s
presidency. Since then, the poverty rate has declined by about a third,
although 15 million Americans still live below the poverty line.
Now, Congress debates whether to extend emergency long-term unemployment
insurance for another three months. Republicans are opposed to extending
the benefits, saying it would be simply too expensive and that unemployment
benefits serve as a disincentive to work.
In many Americans` eyes, there is an empathy gap between the parties. A
December NBC News poll found that there was a 28-point gap, 45 percent say
the Democratic Party does a better job of showing compassion and concern
for people, only 17 percent said the same of the Republican Party.
And that perception might be because Republicans oppose extending
unemployment benefits, and want to cut food assistance by $39 billion. And
they don`t want to give poor people health care via Medicare expansion.
I`m just saying, maybe that`s what is causing that gap.
Well, they do know that it`s a problem. And that they don`t seem like they
have sufficient empathy. So a memo circulated this week by the house
Republican conference outlines some talking points for members to use when
discussing unemployment. And the memo underscores that unemployment is,
quote, "a very personal crisis for every American out of work and their
But unemployment is more than a personal crisis. It is a systemic problem.
It`s about the evaporation of wealth, the disappearance of whole sectors of
work, the suppression of wages, and a recovery that has been made sluggish
and vulnerable because of the deficit policies pushed by the Republicans.
So Republicans want to frame unemployment as a personal crisis, but the
politics of empathy would demand that we acknowledge that all of us are
vulnerable. It is not just your crisis, it`s ours.
Joining me now, Ohio state senator, Nina Turner, who is running for Ohio
secretary of state this year, Bryce Covert, who is economic policy editor
for Think Progress and a contributor to "the Nation," Victoria Defrancesco
Soto, an MSNBC contributor, and professor at the University of Texas, and
Avik Roy, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and an opinion editor
Thanks for you all being here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Victoria, I want to start with you because as we were
thinking about this issue of empathy in politics, there really was sort of
an outcry when Sonia Sotomayor was first put up for the court which she
talked about the wise Latina position. So, talk to me about the role that
empathy plays in actual policy making. How does it lead us to good and/or
potentially bad policy?
VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, NBC LATINO CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, it
is like we just talked about walking in somebody else`s shoes. It allows
you to think beyond your box of, what are the policy options in front of
I think, though, most interesting, the policy gap itself allows for a wedge
to come in. Because what we`re seeing is a Republican party falling short
on that empathy gap. So what we`re instead going to see is the Democratic
Party filling that gap, and in the 2014 and the 2016 election, we`re going
to see Democrats use wedge politics to their benefit. We usually think of
wedge politics as something Republicans do. The welfare queen, gay
marriage, you name it. But this time around, and we`re starting to see it,
and the Republicans see it and they`re getting scared. And they`re saying,
we need to do something to fill that gap, but rhetoric is not policy.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, is important, right?
SOTO: Yes, yes, yes. We need both.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And so let me go to you, then, on this. Because I can
imagine that Republican lawmakers might push back and say, oh, Melissa,
it`s not that we don`t have empathy. It`s that you don`t have empathy for
taxpayers. That you don`t have empathy for people who are job creators,
So I`m wondering, is the issue that Republicans, in fact, do not have
empathy for the American people, or is it that they have empathy for other
groups, groups that maybe I have less empathy for.
AVIK ROY, SENIOR FELLOW, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE: Well, Republicans wouldn`t
win elections if they had empathy for no one, right? So the issue is who
you have empathy for. And I think it`s important for any political
movement to try to see things from the other person`s point of view, from
the other political movement`s point of view, from the point of view of
people who don`t vote for you whether you`re a liberal or conservative
progressive, that`s extremely important. Any successful movement will do
But it`s more than just empathy. You have to have good policy, right?
Because you can have empathy for that group of people, but yet, the policy
proposals you recommend for that group of people don`t actually make them
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me take that one step further and listen to Marco
Rubio talking about poverty, in which he suggests, I do have empathy for
poverty, but when I hear the policy proposals, they don`t sound to me like
good proposals. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Because for me, this issue is deeply
personal. I`m a generation removed from poverty and despair. With where I
would be today if there had never been an American? What kind of lives tor
futures would my children have if this was not a land of opportunity? What
if my father had been stuck, working as a bar boy his whole life instead of
making it to head bartender? What kind of life would I have right now? In
all likelihood, I, too, would be on the outside looking in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is a description of, I have empathy. I experience
poverty. But Senator Rubio`s policies are mostly a kind of devolution to
the states, right? Big grants where the states will now just kind of take
care of these policies, and given what we know about Medicaid expansion,
that makes me nervous. So, I hear him saying, I have an experience with
poverty. On the other hand, I feel like your policies don`t reflect that
BRYCE COVERT, ECONOMIC POLICY EDITOR, THINK PROGRESS: Right. The policy
doesn`t necessarily match up with that empathy rhetoric. You know, I
believe him when he says he feels like he has a connection, but you have to
go beyond the rhetoric and propose a policy that are going to reach people.
We can look at welfare reform if we want to see what happens when you black
grant programs and give it to the state, you know, the benefits are worth
less than before welfare reform. It hasn`t kept up with need during the
recession. Because states were given a fixed amount of money that has
declined, and then they could kind of do whatever they wanted, to some
extent, with the pun, and it`s kind of, frittered away. And we can expect
something similar with what Rubio is proposing.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I want to come to you, State Senator Turner, in part
because, it feels to me like empathy politics often then gets reduced to
identity politics. If you`re black, you`ll understand the black
experience. If you`re a woman, you`ll understand what women are going
But I am reminded that probably our greatest anti-poverty president other
than LBJ was a patrician. It was the great, extremely wealthy FDR.
Experience isn`t required to generate empathy, and yet, it does feel to me
like the relative identity diversity within the Democratic Party, more
women, more people of color, more people who are less likely to be
millionaires, does give potentially Democrats some ability to see the world
from different perspectives.
STATE SENATOR TINA TURNER (D), OHIO: Some advantage, but as you talked
about FDR, you need a consciousness to understand that. You know, we got
to understand the GOP went on recess and said, merry Christmas to folks.
Knowing that on December the 28th, 103 million Americans were not going to
have their unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits that, in fact,
they earned. Let`s make this clear. So for me to say that you have
empathy knowing that might not be able to feed my family.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you`re like, merry Christmas.
TURNER: Right. You have empathy I might not be able to pay my rent or my
mortgage, I can`t eat those words. I need action. And so, they continue
to paint people who are either on unemployment or need the safety net as
the other. They are we. We are them. You know, we are interconnected.
HARRIS-PERRY: Except that maybe they`re not. So 1.3 million people losing
the unemployment benefits those days immediately following Christmas, and
we saw the headline just this week that for the first time, Congress has a
majority of people serving in the U.S. Congress are millionaires, right?
And so, it makes you feel as though, well, actually may be the problem is
that they aren`t us. That, in fact, they`re not.
But hold on. We`ll stay on this question of empathy and I`m going to show
you two very different sides of the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie,
the empathetic version and maybe a little less.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I have a job to do. I`ve got 2.4
million people out of power. I`ve got devastation on the shore. I`ve got
floods in the northern part of my state. If you think right now I give a
damn about presidential politics, then you don`t know me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Governor Chris Christie in the immediate aftermath
of hurricane Sandy in October 2012, focused on his state putting his people
before politics. Asking the Democratic president for help and praising his
response, even as a general election loomed just a week away. That was
Governor Christie in 2012. This was Governor Christie on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I come out here today to apologize to the people of New Jersey.
I apologize to the people of Fort Lee and I apologize to the members of the
state legislature. I`m sad. I`m a sad guy standing here today and very
disappointed. And that`s the overriding emotion. I feel humiliated by
this. I`m a person who cares deeply about doing my job well. I work
extraordinarily hard at it.
I am sorry to all the people in this state that they have to be you know,
occupied with this matter. It`s embarrassing and as I said before, the
whole matter is humiliating to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: According to the "Washington Post," Dana Milbank, Christie`s
nearly two-hour news conference became, quote, "a forum on the virtues of
his favorite subject, himself." using the "I" word 692 times, "I`m" 119
times, "I`ve," 67, "me," 83, and my/myself, 134.
Now Bryce, for being a little mean, because it is possible that what he is
doing in all those I`s and me`s is taking responsibility for the
circumstances, but it does feel, even as we go back and look at Christie
post hurricanes Sandy, now that we`re in the middle of bridge gate,
suddenly you start wondering, did this guy have as much empathy, and I
wonder how damaging this may end up being as his perception of being a guy
about the people.
COVERT: I think it is interesting to look back at that clip in Sandy. I
think people on the right and left really felt like he really did what
needed to be done after Sandy. His state was in crisis. He came and he
said, you know, to hell with politics. He hasn`t done the same when it
comes to a lot of other things that affect his residence. One thing I like
to point to is that he blocked a minimum wage raise, and then the lawmakers
brought it to the people and it passed with more voters saying yes than who
said yes to Christie. The people in his state wanted to raise the wage and
people across the country want to raise the wage. He`s got policies like
that a little bit out of step, and you have to wonder whether he`s seeing
the needs of his residents.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the scandal itself, I mean, I so appreciate that, both
because, you know, we get focused on a moment, like, what he did on this
day, and whether or not he directed the bridges, you know, to be closed,
and whether or not he set an atmosphere for that to happen.
But the bigger question of whether or not he has empathy may be these much
more long-term policies that impact far more people. And it does feel like
the actual scandal, bridge gate itself, feels like a scandal of someone who
does not have empathy. If it is about political retribution, instead of
going after that guy, going after the mayor, he goes after his people or
the folks that closed it -- again, we don`t know exactly what happened.
But to the extent that becomes the narrative, it looks like he`s willing to
punish ordinary people for political gain.
TURNER: -- for political gain. And that is the thing. And that`s what
Americans are sick and tired of. I mean, when you have elected officials,
when their main calculus is what is in their best interest, even if they`re
seeming empathetic, the calculus is not in their best interest. But when
you see when the rubber meets the road, or meet the road of the speak, the
governor, whether or not he knew exactly, you`re absolutely right, the
environment that he created, that his employees, his workers that he
thought that ambush his cabinet members, they thought it was OK to do that,
to have children late to school or that story about the woman who wrote the
letter saying, my husband has been unemployed for a year, he finally has a
job and he`s late the first week because somebody is having a political
everyone temper tantrum over whether somebody has endorsed him. That is
We need to elect somebody who cares more about the next generation. If you
care about the next generation, you`re not going to mete out that kind of
retribution because somebody does not endorse you.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so I love this and yet I want to complicate it a little
bit because at a table on MSNBC with a lot of Democrats and progressives at
table, it`s easy to look at the Christie moment. But I went back and take
a look at someone who I think of as the great presenter of empathy,
President Bill Clinton, and I want to hear the moment we always think of as
his great empathy moment. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel your pain! I
feel your pain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Victoria, what we remember from that is that moment, "I feel
your pain," we went back and looked at that whole conversation. It`s been
a long time, but it`s worth reminding people. It was in a conversation
with an AIDS activist who was challenging him about AIDS policy. And most
of the discourse -- he says, I feel your pain, but he also like so you
better be quiet and listen because I`m up here and bad things are happening
to me, and I am trying to do better for you. And it actually is a very
like Chris Christie on Thursday, me, me, me speech.
But what we remember is, "I feel your pain." Why was he so good at sort of
presenting himself as the great man of the people?
SOTO: You know, and sadly, a lot of times, rhetoric and emotion means more
than policy and substance in politics. And we know this. A lot of times
our hearts are a lot stronger than our brains. And as voters, when we hear
that, when we see Bill Clinton, when we hear Chris Christie, that`s what we
What is so dangerous about Chris Christie though, is that he went the
counter of empathy. He went into a vindictive state and it affects people.
And when something affects you in your daily life, that is when the rubber
meets the road. So I think Chris Christie`s empathy that we saw has been
totally neutralized, and not only that, but taken down a notch, because
people were late to work, people had emergencies they couldn`t get to.
HARRIS-PERRY: Again, so again, if we think about Bill Clinton, he`s the
great incarcerate in terms of federal incarcerations. He ends up being --
SOTO: Immigration unfriendly.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welfare reform.
HARRIS-PERRY: Immigration unfriendly, the great welfare reform. But we
remember him as like the guy who loved us. And it`s part of, then, what
allows him to overcome the whole Lewinsky scandal later because he is Mr.
I`ll let you in as soon as we come in after the break, I`ll take a quick
break. Because I`ll let you in particularly on the question of who is and
who is not groups for whom we feel empathy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Much of the 2012 election seemed like a game of who would be
meanest to grandma? President Obama accused Governor Romney of planning to
gut Medicare and the Romney campaign accused the administration of already
slashing Medicare, and then they promised to strengthen it. But in the
end, their Medicare plans have more in common than either side would admit.
And Avik, it feels to me like that`s in part because the elderly are the
group that Americans the overall and lawmakers themselves tend to be older,
simply do have a great deal of empathy for, so Medicare is the one we don`t
ROY: Yes. We tend to have empathy for people who vote and don`t tend to
have empathy for those who don`t vote.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well played of it!
ROY: Future generations are paying the bills for our fiscal
irresponsibility, and that`s a big part of where the empathy equation often
goes down. And I think one of the things that`s attractive about Christie,
we are talking about his lack of empathy or whatever. One of the reasons
he`s such a popular politician, is because he is so relatable. Because
people relate not only to just this regular guy per sofa, but the fact that
he`s willing to call BS on a lot of the political stages and the
bureaucratic language that`s so deadening. He says no, I`m responsible.
I`m going to do this. I`m going to do that. And yes, he can with
narcissistic at times perhaps, but Bill Clinton was empathic and
narcissistic at the same time. He was the paradigm of both.
ROY: The president arguably is as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, because it`s pretty hard to become president from any
party and not have a certain level of narcissism. To become president
means that you stood and you looked at your country, you saw that it had
problems, you saw that it had millions of people living in and you thought,
I got this, right? So there`s a certain level of narcissism to run.
But I do think that narcissism can be in the put to the benefit of the
people. So using that power because you are so determined to use it to
assist others or it can be truly just about collecting that power to
yourself. And if Christie appears to be just correcting the power to
himself, then the narcissism becomes untenable.
TURNER: That`s right. And you know, LBJ and FDR were two very powerful
presidential figures who used the power of the people to elevate the people
to push the envelope, to push that change. And what is political capital
for, but for helping this country or your state evolve, so that equality
and justice for all means just that, equality and justice for all.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m interested also in this moment, that the groups for whom
we have -- I like the point that we have empathy for those who vote. But
it does seem to me that there still are some gaps. So, and some groups
have actually used empathy strategies.
So take marriage equality. Part of the strategy of coming out is to
demonstrate to people, you do have a cousin or a sister or a friend who is
gay, and therefore you should have empathy because we`re in your family.
Think of De Blasio, who not only as mayor is against stop and frisk, but
says, this would impact my family, right, who indicates a sense of like,
that connection. That does to me feel like something different than just
the rhetoric of empathy.
SOTO: It`s trying to invoke emotion from voters. And ultimately, that`s
the goal. Like we said, you can have the best policy in the world, but if
it doesn`t move a heartstring, it doesn`t have an impact. You know, I wish
I could say that just policy is going to move it, but, again, going back to
the most successful politicians and the most successful movements are the
ones that illustrate that. They paint the picture.
Another recent example, Melissa, is the immigration movement, where you
have the facts, where all of these young students sitting out there on the
mall and saying, we are going to be one with our undocumented brothers and
sisters and suffer, just as they`re suffering. And suddenly the TV cameras
focused in on this and the American public started seeing this. And so,
this is key to any political strategy. So, it may lack substance, but our
job is to see that substance is added on.
HARRIS-PERRY: But Avik, part of what happened is the discourse can
sometimes be unhooked from something. So, if you actually look at LBJ`s
war on poverty between 1960 and 2012, we saw a massive decline in the
poverty among the elderly, going from 35 percent to 14 point. That is a
program that works. That`s a set of programs that have undoubtedly,
substantially decreased poverty among the elderly. And a part because
they`re untouchable, the third rail of American politics, it continues to
work for them. And yet, many Republicans in this week came out and kept
saying, the war on poverty is a failure because there are so many poor
people. And that`s intellectually unfair and allows a sort of heartstring
pulling, oh, this is a failure, but unhooked from the reality of life.
ROY: Well, you know, Medicare is such a great example. When Medicare was
passed, when that bill was being considered by Congress, the Congress
projected that in 1990, we would spend $10 billion year on Medicare. We
spend $110 billion a year on Medicare in 1990. So fiscally, it was a
failure. And big part of the reason why it is a failure is because it
subsidizes everyone. It isn`t actually redirected towards low-income
people. And that entitlement and the political economy that comes from the
fact that everyone gets Medicare is one of the reasons why it is so
difficult to reform and that is straining the resources, not just the
Medicare, but entire federal budget.
HARRIS-PERRY: But Avik, it is only because it is a program for all, an
entitlement for all, something earned for all, in that sense, that it
becomes politically successful. And let`s just admit that there is a very
easy fix to the financial problem, and that is just, if everybody pays into
the taxes, all 12 months, out of every single paycheck, instead of setting
the cap, so that the wealthy stop paying in, I mean, that`s the solution.
It would be overnight solved.
ROY: Why not means test the program so that wealthy people don`t get
HARRIS-PERRY: Because we know what happens to means tested programs
because as you point out, because people have empathy for those who vote.
So, as soon as it`s a means tested program, it`s welfare, and we know what
happens, it gets cut.
ROY: The evidence doesn`t suggest that. We spent $916 billion a year on
these tested anti-poverty programs in the country.
HARRIS-PERRY: And they are constantly --
ROY: Grown and grown and grown, above inflation. Medicare is grown and
grown and grown above inflation.
HARRIS-PERRY: And they are constantly the thing that is easiest to beat up
on in an election. So I`ll end on this point. It does feel to me like it
is precisely because of a lack of empathy for those means tested groups,
for poor people, for people of color, for folks who can be easily
stereotyped and send over to side that allows those programs when to be
always sort of marginal and under potential attack.
We`ll talk more as we go on today. But when we come back, we`ll talk more
about what`s happening to voter in North Carolina. This is voter
suppression at a whole new level.
HARRIS-PERRY: You just have to appreciate the sheer determination of North
Carolina Republicans to suppress the votes of their political opponents.
The conservative legislators of the Tar Heel state spent 2013 implementing
voter I.D. laws, cutting early voting, and ending same-day registration.
Their actions launched an ongoing social movement. Their local officials
became national symbols of voter repression. And their antic attracted a
lawsuit by the justice department, alleging that the new laws are
And this week, North Carolina governor, Pat McCrory, upped the ante when he
announced he would postpone the election for the now vacant 12
congressional district seat. The seat was previously held by African-
American Democrat Mel Watt, who was tapped by the Obama administration to
become director of the federal house and finance agency.
Rather than swiftly schedule a special election, Governor McCrory prefers
to allow the people of North Carolina`s majority minority 12th district to
have absolutely no representation in the House of Representatives for more
than 300 days. I`m not kidding. He`s just not going to have an election.
He`s just not going to have one until November. So if you live in this
area, you get to spend the next year with no congressional representative.
For real, Nina? Just going to not have the election?
TURNER: Right, seriously. I mean, again, they -- Republicans are
revealing -- some Republicans are revealing who they truly are. We know
for a fact that the vote is the greatest equalizer that we have in this
country. That your socioeconomic status doesn`t matter, your ethnicity
doesn`t matter. It is the one place when we walk into the voting booth, we
are absolutely unequivocally equal.
And the fact that he has the pure, unadulterated gall to think this is OK
in the 21st century sends chills up and down my spine. And let me be
clear, this is a Republican movement. I mean, people talk about
partisanship. Democrats are not out rampant trying to suppress the votes
at every which way that they can. And there may not be water hoses and
barking dogs, but let`s be very, very clear. The impact that was happened
in North Carolina and Texas and even my home state has the same kind of
chilling effect to suppress the votes of certain groups.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Victoria, this district -- so let`s be clear. What the
governor is saying is, it`s not that I want to suppress the vote, it`s just
too expensive. It`s just too expensive it is going to cost million
dollars, it`s going to cause confusion, so we are just going to wait until
November when there is going to be some other elections.
But this district, if it succeed again, it such a highly gerrymandered
district, it runs along the i-40 corridor, it`s a safely Democratic seat,
one that is gerrymandered along part like officially gerrymandered along
part of the lines and it is also just over 50 percent African-American in
terms of its voters.
I wonder, and this is my conspiracy theory hat is on now, I wonder if my
waiting, and there`s no representative in this district and almost a year
with no representative and you have a highly gerrymandered district, if the
goal is to somehow ultimately eliminate that district, absorb those people
into the other ones, and thereby sort of push down the capacity of
Democrats and of African-Americans to have representation in this state.
SOTO: Sadly, North Carolina, a state both you and I lived in, nothing
surprises me. Remember, this is the state in Jesse Helms that sent out all
those postcards to African-American precincts, saying, if you vote without
having updated your address, you will go to jail. Something that was
So, voter intimidation and voter suppression tactics are not nothing new in
North Carolina. I wouldn`t put it past them, Melissa. I really don`t know
what`s going on here. I think in the short-term, it is just they don`t see
it as important. These are folks that they don`t tend to represent the
Republicans in power, so it`s not an importance to them, it`s not a
priority, and they can latch on to a fiscal argument about it costs too
much to have this election.
HARRIS-PERRY: But Democracy can be expense -- I mean, Reverend Barber who
we talked about many times on the show reading the Moral Mondays movement,
reacted to the governor`s decision about this saying, the governor`s
decision is latest case of undemocratic political bullying, taxation
without representation is a form of tyranny.
Now, to the extent of one hearing about the original tea party and the idea
of taxation without representation as the key aspect of it, 300 days
without a representative just seems like something that you cannot suggest
ROY: Yes. I don`t know the details of this case so I don`t -- if there is
a logical explanation for it, I don`t know what it is. But I want to get
this point about voter I.D. equals voter suppression. It is -- voter I.D.
is only controversial on the left. Eighty percent of Americans support
presenting an I.D. to verify your name and address when you go to the voter
booth. I don`t think it is --. This idea that presenting an I.D. is
equivalent to lynching is I think a bit extreme.
TURNER: Who says equivalent to lynching?
HARRIS-PERRY: If anyone thinks that -- I will be very clear. Lynching,
the thing that is equivalent to lynching is lynching. There aren`t other
things that are equivalent to lynching. But what voter I.D., what it
undoubtedly does, is let`s be clear, it doesn`t just they just bring us any
old voter I.D. What we see in these recent laws is a voter I.D. that has
these specific aspects to it, right?
And so, the suppressive aspect, for example, end up in a situation, for
example, in Texas, where if you can vote with the card that you can get a
gun registration, but not your student I.D., right? So it`s not just like,
bring us something that sort of makes us realize who you are. It`s these
very narrow --
ROY: Let`s not play politics. Let it be fair. But I think the idea of
making everyone have an I.D. when you go to the voting booth, is not that
big of a deal.
SOTO: It`s a poll tax.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s not a poll tax.
ROY: The courts have ruled on this, and as long as you make it easy to
allow people to get those driver`s license or photo I.D. --
TURNER: Easy is a relative term.
ROY: You don`t create an unreasonable burden. It is not a big deal. The
courts have ruled on this and they are legal.
SOTO: It is not free.
HARRIS-PERRY: It absolutely is legal, I think you`re right, Avik. But I
think let`s go back to the empathy question for a minute. I think that
notion of, it`s not that big of a deal depends on thinking of yourself as
able bodied, as having disposal income and time. There`s a lot of things
that make it more expensive, not just in the dollars and cents, but
expensive in the opportunity costs, and we know those are
disproportionately vulnerable people for whom it is more expensive.
All that said, we`re keeping our eye on North Carolina. We have been
keeping our eye on North Carolina. I`ll be looking really close at the 12
congressional districts and there is just no way you are going to miss
this, no pause. People deserve the representation in Congress.
Bryce Covert and Avik Roy, thank you for joining me today.
Nina and Vickie are going to stick around for the next hour. Maria Shriver
is coming up.
But in just a bit, because first I`m going to show you Tina Fey and Amy
Poehler on top of a piano, for real.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amy and I are proud to be hosting the Golden Globe
Awards again this year.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This year will be more glamorous and grand than ever
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will be the grandest.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s why Tina and I will be doing the whole show
from atop this grand piano.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s never been done before.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So unexpected, so brave.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really thought it would be more comfortable than
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot better.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`ve got it now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was the dynamic duo of comedy, Tina Fey and Amy
Poehler, who are gearing up to host the 2014 Golden Globe Awards tonight on
NBC at 8:00 p.m. eastern.
Now, the funny pair earned rave reviews, great ratings, and a two-year
return invite after hosting the globes last year. And their reunion
promises to be a highlight of the awards season.
Sitting atop diversified media empire, while retaining the goodwill of fans
and the respect of colleagues, Faye and Poehler represent all that is
possible for women in contemporary America and much is possible.
A woman was just confirmed as head of the Federal Reserve. Women are
taking leadership positions at companies like GM, Yahoo! and Facebook. A
record number of women serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and
Senate. Women are now free to serve in combat and rise to the highest
levels of military leadership.
Hollywood can make a blockbuster movie and its sequel, starting a butt-
kicking teen girl, more interested in starting a revolution than getting a
date. Television can have two women co-anchor a nightly news broadcast.
And popular culture has even started to include all women, Trans and cyst
(ph) in the women ensemble cast.
That is a pretty good moment for American women. From the front lines to
the corners of power to the comedy stage, women have unprecedented
opportunities to raise their voices and speak their minds.
But history encourages us not to be complacent when it comes to women
having un-feathered access to speak. I was reminded this on Tuesday when
Google honored the scholar novelist, Zora Neale Hurston with an original
doodle on what would have been Hurston`s 123rd birthday.
Suddenly, Zora was all over the internet as her image and birthday reminder
were tweeted and Facebook, (INAUDIBLE) and Instagram. For everyone who
read "their eyes were watching God" in freshman English, or grappled with
the request mules and men" in an anthropology course, or caught Halle
Berry`s portrayal of Jenny May Crawford in the Oprah Winfrey`s produced
television version of "their eyes," it`s worth noting that Hurston voice
was almost lost forever.
Hurston was one of the few women writing and published alongside women
during in Harlem renaissance. Both she and her work were criticized as
insufficiently intellectual overly concerned with the comment rather than
the lofty, and unworthy of inclusion in the cannon of human literature. In
fact, when Huston died after a stroke in 1960, she was penniless and buried
in an unmarked great.
That is, until Alice Walker went in search of Zora. Walker used her own
funds to finance a recovery of Hurston`s work. She gifted Zora to a
generation, a generation more capable of hearing Hurston`s voice. Walker
quite literally uncovered a buried genius and resurrected her work.
The lesson here, when women`s stories need to be told, it is very often
other women who clear the path and offer the platform for those voices to
So when we come back, a national effort to build a museum to commemorate
women`s voices, stories, and achievements.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is rare to see a Republican and Democrat agree on
anything lately. But two congresswomen from each side of the aisle have
sponsored legislation to build a national women`s history museum on or near
the national mall in Washington, D.C.
New York representative Carolyn Maloney and Tennessee Representative Marsha
Blackburn drafted a bill that would assign an eight-person bipartisan
commission the task of devising a fund-raising strategy and determining a
location for the proposed museum, dedicated to the legacies and
accomplishments of women.
Here to tell more about her effort is Congressman Carolyn Maloney. Good
REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: Thank you, Melissa. Marsha and I are
very grateful you`re having us on your show. And we`re thrilled to be here
and tell you about our bill, HRH63, which would create a commission to
study the creation of a national women`s history museum, which would not
cost the federal government or anybody any taxpayer anything, and it would
be totally funded by a not-for-profit, which has already raised over $12
million, including $1 million from Meryl Streep.
HARRIS-PERRY: I was going to ask, so, who are the folks who you think
clearly see the vision here and are willing to support either with their
voices or dollars?
MALONEY: Well, like-minded men and women that realized that half the
population is not recognized in our nation`s history. As you said in your
beginning, a brilliant, brilliant author was not recognized. And if you
look at textbooks and history books, women are largely not mentioned. Of
the monuments in the capital, the statues of the 2010, only 12 are of
women. Of the national historic landmarks and sites, only five percent are
women. Yet women, like you said earlier, have made tremendous
contributions that people are not aware of.
And I hope that every young man and young girl who visit Washington are
inspired by the stories not only of men, but also the revolutionary
leaders, the great authors and scientists that have contributed to our
country, that are women.
HARRIS-PERRY: So let me ask a question, then, about -- because I
absolutely agree with all of that. So, here`s the question. Why a
separate women`s museum? Would Sally Ride (ph), for example, wouldn`t it
be the value to make sure that Sally Ride is represented appropriately at
the national air and space, already sort of involved with where all of her
colleagues and accomplishments are, rather than sort of off in a women`s
museum. Because my one concern and I keep hearing you say it, it`s so
important, that boys and girls and men and women would all go. And I
wonder, would the women`s museum become a sort of space over to the side
that just the all-girls would go to and that boys and men wouldn`t have to
encounter and engage with the accomplishments of women.
MALONEY: I think that fathers and young boys would want to attend and see
also. And already, women are incorporated in other museums, but we`re an
afterthought. We`re under the rug. There`s not a major mention, as you
said. There are museums now for air and space, for textiles, for spies,
for law and order, for the media. For all kinds of things, but not half
the population that has a very distinct contribution.
And the purpose of this museum went the not for profit was founded in 1996,
and they`re accumulating stories such as the story you told earlier, is to
gather this information, a repository for the contributions that have been
largely ignored. And we are half the population. All the other museums I
mentioned have been built with federal money. We`re not even asking for
federal money. We`re just asking for the opportunity to tell our story,
her story and to chronicle it.
I think it`s very important. It`s inspirational to young girls and boys to
know of the achievements of the past. Yet, it`s not really told. There
are specific museums. There is a museum for first ladies. There is a
museum for --
HARRIS-PERRY: Although it`s not in D.C., but I do love the first lady
MALONEY: But they`re for little niches, for women artists, but not the
total history. And I think it`s important to have a place where the
history is all put together and held, like the holocaust museum. The story
was, in many little places, but when the national museum was built, this
was a place for all the stories to be kept and chronicled that are part of
our important history in our country.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. There`s a way in which having the museum forces the
cur ration of it, forces the development of the archive in a way that even
though women that absolutely from this day forward must be incorporated,
and yet there`s something about pushing that effort.
Let me also say, as we go out here that I undoubtedly will, if and when
this happens, that undoubtedly the women of the 113th Congress, this
historic landmark Congress, will undoubtedly be part of it. So, how
exciting that you`ve actually put together a bipartisan effort here on
almost anything at this point.
MALONEY: Well, we are not going to give up until this happens. It`s
important to tell the story and to inspire a future generation of leaders.
HARRIS-PERRY: Great. Thanks so much. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.
And coming up next, Maria Shriver. She`s going to join me here in Nerdland
to talk about her incredible new report. And a special announcement about
a new project being launched right here at MSNBC.
Stay tuned with us, because there is more Nerdland and it is kind of the
lady`s hour at the top of the hour hop.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
In the 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson launched the war on poverty,
there is demonstrable evidence that for some Americans, at least, LBJ`s
policy agenda was a success. Elderly Americans are unquestionably living
better lives today than they were when the war on poverty began. Thanks to
programs like Social Security, the poverty rate for people over 65 dropped
by more than two-thirds from 28.5 percent in 1966 to 9.1 percent in 2012.
Then, there are also those who have been left behind, like children. While
the child poverty rate has fallen over the last 40 years, children continue
to be the poorest people in the United States. Children make up 70 percent
of the nation`s poor. Together with another group, who have increasingly
become emblematic of the face of American poverty -- women.
In just over two weeks, President Obama is expected to highlight economic
inequality in his State of the Union Address. And lawmakers from both
sides of the aisle are speaking out on the issue, even if they are offering
very different solutions to the problem. But if our policymakers are to be
serious about addressing the root causes of economic disparity, issues like
income inequality, stagnant wages, and poor job growth, women must be part,
maybe even the central aspect of their focus.
Something President Obama appeared to recognize last year, when he said
these words in his second inaugural address.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are true to our creed
when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows she has the same
chance to succeed as everyone else, because she is an American, she is
free, and she is equal not just in the eyes of God, but also in our own.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Notice the feminine pronoun there, when she has these
The need to not only close the wage gap, to also put women at the forefront
of the economic agenda, is highlighted by the Shriver Report, "A Woman`s
Nation Pushes Back From the Brink". The groundbreaking investigation from
NBC News special anchor Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress.
The exhaustive report found that closing the wage gap between men and women
would cut the poverty rate in half for working women and their families and
would add nearly half a trillion dollars to the national economy.
As Maria Shriver wrote in an essay included in the investigation, "The
nation cannot have sustained economic prosperity and well-being until
women`s new, central role is recognized and women`s economic health is used
as a measure, perhaps it should be the measure, to shape common sense
policies and priorities for the 21st century. In other words, leave out
the women, and you don`t have a full and robust economy. Lead with the
women and you do."
Joining me now from Washington is NBC News special anchor, Maria Shriver,
who along with the Center for American Progress, put together the report, a
woman`s nation pushes back from the brink.
So nice to have you here this morning.
MARIA SHRIVER, NBC NEWS SPECIAL ANCHOR: Thank you for that incredible
introduction and landscape view of where we are, which is exactly where you
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, thank you. But tell me, then, why this report now? I
mean, I have this -- but this is obviously something that has been
happening, been growing, and why is this report so important at this
SHRIVER: Well, because one out of three working women are in economic
jeopardy. That`s why now. This is the third Shriver Report we`ve done and
this is really a call to the nation to modernize its relationship to women.
And it`s also a call to women to come together and demand change from their
political leaders -- be they Democrat, Republican, male, or female.
Women are 54 percent of the electorate and their vote has power. And they
should be voting for people, as I said, men or women, that represent what
they need in their lives, which is equal pay, as you said, which is sick
days. That was the thing that came out in our poll the most, that people
said would make the biggest difference in their life, to have sick days,
whether it`s earned or given, either it`s acceptable.
And women can come together and demand change and they can get it if they
HARRIS-PERRY: So, interesting to me that you took it to a place of
politics, because, obviously, this week marked the anniversary of the 50th
year in which LBJ stood and made that declaration of the war on poverty.
Sargent Shriver, key to those efforts.
What do you think Sargent Shriver would now say about the changing face of
what inequality and poverty looks like in America?
SHRIVER: Well, he would be talking about it, but he wouldn`t have waited
50 years to talk about it. He would have been talking about it all the way
So, I think it`s great that all of a sudden, people are talking about this.
A month ago, no one was talking really about poverty. And you have just in
this last week, on the anniversary of the war on poverty, you have
Congressman Ryan, you have Secretary Rubio, we have this report. I think
the president will talk about this in his State of the Union and he`ll
also, I think, talk about it talking about women.
So I think when anyone talks about poverty, when anybody talks about income
inequality, they`ve got to start putting women in that discussion. They
got to start talking about how women have these dual roles. Really, I call
them three roles because they`re breadwinners, they`re caretakers, and
they`re caregivers. Women are strapped between their children and their
parents, and two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. Seventy percent
of them don`t have one sick day.
So, how are they meant to manage all of these competing interests unless
they have some support?
HARRIS-PERRY: We spent much of the first hour of the program talking about
the issue of empathy. And in the case that you wrote for the Atlantic, in
the first lines of it, you emphasize that your own personal biography does
not include a story of economic instability, and yet this issue matters
deeply to you in terms of how important it is to your country. But I`m
wondering, you know, the report has all the statistics, but it also has all
of these personal stories both from women living in poverty, as well people
like Beyonce and Eva Longoria.
How do the personal stories help to generate empathy that maybe the
statistics alone can`t help us to see?
SHRIVER: Exactly that way. I think statistics are hard to -- these
numbers are so big, it`s hard to wrap your head around 42 million people.
But when you read the report, which you can download at shriverreport.org,
for the next four days, it`s free. And we`ve had thousands of people line
up just to press the button.
But you can read these essays, whether it`s from Neera Tanden, who runs the
center for American progress who talks about what it was like for her
mother and for her to grow up the way she did, it puts a face to these
statistics. We have an HBO film coming out in March, called the life and
times of Katrina Gilbert that puts a face to these issues.
All week long on NBC, we`ll be putting face to these issues, and you can
see, that`s me -- people who are struggling and in economic peril today are
not people that are over there. It`s everybody you know. It`s the person
in the cubicle next to you. It`s the person working in the place you go to
get lunch. There`s a very fine line between the us and the them. In fact,
it`s a blurred line.
So, our hope was to add these personal essays to give a face, to give heart
to this issue, and to give an impetus to people to care.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s, of course, a great example of this, in fairly
recent American history, and that is the success of the breast cancer
campaigns. People coming out, telling their own stories. We had all the
statistics about how breast cancer was impacting women, but when you look
at where we are in terms of public awareness of breast cancer of both
government and private funding around it -- I mean, it just changed
dramatically when suddenly people were telling their own stories and folks
felt a strong sense of empathy and connection to survivors and victims of
I wonder, and, of course, breast cancer, there was shame around it,
initially, before women began to tell their own stories. Can we do, for
poverty, and for women in poverty, what happened around women and breast
cancer? So that in 20 years, we have something totally different.
SHRIVER: I really hope so. I really hope so, because I think, you
mentioned the word "shame." There`s a lot of shame to standing in an
unemployment line. There`s a lot of shame to standing in a food stamp
line. There`s a lot of shame in not being able to put food on the table
for your kids.
And so what we have tried to do, whether it`s through our Instagram,
through social media, through the film, through what we`re doing here, is,
you know, to put a face to this. To let people know that there is support
for them out there, that the actual, in the polling, the Americans
resounded and said they felt that government should support, for example,
single mothers, the American families, the way they are today.
I don`t think shaming anybody gets us anywhere. I think people -- it`s
really courageous for people to tell their story and I think people, when
day do, will find that somebody will say, "That`s me, too."
HARRIS-PERRY: One last question for you. As much as the report shows a
lot of inequality, it also has a kind of empowerment feeling behind it.
Talk about the 10 steps that the report suggests about how we start to
move, both as individuals and as a nation towards more equality.
SHRIVER: Well, the report that you can download as a set, it`s big and
it`s thick, so we pulled out 10 things that anybody can do. One is to
actually read the report and cite it. We have it in classrooms all over
the country. We`re hoping political leaders will use it to craft
But we`re also calling on young girls to stay in school, because that`s a
huge income predictor, whether you`re going to be in poverty or not. We`re
telling them to be providers and not think they will be provided for, to
delay family planning as much as possible, before you get your education,
get smart. Be financially smart, because you will have to make financial
decisions over your future.
We`re calling on young women to invest in themselves, for women who are
employers, to be 21st century employers. If they`re hiring women, to help
them with their children, or their parents, pay them a living wage. A
living wage in some states is different than others. If we have small
businesses, educate people about what programs are out there that could
help lift them out of poverty, the earned income tax credit.
Many people are eligible for these programs they know nothing about. If
you run businesses, you know, talk to the people that are on the ground, so
to speak. What do they need? What kind of workplace will help them
We have a drive index in there, which talks to businesses about how they
can support women, retain women, and promote women.
NBC News special anchor Maria Shriver -- thank you for not only appearing
this morning. It`s lovely to have you in Nerdland.
SHRIVER: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: But also for your work on this report.
SHRIVER: Thank you so much, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Maria will be co-hosting "50 Year War: The Changing Face of
Poverty in America" on an "ALL IN" special event with Chris Hayes. That`s
tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m., right here on MSNBC.
And MSNBC will be covering this report and the issues facing American
women, all next week, with guests, including Senator Gillibrand from here
in New York, Michelle Moody Mills, and, of course, Maria Shriver.
We have a link to more of Maria`s brand-new report, "A Woman`s Nation
Pushes Back from the Brink," on our Web site at mhpshow.com.
And we are not done with this report or with the issues. I`ve got a great
table of amazing women here and we`re going to keep talking about it. Up
next, changing the way we see single moms and what we say could change
their lives right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So we`re going to go tonight findings of a Shriver
Report, "A Woman`s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink".
This comprehensive investigation from NBC News special anchor Maria Shriver
in partnership with the Center for American Progress brings to the
forefront the lives of millions of America`s most vulnerable women,
including the unmarried women who account for 40 percent of all births.
That`s more than 50 percent of women under the age of 30.
Among the reports` findings about single mothers, nearly three quarters of
unmarried births are to women who are living in poverty or on the brink of
poverty, and even though 58 percent of the births to unmarried women were
to -- to unmarried women were to women who are cohabitating with a partner
at time of birth. And according to the report, two-thirds of single
mothers are working low-wage jobs with little flexibility, benefits, or
economic supports that allow for time with their children. Ninety-six
percent of them say paid leave is the workplace policy that would help them
the most, and nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that government should
help society adapt to the reality.
One more time. Help society adapt to the reality of single-parent
families, and use its resources to help children and mothers succeed,
regardless of family status. Revolution!
At the table: Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto,
who`s professor at the University of Texas, Judith Levine, associate
professor of sociology at Temple University, and author of "Ain`t No Trust:
How Bosses, Boyfriends, and Bureaucrats Fail Low-Income Mothers and Why It
Matters." And one of the editors of the Shriver Report, Daniella Gibbs
Leger, who is senior vice president for American Values and New Communities
at the Center for American Progress.
So, I want to start with you, Daniela, because I want to go right to this
question of single mothers and how much this whole story about women has to
do with the ability of women to control and manage their own fertility.
DANIELLA GIBBS LEGER, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Right, exactly. I
mean, the thing we found most in this report and through our polling, which
was an amazing over 3,500 people, is that women need time. They need time
to take care of their children. They need time to take care of their
parents. They need time if they want to get out of that low-wage job. How
are they supposed to better their education if they have no flexibility
over their schedule?
It`s sort of an ironic thing that the wealthiest people are the once who
have the most flexibility. Everyone needs it, but we know that single
mothers are the ones who really need it the most.
And, you know, in our poll, people did find that, yes, there is support for
government doing what they can to help marriage and support marriage, but
the American people understand that we need to support women where they are
and families where they are.
And it`s not just government, but our institutions just haven`t kept up.
I am in love with this language that what women need is time. It is a nice
way of shifting the idea of what the costs are.
I want to remind everyone that first lady Obama, when the president first
began to run, talked about this issue of time and, initially, of this kind
of balance between career and family. She said, "Believe me, as a busy,
single mother, or, I shouldn`t say single. I mean, as a busy mother, when
you`ve got a husband, who is president, it can feel a little single. And
he`s there, and as a busy working mom, and before coming to the White
House, I was in that position as well -- working, driving kids to practice,
not having enough time to shop or cook, not having enough energy."
And the very fact that the first lady, who is obviously in a loving
partnership with a husband, nonetheless felt that single mama empathy, she
was like, oh, it`s part of why Mama Robertson lives there, right? Because
you need time.
LEGER: Right. Exactly. And she gets it, you know?
And I think what we hope happens with this report is that we start a new
conversation. You know, demonizing women for being single moms or for the
choices that they make, that hasn`t gotten us anywhere and it`s not going
to get us anywhere in the future. We need to become grownups about this
topic and figure out what can we do now, what do women needs to move
forward. So, I`m really hoping that we can have a great conversation
around this report.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, Judith, your work, and I read the book, and I have to
say, it suggests that we have gotten somewhere with the ways that we shame
women for being single parents. It`s just that where it`s gotten us is not
where we want to be.
Talk to me about the issue of trust for single parents?
JUDITH LEVINE, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY: Yes, well, one of the main findings of
the book is that distrust is palpable amongst low-income women and it`s not
just in one area, where you might expect -- like how they feel about the
welfare office, for instance. But it`s in almost every area of their
And why do we care about distrust? We care for two reasons. One is
because it undermines policy goals. If you don`t believe the policy is
actually going to be delivered as promised, the incentive effect is gone.
Secondly, trust is really a form of inequality and it goes along with
income inequality. When you are at the bottom of the income distribution
and the bottom of the power structure, you don`t feel you can rely on
others. And you often might be right. There`s a lot of evidence that
women are right when they make this assessment.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, the distrust of low-income women is not paranoia, it is
based in empirical relationships in which they are consistently let down by
policymakers, by intimate, and yet, I wonder then, how do we start to
legitimately rebuild trust, by, in fact, doing what the Shriver Report
suggests, and putting women at the center of policymaking, instead of at
STATE SEN. TINA TURNER (D), OHIO: Yes, and I certainly want to thank Maria
for doing this and actually asking women --
HARRIS-PERRY: About themselves.
TURNER: Because, you know, as women go, so goes the nation.
TURNER: So go children and the viability of neighborhoods and communities.
And I like what Maria said when she said, we need women to make sure that
they are using the power of the ballot box to elect folks, whether they`d
be Democrat or Republican, who actually get it, because there is a
correlation between the ballot box and the bread box. There is a
And I get this in a deep way, my sisters, in a deep way, because my mother
died at the age of 42, on welfare. No life insurance policy, not even two
nickels in the bank. I am the oldest of seven children, and my baby sister
was 12, and my mother suffered, and she was as married woman, although I
grew up the majority of any life in a single-parent household. Everybody
does not run the race at the same pace.
TURNER: And how ludicrous is it to believe that anybody, whether they`d be
a man or a woman, wants to be poor. Nobody says, sign me up!
TURNER: Medicaid, public housing, that is the life for me.
But people do need policymakers and they need other stakeholders, also in
the corporate space, to understand that when you give women what they need
to be able to thrive, not just survive. And I`m telling you, professor,
I`m having a Tupac moment, because in his --
HARRIS-PERRY: Dear mama? Are you about to quote "Dear Mama" on Nerdland?
TURNER: Keep your head.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, keep your head up. When he said, I give a holler to my
sisters on welfare, Tupac cares if nobody else cares.
See, we need more policymakers to care and transmit that caring into
policies in the space that allows women to thrive. But he goes on to say
that women should forgive, but not forget. And he says, since we all came
from a woman and got our name from a woman and our gain from a woman, I
wonder why we take from our women.
That is the foundation of what needs to happen. And the fact that the
Shriver Report lays that out, I just have to break it down.
HARRIS-PERRY: From Tupac chapter two, verse 17, let the Nerdland church
And up next, the golden ticket, or at least the closest thing. How we can
start making a difference in this inequality gap.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back and still discussing the Shriver Report on the
status of women and inequality. And I wanted to come to you, Victoria,
because you and I share some similarities. We are both working, married
moms, women of color with PhDs. And one of the most interesting results of
the study had to do with how women felt about their marriages, their
divorces, and their children.
So I want to read this to you and ask your responses. Only 28 percent of
divorced women regret not staying married, compared to 47 percent of
divorced men, while lower income women are more likely to regret having
children when they did, 39 percent wish they had delayed having children or
had fewer. And overall, however, 25 percent of women regret the timing or
the number of children they had.
Now, it was important to me, not because I think women don`t like their
husbands and children, but because the balance is really extraordinarily
difficult. And policy makes a huge difference in how you make those
VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Melissa, you and I have
everything at our disposal.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
SOTO: I have a 7-month-old and I can barely keep my head straight.
HARRIS-PERRY: It gets a little better.
SOTO: Month by month.
But I don`t know how single moms do it. And single moms who are in these
low-wage jobs, don`t have sick pay. I think the bottom line here, the
message was education.
All right, we all buy that. But what are we going to do to change the
social contract that puts education center? And I thought that was the
most compelling part of the report, is saying we need to tweak our social
contract, because we`re no longer the "Mad Men" society, where the men work
and the women stays home. We need components such as sick days --
SOTO: -- such as family leave --
SOTO: -- and these are things we need to incorporate into our new social
contract going forward, because you can`t do it on your own. Even with a
family, you can`t do it on your own.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the education piece, this matters so much. You and I
both have daughters and we also have the resources. That means we`ll be
able to provide for our daughters incredible levels of education, right?
Hopefully, they`ll take advantage of it. But when we just say, go get your
education, not everybody`s education that they get to go get is the same,
right? So if you are a -- if you`re in a circumstance of inequality and
you send your kid to school every single day, but it`s a school without
resources, the payoff might not be the same.
LEGER: Right, exactly. You seem very disparate outcomes when it comes to
education based on where you live and where you grow up.
So if you come from a single family and happen to live in a low-wage, low-
income neighborhood and your school is -- and that could set you off on a
track from before you even get to school, sort of predicting what`s going
to happen in your life. So, we have to make these changes at the very
beginning of a woman`s education. So it starts at preschool. You know,
universal pre-k, something we should all be advocating for. And then it
And then again, it`s about choices, and making sure that women know the
choices we should make, before they go to school. Like, what careers do
you want to take and what will that actually mean?
You know, there`s some bipartisan legislation right now called Know Before
You Go, which is really important, because a lot of times, especially women
and color and low-income women. They go out and get these certificate
degrees and incur a lot of debt and they can`t find great jobs to pay off
HARRIS-PERRY: When we look at men`s education, tracking with their income,
right, as you would expect, education, each additional year of education
includes greater income, right? That`s what men look like.
If you look at women, same thing. More education leads to more income.
Was the whole thing is depressed, right? Those numbers just show it.
And I wonder if this is also part of the trust. If I`m told, get your
education, and so then I go and I sign up for some online course and feel
like I`m doing it, and it doesn`t pay off, does that undermine my belief
that this thing is the golden ticket?
LEVINE: Absolutely. And we`ve made it a lot harder for low-income women
to get the kind of education that is going to pay off, because welfare
reform, in most states, has a work first philosophy, that if you`re
receiving public benefits to put food in the mouths of your children, then
you`ve got to get into a job right away.
And yes, the long-term goal is moving people into the labor market, but
they really can`t pursue education that`s going to pay off. And, of
course, what pays off most is a college degree. And that`s just not
HARRIS-PERRY: And I can just say that there is a certain kind of obscenity
to the idea that for poor women, it`s work first, but for middle class and
wealthy women, we tend to say, family first.
And the whole point is, so, if mommy at home is good for kids, if that is
your theory of the world, then why isn`t poor mommy at home best for her
kids as well?
LEVINE: Because she doesn`t deserve it. That`s sort of the attitude --
HARRIS-PERRY: Because she has to be punished for having more kids -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And for being poor.
SOTO: And the misogynistic turn of welfare, where it started targeting
women. So not just -- it`s being on welfare is shameful, if you`re a man
or a woman, but women in particular, and mothers.
HARRIS-PERRY: Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Judith Levine, who, in full
disclosure, is also the aunt of one of our team members, my graphics p.a.
here at MHP, which is where I first got the book. She handed it to me.
Also to Daniella Gibbs Leger, and also Nina Turner, who is going to stick
around a little bit longer. How could we let her go?
Up next, an exciting announcement about a new MSNBC project and a Nerdland
road trip. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you have any plans to look into the governor`s races here,
since it`s turning into a big one?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t even know who`s running. How`s that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Today, MSNBC.com kicks off women of 2014 -- a year-long
series chronicling a dynamic slate of candidates running as Democrats and
Republicans in primaries for House seats, Senate seats, and for the
The series includes interviews with leaders, a look at rising stars behind
campaigns, donors, and newcomers. The first real test of the political
winds of 2014 will have a Democratic woman, Alex Sink, running in a special
election for a House seat in Florida. From there, some of 2014`s most
pivotal races will have women at the center.
From Allison Grimes aiming at the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell,
to Michelle nun, a fueling Democratic optimism in a traditionally red
state, Georgia, to RNC featured speaker, Mia Love, a black Republican
woman, attempting her second attempt at the congressional seat.
And if a few key women running across the country get their way, the one
lone Democratic feel governor, Maggie Hassan, won`t be an anomaly anymore.
That includes, of course, Texas gubernatorial candidate, Wendy Davis, who
rose to national fame last summer when as a state senator, she held a
nearly 11-hour long filibuster in an effort to stop new restrictions on
She`s hoping to become the first woman governor in Texas since Ann Richards
lost to George W. Bush 20 years ago.
We sent reporter Meredith Clark to Plano, Texas, whose county went for
Governor Mitt Romney for more than 30 points, to find out what they thought
of Davis and her likely opponent in November, state attorney general, Greg
Abbott. And whether Texas getting a woman governor again matters to the
women of Texas.
MEREDITH CLARK, MSNBC REPORTER: Today, we`re going to take a trip to the
Wednesday Bowlettes to the Plano Super Bowl to find out what they think
about Wendy Davis and see if she`s got a chance in the governor`s race.
When you`re coming in from out of town to a place, it can be difficult to
find a spot where you know there`s a lot of people you can talk to. So, a
bowling alley is kind of perfect. It`s a one-top shop, as it were. And
everybody loves bowling.
Are conservative values and issues the most important thing for you when it
comes to voting for candidates?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not necessarily conservative issues, but the
Democrats have had their shot and things are in the toilet, so I think it`s
time for the Republicans to step up.
CLARK: You told me a minute ago that you like Wendy Davis. Why is that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, to me, she just represents major change. I
think we need that. She`s a woman, of course, and she`s just really shown
her stuff by taking the stand that she did on abortion. I wouldn`t just
vote for someone because they`re woman. That`s me, but I don`t know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m going to vote for Greg Abbott because I`m pro-
life, so I don`t support Wendy Davis for that reason. I would be glad to
vote for a Republican woman, who is pro-life.
CLARK: Do you have any plans to look into the governor`s race this year,
since it`s turning into a big one?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t even know who`s running. How`s that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m for Wendy, because she`s a Democrat and I think
she`ll be good for the country, for our country and for our governorship.
CLARK: Yes. And what about you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I totally disagree. I think Perry has brought
jobs to Texas and Wendy, I don`t know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m really against abortion, though and if she is for
that -- but other than that, I really don`t know a lot about her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like she`s just not strong enough. And what`s
going on right now in the state of with immigration and stuff like that, we
need to close our doors.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think in my time, there`s going to be a woman
president as well as a governorship again, because we did have a governor
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m waiting. They`ve got to do an awful lot and show
me an awful lot. I`m a Texan. When I was born, it was a Democratic state
and now it`s a Republican state. And the pendulum swings. I`ve seen it
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining the table, fresh from Plano, Texas, is MSNBC.com
reporter, Meredith Clark. Also, MSNBC.com national reporter, Suzy Khimm,
and MSNBC.com national reporter, Irin Carmon.
So what`d you learn in Texas?
CLARK: I think there`s a lot that people don`t know to paycheck up their
mind yet. If Wendy Davis can make the opportunity to make herself known as
someone who cares about families and about real women`s issues through the
entire range of life, as supposed to just sticking on the abortion issue,
she might be able to make up a lot of ground where she`s trailing Greg
Abbott right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I thought it was interesting, we were talking about this
earlier, and you said, she wants to redefine in part what the idea of pro-
life is. What does that mean for her campaign? What does the pro-life
redefinition going to look like?
CLARK: Well, she actually did say that in an interview -- or not an
interview, but a campaign event in Brownsville, Texas, and she had to
explain that and it really came down for, I`m for life at all stages. It`s
not just about being pro-pregnancy, it`s about making sure that children
have enough to eat, have enough education, have opportunities when maybe
they`re coming from an economically disadvantaged situation.
And I think her campaign is already showing that. She`s just come out with
her education platform. She`s going to do a lot on that in the next
HARRIS-PERRY: Irin, so as much as Wendy Davis is going to have to make
herself a full candidate, the fact that she came to national attention
around the issue of the Texas laws to restrict reproductive rights, you
were in my town in New Orleans earlier this week, because the case is
moving on. Talk to me about what you were reporting on the there.
IRIN CARMON, MSNBC.COM NATIONAL REPORTER: Well, there has been a challenge
brought to the admitting privileges of the medication abortion provisions
of the laws that Wendy Davis stood up against. They wanted the district
court, the clinics that brought the case, they wanted the district court.
They said it is an unconstitutional blocking of women`s right to an
But then at the conservative fifth circuit, the seat of which is if your
hometown in New Orleans, that was then allowed to go into effect. The law
was allowed to go into effect. So, what we were seeing this week the oral
argument, three female judges, I believe, at least two of them, possibly
all three of them, are Texans, and they are all like some of the women that
Meredith interviewed. They all consider themselves pro-life.
So you have this fascinating conversation between the attorney for the
clinics, a woman, three Republican women sitting out there in a position of
authority, and asking, is this really so bad on the women in the Rio Grande
I want to look at what Judge Jones said here, because I want you to tell me
the context of this. In which Judge Edith Jones was talking about this,
making women drive an extra 150 miles to an abortion clinic and said, "Do
you know how long that takes in Texas? Seventy-five miles an hour, flat
highway, no congestion.`
CARMON: Right. I mean, the idea is like, it`s not an undue burden if you
drive really fast.
And this is the point. The way that the lawyer for the clinics put it is,
there were two clinics in the Rio Grande Valley before. Now there are
So, the women -- the judges basically said, well, you know, but it was so
bad before, there were so few people providing abortions beforehand, how
can you say it`s their fault? Look at the before and after, and the fact
that abortion is already very difficult to access, there`s no
constitutional ground, they argued, to say, that we should make it even
harder on these women.
So, to me, it was sort of fascinating tableau. You know, the solicitor
general of Texas was the only man up there. There was a real limit to the
solidarity of these women who are trying to make these reproductive health
care decisions and are forced to meet ever-many more road blocks.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s a reminder that simply having women in power is not
necessarily mean the protection of women`s rights, particularly around
reproductive choices, but a whole variety of other things.
So, talk to me, then, about, you are following Michelle Nunn, that`s your
most recent piece, but talk to me about why we should care about the women
of 2014 in a broad sense, when obviously the women of 2014 are going to be
a diverse group with a variety of different viewpoints?
SUZY KHIMM, MSNBC.COM NATIONAL REPORTER: I think it`s sort of interesting
that the way that women have traditionally, you know, in the past, in past
years, gone into office was often because their husband, their father,
someone in their family was associated with politics and they kind of rode
on their coattails into office.
What`s interesting about someone like Michelle Nunn is she does come from
one of those very famous political families. Her father, Sam Nunn, was a
very renowned conservative Democrat in Georgia, who still has a big
reputation there. She`s making no secret about the fact that she`s from
But at the same time, she is really stressing her own career, that she`s
sort of built up. And that she has never served in political office
before. She ran this nonprofit organization that became one of the largest
volunteer service organizations, in part because she partnered with George
H.W. Bush and his family. So she`s trying to bring that sort of bipartisan
credibility in there.
So I think, you know, as you mentioned earlier, it`s so interesting to see
how women are coming up in so many different sectors, not just in public
service and in government, but in private industry. And more of those
candidates, I suspect, are going to be coming over into public life, as
they rise in tech and these different areas, and they`re going to sort of
draw on that background and expertise to show that they can really lead.
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. We have an actual woman of 2014 sitting at
table. So when we come back, I`m going to talk with Nina Turner about
runnin` as a woman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TURNER: And the reason why is because I believe in free and fair
elections. I believe like my grandmother used to believe that everybody
should have access --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was my guest and most definitely one of the women of
2014, Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, on fire, campaigning to be the new
Ohio secretary of state.
So, two things I want to get into with you here. One, not all women are
the same woman, right? We saw that with Meredith talking to two best
friends bowling together who disagree, or Irin`s point about this idea
that, you know, a woman who`s trying to protect reproductive rights and
those who may want to limit them.
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the key aspects on which women tend to differ is on
race. We know that the gender gap is often driven by a racialized gender
gap. We saw that in Virginia. It was actually black women who turn out
for McAuliffe over Cuccinelli. We see that with President Obama.
How do you talk to all the groups of women as you are campaigning?
TURNER: What we have in common, and that is the need for progress, talking
about the issues really that women care about. So, women are not
homogenous, because I know where you were going about, does electing women
necessarily mean of women`s issues, things will get better?
But that`s the same case in race as well, whether or not African-Americans
or Hispanic or Asian-Americans, whether we`re elected, does that change the
dynamic. But it definitely shifts the mentality, so to speak, that it
should matter that we are in the room.
I speak to people`s heart. And the one thing I want the citizens of the
state of Ohio to understand, it doesn`t matter to me where they lean, red,
blue, country, rock `n` roll, or a little R&B -- I just want folks to have
unfettered access to the blot box, one woman, one man, one vote. Vote for
whoever you would like, but you need to have that access to the ballot box.
And I think most folks, whether they are Republican or Democrat or
independent, they get that the pillar of our democracy depends on all
people having that unfettered access.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, it seems to me that certainly you know this as
someone who has run and who is running now. Part of what any candidate
needs at any level is an incredible group of people around him or her to
help them run. And a lot of the top political operatives don`t know how to
run a woman, don`t get it. How do we teach them?
TURNER: Not just a woman, professor, but an African-American woman,
Hispanic. And what I love about you, you always put it out there. I mean,
I have an African-American woman running my campaign, because it was
important to me to mirror all the things that I fight for. And going back
to something that Maria Shriver said about making sure that women are
informed and they make decisions based on what they need in terms of who is
elected to office.
I`m sick and tired of politicians whispering sweet nothings in the ears of
women. And we have to unite one to another. We were just sharing a
conversation during the break that women tend to be harder on women.
I can`t tell you how many times I`ve been told, don`t wear short sleeves,
make sure that your hair is just right, make sure that you project a
certain image. Oh, my God, are you going to change your tone in the way
that you project yourself. What voters do like, they like people who are
genuine to who they are. And I`m too young to change that now.
What I want people to know is that I`m a fierce advocate for everything
that I believe in and I don`t apologize for that. But there is a double,
sometimes triple standard for women. We saw that happen to Secretary
Hillary Clinton when she was running for president. We saw that happen to
Governor Palin when she was running. Everybody was preoccupied with how
And women feed into that, as well. And we have to stop doing that.
HARRIS-PERRY: I have said it many times on the show, even though I have
deep policy disagreements with Sarah Palin, as you point out the image
possibility of a woman who has a young child saying I`m not going to delay
running, I`m going to run now, is meaningful for women sort of no matter
what your ideology is, to say you can run and you can run right now.
Men with young children run all the time. I`m going to make the decision
to run. And, Suzy, I wonder if that goes back to in part why its valuable
to do this 2014 series because there are some women I am rooting against in
2014, right? I can make you a list. And yet there is still some value in
seeing these women running for these offices.
KHIMM: Yes, it`s very -- I mean, it`s interesting because I think women
are in an effort to speak to -- they speak to all efforts of their lives.
That they`re not just mothers, one thing or another. But that they can
speak to a broad audience on a whole range of issues. I mean, definitely
she`s trying to position herself as the reasonable voice in the room,
someone who can really bring all sides to the table.
And it`s interesting because that kind of tone and where she`s trying to
position herself politically really does remind me of the moderates in the
Senate both Republicans and sort of more conservative centrist Democrats,
the ones that are left, the role that they have been trying to play in the
Senate in trying to broker deals and trying to be the reasonable voice in
the room, the person who can bring everyone to the table. So it is sort of
an attempt to be very broadly, an inclusive conversation. And I think
that`s sort of something that you`re getting it from some of the candidates
in terms of the tone and image they`re trying to project.
HARRIS-PERRY: I have a lot of respect for the moderates, I think we
definitely them. But I also think, Irin, we have 20 seconds, that one of
the things that women may also need is fierce advocates for men and women,
particularly around issues of reproductive rights. So, if you think about
the women of 2014, some of them maybe the men of 2014, who will be doing
CARMON: There are lots of great allies among men for reproductive rights,
but what I would say is that what kind of democracy do we have where half
of them are shut out? You know, even women that I disagree with, if
they`re not in the room, you have to ask why.
HARRIS-PERRY: Why? Yes, why aren`t they there.
Nina Turner, Irin Carmon, Meredith Clark and Suzy Khimm -- thank you all
for being here. We`re going to be right back.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m going to offer one more reminder to our viewers to stay
with MSNBC this week for continuing exploration and coverage of the Shriver
Report. "A Woman`s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink."
That`s actually all the time we have this morning. My thanks to all of the
guests who appeared here today. And, of course, to all of you at home for
And thank you to everyone who even when I was doing things that were not
right sent me letters of support and help and assistance in this week. You
will never know what it means to me that I know for certain that Nerdland
has my back. And I thank you for that.
I`ll see you next Saturday at 10:00 a.m.
Right now, it`s a time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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