September 29, 2012
Guests: Gwen Moore, Dave Zirin, Brentin Mock, Pedro Noguera, Ari Melber, Culliton-Gonzalez
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST, "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY": This morning, my
question, are you ready for some football?
Plus, I`ve got more to say about education and a reminder about the
long, ugly history of voter suppression.
But first, how far will Republicans really go to block the ballot
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Now, we have spent the last
few weeks telling you about the suppressive voter laws hastily passed by
republican-led state legislatures claiming to be defending democracy
against the threat of voter fraud. We have also told you that the laws
themselves are the real threat to our democracy, because they would by
design disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters.
Well, on Thursday, Republicans finally found evidence that the myth
of voter fraud is very real and they found it right in their own party.
Investigators in six Florida counties have opened a criminal inquiry into
hundreds of cases of suspected voter fraud committed by a GOP consulting
firm. That the Republican National Committee hired to register republican
voters for the November 6th election. The fraud accusations against the
firm Strategic Allied Consulting began when 304 registration forms were
dropped off at a Palm Beach elections office. And 106 of them were flagged
So, after that initial discovery, possible registration fraud was
also reported in Florida`s Okaloosa, Pasco, Santa Rosa, Lee and Clay
Counties. If the irony of Republicans finding fraud within their own party
isn`t enough for you, get this, the suspected fraud included cases of dead
people being registered as republican voters, which of course is a tune the
Republican Party knows all too well. Because there was the same one they
were singing in 2008 when they concocted accusations of voter fraud
conspiracy against ACORN.
And Florida might be just the tip of the fraudulent iceberg.
Although the RNC fired the firm when the allegations came to light. They
and state republican parties had already paid strategic allied nearly $3
million to register republican voters in five key battleground states. So,
in addition to Florida, the firm was also hired to register republican
voters in Nevada, North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia.
Now, if you have been following along with our updates of this week
in voter suppression, then you already know that all five of those states
are among those whose primarily republican led legislatures introduced a
record number of bills restricting access to voting since 2011. So, you`ve
got to be wondering, if those laws are so restrictive, how could these
cases that look like fraud slip through the cracks?
Well, here is the explanation, because none of those laws were
designed to stop the kind of fraud that is happening right now in Florida.
Not voter ID laws, not reducing early voting, not proof of citizenship
laws, not creating barriers to restoring rights to ex-felons, not even the
voter registration laws which are aimed at making registering voters more
difficult, not less fraudulent. So, in addition to addressing a problem
where no problem exists, these laws also completely ignore a problem where
there may be one.
And in Pennsylvania, they were also creating a problem where there
wasn`t one before. This is a list given to us by a Philadelphia based
political watchdog group, the committee of seventy. It is a timeline of
all the implementation changes made to Pennsylvania`s voter ID law since it
was first passed in March. And every change was an attempt by the
Pennsylvania Department of State to address the burdens imposed on voters
by the new law. The five changes are so convoluted in detail, we couldn`t
find a way to simplify them for you to read on screen. Now, imagine that
you are a voter trying to keep up with those changes, to understand what
you need to do in order to vote or imagine you are a worker at the PennDOT
office responsible for actually following the rules to make sure that
voters get the proper ID and information.
Where once there was clarity, now there is just confusion. Which was
the conclusion drawn by this report from the Pennsylvania budget and policy
center. Last month, volunteer observers made 44 visits to the PennDOT
driver`s license centers in 35 Pennsylvania counties to assess the
implementation of one of those five changes. An alternate ID that the
state designed for voters who lacked the document to obtain a traditional
non-driver`s ID. In almost 50 percent of the cases, the volunteers who are
were stand-ins for actual voters were given inaccurate or incomplete
information at PennDOT offices.
One PennDOT employee says in the report, quote, "We got training,
what that was worth and it`s all confusing because they keep changing
things." The most recent of those changes happened just this week in the
ongoing legal fight over Pennsylvania`s ID law which was not backed down by
the state Supreme Court to commonwealth court judge, Robert Simpson. The
latest change was an 11th hour attempt by the state to save the law only
one day before the judge would hear arguments to decide whether or not the
law would prevent anyone from voting on Election Day.
And it looks like the state`s Hail Mary may have worked. Because
even after listening to more than a half dozen witnesses describe their
difficulties in getting a photo ID, Judge Simpson said Thursday, he was
considering allowing most of the law to remain intact for the November
election. He has until October 2nd to make his final decision. And
Pennsylvania voters have until November 6th to make sense of a law that
hasn`t become any clearer since March.
With me at the table, Wisconsin Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Moore
who sits on the financial services and budget committees. MSNBC`s
contributor in the Nation`s magazine, Ari Melber who`s also an attorney.
ColorLines.com investigative reporter Brentin Mock, he manages the Web site
Voting Rights Watch 2012 section. And Katherine Culliton -Gonzalez, who is
the director of voter protection at the Advancement Project. Thank you all
for being here today.
BRENTIN MOCK, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, COLORLINES.COM: Thanks for
PERRY: Katherine, I want to start with you. Because I got to tell
you, as we were, every week, we sit down and try to figure out what`s going
on in Pennsylvania, what do you know about Judge Simpson? You know, when I
look at this, this looks like a mess to me. How can this judge possibly
look at this moving target and say no worries, no one will be
disenfranchised in 40 days?
KATHERINE CULLITON-GONZALEZ, THE ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: I certainly
hope you are right. We are going to have a final decision before next
Tuesday. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania as you`ve said has remanded
Judge Simpson and asked him to make a final determination about the reality
of this very restrictive and repressive photo ID laws. So, we are hoping
for a decision on Monday. And we hope once and for all Pennsylvania voters
will know that they don`t have to bring an ID to the polls. Because as you
said, it is unnecessary.
There have been zero instances of voter fraud in Pennsylvania. And
if you`ll make no mistake, there is no reason to be implementing poll taxes
at the time so close to an election. So, we are hoping for a favorable
ruling. We are also on the ground educating people on how to get their
ideas as best as they can. The lines at the PennDOT are two, three, four
hours long. And we heard testimony last week from, you know, the elderly,
from disabled people who have been unable to get this new form of ID and
the rules keep changing. So, we hope that Judge Simpson rules, you know,
favorably and strikes down this very repressive, restrictive law.
PERRY: Yes. Brentin, you have been all over this from the
beginning. I mean, we have been doing this week at voter suppression and
I`ve been following your stories, like today in voter suppression. When I
hear that the PennDOT offices are giving out all of this bad information,
I`m assuming they are not part of some grand conspiracy. They are just,
you know, front line workers who can`t keep up with the rules. Is that
right? Or, I mean, what are the real challenges to making this at all
MOCK: Well, consider when the commonwealth court hearing started on
Tuesday. The latest iteration of rules had come down to the PennDOT
workers literally that morning. There was testimony in court that at 7:45,
that morning, that a memo went out to the PennDOT workers telling them, oh,
so here are these new rules and these new policy changes. And so, there
has been plenty of confusion both from Philadelphia and in Pittsburgh and
everywhere in between.
I`ve spoken with people from the A. Philip Randolph Institute and the
NAACP in Pittsburgh who have said, you know, we are taking people by the
bus loads and the van loads out to PennDOT to help give them the ID, for
the PennDOT workers who are confused about, you know, how to actually apply
this law. One lady from Pittsburgh actually testified in court that she
took a woman in to go get the voter ID and the PennDOT worker told her, we
are not offering the free voter ID cards anymore. Actually told her this.
And this was repeated over and over again.
PERRY: So, I mean, so even if it is not purposeful this kind of
confusion, creating this kind of confusion ends up disenfranchising people.
I want to be sure that I am not reproducing a FOX News moment here. And
what I mean is, you known, I started by talking about the strategic of my
group and the $3 million they got it from the GOP. Convince me that I am
not just acorning them. That I`m not just, you know, saying the things --
about them that were said about a Left party last time.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, my big concern here and I think
that you raised the right question is. How do we deal with this and hit
the point that you made right at the outset. Which is, this has nothing to
do with what happens when people exercise their right to go up on Election
Day and vote, right?
MELBER: This is about registration shenanigans by a consulting or
outside group that should be controlled. And I think there is concern here
that this issue which is a constitutional rights which shouldn`t be
political, it`s a funny thing to say, but really should when you think
about it, specific thing, has become another polarized piece of information
flow where people are looking for ammunition to make their point and not
always taking a step back.
So, the point I would really draw to answer your question is, when we
look at what even republican-appointed judges have said around the country
in several of these cases, there is no evidence of any kind of widespread
voter fraud that interferes with the integrity of elections. And that`s
been found by many judges even in cases that upheld their restrictive laws.
So, I think we have to basically separate the fact that there isn`t a real
voter fraud problem that FOX News wants you to believe while also
patrolling these cases when they come up.
PERRY: Congresswoman, before being elected to the U.S. House of
Representatives, you were in the state legislature in Wisconsin. Talk to
me about how a rule like this, how a policy or law like this even gets
through the state legislature. Why would the Pennsylvania Republicans make
this kind of choice? Is there any sort of protection of democracy reason?
Are voters clamoring for this kind of law?
REP. GWEN MOORE (D), WISCONSIN: Melissa, thanks for having me. I
fought this voter ID, started fighting it in 2000 when I was in the state
legislature with then Representative Scott Walker, who is now Governor
Scott Walker. He introduced a voter suppression of voter ID law. And, you
know, my take on it then and it is now, I don`t know how it gets through
the state legislatures when you consider that this is not only a
constitutionally protected right. It is more constitutionally protected
than any other right there is.
MOORE: By the 14th, the 15th amendment, the 19th, the 24th, which is
supposed to protect us against poll taxes, and then the 26th and the voting
rights act of 1965. So, we have these much-touted rights around, the right
to bear arms and the right of free speech and the right to put stupid
videos up, you know, anti-Islamic rights. But state legislatures, because
of, quote, unquote, "states rights," that little coded provision in our
culture enables individual states to protect themselves, not against
fraudulent behavior but protect themselves against the aspirations of the
people in those states who are students, who are minorities, who are
PERRY: I really like that language. They are actually protecting
themselves from the aspirations of full democracy. We are going to come
back on this issue. There is always so much. It is astonishing how there
is so always so much in this week at voter suppression.
And in the battleground state of Florida, there is a trap being set
for a certain group of would-be voters. Who they are and why they matter
PERRY: While some Americans face difficulties voting because of
restrictive laws, there are others who by law are stopped from voting
entirely. They are the more than four million people living and working in
communities where they are denied the right to vote because of a previous
felony conviction. Eleven states have laws that permanently disenfranchise
people with a previous criminal conviction unless they apply and are
granted rights restoration by the government. In a column for The Nation
this week, one of my guests today wrote about one of those states, Florida.
You have heard about Florida before. You know, in Florida where mixed
messages to former felons have left many with misunderstanding about their
Brentin Mock writes that these ex-felons, maybe quote, "headed into a
trap set for them and for the whole voting rights movement-one in which
confused felons could end up in legal, troubles and accused of voter
Brentin is still here along with Katherine, Congresswoman Gwen Moore
So, Brentin, talk to me about what you found in we`re reporting on in
MOCK: Well, you know, basically Florida is the felony
disenfranchisement capital of the nation. And especially in terms of
African-Americans. A quarter of whom are affected by the felony,
disenfranchisement laws there. So, we`re talking hundreds of thousands of
the formally incarcerated who can`t vote. Many of whom though are actually
eligible to vote. They have gone through the process to, you know, have
their rights restored. It is the state`s obligation to, you know, notify
these people when they get out of jail that now you are able to vote. But
what happens is, you know, due to the transient nature of people when they
get out of jail, their address changes. So the state has sent out letters
to the formerly incarcerated saying like, you know, hey, you are eligible
to vote now. Almost 20,000 of those came back to the state as
undeliverable. So, we`re talking --
PERRY: And people are getting different, different letters, right,
part of what we`re reading is that, you know, one thing that you are
eligible to vote and then we`ll hear from someone else that they`re not.
And that confusion alone, obviously, particularly if you have a former
felony conviction, you don`t want to go in and present yourself as a voter
with the possibility of then ending up being accused of fraudulent
MOCK: Right. Yes. And so, when I was in Tampa recently, I spoke to
a number of the formerly incarcerated who said, hey, you know, the state,
they sent me a letter saying, I can`t vote. But the county sent me a
letter saying, you are eligible to vote.
MOCK: You know, and they even pulled out their voter identification
card that says, you know, it was registered on March 1st, 2012. You are
eligible to vote. So they are saying, you know, what should I do? And so,
you have the NAACP there who is trying to sort these things out. They have
a list of people who actually are eligible to vote but, you know, who have
not been notified. Meanwhile, you have Tea Party groups who are sitting in
the wings waiting for some kind of mistake to happen from the confusion and
say, look, see, felons voting, voter fraud.
PERRY: Right. Here is voter fraud. And Katherine, this, you know, I
want to talk a little bit about sort of why we think it is OK to
permanently disenfranchise people despite the fact that they have paid
their dues for whatever crime they have committed. But the fact is this
has an impact even beyond former felons, right? Your organization first
got involved with this because African-Americans were getting purged from
lists even if they themselves weren`t actually felons. Is that right?
GONZALEZ: That`s right. In 2000 and 2004, Florida invented a new
form of purge that targeted alleged former felons and desperately impacted
African-Americans and folks who weren`t even former felons, so most of whom
are, you know, nonviolent and, you know, should have the right to vote in
this country, you know, were on this list. So, we had, you know, a
minister who wasn`t a former felon who was on the list. And then again,
this year, you know, Florida has been changing the rules very, very close
to the election about former felons and they have invented a new form of
purge about alleged noncitizens as well too that has a desperate impact on
voters of colors.
PERRY: So, Congresswoman, this feels a little bit different to me
when we talk about voter suppression. Because on this one, you end up with
a broad group of people who even if they oppose things like voter ID or
ending early voting say, well, you know, when you commit a felony, you
don`t deserve to be a citizen anymore. You don`t deserve to have your
voting rights. How do we build a coalition around this kind of
MOORE: You know, this is a very important question, Melissa because
it is a -- in one hand, in Wisconsin, your rights are restored after you
are off paper. And that`s appropriate for Wisconsin when you consider the
fact that we have the greatest incarceration rate of African-Americans in
the country and possibly on the planet. But it is really interesting
because during reapportionment, the federal dollars are allocated on the
basis of population. So, where you have a prison, those prisoners are good
enough to -- so that community can enjoy the benefits of the federal
dollars because of their population.
PERRY: I want to pause. I don`t want people to miss that. That the
way federal funds come down, they actually count incarcerated bodies, not
in the city, for example, Milwaukee or the places they are from. They
count them where they are incarcerated and it feels --
MOORE: Rural, white communities.
PERRY: And it always feels like that three-fifth rule, right, that
you know, these folks don`t actually have the right to vote but their
bodies get counted for apportionment.
MOORE: Exactly. They still get taxed.
MOORE: And so, you know, I do think that this is a future for some
of you lawyers here, Supreme Court case. I mean, do you have a right to
disenfranchise people forever and continue to tax them, continue to, you
know, ignore benefits to prison communities and take them away from the
cities from where these prisoners are drawn and evitable are going to be
sent back to. If you are in jail in northern Wisconsin, you are coming
back to Milwaukee.
MELBER: I think yes. When you look at crime and punishment, there
are post-conviction restrictions that is after you get out of jail that
relate to public safety. For example, if you were a repeat offender on a
certain property, there can be an individualized assessment that you are
restricted from going there, you have to get preapproval to go there.
Because that`s where you kept committing your crimes. On an individualize
basis, I think that makes some sense. The notion that we are going to deny
people their constitutional rights after they have served their debt to
society as a blanket rule does not make sense and it`s not about public
safety. So, that`s number about why I think --
PERRY: Especially when most felonies are drug convictions, not
MELBER: Yes. And I would still say though that you have to go back
to the first principles, even in the case of a violent crime. I can
understand a judge saying, we are going to restrict your access to firearms
after your violent crime, we`ll give you a longer waiting period. Those
are I think local policy decisions. But to say that because you made a
mistake once and paid your debt, now you never get to participate in
society is crazy. And it would be similarly crazy I think if, you know,
the Congresswoman mentioned all the amendments that speak to voting, right?
There is one that protects your right to speech. Right?
MELBER: But I think it will be pretty crazy if we said, because
someone did a terrible crime, no matter how terrible, now, they can`t talk
in public. Right?
MELBER: That would feel un-American. This is as un-American. The
other point -- do we have time or?
PERRY: Yes. No. We are going to stay on this. I`m going to come to
you next because I want --
MELBER: I will be here if that`s OK with you. Is that OK?
PERRY: Yes. You can hang out the whole show.
But up next, because I do want to talk about this controversial study
that Katherine bring us up about whether or not there are 10 million Latino
voters who may be prevented from voting in November.
PERRY: Sometimes it just is best said straightforward. But look, by
even the most conservative estimates, the numbers of Americans who could be
disenfranchised by voting laws on Election Day are an affront to our
democracy. The Brennan Center for Justice has put that number at as many
as five million people. But a recent study from the Advancement Project
has doubled that number for only one group of voters, an estimated 10
million Latino voters could be affected by voting laws according to the
study. That`s nearly half of the 21 million Latino citizens counted by the
U.S. census in 2010. Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez, help me make sense of
GONZALEZ: Sure. Yes. Nearly half of the Latino electorate in our
country live in states that have voter suppression laws and restrictions on
their rights to vote that have a discriminatory impact. And so, you know,
in Pennsylvania, there`s a discriminatory impact of the photo ID law. In a
number of states since Florida started purging alleged non-citizens, they
have recently gotten access to federal immigration data. And they are
attacking naturalized citizens are looking to purge, checked naturalize
citizens on the voting rules. In a way, that`s really un-American, it
would create two classes of citizenship. And it is happening right now.
So, that this has an impact beyond, just you know, the one person who is
checked. You know, this is really resident of the poll taxes and literacy
test for which the voting right act was founded. So, there are many folks
who could actually pass the literacy test, they`ll pay the poll tax, but it
had a discriminatory impact.
PERRY: So, when you say 10 million, you are not saying necessarily
that 10 million people would be kept from the polls. But I mean, if you
pay the poll tax, you get to go vote but it doesn`t mean you are not
impacted by the poll taxes, that`s sort of --
GONZALEZ: Exactly. Exactly. In Florida, 2600 people got letters
saying, prove your citizenship within 30 days otherwise you could be
committing a felony and not vote. And so, you know, that affects many
people in the Latino and African immigrant community as well. And that`s
why we brought litigation about it. We have the proof of the desperate
impacts. But, you know, we know people who got a letter like that who are
too afraid to answer. And we know relatives and the Puerto Rican community
even are getting afraid in Florida. We hope that they do continue to vote.
GONZALEZ: Because this is another type of poll tax that has a
discriminatory impact on voters of color, particularly Latinos. So, the
impact is more than just the folks about the letters.
PERRY: And Ari, when you, we are talking about fear, we`re talking
about fear that the Latino voters may have around what this suppression
effort is, we`re talking about the fear that the Democratic Party may have
in pushing back against rules like this?
MELBER: Exactly. I mean, Democrats have this concern that if they
take on these issues, which are obviously democratic issues, constitutional
rights, voting and in their political interest, if you want to look at it
that way, right? Double bottom line and yet they worry that somehow they
will look soft on crime or pro-criminal by talking about these rights. And
there is such an obvious comparison there to the very strict, rigorous
defense of total freedom to carry weapons, all kinds of weapons by every
mainstream republican out there, even in the face of shootings and other
tragedies that happened --
PERRY: Doubling down in the face of those shootings.
MELBER: Exactly. And that`s when you hear -- and I think it`s just a
contrast where while the equities I think line up very differently, there
is a reward for strength in politics and standing by what you believe in
and not letting the caricature become the reality. So, I think the
Democrats should come out strong and say, no, it is not about whether we
like criminals or not. It is about our right and we are going to fight for
it and not worry about what is essentially a misreading of the issue.
PERRY: Up next, in big and small ways, just how coordinated this
effort is. It is such a great point.
PERRY: Anyone who manages not to be disenfranchised before Election
Day by voter ID laws still could face a challenge on Election Day by groups
like the Tea Party affiliated true the vote which is launching an organized
effort to purge voter rolls and intimidate voters at the polls. There`s no
need to wait until Election Day for an example of exactly what that could
look like. We found this story from the Telegram and Gazette, a local
newspaper in Worcester, Massachusetts, about voter intimidation in a
democratic primary election three weeks ago.
According to the article, city counselors received reports that
quote, "Voters were being improperly asked for identification, and that
people were distributing flyers telling voters they needed identification
to vote." Which is absolutely untrue. Massachusetts voters do not need ID
to vote. According to the article, the city council was called to a
neighborhood to investigate reports that voters were being photographed by
the leader of a group called Activate Worcester. A person who also happens
to be a former local leader of a local branch of the Tea Party.
They secretary of the Worcester Democratic City Committee told the
paper, quote, "This was an escalated organized effort to intimidate,
confuse and block people from voting." Keep in mind, all of this is
happening in a solidly blue democratic state in a primary where all of 2500
people cast a ballot for a state representative. Imagine what`s going to
happen on swing states on Election Day. All right. Intimidation of voters
is illegal, right? This is a different sort of thing.
MOCK: Yes. I mean, basically what we are talking about is pure
harassment. You know, I love the name that a lot of the groups have been
using, the ballot bullies. Because I mean, that`s really what we`re
talking about. And we are fighting the same fights that, you know, were
fought in the `60s or `50s all over again, whether we`re talking poll taxes
or literacy tests, or you know, just people from the clan showing up and
just having their presence, so black people would be afraid to go to the
polls and vote.
And so, we are seeing the same thing in Wisconsin where the
government accountability board of the state literally had to put out a new
brochure informing voters of their rights and saying that we`re not going
to stand for the kind of same intimidation that we saw in the Scott Walker
recall election. And a lot of that came from complaints from people who
were trained by True the Vote to go out and, quote, unquote, "observe
voters as they went to the polls."
MOORE: It is not even clear to me that it is illegal to intimidate
voters. People have very well organized intimidation tactics. We have
seen in Wisconsin flyers put out by the so-called black voters league
telling black folks that if they haven`t paid their child support that they
are unable to vote.
MOORE: Yes, ma`am. We have had folk dress up in their neon colored
deglow (ph) vests and be flown in from all places around the country to
challenge every single person at the polls. And at one point, during a
mayoral election some years ago, we had to get an injunction against a
question that they were asking people at the polls. Have you paid your
income taxes from this address?
PERRY: Which is not a requirement for voting. I mean, we have to be
clear. You do not have to have paid your taxes to vote, you don`t have to
have an address to vote, this is a --
MELBER: Wait, does Mitt Romney know about this, Melissa?
PERRY: It`s really, this is more --
MOORE: We talked about this during the break. I mean, a state
representative, a state senator, as a matter of fact, my successor, hi,
Lina (ph), his mother was intimidated. Because she had several homeless
people use her address as their address for the purposes of voting. And
so, there was an allegation that they had voted fraudulently. You do not
have to be middle class and have a lease or a mortgage to vote. If that
mentions your address, you have the right to vote.
PERRY: You`ll have the right to vote. Thank you, Katherine Culliton-
Gonzalez. And the rest are back for more. But as we leave, I want to have
you listen to a remark from the Congressional Black Caucus dinner from
First Lady Michelle Obama, on this issue of voter intimidation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: We cannot let anyone discourage us
from casting our ballots. We cannot let anyone make us feel un-welcome in
the voting booth. It is up to us to make sure that in every election,
every voice is heard and every vote is counted. That means making sure our
laws preserve that right. It means monitoring the polls to ensure that
every eligible voter can exercise that right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FANNIE LOU HAMER, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: -- The plantation owner came
and said, Fannie Lou Hamer, do you know that Pap tell you what I said? And
I said, yes, sir. He said, well, I mean that, if you don`t go down and
withdraw your registration, you will have to leave. And I addressed him
and tell him that I didn`t try to register for you. I tried to register
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: That was just a portion of Fannie Lou Hamer`s testimony to
the credential committee of the 1964 DNC. As an organizer of the
Mississippi freedom Democratic Party, Hamer was petitioning the National
Democratic Party to block the all-white Mississippi delegation and instead
recognize the multi-racial freedom Democrats. Her evidence was her own
harrowing story of the unimaginable struggle which she had endured just to
register to vote two years earlier. This week, we dug into the vault and
found an exclusive NBC News interview with Fannie Lou Hamer from 1969.
What`s so incredible is how it feels like the same interview could take
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID BRINKLEY, NBC NEWS: This is Fannie Lou Hamer from Ruleville,
Mississippi in Sunflower County and she has a gift for earthy and vivid
phrases and for stating her views without formality -- or hypocrisy. She
will be remembered as a featured player in the high drama on the --
democratic convention five years ago. Now, she is visiting New York to
help get negroes and Puerto Ricans registered to vote.
It`s just 15 years after the Supreme Court decision, is the black man
in the south any better off today than he was 15 years ago?
HAMER: Well, we still having problems but we are still moving,
because we refuse and we will never just sit down now and take it easy and
suffer like we have suffered in the past. And I think because of voter
registration, we have been able to move some.
BRINKLEY: What do you think the hope is for the future here in
HAMER: Well, the whole hope in the future of this country if it is
not too late already is with the people, what some people call the
militant, the radical or whatever you call them, black and white throughout
the country if this kept in this college campus. They are very true. They
are very honest and all they want is the thing that they have been reading
about to become a reality and for this country to have democracy in action.
It is going to come through these young people that we are talking about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: Fannie Lou Hamer was hoping that it was not too late for this
country to have democracy in 1969. Forty three 43 years later and somehow
the civil rights issue of our day is still the right for people to vote.
The tactics to suppress may be less violent now but they are no less
insidious. It is just a reminder this thing we call democracy takes work.
PERRY: This is the end of a week in which the political world
united. Left and Right, democrat and republican, all were opposed to the
menace to one of our most beloved institutions, the National Football
League replacement referees. The NFL owner and Commissioner Roger
Goodell`s lockout of the referees union had gone three weeks into the
season. So, replacements had been working the games to oftentimes an
Coaches, players and fans were already furious with the blown calls
and clamoring for the return of the real refs when Monday night happened.
The Seattle Seahawks last second prayer of a pass into the end zone landed
in the hands of the Green Bay Packers defensive back only to somehow be
ruled the winning touchdown for the Seahawks. The uproar began. It was
front page news. Players and fans alike started contemplating protest and
twitter pretty much went insane including this tweet from the president of
the United States who signed his initials saying, "NFL fans on both sides
of the aisle, hope the refs lockout is settled soon."
Now, the settlement are they labor dispute became a bipartisan issue
and the dispute even brought out none other than Packers` fan and union
busting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who two weeks ago had nearly all
of his infamous anti-collective bargaining law struck down by a Wisconsin
judge. Walker also chimed in on twitter, writing after catching a few
hours of sleep, the Packers game is still painful, #return the real refs.
So, wait a minute, all it took for Governor Walker to advocate for a
corporation to cave to a union. Was his favorite football team losing?
Who knew? Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney chimed in when asked
by CNN saying, "I`d sure like to see some experienced referees. With NFL
experience, come back out to the NFL playing fields." That was after his
running mate, Paul Ryan, also of Wisconsin, used the Monday night football
debacle as a convenient political metaphor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Did you guys
watch that Packer game last night? I mean, give me a break. It is time to
get the real refs. And you know what? It reminds me of President Obama
and the economy. If you can`t get it right, it is time to get out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: All of the pressure and not necessarily from politicians
helped bring about a deal between the NFL and the referee`s union late
Wednesday night. And the real refs got a standing ovation before Thursday
night`s Browns/Ravens game in Baltimore. Now, here is what makes that
scene in particular hilarious. Ask any sports fan, player or coach, the
least popular man or woman on the field is the one holding the whistle.
The official people hate referees. And that is partly is a function of
See, despite the striped uniforms, they are meant to be invisible.
We only notice them when they mess up or as it seems when they are gone and
not there doing their jobs as professionals. Allow me a metaphor of my
own. To me, this is part of the labor image we all need to see in America
as a whole. These invisible maligned individuals at the bottom of the pay
scale, at the bottom of the status scale within the game of football are
the key to its very fairness and legitimacy. Yes, people will still watch
the NFL as people will still deal with and live in America even if it
manages to crush unions.
But the lesson I take away from all of these is the absence of real
professionals really makes a difference. Thank you, 47 percent. Now,
forget the Chicago teachers` strike, folks. It seems all it took for
politicians to pay commensurate attention to labor in the middle of an
election season with three weeks of badly officiated football and the
nationally televised flight to America`s only publicly owned sports team,
the Green Bay Packers.
Back with me now, Wisconsin democratic Congresswoman Gwen Moore,
Nation`s Ari Melber, colorlines.com Brentin Mock and sports editor for The
Nation Magazine, Dave Zirin.
All right. Dave, you were all over this. What are the political
DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, THE NATION: Well, the first lesson is,
don`t mess with America`s national pastime, the National Football League.
Look, when you and I were growing up, everybody watched the Cosby show,
everybody watched family ties, everybody had the thriller album. I even
had the glove.
PERRY: Yes. I had the beat-it jacket.
ZIRIN: Oh, you did?
PERRY: I did. Yes.
ZIRIN: It probably looked good. But in today`s very fractured
world, the NFL is one of the last sort of cultural uniters in the United
States. And to have in high-deaf, prime time a living exposition of what
unskilled, scab, nonunion labor looks like in practice, I thought was an
incredible political moment that we should shop from the hills. I mean,
people in Wisconsin should be asking Scott Walker the question, why are
unskilled, nonunion workers good enough for the fire departments and
classrooms of Wisconsin but not good enough for the football fields.
PERRY: And the classrooms is such a good example here because these
are nice people, I`m sure. I`m sure they actually love the game of
football. Just like the teachers who come in who don`t have actual
certification or good people, they love the students, but there is a
difference with professionals. Now, you are, of course, from Wisconsin,
MOORE: Yes, I am,
PERRY: And you are a fan of the Green Bay Packers.
MOORE: And I am such a fan and I am reminded of what Vince Lombardi
said, you know, winning is not everything. It is the only thing. So, it
was very heartbreaking as I had everybody explain to me what happened. And
I watched the clip over and over and over again. But I am, you know, this
is a great sacrifice to the Green Bay Packers. But it does elucidate
something that`s very important. And I want to add gender to it. I know
you will appreciate that, Melissa. You know, our governor, Governor
Walker, supports this gladiator sport, football, as he did in Wisconsin
when he, you know, divided and conquered.
He excluded the firefighters and the police from his collective
bargaining acts but subjected teachers and women as was the case in
Chicago. In Chicago, 81 percent of those teachers were women.
MOORE: Fifty percent of them African-American women. And suddenly,
union rights, safety, pensions were not an issue for those workers as they
are for police and the firefighters and these gladiators on the field.
PERRY: That point, I think, is just such a brilliant one because it
reminds us that our notion of what the American worker is, is more complex.
It is not just like the guy in the hard hat.
MOORE: And Dave made the point. You know, why is it OK, I love
teach for America but why is it OK to subject our kids like this new movie
that is out to, you know, inexperienced teachers, I mean, very enthusiastic
young people that come and do it for a year and they go off and work on
Wall Street or something at the expense of these trained professionals?
Why is it OK to dumb down the teaching profession where we absolutely have
to have trained refs in order to have a good game?
PERRY: And we are going to stay exactly on this issue of football and
politics. But particularly, come back, because I want to tell you about
the famous Heidi game of 1968. And what it tells us about the contest
between President Obama and Mitt Romney. Football metaphors abound.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Now, there is something folks in television refer to as the Heidi
rule and it stems from what is commonly known as the Heidi Game. Joe
Namath, number 12, and the New York Jets, were playing the Oakland Raiders
on November 17th, 1968. They were leading 38-29 with about a minute left
in the game. When suddenly, viewers were left wondering what happened to
the football game.
Well, here`s what happened. A made for TV movie, "Heidi", about a
little girl living in the Swiss Alps came on as scheduled. So, imagine the
surprise of those watching when they saw scrolling along the bottom of the
screen, Raiders defeat Jets 43-32.
Now, there was no Sunday ticket back then. So, everyone watching NBC
missed a dramatic comeback victory by the Raiders.
I remind you of that incident to say this. It ain`t over until it is
So, yes, the argument could be made in an NBC/"Wall Street"/Marist
poll conducted earlier this week that the president holds advantages over
Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, Nevada and North Carolina. And these are
just three battleground states. NBC News reported yesterday that the
president in polls taken over the past three weeks holds leads in six more
battleground states. That makes nine, including Iowa, which is already
voting and Ohio, which starts voting in person on Tuesday.
So, the president also has a six-point lead in the Gallup poll
compared to just five against Senator John McCain four years ago at this
point in the race.
So President Obama is in a good position, no doubt. But I think the
actor Samuel L. Jackson made the point in a new children`s story-style
video this week in which he implores lethargic, complacent, dissatisfied
2008 Obama voters to -- well, listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMUEL L. JACKSON, ACTOR: Sorry, my friend but there is no time to
snore. An out-of-touch millionaire has just declared war on schools, the
environment, unions, fair pay. We are all on our own if Romney has his
way. He is against safety nets. If you fall? Tough luck.
So, I strongly suggest that you wake the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Remember the Heidi Game, people. This election is not
over. Wake up.
Joining me: Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Democrat of Wisconsin, MSNBC
contributor and attorney Ari Melber, Colorlines.com`s Brentin Mock, and
"The Nation`s" Dave Zirin.
All right. So, the Heidi Game reminds us it is not over until it`s
over. And despite, right, these great polls, what are we looking at in the
ARI MELBER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I thought you were going to go with
Samuel Jackson, I want the snakes off the plane and I would like the super
PACs being the snakes.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. I could go with that.
MELBER: We could do -- we could do a lot of Samuel L. Jackson.
DAVE ZIRIN, THE NATION: I will strike down with great vengeance and
furious anger those who will attempt to destroy my brothers.
A lot of you know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon
thee. That should be Obama`s slogan for the first debates.
MELBER: A lot of people don`t know that the second hour of MHP is
actually a Samuel L. Jackson drinking game during the commercial break.
And we`re just carrying it over.
HARRIS-PERRY: Congresswoman, I`m almost sad I put you at this table.
REP. GWEN MOORE (D), WISCONSIN: You know, really, I`m not ready to
pop open the champagne cork for President Obama, because, you know, the
Republicans have what I call synergy (ph), you know, where the sun, the
moon, and the stars have all lined up in their benefit to really change the
I mean, number one -- they`ve got Citizens United, where they can
spend unlimited, unaccountable amounts of money. You know, if you give me
$20 donation, you got to give your name, age, Social Security number and
where you work. But these folks, Sheldon Adelson, they give millions
without disclosing who they are.
They have their voter suppression tactics.
MOORE: I mean, clearly, in all of the battleground states, they had
a coordinated strategy to do that. And when they picked Paul Ryan, I
thought, cynically, why would they just hand Democrats that gift -- a guy
who has a record of wanting to take away Social Security?
MOORE: I have been on the budget committee for five of the seven
years I have been in Congress with Paul Ryan. He wants to take away
Medicare, Medicaid. Speaking of gender things -- I mean, everything that
benefits primarily women and children, wants to destroy the safety net.
Why would they hand us this gift? Because they have the capacity to just
HARRIS-PERRY: So, they can buy it, they can steal it?
MOORE: So, they can buy, they can steal it, so many things can
MELBER: I look at it a little differently. I have worked on
campaigns. I definitely understand when you are in office, or when you
have a campaign going, you want everyone focused on voting and not taking
anything for granted.
But to your question, I do think there is an important number here.
It`s 31 percent. And that is the share of votes that were cast before
Election Day last cycle. It`s a number that`s likely going to go up
because of the on-the-ground organizing the Obama campaign is doing,
including specific efforts to deal with voter suppression and voter ID.
They have a portal, gotovote.org, that we`ve talked about before.
And so, I think the problem for Mitt Romney here analytically -- I
wouldn`t again tell anyone to lay back if they wanted to get involved.
MELBER: But the problem is this race is not beginning in a couple
more weeks. This race has begun one out of three votes are being cast. If
he continues to stay down and people are voting at these rates, then even
if he has a surge, even if he has a wonderful first debate, even if Obama
makes a gaffe and things tighten, a lot of votes will already have been
cast reflecting the state of the race today.
MOORE: The Church of God in Christ, for example, 200,000, 300,000
people will be in St. Louis on November 6th for their convocation. And so,
early voting is extremely important. In 2000 --
HARRIS-PERRY: So you can get it done.
ZIRIN: Undecided voters are also some of the people least likely to
tune in to debates. Usually people that watch debates are the people most
tuned in and people that have made up their minds. Some of the people I
speak to on the ground, it does feel different from 2008 in a very
2008, it was a lot about hope and change and the idea about making
history. I mean, electing a person in African heritage in a country built
on slavery felt like something very special to people. It feels like in
2012, and people can disagree, but a lot of the enthusiasm on the Democrats
side is driven by fear of Paul Ryan, fear of Mitt Romney and fear of what
the Republican Party has become in the last four years.
MELBER: You know, I got to disagree with that, too. Can I disagree
MELBER: Real quick.
I hear that a lot. I don`t think the numbers bear that out. When
you look at Democratic support for this president, it is at 89 percent.
The only other president in the last 40 years to obtain that kind of
support was Ronald Reagan within his own party.
Barack Obama is more popular within the party and the base right now
at this point in the election than Bill Clinton was, than Jimmy Carter was
with his party and Bush Sr. was with his party.
So, energy is hard to measure. But the measurements we have show a
Reaganesque party unity that I don`t think you hear a lot about in the
media for some reason.
HARRIS-PERRY: Matt Taibbi has this great piece in the "Rolling
Stone" on his blog, where he says that the presidential race just never,
ever should have been this close, right? And this idea that we become like
sports announcers. We want the tight game going into the fourth quarter.
We want a Hail Mary pass at the end because it`s more exciting.
But he points out that, in fact, this race is one given both who Mitt
Romney is as a candidate, as well as point out, the extremely high support
that President Obama has within his base should never have been this close
at all which I think, Congresswoman, it goes in part to your point about
sort of the massive amount of money that`s gone into the race to give us a
different sort of message about Mitt Romney.
BRENTIN MOCK, COLORLINES.COM: Absolutely, I want to add one
disagreement to the disagreement, which is that, you know, as much as
popularity, the figures are up. These things don`t always decide
elections. You know, the difference between 2008 and 2012 is the Tea
Party, which happened in 2010.
MOCK: We know that they are going to be on the ground, up in
people`s faces and they`re going to be raising hell just like they did
around the Affordable Healthcare Act. You know, we didn`t have that so
much in 2008. Now, it`s going to be on full blast.
We know we have groups like True to Vote that are going to be, you
know, challenging people at the polls, in the Florida polls. And we`ve
already seen exposure of people like Nathan Sproul that has uncovered the
kind of voter fraud that the Republican Party is up to.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. The polls are in the assumption the
preferences get translated directly into votes and those votes get counted,
MOORE: And the numbers of people that they can force into
provisional ballots. You vote on Tuesday in Wisconsin and you have until
Friday to produce the kind of identification that they want to see.
Well, if you didn`t have a birth certificate on Tuesday, you are not
going to have it on Friday, a photo ID.
MELBER: You know they want that birth certificate.
HARRIS-PERRY: They have been asking for the birth certificate.
MELBER: That`s a big thing with them. Sorry.
MOORE: So, this election could very well not be decided by, you
know, 2:00 in the morning. We could very well easily find ourselves a week
or two out just based on the numbers, the intimidation forcing people to
HARRIS-PERRY: Or it could get decided. I mean, maybe there is an
overwhelming sort of surge for presidential re-election. But then, there
is the Senate. And there are gubernatorial races.
Because part of my anxiety about early voting as much as it clearly
benefits the president at the top of the ticket, I wonder about what
happens at the bottom of the ticket where -- you know, yes, the
presidential race is maybe moving into its fourth quarter. But sometimes
those local races are just starting to get warmed up in the last month. I
am wondering if it has a negative impact at all on those Democrats.
MELBER: Look at Claire McCaskill facing off against Todd Akin, that
is a race that has turned on some new facts. Political junkies may have
known that Todd Akin has a record of saying misogynistic and ignorant
things. But it was only as more attention came under the race that he was
doing more media interviews, that he made his comments totally scramble the
So, that`s the flip side that I think more is just a question of your
theory of democracy, how much time should we have to vote, because in that
case and others, the lack of media attention on a lot of local races you
could tell this better than I can means that sometimes these things don`t
really get flushed out until the last couple of weeks. And in local races,
that maybe when some votes --
HARRIS-PERRY: I`ve got one more football metaphor when we come back,
because in football, they call it a reverse. But when it comes to Mitt
Romney on health care, we may need a whole new play. That`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: This was Mitt Romney speaking to Ron Allen of NBC News
on Wednesday in Toledo, Ohio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Don`t forget, I got everybody
in my state assured. A hundred percent of the kids in our state have
health insurance. I don`t think there is anything that shows more empathy
and care about the people of this country than that kind of record.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Hello. That was Governor Romney bragging about
insuring everyone in the state of Massachusetts. That was Governor Romney
just more than 10 minutes after that interview speaking at a rally in
Toledo said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I will repeal Obama care and replace it with real health
care reform. Obamacare is really exhibit number one of the president`s
political philosophy. And that is that government knows better than people
how to run your lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Please don`t miss what just happened there. Governor
Romney was like, when I ensure everybody, its empathy. When the president
does it, it`s big government.
MELBER: Is it? Can I propose a theory that might defend Mitt
MOORE: Let`s hear it.
MELBER: Perhaps he hasn`t heard of the invention of the Internet
where the things we say can be cataloged and redistributed to the public
for their assessment.
HARRIS-PERRY: Seriously, how is it possible?
ZIRIN: It`s stunning. He is running a 19th century campaign as if
inventions like videotape do not exist. And he thinks he can say whatever
he needs to say before a particular audience. And I honestly think that
the American voter has gotten much more savvy when it comes to this job,
people are following this stuff.
And ordinary people in this election are driving a lot of these
discussions. So, Mitt Romney, a soulless hypocrite, is not something
that`s necessarily coming from Chicago, top down.
ZIRIN: But someone that`s being driven bottom up, as people see this
gaffe between the man says, what he believes. I mean, it`s not that he is
like Ted Kennedy said, it`s not like he`s pro-choice or anti-choice. He`s
MOORE: We are all political junkies, so we see these things. But as
a great marketing tool, you know, Mitt Romney is a great business, as he
claims. In marketing, you can just say -- you can just lie over and over
and over. Have enough money to lie and people will start believing it is
I think Frito-Lay sort of mastered this. I mean, I don`t believe I
can only eat one potato chip, you know? And I think that`s where Citizens
United is a powerful tool, because you can just lie, lie, lie. For
example, this lie about the $719 billion the president is taking away from
Medicare beneficiaries --
HARRIS-PERRY: It also feels like --
MOORE: Just keep saying it and it will be true.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well -- so in addition to dishonesty and to this sort
of flip-flopping and apparently lack of awareness about technology, it also
feels like Romney tends to move towards wherever he thinks there is power.
So, I was just blown away. There is this moment where in a new web ad that
the governor has where he does a kind of cuddling up to the president that
I want us to look at real quickly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: President Obama and I both care about poor and middle class
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, me and the president, us together.
MOCK: It is an insult to the intelligence of the electorate.
Basically, he thinks we are stupid. This is consistent with his 47 percent
theory. He thinks these are people that don`t pay taxes, that they are
lazy, that they are irresponsible and also, obviously, that they don`t know
how to read or can`t use the Internet.
ZIRIN: It would be so stunning to me, when we take a step back after
this year, in a year that`s been so defined politically by Occupy Wall
Street, that a person who represents the worst instincts and impulses of
the 1 percent in the United States thinks he can actually be elected
president, because it`s not just about telling the big lie over and over
again. It`s an assumption of our stupidity, that no matter what he says in
any given moment would somehow be sincere.
MOORE: It`s not just that. I mean, trotting out the welfare queen,
for example. It is this notion that there is the worthy poor and the
unworthy poor, that he is compassionate for those people who are worthy of
it. But there is this whole 47 percent of folks that are not worthy. He
is trying to enlist the majority of people to agree with that.
You know, there goes their raison d`etre, cutting out, you know, a
lot of Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps -- the food stamp president.
MOORE: Because these are -- if you can promote the message that
there are people who are simply lazy and unworthy, then you will be feeding
into the greater Tea Party method.
ZIRIN: They are called pro-sports owners.
MELBER: But I think that`s his problem. He is particularly ill-
suited to this period of time. We do live in an era where there is
tremendous distrust of the establishment and media elites. One of the
positive variables that`s come into that is a desire to fact-check and pick
Why did the 47 percent remark hurt him? And the polls show it has
broken through in a big way with undecided voters. It hurt him because
people took a fact, 47 percent of the country doesn`t pay a certain tax and
then they weighed it against other facts. Those people pay payroll taxes
and state taxes and contribute in all sorts of ways. Those people include
HARRIS-PERRY: Those people are me.
MELBER: So, if you want to jump on our soldiers while being out in
the field while being exempt from taxes, go ahead and see how that plays.
People were able to process both the first top line information, other
information from their sources and their friends and then make a judgment.
So, we`re in a place now where in a way, facts are the new spin. And
people are able to take it and make a new decision.
MOORE: Again, the unworthy poor, because there are at least 30
corporations that not only don`t pay any taxes but they get refunds.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I think Dave`s point about -- you know, sort they
finally weigh in on labor when it`s about football but not when it is about
all of these other things.
Brentin, thank you so much for joining us today. And we will
continue to follow your work and Colorlines on voter suppression.
ZIRIN: Colorlines is amazing. People, check it out. You have to.
MOCK: Thank you. Thank you all.
HARRIS-PERRY: The rest of us are going to be back for more. But up
next, the trouble with numbers in education.
HARRIS-PERRY: The dreaded SAT. Nearly everybody heading to college
takes it. I bet you did. And you never forget your score or the
You lined up your perfectly sharpened pencil, the clock ticking down
every passing minute and those bubbles, filling them in just right and then
you wait. You wait for the score that helps determine which schools will
And it`s all very uncertain except that the closest thing to a sure
bet with the SATs is this. If you have wealthy parents, your score is
going to be higher than kids from lower income homes.
However, in 1935, that is exactly what Harvard President James Conant
was trying to avoid when he required all applicants to take the test. He
wanted to create, quote, "truly universal educational opportunity at every
But back then, the $4 billion a year SAT prep industry did not exist.
Today, you can buy all kinds of test prep, an online course, a personal
tutor, a seat in a standard classroom to ready yourself for the big day.
Practice makes perfect, but only if you can afford it. If you are
among the one in four children who comes from a family living below the
poverty line, chances are your score will be 400 points lower than students
whose parents make more than $200,000 a year.
Now, the college board which administers the SAT says the test isn`t
a measure of socioeconomic status. Indeed, 22 percent of the record 1.66
million students who took the tests this year qualified for a fee waiver
from the board. That means that more than 365,000 students wouldn`t have
been able to take the college qualifying exam because they couldn`t afford
the $50 administrative fee.
This year, the number of minority students taking the SAT increased
to 45 percent of all test takers. And yet, the achievement gap still
stands -- 307, that is the difference in average SAT scores between white
and black students in the most recent year measured. Two hundred forty-
four, that is the difference between white and Latino students. African-
American students are the least likely to participate in A.P. or honor
courses. The second least likely, Latinos.
According to the college board, African-Americans have the lowest
average GPA. Which students have the second lowest? Latinos.
It`s not just about race. You see, students whose parents lack a
high school diploma or earn less than $40,000 a year are the least likely
to report an "A" average, much less so than those from educated and wealthy
So up next, what is behind these numbers and what can be done about
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s hard to imagine what the president of the United
States does after being the president of the United States. But President
Obama gave us an idea on Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In a post-presidency,
the thing that I think I would enjoy most is spending time working with
kids. I love teaching. I miss teaching and, you know, I`m not sure I will
necessarily be in a classroom. But the idea of being able to go around in
various cities and helping to create mentorships and apprenticeships and
just giving young people the sense of possibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That sense of opportunity and possibility
unfortunately is not equally available to all of our nation`s students.
Fifty-eight years since "separate but equal" was struck down, our
classrooms are still distressingly separate. Two out of every five
African-American or Hispanic students attend intensely segregated schools.
In fact, schools more segregated today than they were 40 years ago. They
are not just segregated by race but by class.
Poor students face very different school days than their middle class
and wealthy peers. The result: persistent achievement gap.
Here with me to discuss that reasons behind that is professor Pedro
Noguera, a professor of education at New York University and author of
"Creating the Opportunity to Learn".
He is backed up by my panel, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Ari Melber and
I am so excited to have you here. Obviously, we`ve been talking
education now for a couple of weeks. But when you look at this gap, and
all of the years of research that you have done, what do you see as the
primary factors contributing to it?
PEDRO NOGUERA, PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, NYU: So, I`m glad to be here,
Melissa. Thank you for the invitation. I appreciate your willingness to
take on this topic because it`s a complicated topic.
You spoke to it already in your comments. That is in many ways, the
gaps in achievement and SAT scores are really about social inequality. But
we need to unpack that. We have known for a long time that the strongest
predictor of how a student will do on the SAT is family combined with
parent education, particularly the education of the mother, because for
most children, the mother is the first teacher.
Why is that? Because children from more affluent, well-educated
families are exposed to a wide variety of learning experiences outside of
school, at the dinner table. They have a larger vocabulary when they enter
school and those benefits are compounded over time. They have access to
private tutors. They get enrichment summer camps. They travel. All those
things help a student.
But in addition, if I could just add --
NOGUERA: It is compounded by the fact that they are more likely to
go to affluent schools --
NOGUERA: -- where they spend more money and where there are higher
expectations and where there are more resources.
So, there is inequality outside of school, compounded by inequality
HARRIS-PERRY: What I have appreciated about your work is this issue
of complexity, that you can say on the one hand, you have these pre-
determinative factors, poverty, social dislocation, neighborhoods that have
crime. But that doesn`t mean kids can`t learn. It doesn`t mean kids
And, in fact, quite the opposite. It`s an indication we ought to be
putting more resources for those kids even than those that already come
from circumstances where they have a great deal of resources.
NOGUERA: Right. You know, this debate about school reform has been
framed in very simplistic ways. We have the so-called reformers.
I think right now, Mayor Rahm Emanuel kind of exemplifies that.
There on a drive. We are going to hold teachers accountable by test
scores, shut down failing schools. We`re going to replace them with
charter schools, which is a strategy we have seen used everywhere.
But what we haven`t asked is how is that going to address the needs
of the most disadvantaged children?
NOGUERA: And we have actually researched from Chicago, carried out
while Arne Duncan was the superintendent which shows that many of those
strategies that Emanuel has embraced didn`t work.
And why didn`t they work? Because they didn`t engage parents.
Because they didn`t really address the social needs of children, and
because they didn`t provide the kinds of resources, social workers,
psychologists, that those schools need not to solve poverty but to mitigate
the effects of poverty.
HARRIS-PERRY: There is one other question I have been dying to ask
you before I open up for our panel. And that is I want you to deconstruct
on television at this moment, the Ogbu thesis.
You know, the other piece of the story that we often heard is not
only should we close these failing schools and walk away from public
education, but also on the other hand that somehow black children and brown
children and urban children are holding each other back. It`s not poverty.
It`s not dislocation. It is a culture of opposition.
Please pull that apart for me.
NOGUERA: You are giving me big questions. I am ready to take it on.
HARRIS-PERRY: You`ve got it, 90 seconds.
NOGUERA: John Ogbu was a colleague and a friend, an anthropologist
at Berkeley. I think he did very important work.
And what he did was he really showed the fact that your status,
historical status has impact on the way you look at school. That immigrant
kids come with a greater sense of hope and optimism and often do better and
outperform American kids, that`s all American kids. But it is particularly
true for what he called the non-voluntary minorities, the descendants of
slaves and the colonized people, African-Americans, Latinos and Native
What he got wrong was he didn`t really look at socioeconomic status.
He didn`t look at what was actually happening in schools. He didn`t look
at why it is that in certain schools, African-American children are
performing at very high levels and not because their culture has changed
but because the environment has changed.
That is, these are schools that have gone about creating an
environment where there are high expectations, where children are
challenged, where they are stimulated, and the desire to learn is actively
cultivated on those children. Those schools exist right now. They are
living proof that there is nothing wrong with the children. The problem is
the way we treat the children.
NOGUERA: The conditions we place those children under.
I can add, because I`m an admirer of President Obama and a fan.
NOGUERA: But if more schools were like the school his children go
to, Sidwell Friends, an elite private school, which does not do high-tech
testing, which really does focus on stimulating and challenging kids, we
would see a lot more kids performing.
The real question the president and Arne Duncan is: will they give
all kids a chance for that kind of education and not the kind that too many
American kids are subject to right now?
HARRIS-PERRY: I am about to say amen on my own show. We are going
to bring in the panel as soon as we get back, because this is the
conversation that I want to have. We can not test our way out of this
Stay with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: Testing, testing, testing, testing, and more testing.
That is often the answer for how to improve our nation`s education.
But how we determine these benchmarks for achievement is rarely
interrogated, just part of the reason we have ended up with statistics like
this -- African-American students are up to four times more likely than
white students to be identified with learning disabilities. It makes you
wonder how that could be.
Back at the table: Pedro Noguera, professor of education at New York
University. Back with us also, Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Moore of
Wisconsin, MSNBC contributor Ari Melber, and "The Nation`s" David Zirin.
David, your wife is a public school teacher in D.C. public schools?
ZIRIN: Yes. And my wife, she teaches two classes so pertinent, A.P.
U.S. history and D.C. history. A.P. U.S. history, you know the students
who are going to be here because they have money to take the A.P. class
because of how much the A.P. costs. D.C., history general class, it gets a
lot of kids from southwestern Washington, D.C.
And the thing that she always impresses upon when she comes home is I
can`t stand it when people denigrate these kids who are from the poor
neighborhoods, because they do things outside of school that a lot of the
kids in the A.P. class could never accomplish. Latino kids have to act as
primary translators for their families. Often times, they work and go to
school at the same time. They have tremendous entrepreneurial and survival
techniques. They walk to hellfire every day and a gasoline suit just to
get their education, and yet they are the students most disrespected by the
mainstream media and so-called reformers in our society.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you can`t pick up those skills on a standardized
bubble test. I mean, standardized bubble test will teach you all kinds of
things, but it will not tell you about the creativity and the flexibility
and the capacity of a young person able to do those things of things.
Ari, you wanted to jump in?
MELBER: Yes, Dave was talking about history and Pedro was talking
about family history. A lot of these debates, like so many debates about
race in public policy come back to this question of: does history matter
And there are people who don`t necessarily have racial animus but
they`ve got the ideas in their heads that history is over, we`re all at the
same starting line and let`s get going and let`s be, quote-unquote, "fair".
And that when you look at the research that you`re talking about is
so fundamentally flawed. The SAT statistics from this year, we see that 36
percent of the total population of children are coming from homes where
their parents only have a high school education. It jumps, that number
jumps to 46 percent for minorities.
Now, why is that? Meaning reasons, some economics, but others have
to do with the history of discrimination in our country. So, that path is
not over because their parents were kept out of college, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, activity.
MELBER: And then you add to that another layer which is, there is a
special boost for a lot of white students going to college because of the
legacy boost for admissions where if you are the son or daughter of an
alumnus, you get into college, right?
Well, that`s another hidden layer. It acts like a grandfather clause
and has a racial repercussion. I don`t think it is designed to but it
And so, in total, when we know how important it is to have that
college history, among other factors. And we have a history where we now
that race interfered with that I think is really telling.
And I think that goes back to the question of, what do we want to do
about it? This year -- I`ll end with this -- this year, the Supreme Court
is going to consider whether to make affirmative action completely illegal
so you can`t consider that.
The other program I mentioned, legacy boost for predominantly white
alumni children, is not on the table for being eliminated. That history is
still good. It`s not even up on the docket.
HARRIS-PERRY: And on this issue of history, it feels to me like our
answer to these kind of inequalities is to put kids together in school.
Are we done with integration? Are we done trying to reasonably address
these wrongs simply by integrating our schools? School choice moments
don`t talk about that anymore.
MOORE: Well, it`s really true, because if you did have integration,
you would be forced to sort of put some resources in to make sure you
educate the kids that you are trying to target for a good education.
I tire so of hearing people say that money doesn`t matter. Only
people with resources say that. If I were one of those Chicago teachers, I
would make every kid bring their 1040 or 1040-A in before I would let them
in my class. If you are a poor kid, I mean, among African-Americans, 38
percent of African-American children are poor.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. Like living below --
MOORE: Living below the poverty level.
HARRIS-PERRY: People with insufficient amount of food before they
show up at school.
MOORE: Before -- right. They have asthma, roaches, untreated
illnesses, domestic violence, parents who are unemployed. And people say
that has no impact on learning.
And to be a teacher who is going to be evaluated on the basis of
whether or not your children learn when they have come in from a night of
being under the covers because the utilities are turned off --
ZIRIN: Let me please give a public, nationally televised smackdown
to some of these master evaluators., who come to evaluate teachers, the
vein of wife`s existence. They come in a lot of times, they are young,
they have no experience in the classrooms themselves, and they are sent in
to act as judge and jury for people who have devoted their lives to helping
HARRIS-PERRY: And Professor Noguera, I was blown away by one of your
statements about where, what we are doing in education, where you talk
about how education was in part connected to these institutionalization
processes previously. And you write, "Although the goals of education
tended to be framed in humanitarian terms, the need to regiment and control
the behavior of students dominated the educational mission.":
And that notion of controlling students and managing their behavior
rather than of educating, opening and broadening them, that feels to me
core to how we treat kids who end up on the bottom of this scale.
NOGUERA: I think that`s absolutely correct. That`s one of the
things that concerns me now about what`s driving our vision of reform.
What do we think it`s going to create better outcomes?
Right now, the mantra we hear from Washington and any of the
reformers is going to be accountability. We don`t talk about the
conditions for learning. We don`t talk about creating an environment in
the classroom where children are excited to learn, where teachers have the
tools they need to teach at high levels, where the schools have the
resources to meet the needs of the children, both academic and the
Let me add, not only is integration no longer on the table, the
policy agenda, which is remarkable when you consider the journey we have
gone through since the Brown decision. But Head Start and access to
quality preschool is not even on the agenda.
NOGUERA: Here is what we know. We don`t have an achievement gap.
We have a preparation gap. Kids are coming into kindergarten well behind
because they haven`t had access to quality early childhood education.
HARRIS-PERRY: And then, we shame them.
NOGUERA: And then we shame them and their parents.
NOGUERA: It is a sound policy investment. We have a lot of evidence
to show this -- to invest in the early childhood education of children,
because it will benefit them not only in kindergarten but throughout their
ZIRIN: That`s what made the Chicago teachers so important, because
if you look at what they won, it wasn`t just about salary. They want more
money for those kind of programs. They want 600 more art teachers and
physical education teachers.
And so, teachers` unions that are so derided as part of the problem
in Chicago show that they are actually part of the solution.
HARRIS-PERRY: They were striking for their kids.
MOORE: How about science deniers? I mean, the science is in. You
know, you have to get that in. Birther three is critical for learning.
And it`s a funding issue. If you don`t have money for kids until
they are 6 years old to start kindergarten, you have missed that -- those
critical brain development years. We are starting to fund public education
MELBER: I just want to unpack one thing Pedro said , though, so
people understand is when we say integration is off the table in public
schools, what we are talking about is that Justice Roberts ruled in 2007 in
the Seattle school`s decision that schools could not take race into a
factor at all to integrate public schools.
MELBER: That`s where Brown ended and so I just think as a big point,
not that we have all the time in the world for it but part of these reform
issues are also about reforming the courts. There are certain decisions we
talk a lot about in money and politics. But this area of integration is
something that is going to come from reforming the courts.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love this because I have been so revved up since
Education Nation last week that I am determined we are doing a little
education every week on MHP. You guys are already starting to set some of
my agenda. I see, we are going to talk about early childhood education and
intervention and also questions about how family and history are connected.
This is going to be fun.
More in just a moment. But, first, it is time for a preview of
"WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hello to you. And I`m all over education
too. So, I`ll be listening to that. Thanks so much, Melissa.
T minus four days and counting to the first presidential debates. I
will talk with a historian to get a read on whether debates really make
that much of a difference when it comes to Election Day.
I will talk to libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. He is suing to
get on the stage with President Obama and Mitt Romney. Does he have a
chance to win that fight and to what end? We will ask him.
In office politics, "Today" show`s Savannah Guthrie tells us about
her experience on the campaign trail following Sarah Palin. She has some
interesting behind the scenes to tell about that.
And in our 1:00 hour, business news from Campbell`s Soup. We all
grew up eating Campbell`s chicken noodle, but times, they are changing.
Melissa, we`ll send it back to you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Alex. I appreciate it.
Up next, our foot soldier of the week is putting starfish back in the
HARRIS-PERRY: Have you ever heard the motivational story of the
little girl and the starfish?
Goes something like this: a little girl is wandering along a beach.
And she sees thousands of starfish but they`ve washed ashore. She picks
one up and throws it into the ocean. An old man walks by and asks her, why
are you wasting your time? It won`t make any difference. To which the
little girl replies, "It made a difference to that one."
We here in Nerdland were reminded of the story when we learned of our
foot soldier this week. Marion Leary is Philadelphia native, a former
critical care nurse who currently runs a clinical research group at the
Pennsylvania health system.
A few years ago, Marion started to notice a pattern. More and more
she heard stories of patients not only concerned about surviving and
recuperating from illnesses, but also worried about how to pay for the
costs associated with their medical care.
In one case, the father of a friend suffered a massive heart attack
that rendered him incapable of working and unable to pay all of his medical
bills. So Marion`s friend asked her to help put on a fundraising event.
That got her to thinking -- maybe instead of putting together an event each
time a person became ill Marion could approach the problem on a larger
Then another friend`s parent became ill. And this time, a friend`s
mother diagnosed with cancer could not even buy groceries because she had
to pay for her chemotherapy. The stories continue to come in. And Marion
was seeing firsthand with people in her own life the reality that was
playing out with our health care system nationwide.
She felt compelled to get involved. Inspired by the micro-lending
organization Kiva.org which allows people to make donations towards
prescreened and verified causes, Marion decided to start a web-based, non-
profit called Sink or Swim Philadelphia. On her Web site,
sinkorswimphiladelphia.org, Marion describes the group`s mission.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARION LEARY, SINK OR SWIM PHILADELPHIA: Each month, Sink or Swim
Philadelphia features people who have medical expenses that keep them from
staying afloat. When you hear their stories, you`ll want to share it with
others. We create an online community dedicated to helping one person each
month get a break -- helping one person keep their head above water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: This week, Sink or Swim is coming up on a big
anniversary. October 1st will mark one year since the site launched. That
means 10 patients helped, and almost $15,000 raised.
Like the little girl with the starfish, Marion knows that Sink or
Swim is not a cure-all for our nation`s health care woes. But for the 10
patients she`s helped so far? And the ones still to come, she sure is
making a difference to that one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEARY: None of us can do it alone. Sink or Swim Philadelphia wants
to help us do it together. We need you. Today, nearly 42 percent of our
citizens are uninsured or underinsured and they can`t do it alone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: For picking up each starfish in her sight and tossing
it gently back into the water, Marion is our foot soldier of the week.
Marion and her organization were nominated via our Facebook page by her
So if someone that you know in your life or your community would make
a great MHP foot soldier, please submit your nomination via
And that`s our show for today. Thank you to Congresswoman Moore,
Pedro Noguera, Ari Melber, and Dave Zirin.
And also, thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going to see you
tomorrow morning 10:00 a.m. Eastern for our special debate club preview
edition. It`s going to be so much fun.
Coming up "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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