November 16, 2013
Guest: Lizz Winstead, Elahe Izadi, Karen Finney, John Brabender, Anthea
Butler, Jesmyn Ward, Kassi Underwood, Trina Stout, Natalie Jayroe, Grace
Lee Boggs, Grace Lee
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning my question -- why is Bobby
Jindal prosecuting poor people?
Plus, the most important birthday party in American politics happens
And how women are fighting back against the all-out assault on their
But first, how the most irritating news story of the week is a reminder
that sometimes you just get the democracy you deserve.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Last month we were cheering
President Obama for his defiance in the face of the Republicans` shutdown
and their threat to breach the debt ceiling. The Republicans wanted to gut
the Affordable Care Act. The president was having none of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: As long as I am
president, I will not give in to reckless demands by some in the Republican
Party to deny affordable health insurance to millions of hardworking
Americans. I will not negotiate over Congress` responsibility to pay bills
it`s already racked up. Nobody gets to hurt our economy and millions of
hardworking families over a law you don`t like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: He dug in his heels for weeks. He refused to budge on the
ACA. Instead, he demanded that Republicans vote to reopen the government
and raise the debt ceiling. And it worked. On October 16TH, Congress
struck a deal to do both. Good job, Mr. President. Who says Democrats
always cave? Well, this week that guy, the defiance guy, he was nowhere to
be found. Republicans have been howling for the ACA`s head. I know, what
else is new? But this time it was for the realization that more than 4
million people were getting cancellation notices, notices saying that their
individual health policies would not be available next year because of the
Affordable Care Act`s strict new rules for such policies. Republicans
accused the president of lying by telling the American people that if you
like your plan you can keep it. So President Obama did not dig in his
heels this time. Instead he made a mea culpa on Thursday saying he messed
up on the ACA. The website rollout was botched, he said, he was wrong
about keeping the plans you like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I`m just going to keep on working as hard as I can around the
priorities that the American people care about, and I think it`s legitimate
for them to expect me to have to win back some credibility on this health
care law in particular and on a whole range of these issues in general.
And, you know, that`s on me. I mean, we fumbled the rollout on this health
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The president announced that he would allow insurance companies to
continue offering pre-ACA plan for another year, plans that don`t meet the
health care law`s strict rules for individual insurance policies, plans
that offer such limited coverage that if you actually get sick it might
feel a lot like you don`t have health insurance at all. The president
caved, not a lot, but just enough. The ACA is still nearly intact, and the
insurance rules will still go into full effect next year. But it does make
you wonder, why take that stand in October at all? Why let the government
shutdown for the first time in 17 years to protect the health care law?
Why do that if you were just going to give in anyway? Well, so, maybe it`s
about the president protecting his party in advance of the midterm
I mean, apparently now it is really important to get blue dog Louisiana
Senator Mary Landrieu re-elected. And the White House is probably hoping
that the president`s self-flagellation and delay would give Landrieu cover
to back away from the bill she proposed that would let people keep their
plans. But Landrieu already attracted some Democratic support from
conservative Democratic Senators like Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark
Pryor of Arkansas who are also facing their own tough re-election battles
in the south next year. It doesn`t look like she`s ready to back down.
So, all right, listen, "Nerdland," can I speak frankly? Let`s just pretend
that we`re sitting together in the living room and that I`m not talking to
you from a studio in New York. Because right now how I am feeling is
probably not appropriate for TV broadcast. I am pissed. Look, our country
has been trying to achieve meaningful reform that provides broad healthcare
coverage for our citizens for more than 100 years, in fits and starts from
Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton. Now, we`ve had incomplete but deeply
important successes with Medicaid and Medicare, even COBRA policies. But
it was not until President Obama and Speaker Pelosi finally made this
decades-long struggle a top agenda item that we finally, at least in some
measure, began to move toward a meaningful, contemporary expansion of
health care coverage for all Americans. And Republicans fought it every
step of the way.
Members of the Republican Party purposely misrepresented the bill when it
was a proposal. Once it became law, they aggressively lied about its
provisions and what they would mean for American families and businesses.
They resisted their legal responsibility as elected officials to enforce
the law, taking it all the way to the Supreme Court. And they have used
confederate-era tactics of attempted nullification to kill the law upon
implementation. And now, well now, Democrats are joining in! Howling
about the horrors of Obamacare and its faulty website. And yesterday the
U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill proposed by Congressman Fred
Upton that would allow insurers to keep selling their subpar plans not only
to people who had them before but to new customers as well. Which really
just means that insurance companies can keep making massive profits from
vulnerable people in the individual market without providing them
So I`m thinking maybe the resistance is just winning. Maybe we`re going to
fail again to extend health care to the American people. And not only
that, but maybe the Americans who actually most need the coverage are going
to cheer even as they defeat the very policy that could have helped them
and in the kind of ugly place in my gut I think, well, good luck with that.
Because sometimes you just get the democracy that you deserve. Anybody in
"Nerdland" want to talk me down?
Joining me now is Anthea Butler, professor at the University of
Pennsylvania, and also John Brabender, Republican strategist and former
aide to Rick Santorum. Thanks for sitting through my rant.
JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It was interesting. I like seeing
HARRIS-PERRY: So, John, let me ask you this, I think there is no doubt
Republicans scored a big political win here in terms of having the
president to back down on this question of full implementation immediately,
right, by basically allowing people an extra year with those plans. But is
it a win for the American people? It`s clear it`s a win for the
Republicans. Is it a win for the American people?
BRABENDER: Well, first of all, if the president did anything, he did
something unusual. He got "The Wall Street Journal," "New York Times," and
"Washington Post" all agree in editorials yesterday that what President
Obama did by extending this for a year was wrong. The bigger problem that
I see is I think he`s lost a lot of credibility. He criticized Republicans
for saying can`t we just delay this, absolutely not, it`s the wrong thing
to do. Well, look, now for political reasons he delayed the obligation of
businesses under the act to -- requirement for a year to cover people or be
penalized. He now has for another year extended the right of insurance
companies to cancel people. Plus there is no obligation to go back to
people who have already been notified and say that they`re covered.
BRABENDER: So, all the things he said he wasn`t going to do and all the
warnings that were sort of given out there, I feel like he`s ignored. So,
I do agree he`s lost credibility and I frankly do believe he looks very
political in this, which is problematic for the Democrats.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I mean it`s political certainly in the sense that this
president never has to run for an election again. He`s not standing for
re-election. I want to listen to what the president said on Thursday where
he`s clearly trying to provide some cover for his party, for congressional
Democrats and senators, as they face tough re-election bids.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I want them to know that their senator or congressman, they were
making representations based on what I told them and what this White House
and our administrative staff told them, and so, it`s not on them, it`s on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is, you know, vintage Obama, he`s you know,
President Obama, he`s taking responsibility. I`ve always appreciated and
respected that about him. On the other hand, I keep thinking, but no, no,
no, these people are not trying to fix Obamacare. They are trying to kill
it. Hold the line.
ANTHEA BUTLER, PROF. UNIV. OF PENNSYLVANIA: Exactly. And I keep thinking
why are you so naive to not realize what is really happening around you?
Everybody wants you to fail on the other side. And so now you`ve
capitulated to the failure. What are you going to do? You`ve said that
this is wrong. So, let me give you an example about what this means for a
regular person. My driver this morning who drove me from Philadelphia
here, his wife has a health plan, she`s trying to figure out what to do,
she`s already got the cancellation notice, she doesn`t know what to do and
now she thinks on Obamacare her insurance premiums are going to be higher.
So, what`s happening is, we`re playing these political games, but real
people are trying to figure this thing out and you can`t figure this out in
a month and a half. And if you`ve gotten those letters already, what is
going to happen? And insurers are having to figure out what`s happening
now because of what happened on Thursday. So, now this whole thing is in a
complete disarray. And this is the problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: But it need not be. I mean I guess, you know, for me, I
said this last night with Reverend Sharpton, it is - it`s the spoiled milk
analogy, right? We have a responsibility that we don`t allow people to
sell spoiled milk, even though we have people in this country who are
hungry, you can`t go buy spoiled milk at the store because the government
sets a set of regulations about what our food safety is. And similarly, I
think, we just - we cannot sell these plans. We`re going to move on from
this topic mostly because if we stay on it my head will explode. And .
BRABENDER: That makes great TV.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it does. It does make great - it does make great TV,
but we`re going to add a couple of folks to the table and we are going to
go to Iowa when we come back, because it`s the most important birthday
party of the year. It`s happening tonight. And you`re going to see why
the birthday boy isn`t the only one closing his eyes and making a wish.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s something big happening tonight in the world of
politics, something huge, an event that could have ripple effects for
years, one that could set the stage for the next presidential election.
And it takes place in Adventure Land Park in Altoona, Iowa. It is, if you
haven`t guessed it already, this guy`s birthday party. That`s Terry
Branstad. He`s the Republican Governor of Iowa. And tomorrow he turns 67.
The keynote speaker at his birthday bash, congressman and erstwhile vice-
presidential candidate, Paul Ryan.
Mr. (inaudible) himself. Now, you may ask yourself why is Paul Ryan in
Iowa hoping to raise money for Governor Branstad`s re-election campaign?
Well, good question. Well, why didn`t Senator Marco Rubio attend the bash
last year? Why did Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Michele
Bachmann, Ron Paul, and Newt Gingrich attend in 2011 after one of their
many debates? And why did then vice president George H.W. Bush attend the
very first birthday bash way back in 1985? It wasn`t just because they
were friends. People, say it with me. The Iowa caucus! That wacky,
weird, wonderful way that Iowa has of picking presidential candidates.
Picture it, crowding into a VFW hall or a school auditorium with a dozen or
a few hundred of your neighbors, people are chanting and cheering, and
wearing funny costumes, eating cookies and drinking punch, and trying for
hours on end to convince their neighbors to cast their precious vote for
the right candidate or the left one.
It is the first presidential contest in the nation, and, yes, it`s still a
little over two years away. But in Iowa politics, there is no such thing
as arriving fashionably late to the party. In Iowa, your best visit early
a visit often. Already this year the state has been a practical parade of
people who fancy themselves presidential material. Senator Ted Cruz
headlined the Reagan dinner there in October. It was his third appearance
in the state in three months. Rick Perry and Rand Paul visited Iowa
recently. So have Mike Lee, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and don`t forget
former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin. Although I think she`s running less
for president and more for a spot on "The Times" bestseller list.
Every event, at every event, these hopefuls shake hands and schmooze with
voters and the political big wigs of the machines and organizations who
help to actually work to create these presidential candidates. That`s
because the caucus` influence is undeniable. It pushes some to the front
of the pack where they will attract free publicity, momentum, and, yes,
money, and makes some reconsider the whole idea, winnowing the field down
considerably for future primaries.
Me, I like Iowa. Maybe it`s the former high school cheerleader living
inside me, but I love the idea that you actually have to rally your
neighbors to join your team. No solitaire pulling of the lever in Iowa.
You must take a stand publicly, which means you have to make an argument to
defend a position. At their best, the caucuses are a space of actual
democratic deliberation that has meaningful and immediate consequences.
That`s pretty rare in our politics these days. Viewed through a more
pessimistic lens, we are an enormous, diverse nation that allows just a few
mostly white folks living in the Midwest to have an outside influence on
our entire process. It begs the question -- should we be celebrating or
protesting the birthday party happening in Iowa tonight?
Joining the table is Elahe Izadi, a staff correspondent for the "National
Journal." Also Karen Finney, host of MSNBC`s "Disrupt" and former
spokesperson for the DNC.
So, Karen, I actually want to start with you because I know you`ve been to
many an Iowa caucus. Who are the players, two years out, the players in
broad strokes who begin thinking about Iowa, who begin showing up? How do
the Iowa caucuses influence who ends up president?
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC: At this point it`s about dollars. One of the things
Ted Cruz has done and all these guys are trying to do is not just make
appearances in Iowa but try to make appearances in Iowa where they can
start to lock down the big donors. Interestingly enough, when Ted Cruz was
there earlier this year, people were pretty impressed with him if you`re
from that side and you would be impressed with Ted Cruz, in that he was
really able to connect with part of the evangelical crowd. My suspicion is
that part of the reason Paul Ryan is going is because the rumor has been
that Cruz is starting to lock down some of those big donors, which means
with the donors comes different blocks of support.
The one thing I would say also about Iowa, because I agree with you, and we
made a change to the calendar when I was at the DNC, I love Iowa, love the
butter cows, love the state fair, love the fried Oreos, as much as that
HARRIS-PERRY: I love them. I eat them at Mardi Gras.
FINNEY: But part of our concern was Iowa and New Hampshire going first, we
weren`t really vetting our candidates and we were not really engaging
enough of America. I think we engaged a lot of America in 2008,
thankfully, but that`s why we added South Carolina and Nevada. I think
that`s better for the process and better for the candidates. I think all
this emphasis on Iowa so early -- remember, people who have won the Iowa
caucus have not necessarily gone on to win the nomination.
HARRIS-PERRY: In fact, it is particularly true on the Republican side. We
just sort of, you know, looking back at folks on the Republican side who
have actually won the Iowa caucuses in sort of recent years, and in fact
what it mostly seems to be doing on the Republican side is winnowing it
down. The folks who win that Iowa caucus are not necessarily the people
who go on to win particularly the Republican nomination for the U.S.
presidency. So is it still -- they`re all there tonight. Is it still a
ELAHE IZADI, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Yeah. It definitely still has that
winnowing effect, especially in 2016, when the field is so crowded. But
maybe that`s more emblematic of looking at the fissures within the
Republican Party. If you are able to win Iowa as a Republican, then that
really speaks to whether you are capturing the enthusiasm of the
conservative base. In 2012, we saw Mitt Romney went on to win the
nomination but didn`t win the presidential race, and a lot of Republicans
said, well, part of it is because we really didn`t appeal to the
conservative base the way that other conservative candidates did. The
question is, can a Republican appeal to the conservative base while winning
over independents and moderates in other states?
HARRIS-PERRY: That I think is the Chris Christie question of the year.
The name you did not hear me say here obviously was Chris Christie being at
this. Yet what we know now that he`s going to be the head of the
Republican governors, he is going to be going all around the country, but
can a Chris Christie from New Jersey with his kind of Jersey boy way go to
an Iowa state fair and do well and connect with people?
BRABENDER: That`s the wild card. I was part of Rudy Giuliani`s team
before I was part of Rick Santorum`s presidential team, and Rudy could not
play in Iowa.
But I will say this. I was one of the ones, like some of you, that were
skeptical. Why do we have this state the middle of the States have this
much power? My opinion has changed the more times (inaudible). You have
HARRIS-PERRY: People take it seriously.
BRABENDER: They don`t kick the tires. They look under the hood and then
take it for a 20,000-mile test-drive. Rick Santorum ended up winning Iowa
spending only $30,000 on television versus Mitt Romney spending a fortune,
as well as Rick Perry spending a fortune, Newt Gingrich, and that is
because they get to know the candidates personally, and they don`t decide
till very late.
FINNEY: You know what I hate about that argument? I apologize for such a
strong word is, other states would do that too if they had the chance. By
the by, it`s not that voters in other places don`t care, wouldn`t get that
engaged, but the mythology and -- like I said, love Iowa and New Hampshire,
but let`s not believe--
BRABENDER: They`re not trained to do that yet. Iowans are trained to do
FINNEY: So that means we don`t give them a chance at all?
HARRIS-PERRY: In other words, it is not something inherent to Iowans. Not
being a Midwesterner. It`s that there`s a long culture of it in which
people come to take it seriously. I think it`s true that Iowans take it
very seriously. I wonder, though, what if it went around to different
states? What if it was a different first state every four or eight years?
BUTLER: I think Iowa`s different because they have both this process that
they do, and it`s a strong religious base. You have the Faith and Family
Freedom Coalition, you have all these coalitions that are always doing
stuff, vetting these Republican candidates over and over again. For
Republicans especially when you`re talking about a base that has this big,
strong conservative religious gridlock right now, they`ve got something
that nobody else has. It`s in Texas too. But the way that Bob
Vanderplaats and all the rest of these men run these caucuses, all the
Republican candidate have to go to Iowa and spend time there. This is why
Rick Santorum won. He did that trek (inaudible).
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s pause. We`re going to come back on the Republicans in
Iowa, then we`ll talk about the Dems in Iowa too. This is going to be an
open-seat race in 2016. Lots of exciting things. So Republicans aren`t
the only ones who are planting their seeds in the farm land of Iowa.
Democrats are there too. Either early, often, or both. Person or proxy,
all that, got to go to Iowa.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back and talking about the Republicans already showing
up in Iowa for the caucuses that are going to be in two years. And you
made a point, Anthea, about the conservative nature, so we`re taking a look
at the ideology of the Iowa caucusers on the Republican side. 45 percent
of them in the last election cycle calling themselves very conservative.
43 percent somewhat conservative. So you end up with a vast majority with,
you know, a pretty conservative label there. But also looking -- so
there`s our chart. We love it when they do the flying charts this.
And the other thing that`s important to look at is in 2012 in the Iowa
caucuses, when you just look at the number of people, Rick Santorum there
is at 29,839. That`s what wins, right? Mitt Romney, 29,805. That`s not
very many people. There are colleges with 30,000 people in them. This is
a relatively small group of people who are quite conservative. How does
that impact the ability of these folks to go on and win generals?
IZADI: It winnows the field down and shows -- you`re not just convincing
people who are casual voters. These people who are extremely engaged. And
not only are you winning them over in the caucuses but you have the
potential to win them over as activists who are going to be involved
throughout the campaign. It`s kind of the gift that keeps on giving.
HARRIS-PERRY: So these people aren`t good for one vote. They`re good for
20 votes. Because they will make the calls.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right? They`ll make the calls, talk to their neighbors and
they will call across state lines, it`s also not just Iowa votes.
IZADI: Yeah. And if you`re able to capture the enthusiasm of such engaged
voters and have this kind of ground game that works to get that, you can
replicate that in other states, look in 2008 and Barack Obama.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. But I wonder, though, so I want to get to the Dems in
a second, but I do wonder, on the Republican side at this moment, I mean,
part of what`s occurring in this party is this divide, as you point out,
this kind of ideological divide, this questioning about governing. How
much is that going to impact what we see happening in these caucus states?
FINNEY: I think that`s the challenge that we`ve seen the last several
cycles for the Republicans. You may be able to win that very conservative
base of the Iowa caucus Republicans, but particularly in 2014, 2016
America, you`ve got to be able to show you have broader appeal if you`re
going to win a national election.
Remember, part of the challenge for a lot of these candidates, the things
they had to say in places like Iowa in the caucuses, the self-deportations,
the -- you know, some of the real nasty stuff, you can`t then -- in a
general, then you`re on defense for why you had to move that far to the
HARRIS-PERRY: But let me ask you, then, how that connects with your belief
about how seriously the Iowans take their role, because they recognize
they`re not just sort of picking someone who they like. They are vetting a
field for a general election. And so I`m wondering if Iowa caucusgoers are
in part not only just sincere voters, but also strategic ones who are
saying, all right, I`m a little to the right, but actually I know that I`m
going to want someone who`s sort of mid-right.
BRABENDER: What they do not do is say who`s going to win in November.
HARRIS-PERRY: They do not. Okay.
BRABENDER: One thing I want to remind everybody, Barack Obama would not be
president today if it was not for Iowa. Let`s be clear about that.
FINNEY: That was a very different situation than when we`re talking about
the Republican caucuses because the whole question going into Iowa was can
a black man get enough white votes? If he can do it in Iowa, maybe he can
HARRIS-PERRY: But when you look at those Iowa caucusgoers, 99 percent of
Republican Iowa caucusers are white. But 93 percent of Democrats are
BRABENDER: It`s also very liberal state who shows up in Democrat caucuses
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. Right. Very different Iowan --
BRABENDER: It was a good electorate for him as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Granted, but now President Obama, then Senator Obama,
winning that, I agree, it was -- not only that he won it but that Hillary
Clinton came in third. I think that`s the other really important part was
that she comes in behind, right, she comes in third there.
BRABENDER: A lot of this, too. Iowa is also about expectations. In other
words, Rick Santorum could have come in first, second, third or fourth and
he could have moved on, because the expectation was he wasn`t going to do
that. Mitt Romney could not have come in fourth and moved on. Rick Perry
tried to and couldn`t move on. Michele Bachmann, none of them could. So
what it really does, is when there`s a big field like there`s going to be
this time, as well, it won`t necessarily pick the nominee, it`s going to
pick who doesn`t get to move forward, who`s thrown off the island is
basically what it`s going to pick.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that`s critical in part because, again, if Hillary
Clinton had not won in New Hampshire immediately behind this, that would
have been it. Right? It wouldn`t have been the long game. But Karen, you
were saying that long game for the Democrats is actually good for the
party. It kept people involved in states we hadn`t even heard about in a
FINNEY: A, we were and the Obama campaign ultimately because the
Democratic Party was able to -- we turned this over when you become the
nominee, think of all the new people we were able to register to vote on
both sides, both the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Obama campaign, in
terms of engaging people in those states, Democrats who - because usually
in New York, right, people are like, yeah, whatever, it will be over before
they get to our primary so I`m not paying attention until later. It was
such a wonderful thing to see many more parts of the country get to be
engaged in this process.
HARRIS-PERRY: It didn`t feel wonderful at the time.
FINNEY: I know.
HARRIS-PERRY: It felt like bloodletting. Did not feel like this is
FINENY: If you never got to participate and have your vote matter in a
primary and finally it did. I don`t disagree it was a miserable time, but
for Americans and for Democrats, it was a really positive thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to talk a little more about Democrats, specifically
the idea of Hillary Clinton perhaps arriving in Iowa again, but also the
fact, and I love this, Republicans are now doing a thing where they`re
going to try to get women voters. I`m interested in how well that is going
to work. More when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Republicans are not the only ones showing up in Iowa early.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, D-NEW YORK: 2016 is Hillary`s time! Run, Hillary,
run! If you run, you`ll win and we`ll all win!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, Chuck. That was New York Senator Chuck Schumer
appearing at the Iowa Democratic Party function just this month. As you
can see, he is an adamant supporter of Hillary Clinton. Run, Hillary, run!
Even as the woman herself keeps her plans pretty close to the vest.
But Democrats aren`t the only ones thinking about women in the caucuses.
This "New York times" report shows that a new firm sets out to secure women
votes for a vulnerable GOP. Katie Packer Gauge (ph), who you`ll see in the
middle of the photo there, she`s a deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney
in 2012. She and two of her political strategist colleagues have launched
a new firm to help Republicans woo the ladies. We have Chuck Schumer
saying run, Hillary, run, obviously in part with hopes of galvanizing women
voters, and we got Republicans saying we`re going to need to get women
BUTLER: They do. I think one of the things they have to be really fearful
of is that their obsession with reproductive politics will drown out any
other message they might have to attract Republican women who might vote
I think this firm is very interesting in this way. At least they`re making
sense to say we need to go after these younger women we`re probably going
to miss. I think that`s a big part of the Republican Party, that they
don`t know how to deal with, they don`t know how to get younger women in
who might be on one way fiscally conservative but on the other hand they
might not be conservative so much as far as their reproductive politics.
They have to find a way to talk, to speak to these women. I think the
women who are 55 and up, they don`t have to worry about, because they are
already in their pocket anyway, they are going to vote Republican.
HARRIS-PERRY: That said, particularly as we think about Iowa, just last
week we were talking about this, the Republican Party only has a problem
with women of color. They`ve got white women on the lock. We were just
looking, 42 percent of white women voted for President Obama but 56 percent
went for Mitt Romney despite all the war on women--
BUTLER: But they have got to figure out how to get Latina women. They`re
not going to get African-American women. They`ve just given up, I think.
But they have to figure out how to get young Latinas.
BRABENDER: Actually (inaudible) distinction. If you look at the Virginia
governor`s race, Cuccinelli actually did fine among married women. He got
killed among single women.
BRABENDER: I`m sorry. Unmarried. Politically correct.
BRABENDER: I apologize to the entire gender.
HARRIS-PERRY: On behalf of the party, I will take that apology! On behalf
of the Republican Party to the entire gender.
BRABENDER: And I`ll also apologize for Obamacare if that helps, because
evidently that`s en vogue with the president.
FINNEY: Men in my party make the same mistake.
BRABENDER: The truth of the matter is where Republicans I think are
failing is not when we try to target by gender, by race. Where I think
we`re failing these days is hardworking middle cross, blue-collar American
who liked Ronald Reagan now think all we do is fight for tax breaks for the
wealthy and we no longer understand their lives.
HARRIS-PERRY: When you say that sentence, hardworking, blue-collar --
first of all, that group is disappearing as a result of the economic
realities of the end of blue-collar jobs in America. But the other thing
is when you say that, when you say the language, hardworking, blue-collar
Americans, the image that we draw in our heads is of a white man,
Midwesterner, and that person, like when you say that, it actually sort of
rises up a little thing for example Latina women who are hardworking
domestic workers but who look at the immigration policies.
BRABENDER: I would put them in there. I`m saying I don`t think it`s about
-- I think it`s understanding that there are people that want to have the
American dream, who no longer believe that the rules of working hard will
get me there. That`s where I think --
HARRIS-PERRY: And immigration reform would be the first, most important
place to demonstrate that. You want to talk about people who work hard,
work hard on a daily basis, don`t get the pay they deserve, and who are
true believers in the American dream, that`s the American immigrant
community, the mostly Latinas and Latinos.
BRABENDER: Let me ask you this, do you think Republicans are against
HARRIS-PERRY: I think they`re so against doing anything in the context of
this American presidency, President Obama`s presidency, that they`re
willing to stand in the way of immigration reform.
BRABENDER: I will give you some of that and I agree. However, there are
BRABENDER: Boehner said he`s not doing it between now and the end of the
year. Let`s be honest.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Okay. But it`s not a matter of we don`t have enough
BRABENDER: You guys couldn`t even get a website that`s operational.
BUTLER: It`s not about a website.
BRABENDER: And you want to do between now and the end of the year
immigration reform? That`s ridiculous.
HARRIS-PERRY: I was going to say, the website not being operational could
in part be because we had to go to the Supreme Court to fight over a law --
BRABENDER: You had three years to get it going.
IZADI: I think to the point about immigration, it`s really an issue of
like 2016 is going to be the big reckoning for the Republican Party. After
2012 there was an identity crisis, and there are, to your point, a lot of
Republicans who are not only saying we need to do immigration reform, but
are putting their necks on the line to try and push for something. I mean,
look at what happened in the Senate. Now Lindsey Graham has to face a race
back in South Carolina after he put his name on this comprehensive
immigration reform bill. But there is still this problem where you have a
very conservative base who comes out in midterms, and those are the voters
that members of Congress in the House are most concerned about.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. In these gerrymandering districts.
IZADI: It`s also ideologically very extreme. It`s not just gerrymandering
districts. That`s part of it as well.
FINNEY: But if they put the Senate version of the immigration bill on the
floor of the House, it would pass. The only reason that and ENDA are not
on the floor of the House is because John Boehner can`t afford to let that
happen because of the crazy caucus.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, oh, because of the crazy caucus. Speaking of John
Boehner and the crazy caucus, we`ll go to that in my letter this week. But
first let me just say Anthea, I`ll see you in the next hour. John, thank
you for coming.
BRABENDER: Thanks for having me
HARRIS-PERRY: And apologizing to the gender from the party. You can come
back any time. Elahe, thanks for being here, and Karen, thank you for
Everyone, you can see more of Karen later today at 4:00 p.m. Eastern on
"Disrupt." In fact, I`m going to stop by and do a little disrupting of my
Next is my letter of the week to my favorite new breakfast club.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s hard to compete against breakfast. We should know. I
mean, this show is broadcast live during weekend brunch. It is especially
tough when that breakfast is being enjoyed by one of the most powerful men
in the country, and you`re trying to get him to put down the saltshaker and
pay attention to your serious concerns about immigration policy. But
breakfast was no match for 13-year-old Carmen Lima and 16-year-old Jennifer
Martinez. At 7:00 a.m. Wednesday morning these two young women approached
House Speaker John Boehner at his favorite breakfast spot on Capitol Hill
to urge him to act on immigration reform. Both of the girls are the
children of undocumented immigrants, and told the speaker in their appeal
why for them this policy is personal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So how would you feel if you had to tell your kids at
the age of 10 that you were never coming home?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: That wouldn`t be good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know. So that`s what happened to me. That
happened to me. I thought I was never going to see my dad again because of
[inaudible]. And I cried so hard when he told me that at the age of 10.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, let`s be honest, when it comes to belief and wish
fulfillment, most Americans think asking Congress for what they want is
about as effective as asking Santa Claus. Which is why I`m encouraged by
these two young women and their extraordinary faith in democracy.
So this week my letter goes out to them. Dear Carmen Lima and Jennifer
Martinez, it`s me, Melissa. The first thing I would like to say to you is
I`m sorry, I`m sorry that when you asked the speaker what he`d do about
immigration reform, he told you this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: Well, I`m trying to find somebody to get this thing done.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we can count on your vote for immigration reform?
BOEHNER: I will try to find a way to move the bill forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But just three hours later when asked what the House was
going to do about the Senate`s bipartisan immigration bill, he told the
rest of America this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: We have no intention of ever going into conference on this Senate
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, I know hearing that has got to make you feel a little
disappointed right now. The second thing I want to say to you is don`t be
discouraged by your disappointment, because although this might be a
setback, this is not a defeat. Every U.S. policy reform that has advanced
the cause of equality was won after unyielding effort and endurance in the
face of obstacles by those who fought for the change. And the fight to
push America forward on immigration is going to be no different. To
fortify yourselves for that effort, I want you to hold on to that faith in
the legislative process that motivated your conversation with Speaker
Boehner. Because with Congress` approval ratings the lowest they`ve ever
been, that faith is a quality in short supply in the American electorate.
Even as I`m having a crisis of faith in the system these days, but our
democracy does not work without it. Our democracy does not work without
you. The political process cannot move forward without Americans who, like
you, despite their disappointments, remain willing to be part of it, who
continue to hold our lawmakers accountable and demand that they do the job
of advancing policy like immigration reform, which a majority of Americans
are calling for them to enact.
I want you to recognize that John Boehner was not the only leader in that
restaurant on Wednesday, because you set an example that he and our
Congress would be wise to follow. You showed how debate and disagreement
can be a bridge instead of a barrier.
So at this moment I want to urge you not to stop pushing, and maybe when
you`re old enough to think about running, run. Because the one thing
government needs more than people like you to believe in it is for people
like you to be part of it. So on that one day instead of petitioning the
power of a man hungry for his breakfast, you can wield that power
yourselves to make a difference for those who are hungry for change.
In the meantime, keep up the good work, because thanks to you, the struggle
will in fact not stop. It will, indeed, continue. Sincerely, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: In my city of New Orleans this week, a school that serves
at-risk kids has lost yet another student to gun violence. 15-year-old
Terence Roberts was found shot to death Monday just a few months after
enrolling in the Net Charter school. He is the fifth student from the
school killed by gunfire in the last six months. His story is yet another
example of the pervasive gun violence that exists in America, an epidemic
that disproportionately takes the lives of young men of color.
In her new memoir, "Men We Reaped," Jesmyn Ward reflects on the toll that
this violence has taken on her own life and on our community. She allows
the readers to see the grief and anger that these losses leave in their
Joining me now is Jesmyn Ward. Thank you for being here. I wanted to -- I
read the memoir. The men that you lose are not all to violence. Or at
least to that sort of violence. But it reminded me so much of the story of
what`s happening in New Orleans, this sense that there is kind of a
catastrophe that impacts everyone. How does writing the memoir help you to
sort of continue to work through the continuing pain of that experience?
JESMYN WARD, AUTHOR: Writing the memoir helped me, you know, work through
this because I think I was really -- living through it sort of stunned me
in a way. You know what I`m saying? Living through it, I felt like I was
reeling all the time, and I wasn`t really thinking about -- thinking about
the violence, thinking about the effect of that violence, thinking about
the effect of grief after grief and loss after loss and what that really
does to someone. And so I think writing about it made me much more mindful
about it so that I was able to sort of understand that the kind of impact
that grief and that loss and that violence really has on, you know, we as
an individual, but then also on an entire community. And, you know, an
HARRIS-PERRY: I read the book before I read reviews of the book, and
pretty regularly in the reviews people say things like Jesmyn Ward escaped
her community or got away from it. And I kept thinking, no, the goal isn`t
to escape. Talk to me about how you see a relationship particularly to
Deep South, to that Mississippi Gulf Coast and to New Orleans.
WARD: I mean, I went back, you know? I had plenty of opportunities to go
other places and, you know, settle elsewhere and make a life elsewhere, but
I chose to go back into Mississippi and go home to the Gulf Coast, you
know? And part of the reason I chose to do that is because I feel like I
want to be there to fight the good fight. And there`s something about
living there and continuously sort of facing -- you know, facing those
realities and facing those demons that keeps you aware, I guess, and that
keeps you sort of hungry and working. So, you know, I went home to the
South. I still feel very much a part of that place and that community, so
I don`t feel like I`ve escaped anything at all.
HARRIS-PERRY: Many of us are thinking a lot in these weeks about Renisha
McBride in Detroit and the loss -- to violence of a black woman. Yet so
many of the people who we lose, whether to suicide or drunken drivers as
you lost your brother or to the gun violence, are men in our lives. What
is the particular impact on women when our intimates, our beloved, our
friends who are the men of our lives are lost?
WARD: Well, I think, you know, I mean, you know, briefly at the end of the
book, I bring up the fact that, you know, there are young women that I know
in my community that have died too. So I think that, you know, that young
women in my community and women in general, they live with that fear that
they will lose those that they love. But then I think they also live with
the fear that they will die, you know, by -- through violence and die early
just as the young men do. You know, and that kind of fear that you live
with day in and day out, I think that breeds a sort of hopelessness.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. It changes how you interact with the world.
HARRIS-PERRY: If you don`t presume that you have another 20 years.
HARRIS-PERRY: Another 30 years.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is exquisite book, a very painful book, it`s a very
personal book, very different than your award-winning fiction before it,
and I thank you for writing it. I know it took a lot of courage to do so.
WARD: Thank you for reading it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you. Jesmyn Ward.
Coming up next, the all-out assault on women and how some politicians and
even religious activists are fighting back.
And a woman at the forefront of virtually every social movement of the last
century, Grace Lee Boggs, is here in "Nerdland." And there`s more
"Nerdland" at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Dr. George Tiller, a physician from Wichita, Kansas, was one of only three
doctors in America providing access to abortions in the third trimester of
pregnancy. His motto: trust women.
Dr. Tiller was assassinated four-and-a-half years ago, shot and killed at
his church by an anti-abortion activist. His clinic closed shortly
afterwards. Right now, there are only four doctors in America who still
perform late-term abortions. They were profiled in the documentary "After
Tiller" released earlier this year.
Two of those doctors, colleagues of Dr. Tiller himself, went to practice in
New Mexico, a state with none of the limits on reproductive rights that,
for example, Kansas had in place. They were followed not long afterward
from volunteers from the anti-reproductive rights group that once protested
Dr. Tiller, Operation Rescue.
In recent weeks, Bud and Tara Shaver had been driving this Operation Rescue
so-called Truth Truck around Albuquerque, complete with gory images and a
message advocating vote for the late-term abortion ban. They`re talking
about a new city ordinance that would ban abortion after 20 weeks in
Election Day is Tuesday, but early voting ended yesterday. An already
almost half of those who voted in the last city-wide election have already
voted in this one. That`s according to a new report on the ordinance from
MSNBC.com reporter Irin Carmon.
And while 13 U.S. states have passed 20-week abortion bans and have been
found twice unconstitutional, this is the first-ever city-wide referendum
to attempt one. We are in uncharted territory here.
And as an activist in favor of women`s reproductive rights told MSNBC,
nobody really knows what will happen. There`s no model for this.
Joining me is MSNBC.com national reporter Irin Carmon. Also, comedian and
writer Liz Winstead, author of the essay collection "Lizz Free or Die."
Still with us, Anthea Butler, professor of religious studies and graduate
chair of religion at the University of Pennsylvania, and Kassi Underwood, a
pro voice activist and writer who`s working on a memoir about her personal
experience with abortion and the healing that came after.
Thank you all for being here.
Irin, I feel like I both love having you at my table and hate having you at
my table because when you`re here with this brilliant reporting it is about
how this frontier keeps pushing more and more efforts to restrict women`s
reproductive right. What does this new fight tell us about what`s
IRIN CARMON, MSNBC.COM: I think what`s so interesting is New Mexico is a
blue state that went twice for Barack Obama. It`s incredibly progressive
when it comes to women`s access to reproductive health, including the fact
they have Medicaid funding for abortion. They allow women to -- you know,
there are no gestational limits, they allow that decision to be up to the
women and the doctor. It`s become a refuge in a lot of ways.
And a lot of the people who live there are not so happy about these folks
coming in there, both from the Susan B. Anthony List in Washington, D.C.,
Operation Rescue from Wichita. They have become this sort of test case. I
think what it tells us is that they are not stopping with red states like
Texas and Oklahoma.
CARMON: They have a long game here. It starts stat local level in
Albuquerque. It goes up to the state legislatures and then it goes
nationally. And they have been planning this to chip away the entire
HARRIS-PERRY: And on this long game, talk to me about the specific
strategy that is the so-called "truth truck". You rode around in the
truck. This is what makes you a reporter and me not because I would be
screaming on the inside of that.
What was that experience like?
CARMON: They were very kind to me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Of course, right? It`s not a lack of sort of interpersonal
kindness in that sense.
CARMON: Sure. I think, you know, what it`s like is they are out there
every single day. So, they have a political strategy. They have a direct
action strategy that involves screaming in people`s faces as they`re trying
to exercise their personal rights. They have -- you know, they`re going
after political officials.
So, the idea with this referendum is if it passes and certainly if it does
pass, it`s going to be tied up in court for a long time, they are looking
for some momentum. They want to say not only in these red states have we
passed these so-called fetal pain -- this is a very made-up concept --
these fetal pain bills. They`ve passed them in all these states. They`re
trying to pass it in the U.S. Congress right now.
And that is going to make it seem like there is a groundswell against
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Lizz, I want to build on this because the piece to me
that feels like is missing is the idea that reproductive rights and
reproductive justice advocates can go on the offensive. What we are seeing
is that the anti-choice people are on the offensive. There is like there
is no battleground we are not willing to go into. It feels like we`re on
the defensive, holding to line.
Is there a way to strategically hold the line but say, OK, look, we have a
strategy for extending rights, for making it easier to have access?
LIZZ WINSTEAD, WRITER, AUTHOR, COMEDIAN: Well, yes, that`s sort of been my
tact, too, and I think what I want to do because I`ve been doing this tour
to raise money for NARAL, Planned Parenthood and these events all around
the country, and what I`ve seen over and over again, and when I talk to
these clinic workers is our local legislatures are screwing us and the
people who come to our clinics don`t know who their state rep is. They
don`t understand what`s coming out.
So, what I`m trying to do is we`re doing a telethon Monday night out of New
York that is reaching out to help the women of Texas, but also to have a
reminder to people to say -- and this is what was fascinating to me, which
was -- we all watched Wendy Davis, and she was so inspiring, and the women
of Texas who rallied and were active were so inspiring, but what we didn`t
do is turn to our own states and say, what`s going on here?
HARRIS-PERRY: They were like, man, they crazy in Texas.
WINSTEAD: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, yes.
WINSTEAD: And you know what, Oregon is the only state that has not curbed
any kind of abortion rights since Roe. That means probable the state you
live is somehow out to get you and we need to get people to rally around
and find out what that is.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, living in Louisiana, we`ve got it all. We`ve got
transvaginals, we`ve got 20-week bans. You got to ask your mama, your
next-door neighbor, your cousin and your brother for permission.
ANTHEA BUTLER, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: I mean, it`s I think Mardi Gras
is the only affordable breast exam left in Louisiana.
HARRIS-PERRY: The whole -- I hate to laugh because it`s n funny. And yet
-- I wonder because I wanted to make that point that Dr. Tiller said trust
women. Dr. Tiller wasn`t saying I`m going to go out and force you into a
20-week abortion. It was about trusting women.
How do we particularly, Anthea, on a kind of ethical basis, make an
ethical, or moral, even a religious claim for you must give women an
opportunity to be full human beings who will make these difficult choices?
BUTLER: Exactly. When you are a patriarchal society, and we still are in
America, where women seem to not be able to make decisions for themselves
because men say we can`t or other women say we need to let men make
decisions for us, that`s simply not true.
So, if we -- I`ll just break it down the basics. Allow a woman to have her
own conscience to do what she sees fit in consultation with her doctor and
everyone else. These things have happened for last 40 years because it`s
been a specific strategy. You know, whether we`re talking about capturing
a local clinic or hospital, now, they`re trying to capture entire states,
And now, in the case of Albuquerque, let`s start in Albuquerque --
HARRIS-PERRY: Start with the city.
BUTLER: Let`s start with the city.
What we don`t seem to understand is this is a crusade for these folks, OK?
So, they have very strong religious beliefs about why they are pro-life.
BUTLER: And once we begin to think about people and why their ideology is
this way, those who believe a woman should have the right to choose need to
employ our same kind of logical strategies to think about how we`re going
to push back against this.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting when you use the language of a crusade, it
is a reminder that in politics, simply having a majority is insufficient.
We saw this in gun control, right? There`s a majority of American who is
want gun control but those who don`t are so much more engaged and
So, similarly, even if it`s a majority who say, of course, we ought to have
choice. If that minority is composed of a crusading feeling -- I`m going
to bring in next -- we`re going to go to Washington and talk more about the
question, but I want to talk about how going on the offense sometimes means
us having the right to speak often, must mean us having the right to speak
about our experience, not just the truth trucks, our own truths.
Stay right there.
HARRIS-PERRY: Since 1977, the Hyde Amendment has banned the use of
Medicaid funds to pay for abortions. The effect has been to limit the
ability of poor women to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Doubling down
nearly 35 years later, just days before he signed the Affordable Care Act
into law, President Obama signed an executive order limiting what its
health insurance exchanges could do.
Quoting it, "The act specifically prohibits the use of tax credits and cost
sharing reduction payments to pay for abortion services except in cases of
rape or incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered."
So, what do you do if you need an abortion but you are too poor to afford
one? For many women, the answer is you turn to the only people who are
willing and able to help -- abortion funds.
Joining me now from Seattle is Trina Stout, a board member of the Care
Project, a nonprofit abortion fundraiser in the Pacific Northwest.
Thank you for joining us.
TRINA STOUT, CAREPROJECT.ORG: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So talk to me about abortion funds. I`m not sure this is a
part of the reproductive justice movement that many people know about. So,
where do the funds come from and what do you do with the funds?
STOUT: Sure. So, first of all, an abortion fund is a hotline that helps
women access safe abortion care by providing information and funding. The
Care Project is an entirely nonprofit volunteer-run abortion fund, so we
rely on donations to help the women we serve. Donations, they come from
individual donors, and we -- after we`ve spoken to a woman on the hotline
and helped her fund raise and assess her needs, we send a fax to the clinic
that`s basically a voucher so that when that woman arrives on the day of
her appointment, she is able to be seen.
HARRIS-PERRY: Trina, You know, Washington state, where you are, out there
in Seattle, is actually doing pretty well on this question of allowing
access post Roe v. Wade. It is a state we don`t see my of the kinds of
laws that we`ve seen encroaching in other places. And yet the question of
funding is still critical.
How important is the issue of being able to afford abortion for women who
are seeking them?
STOUT: It`s very important. The average cost of our first trimester
abortion in our region is $550. And that even in states where their
Medicaid does pay for abortion care, that is sometimes, there are women who
are just on the cusp and that`s not a realistic amount for them and there
partners to raise in a week or at all.
Kassi, I want to come to you here in part because the abortion funds are
hotlines. They`re places people call and say here is my situation, here is
What happens if we listen to women not just on the hotlines but more
broadly tell us why they are seeking to terminate unwanted pregnancies?
KASSI UNDERWOOD, WRITER: Well, in my experience, it was a gut feeling to
end my pregnancy that took my mind a while to catch up to that. And I`d
been touring the country with a group of five women sharing our stories.
We were most recently in Texas. And what we`ve seen is that people have
come us with love and compassion. We`re not telling them in a political
context. We`re creating an environment that`s really just about people and
And we`ve met a lot of people who want to hear about our experiences that
includes the need to find money to have the procedure.
HARRIS-PERRY: Trina, let me come back to you for just one moment because
we talk about the fact that the president before the passage of ACA signed
that executive order basically doubling down on the Hyde Amendment. But,
of course, it`s not because he`s deeply anti-choice or something. When we
look at what Guttmacher has told us that since 2009, we`ve seen an enormous
increase in the number of laws and policies introduced into state
legislatures to restrict abortions.
Where you are in Washington, are you all worried that these kinds of
restrictions are coming your way?
STOUT: Women and families in Washington are actually very fortunate. We
have pro-choice voters and pro-choice leaders. Washington is the only
state to have legalized abortion by popular vote. Our current legislature
is working to expand access to reproductive health care instead of take it
So here in Washington I`m not worried, but the Care Project serves women in
Idaho, Alaska, and Oregon as well. And in Idaho, they face many more
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Absolutely.
Trina Stout, thank you so much for your work and the work of abortion funds
around the country.
And up next, the power of four little words, "I had an abortion". Why more
and more women are coming forward to say it out loud.
HARRIS-PERRY: In "New York" magazine`s newest cover story, 26 women tell
readers about their experiences of abortion.
Michelle fought an abortion in Manhattan five years before Roe v. Wade. "I
thought I might die there in my apartment. In retrospect, I should have
gone to the hospital, but I thought I would be arrested. It`s such a
horrific thought that anyone should feel that alone again."
Charice (ph) visited what she thought was an abortion clinic 11 years ago.
That facilities sent her somewhere else to get a pre-ultrasound where she
said, "The technician said, `If you have an abortion now, you`ll rupture
your uterus and won`t be able to have children in the future.` I had no
idea what was true."
Lindsey got an abortion -- who ended a pregnancy last year after an
assault, wrote, "This guy forced himself on me. When the women at the
clinic went over my options I bawled. Society`s so focused on women being
mothers I felt selfish for not wanting to be a mom."
It`s relatively easy to talk about reproductive rights and abortion access
in the abstract. It requires breathtaking courage to stand in public and
say, I had an abortion, because when you say it, you invite hateful and
That is exactly the kind of courage one of my guests has. She shared her
story in "New York" magazine. Kassi Underwood is a writer and pro-voice
activist who encourages others throughout the country to share their
So, Kassi, I want to come back to you. Share a bit of your story with us.
UNDERWOOD: All right. Walking around pregnant when you don`t want to be
is a nightmare. I wanted to tell everyone. But I was scared that I think
I was stupid. I borrowed a car from my friend`s roommate. I wore a black
turtleneck and very nice jeans. I wanted to impress the nurses. I think I
even mentioned that I was in the honor society.
Now I think, who did I think I was? I had no idea that the average
abortion patient is all of us.
HARRIS-PERRY: That last sentence in particular, that is all of us, when
you look at the statics, one in three women will seek an abortion, that
there is no one majority race when it comes to the question of -- that most
women who have abortions already have children. Those are the numbers that
in fact it`s all of us, and yet I can see even your emotion right now.
There is so much shame associated with it and therefore so much courage
necessary to say, I had an abortion.
WINSTEAD: I have an essay in my book. I got pregnant the first time I
ever had sex in high school. And I ended up at a crisis pregnancy center.
And the woman who -- one of the things about these people is that you have
people there masquerading as a physician and a person of God. So, the
woman said to me, your choices are mommy or murder. And when a person who
is impersonating a doctor and a person of God tells a 16-year-old who`s
terrified and scared and pregnant that their life is insignificant, it
matters, and it`s happening all over the place.
And I had an abortion. I will say it. And the haters come.
But what I encourage everyone is if you`ve had an abortion, you then become
a person that they have to think about when they start demonizing. It is
not abstract. There are people they love, their mothers and sisters who
have them, who made a choice. Sometimes that choice was "I`m not ready".
Sometimes that choice was very -- it`s an unbelievably painful experience.
There`s a panoply.
The one thing that is not acceptable is to shame a woman for making a
decision that she knows is best.
HARRIS-PERRY: The idea of that shame -- and I`m thinking, Lizz,
particularly about the truth truck and the notion of those late term
abortions, most people who seek an abortion after 20 weeks are seeking
abortions in the context of pregnancies they very much wanted and had hopes
to carry to term but there are these tremendous medical problems that
occur. I mean, for the most part that`s what that is.
So I`m thinking about that truth truck with those aborted fetuses, but what
if they have to face the -- what if the women are standing there?
CARMON: Right. You know what I find as a journalist who writes about
these issues a lot is that you want to be an ethical steward of people`s
stories like the woman that I wrote about in Oklahoma but that even if it
is a wanted pregnancy, and some of them are not wanted pregnancies at that
point, but they`re often very challenging circumstances one way or another,
even the woman I wrote about in Oklahoma, I did not go out and say I would
like to find a white married woman with a fetal anomaly and an unwanted
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is what I ended up signing because she had
navigated all the punitive laws there. And yet when I, you know, told her
story to the best of my ability, the hatred that she faced, this woman who
fit what you are supposed to be when you have an abortion, people calling
her a murderer in blog posts, in comments, e-mailing me.
And I understand why people don`t tell their stories. I think obviously
it`s a huge public service. It`s tremendously courageous to sit here and
say I had an abortion, but I also understand why people don`t do it because
of what they`re subjected to.
Kassi, you said when you were doing this work, people are showing love and
support. Honestly, I`m a little surprised to hear that in part because
when Dr. Tiller was assassinated, you know, more than four years ago I
wrote for the Nation of Peace about the assassination, I talked about this
feeling of terrorism, and in it just one of the lines towards the end, I
just -- I simply said, I have had a child and abortion and a hysterectomy.
In other words, I have done everything with my uterus that one can do, and
I love and respect women you have chosen many different paths.
It was the first time in my public life that I got not just the hate mail
but I got incredible death threats from having simply said that sentence.
I`m a little surprised that people are embracing, are warm.
UNDERWOOD: I was surprised too. And we have -- we had no idea what we
would walk into when we`d walk into these classrooms and churches and
theaters and share our experiences with abortion. But we really set the
stage early on and create like group guidelines that we`re going to be
talking about this from a personal perspective.
And we tell our stories and we have very different stories, and we then
teach people how to listen with love and respect which is not something
we`re taught how to do. We`re taught how to tie our shoes and how to write
an essay but not taught how to listen to each other. And then we teach
them how to tell their own stories. And we have the people in the room do
And we`ve had people come up to us afterward who say, I have been pro-life
my entire life and I will never think of abortion in the same way again,
I`ll never think of to a woman who has an abortion in the same way again,
and we really strip it of all political context as much as we possibly can
and just come at it from a place of love.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. You know, I think the "New York" magazine will do that
for a lot of people, that feeling of once you read this, and I deeply
respect your point about stripping it of the politics so that people can
feel the heart of it.
And yet, Anthea, when I am able to talk about I had a child, I had an
abortion, I`ve had a hysterectomy, at every point I had full medical
coverage. At every point in each of those choices I was a woman with an
education. And I was able to make the choices very privately, right?
So, when I speak about it public, it`s a choice to be public. I didn`t
have to walk the gauntlet at a clinic because I had -- and that is
politics, right? My ability to make those --
CARMON: -- on the Internet --
BUTLER: Yes, they do everything.
CARMON: It disappears on the Internet.
BUTLER: It`s the public shaming and this is part of the problem because
especially for poor women, if you have to go and get an abortion, you don`t
have the money so, you might have to go get some money for something, you
get to the clinic and is yelling in your face and telling you that you`re
an awful person for doing this.
If you actually make it in and get an abortion, when you come out and
they`re telling you you`re going to hell. So, at the same time, they are
stripping away everything you need to be able to take care of a kid if he
wanted to have it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Or prevent a pregnancy.
BUTLER: They don`t give you anything.
BUTLER: And so, what I want to understand, what I want to say publicly
here is that this logic of what` we`re talking about with abortion is
wrong, because if you`re going to tell women they can`t get an abortion and
you`re going to take away all the benefits, you`re going to take away their
gynecological help, you`re going to strip away everything, you`re going to
create a nation of women who are going to be trapped and none of you will
care about the babies they will birth, and won`t care about the babies
you`re saving, because once they get here, you don`t give a damn about
WINSTEAD: That`s exactly right. I never have understood how anybody gets
a seat at any decision-making table by saying two different things. One,
I`m not a doctor and I know nothing about science but -- OK. Out.
Two, I want to reduce the number of abortions, and the way I want to do
that is to remove access to affordable birth control. You, out.
CARMON: In Ohio, the, quote-unquote, "right to life" is suing to block the
Medicaid expansion. They want -- which does not cover abortion. It covers
contraception. And they -- you know, there`s a split, but there are two
groups who are suing because they don`t want low-income women to have
access to contraception.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, no contraception, no abortion, compulsory pregnancy, and
then the children that you have to be hungry, because that is what will
punish you for having had sex. That is what will punish you.
WINSTEAD: That`s right. They don`t want poor women to have joy. I`m
BUTLER: No, they don`t. They want to sacralize sperm and it`s time that
we quit sacralize sperm in this country and make it the most important
thing that there it is --
HARRIS-PERRY: And Anthe Butler wins.
BUTLER: -- because they have to understand that it`s not just a woman
who`s making a baby. A man is on the other end of that thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Anthea Butler wins Nerdland for day.
Irin Carmon, whose must-read article, must-read article, is up now on
MSNBC.com. Lizz Winstead, Anthea Butler, who wins with the sacrilege and
sperm, and Kassi Underwood, whose bravery, whose courage is part of the
group of women here and your continuing work. I wish you safety and
Godspeed in everything that you do going forward.
Up next, punishing people for trying to feed their families, the other side
of this story. You`re not going to believe what Louisiana`s governor is up
to. FBJ for real.
HARRIS-PERRY: Last month, a technical glitch in the electronic system that
processes food assistance allowed some shoppers to buy groceries in excess
of their monthly balance. A malfunction at Xerox, the company that is
vendor for the electronic benefits transfer, or EBT, caused the system to
crash in 17 states including Louisiana on October 12th.
Now, some retailers like two Wal-Mart locations in Louisiana, responded by
allowing customers to fill their carts with purchases well in excess of
their limits on their EBT cards. After the system came back online, more
than 12,000 insufficient funds notices were generated from transactions on
the cards EBT shoppers used to make their purchases.
The loss was borne entirely by the retailers and resulted in no cost to
Louisiana taxpayers. Walmart for its part decided not to press any charges
against customer who bought more food than their EBT balances allowed them
But Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal decided to make a different decision.
At the urging of Senator David Vitter, Jindal has vowed to find and punish
those who walked away with more food than they could pay for by taking away
their ability to buy food all together. Anyone who overspent their balance
and has previous EBT infractions could lose at least a year of eligibility
and in the worst-case scenario, those with multiple violations will lose
their benefits permanently.
Adding to the vulnerability of those already 47 million Americans who may
already be missing meals due to the November 1 cut in food assistance from
the SNAP program.
Joining me now from New Orleans is someone who works every day to help fill
that gap for hungry family, Natalie Jayroe, who is the president and CEO of
Second Harvest Food Bank.
So, nice to have you with me.
NATALIE JAYROE, SECOND HARVEST FOOD BANK: Good to be with you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what do you think of the governor`s decision to
prosecute people who purchased more food than their EBT benefits allowed?
JAYROE: Well, Melissa, we`re just deeply concerned about anything that
distracts from the crisis that one out of six people in Louisiana are at
risk for hunger, that we`ve just had this very deep cut in SNAP, that more
cute being contemplated, and that food banks simply cannot fill that gap.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, Natalie, you all are not a political organization.
Your goal is to help feed hungry people. But even with everything that
your organization is doing, the political decisions are creating a gap and
you may not be able to fill them. Is that correct?
JAYROE: Well, the November 1st cuts actually were the equivalent of losing
41 million meals here in the state of Louisiana. That would be as if all
five feeding America food banks just ceased operations overnight. So,
we`re already not meeting the need, and this is just really making the job
of the community supporting us incredibly harder.
HARRIS-PERRY: So it`s only been a couple of weeks since that cut on
November 1. What are you hearing from communities right now? I know that
the SNAP benefit cuts began in November included for a family of four $36 a
month. I think for people with plenty of money, $36 a month doesn`t seem
like very much.
But what does that mean for a family of four living on SNAP?
JAYROE: We talk to people every single day, Melissa. For a family of
four, it might be 18 meals a month that they`re losing. And there`s a
great deal of concern and worry and desperation.
HARRIS-PERRY: Food banks have tended to be the last line of defense for
hungry family, but now you`re the fist line. Is that what we`re looking at
JAYROE: That`s absolutely true. Whereas once we were an emergency food
provider, now, families are increasingly using us to meet their monthly
food budgets. And, you know, we`re just deeply concerned that that`s not
even possible for us to do in the face of these cuts.
HARRIS-PERRY: Going through the holiday season, what is your message to
Americans, whether it`s there in Louisiana or really anywhere in the
country? What`s your message about what food banks like yours are up
JAYROE: First of all, food banks depend on the support of the community.
It`s never more important than it is now because of these cults, because of
what our families are going through in Louisiana, and the other thing I
would say is that every day at Second Harvest, we get to see the incredible
generosity of people who are giving back to each other. And I would really
like for that to be the moral conversation that is part of our political
HARRIS-PERRY: I appreciate that framework, the notion that the moral
conversation is how we give to each other, not how we take from one
another. Thank you so much for that.
JAYROE: Thank you for having me here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Natalie Jayroe, thanks so much for your work.
And up next, I am beside myself. A true legend lands in Nerdland. The
extraordinary Grace Lee Boggs is here. She has been personally involved in
more civil rights struggles than most of us have even read about.
HARRIS-PERRY: Writer, philosopher, activist, revolutionary, Grace Lee
Boggs is all of these. Yet, she transcends what these narrow labels
capture. At 98 years old, Grace has seen seven decades of political
involvement in many of the major U.S. social movements of the last century.
That is why she is the subject of the new film "American Revolutionary: The
Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs", that will air on PBS` award-winning series
"POV" in 2014.
In 1941, Grace was part of the effort for a proposed march on Washington to
protest the defense industry`s refusal to hire black workers. At the
height of the red scare, McCarthy Era, Grace spent a decade studying and
organizing with famed Marxist C.L.R. James, and as a result, she has a
pretty impressive FBI file.
That file grew thicker when Grace moved to Detroit because, as she put it,
that was where the workers were, the people with whom she sought to be in
solidarity and struggle.
In Detroit, Grace became involved in the black power movement and met her
husband, James Boggs, an autoworker, writer, intellectual, and an African-
American man who was himself a revolutionary thinker.
Grace helped to organize a massive 1963 freedom march in Detroit. And
after the traditional civil rights establishment excluded Grace and James
and other Marxists from Detroit`s civil rights conference, she went on to
help found the Freedom Now Party, whose aims at ideology were more self-
And though she is a Chinese-American, Grace has long been capable of
articulating deep truths about African-American struggles. Like this
insight from 1963, "I don`t think whites understand the degree to which
Negroes do not want their whiteness. I`m trying to suggest that the Negro
is striving to become equal to a particular image of himself that he has
achieved. But he is not trying to become equal to whites."
For decades, Detroit has been Grace Lee Boggs` primary site of struggle.
And in 1992, she founded the Detroit Summer Program to transform the city`s
vacant lots and teach young people that activism and change begins with
At 98, she is still an activist challenging people to evolve, to reconsider
their assumptions, and to believe that ideas matter and that talk is never
Coming up, I will talk to the legend herself. Grace Lee Boggs joins me in
studio, and you do not want to miss it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE LEE BOGGS, WRITER & ACTIVIST: Let me make it a challenge to you.
OK? With people of color becoming the new American majority in many parts
of the country, how are we going to create a new vision for this country?
A vision with a new kind of human being that is what is demanded at this
moment? So, that`s your challenge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was a scene from "American Revolutionary: The Evolution
of Grace Lee Boggs," which premieres in New York this afternoon and will
have its national broadcast premiere on PBS` "POV" series in 2014.
I am pleased to be joined by writer and activist Grace Lee Boggs, who is a
foot soldier in every sense of the word. Also with us is Grace Lee, the
producer and director of "American Revolutionary."
So, Grace, first I want to thank you for the film, for bringing Grace Lee
Boggs to even more people.
Tell me why this film for you, why was it important?
GRACE LEE, PRODUCER, "AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY": I think it`s really
important these days to -- you know, it`s so rare to be able to actually
have a conversation with somebody who embodies history itself, somebody who
represents so many important social movements in our country. And I had
that opportunity to meet Grace over the last, you know, decade and I wanted
to share that with a wider audience.
HARRIS-PERRY: We at this table, we spend all of our time talking. We
don`t do a lot of doing. And yet you theorize that talking matters, that
LEE BOGGS: Well, I think we don`t know until we open our mouths and the
connection with other people what we`re going to say. It`s the most sort
soft spontaneous things that human beings do and the most social thing.
And I began really thinking differently about how change takes place
through conversations we held in Maine starting in 1968.
And it reminded me of when I was studying for my doctorate. I d a
professor, Paul Weiss, who Dick Cavitt (ph) used to have on his show, who
said he was like a Socrates from the east side of New York. I think my
idea of speaking, conversing -- talk shows have such an enormous potential,
I think. We never know what`s going to happen, particularly when you have
a very old woman like me on them.
HARRIS-PERRY: You talk about the rebellion in Detroit -- Detroit which has
been your home for so long -- the rebellion in the late 1960s. You weren`t
there throwing bottles, but you do believe that the ideas that you and that
your husband and that all of you helped to cement in that place were
meaningful for crafting that rebellion.
All these years later, how do you assess it? How is -- are those ideas,
were they productive for Detroit? Are they still productive today?
LEE BOGGS: You know, in 1960s, I`ve been in the radical movement for
nearly four decades and I never felt the need to distinguish between a
rebellion and a revelation. But when we tore up the city and people called
it a revolution, I thought, we really have to figure out what a revolution
is from rebelling, from protesting. It was then that we began to think
about revolution as an evolution of humanity, something that`s not just
taking place in institutions but taking place inside our souls, something
very personal, very spiritual happening.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is revolution still necessary and still possible in this
LEE BOGGS: Well, it`s amazing what I felt particularly this weekend is
that people want revolution but don`t know what it is. They want something
to make there lives more meaningful and to make life more healthy for all
of us. They want it as a solution. They want it as healing and they don`t
know what it is and the word scares them.
People think of revolution only in terms of 1917 and taking power and all
that sort of hostility and it isn`t. It`s a very healing, solutionary
HARRIS-PERRY: I am impressed in the film in part, Grace, by how many young
people respond, to see you in front of a classroom of young people in their
20s still seeking questions that you were asking in your 20s in such a
What is your experience as a film maker being with Grace Lee Boggs, you
know, on college campuses?
LEE: I mean, it`s really special. I think that people are hungry. I made
the film also because I was hungry to hear some of these ideas and also to
get the perspective that she can provide as someone who has lived through
history and lived through all of these tumultuous times.
It`s just amazing because -- and it`s not just young people. You know,
with Grace, anyone under 80 is a young person. So, it`s amazing to see the
kind of audiences coming to the film. Young people, people of all
ethnicities, all walks of life, young and old come and respond because I
think the message that grace is putting out there is really a human
message. You know, she asked the question what is it to be a human being
and that`s the question that all of us are searching for today.
HARRIS-PERRY: As you are asking that question, what does it mean to be a
human being, what sorts of answers are you finding? Well, I think that the
response to the film particularly has shown that folks think that to be a
human being is to live meaningfully, and they feel that this time
particularly is important to live a meaningful life.
And the idea that revolution means to live meaningfully and to create
solutions for daily issues, that`s amazing I think. It changes the mindset
of the whole population. I think we in this country can contribute that
revolution to the world. I think we did in a certain sense in the 18th
HARRIS-PERRY: And there are material consequences for asking this
question, so in Detroit right now, all eyes are on Detroit because of the
killing, the shooting of a young African-American woman, Renisha McBride.
You have been in Detroit for so many decades. What does that killing tell
you? Is it what you expect from Detroit? Is it something new? Is it
something that -- is it a failure to answer the question of what it means
to be human?
LEE BOGGS: I think every atrocity in Detroit -- and there are a lot of
them -- helps us to see that in every situation there is both danger and
opportunity. And I think what`s been wonderful about Detroit is that
people have seized the crises and the devastation to create something new,
to create a new positive. They don`t only succumb to the negative. And
the rest of the world sees it that way in terms of negativity.
HARRIS-PERRY: In fact, I want to play very briefly a moment in the film
where you say you feel sorry for people who don`t live in Detroit. Let`s
watch for just one moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEE BOGGS: I feel so sorry for people who are not living in Detroit.
Detroit gives a sense of epoch of civilization in a way that you don`t get
in a city like New York. It`s obvious in looking at it that what was
doesn`t work. People always strive for size, to be a giant. This is a
symbol of all giants fall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEE BOGGS: Because of devastation, of broken glass and concrete and to see
this, actually, it`s a death of something and the hope, possibilities of
the birth of something else.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, indeed, giants fall and something else replaces.
Grace Lee Boggs, thank you so much for being here.
Grace Lee, thank you for bringing more of her story to more people through
And that is our show for today. I`m going to see you tomorrow morning at
10:00 a.m. Eastern. We`re going to talk about "The Washington Post" op-ed
this week on the nausea of conventional people when they have to look at
interracial couples and what happens when black and white bodies meet.
Plus, the changing politics of relationships with Iran and China.
And also, girls in space. Seriously.
OK, that`s all right here starting at 10:00 a.m. Eastern tomorrow.
But, right now, it`s time for a preview with "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".
But that`s not Alex Witt, that`s Mara Schiavocampo filling in for Alex.
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