Why Is This Happening? Rebecca Traister explains why women are so furious: podcast & transcript

Chris Hayes speaks with journalist Rebecca Traister about the historical and current potency of women’s political rage.
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Women are pissed. After the election of President Donald Trump, the sustained fury of American women has been one of the defining features of his political backlash. From the immediate outpouring of rage in the Women’s Marches to the reckoning of the #MeToo moment to the historic number of women on the ballot in the coming midterm elections, the country is witnessing the beginnings of a social upheaval that’s been long in the making. In her new book "Good and Mad," Rebecca Traister traces the historical and current potency of women’s political rage.

REBECCA TRAISTER: The power is being gripped ever more tightly by those who have power.

CHRIS HAYES: Yes.

REBECCA TRAISTER: And that is what the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh is about and that is the kind of power that is gonna have a mechanical value when it comes to suppressing the insurgency. One of the purposes of shaping this court for another generation is to depress the mechanisms of change.

CHRIS HAYES: Yup.

REBECCA TRAISTER: To take away votes. To take away bodily autonomy and therefore, economic, familial professional autonomy from women.

CHRIS HAYES: Hello and welcome to "Why Is This Happening" with me, your host, Chris Hayes.

I don’t even know where to start with this one because there’s too much to say and usually we have the benefit of the podcast being off the news a bit. It’s kind of been one of the things that we thought for Why Is This Happening is topics that are a step back from the news, a little more evergreen, a little more thirty thousand foot view. This thing you which is now pumping through your headphones in this moment is just the most in the middle directly of the nuclear inferno that is what the current news cycle is. And at the core, at the white hot core of that inferno is a kind of fury. It's fury that is very particular as we'll talk about it. It's the fury that comes through the quivering voice of the young woman who held open a Senate elevator to tell Jeff Flake on his way to a committee vote on Brett Kavanaugh, that she was a survivor of sexual assault, that his behavior in dismissing or moving ahead, as it appeared he was going to do at that moment with Kavanugh’s nomination, was telling her that what happened to her, it didn't matter, and she told him that and he didn't want to look at her because he was ashamed and his face was red and his eyes were downcast.

And this young woman who had never talked about what had happened to her in public said twice “look at me when I'm talking to you.” That was more snarling then she said it because I am a man who is conditioned to channel anger and a male fashion that has a very different tone, tenor, temperature, and social effect in reading than the way women's anger does. Her anger in that moment, that way it was channeled. “Look at me when I'm talking to you.” She was a citizen in front of a very powerful man, powerful U.S. senator, and she was issuing him a command and that command was coming up from a deep place of righteous anger and fury. It's not a thing I think in any other emotional condition she would have done and I've listened to interviews with her talk about that moment and she says she hadn't ever done anything like that.

There are a lot of women in the country right now I think who are doing things they haven't done before and feeling things in a both sort of subjective internal way and in a public way that they haven't felt before or feeling things they felt before but haven't been able to talk about or feeling things they felt before but haven't been able to share as a public collective political statement the way they are now. If there's one throughline for the politics of the backlash to Donald Trump, the opposition to him, the equal and opposite reaction to his election, it is the righteous, concerted, sustained public fury of women. And I almost hesitate to use that sentence because fury there sounds almost pejorative like, oh, all these angry women, which of course is the point. It should not be pejorative.

Anger can take many shapes. There's righteous anger, there's abusive and belittling anger. There's all kinds of ways that anger can manifest in interpersonal interactions and in collective interactions. There's the anger that Donald Trump marshals in his supporters against immigrants, which is a very ugly, grotesque and bigoted and demagogic anger, and there's the righteous anger of that young woman standing in the elevator encountering Jeff Flake. And that anger is at the center of what is happening in American politics right now and has been happening for the duration in many ways of the republic.

My next guest is someone that you are probably familiar with. I hope you are, um, because she's a dear friend of mine and she's also a frequent guest on the show and because she has the book coming out, which as you listened to this is now on sale and you should absolutely buy. She has not been able to be on the show for the last few weeks because she's in this kind of blackout that happens when people have a book.

Her name is Rebecca Traister. She's a staff writer at New York magazine. She's the author of a number of books about women and feminism and she has a new book out that is all about women's anger, the public function. It plays the political function to plays the historical function it has played and the centrality, how central it is to many of the most important breakthroughs in the arc of progress of American life. Women getting, in the words of the title of the book, "Good and Mad" has been the necessary precondition to many of the greatest social upheavals that have brought us towards a more just and equitable society from abolition through second wave feminism to today and the unprecedented number of women who are running for office, who are nominees, who are flooding the Senate, who are laying their bodies down on the line in protest. We're bringing forth public accountings of the most private things that have happened to them that have shaken loose predators at the highest levels of American society.

All of that is the beating drum of the propulsive force of American public political life and social life in this moment, and this book could not be better timed. I have authors on the show a lot and generally interview authors whose books I like. I don't… there's no reason to have someone whose book I didn't like and want to run down. This book is, people overuse this word, this book is essential. It was like I read the book, I had the good fortune to reading the book, and it does the thing that you want from a book like this, which just gives you a language and a vision and a clarity and a way of interpreting the world that puts things in these specific categories where you kind of have these Aha moments. You see things happening and unfolding in real time.

So I had read "Good and Mad" when I sat and watched that hearing and I watched Dr. Blasey Ford in all of her remarkable courageous restraint, discipline, and deference, her helpfulness, the way that she bent over backwards despite the fact that she was a private person who had taken great personal risks to be there, to be helpful to the committee, her voice quivering the way that she performed her public self, not a hint, a scintilla, a droplet of anger despite the fact that she is the person, let's recall, who was saying that she was sexually assaulted and whose assailant she says is about to be put on the Supreme Court. A thing that would make someone angry. Not a drop, and yet Brett Kavanaugh came out and it was full male rage, full male rage. And then it was Lindsey Graham full male rage and that was so evident to people that even the AP was writing basically gender studies pieces the day after because it was so in your face and I had had the good fortune of having recorded this conversation with Rebecca Traister days before that hearing took place.

I had the good fortune of reading the book weeks before it took place, and so I watched that whole thing and I had this perfect lens and framework to understand what I was seeing. You will listen to this conversation which takes place just a few days before that hearing happens, after the allegations had been revealed, but you won't hear any mention that the hearing itself or the aftermath because it hadn't happened yet, and yet what's remarkable about Rebecca’s writing in her thinking and the clarity that is represented in good and mad is that everything in the book is alive in every moment of our politics, if you look to see it. This is one of those rare books were the perfect writer meets the moment and forever changes the way you see things.

Image: Breet Kavanaugh Protests
Demonstrators protest against the appointment of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on the streets outside on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on September 27, 2018.Jose Luis Magana / AFP - Getty Images

CHRIS HAYES: Here's the text I got from a friend of mine, a woman who is a friend and was sending me texts about today's news and then just said, and I thought this was the perfect place to start, “please ignore me I am just furious and want everyone to burn.”

REBECCA TRAISTER: Mm-hum. Right.

CHRIS HAYES: And the reason I thought it was perfect 'cause it's all there. That is the book.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Yeah, that's the book that I have been writing in advance of today.

CHRIS HAYES: That's what's so crazy, but this is, the book is phenomenal. It's so well done. It's just ... I told you this before. It's bizarrely a pleasure to read for a book that's about anger.

REBECCA TRAISTER: The expression of anger doesn't have to be miserable, it's actually, it can be a pleasure to actually talk and be open about it and explore it and take it seriously.

CHRIS HAYES: It's a delightful book about-

REBECCA TRAISTER: Yay!

CHRIS HAYES: Fiery rage.

REBECCA TRAISTER: I was going for fun.

CHRIS HAYES: Well, but, there's a kind of fascinating form thing to start with, like I want to start with you, and the way that you chose to write this book and how you thought about writing a book about anger, as Rebecca Traister, as a woman, as a feminist, as a writer, embedded in the culture that we live in with the expectations around women and anger that are going to be brought to bear on you the author in a book about the topic.

REBECCA TRAISTER: So, the actual story of how I came to write about anger as the frame is a strange one because for many years, I've been a feminist journalist, writing about politics and culture from a feminist perspective for 15 years at this point. And so a lot of my work has been grounded in anger, right? You sort of come to a lot of um, a lot of political writing and certainly to feminism and certainly to writing about racial and economic inequality out of a place of anger very often. You're angry about inequity and injustice. But I hadn't really thought about that anger as a particular through-line, and the way I conceived of this book, I was actually thinking about what I was going to do was that it was in-between the election, it was in between Christmas and New Years of 2016 to 2017.

CHRIS HAYES: Those were dark times.

REBECCA TRAISTER: It was very dark times.

CHRIS HAYES: We were spending a lot of time together basically like sitting shiva at my house.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right. And drinking.

CHRIS HAYES: Yes.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Let's be honest.

CHRIS HAYES: Yes.

REBECCA TRAISTER: A lot of drinking.

CHRIS HAYES: There was a lot of drinking.

REBECCA TRAISTER: In that period over the holiday vacation, my husband and I were out for a walk and I was trying to express, I had a terrible time expressing myself in the months after the election. My brain felt very foggy, I obviously had a million thoughts, right? This is, I've covered the Clinton Campaign very closely, I'd covered her 2008 campaign, I'd covered the sort of forces that were at work under the election, I covered feminism. Like, it was something I understood and had many thoughts about what was going on, but I couldn't, everything was clogged and foggy and personally I just felt this despair because I couldn't think clearly and I didn't know what my job was moving forward into this administration. And I was trying to make sense of like what do I do, as a journalist and as a feminist, what is the story that I'm going to be telling right now?

I was talking to my husband, we were out walking one night after the kids were in bed at my parents house and we went for a walk. It was cold and I just was like, Darius, I don't, I can't think clear, like I'm so angry, I can't think clearly. I'm so, I'm so livid that I can't get my thoughts in order and I don't know what I want to do. And he said, well maybe that's the story you need to tell is about anger. And that was, you know, I think he might have said, maybe that's the book you need to write. And I wasn't even necessarily saying what am I going to write a book about. I was like, what am I going to do as a journalist? He said maybe that's the book you need to write, is about women's anger.

And the craziest thing is that as soon as that sentence came out, and this is after what, two months, of just sort of emotional and intellectual agony for me, right? I was like, oh right, that's right, that's the book I need to write. It was like that, on that walk. By the time we got back in the door at my parents' house, I was like, I know the story that I have to tell. And so much, I didn't know what was about to happen, right? This is in advance of the Women's March. It's in advance of the airport protests, of the women running for office in huge numbers. Of the teacher strikes, of #MeToo.

CHRIS HAYES: Of all of #MeToo!

REBECCA TRAISTER: Of all of it, right!

CHRIS HAYES: What, just the incandescent explosion that has re-shifted the political and social geography of the country.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right. This was before all that happened. The thing is, it's funny that you mentioned the thing about, that it's a sort of fun and enjoyable read because it wasn't exactly a fun revelation, but it cleared my head.

CHRIS HAYES: Right, clarity.

REBECCA TRAISTER: And, and the thing I would say now, that part of the agony I was in, was that I was angry in so many directions, right? And part of what I was angriest about was feeling like I shouldn't say how angry I was, which is something that you know, we're constantly told not to speak out of anger. That if people are going to take us seriously, we're going to drive people away just even sort of giving myself, realizing like wait a minute, I could, I could just write about this. That was a clarifying thought. And it was probably, it was the thing that helped me most profoundly and most instantly in those months after the election.

CHRIS HAYES: There's, you write about this a lot in the book, of that repressive instinct.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Um-hum.

CHRIS HAYES: And the messages that get sent to women and girls-

REBECCA TRAISTER: Um-hum.

CHRIS HAYES: Starting as girls and women about repressing, like what I think is so interesting about the way you write about is, the realization you were repressing something powerful and massive without consciously realizing you were doing it until the moment you realize it's repression.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right.

CHRIS HAYES: 'Cause like that's part of the social moment we're in is about that.

REBECCA TRAISTER: It's an instinct. You know, there are certain things you know. If I scream right now, I'm going to be the crazy one, right? Even if there's, even if I have perfect reason to scream, even if it's ultimately fundamentally the most rational, reason-based response to whatever the situation is. There's like a set of instincts that we build up, that's like I can't yell, I have to keep my voice under control. Like we have instincts about how to best express ourselves in ways that are going to go over well and serve our point and serve our argument and they're not wrong. Those instincts aren't wrong. That's the tough thing in thinking about this. Women's anger goes get read as irrational, right? This is not a book that's…

CHRIS HAYES: It's not bad advice.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right.

CHRIS HAYES: Tactically, for someone to say, cool it. 'Cause you got to-

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right, and that's something for example in the book, Congresswoman Barbara Lee from California-

CHRIS HAYES: That's a great passage.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Like you know, it's about the sort of gutting of her repeal of the AUMF from a bill in the middle of the night for no reason, after it got bi-partisan support. And she's, has every reasonable, rational, valid reason to be livid. And she knows, especially as an African-American woman, where the caricature of the angry black woman is so immediately disqualifying and marginalizing, that she cannot raise her voice. She cannot show her anger if she wants to make her point within this congressional hearing about what happened to the repeal in her bill. And she describes that process of doing the math in her head.

Image: Candidates Hillary Clinton And Donald Trump Hold Second Presidential Debate At Washington University
Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during a memorable moment from their town hall debate at Washington University on Oct. 9, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.Mike Smith / Pool via Getty Images file

Another person who has described it really clearly is Hillary Clinton when she talks about how she thought, and she writes this in her book, in her "What Happened." She writes about that second debate with Donald Trump, where he was sort of pawing the ground behind her and sort of menacing her and she writes about thinking, maybe I should turn around and say, get away from me. And doing the math in her head, this is going to redound negatively, to me if I do this. And I think the amount, the sheer number of times in our lives that we don't even, it's just part, it's like, you know, Wednesday morning. I can't tell this person why I'm furious at them. I have to make a common recent case, you know. Think about Uma Thurman saying I don't want to, I can't speak. The audio of that-

CHRIS HAYES: That interview, that interview, man. That audio is like-

REBECCA TRAISTER: “I find when I speak out of anger,” I mean it is-

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah.

REBECCA TRAISTER: You can hear the control. That actually reminds me of something my mother said during that second debate, and I just thought about this now. After that second debate where Trump was following Hillary Clinton around, my mom called me the next day and she said, go look at the tape of how tightly she's clutching her microphone. And I did. My mom was like, it's like a claw. I don't know and Barbara Lee says this, like, men don't have any idea the intensity and complexity of the internal computations that we're doing at every instant.

CHRIS HAYES: And that, you know, that is part of what has made this moment so revolutionary and sort of shocking and illuminating I think, from my perspective, as walking around as a man, and once a boy. There's something profoundly dislocating about seeing this repressed thing erupt.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Um-hum.

CHRIS HAYES: Because you're like, am I, has everyone been, have all the women in my life been furious at me, I'm like ... and just repressing it? Like was my mom just like, you have these like very personal thoughts, like was my mom just like a burning pit of rage through my childhood? Like I don't think that was the case, Mom, I love you, I don't think but, that idea of like, this has been present and you haven't seen it, and now you're seeing it, is a big part, again, I'm talking about my own personal experience-

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right.

CHRIS HAYES: Which is very distant than being a woman experiencing this moment.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right. Well I think there are a couple things that when we talk about those personal dimensions, like about your mom, or about my mom, I think one of the things that it's important to note is that a lot of the internal calculation we do actually involves kind of anesthetizing ourselves.

CHRIS HAYES: Totally, yes, totally, yes.

REBECCA TRAISTER: So I don't know that the revelation that we have so much anger about inequity, right, so I'm not always talking, and I want to make clear that my book is really about a sort of politicized anger. Now of course, the personal is always political-

CHRIS HAYES: Right.

REBECCA TRAISTER: And we're talking about anger about inequities within often individual intimate relationships and that's a part of the politics of this moment, right? But, you know, I do think that there is in periods where there are real advantages, there are sort of incentives on the table for us to not be angry. And I think that the deals that a lot of women make inside aren't, it's not like oh, I'm a burning pit of rage that I'm struggling to keep in. It's like, we're just like, I'm not going to feel that.

CHRIS HAYES: Um-hum.

REBECCA TRAISTER: I'm not going to feel that because there's no outlet for it, there's no practical recourse for me right now. It's not going to produce anything good. I live my life. I'm going to focus on the things that I'm satisfied with. So that's how a lot of people anesthetize themselves.

CHRIS HAYES: But that's what, I mean, what I think is incredible about the book and the way you write it is that that, the personal political nexus here is profound in the sense of like, you're enmeshed in a political system, there is a patriarchy and hierarchy and oppression and sexism and denigration and condescension and a million different ways those signals are sent in your actual lived, personal life reality, in the most microscopic ways. Looks that are given to you, ways that people talk in meetings. I mean I've been, the literature that has come out of this moment to me has been really illuminating and it's like, but all that's getting processed individually.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Yes, right.

CHRIS HAYES: It is at the end of the day.

REBECCA TRAISTER: It's individual choices. There's something that's in the book that a woman named Courtney Tunis told me about walking down the street, and I'd never thought of it before she said it, but she said that in the days, this was for her in the days after the election, she's walking down the street and she's just so mad that she decides she's not going to move out of the way for white men. And it's just a decision she makes about how she's going to walk down the street and the satisfaction she feels from this like small act of defiance, where she doesn't jostle out of the way of the elbows and in fact the surprise that you know, it produces in the men that she just walks through. And as soon as she told me that story I started noticing the reflexive way in which I get out of everybody's way on the street. It's such a minor thing, I'm 43 years old. I'd never thought of it before this woman said to me in the context of my book, like my anger actually just fucking led me to walk without getting out of anybody's way.

And as soon as I thought of that I was like, God, this is everyday. This is just walking down the street.

CHRIS HAYES: Right.

REBECCA TRAISTER: It's just walking down the street.

CHRIS HAYES: You know, so when I was reading the book I had the thought because of this. And the way you are able to, 'cause you're such a gifted writer, to sort of describe these moments, and these sort of perceptions. 'Cause it's always moving back and forth between the personal experience in this and a political context that produces it.

So on the awful, kind of misogynist men who just writes part of the internet, there's this term called red pill-ing. And the idea comes from "The Matrix" where you take the red pill and the blue pill, and if you take the red pill you see the Matrix, right, so you see the way reality actually is. You see through the illusions and in some ways it's like, that is the phenomenon that is happening societally, I think. And like what you're describing, what I've learned from your writing and from other people's writing is like, those moments, the walking down the street, all of these moments of the way the patriarchy operates constantly, just on us. Like the way a river operates on a stone.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Uh-hum.

CHRIS HAYES: It's a real mind-fuck.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right, no, this is, it's the, so, sort of tactical thing that's happening without it even necessarily being consciously tactical. We know from mass movements, from social and political movements, that one of the catalytic things is exposure, is making something visible. So I write in my book about Mamie Till's decision to have an open casket funeral for her son Emmett after he at 14 is killed, brutally beaten and left to drown in a river after having been falsely accused of making a pass at a white woman. And his body is brought back to Chicago, Mamie Till decides to have an open casket funeral and to publish images of his brutalized face in Jet Magazine. This is one of the catalytic moments of the Civil Rights Movement. This is 1955. And along with Rosa Parks deciding to keep her seat on the bus. These are the catalytic moments at the beginning of what we understand to be the Civil Rights movement.

Now that movement extends a decade more, you know, and of course has deep roots-

CHRIS HAYES: Antecedents-

REBECCA TRAISTER: Antecedents in advance of that. But those are recognized as two catalytic moments. We taught, we also know in contemporary social, in the Black Lives Matter movement, that it's, part of it has been the live streaming of these deaths, of violence, of shootings. Philando Castile's murder live-streamed on the internet, this is part of what forces people to see a kind of brutal inequity, brutal injustice, violence in front of their faces, so you can't just look away and you can't just sort of choose to not read the words on the page.

So part of what's happened over the past few years, with regard to gender inequality, is that there's been this mass structural exposure.

CHRIS HAYES: Exposure, yeah.

REBECCA TRAISTER: And #MeToo was a sort of, that's one instance of it. And it of course, it comes before the #MeToo hashtag moment. But that, the fall that was sort of the form of peak of #MeToo revelations, it was like you just were, many people used the phrase that it was a seeing the Matrix moment. That they suddenly understood not just about these individual monsters, but about the forces that had kept their offices very male or that had limited their ability to work within their industry. Or for their friends or colleagues to work within chosen industries. Or to rise within those industries. Or the kind of compromises that have been made within those industries and how power had been abused. All that stuff's suddenly, it's like the house lights have come up on it.

And you could see the stuff that was holding up these individual power brokers. That's what's happening in the Trump administration. People say, we always joke, you know, he says the quiet part loud. Well there's been quite a bit of effort to put into disguising, for example, the far right agenda with regard to women, right? Lots of people on the left understand that it's a fundamentally anti-women agenda, but the Republican Party has invested quite a bit of capital in past years, in sort of presenting themselves as a pro-woman party, as Sarah Palin, momma grizzlies.

CHRIS HAYES: Right.

REBECCA TRAISTER: You know, there's been of shop, you know, window dressing around how women friendly they are. Trump removes that window dressing and is just like, no, we don't. And his party's following him. That's part of what we have seen with the Kavanaugh hearings. There's just, they're not even pretending any more. And that's, and we're seeing it, right? There can't be the cover any more. Right, no, you're actually, your desire to limit women's ability to control their own reproduction, in addition to their ability to fight for fair wages, to collectively bargain, to vote freely, you know, is connected to your actual disdain for them as speakers, as storytellers, as valid human beings, as people who have, you know, who you shouldn't rape. And then whose stories of assault you should take seriously. Those things are all of a piece. And there's not even a pretense that they're not at this juncture. So I would say that this has been a moment of political revelation, making something visible that people have historically taken pains to make invisible.

Image: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing
A women's reproductive rights activist holds up a sign while protesting against circuit judge Brett Kavanaugh during the Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearing in Washington on Sept. 5, 2018.Michael Reynolds / EPA

CHRIS HAYES: When you talk about the sort of exposure, there's two things kind of operating in the book. So I thought we'd talk about each of them. So one of them is, who gets to be angry, is actually a kind of central way in which social and political hierarchies are constructed, and I hadn't thought of it in those terms, but it's really true about whose anger resonates, whose anger is real, whose anger is to be taken seriously. And whose anger is disruptive.

REBECCA TRAISTER: I did think a lot about whose anger is taken seriously and whose anger is kind of admired and seen as a sign of strength.

CHRIS HAYES: Right.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Not just heard, but like seen as a guidepost, as fundamentally diagnostic, okay? We're well versed in this. First of all, it is the anger of our founding narrative, with which so many are, sort of, fetishistically obsessed. The founders. The founders. The founders narrative is a narrative of fury, of disruption, of protest, of temper tantrums.

CHRIS HAYES: Dude, they tarred and feathered and beat the crap out of people on the regular.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right.

CHRIS HAYES: Mob violence was a big part of the whole thing.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right. It's fascinating. Somebody the other day ... oh, I wish I had the reference to it, because I wrote about this the way that the anger of the founders is fetishized, and I cited the Boston Tea Party. And somebody wrote to me, "Do you" ... and I had forgotten this, or if I learned it, it had been a footnote in my head ... "Do you know that in North Carolina the women staged an early tea party and threw tea in a harbor?" I don't know about this.

CHRIS HAYES: Fascinating.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right?

CHRIS HAYES: No, that's completely right.

REBECCA TRAISTER: That's weirdly ... that didn't... that's not somehow on our buildings. But the anger of the founders ... and they're angry, live free or die, right? And it's a fractious coalition. I want to point some other, sort of, things that are important about the founders and their fury. The revolutionary coalition is incredibly fractious, right? That's the first political cartoon, is like, Ben Franklin with a severed snake. We have to work together. The story of the snowball fight in Harvard Yard between colonists who were joining together for a militia who fought so hard between themselves, George Washington had to come out and break it up. That was taught to me as like, "See, this is what we had to do. Like, we came together in our diversity to righteously oppose the inequality of the nature of our rule by England." Right? And we were being taxed and policed without being represented in government, and this was the righteous fury. So, that, we understand is, correctly, as revolution.

So that's revolution, and it's white men. It's all white men, obviously. And when they succeed in their furious revolution, they build a country that immediately replicates all kinds of the inequalities that they were so furious about with regards with their relationship to England. They build all of our systems, our government, our businesses, the economy, the laws for and by white men.

Obviously, African Americans are enslaved. They're not even considered human. They are denied any kind of civic participation or even full recognition. Women are disenfranchised. The labor, both the domestic ... unpaid domestic and extremely low wage labor done by women, and the unpaid enslaved labor done by enslaved people are the building blocks of this country's economy and the building blocks of the power that is enjoyed and controlled by white men.

So, they basically subjugate a majority. They are a minority-

CHRIS HAYES: It's minority rule.

REBECCA TRAISTER: It's minority rule, and that has been our condition from our founding, from that righteous founding. Now, they know about the power of disruptive anger and anger at inequality. And one of the things that was fascinating to me, as soon as I began to see this within this frame, is how immediately the rhetoric of the revolutionary anger is understood by those who are getting cut out in the new country as also applying to them.

And so, there's a woman in Massachusetts named Mum Bett. She later goes by the name Elizabeth Freeman. She's an enslaved woman in Massachusetts in a home in which the man, the husband, is involved in revolutionary politics. And she hears the rhetoric of revolution in her home. She applies it to her own circumstances. She is horribly abused in that home. The woman hits her with a hot kitchen implement. And she applies that rhetoric to her condition, petitions for her freedom, gets a lawyer, sues for her freedom, wins her freedom, and then her case becomes one of the bases for the eventual abolition of slavery in Massachusetts in 1783. So she's actually taking that same anger, and it's affecting legal change in her state.

Image: Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who helped organized the world's first women's rights convention which met in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. She became first President of National Women's Suffrage Association and held that office from 1869-1890.AP file

Obviously, the Declaration of Sentiments in 1848 ... it's a riff on the Declaration of Independence. That's the Seneca Falls document, drawn up by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In Lowell, Massachusetts, some of the first iterations of the labor movement are the walkouts done by the young women working in terrible working conditions for very little money in the Lowell textile mills in New England. They used the language of the founding. "So as our forefathers resisted the lordly avarice of the British, so we are not going to put up with these working conditions."

So, any anger that's expressed by people who are not white men is quickly coded as disruptive, irrational-

CHRIS HAYES: Deranged.

REBECCA TRAISTER: ... overly emotional, not very serious. Really it's disruption, and it's discomfiting, right?

CHRIS HAYES: Yes.

REBECCA TRAISTER: So among the questions, there's all this incredible record of how people reacted, for example, to suffragists about the unnatural perversions of the home if women are to win the right to vote or to win other kinds of rights, which were actually petitioned for in the Declaration of Sentiments. And one guy sort of asked plaintively, in a New York newspaper, "Who will make us dinner?" Right?

But this is the thing. That's actually ... it's both funny and a crucial question, right?

CHRIS HAYES: Yes, that's right. Yes.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Because-

CHRIS HAYES: Right, because that's where the rubber hits the road.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right. Who is going to make that dinner? That's a good question. That's also a question, by the way, that's still the question that's asked 100 years later.

CHRIS HAYES: Yes. Totally.

REBECCA TRAISTER: By the way, literally in 2017 in New Jersey, there's like a county commissioner ... I think a freeholder in New Jersey who makes a joke at the Women's March, "I hope they're home in time to make dinner."

And Ashley Bennett is so furious at this local freeholder for making that joke, she runs against him and she beats him, and she is now the freeholder.

CHRIS HAYES: Which is one of the great-

REBECCA TRAISTER: She's an African American woman in New Jersey who was so pissed that this guy made this joke about "who's going to come home and cook my dinner" that she just took his job.

CHRIS HAYES: And that's where ... there's this through line in the book ... What's the Zora Neale Hurston line about the broom?

REBECCA TRAISTER: "Grab the broom of anger and drive off the beast of fear."

CHRIS HAYES: I mean, that line ... that's just an unbelievable line. But what the book is partly about, as a through line, is the ways in which white male power, white patriarchy shapes and constrains social understandings of women's rage, women's fury, women's anger. But also that it is the impetus at multiple key moments of, like, the biggest, most profound social changes, partly because of the threat that it genuinely represents.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right. So there's this systemic ... there's a mechanical incentive to contain the anger of the majority, right? So you know it's powerful, because you did it, and it made a new country. Okay? So there's an acknowledgement, no matter how unconscious it is, that this is some dangerous sentiment here.

So, what is the impulse? The impulse, in part, is to quell it, to quash it, to quiet anger ... disruptive anger. And how do you do that? There are a million ways. So you make it something ugly. You, sort of, confirm it as fundamentally feminine and irrational if it's coming from a woman, as opposed to deeply rational if it's coming from a man.

But anger is a very powerful communicative, and therefore, connective tool between people. So the benefit of keeping people who are in any way subjugated or oppressed quiet and keeping women quiet has a deep, long history that extends long before the founding of the United States, right? I write in the book about the brank, the iron cages that were put over scolding wives' heads with metal tongue depressors and spikes in them to keep them from talking, chiding, scolding wives, right?

Silencing women ... there's a deep investment in silencing women. In part, it's because if you keep them silent, you keep them isolated from each other. And if women express their anger, they become audible to each other. If they become audible to each other, they can communicate with each other. And if they can communicate with each other, they can begin to organize and form coalitions. And it's the formation of coalitions that begins to produce what becomes mass social change.

And so, in fact, you have to look on two levels when you look at the major social movements that I think we would all agree have reshaped the United States. Abolition, suffrage, the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, the women's movement. At first, you have to sort of look at them ... in most cases, you have to look pretty hard to be like, "Oh, wait. There were furious women at the beginning of those movements." Right?

So you have somebody like Mum Bett. You have some of the Lowell mill girls who were organizing a union, one of the first unions in the nation. And some of the first iterations of the labor movement also organized the first women's abolition society in the 1830s.

CHRIS HAYES: The young woman ... I didn't know this. The young woman, who you quote in the book, who comes to the scene of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory the day after it's burned down and stands screaming-

REBECCA TRAISTER: Rose Schneiderman. She actually-

CHRIS HAYES: I had like ... in rage and mourning. It's an amazing ... people should ... I'm not going to read it, but…

REBECCA TRAISTER: It is one of the angriest political speeches I have ever read. And it's ... the women in the labor movement are incredible, because I think of the labor movement ... we conceive of the labor movement in this country, aside from the teachers' unions, which are feminized, obviously, because teaching has been a feminized profession. But when I think of labor and the history of labor in this country, we think of teamsters and coal miners and air traffic controllers, and we think of men and mostly white men.

In fact, some of the incredible stories of the early labor movement, almost 100 years after the Lowell mill girls ... There's Clara Lemlich, the immigrant and often young female labor in the textile factories in New York City. So first, there's Clara Lemlich, who's actually the 23-year-old immigrant woman who calls for the general uprising of 20,000 in 1909. It's a strike of the shirtwaist factory workers, where the conditions were incredibly dangerous. And they go out on a massive strike in 1909, and they win agreements with many of their shirtwaist factories. And one of the only ones that doesn't come to an agreement is the Triangle Factory, which burns in 1911, and a 146 people are killed, the majority of them women.

And then there's a memorial service, a kind of proper memorial service at the Metropolitan Opera House a couple days after the factory has burned. And Rose Schneiderman, who's a left activist on the Lower East Side, goes to this meeting, and gives one of the angriest speeches calling for a workers' movement. And she's angry at the crowd. "I cannot look to you for solidarity. There are girls burned alive in this city every week."

And she, alongside… again, that this has had an impact that lasts. It's not just passing rages, right? And I actually compare her speech in the book to Emma Gonzalez, and the idea that when people heard Emma Gonzalez sort of promising, like, "We're going to change this" ... I heard a lot of punditry that said, "Well, this is very admirable, but I mean, what's she gonna do? The gun lobby is so big."

What Rose Schneiderman was looking at were impossible odds, but she went on, along with Frances Perkins and Al Smith. Frances Perkins changed the course of her career ... she also witnessed the Triangle Factory fire ... to write some of the workplace safety regulations that are still in place today. That there are points of egress, right? And non-flammable materials. That's in part because these women, motivated in part by their absolute wrath at the injustice that has caused this kind of suffering ... their anger propelled them into doing the work that alters the conditions. That's often not visible. It's not taken seriously.

Something I've learned about, the Washerwomen Strike in Atlanta of 1881. Black washerwomen, who strike, they paralyze the entire city, because the hotel workers go out on strike. They go to the homes of the very small percentage of white washerwomen, and they recruit them to be in coalition with them, successfully.

These stories are just not known to us when we think about the history of labor and the kind of work that it did to alter our economies.

CHRIS HAYES: And because it's discomfiting, for women to be angry, the origins in fury, in righteous rage, in anger, in solidarity, collective anger, social struggle gets wiped away a little bit in the wake of its success.

Right? Like, it's there's a sort of a neatening up thing, because we don't ... like, we'll clean up the origins.

REBECCA TRAISTER: It's neatening up, but it's also that's symptomatic of simply men having more social capital, in the same way that the origins of the women of color often being the leading thinkers and activists within women's movements get kind of written out. And we come to see the white women as the pioneers. So that you have a black lawyer named Sadie Alexander making arguments in the 1930s about why working outside of the home for wages is not only good for women economically, but fundamentally good for their marriages and families, entirely prefiguring Betty Friedan. And then Betty Friedan comes and writes "The Feminine Mystique" in 1963, and it's a runaway bestseller, and she's hailed as the mother of the movement.

This is a pattern that happens along the, sort of, trajectories of white supremacy and patriarchy. And the voices that are, sort of, on purpose marginalized wind up getting erased, and we don't even ... we have to go digging to find their origins. And then once you find the women, sometimes you also have to excavate a little bit to find where the anger was. And that's the Rosa Parks story, and that's the Mamie Till story. But Rosa Parks is the example. For years she was hailed as-

CHRIS HAYES: Stoic.

REBECCA TRAISTER: ... stoic. When I was taught about Rosa Parks, she was so tired. And I'm sure she was tired, right? This is something Angela Davis says in this incredible documentary about black women's anger and activism called "A Place of Rage." It was a documentary made in the 90s, and she talks about Rosa Parks. And she said, "I'm sure she was tired, but this was also a politicized act."

Image: Rosa Parks posing for a front cover days after the bus incident
Rosa Parks posing for a front cover days after the bus incidentGuernsey’s

And there have been women within the civil rights movement, contemporaries of her, who were bucking against this sanitized version of Rosa Parks during the movement, right? These women, Pauli Murray, Anna Arnold Hedgeman, Gloria Richardson, women within that movement understood the centrality, the energy, and the drive, and the politicized drive of Rosa Parks that was animated in part by her fury at racial injustice. A fury that had motivated her career as a dedicated organizer, as a secretary for the NAACP, she had investigated gang rapes of black women in the South, she investigated claims of white women of rape by black men that were false. She was driven by an energy that was never acknowledged within the very movement that she helped to kickstart. And women within that movement were very frustrated by the way that Rosa Parks was cast in that movement.

But you do have to dig a little in all of this to, sort of, find ... and it's also women are conditioned to deny anger too. That's the other part. I talked to a lot of women, contemporary activists today for this book, who start off in their conversation saying, "No, no, no. It's not ... I'm not angry."

CHRIS HAYES: I was angry.

REBECCA TRAISTER: I was angry.

CHRIS HAYES: You have this great line in there about how people can say it only if it's in the past tense. "I was angry, but I've worked though that now. I'm not angry now."

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right. This was the universal-

CHRIS HAYES: And then five minutes later-

REBECCA TRAISTER: ... reality of my interviews for this book were starting off by being like, "I'm so glad you're writing this. Oh, yeah. I was angry. I was so angry."

And maybe they can say something positive about it like, "Yeah, it really drove me to run for office or get involved with this organization or whatever. I was angry. But now I've turned my anger into activism. I've turned my anger into something."

They always described having transformed their anger into another, more palatable thing. Great. Ten minutes into every conversation, it goes something like this, "And another fucking thing I want to say ..."

That was the repeated experience of doing interviews for this book. And Gloria Steinem actually talked to me about it. I'm always shocked by the fact that Gloria Steinem speaks about her ambivalent-

CHRIS HAYES: Totally.

REBECCA TRAISTER: ... relationship with anger and confrontation. She's always like, "I don't like confrontation."

And I'm like, "Lady, you picked the wrong profession."

CHRIS HAYES: Well, you also have a line ... you're like, "If Gloria fucking Steinem is ambivalent about confrontation" ... think about that for a second.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right. But she said to me, she is you know, "growing up in the Midwest, you needed to be on LSD to recognize if you were angry if you were a woman."

And then she says that in her, sort of, mid-career as a world-famous feminist, she began to be able to say on Thursday that she'd been angry on Monday.

And that that was, like, a big step for her.

And so, I think we have to ... that's part of what this book is sort of aiming to do. And that's a concern I have, because a lot of women do not ... they want to say, like, "No, no, no. This is not out of anger." Because they know that if they say it's angry, that's disqualifying. And whatever they want to say, they want to get across. And that's a really tricky set of circumstances to navigate.

CHRIS HAYES: That tricky set of circumstances to navigate was, I think, a huge part of 2016, which you write about in the book. The ease with which Donald Trump channeled anger, the ease with which Bernie Sanders channeled anger, the kind of trap that Hillary Clinton found herself in with-

REBECCA TRAISTER: "She needs to be angrier!” “Stop yelling."

CHRIS HAYES: Literally, yes.

REBECCA TRAISTER: That's literally-

CHRIS HAYES: You had that ... oh my god, that Washington Post writer who talked about a shock collar back in 2008.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Oh, that was in 2008. That was Joel Achenbach.

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah, "her staff needs to put a shock collar on her when she starts to get shrill."

And it's crazy, watching the coverage of Hillary Clinton, the sort of sexism that has often suffused it, but to just read through your kind of reading of the text of the campaign, the campaign coverage is shocking. It's all really right there. It's not real ... it's like real surface stuff.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right.

CHRIS HAYES: No, but part of it too is ... when I was reading that part, right, is that anger is power. That's a big part of it. Anger is power in the sense of who is allowed to be angry are powerful people. Anger is power in that allowing yourself to be angry and being angry with other people about injustice is the preconditions for building political power often. And also that powerful people get to be angry and they use that anger as the projection of their strength and their force. That is what 2016 was about, this angry guy.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right. For white man.

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah, no. I mean-

REBECCA TRAISTER: Yeah, the power.

CHRIS HAYES: I'm not saying for everyone. I'm saying for the 77,000 margin in the three states.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right, right. So here's the thing about anger being heard as rational that is I keep thinking about this, right? So the reason that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were both, I would argue, correctly praised for their deft communicative use of anger as a way to reach their voters and to channel the fury. Part of that was because we are conditioned to hear that fury and to think what is that fury telling us about the person who's speaking or the people who are in the stadiums, right? Like why are they angry. This is correct, right? I don't want to dismiss the anger of either frankly, the Bernie Sanders supporters or the Donald Trump supporters, because I do think they tell us a lot. I think those angers are a diagnostic about what is motivating these people. What is making them angry? We have a natural curiosity about that.

And in fact, all the media and the pollsters, the things that the Democrats are chided for rightly or wrongly depending on what you think their actual strategy was, was not taking seriously enough the anger of the white rust belt working class. Right? We didn't take it seriously enough. What was it pointing to? And I agree we should be listening to the anger of that segment. It's just that we need to listen with the same curiosity and treat as diagnostic the anger of other kinds of people. So that when you have that angry demonstrations of Black Lives Matter protestors, the thing to say is not "Is this a hate group?", which is something that Megan McCain actually said about Black Lives Matter. You know, this is a disruption, these are riots. It's to say, what are people angry about? And I actually think that's something Alicia Garza actually says in my book is like, why don't people just ask? Why are you so fucking angry? Right? We don't ask those questions about anyone except for a certain kind of a American. And that certain kind of American is either a white man or a woman who is angry on behalf a white capitalist patriarchy. We take her angry very seriously too because it is fundamentally on behalf of the power structure.

Image: Black Lives Matter protesters march through the streets of Sacramento
Black Lives Matter protesters march through the streets in response to the police shooting of Stephon Clark in Sacramento, California, on March 28, 2018.Josh Edelson / AFP - Getty Images

And so, you know, I think that's something that Donald Trump was talking about in his press conference. The Republican women are very angry. Like we should take those women seriously. We just don't, we are conditioned to not treat the anger of non-white, non-male America as something that should be directing us to policy changes we to make, messages we need to send, communication we have to endeavor to make clearer. That was a lot of what was happening in 2016 too.

By the way, we should, I want to say something about Hillary Clinton. The criticism that she was not a good orator and not a good channeler of anger is 100 percent fair, right?

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah, right.

REBECCA TRAISTER: That's true. She wasn't. And she tried to be here and there. At various points she said, "I'm angry too!"

CHRIS HAYES: Right.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Like it just ... It didn't go. But I think one of the things we have to consider is the degree to which women and even more so perhaps women of Hillary Clinton's generation and class, were conditioned to never express themselves with anger. The degree to which Hillary Clinton was trained oratorically that to express anger would go badly for her. That she'd lose. And by the way, she might have had she turned around and said something angry to Donald Trump in that debate, I don't see how that ends well for her.

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. But then there's this way in which there's this idea that anger is explosive and it's revolutionary and it's disruptive and it's dangerous. It's scary. You write about that a bit. It does feel scary sometimes.

REBECCA TRAISTER: It is scary. It should be scary.

CHRIS HAYES: It should be scary, right? We were in the midst of president ... We're recording this on the day the president gave a truly deranged press conference, which you know, not surprising. He said, "The #MeToo Movement is dangerous." He says, "The #MeToo Movement is dangerous."

REBECCA TRAISTER: Well there you have a perfect example of-

CHRIS HAYES: It's like he's blurbing Rebecca's book.

REBECCA TRAISTER: He is blurbing my book. And you know, the citation I just made noting that people called Black Lives Matter, you know, they called us terrorists, right?

CHRIS HAYES: Right.

REBECCA TRAISTER: They called Black Lives Matter a hate group and #MeToo is "dangerous" in the words of the president. It's a witch hunt, in the words of many other people. It's the reaction to a power abuse that is the thing that is fundamentally perilous. And by some measures that's not wrong because if the reaction to a power abuse becomes powerful enough itself to actually disrupt the power structures, then those power structures might get disrupted and people might lose power. They might lose their jobs. The president might lose his job. This is actually the threat that mass anger at inequality brings. It's just that people are conditioned to perceive it as dangerous threat long before it's actually completed the work of altering the power structure.

CHRIS HAYES: But there's also, it's the guillotine, right? It's like-

REBECCA TRAISTER: Mm-hmm.

CHRIS HAYES: Yes, the anger powers the French Revolution and their right to be furious and then the next thing you know-

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right.

CHRIS HAYES: -we're all in the town square and like their just chopping off heads left and right. And I'm like, that's an oversimplification, but that is the kind of idea, right? Yes, it's revolutionary.

REBECCA TRAISTER: That's the threat that’s right on the horizon. And the-

CHRIS HAYES: If people don't shut the fuck up about their reservations and like stop having people write columns about I was a victim of #MeToo.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right. But we're ... That is the threat. That is what people in power are terrified of for good reason. And that explains so much of that language, right? Let's take a look just at #MeToo. So far, you know we're recording this within days of Bill Cosby having been sentenced to go to jail. So far Bill Cosby, who has been tried in a courtroom twice now by only one of the many women he is alleged to have raped because of the statute of limitations meant that he had to only actually had to face the charges of one of these women. And he is going to go to jail. Harvey Weinstein was arraigned. It is completely unclear whether he is actually, like when or under what circumstances he will face a trial, if he will ever go to jail. But so far of the indeed hundreds at this point of men who have been accused of varying degrees of sexual assault and sexual harassment there are only two of them who have so far actually faced legal consequences. Many others have lost jobs.

CHRIS HAYES: Right.

REBECCA TRAISTER: That is absolutely true. But if you read the language deployed in their defense you see so much metaphor about death and they've been killed. They've been murdered. They have been… I have been taken to the guillotine. I've been perp walked. I've been the victim of a mob. Right? None of these guys to my knowledge has suffered physically, has been violently attacked, has suffered physical harm. Many of them indeed have lost paychecks. That is there is economic harm that has been done. People lose their jobs all the time for cause. I want to point this out, right? We have far less investigation-

CHRIS HAYES: And for no cause at all.

REBECCA TRAISTER: -and for no cause at all with no protection, right? But the language, the hyperbolic language of injury and death is kind of, gives you a sense of perhaps the degree to which the power of a particular kind of powerful white man is so tied to his identity that a lessening of that power feels like a death. A, that might be something we glean from this. But there is this sense of exactly like of the fear that facing any kind of repercussion at all for power abuse is tantamount to revolution, to social upheaval, to violent insurgency, right? That, that's the language they immediately go for. We have to start to look at power structures and understand that when power moves in one direction, right, when women are groped or grabbed or assaulted, when African Americans are killed by agents of the state, you know, that's the way power works.

When people respond to that power ... I'm obsessed with this actually about Freddie Gray being murdered and this is something I've been writing about for a couple years 'cause it really helped me understand how this perception, these set of perceptions work. When Freddie Gray was taken on a rough ride in Baltimore and died of his injuries afterwards there were protests. And all the coverage of it afterwards, I was writing journalism about it at the time, said the violence started when protesters threw rocks. That was the moment at which disruption became discernible. Violence itself became discernible was when the protesters threw rocks. When Freddie Gray died that wasn't the commencement of violence because that's just the direction that power is supposed to work.

So when women have lost their jobs because of harassment, when they've been driven out of industries, that's not a purge. That's not a witch hunt. That's not women losing their lives or their reputations or their livelihoods. Even though of course it is in many cases, totally comparable in fact, except with less power or money to begin with. But when they push back, when they do the equivalent of throwing stones at police cars ... Simply by the act of telling their stories, and remember it's often not the complainants themselves who are making the decisions about whether these guys get hired or fired. Often it's institutions that have covered for this behavior who are saving their own ass by firing the powerful people.

CHRIS HAYES: Right.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Then it is discernible as a witch hunt. That violence is being done. That these guys are being harmed. And that tells us a lot about how we absorb the way power's supposed to work and the degree to which it can be abused so fully that we can only recognize harm or violence when it's going in the opposite direction of how it usually goes.

CHRIS HAYES: And yet, and yet for the push back and the backlash, the wind seems to be at the back of the insurgency right now. For all of the horrible things, I mean I don't want to minimize the condition of the country.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right.

CHRIS HAYES: But it does seem the propulsive force of it.

REBECCA TRAISTER: I think there are two things that are true at the same time. I think that the power is being gripped ever more tightly by those who have power.

CHRIS HAYES: Yes.

REBECCA TRAISTER: And that is what the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh is about and that is the kind of power that is gonna have a mechanical value when it comes to suppressing the insurgency. One of the purposes of shaping this court for another generation is to depress the mechanisms of change.

Image: Womens March
People gather during the Respect Rally at City Park on Jan. 20, 2018 in Park City, Utah.Chris Detrick / The Salt Lake Tribune via AP

CHRIS HAYES: Yup.

REBECCA TRAISTER: To take away votes. To take away bodily autonomy and therefore, economic, familial professional autonomy from women. To take away the rights to fight for better wages via collective bargaining. I mean there are all these things that the court has the power to do that actually systematically limit the tools at hand for the angry masses who want to rise up and change things and fight for more equality. That is what is at stake. That's why the Republican Party is behaving in this, what feels to me often like a suicidal manner because it's basically like if we can fix this machine at the top we can protect ourselves-

CHRIS HAYES: Yup.

REBECCA TRAISTER: -via this machine at the top. And they might not be wrong about that.

CHRIS HAYES: The court has functioned that way for years in American history. I mean-

REBECCA TRAISTER: Disenfranchisement worked, right, for white men for a long time.

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. Plessy v. Ferguson undid the Civil War.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right.

CHRIS HAYES: 600,000 people died on the battlefield and Plessy v. Ferguson functionally undid that war.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Right, exactly. So, would they have it in one kind of power in their hands and the chances are, all things being equal, this is what was at stake when we elected Donald Trump, right? This is the thing we can argue now about how we've proceeded with the strategy around the Supreme Court nomination. But this is actually what was always on the table in the 2016 election, was the Court. But I agree with you and part of the story of this book is that by making this attempt to control the mechanism so visible and so clear what has happened is that the anger of a mass number of people who sort of been somnambulant, some of whom have been somnambulant up until now, they have been awakened to a kind of fevered fury that is not just, just for anybody who doubts that it's not just frothing and talking, it is organizing. It is running for office. It is protesting. It is fundraising. It's founding organizations that are gonna try to ameliorate the damage done to voting rights.

There are millions of Americans who are activated in part because they are so furious and are pushing their way into a civic process. And I do believe based on our history that they do have long term, the wind at their backs if they continue to move forward and engage and do the work. And we've seen this before, right? We have the masses and social movements have helped to alter and to undo the mechanisms of oppression and subjugation that have been put in place by the powerful. The thing that we're looking at and then I think everybody has to sort of buckle in for, is that this is a long time coming. The take industry wants to tell us that things are going to be decided based on what happens with this nomination or even what happens in the midterms. Those things are really crucially important. They're gonna help shape, but this ... We are now looking at a fight that is gonna last through the end of our lives.

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah.

REBECCA TRAISTER: It is gonna take up the lives of our children. There's a way in which that can be daunting. And it should be. But I also hope that for people who are angry and wondering what to do with their anger, that they understand that, that's gonna help power them through these years. And that they're part of a fight with very deep and important and crucial and righteous and patriotic roots and that the fact that we're looking at lifetimes spent in that fight is actually, it's good that we know this now.

CHRIS HAYES: Rebecca Traister is an incredible talent and a dear, dear friend of mine. I feel very close to you Rebecca. I feel like we've gotten really close the last few years particularly-

REBECCA TRAISTER: We do a lot of talking.

CHRIS HAYES: We do a lot of talking. Supremely, supremely, supremely talented writer too. I just, as a sucker for writing chops and style and great prose, you got it in spades. And the book is phenomenal. It's called "Good and Mad." It'll make you feel good and also mad. And you'll tear through it and then you'll tear some shit up afterwards, which is the point. Rebecca Traister. Go buy the book. Thank you.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Thanks Chris.

CHRIS HAYES: Huge thanks once again to RT whose book "Good and Mad" is out now available wherever you get your books. And she’s also doing a lot of events, if you go to her Twitter feed @rtraister she has a pinned tweet at the top with a schedule of those public events. She’s a phenomenal public speaker as you can tell from her appearances on the show and this podcast so I would really urge you to go check her out in person, it’s even better in person than on a podcast.

As always we love to hear from you with feedback on the show. We’ve been getting great feedback on the Eric Klinenberg social infrastructure one which I was a little curious is people would be into it… or it seemed maybe slightly esoteric or abstract but I got lots of great feedback from folks both through email and on Twitter about how much they appreciated it. Especially you librarians out there, you rock. Librarians are just great, great people.

You can always tweet us using our hashtag #WITHpod and if you want to email us with feedback on an episode or with ideas for future episodes or guests, you can email us at WITHpod@gmail.com. We love to hear from you.

"Why Is This Happening" is presented by MSNBC and NBC News. Produced by the "All In" team with music by Eddie Cooper. For links to things we referenced in the conversation, transcripts, and more information, you can got to nbcnews.com/whyisthishappening.

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