Air Date 1/19/2021
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left Podcast in which we shall learn about the historical roots and modern manifestations of how White supremacy has turned the GOP base into Frankenstein's monster which cannot be controlled and has finally turned on its creator. Clips today are from Democracy Now, okay. At Liberty from the ACLU, Strange Days, the Rational National, It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders, Past Present, The Choice with Medhi Hassan, All In with Chris Hayes, the Podcast and the David Pakman Show.
“American Abyss” Fascism Historian Tim Snyder on Trump’s Coup Attempt, Impeachment & What’s Next Part 3 - Democracy Now! - Air Date 1-13-21
JUAN GONZALEZ: [00:00:37] And Professor Snyder. Where do you see the Republican party and Donald Trump going after Biden is inaugurated? Clearly, the party had hitched its star to Trump, and now there is enormous upheaval within it in terms of the road ahead.
TIMOTHY SNYDER: [00:00:57] Yeah, I mean, not many people think this, but, you know, I’ll go out on a limb and say it: I think it’s going to be hard for Mr. Trump to continue to reside in the United States of America. He has a lot of debt, and he’s facing — even before the 6th of January, he was facing a number of criminal charges — or, not facing directly, but being investigated for a number of criminal charges in New York. I think it’s going to be hard for him to keep his feet in the United States of America. Perhaps I’m wrong.
As for the Republican Party, I mean, my way of seeing it, as I lay out in that article, “American Abyss,” is that the largest group of Republicans are people that you could call the gamers, the ones who work the system with the gerrymandering, with the dark money, with the voter suppression, who are in favor of the, quote-unquote, “democracy” that we have in America now, the unfortunately very limited democracy we have, because they know how to work it.
Then there’s a smaller faction, which in the article I call the breakers. Those are people like Trump or Cruz or Hawley, who have understood that one could actually come to power in the United States by entirely nondemocratic means, by way of the mob, by way of throwing an election and lying about it. And I think that faction is going to be there.
Then there’s a third, still smaller group, which you could call the honorable few, the people who have positions that I might disagree with, but who believe in the rule of law and who believe in telling the truth — right? — like Kinzinger or like Cheney or like Mitt Romney.
I think the interesting thing to watch for is whether the center of power in the Republican Party now shifts from being the breakers and the gamers together to being the gamers and the honorable few together. I think that’s now likely to happen. And it would be, frankly, a very good thing for the Republican Party, because the Republican Party, by way of generations of voter suppression, has now got itself into a cul-de-sac. It’s got itself into a dead end, where what’s happening now is, honestly, the only thing which can happen. If you don’t try to win campaigns with policy, but you try to win them by gaming the system, eventually there are going to be people who say, “Hey, let’s not game the system anymore. Let’s just break the system.” And that happened in January 2021. And there’s nowhere to go from there except further down into chaos and blood. So, I think — I mean, the Republican Party is not my party, but I think this is an opportunity for them to regroup. And I hope a number of them will see it that way.
ACLU Responds to Events at the U.S. Capitol Part 2 - At Liberty - Air Date 1-8-21
MONICA HOPKINS: [00:03:20] What comes next here? I mean, I think there, is a sort of forward looking when we get through this, like what comes next. Because we know that voting for the president and voting for our senators isn't the only voting we do in this country. But additionally, you know, one of the things that we do as the ACLU is hold the state and hold the government accountable. So what does -- what does it look like going forward and what does accountability look like in this time? And either Jeff or Dale, you have thoughts on this.
JEFFREY ROBINSON: [00:04:01] I'm going to ask Dale to go first on this. This is hard.
DALE HO: [00:04:06] If -- I'm sorry, Monica, if I knew the answer to that question...you know, it's obviously not easy. I mean, we are in a very, very, very challenging place as a country right now. You know, I take some hope in a lot of recent events, but I'm also really concerned by a lot of recent events as well. You know, just to get to reflect, I mean, this is not your question, but to reflect on something that Jeff was talking about earlier. I mean, Senator elect Warnock, you know, he's been arrested in the Capitol, right, for protesting in peaceful prayer in the Rotunda. Right. And the disparity in treatment is, I think, self evident.
Well, what I will say is that, you know, this has been and I think the elections show that this is the case, this isn't Donald Trump's country, right. He keeps talking about the seventy-four, seventy-five million people who voted for him. And that's a lot of people, right. Eighty-one million people voted for the other candidate. Right. The people have spoken, right? This election was perhaps the most scrutinized election in American history in terms of the irregularity and integrity of the votes -- of vote counting -- casting and counting process. And on January 20th, it will be a new day.
MONICA HOPKINS: [00:05:55] Any thoughts, Jeff?
DALE HO: [00:05:57] The work will, I think, be just beginning at that point.
JEFFREY ROBINSON: [00:06:00] That, you know, Dale’s got a hammer and he's hitting nails. The work is just beginning. And I think that -- I think that is maybe one of the most succinct ways to sum it up. There is a new administration coming in. They're not perfect. They are going to have to be pushed on all kinds of things. And just in terms of what we're talking about with policing, you know, the president is saying, “I want a commission on policing.” And as our organization has made clear, we've had commissions on policing since 1919 and they have all said exactly the same thing. So I think we are at a moment where our leaders are going to have to be held accountable. And by -- and the only ones that are going to do that are us. And so as Congress starts thinking about legislation, we have to be prepared to make sure that that legislation actually has some connection to solving the problems that we're talking about. I've been saying this for the past several years. We are at a tipping point in America on all kinds of issues, but especially on issues of racial justice. And every single time America has come to a tipping point on racial justice, we have rolled back. And Dale gave you basically the places where it happened. When we formed the Constitution, we had a chance to break away from the incredibly horrific slavery that was going on in the colonies. And the Constitution doubled down on white supremacy. At the end of the Civil War, as Dale said, Reconstruction was working. And once again, white supremacy doubled down and it rolled back. In ‘68, I'm 11-years old and I'm thinking, “My God, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, Martin Luther King is bringing us to a place that America has never been on racial justice.” And then he gets shot in the neck and it rolled back again because that was Richard Nixon and the war on drugs.
This is a tipping point. And if we roll back right now, I don't know what we're rolling back to.
Confederate Offspring - Strange Days with Fernand Amandi - Air Date 1-14-21
JARED YATES SEXTON: [00:08:23] The sad truth is that -- it was one of those things I can remember, I can remember the morning of September 11th and how it felt to watch this thing happen. And one of the things that actually made it so terrifying and awful is that on September 10th, I had no idea what was going to happen on September 11th. And it just came out of clear blue sky and suddenly it was there.
Yesterday was a different feeling. It was infuriating. It was disturbing. But at the same time, it was disturbingly familiar. And what I saw happen yesterday is something that, if people were paying attention, if people had been studying history, if they had been informed, if they had been open and honest with themselves and had actually dealt with not just our societal and political problems but our history, they knew that this was a possibility, and you could even argue likely, because what has happened in this country is exactly what you said. There is a white terrorism problem, a fascistic movement in this country that has been growing and festering and gaining in purpose and strength and numbers. And it was eventually going to come to a head, particularly with someone like Donald Trump, who has no scruples about this whatsoever. He was handed a gun yesterday. He pointed the gun and he pulled the trigger. And that's what we watched happen. And unless we actually deal with what occurred and why it happened, unfortunately it's only going to get worse.
FERNAND AMANDI - HOST, STRANGE DAYS: [00:09:59] Not only do I agree with you profoundly , Jared, short of a national sweep, where all of these individuals and the leaders of these movements and groups that have been flaunting their criminality, flaunting their criminal behavior. Short of that, which would send, I hope a chilling effect message, I think this is just the beginning. This is only going to become more frequent, particularly as they see and turn against other elements of the government now that they think are enemies of their cause, which I think after yesterday puts the Republican party institutionally in those sites, if you don't agree.
JARED YATES SEXTON: [00:10:41] I'm really glad that you brought it up in that way.
And let's start with the narrow and then let's go larger. One of the things that hasn't been reported and it was reported that it hasn't been talked about or sorted through or really investigated, there were bombs planted yesterday. There were explosive devices and there was on the capital, reportedly the DNC [Democratic National Committee], but also the RNC [Republican National Committee].
And something that did not get a lot of coverage yesterday is that one of the targets of the attack on the Capitol was Mike Pence, the vice-president of the United States of America. One of the things that has been brewing for a very long time, and I know you've watched it happen, and I know your listeners have watched it happen, is that the Republican party has not just flirted with white terrorism and fascism for years, they've cultivated it. They've allied with it. They've married themselves to it. And this thing , this ugly festering disease, has grown as they have given it more nourishment and more time and more focus. And it was only a matter of time until it turned on them. And there've been moments where it nearly turned on them.
Of course in 2010 with the Tea Party, which was a manufactured, libertarian, wealthy elite creation, they had to look in the mirror and they had to say, we might be overtaken by the Tea Party, or we absorb it and we become it. And then in 2016 -- and you know this as well as I do in 2012, after they lost that reelection bid to Barack Obama, they had their own autopsy. And Marco Rubio was one of the people who pushed this thing that said we have to reject white nationalism. We have to become more diverse. We have to change direction. And they said, screw that, throw it out. And they went ahead and they embraced Trumpism and absorbed it and redirected it.
The Frankenstein's monster was always going to get away from them. But here's the problem now: there's no putting that monster back in the laboratory. And on top of it, the Republican party is not going to have an about-face. They're not going to have a moment of conscience. We've seen it today.
Rush Limbaugh has more or less come out for this violence yesterday. Fox News last night was making, not only excuses for it, but twirling and spinning these conspiracy theories. We'll go with this. Trump actually got a standing ovation when he called in the Republicans today.
And you have to understand that this is something the right is not going to disavow. They're not going to move away from, they're going to jump in it. And they're going to compete over who absorbs it and embraces at the most. This is an incredibly dangerous situation.
AOC Shares 'Close Encounter', Rips Apart GOP 'Cowards' During Livestream - The Rational National - Air Date 1-13-21
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO CORTEZ: [00:13:10] They lust for power more than they care about democracy.
DAVID DOEL - HOST, THE RATIONAL NATIONAL: [00:13:18] During an Instagram live last night, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez discussed a close encounter during the capital riots where she feared for her life, and also went on to rip apart GOP cowards that are still protecting Donald Trump. So before I get to that second clip where she really goes in on Republicans, let me first play this clip here, where I guess this hadn't been disclosed up till now that there was a moment during the Capitol riots where AOC feared for her life.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO CORTEZ: [00:13:44] As for myself, I had a pretty traumatizing event happened to me. And I do not know if I can even disclose the full details of that event due to security concerns, but I can tell you that I had a very close encounter where I thought I was going to die. And you have all of those thoughts where, you know, at the end of your life and all of these thoughts come rushing to you. And that's what happened to a lot of us.
DAVID DOEL - HOST, THE RATIONAL NATIONAL: [00:14:29] So here we have some insight, some more insight into how serious these riots were. As I've discussed before, there were countless people in those riots that had weapons -- had bombs, Molotov cocktails, apparently had some inside help, either from the Capitol police or potentially Congress people as I'll get to in a second here -- but showing you that they could not even trust the police that were there to protect them, because of the people that potentially were helping at the time. And of course, you know, you don't always know the political ideology of law enforcement that are meant to protect you, but at least several Capitol police were a part of helping in these riots. As I've discussed as well, two Capitol police officers have been suspended in connection with last week's insurrection at the US Capitol. So these are the two that I know of so far, there may be more coming. I know, I believe 10 others are also being investigated. So we saw it as I covered at the time one officer was taking selfies with the rioters. Another one or a few others were opening the gates for them to get closer to the Capitol. So when you have law enforcement that are meant -- that are supposed to be there to protect you -- when you have them working directly with the rioters, it's actually amazing that there wasn't more injury, death and destruction during the riots to lawmakers specifically.
Now, as I also mentioned here, a Colorado Republican tweeted about Pelosi's location during the capital siege, she's now facing calls to resign. So this happened during the riots. Lauren Boebert here tweeted out, "We were locked in the house chambers." This is during, this is at I believe 2:00 PM, yeah, 2:17 PM on the day, and then says, "the speaker has been removed from the chambers." Why is she tweeting this out? So this is the kind of thing they're told not to discuss where they are at the time, what they're doing, for obvious reasons. Yet here you have a diehard Trump supporter, now in Congress, tweeting out the location of Nancy Pelosi.
So it is amazing, as I said, that more people weren't hurt during this. Now let me get to the next clip here. This goes maybe about four minutes, but AOC does an incredible job here. Just tearing apart Republicans.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO CORTEZ: [00:16:59] We know that Donald Trump cannot be president. We know that we cannot wait until January 19th. We cannot wait until January 20th. We can not wait until inauguration day. He cannot be president right now. He should not have been president yesterday. He should not have been present the night of the attack. Because Republicans and the people around him are cowards, they will not do it.
The president's cabinet. You have secretary Elaine Chao, who is the wife of Mitch McConnell, by the way, it seems, does that seem a little, a conflict of interest? Inappropriate? I don't know, but regardless, she was the secretary of transportation, she resigned. Betsy DeVos has resigned. Acting secretary of DHS Department of Homeland Security has resigned. And all of them are resigning rather than fulfilling their duties in enacting the 25th amendment and removing the president of the United States.
I have a message for anyone who is resigning after Wednesday: Too late, too late. You're not going to resign after Wednesday and act like you weren't a part of it. Were you secretary on Wednesday? Yes you were. You were a part of it. Were you secretary every single step leading up to Wednesday? Yes. Then you were a part of it. You don't get to allow for an attack that kills five people, and then afterwards you say I wasn't a part of it.
Yes. You were. You were a part of it when you caged kids. You were a part of it when you were repealed Title IX. You were a part of it when the president committed the first dozen number of crimes that he committed. You are a part of it when you excuse the law breaking. You were a part of it. You were a part of it. You were a part of it. Those five people's blood is on your hands. What are you going to do?
And they think that resigning is going to clean that blood off their hands. It is always on them. They are forever stained with the deaths of five people, especially when they did not invoke the 25th amendment to remove this president when they have the power to do so.
Cowards, cowards. Couldn't even stand up in the memory of these officers that they pretend to care about, that they pretend to care about. I don't want to hear or see the Republican party talk about blue lives ever again. This was never about safety for them. It was always a slogan because if they actually cared about rule of law, they would speak up when people break the law. They would speak up, they would enforce fairness and equity, but they don't give a damn about the law. They don't give a damn about order. They don't give a damn about, about safety. They give a damn about white supremacy. They care about preserving the social order and the mythology of whiteness.
Then the grand door of our democracy. That's what they care about. They lust for power more than they care about democracy. That's what those people did when they voted to overturn the results of our free and fair elections. And you can barely call them that with the amount of voter suppression that they have engaged in across the country. It is generous to say the least to call them that.
And so with all of the rules rigged in their favor, the electoral college is built on a compromise with slavers. The Senate is rigged in their favor. Gerrymandered districts are rigged in Republicans favor. This presidency and the law breaking and the pardons of people who have betrayed our country, all of it rigged in their favor and they can't even win with the whole deck stacked with them.
They can't even win with the deck stacked in their favor. And so what they are willing to do is set a match and light our entire democracy on fire so that they can uphold the social order of white supremacy. That's what this is about. Straight up. This is about thinking that if an election doesn't reinforce your power, then you believe it is fundamentally illegitimate.
And why do you think it's illegitimate? And how do you try to de-legitimized our elections? By saying Black people shouldn't vote. By saying Latino people shouldn't be full US citizens. By saying, by trying to take away, strip citizenship away from people who already have it. We're not even getting to the denial of citizenship, a full civic personhood ,that this party engages in.
We're talking about them trying to strip the citizenship away from anybody who isn't them, anybody. And that's what this is about. That's what this is about.
DAVID DOEL - HOST, THE RATIONAL NATIONAL: [00:22:56] All right. It's a kind of hard to follow that as she breaks it down perfectly. The cowards in his cabinet that would not move to remove him using the 25th amendment. That's why it's there -- to remove a president who is crazy. Instead, they resigned. Showing you that they were fully aware of how crazy he is. But instead of using their power to remove him, they leave simply to protect, to attempt to protect their own reputation, their own careers, their own livelihoods. The cowardice cannot be overstated.
And of course, Republicans that are still defending him here. I mean, obviously this is all done for self preservation. They're all trying to win over the completely lunatic GOP base that is 95% with Donald Trump. They're doing whatever they can to try and retain that base for themselves while attempting to somehow move forward from this era without dealing with what's in front of you.
We've Had Insurrections Before Part 2 - It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders - Air Date 1-12-21
SAM SANDERS - HOST, IT'S BEEN A MINUTE: [00:23:57] You write in your essay that because this angry White mob was not punished in 1874, another mob did the same thing two years later. And these mobs did things like this for a while in the Reconstruction era South. It created a sense of impunity, you wrote, by them not being stopped. You write now, in your essay, that if Congress does not respond to Trump's actions, to that mobs actions,you write that if they take no action at all, it will only create a sense of impunity. In 2021, what would that impunity look like to you?
JAMELLE BOUIE: [00:24:35] To me, it would look like continuing actions to stoke up rhetoric from the president, from his allies, to stoke the sentiments that created the mob, to actively stoke a mob. I think it would lead to an attempt to do this again. I think it would mean attempts to do this at state capitals, which we kind of already saw, groups similar to the one that gathered at the US Capitol. If this isn't dealt with, you'll have a repeat of kind of the exact scenario, but also it will be sending a signal to would-be mob leaders, whether they are private citizens or politicians. You'll be saying, essentially, that this is a political strategy that you can use. And one rule of just politics in the capital P sense, regardless of the political system, is that once something is possible and feasible, it's going to happen again.
SAM SANDERS - HOST, IT'S BEEN A MINUTE: [00:25:36] What about those who say, "well, Trump's leaving. You know, the election was certified for Joe Biden. He's out of here,"? And there's others who might say, "how was punishing Trump going to make the angry mob that supports him any less mad?"
JAMELLE BOUIE: [00:25:50] You've seen this a lot over the past few days, that you shouldn't impeach Trump, you shouldn't prosecute Trump because you'll just make his supporters mad. And I think that's just the wrong way to look at the situation, that you have to separate this question of how do we close off this option as like a viable political path for politician or those would-be politicians. And how do you deal with the fallout from that? How do you deal with the supporters of the president? I think the former, there is, to me, no argument that allowing this to just slide by is going to result in some sort of stable equilibrium going forward.
SAM SANDERS - HOST, IT'S BEEN A MINUTE: [00:26:42] But unity! But unity!
JAMELLE BOUIE: [00:26:46] Here's the thing. First, two things. To use another 19th century example, during the Andrew Jackson administration there's the nullification crisis, which is just a little arcane. Basically what happens is that South Carolina wants to nullify a federal tariff under the argument that it's unconstitutional. Legislators have determined that it's unconstitutional and they shouldn't have to follow the law. In Jackson, who is,a conservative kind of a reactionary figure in a lot of ways, nonetheless is a staunch unionist and rejects this argument and basically threatens to hang South Carolina leaders who continue on this path. He wants to shut down this way of thinking and the rationale for Jackson and his allies, who kind of ran the gamut in the nation, was that if you allow one state to do it, others will follow. And so they shut it down, and you don't have another similar crisis for 40 years.
And I think it the same way, I don't think there's any way to preserve the peaceful transfer of power if you allow one side to storm the Capitol and threaten elected leaders with violence. Once you've gotten to that point, I mean, and this gets to the unity thing, we're already in a situation where there's profound division and crisis. The status quo is constitutional and political crisis. And so the question isn't, how do we avoid a crisis, it's how do we deal with the crisis we're in right now? And I would say that the way to deal with the crisis we're in right now is to understand that the only way to unity is through a division. And that we actually do need to divide the country into those who support the nation's constitution, all of the bedrock elements of American democracy, and those who see them as something to be disposed of as they will. And if that ends up splitting, some significant portion of the American population, there's no way to avoid that.
The January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol - Past Present - Air Date 1-12-21
NICOLE HEMMER - HOST, PAST/PRESENT: [00:29:06] Yes, and I think that one of the reasons why we're entrenched in these very maddening conversations is because these are White Americans on both sides. And so there is this need to say, well, they're both fighting for a noble cause. And this very much is the argument embedded in David Blight's Race and Reunion where he looks at the efforts following the Civil War to construct a myth about what the Civil War was to say that these were both good Americans on both sides, both of them were fighting for a cause that they really believed in, and if you don't acknowledge that belief and the commitment and the loyalty with which they fought and the honor with which they fought, then you dishonor Americans and you prevent us from being able to heal.
And that's why I think it's been so fascinating that this is happening in the backdrop of a few years where we have been deeply entrenched in a debate about Confederate history and Confederate memorialization in the United States, because we are being asked to reconstruct those same arguments with what just happened at the Capitol. We're being asked to see this fight as reasonable and noble and to take into account the very real feelings of the people who marched on the Capitol without any sort of punishment, without any sort of acknowledgement of the real damage that has been done to American democracy. And if you build on a foundation like that then you're not going to build a functioning democracy on top of it.
NEIL J. YOUNG - HOST, PAST/PRESENT: [00:30:42] Yeah, that's right. Eric Foner has a great piece in The Nation about that, about what it meant to see Confederate iconography breach the Capitol. I mean, there was a huge Confederate flag that was brought into the Capitol building. That never has taken place before, not even during the Civil War itself. But he also points out this has also been a building in which there have been monuments to Confederate generals or Confederate statesmen, and that there is a persistence obviously of a lost cause mythology and iconography in that building that has been taken up obviously by a president who has in recent months made it a campaign issue about whether or not US military bases should be renamed and their Confederate names should be stripped from them.
So you know, I think that's all worth wrapping into this. And I was also really moved by Karen Cox's piece in the New York Times where she noted: yes, a lot of us have observed for the last four years that the lost cause mythology has been a fuel of Trumpism and a major theme of it. And she also suggested there will be a new lost cause mythology that will arise that is about Trump, that is about the 2020 election. I think we already see that taking place in the language and the messaging around the election and around the cause for the quote-unquote "protest" that happened in Washington last week. But I think that that will only develop in the months and years ahead, particularly when you have someone like this Ashley Babbitt, who is quickly becoming a martyr to the cause. January 6 is probably a day that is going to live in infamy and in American history but is a day that will have particular meaning for a large swath of American voters.
NICOLE HEMMER - HOST, PAST/PRESENT: [00:32:35] Yeah, Timothy Snyder writes about this and talks about the lesson of the language of lost cause, and more in the language of the big lie, and the way in which the Trump administration has finally settled on the big lie that it needs its followers to believe, ground that was seeded over the past several years with many, many little- and medium-sized lies, which was a really interesting piece in which he turned the phrase that "post-truth is pre-fascism." And what I like about that is that it begins to bring together some of the threads that we're talking about. I like thinking about the big lie and the lost cause together because they are very much part of the same process of constructing a politically motivated set of memories on which you bind together a political movement. And the way that you do that in the big, -- one of the many huge problems that we're facing going forward -- is that . . . We've all talked about this before . . . But the breakdown of any sort of consensus about reality is going to continue to be a problem as we go forward, and your comments about Ashley Babbitt point just to that. I mean, she's the woman that was killed, shot and killed, in the Capitol during the insurrection. And you know, not just the construction of her as martyr, but the construction of the people who killed . . . the person who killed her as an assassin has been pretty widespread in some circles over the past several days. And that's only going to grow.
NEIL J. YOUNG - HOST, PAST/PRESENT: [00:34:12] I think we should also remember, especially as we're about to see the hundredth anniversary of the Tulsa race riots in 1921, where the idea of Black success and Black economic power and political power had been a source of justification for the sort of massacre that took place there.
NICOLE HEMMER - HOST, PAST/PRESENT: [00:34:30] Yeah. The rise of White mobs against Black economic and Black political power, the biracial government of Wilmington, North Carolina in 1898, was overthrown. There was an actual coup in Wilmington, North Carolina in order to thwart any kind of Black political power there. So, this story of White mobs rising up is not something that's new, but that fits into this much longer history in the United States.
Debunking the Pro-Trump Economic Anxiety Myth - The Choice - Air Date 1-14-21
MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE CHOICE: [00:34:58] As federal prosecutors arrest more and more people who allegedly participated in last week's Capitol siege, what's becoming clear is how much the riots has a defined stereotype that many had associated with them. They were called deadbeats and thugs, members of our Left Behind America, or poor, economically disenfranchised underclass, the white working class base of Trumpism.
But look at these arrests. Bradley Rukstales is a tech CEO charged with illegally and violently entering the Capitol. Charged with the same are people like Christine Priola, a former occupational therapist with the Cleveland metropolitan school district who made her way onto the speaker's roster on the house floor.
People as famous as Klete Keller, a former teammate of Michael Phelps and an Olympic gold medalist. Even a state legislature for West Virginia, Derrick Evans, an elected public official. Even the son of a prominent Brooklyn judge, Aaron Mostofski, dressed in fur pelt and a bulletproof vest. He was part of the siege and he told reporters the election was "stolen."
The belief that these rioters, that the members of the MAGA mob were fueled by economic anxiety. It's slowly unraveling. It's a reality America has to grapple with. Many of the perpetuators of this insurrection were a part of the educated elite, members of a privileged class were not motivated by gripes over free trade or the outsourcing of jobs, but rather something more ideological and visceral.
Joining me to discuss all this is Adam Serwer, an award-winning staff writer at The Atlantic. His latest piece, "The Capitol Rioters Weren't 'Low Class'" discusses these revelations and why they should inform how we move forward as a nation. Adam, thanks for coming back on the show. You write in your piece "the notion that political violence comes out of economic desperation rather than ideology is comforting, but false." That idea is "a misconception often cultivated by the very elite who benefit from that violence." A lot to unpack there, but first off, why do so many resort to believing these people were acting out of economic desperation? Why is it so comforting to go down that road?
ADAM SERWER: [00:37:05] I think it's comforting to people because then the problem is easy to solve. You can figure out a way that you can get people jobs. You can give them more money. But if the problem is ideological, if it's something that they believe about the way that the world should be, and it's not simply a question of economic deprivation, then it gets more complicated.
For example, these people, their issue is that they think Trump should be president. They don't care that he got fewer votes. They don't care that he won fewer States. The only thing they care about is the fact that he says he was robbed and that the votes that Biden got were illegitimate because they were passed in majority black jurisdictions, like Detroit, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and so they must be illegitimate and therefore it's justified to invade the Capitol and try to violently overthrow the government of the United States so you can keep Donald Trump in power.
And that's just historically the way it's been. If you look back to the beginning of the Ku Klux Klan in the middle of the 19th century, the social base was lawyers and shopkeepers and businessmen. It was also the social base of the clan; in the mid 20th century the number one occupation when research, historical researchers go back and look is small business owners. This idea that only poor people are capable of political violence is nonsense. And quite frequently, the people who engage in this violence cultivate that perception so that it looks like the violence is more justified than it actually is. So that you feel sorry for the people who are engaging in this.
MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE CHOICE: [00:38:34] Yeah. So at the same applied to Trump voters for four years, we were told: don't criticize Trump voters. They're left behind. They got screwed over by de-industrialization. That was the same excuse off of there.
Look, Adam, there's a lot of talk about law enforcement not taking the threat of violence seriously in the days and weeks before the event. So many reporters who cover online extremism warned that this would happen. Some have been talking about it for years. Do you think race played a part in how seriously the threat was taken? The fact that they wasn't Black or Brown men that they weren't really seen as a threat?
ADAM SERWER: [00:39:03] Yeah. I think it plays a huge role.
And when you look at, even if you look at international terrorism, it's not surprising to anybody who works in counter-terrorism, for example, that there are a lot of members of Al Qaeda who seemed to have come from people like the 9/11 hijackers and stuff like that. People who come from middle class backgrounds, that's not surprising then.
But when, if you read the Washington Post today, there's this internal debate on the FBI about how shocked people are than businessmen or real estate brokers or retired law enforcement and military could be involved in something like this. And the answer there is that history tells us that these people are often involved in things like this.
And it's only because these people were white that law enforcement seemed to think that this was impossible. And I think that's a real problem.
MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE CHOICE: [00:39:48] Yep. And of course, other than participating in the deadly riots, you also say elites play a role in cultivating our misconceptions about angry white mobs, disassociating themselves from the violence while perpetuating what motivates it.
And as we know, it's not just Trump who influenced the riots, as we have lawmakers, elected officials across the country did the same. How does this all benefit them? As you argue, explain what threatens them, what makes them want to do this? The logic.
ADAM SERWER: [00:40:15] Look, the idea that the 2020 election was somehow rigged, obviously comes from the top. It comes from the third generation real estate tycoon who happens to be president of the United States. But it was also cultivated by people like in particular, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, both of whom come from Ivy league backgrounds. These are not impoverished people. And they are telling their base lies in order to not only motivate them to support them, but also because they have political ambitions that they see as going through the path of Trumpism, they want to be Trump's heir. And that to them is more important than spreading this insane conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was stolen. Even to Ted Cruz's credit, he has come down very hard on the people that he helped convince that the election was stolen. He's called this terrorism. He's he's obviously very -- he actually seems to have been surprised by what happened. But none of us should be surprised when you tell people that their country is being stolen from them by shadowy elites, and that the election was stolen from them by a great conspiracy, and the only way to save your country is to force lawmakers to overturn it, this is a rational response. But of course it's not true. None of it's true. And they wouldn't believe it if they hadn't been lied to by their own leaders.
Why Republicans Must Rebuke Trump's Big Lie - All In - Air Date 1-14-21
SEN. MITT ROMNEY: [00:41:31] No congressional audit is ever going to convince these voters, particularly when the president will continue to say that the election was stolen. The best way we could show respect for the voters who were upset is by telling them the truth. That's the burden. That's the duty of leadership. The truth is that president elect Biden won the election. President Trump lost.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: [00:42:00] That was Senator Mitt Romney on the night after the attack, the night of the attack, when they reconvened, telling his colleagues that it's a very simple thing to do, to tell the truth. And as the nation tries to move on from the enormous damage done by Donald Trump's ceaseless pounding election lies, there are some Republicans who are doing the right thing.
Here's one, conservative South Carolina, Congressman Tom Rice. This is a gentlemen who has long supported Trump. He even voted to object to the election results, okay, a terrible vote, but he was also one of ten House Republicans who voted yesterday to impeach the president. He told the Associated Press that he knows he'll be primaried for his vote for impeachment, and that it may cost him his seat in Congress.
In Georgia, the Republican Lieutenant governor stripped three election deniers in the state Senate of the chairmanships, sending the message that their lies must be punished. Even Mitch McConnell, on January 6th, stated flatly that the election was not stolen, that Joe Biden won fair and square. But you are not hearing that message from the vast majority of Republicans or the most far reaching conservative media. In his video yesterday, Trump declined to tell people the truth, that the election wasn't stolen, that he lost, there was no large scale fraud. He did not make that crucial admission. And in fact, just this morning, White House trade advisor, Peter Navarro was still pushing this poisonous lie.
PETER NAVARRO: [00:43:26] The Democratic party did violence to this country by attacking a president who I believe was legally elected on November 3rd. These people disgust me! Disgust me!
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: [00:43:39] The Democratic party did violence by attacking this president who won on November 3rd? Let's be clear about something. We cannot move forward as a country until people like White House official, Peter Navarro stop lying. They have convinced tens of millions of Americans that Donald Trump had the election stolen from him. It was a landslide and it was stolen! And they've included, the people they've persuaded include the people who stormed the Capitol. People believe the lie because the president and his accomplices in politics and the media, like people on Trump TV, for example, have pushed that lie over and over and over again, beating it into their heads.
And if those people really want to unite this country, then Trump's elite enablers must renounce their false claims. They have to tell people that the election was not stolen and that they were wrong to goad people on. That the simple truth is that Joe Biden won. If people like Jim Jordan really want to help, they can go on Fox News and tell people there was no election fraud. That this was a free and fair vote and their side loss. That this is a democracy, and we all have to accept the will of the people. And until Jim Jordan and Ted Cruz and all the rest of them do that, the damage will endure.
Trump impeached again; Guest Former diplomat, Rep. Tom Perriello of Open Society US Part 2 - The BradCast - Air Date 1-13-21
BRAD FRIEDMAN - HOST, THE BRADCAST: [00:45:09] Now the argument that's being made in response to the second impeachment of Donald Trump, made by Republicans, is that attempting to hold him accountable for inciting an attack, an insurrection at the US Capitol will only further divide the nation and incite further violence from the president's supporters. Your response to that Congressman?
REP. TOM PERRIELLO: [00:45:31] Oh, I remember when the same leaders said that about Osama bin Ladin, and said, we really shouldn't anger him after attacking us because he might get even more angry. The logic of this doesn't hold up. And I think it's important to note, one of the reasons that I think not only Democrats move forward, but Mitch McConnell expressed and other Republicans like Liz Cheney expressed so much concern is the insurrectionists are already planning escalation.
They literally have events scheduled with long guns encouraged in all state capitals on Saturday and Sunday of this weekend. So some notion that everyone was gonna simply go home and call it a day was in fact already verifiably false and the failure to take seriously such similar provocations or promises really from the insurrectionist before is part of what got us into this mess.
And I will say there was plenty to make my stomach churn and heartbreak about the images of these folks taking over, occupying the capitol. To me as someone who's worked in conflict zones and on transitional justice, the most scary image was them walking out, not in handcuffs because those images were ones that simply invited the idea of impunity. And impunity leads people to repeat those events and repeat them with escalation and allowing even a 24 hour news cycle in which the idea that these people could exit as heroes was something that was almost certainly going to lead to more violence down the road.
And that's why this issue of introducing accountability is important. And again, accountability can take a lot of different forms, arrest, and prosecution is only one, but even in situations where the ultimate act has been one of forgiveness and reconciliation, it has always effectively required some act, just like in great religious traditions, of confession, contrition, and penance before you get to forgiveness. And if you look at the South African Truth Commission, which was by no means perfect, it was only when officers came forward and admitted to the atrocities they had committed in the Black community in particular that they were then invited to potentially have amnesty.
And what you didn't hear from Republicans on the floor and talking about this idea of unity was any sort of olive branch. It would be very different if they were coming forward and saying, "You know what? We really shouldn't have spent the last 10 years making up this systematic lie about voter fraud. And we're really sorry about the fact that we have created a set of lies and propaganda about voter fraud that undermined confidence in our elections. And we are now going to commit ourselves to universal voting for all eligible Americans on a path towards unity." That is a credible path that involves a confession, contrition, and penance about a new path forward.
And I think people really do want to see that right now. What they don't want to see is people who have torn this country apart simply turning around and saying, "Hey, let's just get along, but we're not going to change anything about what we did to get us in this mess."
The Trump Riot Insurrection is NOT Only About Economic Oppression - David Pakman Show - Air Date 1-12-21
DAVID PAKMAN - HOST, THE DAVID PAKMAN SHOW: [00:48:48] I've seen more and more commentaries that are missing the boat when it comes to the immediate and proximate causes of the insurrection and of the coup attempt. And specifically, I'm talking about claims that ultimately what happened last week comes down to merely economic unfairness and inequality and anger by the so-called working class. And even lots of people that I greatly respect have weighed in on this issue, and I believe they are wrong. I'll give you an example, with total peace and love. My former economics professor from the University of Massachusetts, economist Richard Wolf, tweeted "what was seen in the Capitol building of Washington on January 6 was another manifestation of angry working class people. This will only continue unless basic changes happen in this country. We need to do something about the inequality of this society." I love Richard Wolf. He's been a guest on this show a dozen times. I was recently on his show. This is the worst take I've ever seen from Richard Wolf, who typically has really great takes.
To some degree, this idea is a version of class reductionism. Class reductionism is the idea that in the end, all oppression, strife, violence, unrest, it all comes down merely to class struggle. And racial struggle is really class struggle and nationalistic struggle is really class struggle, etc. Gender struggle is really class struggle. And that if we reduce inequality, it's going to solve all of these different problems.
And I think we have to be very careful because nobody's claiming that economics and class struggle are not important in just about everything that we see in our political system. And even those claiming that it played a role last week are right. But in this particular case, the class struggle aspect of this, absent a more detailed and comprehensive analysis, falls woefully short in explaining what happened last week. Remember, shortly after Donald Trump was elected, there was a whole bunch of talk about this was about economic anxiety. Economic anxiety motivated people to give Donald Trump a shot because he spoke to those economic anxieties. And to some degree it's true in that Donald Trump, as a faux populist right-wing populist, that rhetoric certainly appeals to economic anxiety in many people. But then ,as we had more information about the motivations of Trump voters, we came to learn that while there was economic anxiety on both the left and the right, that the right was motivated to vote for Donald Trump by many other things, including the resonance of Donald Trump's xenophobia, fear of losing perceived or actual status to immigrants coming in and taking jobs, to Brown people as whole countries, that entire narrative. And case in point, there are so many counterpoints to the class reductionist argument or explanation about last week's riots that the explanation of this as merely class struggle would be dangerous to accept as a full explanation for what we saw, including by the way, that many of the people that participated in the insurrection, they have the money to not only travel to Washington, DC, but to stay in hotels that aren't cheap. Now I know that there were groups funding the travel, but or many people that wasn't the case. These people were able to afford going to DC, taking time off from work if they have a job, if they need to work, and staying in expensive hotels.
And so that's one aspect. The other aspect is there are tons of people on the left and right that economically are way worse off than the protestors -- rioters -- last week, but they were not there. And there are even examples of wealthy people go into DC on private jets to participate in the riot. Although that's anecdotal; obviously, most of these rioters did not fly in on private jets, but the point here is that there is something unique to those who yes, mostly are not particularly privileged economically, but there is a significant xenophobic component. There is a significant ignorance to reality component. People who fall for . . . Listen, if this was just economic anxiety, you wouldn't see that the people at the riot are the people who fell for the obvious lies from Trump about a stolen election. What was really the most common factor among the rioters was that they fell for and they believed that the election was stolen from Donald Trump, which is demonstrably untrue.
There were rich and poor people who fell for that. There were elites and non-elites who fell for that. And importantly, poor people who didn't fall for it weren't there rioting. People who were significantly more economically disadvantaged or oppressed by the economic system weren't there rioting because they didn't believe this stupid narrative that the election was stolen.
And so I very much appreciate the class aspect that at a general level has generated anxiety and a desire for change. The people that participated in this riot exposed the Trump movement for what it really is. And it's not merely an economic anxiety movement. It's a particularly extreme, radical conspiratorial worldview informed by being uninformed, that sure, to some degree overlaps with aspects of economic anxiety, but the truth is that at this point, economic anxiety is a reality for a huge portion of this country. There I agree with Richard Wolf and others when half the country can't meet an unexpected $400 expense without going into debt. Just about any group, unless you're saying we're only serving private jet owners just about any group: healthcare workers, factory workers, educational workers, whoever, all of these groups will include a lot of economic anxiety, but that doesn't mean that that's the cause of violent, radical insurrectionist violence. And let's not miss the forest for the trees and pretend that it goes away simply by solving economic inequality.
Listen, you'll solve economic inequality, and a lot of these people will be furious that now they are on the same level as a lot of people that they don't believe, deserve o be economically stable. And that gets us back to the xenophobia and the rest of it.
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:55:28] We've just heard of clips today, starting with Democracy Now! looking at what's ahead for the GOP. At Liberty discussed to the danger of backsliding on racial justice. Strange Days explained to the Frankenstein's monster that's been nurtured within the Republican party. The Rational National highlighted portions of AOC's recent Instagram video in the wake of the insurrection. It's Been a Minute spoke with Jamelle Bouie, who explained that the only way to unite is through division first. Past Present examined the myth of the honorable adversary that exists due to White supremacy. Mehdi Hasan and Adam Serwer on The Choice debunk the myth that these Trump supporters are all economically anxious. And Chris Hayes on All In explained why Republicans must rebuke Trump's big lie.
That's what everyone heard, but members also heard a bonus clips from The Bradcast speaking with Tom Perriello about the absurdity of Republicans calling for unity rather than impeachment. To that, I just want to echo what I've seen others say in text, but just didn't get a chance to hear someone say auditorially so I couldn't get it in the show, but you know I love a good analogy when they're available. Republicans accusing supporters of impeachment of being divisive is incredibly similar to an abusive spouse turning and accusing their victim of breaking up the family when they finally decide to extricate themselves from that abusive relationship. Keep that in mind every single time you hear Republicans trying to flip the script on Democrats calling for impeachment. And then the final bonus clip we heard was from The David Pakman Show explaining in more detail, how wrong headed it is to oversimplify the rabid support for Trump as class struggle.
For non-members, those bonus clips are linked in the show notes and our part of the transcript for today's episode. So you can still find them if you want to make the effort, but to hear that and all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly into your podcast feed, sign up to support the show at bestofthelef.com/support or request a financial hardship membership, because we don't make a lack of funds a barrier to hearing more information, and every request is granted, no questions asked.
And now, we'll hear from you.
The importance of the work of this show - V from Central New York
VOICEMAILER: V FROM CENTRAL NEW YORK: [00:57:52] Hello, Jay, this is V from central New York.
As I was listening to episode 1391, I found myself thinking, almost paraphrasing the beginning of Dr. King's Three Evils of Society speech, one of my all-time favorite speeches he gave.
Seldom if ever has there been unity between two episodes produced at opposite sides of a historical event, episode 1390 and 1391.
It is an amazing coincidence that you produced the first, 1390. And a sad necessity, which required you to produce the second.
You have done this work for 15 years. And I recall when I first discovered your podcast in 2007, I recalled you mentioning the need for somebody to gather together and distribute the media that was developed by the Left.
So many years later, as we look at what is clearly going to be a very rocky four years forward, the need is ever expanding.
I would like to say that I cherish your work, but it's greater than that. I look forward to your work. I would like to say that your labor is patriotic, but again, I believe that word deceives the importance of what you do and what you have given.
I have no more to offer but that, and my thanks. I have been trying to become a Patreon member for some time. Unfortunately financial reasons have kept me from being able to sustain a membership. I'm hoping by the end of this year to correct that. But until then, please keep up the great work and thank you for all that you do. Peace.
Flying the flag on January 20 - Bud from Boise
VOICEMAILER: BUD FROM BOISE: [01:00:58] Hi, Jay, this is Bud from Boise. I just recently decided to do things a little different than I have in the past. When I was growing up, my dad used to fly the flag on Flag Day and on the 4th of July. As an adult, I never bothered to fly the flag. I did. I did stand up when the National Anthem was played. I do know about the US flag code. I know how to fold the flag properly. I've always respected the flag and what it stands for. But the right has definitely taken it over. And the flag means something a little different to me now than it used to. So I have my whole adult life, I have not flown the flag, really ever since Vietnam. That's pretty much soured me on what we'd been doing in the world. But I have decided January 20th, I am going to fly the flag at my house. I think, you know why.
Keep doing what you're doing. Stay awesome.
Sharing the show - Rainer from Cuba
VOICEDMAILER: RAINER FROM CUBA: [01:02:14] Hi Jay, this is Rainer,
First of all I would like to say that I love the kind of work you're doing on the Best of the Left show. I live in Cuba, in the south orient region, in Santiago de Cuba, and I was so much in shock when I found out about your show that in that very moment I realized the importance of this kind of work. I thought about sharing it with my friends and I recommended it to some of them, but only by talking. I didn't know if any of them would appreciate the suggestions I made by proposing that they hear the show, but as soon as I heard about the referring options, and that by doing a referral you could actually get the listeners you guys need to carry on the good work you are doing, I followed the directions for doing it with the hope to contribute from my very limited efforts. I would like to do more, but since I live where I live it is impossible for me to make any kind of contribution in any other way. I don't have so many friends who would like to spend time listening to this kind of stuff, but I'm sure a few of them will. They also live in Cuba, so, they will be in the same situation with the restrictions for any kind of support beyond making referrals, so I just hope that they take my advice and get on track with the show sharing at least.
About the artwork I had the opportunity download, they have a very minimal style, which I love, and I love the colors. They have a very good balance of the image and they express very well the soul of the show and the powerful message of the kind of work that needs to be done in order to deal with very pressing issues in politics the need for social participation.
Final comments introducing FDR's Second Inaugural Speech
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [01:03:43] Thanks to all of those who called into the voicemail line or wrote their messages to be played as a VoicedMails. If you'd like to leave a comment or question of your own to be played on the show, you can record a message at (202) 999-3991 or write me a message to [email protected]
First of all, thanks of course, to V for his extremely kind words about the show. I always appreciate getting a little bit of a self-esteem boost from him. In addition to all of his incredibly thoughtful commentaries that he always leaves. Also, thanks to Bud for helping take back the definition of patriotism in America, and a huge thanks to Rainier who is doing his best to spread the word about the show in Cuba. And he also chimed in on the mysterious Best of Left artwork that people just can't stop talking about it. You can only get it by signing up for the Refer-o-Matic and successfully getting five friends to check out the show. Previously, we heard from Nick from California; he's been referenced. He wrote the script for The In a World, sounding ad, talking about how he had booted a picture of his kids in favor of our mysterious artwork and explained that it's a reminder to him to be sort of a bad-ass progressive and take some action whenever he could. But now Rainier's adding onto that, that the art . . . he goes so far as to say that it expresses the soul of the show as well as reminds us of the need for collective action. So that is high praise. The praise keeps rolling in.
So, if your interest is piqued, it is super quick and easy to sign up. Just go to bestoftheleft.com/refer, and that link is in the show notes on your device right now. You get signed up, you get a special link. You send that link to your friends or post on social media, people check out the show and then you get the special secret artwork for yourself.
But with all that said, I want to finish off today's show here on the eve of Joe Biden's inauguration. I wanted to share a positive vision of the future pulled from our distant past. A few months ago, I was asked to take part in a project about presidential inauguration speeches. The idea was to create a book titled My Fellow Americans, featuring the full text of every inaugural address to be coupled with an essay written by a historian to give each speech context. Additionally, each inaugural address was to be recorded by a voice actor or, in my case, a podcaster for a companion podcast where you could go and hear each inaugural address going back all the way to Washington. Plus, the book and the podcast are all being made immediately available in the public domain to be used however people like, while the ebook is being sold for $0 or whatever the purchaser thinks is fair. Links to all of that will be in the show notes. So, obviously I was happy to contribute to the project and I did what any progressive would do when asked to choose an inaugural speech to read. I chose, everybody say it with me, FDR's second, obviously. So, I thought that I would play that for you today as we look ahead to a new administration to give some inspiration for what we really need to hear as an inaugural speech in 2025, when America is looking back on the four years that we, here in the past, are about to live through.
So, here is FDR's Second Inaugural Address, which is stunningly relevant to us today, which was given originally after four years of FDR's policies meant to bring the country back from the depths of the Great Depression.
Second Inaugural Address of Franklin D. Roosevelt
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt: [01:07:41] When four years ago we met to inaugurate a president, the Republic single-minded in anxiety stood in spirit here. We dedicated ourselves to the fulfillment of a vision--to speed the time when there would be for all the people that security and peace essential to the pursuit of happiness. We of the Republic pledged ourselves to drive from the temple of our ancient faith those who had profaned it; to end by action, tireless and unafraid, the stagnation and despair of that day. We did those first things first.
Our covenant with ourselves did not stop there. Instinctively we recognized a deeper need--the need to find through government the instrument of our united purpose to solve for the individual the ever-rising problems of a complex civilization. Repeated attempts at their solution without the aid of government had left us baffled and bewildered. For, without that aid, we had been unable to create those moral controls over the services of science which are necessary to make science a useful servant instead of a ruthless master of mankind. To do this we knew that we must find practical controls over blind economic forces and blindly selfish men.
We of the Republic sensed the truth that democratic government has innate capacity to protect its people against disasters once considered inevitable, to solve problems once considered unsolvable. We would not admit that we could not find a way to master economic epidemics just as, after centuries of fatalistic suffering, we had found a way to master epidemics of disease. We refused to leave the problems of our common welfare to be solved by the winds of chance and the hurricanes of disaster.
In this we Americans were discovering no wholly new truth; we were writing a new chapter in our book of self-government.
This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Constitutional Convention which made us a nation. At that Convention our forefathers found the way out of the chaos which followed the Revolutionary War; they created a strong government with powers of united action sufficient then and now to solve problems utterly beyond individual or local solution. A century and a half ago they established the Federal Government in order to promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to the American people.
Today we invoke those same powers of government to achieve the same objectives.
Four years of new experience have not belied our historic instinct. They hold out the clear hope that government within communities, government within the separate States, and government of the United States can do the things the times require, without yielding its democracy. Our tasks in the last four years did not force democracy to take a holiday.
Nearly all of us recognize that as intricacies of human relationships increase, so power to govern them also must increase--power to stop evil; power to do good. The essential democracy of our Nation and the safety of our people depend not upon the absence of power, but upon lodging it with those whom the people can change or continue at stated intervals through an honest and free system of elections. The Constitution of 1787 did not make our democracy impotent.
In fact, in these last four years, we have made the exercise of all power more democratic; for we have begun to bring private autocratic powers into their proper subordination to the public's government. The legend that they were invincible--above and beyond the processes of a democracy--has been shattered. They have been challenged and beaten.
Our progress out of the depression is obvious. But that is not all that you and I mean by the new order of things. Our pledge was not merely to do a patchwork job with secondhand materials. By using the new materials of social justice we have undertaken to erect on the old foundations a more enduring structure for the better use of future generations.
In that purpose we have been helped by achievements of mind and spirit. Old truths have been relearned; untruths have been unlearned. We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics. Out of the collapse of a prosperity whose builders boasted their practicality has come the conviction that in the long run economic morality pays. We are beginning to wipe out the line that divides the practical from the ideal; and in so doing we are fashioning an instrument of unimagined power for the establishment of a morally better world.
This new understanding undermines the old admiration of worldly success as such. We are beginning to abandon our tolerance of the abuse of power by those who betray for profit the elementary decencies of life.
In this process evil things formerly accepted will not be so easily condoned. Hard-headedness will not so easily excuse hardheartedness. We are moving toward an era of good feeling. But we realize that there can be no era of good feeling save among men of good will.
For these reasons I am justified in believing that the greatest change we have witnessed has been the change in the moral climate of America.
Among men of good will, science and democracy together offer an ever-richer life and ever-larger satisfaction to the individual. With this change in our moral climate and our rediscovered ability to improve our economic order, we have set our feet upon the road of enduring progress.
Shall we pause now and turn our back upon the road that lies ahead? Shall we call this the promised land? Or, shall we continue on our way? For "each age is a dream that is dying, or one that is coming to birth."
Many voices are heard as we face a great decision. Comfort says, "Tarry a while." Opportunism says, "This is a good spot." Timidity asks, "How difficult is the road ahead?"
True, we have come far from the days of stagnation and despair. Vitality has been preserved. Courage and confidence have been restored. Mental and moral horizons have been extended.
But our present gains were won under the pressure of more than ordinary circumstances. Advance became imperative under the goad of fear and suffering. The times were on the side of progress.
To hold to progress today, however, is more difficult. Dulled conscience, irresponsibility, and ruthless self-interest already reappear. Such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of disaster! Prosperity already tests the persistence of our progressive purpose.
Let us ask again: Have we reached the goal of our vision of that fourth day of March 1933? Have we found our happy valley?
I see a great nation, upon a great continent, blessed with a great wealth of natural resources. Its hundred and thirty million people are at peace among themselves; they are making their country a good neighbor among the nations. I see a United States which can demonstrate that, under democratic methods of government, national wealth can be translated into a spreading volume of human comforts hitherto unknown, and the lowest standard of living can be raised far above the level of mere subsistence.
But here is the challenge to our democracy: In this nation I see tens of millions of its citizens--a substantial part of its whole population--who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what the very lowest standards of today call the necessities of life.
I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day.
I see millions whose daily lives in city and on farm continue under conditions labeled indecent by a so-called polite society half a century ago.
I see millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.
I see millions lacking the means to buy the products of farm and factory and by their poverty denying work and productiveness to many other millions.
I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.
It is not in despair that I paint you that picture. I paint it for you in hope--because the Nation, seeing and understanding the injustice in it, proposes to paint it out. We are determined to make every American citizen the subject of his country's interest and concern; and we will never regard any faithful law-abiding group within our borders as superfluous. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.
If I know aught of the spirit and purpose of our Nation, we will not listen to Comfort, Opportunism, and Timidity. We will carry on.
Overwhelmingly, we of the Republic are men and women of good will; men and women who have more than warm hearts of dedication; men and women who have cool heads and willing hands of practical purpose as well. They will insist that every agency of popular government use effective instruments to carry out their will.
Jay Tomlinson: [01:18:17] Government is competent when all who compose it work as trustees for the whole people. It can make constant progress when it keeps abreast of all the facts. It can obtain justified support and legitimate criticism when the people receive true information of all that government does.
If I know aught of the will of our people, they will demand that these conditions of effective government shall be created and maintained. They will demand a nation uncorrupted by cancers of injustice and, therefore, strong among the nations in its example of the will to peace.
Today we reconsecrate our country to long-cherished ideals in a suddenly changed civilization. In every land there are always at work forces that drive men apart and forces that draw men together. In our personal ambitions we are individualists. But in our seeking for economic and political progress as a nation, we all go up, or else we all go down, as one people.
To maintain a democracy of effort requires a vast amount of patience in dealing with differing methods, a vast amount of humility. But out of the confusion of many voices rises an understanding of dominant public need. Then political leadership can voice common ideals, and aid in their realization.
In taking again the oath of office as President of the United States, I assume the solemn obligation of leading the American people forward along the road over which they have chosen to advance.
While this duty rests upon me I shall do my utmost to speak their purpose and to do their will, seeking Divine guidance to help us each and every one to give light to them that sit in darkness and to guide our feet into the Way of peace.
Final comments Part 2
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [01:20:19] As I said, I will link to that project, the book and the podcast both titled My Fellow Americans in the show notes. And with that, keep the comments coming in at (202) 999-3991 or by emailing me to [email protected] I have a sense that having heard FDR speech may have given some of you some ideas of how some of those sentiments might be put to use today.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on that, but for now, that is going to be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work on the show. Thanks to the Monosyllabic Transcriptionist Trio, Ben, Dan, and Ken for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together.
Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her incredibly wide and varied work to help support the show. And of course, thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift members at bestoftheleft.com/support, as that is absolutely how the program survives. For details on the show itself, including links to all of the sources and music used in this and every episode, all that information can always be found in the show notes on the blog and likely right on the device you're using to listen. So, coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left Podcast coming to you twice weekly thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com.