Air Date 1/5/2022
[00:00:00] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left Podcast in which we shall take a look at a few of the recent failures and challenges facing the Democratic party in the face of an oncoming wave of anti-democratic forces bent on establishing an entrenched minority rule government through aggressive gerrymandering and voter suppression.
Clips today are from a CounterSpin, Democracy Now!, The Young Turks, All In with Chris Hayes, the PBS NewsHour, the Brian Lehrer Show, and The Rachel Maddow Show, with an additional members only clip from All In with Chris Hayes.
Julie Hollar on Moving Democrats to the Right, Josh Bivens on Pandemic Unemployment - CounterSpin - Air Date 11-13-20
[00:00:36] JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Well, it's like, no matter what happens, elites, including elite media, try to cram it into the same frame. The lesson is always the same. Your latest for fair.org describes a post-election phenomenon that listeners will recognize from today's headlines, but it's not really new at all.
What are you talking about?
[00:00:58] JULIE HOLLAR: Well, the last article I wrote is about this phone call that happened right after the election among House Democrats. This is a private conversation, but it got leaked to the press, in which the right wing of the party started to just go off on the left wing, blaming the left for the election being not the blowout that they had hoped.
So, you know, there was a lot of expectation going into election night that Democrats would boost their House Majority; they would get the Senate; they'd get the presidency; they'd get a lot of states legislatures; and, very quickly, it turned out that that just didn't come to pass.
There was a lot of finger pointing that started from the right toward the left, saying, "Well, you know, the reason that this didn't play out how we thought is because you on the left were talking about socialism. You were talking about Medicare for all. You were talking about the Green New Deal. You were talking about all sorts of things that made it hard for us to get reelected, to get new seats, to win the swing district. This is a moment of reckoning. We need to move forward learning from our mistakes, and the mistakes were all yours."
The left wing of the party, you know, represented by folks like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, shot back saying, "Listen, we don't need to be pointing fingers right now, but if you're going to start doing that, let's really step back and take a look at what happened. And let's look at what... how the campaigning was done. Were we really all in on digital? Were we using best practices? We weren't knocking on doors, partly, largely because of the pandemic, but was that a mistake?"
There were some progressive who did decide to continue knocking on doors in a safe way. And there were a lot of decisions that were made about campaigning that one could look at.
One could also look at the fact that, you know, a lot of these positions that the left has been pushing are in fact very popular. So the idea that this is what sunk the Democrats just seems very disingenuous.
So you think, okay, well, this is a story about what went wrong, right? What went wrong for the Democrats. It's going to take awhile to give a full accounting of this. But for the major, you know, establishment press, instead of trying to actually figure out whether the right wing here is correct, they basically just republish all the accusations, they give a little space for the left to defend itself. But the Washington Post article that I looked at, the balance of sources in this article was remarkable. They quoted and paraphrased 14 sources that blamed the left. And that was counterbalanced by four sources that defended the left.
It's also really interesting to note that a lot of those sources were anonymous-- the right wing Democrats sources were anonymous-- and twice they were described just as Democrats, rather than as, what they like to call, "centrist" Democrats or "moderate" Democrats.
So there was a line that the Post included that was, something like, you know, "Privately, Democrats have said that the answer is obvious: it's because the party is running too far to the left."
Well, did Democrats say that? Do all Democrats say that?
This is one of the things that just drives me insane about media coverage like this, and should drive everyone insane, I think, who... who believes in a free and fair press, is that: you characterize all Democrats as having this position, it erases the left wing of the party, and it makes it seem like the legitimate position of the party is the one that's voiced by its right. That totally marginalizes the left wing of the party.
This is happening because this is who corporate reporters are feeling closest to. This is who's in their Rolodexes. I was looking back at the interview that we did about election coverage during the primaries, and it just... it's such a familiar script. This is baked in to the media coverage, and has been forever, because this is who the sources are.
Corporate media sources, in the Democratic party, they just tend to be the more right wing, the more establishment sources. That's who they're comfortable calling. That's who they talk to all the time. It was probably who they hang out with playing softball on the weekends for all we know.
[00:05:25] JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Right. It's also, almost, vertigo inducing how media will pump up, not just editorially, but through these kinds of sourcing tricks, and tropes in reporting, as you're just describing, the idea that talking about Medicare for all is too radical, or a Green New Deal is... is a step too far, and turns voters off.
And then you'll turn the page, and read about a poll that says that in fact, those ideas are popular. And I guess that's, kind of, one of the things that I resent most about elite media coverage on this, is the way they lie to us, about us. Even though we know they know it, you know?
So, how can you be fronting this argument that these ideas are so unpopular, when they know from their own polling data that, in fact, these ideas are very popular.
“Unacceptable”: Rep. Jamaal Bowman Slams Manchin After Senator Says No to Build Back Better Plan - Democracy Now! - 12-20-21
[00:06:15] AMY GOODMAN -- HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Senator Joe Manchin, speaking on Fox News, shocking the White House. In a statement, the White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, essentially accused Manchin of lying, saying his comments were, quote, “at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances.”
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders also criticized Manchin’s decision.
[00:06:39] SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: He’s going to have to tell the people of West Virginia why he doesn’t want to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing and eyeglasses. I’ve been to West Virginia a number of times, and it’s a great state, beautiful people. But it is a state that is struggling. And he’s going to have to tell the people of West Virginia why he’s rejecting what the scientists of the world are telling us, that we have to act boldly and transform our energy system to protect future generations from the devastation of climate change.
"You know, what’s going on now, Jake, in Washington is the big money interests are pouring hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to make sure that we continue to pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, that the rich do not start paying their fair share of taxes. And I would have hoped that we could have had at least 50 Democrats on board who had the guts to stand up for working families and take on the lobbyists and the powerful special interests.
[00:07:35] AMY GOODMAN -- HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Massachusetts Congressmember Ayanna Pressley appeared on CNN and condemned Manchin.
[00:07:41] REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY: This is about Joe Manchin obstructing the president’s agenda, obstructing the people’s agenda, you know, torpedoing our opportunity to advance unprecedented advancements to address the hurt that this pandemic-induced recession has caused and to get this pandemic under control.
[00:08:02] AMY GOODMAN -- HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Ayanna Pressley was one of six progressive Democrats in the House who voted against a separate infrastructure bill, saying it should have been coupled together with the Build Back Better plan due to their fear that only the smaller package would pass if they were voted on separately. Manchin has proved the six progressive Democrats to be correct.
We’re joined now by another of those six progressive Dems, Congressmember Jamaal Bowman of New York.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Congressmember Bowman. Can you respond to who Manchin is beholden to here?
[00:08:38] REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN: He’s beholden to his donors. He’s beholden to dark money. And he’s beholden to special interests. And by “dark money,” we mean big donors that cannot be tracked or traced.
And special interests have been heavily involved in the negotiation process for Build Back Better throughout this entire year. The pharmaceutical lobby has spent more money lobbying this year than it ever has in its history — hundreds of millions of dollars. Senator Banchin has — Manchin, excuse me, has raised more money this year than he ever has in his career. So has Senator Sinema, by the way.
So we’re not talking about senators who are responding to the needs of their people. West Virginia has the seventh-highest child poverty rate in the country. West Virginia has horrible climate conditions that need to be addressed. Senator Manchin is not talking about the people of West Virginia or the people of America; he’s talking — he’s responding to big special interests and his donors.
[00:09:45] AMY GOODMAN -- HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: You know, Congressmember Bowman, it’s often said he’s the largest recipient of oil, gas and coal money of any senator in the country. But this point you’re making about Big Pharma; on Sunday, Senator Sanders accused Manchin of not having the guts to take on pharmaceutical and other powerful special interests. Manchin has long had this close relationship with Big Pharma. His daughter, Heather Bresch, is the former president and CEO of the drug company Mylan. During her time as CEO, she drew outrage when the company raised the price of its life-saving EpiPen, used by millions to reverse fatal allergic reactions. She raised the cost of it by 400%. She later received a $31 million payout, and her company, Mylan, gave massive contributions to her father, Senator Manchin. Can you talk specifically about this? Because, in fact, Manchin on Fox talked about drug prices, even when he talked about killing the bill.
[00:10:51] REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN: Yeah. We also have to consider the committees that he is affiliated with in the Senate. Yeah, his daughter increased her salary by 671%. You know, this is a senator who believes that this is OK, that this is business as usual and there’s no problem at all with his family benefiting from investments in and payments from the pharmaceutical lobby.
Unfortunately, he is not the only one. Many of my colleagues in the House and the Senate think it’s OK for big money to continue to control how Congress behaves. You know, this is capitalism. Many of my colleagues are capitalists, and they celebrate this, and they are completely OK with this. You know, they’re OK with Citizens United. They’re OK with corporations being designated as people and money being designated as free speech. This is the problem with Washington.
And as we build back better in an equitable way and work together to save our democracy, we have to look special interests and big money directly in the face and deal with it and change how we do business in Washington. We cannot have a democracy with this level of inequality and this behavior happening in Washington. We just had an insurrection on January 6th, partly because we have a system that allowed someone like Donald Trump to get to the White House in the first place. And now we have 20 million, at least, people radicalized across the country, ready to fight for, you know, their liberties and freedoms as white nationalists.
So, this is all connected and correlated, and Manchin is representative of all of that, as well as an old patriarchy that doesn’t want to support women getting back to work, particularly women of color, doesn’t want to support paid leave, doesn’t want to support universal child care and all the things that would benefit historically marginalized and disenfranchised people.
Nancy Pelosi DEFENDS Stock Trading In Congress - The Young Turks - Air Date 12-6-21
[00:13:06] ANA KASPARIAN - HOST, THE YOUNG TURKS: Well, money and politics continues to be a massive corrupting force among our law makers. Equally egregious behavior includes trading individual stocks even when these members of Congress have access to insider information. Now, how Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about this behavior, and she didn't like it, but before we get to her-- pretty embarrassing-- video on this, I do want to go to this investigation that was done by insider in regard to the so-called Stock Act.
This was legislation that was passed under the Obama administration that was meant to prevent members of Congress from engaging in insider trading, especially considering the fact that these are people who have insider information, information that we, as ordinary citizens, are not privy to. And if they're able to trade individual stocks; well, they could very easily engage in insider trading.
So, this Stock Act was incredibly weak, so let me just get that off the bat. However, it did force members of Congress to report their stock trades. And it didn't just include members of Congress; it also included their spouses and their staffers.
So if they were making $132,552, in, uh, 2021, and if they were doing stock trades of a thousand dollars or more, they're supposed to report it.
But did they? Well, here's what we know from this Insider investigation:
Insider's investigation of financial disclosures found that 49 members of Congress, and at least 182 of the highest paid Capitol Hill staffers, were late in filing their stock trades during 2020 and 2021.
Now, uh, lawmakers and a senior congressional staffers who blow past these deadlines-- they're supposed to report it, uh, between 30 and 45 days, okay, to, uh, basically disclose the stock trades. Um, if they're late, if they blow past the deadlines established by this 2012 Stock Trading and Congressional Knowledge Act... On Congressional Knowledge Act, um, they're supposed to pay a late fee of $200 the first time. Increasingly higher fines follow if they continue to be late, potentially costing tens of thousands of dollars in extreme cases.
Now, did they end up disclosing in time? And if they didn't, were they fined? Well, uh, based on this investigation, it seems like it ain't happening, and that the enforcement mechanisms here are weak, to say the least.
No public records exist, for instance, indicating whether these officials ever paid the fines. Congressional ethics staff wouldn't even confirm the existence of nonplu-- public ledgers, tracking how many officials paid fines for violating the Stock Act.
And also 19 lawmakers wouldn't even bother answering questions about whether they paid a penalty. 10 other lawmakers said, "Yeah, we paid the fines," but they declined to provide proof, such as a receipt or canceled check.
Now, uh, Nancy Pelosi was asked about this investigation, and whether members of Congress should be able to trade individual stocks in the first place. And her answer, I think, is to be expected.
[00:16:17] REPORTER: Should members of Congress and their spouses be banned from trading individual stocks while serving in Congress?
[00:16:23] REP. NANCY PELOSI: No, I don't... No, to this second one.
Because this is a free market and people... We are a free market economy. They should be able to participate in that.
[00:16:36] ANA KASPARIAN - HOST, THE YOUNG TURKS: Nancy Pelosi has done very well in the stock market. And so as her husband. And, uh, it doesn't surprise me at all that she would use this pathetic excuse of "free market," uh, to, essentially, provide cover for what these members of Congress are doing.
Uh, but make no mistake about it. This is insider trading. They have insider information, and their stock portfolios tend to outperform the overall stock market.
Gee, I wonder why? Is it because they're these incredibly intelligent investors? Or could it be that they have information that others don't? Cenk?
[00:17:10] CENK UYGUR - HOST, THE YOUNG TURKS: There's two different issues here: one is the absurd system of reporting, uh, the stock trades.
Uh, so in the Senate, uh, it's actually a little... Halfway better. Okay, when you're late to report, they send you an email, and then you have to respond. Okay? Now they're the... it doesn't look like they follow up too aggressively either, but at least they have a system in place.
In the House, it's a joke. Um, they don't even track it. They say, "Oh, you're supposed to track it on your own, out of good faith. Wink."
Uh, and so they don't send you an email. They don't follow up. And if you don't pay, there are no consequences, no one's ever chased down. In fact, they won't even tell the members how to pay. Uh, members have asked-- the ones that wanted to actually report themselves-- have asked several times, "Hey, what do I do? Who do I make it out to?"
Uh, here Insider did a very good job in this five month investigation, and, uh, found that the Treasury can't find any of the checks. No, the House side is clearly choosing to not abide by the law. And that, oh, gee, who's their leader? Oh, there she is. Nancy Pelosi.
And so... and by the way, when the Republicans were in charge, they didn't abide by the law either.
[00:18:22] ANA KASPARIAN - HOST, THE YOUNG TURKS: Yeah, this isn't a Democrat or Republican thing. This is about corruption. This is about insider trading. This is about people who raise their hands, decided to run, to become public servants, and then turn around and say, "No, it was a free market. I mean, obviously I should, uh, be able to, uh, take advantage of this role that I have, to choose stocks that are obviously going to outperform the market, because I'm privy to the insider information."
And obviously they have control over what legislation gets introduced, what legislation gets voted on. And, uh, if they have any sense that they might regulate certain sectors of the economy that could hurt the stock value of certain companies, well, again, that is incredibly important information that is going to have an impact on the markets, and they're going to be able to make these predictions based on that insider information.
By the way, the other thing, is if they're heavily invested in a certain business, are they going to want to pass regulations that could hurt that business, hurt the profit motive for that business?
[00:19:25] CENK UYGUR - HOST, THE YOUNG TURKS: I'm going to go to our members: so shipwreck superyacht wrote in-- funny enough-- uh, "How free is the market, really, if they use inside information and manipulate the price of stocks?"
And that's exactly it. That's the second gigantic issue here. And the one that Pelosi's addressing.
So she says, "Oh, well, basically, all of the members should be able to buy any stocks they like." Um, remember the story is about the reporting requirement.
But a lot of people say, "Wait, you should have all put it into a blind trust. Otherwise, you know exactly what to invest in, and just reporting it doesn't actually solve anything, right?" So when asked about that, that's when Pelosi said, "Oh, free market, baby."
First of all, that sounds like a Republican. It's absurd to just say, free market on its own. Free market how? What do you mean? In what context?
In this context, part of the protection of the free market is to make sure that there are laws against insider trading. Otherwise, you don't have a free market.
So it... a person you could ask about that is Martha Stewart. She went to prison, uh, for violating these types of rules. Right? But when it comes to the most powerful people in the country, all of a sudden, prison? No.
Another member wrote in about prison. "Ain't nobody going to prison!" I mean, a fine.
By the way, you can make tens of millions of dollars; the fine is $200 for just reporting late. If you reported in on time, they're like, "Oh yeah! Stock! Trade anything you like! Who gives a damn? We're all getting rich, baby!"
So, that brings us to Mr. Pelosi. So, uh, they're about to, uh, introduce an antitrust bill against Google, and some of the other big tech firms. And guess who winds up cashing out on a call option, it appears? Mr. Pelosi, the Speaker's husband.
And... but it's a tiny little amount. It appears, according to the reporting, that his profit was $5.3 million. Okay. Do you have any idea what kind of bet you got to lay down to make a profit of $5.3 million? Okay? And he happened to, it appears, cash out right before they introduced the antitrust bill against Google and hold hearings.
But another amazing coincidence. And we call that free market, baby.
Remembering the legacy of Sen. Harry Reid - All In with Chris Hayes - Air Date 12-28-21
[00:21:38] CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: Tonight, the former Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, has died at the age of 82. Reid was a truly fascinating person. He was a boxer, he was a head of the Nevada gaming commission, he served in the House, all before going to the Senate where you served for 30 years.
He led the Senate Democratic caucus from 2005 to 2017, helping president Barack Obama pass through major legislation like the Affordable Care Act. Senator Chuck Schumer, who succeeded Reid as the leader of the Senate Democrats, released a statement tonight saying, quote, "Harry Reid was one of the most amazing individuals I've ever met. He was tough as nails strong, but caring, compassionate, and always went out of his way quietly to help people who needed help."
Faiz Shakir was a senior advisor to Senator Harry Reid and he joins me now. Faiz, thanks for joining us on short notice. And I first met you over a decade ago, I think when you were working for Senator Reid, and I know his mentorship and working for him was really a formative experience. Maybe you just say a little bit about what the man was like to work for.
[00:22:38] FAIZ SHAKIR: Not just for me, but you can have countless numbers of former Reid staff on here tonight who would all tell you the same thing. There was a unique ethic around Harry Reid. I learned that when I first joined them -- a culture of Team Reid. And I remember thinking when I joined them, is this kind of a cult, but what does this Team Reid philosophy? And you learn almost immediately upon working for this individual. He inspires a loyalty. Where's that loyalty come from? It's this place of a selflessness that's rare of a public official. Learns and cares and thinks about the people around him and got to know their families, knew what drived them. I often think about some of these individuals in public life and what are their super-human traits and qualities. For Harry Reid, it wasn't like his ability to do a speech, as you well know, it wasn't great eloquence on the floor. It was around knowing people, knowing what makes them tick, and inspiring a sense of getting the most out of them, putting them in positions to succeed. And there are so many staff who could tell you, regale you with stories of just unusual desire on his part to reach out and care for another.
And, it's rare in a public officials these days where, obviously you're driven by social media and all kinds of other stuff, to find humans like him, who truly believed in the ethic of public service, to think about others before himself.
[00:23:53] CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: He had a fascinating career, and there were a few different evolutions he underwent that I think are key to understanding our political moment. And I think, partly because I look at you and Adam Jenilson and other Reid staffers, who've gone on to staff other people -- Bernie Sanders among them -- Reid was an immigration hawk when he started. He was opposed to abortion. He was a devout Mormon. He was I think from a kind of centrist mold. He was also institutionalist. And he evolves over the course of his career on both his kind of substantive, ideological vision, and also his view towards the nature of the Republican party, the nature of the Senate as an institution, in really surprising ways.
He, a little like John Paul Stevens in some ways, in that way that where he started and where he ended up in public life is a fascinating trajectory. With integrity throughout. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that.
[00:24:39] FAIZ SHAKIR: Yeah. In many ways, in some of those issues that you raise, he evolved with the Democratic party and the majority of the people within the Democratic party. He was very mindful and not stubborn about where he might have started from, but say, Hey, this is where in some sense, allow yourself to evolve with the circumstances.
And nothing probably exemplifies that more, Chris, and you and I remember it, when he changed the Senate rules. He fought to say, Hey, listen, these center rules don't work anymore. I'm a Senate traditionalist. I believe in this institution. That, however you have president Obama's nominees being stalemated one after another, I'm going to change the rules. I'm going to go ahead and do it. And I think that instance exemplified one element of Harry Reid that I'll carry forth through forever, which is this desire to just embrace the fight when the fight needed to be had. And I think there's too often a, this desire for bipartisanship, of comity. Of course we want all those things. We want a decent relationship with each other in politics. But the purpose of politics that Harry Reid understood very well is to get stuff done. And so I think part of it is just hardscrabble life. As you remember, he went through grew up in poverty, was a boxing commissioner, almost died, almost was killed, and remember in a car bomb, right? Planted by the Mob. And it just --
[00:25:53] CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: The Mob tried to assassinate him, literally tried to assassinate him because he was going after them as the gaming commissioner. And they put a car bomb underneath the car that was discovered before he got in it, right?
[00:26:02] FAIZ SHAKIR: Yes. And he lost an eye late in life, do you remember, from a freak accident, that cost him eyesight in one eye. He was diagnosed with cancer late in life, pancreatic cancer. And the grit of the man was that we just charged through and fight, nothing, no obstacles, no barriers are going to stop us. We're going to continue to care and fight for the things that we know need to get done.
There's the kind of an ethic of that old school politician in him that was: come from hard things, we know hard things, and we do hard things here. And I think that's one of the lessons I hope people take away is that here's a person who, as you mentioned, evolved over time on some core views, but never forgot where he came from, had principle convictions to the end about the things that he believed politicians should be fighting for, and then not himself, but for others, and was willing to change rules, was willing to evolve with the circumstances to get things done. And that is his legacy.
[00:26:56] CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: Oh, one more question about politics and political organizing. We live in an era in which there's a lot of fake organizing and fake organizations that don't actually have power to wield. They don't have structures. Reid help build this organization in the state of Nevada. And it was an organization of the Democratic party and of the hotel workers union, of real rank and file hotel workers, that fuse together. And it functioned like a machine in some ways, right? The way the machines do, not corruptly, but as a machine. But there's almost nothing else like it in America. And he was the one who really helped put that together.
[00:27:35] FAIZ SHAKIR: He often told fellow senators to care about your state Democratic parties. He built a state Democratic party there that delivered Democratic wins. If you look at the trajectory of Nevada and now you have a trifecta in the state, a Democratic governor, you've got the really kind of recognition that Nevada is a blue state, which was certainly, as you remember, when we were growing up, 20 years ago, that was not how we would think of Nevada. It was Harry Reid who ushered all of that in. And how did he do it? It was the fusion, to use your word, fusion of the Team Reid loyalty, inspiring and understanding a generation of people who are good at politics, who he knew were talented, putting them in positions to succeed, and then plays a brass knuckle politics, old school brass knuckle politics. I'll say get things done. Like we're worried about the end state. I remember Senator Reid sitting around one time saying, Why do I care for 60, 70, 80% of people like me? I have to win 50 plus one.
You know what it was this brass knuckle politics. Say, all I got to do is win. Get across the finish line. That's how he built the party. It's we're not here to try to like have the grandiose visions of everybody in the world loving me -- although I think that they should -- but he was like, listen, we gotta win. And we gotta deliver for people. And that's how he built a machine in that state. And to this day I can go outlast him. There are so many things that will outlast him as the marker of a great and wonderful human being that he was.
Dems control the House by only 3 seats. Here’s how redistricting efforts could affect that - PBS NewsHour - Air Date 11-24-21
[00:28:43] LISA DESJARDINS: The congressional redistricting process that takes place every 10 years is in full swing, and the stakes are even higher than usual because the margins in Congress are so tight. Democrats control the House of Representatives by just three seats.
Due to population changes, this year, six states, most in the South, gained a congressional district, with Texas adding two more seats. In turn seven states, largely in the Rust Belt, will be losing a seat. Adding to that drama, consider, these maps are being made in a pandemic and amidst razor-sharp political divide.
To dive in, I'm joined by two redistricting heavyweights, David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report, and Colby Itkowitz of The Washington Post. Let me just start by setting the table for the two of you. In just a few words, can you describe this redistricting process right now, David?
[00:29:36] DAVID WASSERMAN: It's an arms race, and Republicans have an upper hand in it. They're likely to benefit in terms of seats by a modest amount, but the biggest victim in all of this gerrymandering is competition. We're likely to see the number of competitive seats in the House reduced by as much as a third.
[00:29:55] LISA DESJARDINS: And, Colby?
[00:29:56] COLBY ITKOWITZ: I would add to that disappointing for voting rights advocates, for voters who over the last decade had approved ballot initiatives by huge margins asking for politics and partisanship to be taken out of this process, and in so many states, it still remains to be the case that politicians are drawing lines and choosing voters instead of voters choosing them.
[00:30:17] LISA DESJARDINS: OK, let's dive in first with the where. Looking at some of the maps, we've picked to illustrative states, and we're going to start with Illinois, first of all. Here is what the state congressional maps look like before they are changed. You see red and blue divide, red Republican, blue for the Democrats, and, of course, yellow for competitive states. Then here is the new map as it stands right now. You see a change with that more blue growing and that new blue district through the middle in the bottom. David, what's going on in Illinois?
[00:30:49] DAVID WASSERMAN: This is pretty aggressive Democratic gerrymander, and, currently, Illinois' 13 Republicans and five Democrats, Governor J.B. Pritzker just signed a map into law that aims to give Democrats 14 seats to just three for Republicans. Now, of course, just because you draw a map doesn't mean you automatically win the seats. Democrats could still see a couple of districts backfire on them if they have a bad cycle, but it just goes to show the lengths to which parties go to, to try and entrench their advantage.
[00:31:22] LISA DESJARDINS: All right, let's talk about the Lone Star State with the two-seat pickup, Texas. Here is what the Texas congressional map looks like right now. You notice those competitive seats there down around Houston and a little bit north. Here is where Texas is moving to, the new map. You see now more blue states and not just one strip of yellow becoming more partisan.
Colby, Texas is a state that has gained largely because of the gain in its most diverse population. What do these seats mean? What's happening there?
[00:31:55] COLBY ITKOWITZ: So, of the about four million new population found in the census in Texas, more than two million of that came from Latinos, and Latinos did not gain a new district in this map, and so there's a lot of litigation going on about that particular issue. Now, when you look at the map, it looks like it's pretty fair to Democrats. To your point, there is more blue. Of the two seats that Texas gained, one is going to Democrats around Austin. Republicans are taking the other.
What the Republicans have strategically done is, they have shored up their incumbents, and they have also taken away competitive seats, there's only that one competitive seat left. And what that means is that the demographics of Texas continue to change as more Latinos continue to move into the state, they're trying to ensure that those competitive seats wouldn't have turned blue. Now they're safe for Republicans for the better part of the next decade.
[00:32:45] LISA DESJARDINS: And, of course, both of these states, like many, are going to see a number of lawsuits over all of these maps. In the meanwhile, I also want to ask you all about the "who". Who is drawing these maps, the mapmakers? We have seen something changed this year that's really interesting.
I want to show our viewers which states have independent redistricting commissions. You sum all that up, as I know you have, David, and more than a quarter of congressional seats are being mapped out by these independent redistricting commissions. David, what do the maps made by those independent commissions look like so far, and what do we think that means in the end?
[00:33:27] DAVID WASSERMAN: So, Colorado and Montana, both of which are gaining a seat, have commissions. They have passed maps that create districts that could be competitive next year, but commissions are a big reason why Democrats are at a disadvantage here, because a number of blue states, like California, New Jersey, Virginia, Colorado, Washington state, they have adopted these reforms, whereas redder states, like Texas, have not. And so Republicans have the power to draw more than twice as many congressional districts as Democrats, and that's a reason why they're favored for House control next year.
[00:33:59] LISA DESJARDINS: Colby, one thing about these commissions I'm not sure everyone understands, the idea of an independent commission doesn't necessarily mean the map will be nonpartisan. Where are we seeing examples that perhaps the state legislature still is intervening here, when perhaps voters wanted something outside of the legislature to act?
[00:34:16] COLBY ITKOWITZ: Well, one state that we're still waiting to see what they do is New York. New York voters passed what was called an advisory commission. An advisory commission went around the state of independent actors that were put on this commission. They went around New York holding public hearings. They put together maps, and they went around holding hearings again on those maps.
But it's not binding, and so the map that they put together, the Democratic legislature in New York, with a Democratic governor, can just override what they did, and draw a map to their advantage. And like Dave said, the Democrats are at such a disadvantage in this process overall, is that you look to places like Illinois and New York, and you think, do you think do the Democrats unilaterally disarm, or do they try to draw lines as much to their advantage as possible, so that they can try to keep the House?
[00:35:04] LISA DESJARDINS: One last question for you both, can you talk about the arms race, as I think you called it, David, here? How much money is going into all of this? How much does this process impact who is in charge in our government vs. other things we talk about, like voting rights, all of those debates? Can you explain to viewers what's involved and the stakes right now, David?
[00:35:25] DAVID WASSERMAN: Yes, redistricting tends to get less attention than fights over voting procedures, but it's much more consequential to outcome. That's why the parties are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into legal fights and strategy over redistricting.
Keep in mind that, because neither Congress nor the Supreme Court has acted to put up any guardrails against gerrymandering, state supreme courts could be the last backstop against the most extreme impulses of partisans who are in charge of drawing maps, essentially choosing their own voters to benefit their own party's electoral prospects.
[00:35:59] LISA DESJARDINS: Colby, what stakes do you see?
[00:36:02] COLBY ITKOWITZ: Absolutely. Nancy Pelosi is holding on to the House, like you noted, by a very, very slim margin, and so when you draw these lines, any little bit, a shift of the seat here or a seat there, could mean the Republicans take control in 2022. And so there is so much at stake.
There legal fights in almost all of the states that have drawn maps. The Republicans are going to fight in places like Illinois, in places like Maryland and New York, and the Democrats are going to hype everywhere else, and you're going to see this thing play out for years and years and years just to try to get back a seat or two, because that's how fraught this process is.
What Can Biden Do For Voting Rights - The Brian Lehrer Show - Air Date 7-14-21
[00:36:36] REBECCA IBARRA: Yesterday, at the birthplace of American Democracy, President Biden delivered a speech on the topic of voting rights. Taking aim at Trump's so-called Big Lie, which he says is now being used as an excuse to pass restrictive voting laws in conservative majority legislatures across the country. Here's the president yesterday.
[00:36:55] PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: If you lose, you accept the results, you follow the constitution, you try again. You don't call facts fake and then try to bring down the American experiment just because you're unhappy. That's not statesmanship. That's not statesmanship, that's selfishness. That's not democracy, it's the denial of the right to vote.
[00:37:26] REBECCA IBARRA: That was President Biden yesterday in Philadelphia. Elsewhere in the speech, he implored Congress to pass voter legislation, namely, the For The People Act and The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Though his tone was emphatic, President Biden offered few specifics on how Democrats might pass a voting bill through a narrowly divided Congress, and remained silent on the filibuster, which stands in the way of any voting legislation in the Senate. With us
now to talk about the president's speech and fights over voting laws playing out across the country is Ari Berman, senior reporter at Mother Jones covering voting rights, and author of Give Us The Ballot: The Modern Struggle For Voting Rights in America. Ari, welcome back to WNYC.
[00:38:12] ARI BERMAN: Hey, Rebeca. Good to talk to you. Thank you.
[00:38:14] REBECCA IBARRA: Ari, you talked to a lawmaker recently who told you that they wish the president would fight for voting rights as hard as has been fighting for infrastructure. Do you think yesterday's speech signals any shift in a priority for the president?
[00:38:30] ARI BERMAN: I think what it did is rhetorically, it emphasized the president's commitment to the issue. President Biden tried to lay out, in very stark terms, what is happening in this country. He called it a 21st century Jim Crow assault on voting rights. He said the choice was between democracy and autocracy. It was his most detailed statement to date about the attack on voting rights and there was a real passion behind it.
The second part of that is what are you going to do about it? That was the part that disappointed voting rights advocates, because they want Joe Biden to engage with how are you going to pass the congressional legislation that you say is a national imperative. Everyone knows that the filibuster stands in the way of that, but Biden didn't mention the F-word, the filibuster.
It seemed like there was this incredible sense of urgency among the president to communicate to the American people the attack on voting rights, but not the same urgency to pass congressional legislation that would stop that attack on voting rights.
[00:39:36] REBECCA IBARRA: You wrote recently that, "Historically presidents have been pressured into supporting voting rights legislation rather than leading the way." Can you give us some examples and why do you think that's the case?
[00:39:49] ARI BERMAN: The best example is Lyndon Johnson and the Voting Rights Act. Lyndon Johnson was broadly supportive of voting rights when he became president, but he met with Martin Luther King in December 1964. Martin Luther King had just won the Nobel Peace Prize. Luther King asked Lyndon Johnson to support a Voting Rights Act in 1965, and lyndon Johnson said, "Listen, I just signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, I have other things I want to do. Voting rights is going to have to wait."
So Martin Luther King went down to Selma, Alabama to lead a months-long effort to register Black voters, and he said, "I'm going to force you to pass the Voting Rights Act. I'm going to create the conditions that you cannot ignore this issue." Then, when there was this famous March in Selma, Alabama on March 7th, 1965, Bloody Sunday, when civil rights activists, including the great civil rights leader John Lewis, were brutally beaten on the Edmund Pettus bridge, Lyndon Johnson could no longer ignore the issue. What Lyndon Johnson did is once the voting rights became something that you can no longer ignore, he quickly moved legislatively. He introduced the Voting Rights Act eight days after Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, and made this an issue that Congress had to pass.
It was very clear that after Selma a voting rights act had to pass in 1965. I don't think that Joe Biden feels that same sense of urgency. I think he believes that the attack on voting rights is wrong and shameful, but I think he believes it can be overcome through other means. That's where there's a disagreement between voting rights groups who see congressional legislation as the only solution and the president and his advisors who think they can out-organize or outlitigate this, which is honestly going to be very difficult to do.
[00:41:34] REBECCA IBARRA: President Biden called on Congress to pass both the For The People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. As we said and as you said, he didn't offer any specifics on how Congress could actually get there. First, can you just remind listeners the difference between those two bills, and were you surprised at all that he called for passing both?
[00:41:55] ARI BERMAN: No, I wasn't surprised because they're both very important and they do different things. The For The People Act sets national protections for voting rights that apply equally in all states for a federal election. It put in place policies like automatic voter registration, and two weeks of early voting, and a ban on partisan gerrymandering, and more disclosure of dark money for all 50 states for a federal election, so things like congressional elections and presidential elections.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Act is more narrowly tailored. It restores the section of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme court gutted in 2013, which is that states with a long history of discrimination would once again have to approve their voting changes with the federal government. That would apply to places like Georgia and Texas that have a long history of discrimination and a more recent history of discrimination, but it would not apply to all 50 states.
It's kind of like the carrot and the stick approach. The carrot is The For the People Act, it puts in place those policies that would make it easier to vote equally all across the country. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act is the stick. It would say to those states with the longest histories of discrimination, "You need to approve your voting changes with the federal government again to make sure you don't suppress the votes in the future."
'These are no ordinary times' Warnock calls for action to stem erosion of democracy - The Rachel Maddow Show - Air Date 12-14-21
[00:43:06] RACHEL MADDOW - HOST, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: The last few days we have been covering this strange story you think would be getting more beltway press. It's a story of how the Senate agreed, they just agreed, to create an exception to the filibuster so they could pass the debt ceiling today. Are you asleep? Did you fall asleep there for a second? Did that get very boring very quickly? I know, I know.
But there's one part of this that is worth waking up for, whether or not you care about the stupid debt ceiling. The question is, if they can carve out an exception to the filibuster for that, why can't they do it for anything else? Why couldn't they do it for, say, voting rights? So voting rights protections could pass the Senate with a simple majority in the Senate. That would mean voting rights could pass with just Democratic votes, since Republicans definitely won't do it.
I've been kind of tearing my hair out and hollering about this over here at the kids' table for a little while now. But today, somebody who knows how to talk about these things much better than I do, he finally put it the way this ought to be put. Senator Raphael Warnock of the great state of Georgia is one of the best orators the United States Senate has seen in a very, very long time. Watch him on this today. Watch.
[00:44:14] SENATOR RAPHAEL WARNOCK: Democrats have tried again and again to engage our Republican friends in a discussion on this issue, one that lies at the foundation of our democracy. And time and time again, because of a lack of good faith engagement, the rules of the Senate have prevented us from moving that conversation forward. We could not imagine, we could not imagine changing the rules.
That is until last week. Because last week we did exactly that. Be very clear. Last week we changed the rules of the Senate to address another important issue: the economy. This is a step, a change in the Senate rules we haven't been willing to take to save our broken democracy, but one that a bipartisan majority of this chamber thought was necessary in order to keep our economy strong.
We changed the rules to protect the full faith and credit of the United States government. We have decided we must do it for the economy, but not for the democracy.
I come to the floor today to share with the people of Georgia and the American people the message that I shared with my colleagues over the weekend.
I said to my Democratic colleagues over the last several days: Number one, unfortunately the vast majority of our Republican friends have made it clear that they have no intention of trying to work with us to address voter suppression or to protect voting rights.
While we cannot let our Republican friends off the hook for not being equitable governing partners, if we are serious about protecting the right to vote that's under assault right now, here's the truth: It will fall to Democrats to do it.
If Democrats alone must raise the debt ceiling, then Democrats alone must raise and repair the ceiling of our democracy. How do we in good conscience justify doing one and not the other? Some of my Democratic colleagues are saying, but what about, what about bipartisanship? Isn't that important? I say, of course it is. But here's the thing we must remember: Slavery was bi-partisan. Jim Crow segregation was bipartisan. The refusal of women's suffrage was bipartisan. The denial of the basic dignity of members of the LGBTQ community has long been bipartisan.
The three-fifths compromise was the creation of a punitive national unity at the expense of black people's basic humanity.
So when colleagues in this chamber talked to me about bipartisanship, which I believe in, I just have to ask, at whose expense? Who is being asked to foot the bill for this bipartisanship? And is Liberty itself the cost?
I submit that that's a price too high and a bridge too far.
To my Democratic colleagues, I would say while it is deeply unfortunate, it is more than apparent that it has been left to us to handle alone the task of safeguarding our democracy.
The judgment of history is upon us. Future generations will ask when the democracy was in a 911 state of emergency, what did you do to put the fire out? Did we rise to the moment or did we hide behind procedural rules?
I believe that we Democrats can figure out how to get this done, even if that requires a change in the rules. Which we established just last week that we can do when the issue is important enough.
Well, the people of Georgia and across the country are saying that voting rights are important enough. I think the voting rights are important enough. Once we handle the debt ceiling, the Senate needs to make voting rights the very next issue we take up. We must do voting rights and we must deal with this issue. Now.
[00:49:43] RACHEL MADDOW - HOST, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia. Amen.
Senator Warnock joins us now live. Senator, thank you so much for being here. I know this has been a big and busy day already, sir.
[00:49:55] SENATOR RAPHAEL WARNOCK: Thank you so very much, Rachel, it's always great to be with you.
[00:50:00] RACHEL MADDOW - HOST, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: Senator, you said in your remarks today that you have spoken with your Democratic colleagues about this. And that point that you were making that Republicans have plighted their troth on this, and they shouldn't be let off the hook for that. They should be held to account for it. But when it comes to acting, it's never been more clear that it must be Democrats who act.
Now that there have been these two exceptions made in the past couple of weeks on the filibuster rule, now frankly that the January 6th investigation has revealed so much terrible backstory in terms of how serious the plot was to overthrow the election and to pervert the administration of the election in 2020, do you sense any movement, any shift among your Democratic colleagues to your way of thinking on this?
[00:50:41] SENATOR RAPHAEL WARNOCK: We've been having some encouraging conversations. I've been talking to many of my colleagues, including Senator Manchin and I've been talking to Leader Schumer, others throughout the weekend. And, I'm going to continue to make the case. Because again, I think this is the most important thing we can do this Congress.
We make a terrible error of judgment if we behave as if these are ordinary times. These are no ordinary times. And if we don't do something to protect our democracy, here's my fear, Rachel. I fear that we may well have crossed a Rubicon that will make it difficult for us to get back what we imagine, what we take for granted, as a democracy. Democracies don't die all at once. It's a little bit at a time. And anybody who's paying attention right now ought to be concerned.
The good news is we have the power to act. We can do something about it. We proved that last week because, why, if we didn't act, the economy would be in crisis. And I thought seriously about voting against raising the debt ceiling. But I was thinking about the people back home. I was especially thinking about the most vulnerable members of our community, who are not resilient, who would suffer a loss that perhaps is unimaginable if we didn't do the responsible thing.
Well, I shudder to think what will happen to our democracy. If we don't defend it.
Activism Demand Democrats Pass Voting Rights and Election Protection Legislation
[00:52:13] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: You've reached the activism portion of today's show. Now that you're informed and angry, here's what you can do about it. Today's activism, demand Democrats past voting rights and election protection legislation.
[00:52:24] AMANDA HOFFMAN - ACTIVISM CZAR, BEST OF THE LEFT: A lot of people are talking about 2024, but our most urgent tipping point will come much, much sooner, because it's 2022 and the midterms are coming.
Those who wish to strong arm the political future of the country are not going to wait around another three years. Since Trump lost, they have been actively laying the groundwork to make their illiberal democracy a reality. So even though we are all exhausted and weary, time to shake it off. Start imagining living through the days before, during, and after the midterm elections—just a short 11 months from now. Imagine further escalation of harassment and violence meant to intimidate election workers and voters alike. Imagine the chaos at state houses across the country as installed Trump loyalists meddle in and possibly overturn the election results in their dear leader's favor. Imagine watching elections actually be stolen.
The unsettling reality is that there is little we can do to prevent the horrifying antics of a minority of our fellow Americans, but we can do something to ensure voting rights and the results of our elections are protected in spite of the attacks that we will surely face. Congress must pass three pieces of legislation, which requires skirting or ending the filibuster: the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the Protecting Our Democracy Act. Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, just announced that the Senate will vote on filibuster rule changes by January 17th. Our job is to organize, keep the pressure on, and hold these politicians accountable.
That work is already underway. In December, the Poor People's Campaign held a high profile motorcade from West Virginia to DC to put pressure on Senator Joe Manchin and all Democrats to prioritize voting rights. They are committed to doubling their efforts this year. Moveon.org and others organized 200 vigils around the country on January 6, some of which will double as voter registration drives, signaling what I hope is the first of more and larger mobilizations.
Joining these national groups and others is a great way to make an impact, but experts on authoritarianism also advise again and again, that citizens need to be engaged at the hyper local level. That means joining local groups that run voter registration drives in your communities, signing up to be a poll worker, getting heavily involved in your local elections, school board, and city council meetings. If you can, now is the time to consider running for a local election official position in the wake of mass retirements. Get involved with campaigns to rebuke Trumpian candidates running to be Secretary of State, Governor, and state legislators in your state. Whatever you can do, do it. Even if you live in a solid blue state, get involved now.
You might be saying to yourself, "I get it. I do, but I'm so exhausted." All I can say is I hear you, us too. Maybe there's some constellation and knowing that we are all drained, but these are unprecedented times. We can't choose when history will call us, we just need to promise ourselves and future generations that we will answer the call when it comes. Million stepped up in 2020, but that was just the beginning. The phone is ringing again now, let's answer it.
Remembering the legacy of Sen. Harry Reid Part 2 - All In with Chris Hayes - Air Date 12-28-21
[00:55:15] CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: Elie, let me start on with you on Reid and his legacy because you heard Faiz say that one of the most consequential decision was to get rid of the filibuster for appointees and that included judicial appointees. And that did unblock a ton of nominees for president Obama. Of course, that was then wielded by Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump to stuff the judiciary, and we should also note has led to a record amount of judicial appointments in Biden's first year. So it has done it for both sides. I wonder what you think the legacy of that.
[00:55:45] ELIE MYSTAL: I think it shows that what Faiz was just talking about is true. That sometimes you have to be concerned about the end state.
I think Reid gets unfairly maligned for changing the filibuster rules for lower court appointees, and then having Mitch McConnell turn it around on him and change it for Supreme court appointees. And remember, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett are all there in a filibuster-free world.
If there was a filibuster there. none of these people got 60 votes. And so people kind of blame Reid retroactively for his change that allowed Mitch McConnell to change it. Which I think is dumb, because the universe in which Mitch McConnell does not bend the hell on earth to get Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh and Barrett on the court simply doesn't exist.
So McConnell was going to change anyway. Reid pre-struck by changing the filibuster, was for the lower court's appointments. And as you say, that is why Biden, and as a first year president, has appointed more lower court justices in his first year than any other president in American history, besides George Washington. So there ya go.
[00:56:44] CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: Linda, Reid obviously had a very long career in Washington, was really like a creature of the US Senate in the way that fewer and fewer politicians are. I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, frankly. Although one thing I've learned about covering the Senate as knowing how the Senate works confers a lot of power and actually not a lot of senators do. Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell for instance, are two people that really understand how the Senate works at a deep and granular level. And that really does give you an edge.
[00:57:13] LINDA CHAVEZ: Absolutely. In fact, my favorite Harry Reid quote was something to the effect of someone asked him how it is he had such great success and he said, Well, I didn't have success because of my good looks or because I was a genius. I had success because I worked harder than anybody else.
And I think that's absolutely true. And you're absolutely right about his command of the rules. It's something that Mitch McConnell also who, as his adversary, also had very good command of the rules.
But I guess I would disagree on the question of whether changing the vote on filibusters for court appointments was a good thing. I think you have to be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. And I do think that it opened the door for Mitch McConnell to be able to do it for Donald Trump and his three Supreme court justice appointments which all of whom I supported, but I have a an idea that not everyone on the panel did.
[00:58:08] CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: To that point, to zoom out for a second, Anand, one of the things I think about the evolution -- and Reid was key to this -- of let's moving towards majority vote in the Senate. This idea that what's good for the goose is good for the gander is, that is true, but it's also that's the way democracies work.
We've got, there's 50 states in the union that function without -- I think there's three or four that have super majority requirements for some stuff -- but most of them just function with bicameral systems, majority threshold, and somehow they manage. Like this idea that this is sacrosanct, that it absolutely has to exist in the US Senate is largely a creation of the last 60 or 70 years. And I think that if you have a commitment to small D democracy, and Anand as I know you do, there's really compelling reasons to look to get rid of that.
[00:58:55] ANAND GIRIDHARADAS: I think Faiz spoke movingly of Senator Reid's evolution and part of it -- and love of the institution. And I think part of loving an institution is having an honest relationship with it, the same way loving a person means having an honest relationship with that person.
And if you, at some point as any conscientious person would realize over the last 20, 30, 40 years in America, the Senate I think started to go from being somewhat quaint to being a principal obstruction in the throat of American democracy. I think today, if you had to rank the top four or five institutional features of this society that might, through a series of consequences spell the end of of the Republic, the Senate would be very high on this list.
And so it's refreshing that someone who loved that institution, who was a part of it, is institutionalist as you said, was also able to recognize that potential asphyxiation by the institution he loved. And it's sad thinking about his colleagues, present senators who are very much still living, who are in that body, and who don't realize that they are potentially part of, if they don't support things like changing the filibuster, changing the Senate rules on various things, part of suffocating this society at large.
[01:00:15] CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: Yeah. It's funny that Reid's evolution on that was one of the most remarkable features of him. Linda, you want it to say something.
[01:00:21] LINDA CHAVEZ: I just wanted to say that, democracy is about a majority rule, but it is also about protecting minorities in politics, not just minorities, racial and ethnic, but political minorities.
And so I worry that those who want to change the filibuster rules and get rid of the filibuster altogether, particularly those who happen to be Democrats, are going to be very disappointed the next time a Republican is in a president and Republicans control Congress that will leave the Democrats very much without any tools to stop the things they don't want from happening.
[01:00:53] ANAND GIRIDHARADAS: Of the Senate protecting minorities, but I would love to actually see it happen.
[01:00:58] CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: Elie, you go.
[01:00:59] ELIE MYSTAL: The filibuster is here to protect segregation. That's why it's here. It's here literally to protect white majority and rule over the emerging majority of the country.
So if we want to move past white minoritarian rule, what we need to do is get rid of the filibuster and let the people decide on their laws and on their government.
[01:01:19] CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: Let me, I'm just going to say one more thing, and then I want to go to this polling on chief justice John Roberts, because I'm curious to get your take on it.
The one thing I'll say, Linda, to your point, and I've seen Kyrsten Sinema and Manchin defenders of it. It's been interesting to me that, to me, in some ways, the last two trifectas, we had Donald Trump Republican, right? Trump, Republican house, Republican Senate, and then Joe Biden, in some ways have been demonstrations of the fact that it's hard enough to get both houses with the majority to get your major legislative achievement through. Like you didn't need it. They used reconciliation, which is this weird kind of Rube Goldberg machine around the filibuster anyway. And even with the 50 vote majority, couldn't get the ACA passed. We're one year in, and even with the 50 vote majority, they can't get Build Back Better. So it's not you come into office, you've got a trifecta, people are just passing things by fiat. It's hard enough in America to get stuff passed, particularly big stuff, that I think that's an interesting data point in the evolution of this conversation.
I want to talk about another sort of recipient of the power of the revocation of the filibuster, which is John Roberts, who's the chief justice of the US court, with the majority, as Elie pointed out, granted to him by Mitch McConnell getting rid of the filibuster. And there was recent Gallup polling that showed John Roberts as one of like basically the most trusted federal official, federal leader. He has a 60% approval rating, Joe Biden's 53%. Dr. Anthony Fauci is at 52. Roberts is 60%. A huge bunch of liberals with favorable opinions. And I thought nothing is more Elie Mystal bait than this poll.
[01:02:52] ELIE MYSTAL: I can't understand where people have been living. John Roberts is the chief architect of the assault on democracy. He was the fifth vote in Citizens United, which unleashed money into our politics. He was the fifth vote and the author of Shelby County v Holder, which eviscerated the Voting Rights Act. And he was the fifthvote and author in Rucho, which is the decision that made gerrymandering non justiciable at the Supreme Court. So that's money, that's gerrymandering, and that's voter suppression, all penned or all thought of by John Roberts.
And this is your key? This is your man? This is the man that you trust? Like I honestly do not understand. And it goes to show how little transparency there is in the Supreme Court, how little people understand how it works and what it does, and how, quite frankly, effective John Roberts has been in his own PR campaign. Because he always, he takes these votes, he's always when he's always losing on things that he can't win anyway. So he's always showing liberals some love when there's already five conservative votes against them in any event. So he's got a really good PR campaign of seeming to be moderate. But as we've discussed before, Chris, John Roberts, his entire ideal, is to bend the law towards the Republican agenda as far as he can take it without breaking it. That he cares about breaking it is different, but that's his goal.
[01:04:15] CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: Quickly, Anand, that someone called him the most effective reactionary politician of his generation. And to Elie's point, I think in many ways, that's true, precisely because he has gotten to do what he's wanted to do and preserve this approval rating.
[01:04:29] ANAND GIRIDHARADAS: I agree with everything Elie said, and not just because we're part of this three member salt and pepper panel, but because this is an extraordinary case of image trumping reality. And for all the reasons Elie laid out so eloquently.
I will just say there's a larger point to mine here about right-wingers, which is John Roberts is the most popular right-winger in this country because he has figured out a particular art, which is how to kick a country in the groin while smiling in its face.
And a lot of people on the right right now don't have that. There's a kind of rudeness and and that kind of overt aggression. And I think there's something dangerous and scary in thinking about what is a presidential model of a John Roberts look like? The smile, the fake institutionalism while eviscerating everything that is good about this country.
[01:05:18] CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: One of the weirdest developments in my life is that the model in Republican politics right now is to be a jerk ostentatiously, which is a very strange way to approach politics, but has become the way people think about it.
[01:05:29] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with CounterSpin examining the role of media in framing the debate amongst Democrats. Democracy Now! featured reactions to the failure of the Build Back Better bill. The Young Turks discussed Nancy Pelosi's defense of insider trading among members of Congress. All in with Chris Hayes explored the legacy of former Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid. The PBS News Hour gave an overview of the impact of redistricting. And The Brian Lehrer Show back in July discussed Biden's support of voting rights legislation, but his lack of stance on filibuster reform. The update is that within the past two weeks, Biden has made comments in support of making an exception to the filibuster for voting rights legislation.
[01:06:13] DAVID MUIR - HOST, ABC WORLD NEWS TONIGHT: Many of your supporters believe, in order to protect democracy in this country, you've got to protect voters' rights.
[01:06:19] PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Yes.
[01:06:19] DAVID MUIR - HOST, ABC WORLD NEWS TONIGHT: As we near the end of year one, nothing has been done. It's been blocked by the filibuster. Are you prepared to support fundamental changes in the Senate rules to get this done?
[01:06:29] PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Yes.
[01:06:30] DAVID MUIR - HOST, ABC WORLD NEWS TONIGHT: What does that mean?
[01:06:31] PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: It means whatever it takes, change the Senate rules to accommodate major piece of legislation without requiring 60 votes.
[01:06:38] DAVID MUIR - HOST, ABC WORLD NEWS TONIGHT: So you support a carve out of the filibuster for voting rights?
[01:06:41] PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The only thing standing between getting voting rights legislation passed and not getting passed is the filibuster. I support making exception on voting rights for the filibuster.
[01:06:54] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And under mounting pressure, Senator Schumer spoke just yesterday in support of a similar exception.
[01:07:00] SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: As I said in my "dear colleague" earlier this week, if Republicans continue to hijack the rules of the chamber to prevent action on something as critical as protecting our democracy, then the Senate will debate and consider changes to the rules on or before January 17th, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Over the course of history, Mr. President, the Senate has debated voting rights many times, and done what was necessary to take action. But rarely did our predecessors face the sort of malice that now confronts our democracy from within.
So as we hold this debate, I asked my colleagues to consider this question: If the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we Democrats permit a situation which Republicans can pass voter suppression laws at the state level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same. And I ask that of my democratic colleagues, my Democratic colleagues.
[01:08:09] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And finally, The Rachel Maddow Show spoke with Senator Raphael Warnock about the need for Democrats to take action on voting rights legislation.
That's what everyone heard, but members also heard a bonus clip from All In with Chris Hayes diving deeper into the Senate and filibuster rules, which doesn't sound that exciting, but was actually a really good conversation.
To hear that and have all of our bonus contents delivered seamlessly into your new members-only podcast feed that you will receive, sign up to support the show at BestoftheLeft.com/support or request a financial hardship membership, because we don't make a lack of funds a barrier to hearing more information. Every request is granted. No questions asked.
And now let's rejoin a conversation already in progress. So previously on Best of the Left...
[01:09:01] VOICEMAILER: QUAI FROM NORTH CAROLINA: Some conservatives have the false notion that sexuality is a choice. But if you examine human nature, it's easy to test by asking yourself how easy would it be for me to decide to have a different sexuality? You know, if you thought about that, assuming you're heterosexual and you try to imagine being gay or vice versa, that's not an easy choice to just arbitrarily make.
So if the answer is that there are people that can choose and I can't, or would be difficult for me to choose, then they would have to be two tiers of humans: those with a stable sexuality, presumably hetero in the case of conservatives, and those whose sexuality is less stable, and they can end up making a wrong choice with the wrong influences.
[01:09:55] VOICEMAILER: NICK FROM CALIFORNIA: They just think that that thought just needs to be meditated on by all of us, because I really think there is something truly insightful about Quai's insight regarding conservatism or progressivism and wanting to change the system versus keep the status quo. Okay, Jay, I've got it.
Can't be as simple as saying that people who reduce people into two tiers of humans is the answer, because then that would be to basically force people into two camps of humans: those who think there are two tiers of humans and those who don't. It gets a bit recursive there.
[01:10:45] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: First Nick, what you need to understand right up front is that there's two kinds of people in the world: those who think that all of humanity can be divided neatly into two groups, and those who don't. But to attempt to clarify the point that Nick is tripping over, I think that what Quai is describing is a difference in the way people think. Whereas the examples he gives of conservative thinking express a difference in the fundamental humanity and/or inherent equality of different groups. So Quai in a sense is creating two groups of people, pointing out that people think differently. But he is not taking the next step of questioning their humanity or their inherent equality as humans. In fact, he is doing the opposite, by reaffirming everyone's equality.
And in Nick's defense, he said in a portion of his voicemail that I cut out, that he was calling late at night and he wasn't really at his sharpest. So I'm sure that he has figured out all these clarifications on his own by now.
So now you are all caught up and here we are in the new year with new messages on this topic.
[01:11:55] VOICEMAILER: NICK FROM CALIFORNIA: I'm just saying, Jay, thank you. I listened to my comments and I'm sure whatever editing you did, I called in late at night. I'm sure it was very disjointed. And what I heard was very coherent of me speaking. So I really do appreciate the edits you did. Thank you so much. Love the show. I haven't listened to your comment as a calling you back here. But the edit you did of that rambling screed was great. I really appreciated it. Thank you.
[01:12:25] VOICEDMAILER: SCOTT FROM CANADA: Hi Jay. This is Scott from Canada. At the end of the last show, while addressing Nick's comments, you made the very important point that categorizing people is useful. For example, differentiating between people with mutable conservative opinions, versus people with mutable liberal opinions, while essentializing people is dangerous. For example, differentiating between immutably more law abiding white people versus immutably less law abiding people of color. I agree with that point. But then you suggested that conservatives make that very mistake when they suggest homosexuality is a choice. Isn't it so that you are the one who is essentializing gay people by saying gay people are naturally attracted to same-sex people. That sexuality is inherent. If it is a choice, then homosexuality is not inherent, right? They aren't essentializing, you are. Not that there's anything wrong with that. We can essentialize gay people as gay and all as well. Having said all that, I don't know why that is. I can't explain why regarding a black person as essentially black and essentially different constantly has bad outcomes, while regarding a gay person as essentially gay and different has no bad outcomes, unless I'm completely out in left field. I'm hoping you can see what I'm saying and maybe address that point. Thanks, Jay.
Final comments on why essentializing race or sexual attraction is not good or even correct
[01:14:04] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: As always, thanks to those who called into the voicemail line or wrote in 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]
So for the full context of those voicemails that I only played clips of, they can be found in episodes 1461 and 1463 respectively. And, now we're all caught up, and have Scott's question to answer.
And the good news for Scott, I think, is that he is somewhat out in left field, and he is working with a faulty premise, which I think is relatively easy to fix. So he's getting tied up in the details, which is natural when you start with a faulty premise.
So first we agree that essentialising Black people as Black is bad for multiple reasons. The first is that there's no such thing as biological race; and for that reason, we know that there is nothing actually different about Black people, or any other racialized group.
Which brings me to the second point, which is: racialized groups. Racialization is a very real phenomenon that profoundly impacts the members of racialized groups, almost always in a negative way. And it is that shared experience-- of being racialized-- that creates the shared identities of, for instance, Blackness, or Latino-ness.
And, of course that's an oversimplification; of course, more than "how a person is socially racialized" defines their own self identity, or their identity as a member of a group, and so forth, but you get my point.
Now, onto Scott's question about homosexuality: just as biology has demonstrated that there are not multiple biological races, we also now understand that sexuality not as two points in a binary, or even three points in a-- I don't know, trinary? Ternary? Trinity? Something like that-- but as a single spectrum. Everyone is on a spectrum.
The idea that we share the same spectrum is foundational to the idea that no one is essentially different from anyone else based on their sexual attraction, just as we are not essentially different based on our skin color, eye color, or whether we're right-handed, left-handed, or ambidextrous.
So, we're different, in that we look and act slightly differently from one another, but we're not essentially different, in ways that should be held up as definitional to groupings we should be put in.
In other words, a person should be able to have same sex attraction without that being their foundational defining descriptor.
And now just to finish off, I want to mention that there are very, roughly, a similar percentage of people who identify as homosexual as there are left-handed people, which itself used to be thought of as literally sinister for its differen-ness from the vast majority. This is from an explainer dictionary:
It says, "The word sinister today, meaning evil or malevolent in some way, comes from a Latin word, simply meaning 'on the left side;' left, being associated with evil, likely comes from a majority of the population being right-handed. Biblical texts describing God saving those on the right on judgment day, and images depicting Eve on Adam's left.
"Consequently, the Latin for 'right,' 'dexter,' finds its way into positive words like 'dextrous,' and the French word for 'right,' 'droit,' is found in'adroit,' and without having found any conclusive research on this topic, I would also throw in the likely connection to 'right-hand man' and 'sitting at the right hand of God,' as additional examples of right-handed superiority."
Which makes me unable to avoid thinking about a world in which, uh, you know, maybe there's no conception of race, or gender inequality, but there is right-handed superiority. Right? People would try to hide their left-handedness, to 'pass' as right-handed, to be accepted into mainstream society. And there'd be left-handed pride parades to generate solidarity. And preachers would argue that left-handed dominance may come naturally, but everyone still has the choice to use their right hand, anyway, so as to please, God, of course. People are kind of terrible is what I'm saying.
So as always keep the comments coming in at 202 999 3991, or by emailing me to [email protected]
That is going to be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to the Monosyllabic Transcriptionist Trio, Ben, Ken, and Scott, for their volunteer work, helping put our transcripts together. And yes, that is the same Scott who's question we answered today.
Thanks also to Amanda Hoffman for her work on all of our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting.
And thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at bestoftheleft.com/support through our Patreon or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content and no ads in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player.
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.