Election 2012: Ben Jealous, Laura Flanders, others, on Obama's 2nd Term & the Future of Progressive Politics
- For the DVD, go to the URL, just below; but if you don't, imagine passionate, overwhelming bursts of cheering,after almost each point by Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin. -EdElection 2012: Ben Jealous, Laura Flanders on Obamas 2nd Term & the Future of Progressive Politics
AMY GOODMAN: Tuesday night, President Obama won a second term in office. We continue our coverage of the presidential election by hosting a roundtable discussion. Were joined in our studio by two guests: Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, and Laura Flanders, host of GritTV and author of many books, including Bushwomen: How They Won the White House for Their Man.
We welcome you both back to Democracy Now! You were both with us last night in a marathon election special. Ben Jealous, your response to President Obama winning re-election as the 44th president of the United States?
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: You know, this is, I think, a great day for our democracy. We saw the vote attacked with more ferocity this year than we have seen in a very long time. More states passed more laws, pushing more voters out of the ballot box in the past year than weve seen in a year in the past century. And so, people really triumphed, because they took their vote seriously. And they took it seriously when it counted, months ago, when we had to push governors to veto these bills, when we had to push DOJ to actually go in and invalidate laws, when we had to file lawsuits and get the job done. But then they stayed engaged, and they turned out their communities. We overcame all sorts of myths, people saying that the black vote, for instance, would lack enthusiasm or it really didnt matter. Well, it mattered in Virginia. It mattered in Florida. It mattered in Ohio. It mattered in Pennsylvania. Folkand it mattered across this country. People did great work. You know, we saw brown voters come out like never before, and we saw movements really win incredible victories. I mean, the fact that, you know, all this happened, and hes pro-marriage-equality, and then we defend marriage equality in four out of four states last night, is huge.
AMY GOODMAN: Laura Flanders?
LAURA FLANDERS: Well, you know, it turns out that womens bodies can magically shut down under attack: they can shut down radical, misogynistic attacks. And thats what we saw last night. And the Senate is going to be returning; the 113th Congress will convene with binders full of women19 women in the Senate, the largest number ever, with four new women senators returning or going to the Senate, including, of course, Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin defeating four-term Governor Tommy Thompson; Elizabeth Warren defeating Scott Brown, at one point the flag carrier, the spear carrier for the tea partybecame a one-termer.
This was an extraordinary, I will say, up-from-the-bottom set of victories, longshot challenges. Four years ago, we were talking about a longshot candidate for presidency. This year, we were talking about longshot movement victories, like the sort that Ben is talking about, movement victories fighting back an unprecedented assault on voting rights, movement victories fighting back an extraordinary tsunami of money, and people voting against the odds on a wing and a prayer, a prayer that this vote would make a difference. We saw them go out into the wet, cold, rainy night in New York City and around this region, SandyHurricane Sandy survivors leaving their cold, dark homes and going out into the cold, dark streets to cast a ballot.
What happens now is that we hold those hopes and dreams precious, and force our politicians to live up to the extraordinary courage and organizing bravery and smarts that people showed last night.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to play a comment made by Bill OReilly being interviewed on Fox News last night.
BRET BAIER: So whats your sense of the evening? I mean, you look at these exit polls. You look at the, you know
BILL OREILLY: My sense of the evening is if Mitt Romney loses in Ohio, the president is re-elected.
MEGYN KELLY: How do you think we got to that point? I mean, President Obamas approval rating was so low. And obviously this is hypothetical: we dont know whoswhos even winning right now, never mind who won. But how do you think it got this tight?
BILL OREILLY: Because its a changing country. The demographics are changing. Its not a traditional America anymore. And there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama. He knows it, and he ran on itand whereby 20 years ago President Obama would have been roundly defeated by an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney. The white establishment is now the minority. And the voters, many of them, feel that this economic system is stacked against them, and they want stuff. Youre going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama, overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obamas way. People feel that they are entitled to things. And which candidate between the two is going to give them things?
AMY GOODMAN: That was Bill OReilly. Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP?
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: Yeah, when you look at those comments, I mean, theyre tinged with everything that is sad about the history of our country: his disdain for women, the way he just kind of rolls into women at the end right? as part of this group that just wants stuff; his disdain for people of all colors except for his own; his equating traditional with oppression. I mean, thats really what hes talking about is a system based on gender oppression and based on race oppression, based on the oppression of people of different sexual orientations than his own. And, Bill OReilly has momentsIve witnessed a couplewhen hes lucid, and he actually can recognize what this country really is. I think last night, unfortunately, he saw that his kind of groups, his dwindling groups equation for success now wont guarantee that. And hes going to have to change his game, and hopefully hell change his tune.
AMY GOODMAN: Laura Flanders?
LAURA FLANDERS: The demographic shifts hes talking about are very real. In 1992, a Republican candidate winning six out of 10 white votes could have carried the presidency. It didnt happen last night, though Romney got that same proportion of white voters. You cannot, in this country, in 2012, win a presidency with white male voters as your home demographic. You cant do it.
Its not about stuff; its about standing. The history of America has been about those who have been marginalized fighting for standing in this country as equal persons, equal persons under the law, equal persons under a code of morality that embraces us all, and equal persons in a society that is a society of caring and mutual aid and assistance. This is one of the fundamental fights of this election, was about who has standing in this country.
And what we saw was the crazy, upside-down, magical thinking, that the GOP persuaded even many in our media to go along with, that white men would be enough to win the presidency, that unemployed people would blame Barack Obama, that women would embrace a return to second-class citizenship. None of it was true.
Look at the states that won for Mitt Romneythe Great Plains states, the Mountain states. What do they have in common? They have in common relatively low unemployment rates vis-à-vis the states won by Barack Obama. Those who are hurting in this country overwhelmingly, according to exit polls, blamed the record of George Bush. They did not go for this baloney about it being a function of the bailout. And we saw illusion after illusion that Americans dont vote their self-interest fall, as people actually did vote their self-interest. They voted for a society that is not dog-eat-dog, that actually does believe in some social safety net, and that believes
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: In itself.
LAURA FLANDERS: in the dream that DREAMers put forward, which is that when you organize, when you push, when you create a viable political constituency, you can be heard in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: An intreMedia-Latino Decisions poll released on Tuesday, as an alternative to the exit polls, found that President Obama had won 75 percent of Latino voters nationwide, while exit polls found him with around 70 percent of Latino support. Exit polls placed Romney at winning 29 percent of the Latino vote, which is lower than Republican candidates received in 2008, 2004 and 2000. I mean, Mitt Romney coining the term "self-deporting"
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: "Self-deportation," yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: I think that was problematic for him.
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: Well, he just self-deported himself from politics, right? I mean, thats just just what happened. And I would like to say, Bill OReilly is right: we do want stuff. Its the stuff of freedom. Its the stuff of equality. Its the stuff of inclusion. Its the stuff of our very pledge: "one nation, under God, indivisible, with..." You know, we want all that stuff. And we deserve that stuff, because thats what this country is supposed to be about.
AMY GOODMAN: Yet Sheriff Arpaio was re-elected in Arizona.
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: Sheriff Arpaio will be in his own jail, you know, within four years.
LAURA FLANDERS: I mean, lets be clear, the history of America is a history of having to fight really, really hard for standing and the rights promised under theunder the promise of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, fights that have been waged by movements, from the labor movement, the womens movement, the civil rights movement.
I mean, one of the things we saw yesterday that Id love you to talk about more, Ben, that you talked about last night, was about the extraordinary organizing that the NAACP was part of, with LGBT groups, with unions, with womens organizations, with Latino and immigrant rights groups, who fought against these tremendous odds, but its not just magic that this happened. This was strong organizing, with legal challenges, with people refusing to give up the ghost, with organizations like Color of Change targeting the corporate sponsors of conservative groups like ALEC. I mean, people used every tool at their disposal. And again, it comes down to electoral strategy paying off by movements to support a Democratic majority. We now need that Democratic majority to take the leadership from those movement groups and set some priorities that will change economic
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: "Take" as in accept, not "take" as in steal.
LAURA FLANDERS: Yes, exactly.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to one of the most closely watched races in this country. Thats Democrat Elizabeth Warren defeating incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts Senate race. Warren is a Harvard law professor whos promised to fight for a struggling middle class. She helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This is part of her victory speech last night.
SENATOR-ELECT ELIZABETH WARREN: For every family that has been chipped at, squeezed and hammered, were going to fight for a level playing field, and were going to put people back to work. You bet. Thats what were going to do, yes. Yes. To all the small-business owners who are tired of a system rigged against them, were going to hold the big guys accountable. Yeah. To all the seniors who deserve to retire with the security they earned, were going to make sure your Medicare and Social Security benefits are protected and that millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share. Thats right. And to all the young people, all the young people who did everything right and are drowning in debt, were going to invest in you. We are. To all of the servicemembers and your families, who have fought so hard for us, were going to fight for you. You bet we will. Thats right. Thats right. Thats right.
WARREN SUPPORTER: We love you!
SENATOR-ELECT ELIZABETH WARREN: I love you. And to all the women across Massachusettsto all the women across Massachusetts who are working your tails off, you better believe were going to fight for equal pay for equal work.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts. And then theres the Tammy-Tommy race, that closely watched Senate race in Wisconsin, Democratic Congressmember Tammy Baldwin making history on two different counts Tuesday night when she beat former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson: Tammy Baldwin becomes the first Wisconsin woman elected to the U.S. Senate and the countrys first openly gay senator.
SENATOR-ELECT TAMMY BALDWIN: I am well aware that I will have the honor to be Wisconsins first woman U.S. senator. And Iand I am well aware that I will be the first openly gay member.
BALDWIN SUPPORTERS: Tammy! Tammy! Tammy! Tammy! Tammy! Tammy! Tammy! Tammy! Tammy! Tammy! Tammy! Tammy!
SENATOR-ELECT TAMMY BALDWIN: Butbut I didnt runbut I didnt run to make history. I ran to make a difference, a difference in the lives of families struggling to find work and pay the bills, a difference in the lives of students worried about debt and seniors worried about their retirement security, a difference in the lives of veterans who fought for us and need someone fighting for them and their families, a difference in the lives of entrepreneurs trying to build a business and working people trying to build some economic security. But in choosing me to tackle those challenges, the people of Wisconsin have made history.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Tammy Baldwin, the new senator-elect from Wisconsin, taking the seat of Herb Kohl, who was retiring. Nineteen women senators now, one of them a Republican woman senator from Nebraska, who defeated Bob Kerrey. She is DebDeb
LAURA FLANDERS: Fischer.
AMY GOODMAN: Deb Fischer from Nebraska. On the issue of Elizabeth Warren, she now becomes a senator in the Senate that refused to confirm her as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: because of their involvement with the banks, across the board. What does this mean for her to become a senator now? And where does she go with the banks?
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: Well, you know, look, she will really, quite frankly, extend the tradition of Barney Frank, extend the tradition of Ted Kennedy, as these great fighters from Massachusetts who are willing to go out and take risks to hold our financial industry accountable. You know, right now, if I was running a payday lending corporation, Id be very worried. This is somebody who wants to come in and kill payday lending. And we should, because it is usury. You know, and she is someone who you will see really become a driving force in her party and come as close to filling the void left by Ted Kennedyno one can really do that, but come as close as any one person can, because she comes in with an entire movement behind her, and people of all races in this country who look up to her, and women who really want to see her do well, but also a country thats yearning for somebody to take on the banks whos not afraid.
AMY GOODMAN: And the racism leveled against her.
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: Yeah, whichwhich was insane and perverse and weird, right?
AMY GOODMAN: Scott Brown saying that she had said she was Native American, and she said, "Well, my mother told me that I was." And he would not let go of this.
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: Thats exactly right, as people doing the whole tomahawk thing, you know, and following her
AMY GOODMAN: His staffers.
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: Yes, you know, and its just so disrespectful. And it inflames racial hatred. Its one of the oldest in our country. And its desperate. And you saw it with Bill OReilly earlier. I was sitting there, you know, looking at Tammy Baldwin, looking at Liz Warren, thinking about Sojourner Truth saying, "Aint I a woman?" Well, its like, "Aint I white?" I mean, really, cant we have a more expansive vision of white and actually allow Bill OReilly, people who are white who are willing to link up with people of all races in this country on equal and respectable terms, include them and not say to someone that theyre non-traditional whites?
LAURA FLANDERS: Two things on Elizabeth Warren. The irony, of course, is that she came to prominence fighting big money and big power of big banks, and is now going to come to the Senate as the Senate candidate who raised more money than any other in American history. So lets hope that she doesnt feel beholden to her big donors. I dont thinkI hope she wont.
On the question of Tammy Baldwin and the politics that were talking about, weve often heard in American political punditry that one must, you know, suppress identity politics organizing in favor of, you know, good-class, mainstream politics. If we hadnt built movements to defend against bigotry against women, against people of color, against LGBT people, if we didnt have powerful identity politics movements in this country, we would have seen Tammy Baldwin have no chance of defeating Tommy Thompson. The fact that she won shows that these two issuesthese movements have always got to walk inwork in lockstep. And thats what happened in Wisconsin. And its a huge lesson I hope well learn.
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