Transcript: Thom Hartmann & John Nichols & Cliff Schecter: Tuesday elections. November 9, 2011
Thom Hartmann: And greetings my friends, patriots, lovers of democracy, truth and justice, believers in peace, freedom and the American way. Thom Hartmann here with you. Boy, a lot happened last night in the elections. And let’s just get right into it. We have both John Nichols, the Washington correspondent with The Nation Magazine/ and Cliff Schecter, a democratic consultant, excuse me, a progressive PR consultant with LibertasLLC.com on the line with us. Cliff lives in Ohio, John has been in Ohio and does a great job of reporting on these issues all around the country. Let me start with you, John, if that’s okay. Give us a snapshot of what happened last night.
John Nichols: Well what happened last night was the end of 2010. 2010 was portrayed as something permanent. That we had had a radical shift in this country to the right on a whole host of economic, social and political issues. Well last night, driven more by the voters, by the people, than by the Democratic party, you saw a rejection of the right wing agenda, labor rights, on voting rights in the state of Maine where they overturned an elimination of same-day registration. And on the social agenda, where of all places, Mississippi pushed back against an assault on women’s rights, reproductive rights. And perhaps, and I have to say the most remarkable results, and one that we have to give a shout out to our friend Kim Carter of Progressive Democrats of America, who for the last three or four months, maybe even longer, has been telling us that the anti-immigration stalwart in Arizona, Russell Pierce, would be…
Thom Hartmann: This is the state senator who introduced senate bill 1040, 1080, 1090, whatever it is?
John Nichols: The anti-immigration law. And in fact, a driving force in really national anti-immigration politics. Russell Pierce, the president of the Arizona State Senate, voted out of office. If you had asked me a year ago, Thom, would we see an election day, November of 2011 when labor rights, women’s rights, voting rights, and immigration rights were the winning issues, even I, the optimist, would have said I was not expecting that.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah, and I think it’s quite extraordinary. And republicans basically just being republicans, they’ve been doing what they’ve been doing and the people are going, ‘Huh?’ you know, they’re not going to have this. Cliff Schecter, you live in Ohio, you’re very, very wired into Ohio politics as well as national politics. The thing that, baffles is the wrong word, but I’ve seen several different possible explanations for this. Why is it that on question 2, in your state, which was “Do you want to eviscerate the right of unions to collectively bargain," the vast majority of the people came out and said no. we support the unions. But on question 3, “Do you want to make a symbolic vote to amend the constitution of the state of Ohio so that Obamacare can’t happen here," the majority of people said yes, let’s block Obamacare. What happened there?
Cliff Schecter: Well yeah, and actually I had a conversation with a pretty high up insider about this just the other day. The unions really didn’t take that one on, and I think it was a terrific day for unions here, actually as John pointed out, for progressive policies all around the country. Here I think they were worried that it would split people up. That a lot of their members were divided. And I’ll say I think, I’m glad that we had a great day and I’m glad that everybody stood in solidarity, but I have been critical about it. I think that was a mistake on their part. Because remember Obama is going to be at the top of the ticket, you know, whatever you think of him. And a lot of us think the healthcare bill obviously didn’t go nearly as far enough, didn’t have a public option, but in that one way I think they left that hanging. I don’t think it takes away from the great progressive day we had yesterday, I just think it’s, you know, if we’re going to all stand with unions, you know, maybe the unions should have done some education with their own members and tried to explain that again this is the conservative way of trying to undo the Obama healthcare law. And so this isn’t just about mandates, eventually this about whether your kids can stay on healthcare till they’re 26, whether preexisting conditions can get you kept off of healthcare. Whether you can be kicked off with rescission once you’re on and a variety of other things that were good about that bill. So I think, frankly, that was a tactical mistake. But I don’t think that takes away, again, from what was a really good day.
Thom Hartmann: So, John Nichols, does that mean that the unions were the primary force in messaging the ‘no on 2’ vote, and therefore, ‘no on 3’ failed, or is it that this administration and the democratic party have done, or frankly the corporate media of the United States, the national media, have done such a terrible job of pointing out you know, everybody knows there’s no public option. But pointing out the actual benefits of Obamacare, that you know 60% plus of the voters of Ohio said no we don’t want it.
John Nichols: Well you’ve got two separate questions there. And let’s take them both quickly. First off, on this bill, or on this piece of legislation in Ohio, the referendum. It’s meaningless. It’s just a symbolic vote. And I think one of the mistakes that a lot of people make, and this goes right up into the White House. There’s a lot of people who think that the healthcare bill was a big deal. That Americans cared about it. That’s just not the case. The fact is Americans want healthcare reform, and they want an awful lot of what is in what we call Obamacare. But the number one issue, the fundamental issue in America is jobs and the economy and the ability of working class people and middle class people to protect themselves, in frankly, a very, very difficult moment. And to have focused on the healthcare bill, in this moment, at this point, would have to my mind bought right into the republicans agenda. It would have been a very bad mistake because you just couldn’t get the level of excitement about that healthcare bill, about what is referred to as Obamacare, as you can about depending labor rights.
Thom Hartmann: Because there’s so much ambivalence about it. I mean even Cliff, just a moment ago, qualified his support of it by saying, you know, even though it doesn’t have a public option. Cliff…
John Nichols: Let me give one final component there, that’s very important. And that is, separate from that question, is did the unions drive this? This is the biggest story of last night. In Ohio, and in a number of other states, it was unions and progressive groups that set the playing field, that set the agenda. And then the democratic party caught up to it, picked up the lines that were put out by the union movement, by progressive forces, not the other way around. This is a reversal of how politics usually work and it is a very important lesson. The democratic party does not know how to run election campaigns, it doesn’t know how to play politics. It needs to take a lesson from folks how actually care, and that’s again the unions and progressive forces, which showed such strength last night, if democrats around the corner do what they did in Ohio which is follow the labor movement, they have tremendous…
Thom Hartmann: And follow the whole variety of progressive movements, you know like Tim Carpenter’s Progressive Democrats of America. 30 seconds left, Cliff Schecter. How do we build that progressive infrastructure and use it to influence both political, all, you know anybody who is going to vote?
Cliff Schecter: Well, I mean, as John pointed out, on the right politics has worked this way and that’s why the Republican party has moved so far to the right. It hasn’t on the left, just as he was pointing out and that is important. It is important. You know, it’s not that the pieces aren’t there, we can always use more money, more infrastructure, a lot of us complain about that. But there’s a movement there right now. It’s in Ohio, it was in Wisconsin, it’s around the world quite frankly. It’s certainly going on on Wall Street and Washington and in a city near you. And I just think that that movement keeps, again as John said, needs to keep showing the democrats what needs to be done because it was originally the Obama administration’s failure to get that public option in and to defend that healthcare bill and point out what was good about it, that got us here. You know, progressives can come out and point out what is good about individuals running, what is good about progressive policies, and then democrats will follow, I think.
John Nichols: Thanks a lot Thom.
Cliff Schecter: Thanks Thom.
Thom Hartmann: Great talking with you, or early afternoon, or whatever it may be. We’ll be right back.
Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.