The most important, historic, and consequential midterm election of our lives is over. It wasn’t quite a blue wave, but the Democrats, while unable to win the Senate, did, as predicted, take back control of the House for the first time since 2010. That means that your health care, if you have some, is a little safer, climate change might finally get some attention from lawmakers, and — wait for it — Donald Trump might finally be held to some account. We might not get impeachment, but we will get investigations, hearings, and maybe a tax return or two. If this midterm election, which was far from free and fair, teaches us anything, it’s that the Democrats, now in charge of the House, have to make democratic reform a political and legislative priority. We need to pass a new voting rights bill, end gerrymandering, lower the voting age, make Election Day a public holiday or move it to a weekend, and get statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico. Mehdi Hasan is joined by Rep. Barbara Lee, MSNBC host Chris Hayes, and Women’s March co-chair Tamika Mallory to digest the election results and discuss voter suppression — and where the democrats go from here.
Wolf Blitzer: CNN can now project the Democrats will win the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Nancy Pelosi: Thanks to you tomorrow will be a new day in America.
Jake Tapper: When you look at what’s going on here tonight, this is not a blue wave.
Mehdi Hasan: Welcome to Deconstructed. I’m Mehdi Hasan.
Well, the most important, most historic, most consequential midterm elections of our lives are over. And today on the show we’re going to be unpacking the results and what it all means with my good friend Chris Hayes of MSNBC.
Chris Hayes: I think people wanted some sort of magic carpet ride and that did not happen.
MH: With progressive icon and Democratic Congresswoman from California, Barbara Lee.
Barbara Lee: I think this is a major, major victory for the American people.
MH: And after a historic night for female candidates – with the national co-chair of the Women’s March, Tamika Mallory.
Tamika Mallory: There are mixed emotions. People are not sure exactly what to feel.
MH: But first, if you’re a normal, sane person who didn’t stay up all night watching cable, do you want the good news or the bad news?
Let’s start with the bad news. This guy is headed back to the United States Senate.
Ted Cruz: God bless Texas!
MH: Yep, the Zodiac Killer himself, or the man Donald Trump calls “Lyin’ Ted” was re-elected in Texas, defeating Democratic Party golden boy Beto O’Rourke, who presumably is now getting ready to launch his 2020 presidential campaign. Cruz beat O’Rourke in traditionally rock solid Republican Texas by just 3% – and did so with the support of 59% of white women in the Lone Star State – once again, thank you, white women.
More bad news from Florida: this guy is the new governor of the Sunshine State:
Ron DeSantis: The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a Socialist agenda.
MH: Yes, friend of white nationalists, Ron DeSantis, a Trump-mini me, who produced a campaign video of him with his kid building a wall with toy blocks. I kid you not. He prevented liberal hero and progressive populist Andrew Gillum from becoming the first black governor in Florida’s history, and winning by a mere percentage point.
Perhaps the most depressing news of the night though: this guy is the new governor of Georgia.
Brian Kemp: I’m Brian Kemp. I’m so conservative, I blow up government spending.
MH: Yes, Republican Brian Kemp defeated the inspirational Stacey Abrams, who could have been the first African American female governor in U.S. history. But let’s be clear, as in Florida, as in Texas, this was not a fair fight. This was not a free and fair election. It was an election tainted by voter suppression, by racist voter ID laws, by epic lines at the polling stations – where polling stations were even open – and, even worse than in Texas and Florida, in Georgia, Brian Kemp was the guy in charge of running the election. Yeah, the same election he was standing in. And he won.
But, wait, wait, before you go off to cry into a pillow, it wasn’t all bad news. It wasn’t quite a blue wave but the Democrats, while unable to win the Senate, did, as predicted, take back control of the House for the first time since 2010. That means that your healthcare, if you have some, is a little safer. That means that climate change might finally get some attention from US lawmakers. That means, wait for it, Donald Trump might finally be held to some account. We might not get impeachment, but we will get investigations, hearings, maybe a tax return or two.
And there’s more good news: Republican Kris Kobach, who has devoted his career to preventing people of color from voting, who was one of the leading lights behind Donald Trump’s ludicrous voter fraud commission, he was defeated in his race for the Kansas governorship. Democrat Laura Kelley beat him by 5 percentage points. And, like Brian Kemp, Kobach was in charge of the election that he was running in. Ridiculously. But, hey, cheats don’t always win.
It wasn’t just Kansas though. Democrats flipped a few other governorships too from Michigan to Illinois to New Mexico.
And some more good news: a raft of new, progressive, combative women will be arriving on Capitol Hill come January 2019, ready and eager to shake things up: Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim American women elected to Congress; Ayanna Pressley, the first African American woman elected to the House from Massachusetts; Sharice Davids, the first Native American woman to serve in Congress; and of course Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, at 29, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, self-styled Democratic Socialist and new rockstar of the American left.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Despite being outspent four million dollars, 18 or 13 to 1, despite the fact that we were running against a ten-term incumbent, despite the fact that it was her [sic] first time running for office…despite all those things, we won.
MH: But perhaps the best news of all: Amendment 4 passed in Florida, which ok many of you may not have heard of. But it means around 1.5 million former felons, who had been permanently banned from voting under a racist law that dates back to the Jim Crow era, now have the right to vote in Florida. A million and a half people. In fact, it’s the biggest expansion of voting rights in America for more than five decades, since the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Rashad Robinson: This will be a tremendous victory for democracy, for what it will mean two years from now for who’s part of the voting polls.
MH: This is huge. Not just morally, because it’s the right thing to do, but politically. It’s a game-changer. Come 2020, Florida won’t necessarily be the swing state it’s always been.
But here’s the thing – yes, a million and a half people got their voting rights back in Florida, but they didn’t get it back in time to help Andrew Gillum, who lost by a mere percentage point. And across the U.S., voter suppression laws yesterday helped Republicans win again and again and again.
In my view, the entire US election system needs to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch. It’s a joke, an anti-democratic disgrace. In Georgia, there were voting machines that had no power cords and which ran out of battery power, so people couldn’t vote. In Florida, at one polling station in Miami, they ran out of ballot papers. At a polling station in Detroit, Michigan, there was a voting machine locked in a closet that they couldn’t get out, and they had to turn voters away. In Arizona, the building of one polling station was foreclosed on overnight. In Brooklyn, New York, they couldn’t get into the polling station in the morning because no one had the keys.
This is American democracy? In 2018? Seriously?
Look I’m a foreigner. I’m an immigrant. I’m a Brit observing and reporting on your elections and I have to say, on behalf of the rest of the democratic world: what is wrong with you people? The world is laughing at American democracy right now.
And if these midterm elections, which were far from free and fair, teach us anything, it’s that the Democrats now in charge of the House have to make fixing democracy, have to make democratic reform in the United States a political, a legislative, a constitutional priority. Pass a new Voting Rights Act, end gerrymandering, lower the voting age, make Election Day a public holiday or move it to a weekend, get statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico. If you want to make this country more democratic with a small “D” and more democratic with a big “D,” there’s no other option.
MH: Joining me now to digest some of these election results, to talk voter suppression and discuss where the Democrats go from here: one of the shrewdest, smartest, sanest people on cable news, my good friend and MSNBC host Chris Hayes. Host of All In and author most recently of “A Colony in a Nation,” who’s on the ground in Texas right now where he’s been reporting on Ted Cruz vs Beto O’Rourke. In fact, he’s actually at Beto’s campaign party, or what was supposed to be a party, which has just wrapped up.
Chris, thanks for joining me on Deconstructed.
CH: Oh, great to be on, Mehdi.
MH: Chris, what happened to the blue wave? It wasn’t quite a blue wave, was it?
CH: Well I think that narrative is maybe not quite right. I mean, one benchmark, you know, someone who’s a poll stats nerd, Sean Trende who’s very insightful. He said back, it was probably mid-summer, he said, “Look, if you see a uniform shift of eight points away from Trump throughout the country, you would be looking at Republicans picking up four or five Senate seats and losing 35 seats in the House, right? Like, the playing field on the Republican and statewide races was always tough and always an uphill climb. I think one of the things that happened is, in some ways, the sort of long-shot, most ambitious, and electrifying candidates – and I’m thinking of Beto O’Rourke, Stacey Abrams, and Andrew Gillum – got a lot of the national attention precisely because of the kind of man-bites-dog nature of their competitiveness in adverse conditions.
But if you look at the popular vote margin, you’re looking at plus eight, plus nine for Democrats. That tracks with both the general polling of the country, in which a majority of people do not like Donald Trump, do not approve of his job. It tracks with the results we saw in 2017 in the special elections and a 30 or 35-seat pick-up, given the gerrymandered playing field, is big. I mean, I think that there’s a way in which Democrats sometimes spook themselves and I think people wanted some sort of magic carpet ride night and that did not happen.
But look, the fundamentals are the fundamentals. I mean, Missouri where Claire McCaskill lost, that’s a state that Trump won by 19 points, or 18 points. He won Indiana where Joe Donnelly lost by 19 points. Those are tough margins. You got to come up, you got to find votes somewhere in those states. And in some ways, there’s a way in which the kind of fundamentals in those sort of, deep-red states, particularly predominantly white states, has really solidified in the Trump era.
[car honks horn]
MH: Well before we go – you’re in the noisy Texas.
CH: I apologize –
MH: No worries, you’re in the heat of it all. You’re in the midst of it all. You’re in Texas where you were covering the Cruz-O’Rourke race. You talk about no magic carpet rides. That was going to be the biggest magic carpet ride of them all – Beto-mania. He ran him pretty close in rock-solid, Republican Texas where Cruz won by what, 16 points back in 2012?
CH: That’s right, and in the state that Trump carried by 9 or 10 points. And in a state, let’s be clear – the state has not elected a statewide Democrat in 24 years. They’ve been nominating Democrat after Democrat who’s lost by 15 points. And here’s a guy who comes out of El Paso, zero name recognition. He’s from a part of the state that no one in the much more populated, Eastern part of the state knows anything about. And he raises $75 million and he comes within three points. And look, you know, from Cruz’s perspective, he’s got six more years in the Senate. A win’s a win. I talked to his people tonight. You know, close only counts in horseshoes and grenades. But, in terms of the efficacy of what he built, what Beto built. It was a ratification of that at some level. That is a massive outperformance of the fundamentals on his part.
MH: And Texas Democrats below, down the ballot did much better than Beto. There were some good wins at the state-level and Congressional-level.
CH: Yes, in fact, they’re going to look to pick up probably about ten, eleven seats in the State House where they’re out-numbered, 95-55 currently, before tonight. They’re picking up, they picked up at least two congressional seats. And congressional seats that were not gimme’s. And look, the base-line here is so low for Texas Democrats. They’re having the best night they’ve had in a generation. So, from the outside it’s like, what are you guys celebrating, but for the Texas Democratic party, it’s like, you got to start somewhere.
MH: And does Beto now take his name recognition and all the cash he’s raised and does he run for president now for the Democrats? Is he a contender for 2020?
CH: You know, I don’t know. There’s going to be a lot of speculation about that. He’s shown that he can build something pretty special but he also lost. Although again, I just said this on air, it’s 2018 and Donald Trump’s president. So, like —
MH: Anything is possible.
CH: — Yeah, why let anything stop you.
MH: And talking of Donald Trump, he’s watching these results in the White House with his “friends.” I refuse to believe he actually has friends, and who is he going to blame for this? We’re hearing talk of him blaming Paul Ryan. What’s Trump’s strategy going to be from now onwards in relation to –
CH: I don’t even think he’ll blame any – I don’t think he’ll blame anyone because I don’t think he’ll acknowledge the loss. To him, it’s like, “Yeah we won. We won a bunch of Senate seats. The places I went to did well.”
MH: – Yep, we held the Senate.
CH: Yeah, and the fact of the matter is there’s this somewhat famous, infamous memo that Patrick Buchanan writes to Nixon back in late 1967, ’72 maybe, in which he sort of, outlines the wedge strategy, talks positive polarization. And he’s got a line in there, and I’m paraphrasing, he says – It’s a high-risk strategy that will likely cleave the country in two halves but I think we’ll get the bigger half. And that’s the Trump strategy: cleave the country into two halves and think you get the bigger half. The weird thing is –
MH: He didn’t campaign in any states he didn’t win in 2016.
CH: – Well, that’s the thing. The weird thing about his strategy is he’s pulling off the strategy while getting the smaller half –
MH: Because minority rule is the order of the day now. You can win with a minority.
CH: – That’s right. So, the popular vote in the Senate is going to be probably plus nine points for the Democrats, most likely. The popular vote in the House will be plus nine which will be reflected in a majority, although it won’t be a majority as large as the popular vote because of gerrymandering. The Electoral College, there are a bunch of sort of, structural anti-majoritarian institutions that are a product of the U.S. Constitution that have sorted themselves in such a way where it continues to be the case that the GOP plays from 40-45% and manages to do pretty well in it.
And that has to do with the distribution of voters. They need to turn out one kind of voter more or less. Democrats need to turn out a bunch of different kinds of voters in a bunch of different kinds of places. And that’s the sort of basic structural fact that was kind of reaffirmed tonight. It’s a sort of, core part of what the country’s going through.
MH: And there was a lot of talk on the left and even in the center, in the run up to these midterms, that this was the most important midterm elections of our lives mainly because it was a chance to put a check on Trump and not just a check on Trump in technical terms, but also sending a message to say, “This guy who runs a racist campaign –” Which is what he ran. This is about saying “America’s better than this.” Do you think we’ve got that much of a message from tonight? Could we look back and say “You know what? These midterms did draw a little bit of a line in the sand against the kind of racism and bigotry that we’ve seen over the past two years or not?
CH: I think that’s a mixed answer and it depends, again, it depends on where. I think there’s a few places where the answer was yes. I mean, Kris Kobach who was a Trumpian figure in many ways –
MH: In Kansas.
CH: – He’s the governor of Kansas. He lost in Kansas on a night that Democrats didn’t do fantastically in gubernatorial races. Kobach loses. There was a race in New York that I thought was very interesting. John Faso, a Republican incumbent running against a Black Rhodes Scholar and Harvard Law grad who he insisted on calling a “big-city rapper” because he cut a rap album when he was in his 20’s in a district that’s 80% white that Trump carried. Delgado wins that race. Steve King narrowly ekes out a victory in a district that’s plus 13, plus 14. Although he is returning to Congress. And I think you see it also in those suburban districts that went so heavily for Democrats where the basic conventional wisdom bore out, which was that a lot of suburban voters, particularly college-educated, white women were horrified by the way the president conducts himself. Again, the problem for Democrats is there are a lot of different constituencies with different needs in different places that they need to organize, mobilize and turn out. And that is a harder task building vibrant, multi-racial coalitions than the task that Republicans have set themselves.
MH: But they did a good job of building coalitions as being great, relatively great turnout among some of these communities tonight. The problem of course is that the Republicans have built wonderful systems of stopping these people from voting. And one of the problems as a Brit watching these elections of yours, as an outsider, I look at these elections, I think “By any international definition of free and fair elections, these were not free and fair elections.” Do Americans realize that other countries don’t run elections like you guys do with these epically long lines and these broken machines and these ridiculous voter ID laws?
CH: I think there is some sense – again, the laws are so different in so many places. So, like the folks who vote by mail in the Northwest realize it. They look at the rest of us and say “What the heck are you doing?” And there are places that have same-day registration in the country and that works pretty well too. So yeah, I think there is some sense and I think it will be interesting to see the priority the Democratic government places on it. There’s big opportunities. There’s a ballot initiative to sort of expand voting rights in Michigan that passed. You now have the Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer there. How much that becomes a priority. Again, in New York, you now have Democrats, unified control of that state. New York, a blue state has some of the worst voting laws. There’s no early voting. It’s a notoriously a terrible state to vote in for lots of reasons. Will they attack that? And then in Florida, you have 1.4 million people with felony convictions who have now been re-enfranchised.
MH: Yes, the passage of Amendment 4, a big win tonight.
CH: That’s right. And that will also change things.
MH: And just on the personnel: Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer in charge of the Democrats in the Senate and the House. Pelosi is going to become speaker again. She’s been talking about bipartisanship and reaching across the aisle tonight which will have some Democrats, some people on the left wanting to vomit. Are they safe in their jobs do you think for the time being? Or will some of the newer members be saying “We need some fresh blood at the top, people who want to take the fight to the Republicans.”
CH: I think they are pretty safe but I think there’s grown disgruntlement and I think it will be interesting to see how they handle it. Let me tell you, I’ve covered Nancy Pelosi for a while. Nancy Pelosi knows how to count votes. Nancy Pelosi’s father was the mayor of Baltimore. She came up in the absolute, most cut-throat kind of urban machine politics and Nancy Pelosi knows how to whip votes and knows how to count votes and knows how to get enough votes to be the next Speaker of the House. Anything can happen, like I said –
MH: My worry is that you’re right and they end up, what is it the Israelis said about the Palestinians? They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. I worry the same applies to the Democrats in the House. That now back in control, they won’t act as ruthlessly as the Republicans have done when they were in charge. And that will disappoint a lot of people in the base.
CH: – That will but I think there’s a question about what does ruthless mean and what does it look like and I think that they will be small-c conservative, I think that’s true. And I think there’ll be a question about the wisdom of that approach particularly in the early parts. But again, I think it is worth mentioning that you know, exit polling shows healthcare is the most important issue, it’s something Democrats ran on. I think there is going to be a desire to do things like bring up some drug price laws or do some stuff on kind of meat and potatoes core Democratic issues that unite the caucus as sort of, and corruption and government reform and all those things. And I don’t think those out of the gate are poor tactical moves by the Democrats. It’s whether, the question then, the rubber will hit the road when you start having budget fights, shutdown fights. All of that kind of stuff which is now going to be coming down the pike.
MH: Or investigations into Trump’s finances and taxes which he won’t take very kindly to.
CH: That they will do and that will be a fight and I don’t think they will back down from that fight. But I also think they do not want to out-kick Robert Mueller. They will not get out in front of him because I think they probably smartly recognize that he’s going to have, he has the best shot of getting the truth at this point. And in the end, even though we live in this crazy, post-truth environment, I do think the facts of what actually happened in the 2016 campaign as uncovered will matter a great deal as to what happens in the next year.
MH: God, I hope you’re right, Chris. One last question: 2018 is over. The midterms are done, but 2020 is kicking off, if it hasn’t already kicked off. What lessons do Democrats take from these results tonight into 2020? What can they learn from what’s happened today across the country that will help them beat Trump in 2020?
CH: A few things, 2020 will be an absolute dogfight and there is still juice left in the orange for Donald Trump to squeeze on the stuff that he likes to do. If you thought 2018 was bad, 2020 will be worse.
MH: Oh, God help us all.
CH: He will lean wholeheartedly into all of the racism and bigotry and the fear mongering and all that. And they have to know that, and they have to be prepared for that, and they have to think about what they do about that.
Number two, one really interesting thing in these House races were Democrats for successful was they didn’t really talk about Trump that much and they very much stayed on a bunch of core Democratic issues. It was like they were running against Paul Ryan and I think there is a case to be made that that was a pretty smart strategy. A lot of the Republican agenda when you strip away the sort attentional vortex that is Donald Trump. The brass tacks of the agenda is not popular and to the extent there’s a message there or a lesson there about the message, about hammer on the agenda, hammer on healthcare, and hammer on the tax cuts, and hammer on deregulation, and hammer on, even on immigration, you know immigration reform. There’s, there’s a path forward there and it’ll be interesting to see how that shapes the 2020 field.
MH: Chris go get some sleep. Thanks so much for joining us on Deconstructed. Appreciate it.
CH: You bet, a pleasure, thanks.
MH: That was Chris Hayes, MSNBC host predicting a small “c” conservative approach from the new House Democratic majority.
NP: Today is more than about Democrats and Republicans. It’s about restoring the Constitution’s checks and balances to the Trump Administration.
MH: That was former and future Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, speaking at an event in Washington D.C. last night and standing next to on stage was another California congresswoman, but one much to the left of Pelosi. What does representative Barbara Lee – a leading light in the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the only member to vote against the war in Afghanistan back in 2001 – What does she think the Democrats should be doing with their new majority?
I caught up with her on the phone shortly before she and Pelosi hit the stage.
Hello, Representative Lee it’s Mehdi Hassan here from Deconstructed. Can you hear me?
BL: Yeah, hi.
MH: So good to speak to you again. Thanks for coming back on the show.
BL: Yeah, glad to be on.
MH: And congratulations on your re-election tonight.
BL: Thank you. Well, you know, polls aren’t closed yet in California. But we worked hard and had a good turnout today. So, we’re moving forward.
MH: There’s been great turnout across the country in a lot of groups: young people, people of color, etc. It looks like the Democrats are going to take the House as was predicted, but it hasn’t quite been the blue wave that some thought it would be. What’s your reaction to the results so far?
BL: Well, I think when you look at where we started and the great candidates who are out there and the tough districts in which, so far, that we’ve won in, I think this is a major, major victory for the American people. And still, there are many races that have to be called but I think that you know, some of these races for instance, Colin Allred in Dallas, Texas, my gosh.
He defeated the Chair of the Rules Committee, Pete Sessions. So, there’s a lot of hope out there, and I think people who are voting against hate, they’re voting for the people and they want a check on the president. And I think that’s what we’re seeing happen.
MH: And what kind of check are Democrats in the House now going to provide against this President? Because that’s what a lot of people, as you say, want to see.
BL: Well when you have a House of Representatives that can stop a legislative agenda or a budget that the president prevents, or appropriations, or bad legislation that would hurt the American people, the House of Representatives can stop that from moving forward and that’s extremely important. That’s why we have a system of checks and balances.
We can also put forth our own agenda for example, reducing the cost of prescription drugs, addressing the whole issue of the culture of corruption, addressing oversight and investigations, holding this administration accountable, to enforce our infrastructure bill, making sure that you know, we move forward with an agenda that’s for the people.
That’s basically a check on the president’s agenda which is just the opposite.
MH: And the Democrats in control of the House, lots of new leadership roles there. Will you be running for a Democratic leadership role in this new Congress?
BL: I am running for Democratic Caucus chair and I’m talking to my colleagues. I’m putting forth my agenda, my views, and listening to members because I want to make sure that my ideas and views are put out there and that members understand that I want to be a convener, a collaborator. I want to be able to keep our caucus unified and really connect our caucus with constituents and with engaging the voter engagement and really connect with each other and make sure that we move forward to 2020 with the majority.
MH: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, your new congressional colleague from New York tonight, she suggested that you should be speaker, which I know is not what you’re running for, but there is –
BL: I am running for Democratic Caucus Chair.
MH: – But there is a debate about the speakership. Nancy Pelosi has talked about staying on as speaker. She’s been leading your party in the House since 2002, 16 years. A lot of people say it’s time for new blood there. Someone else should be leading the party. Now, what’s your view? Will you be voting to keep Speaker Pelosi?
BL: Yeah, I support Nancy Pelosi. She’s done a phenomenal job. She’s been a great leader and a great speaker.
MH: And she said tonight that the Democrats once they take back the House, once it’s all confirmed, that she’s going to be trying to reach out to Republicans. She wants to be bipartisan. A lot of people in your base are going to hear that and say, “Oh no, not again. Obama tried that. You can’t work with these Republicans. They have a scorched-earth strategy. The Democrats need to be a bit tougher this time around.” What’s your view?
BL: We have to try because the American people want us to get the job done. And if you have a bipartisan House, which we will have you, have to try. Now, having said that, when you look at the fact that not one Republican voted for the Recovery Act to save this country from going into a deep depression, not one Republican voted for the Affordable Care Act, which covered millions of people with health care coverage, then, you know, there’s the time that you have to just go at it and do what’s best for the American people. But you have to try to work with everyone to get the job done.
MH: Nancy Pelosi’s also played down any talk of impeachment. How high on the Democratic Congressional agenda should impeachment be or at least investigating Trump, holding hearings into his corruption, self-dealing?
BL: Well, I believe you heard who will be our chair. Mr. Nadler, who will be the chair of the Judiciary Committee and Mr. Cummings, who will chair Government Reform and Oversight. They definitely are moving forward with investigations, pursuing the facts. Congressman Adam Schiff will chair the Intelligence Committee. So, this whole issue of accountability, corruption, the emoluments clause, and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that the courts have looked at and are moving forward on.
So, I think you have, will have a House of Representatives that can do both, move forward with our economic agenda and our agenda on health care for the people. And also conduct the investigations that are required to protect our democracy.
MH: And domestic policy aside, you’ve been one of the leading anti-war voices in Congress since 9/11. Do you think there’ll be a shift in foreign policy now in the House on issues like the U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen, or the ongoing U.S. war in Afghanistan, now the longest war in U.S. history?
BL: Well as you know, I voted, I was the only one who voted against the blank check after 9/11 and I actually have offered amendments to repeal that authorization on many occasions but have legislation. I finally did get bipartisan support from all Democrats and Republicans in the Appropriations Committee supporting that, and of course, our then, speaker Ryan and Donald Trump just took it out of the bill in a very undemocratic way. So, I think there’s momentum now for us to look at our foreign policy and for us to shape a global peace and security strategy that works for our national security as well as for peace. And we get now to remember, we have to work for peace and that should be a priority of the Democratic caucus.
MH: And just before we finish, I know you have to go back to your lots of events in California, what policy or messaging lessons should Democrats take from these results in this campaign into 2020, into the next election?
BL: That we’re working for the people, not millionaires and billionaires.
MH: And is there a candidate that you have in mind? Because now this election’s over. The next election’s going to begin. 2020 starts tomorrow. Is there a candidate you favor for President for the Democratic side?
BL: No, we have some phenomenal candidates who are working as though they may run and they all are great candidates and we’ll see how the primaries shake out.
MH: Barbara Lee, thanks for joining me on Deconstructed.
BL: Thank you.
MH: That was Representative Barbara Lee who you’re going to be hearing a lot more from in the next Congress. One highlight of the night was the record number of female candidates who ran for office and the many women who won, from Governorships in Kansas and Michigan to Congressional seats in New York, Minnesota, Texas and beyond. Joining me now to talk about the importance of organizing to these election results and the impact of women in politics is Tamika Mallory, national co-chair for the Women’s March.
Tamika, thanks for joining me on Deconstructed.
TM: Thank you so much for having me.
MH: Tamika, I know you spent a lot of time during the midterm elections in Florida. You did a lot of voter engagement over there. Out of Florida tonight, we’ve had some very good news: the passage of Amendment Four. One and a half million ex-felons getting their right to vote back, including a lot of African Americans, but also some bad news Andrew Gillum who wanted to become the first Black Governor in Florida’s history lost by a percentage point how happy and/or sad are you feeling tonight?
TM: I think there’s, you know, mixed emotions, that I wouldn’t be being honest if I didn’t say that there are mixed emotions. People are not sure exactly what to feel. You know, we know that voter suppression is an issue that is very real across the country and so one has to wonder how voter suppression played a role in a number of races.
And of course, you know looking at the history of what has taken place in Florida, there are always questions about the integrity of elections there. Being so close to winning for Andrew Gillum, certainly, it’s not a good feeling. You know, we wanted to see Andrew win. We know he was most qualified and the person who would have been most inclusive and so that’s certainly there. But at the same time Amendment Four passing is a testament to organizing that has gone on the ground in Florida and all over the country. And I think that the numbers tonight are a testament to that work, that organizing, and it says that people are ready for real transformative change. And I think that that’s what we’re beginning to see happen across the country.
MH: I think you’re right to point out the power of organizing, definitely. And I’m glad you mentioned that the impact of voter suppression because I think a lot of journalists when they write up the story of Florida or Georgia, you know, might chalk it up to strategies and policies. But when Andrew Gillum loses by a percentage point in a state with a history of voter purges and racist voter ID laws, and of course, these former felons who now have the right to vote, but they couldn’t vote today. They weren’t able to vote for Gillum.
TM: That’s right. That’s right.
MH: It’s an outrage, I mean. There have been some other good news stories tonight. A lot of very progressive, outspoken, combative women have been elected to office, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, a lot of very inspiring women. How much do you think the Women’s March, which you were a co-organizer of, straight after the inauguration of Donald Trump back in January 2017 – How much do you think that played a role in this record number of women running for office and being elected to office?
TM: Well, we know for sure that the Women’s March was a catalyst for women running for office. And the reason why we know that is because many of the organizations who handled electoral politics, and particularly, helping to train women to run for office saw a surge in the number of women showing interest in running right after the Women’s March. So, this is a direct correlation, direct result of the work that we did with the Women’s March in 2017.
MH: Is there a particular race, a particular candidate, a particular person who stands out tonight for you? The one that got you most excited?
TM: I’m excited for many things. To see two Muslim women join our federal government tonight is incredible.
MH: Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
TM: Rashida – exactly, exactly and just the number of women, in general, that we know are responsible for us taking back control of the House.
MH: And Tamika just reading some of your recent op-eds, you’re not a particularly big fan of the Democrats as a party, I know. Do you have faith that they won’t screw this up? They now have control of the House – that they’ll use the mandate they’ve been given tonight to really stand up for working people, for people of color, to stand against the Trump agenda without caveat or compromise? Because we’re already hearing Nancy Pelosi saying “We need to be bipartisan. We need to reach out across the aisle” and I’m thinking “Really? Again?”
TM: Here we go again. You know, I think that has something to do with the folks who have been in Congress for a while. And newer blood that is coming in, you know newer energy, younger energy, people who are not lifelong politicians also, joining the process and I hope that that energy helps to sort of mix up some of the more seasoned and those who are more passionate and those who are not as politically correct.
So, let’s hope that when you mix those two things together, what you begin to see is a party that is more committed to those who put them in office. And I think that they have no choice, because I think what we’re showing is that as quickly as we can put you in, we can take you out and there are a number of people who I believe have to be primaried. Some of it, you know, we’ve got to look at how we primary people who are supposed to be working on our behalf but have shown us time and time again that they do not. And those conversations need to begin happening right now.
MH: I hope you’re right about the impact of the new blood. From your activist organizer perspective, what should be the priority for this new Democratic House majority? What policy or bill or proposal should be at the top of the wish list?
TM: There’s so much. I mean, you know, I could sit here and talk about reproductive rights. Obviously, that’s going to be an issue as the Supreme Court begins to look at, you know, Roe v. Wade. We’re going to have issues there, obviously, reproductive rights. Of course, criminal justice reform. The major issue: I think we have to continue to move the ball on you know, on mass incarceration and a number of issues related to criminal justice reform.
So, I think all those things are important, but I’m not going to be shy in saying that a number one issue has to be ensuring that Donald Trump is not president of the United States in – that he is not re-elected in 2020. And what I mean by that and how I think that the party can help, is that we’ve got to do a better job of investing in the people who are actually voting the right way over and over again in these elections. What do I mean by that? There are very, very raw numbers that have come out, premature numbers. We’ll see what happens. But there are numbers that show right now that in Texas over 50 percent of white women voted for Ted Cruz. That is a problem, of course, and we have to deal with that. But what is more important is that 90+% of Black women, if these numbers are correct, voted in this election for Beto.
So, if we continue to see Black women leading, leading the efforts to try to make a change and bring people together in this country, and the Democratic party fails to invest in Black women leadership, fails to invest in bringing people in who are sitting on the outside, sitting on the outskirts, sitting on the margins, then we are going to lose in 2020.
MH: And Tamika, quick question for you personally: Do you plan to run for office yourself at any stage?
TM: I am not running for office. That is not in my near sight at all. I think I do a better job of being an outsider who puts, who applies some pressure and helps to organize to make what our elected officials do possible.
MH: And on that note, on the terms of the outside pressure: The Women’s March has the next march in January 2019. How is that going to be different to what we’ve seen before? What are you going to be pushing for in that march that’s new?
TM: Well, I think you know the march in January of ’19 will be different because we will really be focusing on a platform, a political platform that gets people organized around the country and different areas. We walked away from the Women’s March having people inspired, going to get connected in their communities, you know, doing things like huddling up and you know, writing to their elected officials. Really just getting their feet warm, getting in there, getting them to even be aware of what is happening around them and how they can, you know, again come off, off the sidelines and into this process.
But as we become more sophisticated in our organizing, as we become more sophisticated as an organization, and as a membership, we want to ensure that people have a politically charged agenda that they can go out and work in their communities. Not just during election cycles, but every single day to really organize and have a basis for their organizing strategies.
MH: And one last question, Tamika, 2019 is the Women’s March, 2020 we know is the next election. you know, the 2018 midterms might be over but the 2020 presidential campaign is about to get into full swing. Is there a candidate that you have? A preferred candidate on the Democratic side who you think is the best person to take the fight to Trump in 2020?
TM: You won’t catch me there tonight. You won’t have the headlines say that I am supporting anybody because I don’t know who is going to emerge. But I do know that we’re going to ensure that whoever it is running has to answer to women, has to answer to people of color, has to talk about issues like mass incarceration. And as long as they speak to those issues and have the type of platform that we can appreciate then you know, they’ll be someone that I personally, will be working hard to see become the next president.
MH: Well, you can’t fault me for trying, Tamika. Thanks so much for coming on the show. I appreciate you taking time out tonight.
TM: Thank you for having me. Bye-bye.
MH: That was Tamika Mallory, national co-chair for the Women’s March.
Tamika might not want to say who she’s backing in 2020, fair enough, but let’s be clear: the 2020 race is on. Elections never end in America. It’s one non-stop campaign. And the midterms didn’t produce the Blue Wave that many were predicting but they have produced a Blue House and that might be enough, for now, to put a temporary check on Donald Trump’s racist and autocratic ambitions. Whether Democrats can build on yesterday’s wins, and learn from their losses, in order to stop him once and for all, two years from now, well that’s another matter. I’m not as hopeful as I’d liked to have been, sitting here, the morning after the midterms.
But hey, remember, 1.5 million people can vote today who couldn’t vote yesterday.
That’s our show. Deconstructed is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept, and is distributed by Panoply. Our producer is Zach Young. Dina Sayedahmed is our production assistant. Leital Molad is our executive producer. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Betsy Reed is The Intercept’s editor in chief.
I’m Mehdi Hasan. You can follow me on Twitter @mehdirhasan. If you haven’t already, please do subscribe to the show so you can hear it every week. Go to theintercept.com/deconstructed to subscribe from your podcast platform of choice, iPhone, Android, whatever. If you’re subscribed already, please do leave us a rating or review – it helps new people find the show. And if you want to give us feedback, or just be upset about the midterms, or happy about the midterms, email us at [email protected]. Thanks so much!
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