Anti-Sanders Democrats and Michael Bloomberg are raining attacks down on the frontrunner. This week on Intercepted: As Bloomberg launches a massive attack ad campaign against Sanders ahead of the South Carolina and Super Tuesday primaries, Sanders is facing a multipronged battle against the most powerful political and economic forces in the country. From Columbia, South Carolina, Rev. Jesse Jackson discusses the red-baiting against Sanders, offers his views on democratic socialism, and suggests that Bloomberg should have run against Donald Trump in the Republican primary. Jackson, who won the South Carolina primary in 1984 and 1988, discusses his presidential runs and Joe Biden’s claims of involvement with the civil rights movement. Intercepted producer Laura Flynn and Intercept journalist Aída Chávez report from Nevada on how the Latinx community propelled Sanders to victory. Plus, Jeremy Scahill takes on the red-baiting scare tactics being deployed against Sanders.
Anderson Cooper: Bernie Sanders leads the Democratic field in national polls. He’s the front-runner.
You’re making a lot of people nervous.
Bernie Sanders: Is that a bad thing?
AC: Bernie Sanders has been arguing that everyone can have health care, education, and a decent paying job.
BS: Let’s use the federal government to protect the interests of working families.
AC: Isn’t that a dangerous message for Democrats?
BS: Blah, blah, blah, blah. Liar.
AC: And that’s just one of Bernie Sanders’s many proposals. There’s also free public college, cancellation of all student debt, a federal job guarantee, and a Green New Deal to rapidly reduce carbon emissions. How are you going to pay for this?
BS: Through a modest tax on Wall Street speculation.
AC: How would that even work?
BS: We have a tax on wealth, as you well know, Anderson.
AC: Do you know how much, though? Do you have a price tag?
BS: Oh boy. How are you going to pay for that?
AC: Are you getting mad?
BS: It’s taxes on billionaires you know. How are you going to pay for over $750 billion on military spending? How are you going to pay for a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the one percent and large corporations which was what Trump did?
Jeremy Scahill: This is Intercepted.
JS: I’m Jeremy Scahill, coming to you from the offices of The Intercept in New York City. And this is episode 118 of Intercepted.
Margaret Brennan: Can Americans trust that a democratic socialist president will not give authoritarians a free pass?
BS: I have opposed authoritarianism all over the world and I was really amazed at what Mayor Bloomberg just said a moment ago. He said that the Chinese government is responsive to the Politburo, but who the hell is the Politburo responsive to? Who elects the Politburo? You have got a real dictatorship there. Of course, you have a dictatorship in Cuba. What I said is what Barack Obama said in terms of Cuba, that Cuba made progress on education. Yes, I think…
[Boos from the crowd.]
BS: Really? Really? Literacy programs are bad?
Pete Buttigieg: Yes, because there’s no comparing those two commentaries.
BS: What Barack Obama said is they made great progress on education and health care. That was Barack Obama. Occasionally —
Joe Biden: I talked to Barack Obama —
BS: Excuse me, occasionally it might be a good idea to be honest about American foreign policy, and that includes the fact that America has overthrown governments all over the world in Chile, in Guatemala, in Iran. And when dictatorships, whether it is the Chinese or the Cubans do something good, you acknowledge that. But you don’t have to trade love letters with them.
MB: Mr. Vice President.
JS: There are a few patterns in the media and political discourse in this country that I want to take a few moments to address. They have to do with the way that the Bernie Sanders campaign is discussed on the airwaves of corporate media outlets and publications, as well as among the elite class of the Democratic Party establishment and also among some of the so-called Never Trump Republicans who have made an alliance with these Democratic elites. In short, what we are witnessing is the beginnings of the cataclysmic meltdown that will occur in various sectors of the U.S. political class, elite class, in the United States if Bernie Sanders wins the majority of delegates in the Democratic Primary.
Chris Matthews: I was reading last night about the fall of France in the summer of 1940, and the general, Renault, calls up Churchill and says, it’s over. And Churchill says how can it be? You’ve got the greatest army in Europe. How can it be over? He said it’s over. So I had that suppressed feeling, I can’t be as wild as Carville, but he is damn smart, and I think he’s damn right on this one.
JS: Now, it has unfortunately become very low hanging fruit to look at MSNBC’s coverage of this primary for a sense of how out of touch, delusional and, frankly, demoralized the Democratic establishment and its pundits are. But it is really something to behold.
James Carville: It’s obvious these other candidates have not sufficiently talked about him. It’s obvious that he’s never been vetted in the press. I’m not seeing the four-part series in The New York Times or The Washington Post, NBC News or anything else.
JS: Then you have this shameless class of neocons, lifelong right-wing Republicans, so-called conservative pundits who call themselves the Never Trumnpers. They have been in this weird alliance with the MSNBC/DNC crowd in the three years of Donald Trump. And now they are all offering their unsolicited and unwanted panic-addled advice for what Democrats should do and how urgent it is that they stop Bernie Sanders.
Laura Ingraham: This tweet from Never Trumper-in-chief, Bill Kristol, calling Democratic members of Congress, governors and other leaders, “Could you perhaps say in public what you say in private? That a Sanders nomination would be a disaster for the party and that were he to happen to win his presidency would be bad for the country.”
JS: I’m sorry but William Kristol, Max Boot, David Frum, and all these other neocons have no standing whatsoever to pretend to tell working people, people struggling for economic justice, racial justice, gender justice, against wars of aggression, they have no standing whatsoever to tell any of those people who they should be supporting in the race for the Democratic nomination. In fact, I would say that these people should not be able to go out in public without being asked repeatedly about their support for all of the civilian lives across the globe that have been lost because of the wars they promoted and enabled. These people are dangerous charlatans and it is shameful that some Democrats and media establishment figures so willingly ignored the atrocious careers of these people and embraced them as allies. These are, for the most part, Cold War armchair cowboys who do not have the best interests of the vast majority of Americans or the world at heart. They have spent their entire public lives on the wrong side of history.
BS: As a United States Senator, I do understand the power of the corporate elite and the one percent.
[Crowd chants “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!”]
BS: They have literally unlimited amounts of money. They have significant control over the media, over our economy and over the political life of this country.
BS: But at the end of the day, the one percent is one percent.
JS: Bernie Sanders has been in opposition his entire political career. He has run for election repeatedly, taken on major corporate and political forces. He has been vetted. The campaign of Hillary Clinton spent substantial resources on so-called opposition research against Bernie Sanders and produced absolutely nothing that could effectively tar Sanders. One of the wealthiest people on earth, Michael Bloomberg, is right now spending mega millions trying to smear Bernie Sanders. And it is a bit ironic and frankly, nuts that Bloomberg — with all of his heinous well-documented skeletons that are not in the closet but are literally walking around in public — to pretend to be the vetter-in-chief of Bernie Sanders. Here’s the fact: if there was any real dirt — I mean consequential facts — about Bernie Sanders, they would have already been reported on, leaked, weaponized. And so what do we have now? Red-baiting. This was predictable and it was definitely part of the Clinton attack on Sanders back in the 2016 campaign.
Hillary Clinton: The question you were asking Senator Sanders. I think in that same interview he praised what he called the revolution of values in Cuba and talked about how people were working for the common good, not for themselves. I just couldn’t disagree more. You know, if the values are that you oppress people, you disappear people, you imprison people, even kill people, for expressing their opinions, for expressing freedom of speech, that is not the kind of revolution of values that I ever want to see.
JS: Now, once again, this red-baiting is emerging as the central tactic that is being used by Democratic Party elites and by Bloomberg, Joe Biden, yes, Pete Buttigieg and by Republicans and Donald Trump to attack him. There is this alliance now between the GOP and the Democratic establishment to use Red Scare tactics against Bernie Sanders. This is the central strategy of the bipartisan coalition opposing Bernie Sanders: McCarthyism.
Linda Chavez: But the problem is the real winner last night, I believe, was Putin. I mean, we’re going to have the most divisive election if Bernie is the nominee, we are going to see two very, very angry people representing two very different extremes of their parties. And I think that helps make America more chaotic. It makes us more divisive, and I think the one that gets advantage by that is Russia.
JS: You may not know it by watching major television networks these days, but Bernie Sanders does not go around the country campaigning against the murderous U.S. foreign policy of the 1960s, 70s, 80s or discussing Cuba’s literacy program from the early 1960s. He is not wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt at his rallies, no. It’s the corporate media, some of Sanders Democratic opponents and elite Democratic establishment figures, the Republicans and journalists who are harping on these issues. Why are we talking about Cuba and its literacy program? Is it because Bernie Sanders is always referencing it in his campaign speeches and rallies? No, we’re discussing it because that is what McCarthyite corporate power wants to discuss in a dishonest, out of context effort to smear Bernie Sanders.
And, by the way, isn’t it interesting how these political forces are intensifying these attacks after Sanders’s historic win in Nevada, which was propelled by the Latinx vote. Part of what is happening right now is most definitely an effort to weaponize Cuban Americans for partisan political smear purposes ahead of Super Tuesday where large numbers of Latinx people will be voting. And by the way, the Cuban American community of today, including in Florida, is not the monolithic right-wing constituency that these attacks seem to assume it is.
The truth is that the attacks on Sanders, on Cuba, Nicaragua, Latin America, Sanders’s statements in the ‘70s suggesting the CIA should be abolished — these are meant to distract and they are pathetic attacks. But if that’s the debate they insist on having, then let’s have a real, honest debate on the murderous U.S. policies that Sanders was opposing.
I’m not saying that this would be a wise strategy for Bernie Sanders to engage in, to proactively raise these issues on the campaign. But if he’s confronted with this intense, fact-free, ahistorical red-baiting, yes, he should talk about the actual history. There are much more urgent issues to address and Sanders always pivots to those, as he should.
But for those of us who are not running for president right now, or working for political campaigns, for those of use for whom facts, context and history matter, we should set the record straight in the face of these smears, of this attempt to revise history.
Let’s talk about Fulgencio Batista’s vicious dictatorship in Cuba that was backed by the wealthy power elite inside the U.S. government and in the private sector. That was the government that Fidel Castro overthrew. And it is indisputable that the Cuban Revolution brought health care, housing, literacy, education to a country that had for decades been a U.S. plantation with a bunch of casinos on it. Let’s talk about the vile U.S.-backed Contra death squads in Nicaragua and its campaign of terror, rape, pillage, murder all supported by the Reagan administration. Let’s talk about the coups and assassinations and support for dictators and brutal thugs orchestrated by the U.S. government for decades.
BS: If you trace the history of the United States vis-à-vis Latin America and Central America, there has never been a time when a country made a revolution for the poor people where it was not overthrown by the CIA or the United States government or the Marines. Salvador Allende was democratically elected by the people of Chile. He made the mistake of believing that his job as president of that country was to represent the people of Chile and he did his best and he was overthrown by the CIA. So the interesting question is why does the United States government think, whether it’s Nicaragua, or any other country in Latin or Central America that it has the right to overthrow those governments?
JS: Bernie Sanders came of age in an era where the CIA was being revealed publicly as a criminal enterprise — overthrowing governments, backing death squads, actively spying on American citizens, assassinating people. And you know what? Bernie Sanders had the courage in real-time to oppose it when it mattered.
You see, these cherry-picking, ahistorical, red-baiting attacks on Sanders that we are seeing from Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Biden, Never Trumpers, Democratic elites, media figures, it’s propaganda. It’s rooted in lies and it is banking on ignorance of history. It’s aimed at making voters scared of the Red Menace and is an effort to try to prosecute Sanders in front of their modern-day House Un-American Activities Committee.
Chairman J. Parnell Thomas: Are you a member of the Communist Party or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?
John Howard Lawson: It’s unfortunate and tragic that I have to teach this committee the basic principles of America —
Chairman J. Parnell Thomas: (pounding gavel) That’s not the question! That’s not the question! The question is have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?
JS: Many of the dishonest scare-mongering attacks are being made by people who never say a word against U.S.-backed dictators, despots or death squads. For the most part, these forces are happy to get in bed with dictators and human rights abusers if it fits their political or, in the case of Mike Bloomberg, business interests. Bloomberg not too long ago was yucking it up with Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia enjoying a Venti Starbucks as he stood next to a man who oversees one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world and murders journalists. Bloomberg makes a ton of money doing business with the Chinese Communist Party and its leaders. Joe Biden was a key player in the start of the genocidal Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen. Let’s not even talk about any of their positions on Israel and the Palestinians.
Here’s the major difference between those attacking Sanders and Bernie Sanders himself: Sanders has consistently opposed U.S. hegemony. That’s why they attack him. These people don’t care about human rights unless it fits their agenda. If you actually listen to what Sanders has said about left-wing governments, he constantly offers nuance. He calls out authoritarianism and anti-democratic policies. Just compare Bernie Sanders’s analysis of China with that of Mike Bloomberg who makes tremendous money off of China. Here is Bloomberg:
Mike Bloomberg: Xi Jinping is not a dictator. He has to satisfy his constituents or he’s not going to survive.
Margaret Hoover: He’s not a dictator?
MB: No, he has a constituency to answer to.
MH: He doesn’t have a vote. He doesn’t have a democracy.
JS: And now, here’s Bernie Sanders:
BS: I happen to believe in democracy not authoritarianism. But you know, you can take China as another example. China is an authoritarian country becoming more and more authoritarian. But can anyone deny, I mean, the facts are clear, that they’ve taken more people out of extreme poverty than any country in history? Do I get criticized because I say that? That’s the truth.
JS: Bernie Sanders’s crime that is inspiring these attacks against him is that he has the audacity to acknowledge the good that has come from popular revolutions that happen to be opposed to the politics of the U.S. empire. And none — and I mean none — of the people attacking him ever want to discuss context or the bloody role of the U.S. in these countries. That’s the tripwire that Sanders crossed throughout his career that makes them hate him so much today.
Joy Behar: American voters don’t understand nuance. They have communism.
Whoopi Goldberg: No, no, there’s no way around that. This is as bad as you-know-who saying there were good people on both sides. It’s the same thing.
JB: I don’t agree.
WG: Oh, I do. Once you start saying, well you know, Hitler wasn’t so bad because he —
JB: But he didn’t say that.
WG: But, no, he didn’t say that but to a Cuban person, it’s just as bad.
Sunny Hostin: I agree.
JS: I don’t endorse political candidates and I do not think that Bernie Sanders is some sort of political savior. I have my disagreements with some of Sanders’s policies and record. We have discussed some of those on this show. And by the way, there are a lot of leftists in this country who believe that Sanders is being too harsh in his condemnations of Cuba or are opposed to Sanders’s positions on, for instance, drone strikes, and some U.S. wars. Bernie Sanders is not a revolutionary socialist. He’s a Democratic Socialist. And with all that said, Bernie Sanders has proven himself since 2016 to be a great vehicle for change, certainly within the constraints and corruption of the U.S. electoral system. But both within and outside the electoral process, Bernie Sanders has made possible the building of an incredibly diverse horizontal movement that could radically transform this country and the world for the better. And he’s done it by lifting up the movements and people and communities who have been doing this work far longer than Sanders has been running for president. And that is the key.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Fast forward this campaign, who is the only candidate to call to break up ICE and CBP?
AOC: Senator Bernie Sanders. That matters. All of this matters. And when it comes to politics, you get what you pay for. And when you have candidates bankrolled by billionaires, who are they going to work for? Who do you think they’re going to work for?
JS: Bernie Sanders is an imperfect messenger, for sure. But he has done the work, kept focus, and inspired so many people across racial, economic, gender and ethnic lines to fight for something bigger than themselves. Remember that when you watch the desperate smears against him. Remember that what they are really trying to stop has nothing to do with Fidel Castro or the Sandinistas or Bernie Sanders’s honeymoon. This is about stopping the masses of people who are sick and tired of a system that is based on oppression and rooted in defense of a system where the rich and powerful rule all of our lives.
JS: The Bernie Sanders campaign for president is without question the best chance that people have had in this country to nominate someone in our limited electoral system that would truly represent a historic break. The best chance since the campaign of Jesse Jackson for the Democratic nomination in 1988.
Garrick Utley: The Democratic presidential race has come alive but not the way most people expect it. Jesse Jackson’s big victory in the Michigan caucus last night was almost two to one over Michael Dukakis who has been the leader in the Democratic race.
Jesse Jackson: We can win! We the people can win! This is our land! We the people can win! It’s our democracy! We the people can win!
JS: Jesse Jackson ran an insurgent campaign where he had to not only fight for votes across the country, but also fight the Democratic Party establishment, systematic white supremacy, and both race and red-baiting. And Jackson came close to winning the nomination, pulling in more than 1,200 delegates.
JJ: Profits go up, wages go down and jobs go out. Let’s change that situation. Dukakis spent three to five million dollars. Gore, three million-plus dollars! Gebhardt, a million-plus dollars. I spent $100,000. Through this campaign… We took on the Goliath with our slingshot, we came back home.
JS: Instead, the party backed the more establishment white candidate. And the same exact lines that are currently being used to attack Bernie Sanders saying he won’t be a viable candidate in the general election against Trump, those were used against Jesse Jackson going up against George H.W. Bush, vice president to Ronald Reagan. Michael Dukakis, who was the Democratic nominee in 1988, would go on to lose that election to Bush who won 40 states in the electoral college and the popular vote.
JJ: Every one of these funny labels they put on you, those of you who are watching this broadcast at night, in the projects, on the corners, I understand. Call you outcast, low-down, you can’t make it, you’re nothing, you’re from nobody, sub-class, under-class.
When you see Jesse Jackson, when my name goes in nomination, your name goes in nomination. I was born in the slum but the slum was not born in me and it wasn’t born in you and you can make it. Wherever you are tonight, you can make it. Hold your head high, stick your chest out, you can make it. It gets dark sometimes but the morning comes. Don’t you surrender, suffering breeds character. Character breed faith. In the end, faith will knock the support. You must not surrender. You may or may not get there but just know that you are qualified and you hold on and hold out. We must never surrender. America will get better and better. Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive.
JS: We will never know what would have happened if Jackson had been the Democratic nominee in 1988 or if he had been the vice-presidential candidate instead of Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen. But what we do know is that throughout modern history, the favored candidates of the Democratic establishment during the primaries do not exactly have a stellar record in the general election.
Jesse Jackson is still fighting the fights he always has. He’s campaigning for economic and racial justice even as he battles an affliction of Parkinson’s disease. Jackson is currently on the ground in South Carolina where he says he is not endorsing any candidate at this point in the race. His focus, he says, is to register people to vote in the state of his birth.
This week, Jackson has a new column in the Chicago Sun-Times confronting the scare-mongering surrounding the term Democratic Socialism. It’s titled “The Important Word in Democratic Socialism is Democratic.”
Joining me now from Columbia, South Carolina is the legendary civil rights activist, former presidential candidate, the Reverend Jesse Jackson. He won the South Carolina Democratic primary in both 1984 and 1988. Rev. Jackson, thank you so much for being with us on Intercepted.
JJ: Good morning.
JS: Before we talk about the specifics of Democratic Socialism, what’s your response to these red-baiting attacks against Senator Bernie Sanders?
JJ: It seems to me if Bloomberg wants to defeat Trump, he should run against Trump in the Republican primary. This race began a year ago. He stood out the first ten rounds of the fight. Then joined the fight in another round. First, these other people are tired and broke and kind of runs roughshod to them. The Democratic Party’s rules do not make sense to me. Iowa and New Hampshire are white primaries, which were outlawed in the ‘40s. And then you have Nevada and South Carolina. You really should’ve had Nevada, South Carolina, Michigan, Illinois on the front side, as opposed to after New Hampshire, number one. Number two, I think that you also have a situation where different parts did not allow Super Tuesday as we know it to be from California… from California to Rhode Island in one day. It’s stacked against people who don’t have much money.
If you had South Carolina, Nevada, Michigan, Illinois, Kamala Harris and Booker would stand a chance and Castro. They got wiped out in white primaries exhausting their time and their money. The idea of having a Super Tuesday where you run from California to Rhode Island in the same day is irrational. The person who has enough money to operate from coast to coast, with that kind of money. Bernie Sanders has shown where he can compete, he does well. But it’s going to be real difficult two weeks from now to compete in 14, 15 states in the same day.
JS: Well and he’s going to be facing this onslaught of negative attack ads from Mike Bloomberg who’s worth $60 billion.
JJ: Well, the thing about the attack ads, the attack ads are Bernie said something nice about Castro, will they never mention Batista. Things have to be put in context. I mean, Batista turned Cuba into a casino island for the rich and the gangsters. Castro emerges in that situation and salvaged a lot of people. Now he was authoritarian but extremes beget extremes. So I’m concerned that even the Castro thing is seen as not a good Democrat in the same season from 1880 to 1950 5,000 blacks were lynched. Almost no president did a thing about it. Remember, none did a thing about it?
JS: You know, Rev. Jackson at the same time that we have these attack ads running against Bernie Sanders and this re-litigation of Bernie Sanders’s comments during the period of the U.S. dirty wars in Central and Latin America, you have this demonization of Sanders going on, because he calls himself a Democratic Socialist. If I know my history correctly, the late Dr. Martin Luther King, and of course, you were with Dr. Martin Luther King at the Lorraine Motel. You were there in the trenches every day organizing in the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King also was red-baited. Dr. King also spoke of a Democratic Socialism and against savage capitalism.
JJ: The operative word is democracy of, for and by the people. When do democracy and lynching co-exists, democracy and denial of women’s right to vote coexist, democracy and blacks the right to vote? So it’s to socialize the process of education, healthcare and jobs and wages. They confuse socialism say, with Venezuela, Cuba and China. In other words, Bernie’s a kind of Roosevelt socialist. When Roosevelt proposed Social Security, they almost ran out of the country. Social Security was distant from rugged individualism for the poor and subsidies for the wealthy. Even today, you see socialism the rich have a three and a half dollar tax cut, pay no taxes, that’s socialism. Interstate highway, socialism, the military, a social institution, universities, the bridges, the ports, fair distribution of resources, that’s all he’s really saying.
JS: Now, Rev. Jackson, it seems that on the one hand, you have Bernie Sanders running against Donald Trump. You have Bernie Sanders running against his competitors in the Democratic primary. But I would also assert that in a clear sense, Bernie Sanders is also running against the DNC, the elite of the Democratic Party’s leadership and really arcane rules that you also faced when you ran for president, particularly in 1988 that seemed to want to give the power brokers, the shadow brokers of the Democratic Party, the final word on who the nominee is going to be. What is your assessment of the way that the Democratic Party governs itself during these primaries, and specifically regarding the Sanders campaign?
JJ: The Democratic Party wanted anybody but Jackson mold, pull out the stops on the campaign. Bernie represents a vast body of people and to destroy him through some unjust situation, the party will split, it will not be reconciled. I think Bernie and Elizabeth Warren are on the same side of history in terms of a sense of humanity and a sense of the consumer protection, legal protection… They want to protect those who’ve been locked out.
JS: Talk a little bit about the campaign that was waged against you by powerful people in the Democratic Party when you ran your incredibly inspiring run for president in the 1980s, both ’84 and ’88.
JJ: Well the notion that a black could not win was the prevailing thought. We got double digits in Iowa without a budget. We got 400 delegates plus in ’84 with less than $10 million budget. In ’88, $19 million on budget we got 1,200 delegates. What happened was within the winner take all for proportionality. So if Hillary wins California, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas, in a way, if you playing by the ’84 rules, she’s the winner. Hillary wins by three million votes and loses. In 2018, we win by nine million votes and lose a Senate seat. So this issue of fair rules becomes critical to making democracy work.
JS: Right now, of course, we’re on the eve of the first primary of the Democratic campaign where a sizable number of African Americans are going to be voting, of course, in South Carolina. Joe Biden has referred to African American voters in South Carolina as his firewall. And at the same time, we have Joe Biden on the campaign trail, sorry to say it but it has to be blunt, flagrantly lying about his record in the Civil Rights Movement. I’m wondering what your thoughts are on the way that Joe Biden talks about black voters and the way that he has invented details from his biography in a crass effort to try to get African Americans to vote for him.
JJ: Blacks in South Carolina won over a million recent voters. That’s a big deal here in South Carolina. Joe Biden is seen as connected to Barack. He was put on the ticket to balance the ticket not to enhance it. Barack was against the Iraq war. He was for the Iraq war. Barack was against the Crime Bill. He was for the Crime Bill. Barack was supporting Anita Hill and Biden let Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court as a monument to his leadership in that committee. So his proximity to Barack gives the impression he is active in Civil Rights is clearer than it is. And giving Bloomberg the money, Bloomberg’s ads with him and Barack are so clear until it’s confusing. You’d think they were in the same room all the time. But Barack has not objected at all to the Bloomberg commercials. If he objected at all, it would change the whole commercial apparatus. His silence, permission to let Bloomberg do that, is a factor in this equation.
JS: You know on that same question regarding Barack Obama, he now is, you know, producing films for Netflix and he’s been largely silent throughout these three years of Donald Trump and some would say, well, that’s presidential decorum and he’s a former president. He needs to be careful. But if there was a moment in history of this country that screamed out for a former president to speak out against the current president, wouldn’t it have been this moment, Rev. Jackson, with Donald Trump in the White House for Barack Obama to actually speak out consistently against what he is doing?
JJ: I don’t understand how anyone can be silent in the face of Trump’s onslaught of all of our civil rights and social justice agenda, items in a half-century. When there’s babies down in the border, Trump and the Central Park Five, saying they should be killed even after they were found to be innocent, Charlottesville. He has a horrendous record and I wish the president would speak out against it but it isn’t right to be silent. I wish he would use his voice to give direction during this period.
JS: Rev. Jackson, do you have hope that if Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, that it will fundamentally change the nature of the Democratic Party?
JJ: I think in a heads up match with Trump, we would have to make a difference between Trump’s extreme right-wing action and rhetoric and what I would call the moral center. In other words, what Sanders represents is not the left-wing. It’s the moral center. Healthcare for everybody is moral. Education even for the poor without student loan debt is the moral center. Middle East policy where you recognize Israel and Palestine is the moral center.
JS: When you launched your bid for the presidency in 1988, one of the only publicly elected officials in the country to endorse you was Bernie Sanders and Sanders when he announced his campaign for the U.S. Congress spent much of his time in that announcement actually talking about you and your campaign for president. I’m wondering if you can put Bernie Sanders in a historical context when we talk about the whole arc of American history and what this campaign represents today.
JJ: Well, Bernie represents direction not complexion. He stood up for me in ’88 and we won Vermont — the whitest state in the country. I recognize that I will not go against Bernie, but I’ve not made a decision to endorse anybody. And when we talk, I share with him observations. Same with Warren, share observations. I’m not endorsing either one at this point. I think the idea that somehow Biden has largely inherited the black vote in South Carolina is not sound judgment. We were saying no to Clarence Thomas, he said, yes, to Clarence Thomas. We were saying no to the Crime Bill. He said yes to the Crime Bill. No to the Iraq War. He said yes to the Iraq war. He’s on a different side of history. It’s his right to be there but he might as well own up to his side of history.
JS: What is your analysis of why so many members of the Congressional Black Caucus have lined up behind Joe Biden?
JJ: I think at first, it looked as if he couldn’t lose and the Democratic machinery had lined up for Biden. But his message does not address the pain of our people. I’m not sure what moderate means if people don’t have affordable healthcare. I’m not sure what moderate, “I’m a moderate” means to us. In fact, it means very little to us.
JS: Are there any ways in which you think that a Bloomberg presidency would be fundamentally better than a Trump presidency?
JJ: If it came down to the two of them, it would be. Their style is the same in terms of authoritarian leadership. But Bloomberg has a decency that’s different than Trumps. We seek to gain favor with the Democrats while Trump seeks to gain favor with the extreme right-wing.
JS: Do you think that a ticket of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren beats Donald Trump and Mike Pence?
JJ: It’s hard for me to make that kind of projection. They’re so much alike, I’m not sure. It may be but I’m not sure it would be broad enough. I believe it takes two wings to fly, left and right-wing to fly. In that scenario, Biden was Barack’s right-wing. With Barack out, there’s nothing left but the right-wing.
JS: Rev. Jackson, is there any other message that you want to give people? You are a native son of South Carolina, I know and I’m wondering what your message is here on the eve of the South Carolina primary and then after that Super Tuesday.
JJ: Well, I was born here and I was blessed to have won this state twice. I’m glad that both Bernie and Elizabeth have called me to get my opinion about what I see in the state. I’m excited about the fact that there are now a million-plus blacks in the state registered to vote. So, I think going after 18-year-old voters and the college voters are very significant, they’re energizing the campaign which Bernie Sanders has done. Bernie’s running a rainbow coalition-type campaign. It’s paid off for him and he’s very well funded with a lot of loyal supporters.
It’s going to be very difficult for them to beat Bernie Sanders unless there is something that is so ugly until it will embarrass everybody. And what disgusts me the most is that we made so much progress the last 50 years. We made so much progress. We must not go back. We’re not going back. That’s our struggle at this point with Trump, it’s to not go back. Whites have benefited enormously from our campaign. Whites have been big beneficiaries from our struggle here South Carolina. White and black keys make music on the piano. I believe black and white must function together.
JS: On that note, thank you very much, Rev. Jackson, for being with us.
JJ: Thank you.
JS: The Rev. Jesse Jackson is a legendary civil and human rights leader and founder of the Rainbow Push Coalition. He’s also a former Democratic presidential candidate. His latest column at RainbowPush.org is titled “The Important Word in Democratic Socialism is Democratic.”
JS: Well with the South Carolina primary coming up this Saturday, Joe Biden is basically in a statistical dead heat with Bernie Sanders, if the polls are to be believed. As Biden suffered defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire, he has spent weeks piling all of his eggs into the South Carolina basket and referring to the state — with 2/3 of Democratic voters African American — as his “firewall of support.”
Joe Biden: I think I have a real firewall in South Carolina.
I’ve not been calling it a firewall. You all have.
JS: In an interview with Intercepted, Sanders senior campaign surrogate Nina Turner said she found Biden’s use of the term “firewall” offensive to African American voters.
Nina Turner: It is incredibly insulting to the African American community that any elected official consider us their firewall and it is shameful in the United States of America because this is not just about Vice President Biden. It really is about how people navigate politics in this country when it comes to the African American voting block that somehow we’re thought of as somebody’s firewall. We are the only ethnic group, the only racial group in this country where Democrats already layout that we’re the firewall for this party and it needs to come to a stop.
JS: On Saturday as voters head to the polls in South Carolina, we shall see if Joe Biden is able to break Bernie Sanders’s winning streak — a streak that has been grounded in months and in fact years of grassroots organizing across the country.
It’s important to keep in mind how quickly narratives shift, particularly in political primary campaign season. If we rewind the clock to media coverage from months or even weeks ago, the mainstream consensus was that Bernie Sanders was winning states because they were mainly white voters and that the real test would be once Sanders hit the more diverse states of Nevada and South Carolina and Super Tuesday.
Donna Edwards: Particularly with Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, they register almost no support among black voters. And I think that’s very problematic and it’s their job to reach black voters.
JS: In the Nevada caucus, it was the broad coalition of support from the Latinx community, and from union workers that propelled Sanders to a decisive victory. And it was particularly because of that support from the Latinx community that he was able to win the Latinx vote — in a landslide.
BS: According to three networks and the AP we have now won the Nevada caucus.
JS: Intercepted producer Laura Flynn was on the ground in Nevada during the caucuses with Aída Chavez, a reporter for The Intercept. Aída’s piece — which I recommend everyone read — is called “How Young Latinos Delivered Nevada to ‘Tio Bernie.” That’s at theintercept.com.
Here is Laura Flynn’s report from Las Vegas on how Bernie won Nevada.
Aída Chavez [translated from Spanish]: Why are you here?
Lupita Reyola [translated from Spanish]: Because I’m supporting Bernie Sanders.
AC: What do you like about Bernie Sanders?
Laura Flynn: So, that’s Lupita Reyola speaking to Intercept reporter Aída Chavez about why she supports Bernie Sanders. It’s Thursday night, just a few days before the Nevada caucus. We’re in a strip mall in east Las Vegas at a Spanish language caucus training hosted by the Sanders campaign. Belén Sisa, the Latino Press Secretary for Bernie 2020 explains:
Belén Sisa: So what is going to happen at this caucus training is that we are going to explain what a caucus is, how you participate in it, and why it’s important for people to go on Saturday.
LF: And so this training is taking place at the offices of Make the Road Action, which is an organization mobilizing immigrant and working-class communities on issues like economic justice, immigration, and housing among others. Colorful posters line the walls with slogans reading, “Families Belong Together,” “End the School to Prison Pipeline,” “Housing Justice for Nevada,” and “Medicare for All.” The organization actually officially endorsed Sanders last month.
Just before the training gets started Aída and I meet Christopher Santoyo. He began volunteering for Bernie Sanders in 2015 when he was only 15 years old. Now that he’s old enough to vote he’s ready to caucus for him.
Christopher Santoyo: I think it’s a huge difference when you talk about Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden because when I look at Bernie I think of change. When I think of Joe Biden, I think there is no fundamental change that will occur.
LF: And he’s convinced his parents and other family members to support Sanders as well.
CS: These ideas are so radical to them like free college, the Green New Deal, Medicare for All. And then when you actually have a serious conversation as to seeing it from our lens they really start to change. They’re like, why do you want education for all? It’s going to ruin the system. It won’t make people motivated. I’m like, well why not? You know my whole generation, my friends, my family, they’re all drowning in student loan debt.
AC: Why do you think Bernie has such overwhelming support from Latinos?
CS: I think a lot of it has to do with education for all because specifically my family, my parents, they really wanted me to go to college. I did at one point go to college. I had to leave because it started getting very expensive. Education is very important in Latino families. When you can’t go to college because of something of money, it’s really difficult. I think Medicare for All as well. I think when I grew up my family, they were immigrants, now they’re citizens, thank God. And I remember I was always sick and my mom like, oh, no we can’t go to a hospital it costs too much. I think just those two policies in itself, Medicare for All and education for all is what makes Latinos support Bernie.
LF: The caucus training conducted completely in Spanish is just one of many examples of the Sanders’s campaign efforts to reach Latino voters in Nevada. On Monday, actually Aída was out covering a campaign-organized soccer tournament, also on the east side of the city.
AC: At the end of the day there are all these areas and communities where Bernie’s the only one showing up. Tom Steyer can drop however many millions that he wants on ads but you can only manufacturer a certain surge like there’s a ceiling on that. To get above that in any way you’re going to need actual human beings who care about your message enough to campaign for you.
LF: East Las Vegas is one of the communities the Sanders’s campaign has invested a lot of organizing efforts in. It’s where they opened their first field office in the state. It’s one of the most populated parts of Las Vegas and where Latinos make up more than 60 percent of residents.
LF: Good morning.
AC: We’re on our way to Desert Pines High School. It has a pretty big Latino population over there in that precinct and so we’re going to check it out.
LF: It’s caucus day. We’re at Desert Pines High School just down the street from the training and soccer tournament. The downpour of rain has just let up. We cross the parking lot skipping over puddles and find supporters passing out buttons and signs for Tom Steyer, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders.
John Erickson: Will you sign in as well for me?
LF: Yeah, how many precincts are there?
Caucus worker: I would have to go look at the list.
LF: There are 12 precincts caucusing here today. One of the first people we talk to is Pablo Montoya.
Pablo Montoya: I’m a first-generation Mexican American. My parents are from Mexico. My mom is from Guadalajara, Jalisco. My dad is from Nayarit. So basically, I’m the first of my family here to actually be able to vote.
AC: Who do you support?
PM: Bernie Sanders.
AC: Why do you support him?
PM: I really think America is ready for change right now. I really think that the young people right now have gotten the raw end of the deal right now. Nobody has listened to us for a really long time.
LF: While he’s here to caucus for Sanders, his second choice is Elizabeth Warren because he believes both are trying to build a new Democratic Party and are pushing policies that will directly impact the lives of millennials, like him.
PM: I think we’re actually ready to take on the older generation, actually make change happen right now for our generation, for something better, for a Green New Deal, for everything that’s going on, for affordable college, for something that actually benefits us and not only the rich and the billionaires and all of them.
LF: In the precinct next to Pablo’s I spot someone from the caucus training.
Angelica Romero: My name is Angelica Romero.
LF: She’s wearing a Unidos con Bernie shirt.
Why do you support Bernie?
AR: Why because he’s with all of my morals for me and my family. They have the same lines it’s why because it’s Medicare for everybody and college — free college for everybody too. I’m a first-time voter too so I am really privileged to do this.
LF: Turns out she’s also part of the Culinary Union, where she works as a housekeeper on the strip. In the lead-up to the election, the powerful union passed out scorecards saying Sanders’s Medicare for All would “end culinary health care.”
AR: Ok, the Culinary Union is a great union. But I need to think with my heart. So and what I think is, everybody needs health insurance. Everybody.
Caucus worker: Here’s the number from the calculator. This says I did this math right, 8.8571 for Bernie —
LF: As the caucuses begin, voters start to split into their preferred candidate groups. In each precinct, it becomes increasingly evident that Sanders is leading. There to encourage voters to support Sanders, Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, starts to cry. Aída records her with her phone.
AC: Why are you tearing up?
Ana Maria Archila: There are like a vast majority of people sitting in the Bernie side of the caucus, brown people mostly who believe that a new world is possible. That it’s entirely within our reach to have healthcare and free college and to end deportations and I’m so moved by the hopefulness of people in a moment of so much darkness. And that’s why I cried.
LF: As the caucuses wrap up, Ana Maria sits down with me in the Desert Pines High School courtyard. Leaving her home in New York to join the campaign in Nevada and help get out the vote, her job today is to speak to voters whose candidates aren’t viable and convince them to vote for Sanders.
AMA: I asked people to imagine what it would feel like to live in a country where we don’t have to worry about losing our healthcare if we change jobs, if we move to another state. I asked them to imagine what it would be like for our kids to go to college without being saddled with massive death. I asked them to imagine what it would be like to live in a country where we’re not constantly worried about deportations. And I said if you like that vision, then join the Bernie campaign.
LF: It’s her first time campaigning in a presidential primary, but she understands that Latinos are playing an important role in the elections and that Sanders is taking it seriously.
What do you think about Sanders’s efforts to reach out and organize the Latino community throughout the country?
AMA: His campaign has done such a good job. They first really engaged community organizations to shape their platform. I know that they asked us about what should go into the immigration platform, what should go into the housing platform. And then he has been so courageous by saying that he will include immigrants in health care. That yes, he will include immigrants in his promise of free college and he will do a moratorium on deportations. So I think the way that he has been bold and courageous on issues has allowed people to build deep trust.
And then on the ground, his campaign is amazing. Yesterday, I spent some time volunteering, knocking on doors and the gathering, the training happened in someone’s living room. It was like 20 people, high school students, a couple of teachers from the high school, some parents with rancheras playing in the background getting ready to knock on doors. So the campaign feels like, that gathering felt like a gathering at my house, you know. And it felt very familiar, and very much like this campaign was mine.
I think another thing that has been really important and why Bernie’s coalition looks different today than it did in 2016 is because he has really, his campaign has really made a very big effort to connect with organizations, people’s organizations, movement organization. So, my organization the Center for Popular Democracy Action is a network of community organizations. We endorsed him after a long process of evaluating his platform and meeting with him and meeting with other candidates. His campaign was able to attract the endorsement of the Sunrise Movement, of People’s Action, of Mijente, a network of Latinx people across the country. And I think they know, by the way, that they courted these endorsements that they cannot do it alone, that they cannot build a movement just from a political campaign, and that they cannot win alone, and they respect and value people who are organized.
And it showed up here in Las Vegas. They worked very closely with Make the Road Action an organization of immigrants who actually had a huge rally just a week ago, here in this high school, in Desert Pines High School, almost 2,000 Latinos came and then marched with Bernie to an early voting site. So that has been a really important and different thing. And many of the unions have sat out usually in presidential elections, the people’s organizations that have like power are the unions, but many of them have chosen to just sit back and watch the process play out which created a huge vacuum that community organizations stepped into. And community organizations are connected with people in the neighborhoods in the way that almost no one can match. So, that has been part of the secret sauce of the Bernie campaign.
LF: Unlike the days it took for the Iowa results to finalize, in Nevada within a matter of hours of the caucuses closing Bernie Sanders was the projected winner. Sanders actually won more than 70 percent of the Latino vote in Nevada according to the UCLA Latino Politics & Policy Initiative.
Giving his victory speech from San Antonio, Texas, Sanders’s gratitude went out to the people and organizations who helped him get there.
BS: So let me thank the people of Nevada for their support. In Nevada, we have just put together a multi-generational, multiracial coalition, which is going to not only win in Nevada, it’s going to sweep this country. And in Nevada and in New Hampshire and in Iowa what we showed is that our volunteers are prepared to knock on hundreds and hundreds of thousands of doors. That no campaign has a grassroots movement like we do, which is another reason why we’re going to win this election. In Nevada, I want to thank our rank and file union members. I want to thank Make The Road and all of the grassroots organizations that helped us win there.
LF: On Monday, I call senior advisor to the Sanders’s campaign, Chuck Rocha, to find out how the strategy in Nevada compares to efforts in other states
Chuck Rocha: Much like we’ve done with our Latino strategies, our African American outreach is reflective of the same values. Where in South Carolina, for example, over 80% of our staff are people of color and predominantly African American, and over 80% of that staff is from South Carolina. So again, really organizing in those communities where that staff has been on the ground well over seven months is the key to securing that. People of color, black and brown voters are used to Democrats coming into their neighborhoods two weeks before the election asking for their votes like all of these candidates are doing right now, but we’ve been in those communities working for over seven months.
LF: Similarly in Texas and California — major Super Tuesday states — they set up offices months ago, launching robust, on the ground organizing efforts.
CR: The key to Bernie Sanders’s success is not just the issues, which are super important, but it’s actually taking time, especially in black and brown communities to spend the time in the communities, even asking them for their vote. People want to know what are these grandiose policy positions and nuances that really move people to vote. The way you get people to vote is you go to their neighborhood, you ask them to vote, you give a reason. That’s what Bernie Sanders has done.
LF: When you’ve got community organizers behind you, it’s not so shocking to realize how the Sanders’s campaign won three states. More than anyone they understand what it takes to build a movement.
JS: That report from Intercepted producer Laura Flynn. Make sure to also check out my colleague Aída Chavez’s piece “How Young Latinos Delivered Nevada to ‘Tio Bernie.'” That’s at TheIntercept.com.
JS: And that does it for this week’s show. You can follow us on Twitter @intercepted and Instagram @InterceptedPodcast. If you missed it this week, we put up a bonus episode on Tuesday featuring Nina Turner as well as Briahna Joy Gray, the national campaign press secretary for Bernie Sanders.
If you like what we do on this program, you can support our show by going to TheIntercept.com/join to become a sustaining member. Intercepted is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our lead producer is Jack D’Isidoro, our producer is Laura Flynn. Elise Swain is our associate producer and graphic designer. Betsy Reed is editor in chief of The Intercept. Rick Kwan mixed the show. Transcription for this program is done by Nuria Marquez Martinez. Our music, as always, was composed by DJ Spooky. Until next week, I’m Jeremy Scahill.