#29: A Primary Whuppin’ in Maryland

 

After months of debates and canvassing and phone calls and strategizing and a seemingly endless tsunami of talking heads & political analysis, it’s finally time to cast our votes here at home in the Maryland Democratic primary. 

In this episode, Caleb and I chat about Bernie’s campaign thus far... about seeing how the political sausage gets made... about the results in Maryland... and about the road ahead. 

Plus, an inspiring letter from a loyal listener... and a tiny bit of (fair-use) Springsteen.  

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#28: Former DNC Chair Endorses... Bernie?!?

 

Paul Kirk is almost the definition of The Establishment (Democratic party division). 

Mr. Kirk is the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee (1985-1989). He served as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts from 2009 to 2010, when he was appointed to fill the vacancy created after the death of Senator Ted Kennedy. Kirk has also served as chairman of the board of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, and as co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates. 

That’s pretty Establishment. Which is why I was blown away that Paul Kirk endorsed Bernie for President.  

Why is he backing Sanders? Is Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the current DNC in the tank for Hillary Clinton? And is democracy just too much damn work? 

Here’s my recent conversation with Paul Kirk: 

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Paul Kirk

Paul Kirk

 

#27: Noam Chomsky

 

Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, anti-war activist, and a world-renowned voice of the very progressive left. 

For more than half a century, Chomsky taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He’s the author of more than a hundred books, including Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media; Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies; and Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance.  

Chomsky is now 87 years old, and although he has retired as a full-time professor, he’s still in big demand as a speaker, a writer, and a critic. In recent months he’s also said some nice things Bernie’s campaign for president. 

So, on a whim last October, I sent him an email to ask for an interview. I figured my message would disappear under the hundreds of other emails he must receive each day. But he wrote back, and after several exchanges, we scheduled an interview for a few months down the road. 

Fast forward to March 11, when I stopped by MIT to see Prof. Chomsky. I had only 25 minutes on his schedule, and it flew by...

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#26: No More Cookies & Kool-Aid

 

When Democrats went to the polls in South Carolina about a week ago, they handed Hillary Clinton a huge victory. She won 74 percent of the vote to Bernie’s 26 percent, mostly because Hillary was the choice of most of South Carolina’s African American voters. 

And it’s Hillary’s ability to connect with African American voters — and with Latinos too — that’s become a key factor in this campaign, or so the political pundits keeps saying. To win the Democratic nomination, they tell us, requires the support of people of color, and Hillary has that support all locked up. 

But does she really? Do African American voters choose to support Hillary because she represents their interests? Does she “get” them in a way that Bernie doesn’t? Is Bernie unable to appeal to black voters because he’s a stranger from lily-white Vermont, while the folks in South Carolina know and still admire the Clintons? 

Wendell Gilliard is an African American member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, where he’s served since 2009. Mr. Gilliard is a former member of the Charleston City Council, and a former president of the United Steel Workers Local Union. 

Mr. Gilliard has also endorsed Bernie Sanders. I talked to him a few days ago about the campaign, about the racial dynamics of South Carolina politics, and about the demands of what he calls the “cookies and Kool Aid circuit” and the great divide between Democratic grassroots voters and the party’s leadership. 

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#25: Erika Andiola & The Politics of Immigration

 

On a Thursday night in January 2013, federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided the home of Erika Andiola in Phoenix, Arizona. Without a warrant, the agents arrested Erika’s mother and brother, put them on a bus, and began the process of deporting them back to Mexico. Hours later, in a panic, Erika posted a plea for help on YouTube.

According to Erika, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) maintained dossiers on her whole family, partly because they were all undocumented, and partly because Erika was a high-profile immigration activist. 

As a founder of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, Erika was (and remains) a very public and passionate voice supporting legislation to allow the children of undocumented immigrants to become documented. 

The good news is Erika’s mother and brother were released the day after they had been arrested. But the whole experience clearly worried Erika.   

Erika Andiola is now the Latino Outreach Strategist for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. I talked to her the other day about immigration and the Latino vote… about Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who are both Latino. We also talked about Hillary’s so-called “firewall” — the idea that people of color,  especially Latinos and African Americans, will prevent all that FeelingTheBern from spreading across key primary states.

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#24: The Big Choice

 

This episode is just a few minutes long, but I didn’t want to wait until I produced another complete episode before I shared a special audio clip with you.

It features a bit of insight from Robert Reich, who served as the U.S. Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, and who now teaches public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. 

In roughly a minute, Reich distills the essential difference between the voters who support Hillary— and voters who support Bernie. It’s worth a quick listen.

 

Show notes

  • Robert Reich & “The Big Choice for Democrats” [VIDEO]
     
 

#23: The Superdelegate

 

After the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, Bernie Sanders already trails Hillary Clinton in the delegate count, 394 to 44. Which seems outrageous to a lot of people because Bernie tied Hillary in Iowa, and won big in New Hampshire. 

Why the massive delegate gap? It’s all about the superdelegates. Here, in a nutshell, is how it works: The Democratic nomination is a battle for a majority of the 4,763 delegates who will attend the party convention in Philadelphia this July. Roughly 85 percent of those delegates are selected in the caucuses and primaries we’re in the midst of right now. But the other 15 percent — that’s 712 delegates, if you’re scoring at home — are the superdelegates. They are unpledged delegates who are not bound by election results. Instead, they vote for whichever candidate they prefer. 

So, who are these superdelegates? Members of Congress… party officials… state party leaders… lobbyists... and other people who you might call the party elite. And of those 712 superdelegates, 362 of them have already endorsed Hillary Clinton, while only 8 have endorsed Bernie. 

In a very red (Republican) state, socialism flourishes.

In a very red (Republican) state, socialism flourishes.

Chad Nodland is one of those 8 Bernie superdelegates. Chad is a lawyer in Bismarck, North Dakota, where he also serves as member of the Executive Committee of the state party. 

I asked Chad about a bunch of different things, including his take on whether or not the concerns about the fairness of the superdelegate system are legitimate. He also shared some surprising insights on the role of socialism in his very Republican state. 

Show notes

 

 

#22: Inequality for All

 

On a cold weekend afternoon last February, my son Caleb and I were searching for a good movie on Netflix. And we ended up watching a documentary called Inequality for All.

The star of the documentary is Robert Reich, who served as Secretary of Labor during the (Bill) Clinton administration, and who now is a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. In the film, Reich sketches a rather frightening portrait of how income inequality is crippling our economy and our nation. But what makes Reich’s argument so riveting is not its moral clarity, but its practicality. 

Put another way: Reich doesn’t simply insist that the growing gulf between rich and poor is unfair or wrong or unjust (although he certainly says all those things). What he emphasizes is that economic inequality is unsustainable. That if we maintain our current course, and we do nothing to strengthen the middle class, then our whole economy will collapse.

It’s been about a year since Caleb and I first watched Inequality for All, and it’s not an overstatement to say that Caleb’s enthusiasm for Bernie — and probably mine too — can be tracked back to this documentary.  

Jacob Kornbluth is the director of the film, and the other day we talked about how his documentary came to be — and why it could almost serve as a campaign film for Bernie 2016.

Show notes

 

 

#21: One Night in Iowa

 

This past Monday in Iowa, the 2016 election season finally began in earnest with actual voters casting actual votes.  

As my son and I watched the whole thing unfold from our home in Maryland, we felt like we were missing the Main Event. As I’ve mentioned with monotonous regularity on this podcast, Caleb and I spent a week in Iowa last August just outside Cedar Rapids, where we volunteered in one of Bernie’s field offices. We made phone calls. We knocked on doors. We did what we could to help the full-time campaign staffers get the word out about Bernie. And now the time had finally come... but we weren’t there to see what actually happens at a precinct caucus. 

So, I called up a few people who were there: Kathryn Stack, Rhonda Shouse, and Jennifer Herrington. They provide some vivid snapshots of what happened on Monday night... what’s wonderful about Iowa’s caucuses... and what needs to be fixed, too.

P.S. There’s also tiny bit of Springsteen in this episode — a clip that’s long enough to make my editorial point, but short enough so I won’t violate Fair Use. Or so I hope! 

 

Show notes

 

 

#20: Governor Michael Dukakis: Our Interview

 

I’ve been a longtime admirer of Michael Dukakis, first when he served as Governor of Massachusetts (where I grew up), and later when he became the Democratic party’s nominee for president in 1988.

My memories, though, are less about his policies, and more about him personally: Dukakis always struck me as a decent, upstanding guy. 

When Gov. Dukakis endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, I can’t say I was surprised. Almost all of the party’s leaders have backed Hillary, but I still haven’t heard a convincing explanation of why.

So, on a lark, my son Caleb and I wrote to the Governor, and asked for an interview. And being the decent, upstanding guy that he is, the Governor accepted. 

We talked about Bernie and Hillary... campaign finance reform... lessons from the 1988 presidential campaign... negative advertising... Elizabeth Warren... and lots more. 

I hope you enjoy listening to the interview as much as Caleb and I enjoyed producing it.  

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