tv Tavis Smiley PBS February 14, 2017 6:30am-7:01am PST
good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. socialism is popular once again in america, thanks in part to the insurgent campaign of bernie sanders and the victory of donald trump. tonight then, a conversation with bhaskar sun car, a founder editor of a magazine. we'll talk about the democrats, the republicans and most importantly, where we go from here. we're glad you've joined us. bhaskar sunkara coming up in a moment.
and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. pleased to welcome bhaskar sunkara back to this program. socialist perspectives on politics, economics and culture. the most recent issue called the party we need, asked if we had a working class party, what would it fight for?
they're new winter issue coming out february 21st is called join me on the dark side, you can probably guess what that's about. glad to have you back on this program. we're in the first 100 days, how are you making it? >> it's terrible. this is surprising for me, at the moment hillary clinton lost, i'm no great fan of hillary clinton, i was not feeling good. hey, we should have nominated joe biden. i thought that was going to be a reresponsible, a lot of people are now looking for other ideas, they're looking for new voices and alternatives. the last three months have been in a narrow sense, some of our best. >> i was on meet the press this
weekend. nancy pelosi was on the program, she and chuck got into a bit of a back and forth about whether or not the democratic party had the wrong leadership. that's a pretty bold question to ask of the minority leader to her face, what's your sense of what the leadership of the left looks like these days. >> can you imagine a tea party emerging that held up bob doll as one of its leaders? >> there's a broad anti-establishment populous move in this country. what they've been trying to do, the best people in the democratic party, the best well intentioned people have been trying to merit together liberalism, the people that hillary clinton have pushed. it's not that they want to --
they're not as noxious as steve bannon. that marriage is a very, very uncomfortable one, and it's not enough to motivate people to vote. i think the leadership needs to look a lot more like the messages that were coming out of the bernie sanders campaign. a lot less like the try angulation you got from other quarters. >> sometimes the answer is to get in the way, get in the streets, get involved, protest, get in the way. sometimes the answer is to get out of the way. >> if the wrong persons are leading the way at the moment. how do they get out of the way. i saw senator warren had a pretty scathing critique. that's coming from a sitting democratic senator. they're not the kind of representation that the left needs at this moment. >> i think a lot of this needs to comerom the outside when
you have voices on the outside calling for different politics. millions of people marching without the democratic party sanction, i think this changes the environment in which they're operating. in other words, we're not directly writing policy, we're not directly writing some of these platforms and programs. we're changing conditions in which it's written. you're going to feel a lot of centrist democrats move to the left. and i think that's a good thing, i think if you look at the republican party a lot of these people who invented themselves are fairly moderate republicans, a bunch of them that refused to move over to the right ended up getting primary, and are out of there. that's a model for what needs to happen on the democratic party. we don't limit our horizons to just the democratic party. >> i agree. why would a centrist democrat in this moment move to the left opportunistically or not.
what's the motivation for making that move. >> they know they need to recover a semblance of working class report. a lot of it has been said about white working class voters. think about all the black and latino workers who didn't vote for trump, a lot of them didn't come out and turn out and vote. i think there is in certain districts this kind of motivation to move to respond to the kind of broad anti-establishment rhetoric. but yes, to be honest, i think there's going to be another pole within the democratic party where a lot of these figures are going to say, all right, we need to win over moderate republicans. we need to win over business people who say that trump's immigration policies, and trump's protectionism isn't good for them. there's going to be those two polls. some figures moving to the right and some moving to the left. how does the left progress. not democratic party, but the left progressives, how do they
navigate this moment. how do you fight back in this moment. >> i call myself a socialist, i've done that for years even when it seemed like a completely crazy thing to do. now it seems like a somewhat crazy thing to do. part of that is, you know, thinking about the fact that we need new ideas, we need a new message. i don't think people are going to be afraid of that message, rather than say we're progressives, we say, we're socialists, because we have a vision of a kind of society that has a decent safety net, worker protections, we have some sort of vision in mind. something to march ward. i think that's very important. at core, our message to people i think is one that's powerful and palletable. you don't have enough. you work hard, you deserve more. and we know that people responsible for you not having enough, and they're what sanders called the millionaires and billionaires. that's something, in those clear
confrontational tones that the democratic party has not wanted to message that way, but i think it's a simple clear message that is even more compelling than trump's message, speaking to anger, but turning people into scapegoats. >> two questions, why then did trump's message resonate to the point of winning when bernie's did not. and i have a follow-up. >> i think first of all, i think bernie sanders message from the beginning was more popular among moderates and independents. i think bernie encountered struck feweral problems within the democratic party, and obviously people talk about super delegates, dnc interference. some of that tough is overstated. one of the problems he encountered, he was unknown. he came into this race. people forget, trump already ran for president, he's done this before. sanders came to the national stage for the first time, and he was very unfamiliar to a lot of people within the democratic
party. black voters and others looked at hillary clinton, maybe if they didn't like hillary clinton, this is the evil i know, and beyond that, she had greater perceptions of being electable. they knew what was at stake if donald trump got elected and they went in that direction. i think all these factors played a role, and sanders just ran out of time. if he had two, three, four more months, started his campaign earlier, played to win, i think he would have had a chance, i think he did win over the broad middle of the country and he would have won the general election. >> had he had enough time and become the democratic nominee. in retrospect, do you think he could have beaten trump? >> i would say that i think trump fluked his way into this election, in many ways, i and other people thought that clintonism couldn't defeat trumpism in the long run. but we did think that clinton would be able to defeat a
candidate as gaffe prone and inept as donald trump. a variety of things happened, they all clicked for him and the clinton campaign was inept. you should be afraid of donald trump and vote on the basis of that fear. donald trump had a clear, more positive message of, you know, make america great again. i think on the left, we want to make america great for the first time. but in many ways, that message is more affirmative i think, and it gave his supporters a reason to turn out where those that are progressives didn't have a reason to turn out. >> the reason i go back before i go sford is because -- i'm not interested in talking about the 2020 election yet. we start at least having the kind of conversation -- about the kind of progressive candidate, the kind of person
we're looking for that we think can come up against what we see as the strategy of mr. trump. i'm not talking about names. what ought we be looking for. what ought we be trying to create, trying to manufacture as the kind of person that we're going to have to return against him down the road? >>. >> i think we need to have clear messaging. and the messaging needs to be you deserve more. take this broad message and attach it to certain programs. you deserve decent housing, quality education. there's more than enough for everyone. clinton democrats and trump on different ways. there's enough for americans, how he wants to define them. there's not enough for everyone. there's not enough for lazy minorities, there's not enough for immigrants. there's not enough for refugees.
this is the terms he's pushing. clinton austerity style democrats have pushed for a message that say, we want to live in a more diverse, inclusive society, there's not enough for us to think about these big free higher education programs, so we settle for things like obama care. one's possible and one's impossible we need a candidate to set the bar high. >> that's the kind of candidate that we need, this issue i'm holding in my hand is about the party we need? what kind of party do we need? is it time for a third party? what's your view on what that party ought to look like? >> if i had my own way. i can invent the rules of the game from scratch. i would start a third party right away. >> what does that look like? >> but -- i think it would be a party rooted in broadly defined
working class, not just the union moment, the working class communities. a party where it's driven by local meetings and branches, and really dwrekt face to face communication, it's not a party driven from above by talking heads on the media, making their pronouncements every week on meet the press. a lot of democratic party communications happen. it's something far more grassroots and dynamic, i would say this, we've tried the route of creating third parties from scratch many times and many different conditions, at the moment, there's not the social moments to make it happen. there's not the rank and file in the movement. in the short term, we need a different strategy. we need a strategy that allows us to at times operate within the democratic primary. at times, maybe operate in the republican primaries in a few districts. these candidates should run.
there's a great article on this issue. these candidates should run on their own platform with their own sources of funding. you're using the ballot line at that point. you're not just trying to storm the party from the inside and launch a coup from within. it's a little different, i think. >> how long can this protest mode that we seem to be in, be sustained. how long before the left gets resistance fatigue? >> that's what i'm afraid of. all these people marching on the streets, they're not members, at least three, four months ago they wouldn't have identified as being on the left. they're new to this, winning begets more wing. people need to see that politics makes a difference. right now, with this muslim ban getting trouble in the courts. i think people need a win real gains and reforms for them to
see the power of collective action. >> in a moment like this, though, where do those wins come from. >> it's not going to come from congress, it's not going to come from trump. maybe it will be enough for us to stop and stymie the trump agenda, and i think that may be enough to take us to 2018 or 2020, beyond that, we need a movement that has a clear vision in mind of what it wants. we can't just fight trump, we have to go beyond that, and actually present people an alternative politics, something that really delivers some of the goods. >> what i heard you say is that the democrats now ought to adopt the same strategy that mitch mcconnell and the republicans had which is one of obstructionism. >> i think that's a little different. trump i think is different than obama, in that trump is pushing through an agenda that he has no desire to talk to the other side, have reforms and so on.
to the extent donald trump wants to help people with jobs and infrastructure programs. the extent that he wants to divide people on the basis of national origin, race, sex and so on, will bitterly oppose him. i think we've seen that trump doesn't actually want to do the former, that was all populous bluster to get elected. he doesn't want those things. maybe some people like bannon does, but at some point he's going to have foreign policy, these gaffes. the first thing he's done was not only just the muslim ban, but starting to dismantle dodd/frank, that tells you enough about his administration. i don't think there's enough room for us to compromise just on the bases of what his administration is. >> whether or not to your point a moment ago, he was saying and doing these things just to get
elected. now it would appear he wasn't just saying this stuff to get elected. a lot of these commitments and promises he made. he's going full steam ahead. one could make the argument that trump is coming with a sledgehammer. he came in hitting the ground running day one. obama came in, trying to be an accommodationist, trying to be a collaborator, it shows you the start -- stark difference. >> absolutely, obama never really had an agenda, i don't think trump was lying. i always put it this way. trump is encountering. he's encountering the actual constraints, the capital puts upon anyone in office. certain things trump wanted to do like this crazy tax on
imports coming in from overseas, capital's going to say no, that's going to mess us up we'll have to completely reorder things. mark my words, that's not going to pass, that's not going to go through. the banning refugees, that doesn't affect the bottom line, he's not going to get pressure there. you see capital is trying to negotiate with the trump agenda, we'll tolerate you getting rid of dodd frank. we'll thank you for it. you're seeing him pushing through parts of his agenda, that major dominant businesses are for, where some of his populous promises -- it's that he's getting too constrained to do it i think obama is afraid from the beginning, he didn't even try these things he didn't try to con front them.
there's a very telling conversation of a debate between him and john edwards. i'm not making a -- >> i know where you're going here. >> no, you need to fight and demand concessions, where obama said, no, you need to get everyone at a table and figure out where we have common interests. for all the good it did, it was a giveaway to the health care industry. no stakeholder feels strongly about it to go ahead and fight and defend it now. >> what do we make of obama's rategystrategy versus trump's >> part of it is you need confrontation. i think trump and bannon and those people understand that and i think obama's team did not really understand that the reason why trump and bannon are going to fail should give us some hope we're closer to a
point where we can build politics in this country than they are winning a majority over for this crazy edge know nationalist politics. that should give us a lot of hope. >> do you think this is just politics or do you think our democracy at its core is in trouble. >> i think part of it is rooted in not having too much democracy, not having people voting for donald trump. because we have too little you look at the structure of our constitution, it was made to limit popular inputs and passions. at the core, the whole system was built to limit the amount of popular participation in it you wonder why people stay at home. people see that turning out and getting their hopes up for candidates yields basically nothing, a lot of them stay at home. they don't even get the day off
to vote, why should they sacrifice their time, their limited time with their family, their time at home just to go out for a candidate when they don't see the difference. that's the problem we're seeing. >> one of the strategies from the right -- from this particular administration, is to freeze people with fear. can that work? it's worked historically, that people are frozen by their nears. >> if you divide up the struggle into the smallest of units, i think that's where the right is strong, when they divide us up. i don't mean on the basis of identity and what not, i just mean as far as today we're going to atact this sector of the union moment. where i really do worry for the features, where i see the building trade's union saying, the meeting they had with donald trump was one of the best of their lives and they're willing to accept some short term gains for their members, at the rest
of the labor movement, a lot of whom are black and brown and immigrants and others, that's where i worried. i think that initial response we've seen has been the exact opposite. it's been solidarity, broad based mobilizations, that's the thing that's going to stymie their agenda. >> if there's anything donald trump knows, is how to manipulate unions. >> the union movement in this country is not what it should be. and we know that it's completely imperfect. it's the only force in society that has tens of millions of members, that has the actual financial resources to fight him, and they could actually think -- we could imagine from that basis, us being able to build worker centers and cities and immigrant centers and what not, we need union support to do it, they have corporations. i mentioned the tea party at the beginning of the show. the tea party had a big
advantage, they were organizing for capital. and in defensive, a lot of business interest were organizing against a lot of business interests. we need funding, we need support, we need organization. the union movement is where we have to think about reforming and getting help out of them. >> i mentioned this issue, the party we need, tell me briefly about the dark side issue p.m. >> well, you know it was rooted in trying to figure out where trumpism came from. we didn't just want to talk about the most sensational figures. we didn't want to talk about the white nationalists, steve bannon or others, we wanted to think broadly about what social forces led to an insurgency within the republican party. the tea party was kind of the armed wing of the republican party for a couple years, with support from all these big backers. then something happened in late 2013, the major business interest in this country, the chamber of commerce and others
turned on the tea party. it looked like they really defeated them. they marginalize the tea party voice, trump, i think, represents the radicalization of that kind of downwardly mobil sentiment of the tea party, he took it into a new form, we want to talk about where this came from, to what extent is there real tensions between the paul ryan wing of the party and donald trump's wing of the party. and also, to talk frankly about the ways in which these two wings of the faert can collaborate and form something like a governing majority in this country. that's my real fair. >> i had a lot of liberal friends, what's going to happen to this country, we have a buffoon in office. my fear was the opposite. what if he turns out to be a decent president, what if he's able to deliver some goods for some people, what if he's able to get rid of his bluster and be a little more serious and states man like, what if he wins again.
we're able to derail his agenda, that's why it's so important that we do that, my fear is that, that populism has a real future in this country unless we confront it with something better. >> you may want to check out his publication. i highly recommend it. that's our show for tonight, thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith. for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley. >> join me next time, we take a deep dive into what's happening around the country. that's next time, we'll see you then.
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