Skip to main content

tv   [untitled]    February 3, 2014 7:30pm-8:01pm EST

7:30 pm
that's right you conversations of great minds i'm joined by one of the strongest progressive voices on capitol hill keith ellison a u.s. representative from minnesota's fifth congressional district as the first muslim ever elected to congress he's also the first african-american ever elected to congress from minnesota an outspoken advocate for peace abroad and equality at home congressman ellison is the co-chair of the congressional progressive caucus and is a leader when it comes to issues of civil rights and religious freedom his new memoir my country tis of thee life a life family future is a fascinating look at the values and experiences that have shaped his beliefs congressman ellison joins us now in the studio congressman ellison welcome back good to see you great to see you again too i know i love this book i have not read
7:31 pm
the entire thing but i've read a chokes yeah well in large chunks of it your father just pops up throughout the book you know the stuff about adam clayton powell father. anyway but let's start out with you what got you into pop what got you interested in politics you know i was interested in politics written large from actually a early age. late in high school i read a lot my dad like to talk politics but when i got to campus at wayne state university i got involved in the. struggle trying to get my college wayne state to divest from apartheid south africa really learn how to you know go up to folks and ask them to sign a petition that's where i learned how to do that kind of stuff and knock on doors and be a part of that whole kind of thing but honestly i really didn't have a lot of confidence in electoral politics intil you know i was easing up on
7:32 pm
thirty one thirty two years old i had gone to college to go on law school and was working as a public defender and actually probably lawyer when i met paul wellstone who really kind of offered an example of somebody who could do electoral politics in a way harmonize with his values in an authentic way and he actually got to change my mind on the possibility of electoral politics delivering good outcomes for regular people i think he changed a lot of people's lives and and i think one of the yeah and i think you're following that tradition i mean you're welcome only now i can tell you i'm in a number of people who i've encountered in my life and what we're both short. i mean he's. also. i've never met
7:33 pm
him i. could like. you're a member of the congressional progressive caucus you know what is what does that mean to you well you know you can't do anything in politics myself just can't and if you play along the best you could do in politics alone is sort of play a kind of a paul revere figure you can sort of cry out loud about injustice. there's something going on but if you actually want to move a policy agenda you have to have help so you know part of the democratic caucus and but i ran for progressive caucus co-chair because i knew i had to get some allies if we want any any any chance to move a progressive agenda so for example. the progressive caucus dove in deep with this effort to try to get the president issued executive order to raise the pay of workers who are professional contractors working on this thing back in the spring
7:34 pm
time standing striking standing with striking workers at the ronald reagan building at the union station at the smithsonian air and space museum and we were standing there as they were striking demanding better pay as they were receiving eight dollars an hour stuff like that poverty wages and so we wrote we got fifty members of the progressive caucus on a letter to the president fifteen senators we banded with bernie sanders and folks in the senate we handed letters to the president every time we saw him we gave another one asked for more meetings and i think the collective force of our of our of our work together plus the program plus the striking workers and people with change to win and progressive leaders in the community that's kind of what i think persuaded the president to. that's just an example of what i mean you can't do anything by itself so i got involved the progressive caucus because i don't want to just have
7:35 pm
a debate society about how you know she was wouldn't be great if we had progressive legislation i want to actually move so that's why you're doing it. one of my best friends and people in fact i dedicated my last book to him is tim carpenter oh i love that we both know quite well and. for him yeah yeah and we'll pass it out on the air tim started costarred a progressive democrats over. p.d. america or which does this kind of inside outside strategy they don't actually have any affiliation the democratic party at all but their whole purpose in life is to push the democratic party a more progressive direction what eve were just talking about you know coalition building and all the stuff inside congress what about outside that's what it's all about so the progressive caucus basically we have three things we're trying to do one is to be more cohesive internally i already mentioned that but the second thing we have to do and it's not second in terms of importance is just you know the
7:36 pm
second thing is to build durable partnerships with progressive leaders across america and even beyond what does that mean that means progressive labor leaders progressive environmental leaders progressive civil and human rights leaders progressive people who are you know who are doing any number of things to advance and enhance human dignity so because we know that like for example if you go back to the affordable care act which i voted for and support now but if we had a durable partnership with progressive legislators and progressive activists we maybe could have forced the conversation on single payer we maybe maybe we could at least at least the public option we could have made the conversation start at single payer and maybe could have maybe we would have settled on a public option because we started that public option and because we wore not tight coalition unable to deploy a large numbers of progressive activists on the mall in offices
7:37 pm
letters to the president because we weren't able to deliver that massive street he . we basically did the best we could but we ended up with where we were which is of course way better than then than the prior regime you know what people were going bankrupt because they got sick but you know it became clear to me then you know what were the possibilities of being united being able to not only. push progressive legislation but to get a sea of americans pushing it from the outside to get a seat to get progressive intellectuals writing you know and helping us with great ideas getting progressive broadcasters you know saying hey look folks this is what's going on out here be aware you know you put all this together in what you end up with is an america where you know anybody can go to the doctor where we do put people before profit where we do you know think about our our place in an
7:38 pm
environment in not just look at the environment is one more commodity to buy i mean you know so that's what we're aiming for you know that's where we'd like to go and again we're working with progressive businesspeople who who know and understand that if you pay people right well they might end up more loyal to your business might be more productive might actually help improve your bottom line and so that's kind of the the concept you know the progressive community really is where the action is we see the progressive caucus as a part of the progressive community where we have a role to play to introduce and vote on legislation but that's just our job other people have other jobs you know so that's how we see it some folks not doors some folks vote in introduce legislation we all are moving america to progressive right now on the conservative side if somebody has say seventy billion dollars and they they want to go in. and they want to increase their net worth or they want to make
7:39 pm
sure the you know the top capital gains rate never goes about twenty percent even even though somebody who's a brain surgeon is going to pay thirty nine percent but he's a working person. and they invest a couple hundred million dollars in the political process they're going to make back hundreds of millions maybe billions of dollars in reduced taxes oh yeah on the progressive side. you know george soros puts money in. the progressive politics he's going to see his taxes go up so the only investment i i was in a meeting that he was in once and he made a comment to the effect of that. and it was kind of a paraphrase of some answer to the german businessman one say that he didn't want to be a rich man in a poor country and so you know the quality of life of the entire country is improved yeah and but that's not quite as tangible as hey i put in one hundred million i get back seven hundred million how do we deal with money and politics i
7:40 pm
mean it's thirty eight years ago last week it's the buckley case you know well it was. four years ago last week was the week before it was citizens united. when we got legislator named john sarbanes who's doing a good job moving forward on a bill that would get create publicly financed campaigns and so you know if you so we can put the person who still maybe fifty or one hundred dollars on the thing footing is somebody who might donate more but it would be public subsidy we're trying to this is the move we're doing right now but i just want to go back to illustrate the nature of the problem that you pointed out a moment ago one point is that. some folks may think well income inequality is just a matter of one group of people have a small group of people have a whole lot of money and a whole lot of people not having that much it's much worse than that because when that small group of people get
7:41 pm
a whole lot of money there it's some point they can't buy anymore yachts and houses what do they do next they start buying political influence to what enrich themselves even more so that the imbalance in economic power then gets parlayed into an imbalance in political power so that's the point you were making i just thought i'd nail that in the ground and i also just like to mention too that you're right there are very wealthy people who believe. in a better a green or a fairer america just like there are people who go there struggling in a very difficult economic situation and are blinded by the fact that somebody has a different color or a different sexual orientation or a different religion or of their you know i mean there there are economically challenged people who operate opposite their own interests and there are wealthy people who operate in the public interest i don't want to just stereotype people based on where they sit in the political spraying and i'm glad you made that point
7:42 pm
because they're allies to be found everywhere and there are people to be won over everywhere so those are points i think that you're right about but we're driving now publicly funded campaigns we want to publicly fund campaigns we want to make it so that. so that somebody can drop you know you know ten twenty thirty million two million dollars on a campaign i never forget when sheldon adelson put ten million dollars into a campaign to benefit newt gingrich. i mean sudden he's a star. like well i mean there is something very wrong with that and it's amazing to me that the supreme court in in in the most recent case citizens united sort of acted like that doesn't happen you know it's naive or cynical. legal argument i've ever heard that that money doesn't buy political influence in the various way and that the first for tax money right in the fourteenth amendment protects
7:43 pm
corporations and i thought we fought the civil war to free the slaves well. what are the red carpets conversations of great minds of minnesota congressman keith ellison.
7:44 pm
i marinate joining me on the desk in park and financial reporting commentary interviews and much much. only on the bus and on our.
7:45 pm
and welcome back to conversations with great minds i'm speaking with keith ellison representative from minnesota's fifth congressional district and author of the new book my country tis of thee my faith my family our future i want to go back to you if i can i just because there's such a rich my and this book is so i mean there's so much of. your father came back from world war two and other g.i. bill became a physician you know he taught you all kinds of things and your world views were in some ways kind of different you know i'd like i'd like you to talk a little bit about that and what that how that has informed your your politics and of your personal. take on life well you know my dad. was was
7:46 pm
a republican identified himself as that and might even today well not might if i if you asked him what part do you any price down republican but he hasn't voted republican in a long time voted for obama but he he killed he says you know look you've got to work hard you got to save you money he got a study hard life isn't going to hand you anything you've got to go get it in my dad. i believe those values are good values that's why you know. i believe there's rational small c. conservatism there's a conversation to be had because me and my dad have it but you know what my dad is also. the scene is that wait a minute you know when you start saying that the government's always wrong what do you say and you say we shouldn't have a bill we shouldn't have the interstate highway system my dad would make that case you know and when you look at quotes from people like bob dole and even even you
7:47 pm
know you wonder whether they could fit in this crowd in the republican party today you know. when eisenhower republican yeah he was that eisenhower republican my but my dad came from an arrow he was born in twenty eight so he grew up in the in the depression. yeah and he and he had to leave. high school early was in the army before he was legally old enough to be there and serve their. you know and then went to wayne state and raised me and my four brothers with a certain degree of you know high expectations and tough love you know but i love these grades he's still with us you don't think that he's he's you know vance years now he had a stroke and he doesn't walk anymore and he doesn't clearly doesn't work but i
7:48 pm
talked to him on a regular basis you know and he's always got some interesting thing to think about you know he's he's a he's a major character in the bush here and it's just you know it's like he's you really get a sense of you through him or yeah always we're different you know maybe we actually many ways you know you point that out you know it's right down to you know taste in cars oh yeah you know my bed came from the era when to be african-american admit that you were in poverty you had to live in a certain place you had to do a certain kind of thing and so in many ways in this crass material world we live in today it's. hard to understand it for many years i didn't understand my dad very well until i began to understand that for him to get a cadillac was not just crass commercialism it was the act of independence it was him saying i am a man and he was declaring himself to be free and equal to other people. you know
7:49 pm
so that's my dad you know he wasn't going to let any door stay shut to him you know use a bowl daring guy and he still is. it's it's remarkable you're you're african-american you represent a district that is ten percent african-american yet my recollection the statistics right you in around the age of twenty converted to islam in a district that is one percent muslim if that if that is what's that like well you know it's easier than you think you know because first of all you know this is the district. that hubert h. humphrey was the mayor and. this is the district was the heart and soul of paul well stone's stomping ground this is where. walter mondale you know was this is his home territory and if i may just. on this is mondale passed away today a real good and may god rest her soul and prayers to her family and to vice president
7:50 pm
mondale good people. but my district is that kind of a place right this is where eugene mccarthy it's a war congressman you know you know this is where he would hold sway so the people who elected me are the kind of people who are are tough on their politicians but who are but are tough for the right reasons they're going to say what are you doing are you helping us get some jobs are you helping us have a favor a better cleaner society and by the way your religion that's your business and by the way you know your race you know that you're you know everybody's a race you know and so you know my district you know doesn't get sensitive when i start talking about racial justice because i do and they expect me to write a lot of america to live up to that you know liberty and justice for all things
7:51 pm
right that pledge we take every morning they kind of believe it you know so you know that's the kind of district that i represent and you know the kind of you know the district i represented to you when i got in trouble with the me. when i was running i was appalled by the iraq war many people in my district were as well and i told them i said look i'm not voting for any supplemental at all so about three four months into being in congress a supplemental which has definite time where if the certain things are not fulfilled we would we would leave. and i thought about it and i thought about it and i became convinced that what i really want us to get us out of iraq. and that voting against the supplemental was a vehicle to get us out of iraq but this supplemental if it actually became law would be a route out of iraq so i was already to vote no to keep a campaign pledge but then i talked to constituents talk to him
7:52 pm
a lot and right up to the very last minute i came convinced that the fastest way out is to vote for this and it was because a lot of close friends were wanted me to do the other thing they were kind of mad at me and so right after that vote i came back to minneapolis we had a huge meeting in the gym and they. and they gave me an earful and but they appreciated that i came back i was straight i didn't try to lie told them i was genuinely convinced that this is the way out. as history has it you know bush vetoed that anyway didn't go anywhere. but i realized that you know the district i have this is tough politicians expectations you have to do what the people want but you can be whatever color whatever gender whatever sexual orientation whatever religion but you got to serve and you got to serve right and you clearly are doing it is law you grew up catholic and around twenty you decided to convert to
7:53 pm
islam and this was the and this is not the nation of islam no this is this is this has nothing to do with us and at the race or ethnicity a lot of tell me well in fact what attracted me to two to islam was was the multiethnic nature of it you know you know in this in the islamic world you have bosnians who are of white skin and you have nigerians who are. arabs who are somewhere in the middle unpacking you know so it's a religion that affirmatively rejects. racial hierarchy and that's not to say there are races muslims of course if they're human. subject to anything any other human is subject to but that's something that attracted me when i first went there you know i tell you this i wish i knew more about catholicism when i could birth it may not have changed my my opinion or my decision
7:54 pm
but i've been able to learn more about catholic social teaching love the work of joe and chittister richard rohr these catholic leaders who really it exemplified that that love compassion and progressive value system but at that time i didn't know anything about them and i saw the faith that i grew up in it's mostly rules and and so i was attracted to this message of inclusion of. stand in for justice. and you know in the end it served me well since you know i mean i definitely believe that it offers a personal discipline because there's prayer there's fasting and and then also there's there's there's this is universal value and it's interesting to be a muslim post nine eleven because what i'm saying right now might find some people might be might find it surprising but it's really it's there the reality of islam is that it's it's a faith practiced by human beings and you've got to meet the big very you got osama
7:55 pm
bin laden you know human beings do bad things and only if they would live by the values that they proclaim. you you talk about in your book the last stages of races . joe madison talks about jim crow has gone he just he's now known as james escrow you. were seen you know this push across the country for example to have these voter suppression of the voter id all this kind of stuff i mean. in your mind in your experience when i tell you this you know. you we often talk about the undone work of the civil rights movement we focus on it we emphasize that we talk about what's not done the still the existing problems that a beer but i like to just say yes you're right but can we take five minutes to look at how far we've come. i mean we are in washington d.c. they used to sell human beings on the capitol mall this city was built the city was
7:56 pm
built by slaves the cathedral of democracy was built by slave labor the white house was built by slave labor look this country in a few hundred years. ended human bondage. passed any constitutional resolution prohibiting it except for people in prison. gave those same people the franchise to vote which has been fought every since that day the fifty or the fourteenth amendment was passed. citizens made citizens of these people my people. and yet we went through this also in civil rights movement where we have to fight that fight kind of all over again but not as bad as slavery right so my thing is yes bull connor was bad but we had martin luther king yes. senator eastland were bad but we also had john f.
7:57 pm
kennedy i believe that we've got to be optimistic about the opportunity for racial justice in america now i'm appalled by massive incarceration have been paul by disparities of all kinds but i believe that based on what we've done we can we have every chance of having real racial solidarity in america. congressman ellison it's an honor pleasure and uplift thank you congressman keith ellison and congressman ellison will be at the center for american progress right here in washington d.c. from noon to one on monday february tenth to talk about his new book to see this and other conversations of great minds go to our website at conversations of great minds. and that's the way it is tonight monday february third two thousand and fourteen and don't forget democracy begins when you get out there get active today you'll be.
7:58 pm
well. it's technology innovation all the least of elements from around russia. that's huge you're covered. my marinates join me. for in-depth impartial and financial reporting commentary cancer news and much much. only on the best and only.
7:59 pm
clips on your arm and a lot of these new policies which are you know. plenty plenty. of pleasure to have you with us here on our streets today i roll researcher. i'm at the end of this side but i'm big corporation kind of can. do i'm the banker all that all about money and i'm a family that for a politician right the last. time. there's
8:00 pm
just too much. of a fight. that. coming up on r t a dark secret barry jones to the coast of new york hard to ireland is where many have been laid to rest in a mass grave including the poor the homeless and even infamous birth by prison inmates got the story ahead. just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you the old saying rings true as a florida school district upsets parents by keeping biometric data on students this is a group of hackers files a criminal complaint against german counselor on the merkel and the government for assisting the n.s.a. and its spine more on that coming up and how much did it cost to build the guantanamo bay detention center it's a question that the obama administration refuses.


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on