With control of the U.S. Senate up for grabs, Democracy Now! aired a five-hour midterm election special on November 4. Amy Goodman and Juan González co-hosted the broadcast from our New York City studio, and we were joined by guests across the country, including Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont; former presidential candidate and longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader; former NAACP president Ben Jealous; reporters Andy Kroll from Mother Jones and Lee Fang of The Nation on dark money in the election; as well as journalists in key states like Wisconsin, Colorado and North Carolina. We also looked at voter access challenges with Myrna Pérez of the Brennan Center.
See all of our coverage of the 2014 Election and all of our related coverage below.
Midterm congressional elections historically see substantially lower turnout than in presidential votes, and this year 14 states have enacted new voting restrictions at the polls. See all of our coverage of voting rights.
AMY GOODMAN: From Pacifica, this is Democracy Now!’s midterm election night special.
SEN. MITCH McCONNELL: I will lead it with integrity. We will fight tooth and nail for conservative reforms that put this country back on track.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s election night in the United States. Will Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party gain control of the Senate? We’ll spend the next five hours looking at key races across the country, from Kentucky to Colorado, from North Carolina and Georgia to Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker is up for re-election.
GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Freedom and prosperity doesn’t come from the mighty hand of the government. It comes from the power and people with the dignity of work. That’s the American dream. I want to help everyone here in the state of Wisconsin live their piece of the American dream.
MARY BURKE: Governor Walker’s approach, in his own words, has been to divide and conquer. Well, that’s not the Wisconsin way. We have to remember that we’re all on the same team, and it shouldn’t matter whether Democrat or Republican. We have to put the politics aside and just get the job done.
AMY GOODMAN: And as tens of thousands of voters, or wannabe voters, report problems at the polls, we’ll look at the attack on voting rights.
BEN JEALOUS: What you see across these states is that the Republicans aren’t doubling down on voter suppression in states they’re trying to acquire; they’re doubling down on voter suppression in states that they already control, because they’re afraid of losing control.
AMY GOODMAN: And there are close to 150 ballot initiatives, from GMO labeling to gun control, from minimum wage to marijuana legalization. All that and more, coming up. Welcome to Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
Polls have closed in Indiana, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Florida and parts of New Hampshire, in the most expensive midterm elections in history. Despite the record spending, voting numbers are expected to dip.
The Associated Press has just reported Republicans have won the Senate race in Kentucky and both Senate seats in South Carolina.
Despite the record spending, voting numbers are expected to dip below the 40 percent mark of both 2006 and 2010, this despite a record estimate of $4 billion in spending. A quarter of that money, $1 billion, will come from anonymous so-called “dark money” groups. Each House seat is up for grabs, but only a few dozen races are competitive enough to be in play. It’s control of the Senate that hangs in the balance, coming down to around 10 key races. Republicans need to gain six seats to recapture Senate control, with a slight edge over Democrats in the advance polls. A few races are so close they could go to a runoff. That potentially means we end Tuesday night with the Senate still undecided.
Senate control is crucial, with Republicans vowing an agenda that includes more cuts to public spending and repealing environmental regulations, such as the EPA’s limits on emissions from coal-fired power plants. But this afternoon, while speaking to WNPR radio in Connecticut, President Obama sounded less than optimistic about Democrats’ chances of keeping control of the Senate. He said, quote, “This is probably the worst possible group of states for Democrats since Dwight Eisenhower.”
No matter how the Senate goes, we can expect mixed results at the state level, as incumbent governors from both main parties face a voter backlash. In Connecticut, where Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy is facing a tough race for re-election, a court has extended voting by half an hour in two polling places in the capital, Hartford, after reported delays. The impacted polling places did not receive voter lists in time to open on schedule at 6:00 this morning.
The midterm elections will also see votes on 147 ballot measures covering a number of key issues. Four states are voting on raising the minimum wage: Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. Polls show the measures will likely pass despite them all coming in Republican states—passed by landslides. Massachusetts voters will decide on a ballot measure that would require businesses to provide up to 40 hours of sick time each year. Today is also a big day for drug policy reform, from decriminalizing marijuana to reduced sentencing for drug offenses. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, there are more drug policy reform questions on the ballot this November than ever in American history. Abortion rights are also being voted on, with votes on so-called “personhood” amendments in Colorado and North Dakota and another anti-choice amendment in Tennessee. Washington state is voting on the midterm’s only major gun-control measure. Initiative 594 would require background checks on all gun sales.
Numerous news outlets are now projecting Republican Senator Mitch McConnell has been re-elected.
We begin with three guests here in New York. Ben Jealous is with us, chair of the Southern Election Fund, which he started with Julian Bond. He’s the former president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Ari Berman covers voting rights for The Nation. He’s working on a book set to be published next year to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. It’s titled Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.
And Myrna Pérez is with us, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program at New York University School of Law, part of the Election Protection Coalition’s voter support hotline. Their number, 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
Now, Myrna, I want to start with you. You spent the day today at Election Protection hotline. How many calls did you get here in New York City?
MYRNA PÉREZ: I know that there has been about 20,000 calls that have come in through the hotline, but I think there are three big takeaways from the calls that we saw. One, the restrictions that we have seen passed on the right to vote are causing confusion and disenfranchisement among voters. Two, we’re not resourcing our polling places enough. There, we’re having machine problems. We’re having people not getting enough information from the county election officials. We’re having people run out of paper. We’re having electronic problems, such that people are not able to vote. And finally, the way we register voters is simply not working. We rely on an antiquated paper system. We had scores of voters call in and say they don’t know if they’re registered, they don’t know where to vote, they’ve moved and they don’t know if they’re still eligible, there are problems with their registration, they’re not registering—they’re not getting registered when they go to the DMV. And I think this is a perfect moment for us to be talking about what kind of systemic reform we can to make sure that our elections are more free, fair and accessible.
AMY GOODMAN: Our producer Sam Alcoff went to his voting place in New York, and they told him he had to vote the party line. If he was going to choose a party, he would have to vote everyone in that party.
MYRNA PÉREZ: And I voted in-person absentee in New Jersey yesterday, and someone tried to ask me for an identification, which is not allowed in New Jersey. And I had to explain to people what the law was. I mean, we have a system of election administration in which we are not appropriately providing the training to both the volunteers, and then we have folks who are trying to do the right thing by voters but just don’t have the resources to make sure that they’re getting the kind of information out there that they need.
AMY GOODMAN: Ben Jealous, what have you been finding today, learning about what’s happening? You’ve been particularly following Southern states.
BEN JEALOUS: That’s right, and focused on Georgia, principally. In Georgia, you’re seeing very long lines. But you’re also seeing problems in states like North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Alabama, which all have new voter suppression laws that go into effect right now. In three of those states—in Texas, Virginia and down in Alabama—these are new voter ID laws going into effect. In North Carolina, there’s a tradition now of people taking advantage of same-day voter reg, and there was also a truncating of early voting. All of this has caused a lot of confusion, and it’s intended to cause suppression. I mean, when you look at how many voters are affected by these new laws in each one of these states, it is either precisely the same as the average margin of victory or it is a multiple of it. And that’s ultimately sort of the endgame, is to make it harder, harder for, quite frankly, the growing demographics in these states to vote.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Ari Berman, this is something you’ve been following for years, the whole issue of voter suppression, voter rights. How do the midterm elections 2014, at this point, what you know, from Texas to Georgia to, well, all over the country—how is it adding up right now?
ARI BERMAN: Well, this has been a very significant election for voting rights. This is the first election in basically 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act, so this is the first election without Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act on the books, meaning that those states with the worst history of voting discrimination, they don’t have to approve their voting changes with the federal government anymore. So we’re seeing laws like in Texas, with their voter ID law, that were previously blocked as discriminatory, they’re now in effect. And they’re in effect for the first time in this midterm election. And Myrna’s group, the Brennan Center, has very good data on this. We know that 21 states have put new voting restrictions in place since 2010, 14 of them for the first time in 2014. That’s a lot of new hurdles for voters to have to face in states like North Carolina, Texas, for the first time this year.
And we’re already seeing the impact in these states. We’re seeing that people are being turned away in Texas because they don’t have the right ID. We’re seeing that people in North Carolina aren’t able to use same-day registration. They’re being turned away. Or they’re casting a ballot in the wrong precinct and being turned away. Or there’s a shorter early voting period, and there’s long lines. So, we’re seeing the real-world impact of these laws, and I think it’s going to have a major impact in the midterm. Now, voter turnout is lower in a midterm election, so we’re not going to see the full sample. We’re going to really have to wait for the presidential year. But we’re already seeing very disturbing signs when it comes to voting rights.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about the significance of this for 2016, for those who say, “Oh, these are the midterm elections; they don’t really matter.”
ARI BERMAN: Well, it’s significant that people are already being turned away in a midterm election, because these are low-turnout elections. So if these problems are happening in the midterms, what’s going to happen in a presidential election where you have much higher turnout? And so, to me, this is a preview of what’s to come. If people are being turned away in Texas now, more people are going to be turned away. A lot of these laws are also still going to be challenged in the courts after 2014. There’s going to be trials in Texas, trials in North Carolina. So a lot of the evidence in 2014 is going to be used in court afterwards, as well.
BEN JEALOUS: Well, if you go down to Georgia, it’s very clear what the intent is. And when you see the secretary of state fret, as Brian Kemp has, openly and publicly about the impact on his party of more and more black people signing up to vote in his state, it becomes pretty clear, when you see him dragging his feet, why he’s dragging his feet. You know, when you look at these other states and you see that it’s the party in power that’s actually pushing voter suppression legislation, it becomes clear that they’re trying to protect the power that they have. And, you know, the concerning thing, right, is that the courts are becoming more and more conservative. In these states that are most effective, the party that’s pushing the law is the one who’s going to stay in control. And so, we actually have to call more and more on just regular people to do what they can do, which is to turn out and vote, to actually get involved and support massive voter registration drives, because we’ve known since Freedom Summer that the antidote to massive voter suppression is massive voter registration, massive voter turnout. And we still, frankly, have the numbers to take back control of these states.
AMY GOODMAN: Ben, the word is, from South Carolina, that Timothy Eugene “Tim” Scott, the junior U.S. senator from South Carolina, a Republican—was chosen in 2003 after South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley named him to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jim DeMint—has been elected.
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: African-American senator from South Carolina.
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, far-right-wing Republican, and it’s not surprising.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined right now by Percy Bostick. He’s a voter joining us from Greensboro. Can you talk, Percy Bostick, about exactly where you are and when you tried to vote?
PERCY BOSTICK: I am at home now, and I tried to vote last Friday.
AMY GOODMAN: Oh.
PERCY BOSTICK: It was early voting. They had—we had early voting at about 10 locations. The one that I chose to vote at was the Old Guilford County Courthouse. And I—when I tried to vote for Kay Hagan, the voting machine registered Thom Tillis. And so, I called a poll worker over, showed her what had happened, and she probably thought I had done something wrong, so she asked me to do it again. I did it again. I touched Kay Hagan, and Thom Tillis came up.
AMY GOODMAN: Wait, wait. So—wait, explain exactly what happened. So you’re in Greensboro, North Carolina.
PERCY BOSTICK: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And how does your—I mean, everyone has a different way of voting. Some people are mailing in. Some people—today in New York, you fill in a little dot. So explain exactly how it works in Greensboro, North Carolina.
PERCY BOSTICK: The voting machines in Guilford County and, I found out later, in 37 of our 100 counties are manufactured or marketed by a company called iVotronic. It was previously Diebold Election Systems, but now it’s—the company is called Electronic Systems & Software, and the machine is called an iVotronic.
AMY GOODMAN: Of course—
PERCY BOSTICK: So it’s a touchscreen voting machine.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, you touched the circle for Kay Hagan?
PERCY BOSTICK: I did. I touched the box for Kay Hagan, but it highlighted Thom Tillis and put a check mark in his box. And—
AMY GOODMAN: So what did you do then?
PERCY BOSTICK: Beg your pardon?
AMY GOODMAN: What did you do then?
PERCY BOSTICK: I called a poll worker over. She asked me to repeat it. The same thing happened. And then she said, “Will you do it again very slowly?” And I did it very slowly and touched the Kay Hagan box, and the Thom Tillis check mark showed up, and it highlighted his name. So she called an election official over at that point.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Myrna Pérez, are you—
MYRNA PÉREZ: I mean, I think that this, again, speaks to the idea that we need to better resource our elections. We are having a problem where our voting machines are rapidly aging out. They are being used in many parts of the country well beyond what they were intended to. States don’t have the money to repurchase them. We don’t have a good system for making sure that things are being calibrated the way that they do. I very much believe that, you know, election officials are doing the best that they can, but the truth of the matter is that voting machines, if we want them to work well, require money, and they require resources. And people need to understand that we can’t get democracy on the cheap. And if we are going to make sure that when we cast a ballot it’s going to be as we are intended and that we have the appropriate machines being calibrated, we need to resource this and worry about this looming crisis of voting machines.
BEN JEALOUS: These are like 13-year-old computers. I mean, think about it, if your home computer was 13 years old, the problems you’d be having. And that’s basically, in most of these places, they were brought in around 2001, 2002. They are very old computers. And there, frankly, have been advances in programming. Like, for instance, you know, we could do this the way that we do Bitcoin and actually have a system that’s much harder to compromise and much easier to trust.
AMY GOODMAN: Percy, did they shut down the machine?
PERCY BOSTICK: The election official asked me to try it again. When I did that, I touched Kay Hagan, and it recorded a Kay Hagan vote. And I said, “Well, you know, this is a—you know, is this—I don’t trust this machine.” And he said, “I am going to withdraw your ballot and withdraw your vote and move you to another machine.”
AMY GOODMAN: So, basically, you voted for Thom Tillis twice and Kay Hagan once?
PERCY BOSTICK: I voted for Thom Tillis three times and Kay Hagan once.
BEN JEALOUS: So terrifying.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going from Percy Bostick—oh, one other thing, because we’ve got to get to Kentucky. Diebold, for people who aren’t familiar with the Diebold story, particularly in Ohio, who would like to take this one, the history of the Diebold voting machines?
ARI BERMAN: Myrna?
MYRNA PÉREZ: No, not me. I mean, I think the truth of the matter is that we need better oversight of our machines. And I think that we—if we want them to work well, we need to make sure that we have a verified way of checking to make sure that they’re being calibrated. We need to make sure that states have the resources to do them. I think the problem that happened to this voter happened in some of the polling locations that called into us. It could happen more often. And we need to have a way of being able to check at the end to make sure that votes are not getting screwed up that way. And part of that means investing on the front end, about how to make sure that things are working the way that they should be.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go right now to Phillip Bailey. As we make our way through this evening, all sorts of polls are going to be closing. Results are going to be coming in, or we’re not going to know results. But Phillip Bailey is a freelance journalist in Louisville, Kentucky, formerly political editor at the local NPR affiliate, WFPL. The latest news from Kentucky, the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, has just won re-election to the Senate. He could become the next majority leader of the Senate, though there are some, like Ted Cruz of Texas, who say he wouldn’t support Mitch McConnell. But if you, Phillip Bailey, can talk about this very close race between Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes and what actually took place in Kentucky? Phillip, can you hear us?
PHILLIP BAILEY: Yes, ma’am.
AMY GOODMAN: Ah, can you tell us what happened and where you are right now?
PHILLIP BAILEY: Yeah, I’m in Louisville, Kentucky, covering the U.S. Senate race here. Really, what happened is, as soon as the polls closed at 7:00, Senator McConnell was declared the victor by a number of media organizations, which may have come as a surprise to a lot of Democrats, who expected at least to have these elections called—or this election called maybe into the later hours.
AMY GOODMAN: And just talk about the race, for people who don’t live in Kentucky or aren’t familiar with what’s going on right now in Kentucky, just what this race looked like and the significance of Mitch McConnell winning. I mean, he has been in the Senate for years, but this was, from the beginning, unexpectedly close. And who is his opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes?
PHILLIP BAILEY: Yeah, I mean, really from the beginning, given Senator McConnell’s unpopularity, this race had been close really for the past year and a half, with a number of different Democratic scenarios or Democratic candidates. When Grimes got in the race, the initial thought was she’s a clean slate, she doesn’t have that much of a record, and she could really give him a run for his money.
And speaking of money, Mitch McConnell, more than any other senator, is probably known for someone who is advocating that money is speech. So we’ve seen somewhere north of $80 million spent in this race. How much we’ve gotten out of that $80 million has really yet to be seen. We only had one debate. But certainly over the course of the summer, Senator McConnell and his allies, outside groups that spent enormous amounts of money, were able to define Grimes as a surrogate for Barack Obama, who is very unpopular in Kentucky. The only thing more unpopular than Senator McConnell himself is the president. And we’ve seen in these last few polls, where McConnell was beginning to edge out his lead and expand it, that Grimes’s popularity was actually beginning to sink. It’s really a strategy that McConnell has perfected over 30 years, which is that no matter how unpopular he is, it’s a race to 51 percent, and oftentimes his strategy is to make his opponent more unpopular than he is himself.
AMY GOODMAN: This morning on Democracy Now!, we spoke to Lee Fangbroughtto, reporting fellow with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. He blogs about money in politics at the Republic Report. We talked about Senator McConnell, his race against Alison Lundergan Grimes, and I asked him to explain where McConnell got his money from.
LEE FANG: We recently had a story in The Nation taking the very first look at where Senator Mitch McConnell receives his own personal fortune. He’s one of the wealthiest members of the Senate, worth over $22 million. Most of this money comes from his in-laws’ family. He married Elaine Chao, the former secretary of labor in the Bush administration. Her father founded the Foremost Maritime Corporation, a large shipping company. There were many revelations in this piece, one of them being most of these ships owned by this company are registered in the Marshall Islands, largely for tax purposes, and also they use the “flag of convenience” from Liberia, meaning they sail their ships under Liberian maritime law, which is much more relaxed than U.S. maritime law.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Lee Fang. Your response to that background that we just heard, Phillip Bailey?
PHILLIP BAILEY: Yeah, Grimes tried to make this an issue, saying that, you know, look, Senator McConnell opposes the minimum wage, yet he’s become a multimillionaire over the time he’s had in the Senate, the 30 years he’s had in the Senate. McConnell tried to [inaudible] this often and push back in saying, “Well, that’s an inheritance from my wife’s family. That’s not from my own personal salary.” So Grimes tried to make economic populism a major theme of her campaign, being for pay equity, being for minimum wage.
But the problem with any attacks, the Democrats have learned over these past 30 years, is that it’s hard to throw mud on sludge and make it stick. Senator McConnell has never been popular. He’s never been personally well liked or even had that much affinity even amongst Republicans. That’s never been his style to be this sort of ingratiating, popular, nice guy everyone likes. That’s never really been his forté or reason he’s been re-elected. It’s often been this argument of power, which is the one he really made at the end. His two arguments this entire race were: You don’t like Barack Obama, voting for me is a repudiation of the president; and you can make me Senate majority leader, which will give Kentucky an inside in the power of Washington, really. That was his two arguments the entire time. It was never “I’m a nice guy. You like me. I’ve done a whole lot for you. I’m this great guy personally.” It’s “the power that I’ve attained, and I’ll stand up to the president you don’t like.”
AMY GOODMAN: Why is President Obama so unpopular, Phillip Bailey, in Kentucky?
PHILLIP BAILEY: There are different theories about that. There are some political pundits here in Kentucky who believe, look, President Obama never really courted Kentucky in the primary in 2008, didn’t for the election in 2008, certainly did not in 2012. Only he’s really been here maybe once or twice his whole entire presidency.
Others will say—I’ve talked to some Democratic consultants here in Kentucky, and they say, “Look, the problem starts within our own party. We never really embraced the president.” In fact, in the 2012 primary, 40 percent of Kentucky Democrats—let me repeat: 40 percent of Kentucky Democrats voted noncommitted over voting for the president. The theory behind that, for some, is that, look, Kentucky is a Southern state that’s never had an African American elected to any statewide position, and race is a part of that, and it starts in the home of Democrats, many conservative Democrats, who have not left the party in registration but might as well have left it in every other capacity.
So, there are different theories for it. Certainly the EPA and the strength of the coal industry here, which dominated both for Grimes and for McConnell—both of them tried to “out-coal” one another. You could certainly point to the position on guns. Kentucky is certainly a pro-Second Amendment state. But I think that all of those elements added in, the race element sort of escalates the ability to be against President Obama and has helped de-escalate or descend his numbers into the high 20 percentile where they are now.
AMY GOODMAN: And the famous moment when Alison Grimes said she would not reveal who she voted for, although she had been an Obama delegate in the past?
PHILLIP BAILEY: Yeah, I mean, that was the one thing going into this that some Democrats will come to me and say, “Look, that was a stupid question. This is a Beltway obsession.” But the fact is, many liberal folks, at both the national level and here locally, some African-American voters in particular, felt like, “Wait a minute, you’re trying to court my vote, you want me to come out for you and support you, but you won’t support the president or even admit to voting for the president that I still find very popular.” So, for Grimes, it was unusual, because she knew going into this conversation with The Courier-Journal that she was going to be asked about the president. She had been asked about him or had been maligned by outside groups using the president the entire summer. It was astonishing that she didn’t have a better answer for it. She knew she was going to be asked. So the fact that she was unable to do that and gave this really strange answer of, “Well, it’s the sanctity of the ballot. I really don’t want to say who I voted for,” but then she’ll admit, “Well, you know, I was a Clinton Democrat in 2008”—so you are willing to admit that you voted for Hillary Clinton, but not Barack Obama. It was—
AMY GOODMAN: Let me—let me go to that moment when Alison Lundergan Grimes did that interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal editorial board, but refused to reveal whether she voted for President Obama.
REPORTER: Did you vote for President Obama, 2008, 2012?
ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES: You know, this election, it isn’t about the president. It’s about—
REPORTER: I know, but did you vote for him?
ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES: —making sure we put Kentuckians back to work. And—
REPORTER: Did you vote for him?
ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES: I was actually in '08 a delegate for Hillary Clinton. And I think that Kentuckians know I'm a Clinton Democrat through and through. I respect the sanctity of the ballot box, and I know that the members of this editorial board do, as well.
REPORTER: So you’re not going to answer.
AMY GOODMAN: “I’m a Clinton Democrat through and through.” Ben Jealous?
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, look, years ago, Governor Cuomo here in New York was asked how he could keep on becoming governor, even though he opposed the death penalty in a state where it was very popular. And what he said was, people don’t decide to not vote for you because you disagree with them on one tough issue—in this case, it would have been her obvious support for Obama; they decide not to vote for you because they see you out there blowing in the wind, and they decide they can’t trust you, see, because if you’re willing to just forthrightly disagree with them on a matter of conviction, then they know, on all those other things that they agree with you, you will stand by them, too. But if they see you blowing in the wind—
AMY GOODMAN: This is Mario Cuomo?
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah—they know they can’t trust you. And that’s what she did there. Forget about, you know, turning off people who support Obama. She signaled to everybody that she didn’t have a backbone.
AMY GOODMAN: What about this idea that you have a right to keep your vote private?
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, but when you’ve been a delegate for a candidate, like, come on, you already made your vote very public.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to—yes, Ari Berman?
ARI BERMAN: Well, I also have to say, I mean, it’s the kind of thing where you want what you don’t have, and so I think there’s something of a fantasy that Bill and Hillary Clinton are going to be popular in states like Kentucky. I don’t think that Hillary Clinton is going to run much stronger than Barack Obama will in these states. I mean, I think there is definitely a race element to some of the opposition to the president—
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, but—but also, frankly, this got—
ARI BERMAN: —in states like Kentucky. But I don’t think Hillary is going to do a lot better than he would.
BEN JEALOUS: Well, unless the party finally embraces what Howard Dean was talking about a long time ago and a real 50-state strategy. I mean, the kind of sophisticated Democrats, when it comes to presidential politics, have written off the South. Really, they’ve written off like something like 30 of our 50 states. And we need to actually have a 50-state strategy, because, frankly, progressives can do much better. This is a different South right now. Kentucky is a bit of an outlier, but, you know, when you look at states like South Carolina, for instance, which we see as a very conservative state, the balance of power is 100,000 votes. You’ve got 350,000 unregistered black folks. That state could be flipped relatively easily.
ARI BERMAN: Yeah, the problem is, Democrats are parachuting in for these campaigns, as you mentioned, Ben, then they’re leaving.
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, that’s right.
ARI BERMAN: And they’re not leaving any sort of sustained infrastructure on the ground. They’re not committed to any sort of movement building or party building.
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, that’s right. And even worse—
ARI BERMAN: So they’re never going to flip these states if they don’t do that.
BEN JEALOUS: And even worse, when they parachute in, they parachute in with TV.
ARI BERMAN: Yeah.
BEN JEALOUS: You know, they don’t even invest in the infrastructure when they’re there for a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back, because the Mitch McConnell race is such a key race, not only for Kentucky, but for the whole country, to Lee Fang talking about his wealth, his power. Lee Fang, who blogs about money in politics at the Republic Report, talking about Mitch McConnell.
LEE FANG: In addition, Mitch McConnell has made coal the top issue of his campaign, saying that environmentalists and Democrats are the reason for the decline in production for Kentucky coal. One interesting part of the story is that, in fact, the decline of coal is much more complicated. The rise of natural gas plays a big part. But the other big part is that America is relying more and more on cheap, imported coal. Well, the Foremost Maritime Corporation, Mitch McConnell’s in-laws’ family, exports cheap Colombian coal, potentially undercutting Kentucky coal. And in a recent inspection by Colombian officials, they found as much as 90 pounds of cocaine on one of these coal shipments.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Lee Fang. We’re also joined right now by Michael Beckel, reporter at the Center for Public Integrity, where he focuses on super PACs, politically active nonprofits and the influence of money on elections. Can you take it from there, Michael? Can you talk about Mitch McConnell and the significance of this victory and the financial support he got?
MICHAEL BECKEL: The Kentucky Senate race has been frontmost on the minds of both Republicans and Democrats. It’s turned into a very expensive race, and both McConnell and Grimes have raised tens of millions of dollars. Senator Mitch McConnell’s campaign raised as much money as nearly any other Senate incumbent this year. And Grimes herself has raised about $16 million, compared to the about $30 million that Mitch McConnell himself raised. So both parties were bringing cash front and center to spread their candidate’s message this year.
And one of the most interesting trends that we saw here at the Center for Public Integrity was the third most active group, behind the McConnell campaign, behind the Grimes campaign, the next most active group in the race was a pro-McConnell nonprofit group called the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition. That group itself also spent about $14 million on a variety of issue ads and advocacy ads touting McConnell, criticizing Grimes. And at the end of the day, that group accounted for about one of every seven TV ads that have aired in Kentucky’s race so far.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about how he compares to other races throughout the country, Michael Beckel.
MICHAEL BECKEL: Well, the North Carolina Senate race is number one. It has seen more money than any other race in the country. At the end of the day, candidates, parties and other politically active groups will have spent over $100 million in North Carolina’s Senate race. There, both the Democrats and the Republicans have been utilizing the Citizens United Supreme Court decision to their advantage. And they’ve been using outside groups. They’ve been using politically active nonprofits and super PACs to help boost their own candidates. The candidates in that race have been struggling, in some sense, to get their message out, because there have been so many other groups active in the race. About half of the ads that have been aired on TV—and we’re talking over 100,000 ads aired in North Carolina alone—about half of those ads have been aired by these outside groups that are not officially sanctioned or connected to or controlled by the candidates or the political parties, though they are often closely run or operated by party allies.
AMY GOODMAN: We also have this breaking news, Michael Beckel, from West Virginia: Shelley Moore Capito winning West Virginia’s Senate seat vacated by retiring Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller. That’s Shelley Moore Capito beating Natalie Tennant. From one coal state, Kentucky, to another, West Virginia, did you do any research in West Virginia?
MICHAEL BECKEL: Well, Republicans this year need to win six Senate seats to retake the majority from the Democrats, and West Virginia was one of the top targets. They were very hopeful that Representative Shelley Moore Capito would win in the Senate match-up. The Republican had raised about 10 times as much money as the Democratic candidate in that race, Natalie Tennant. And with that money, she was able to spend a lot more money on TV ads. She was able to run a very strong campaign. And this is one of those seats that may help Republicans win a majority of the Senate next year.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Tim Scott, African-American conservative senator, will be sent back to the Senate from South Carolina. And we have the first woman ever elected to the Senate from West Virginia. Michael Beckel, what do you think—what most surprised you in your research on super PACs throughout the midterm elections?
MICHAEL BECKEL: Well, super PACs are a very new creature in the world of politics. They arose after the 2010 Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission. And they are allowed to accept unlimited amounts of money. They disclosed their donors regularly to the Federal Election Commission, but immediately after that ruling in 2010, we saw Republicans rush to embrace these new groups. That’s when the Republican giant American Crossroads was formed. That group raised about $28 million in 2010. And that was a lot of money in 2010.
This year, both Democrats and Republicans have embraced super PACs, and Democratic super PACs have come out on top. The number one super PAC in terms of ads aired in Senate contests across the country was the Senate Majority PAC, which is operated by allies of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. And the number one super PAC in terms of receipts and money raised was the super PAC connected to billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer. His group, which is called the NextGen Action Climate—or, NextGen Climate Action Committee, raised about $73 million. And the Senate Majority PAC raised about $53 million. So you’re seeing groups on both sides of the aisle raising even more money, and Democrats not wanting to be left behind when it comes to these big money vehicles.
ARI BERMAN: Amy, can I make one point about Mitch McConnell? It’s really fitting that he’s rising at this moment, because Mitch McConnell has been the number one opponent of campaign finance reform for 30 years. I mean, this has been his signature issue. He’s been the number one proponent of the Citizens United decision. So the fact that he’s probably going to become Senate majority leader at the very minute when money is flooded in the political system, I think, is no coincidence. This was his strategy for taking power, was to make it so that there was unlimited amounts of money in the political system. And that’s benefiting him and benefiting Republican candidates.
AMY GOODMAN: And might we come to a point, Michael Beckel, where the money that comes in from corporations, the dark money that comes in that we won’t even know where it’s coming from, will soon dwarf the money that individual candidates raise and do disclose?
MICHAEL BECKEL: Well, one of our key findings in the Senate races that we were monitoring, in these pivotal Senate races, about one of every five TV ads that was aired was sponsored by a group that doesn’t disclose its donors. That’s a very marked change. Prior to the Citizens United decision, groups like this couldn’t come out and straightforwardly endorse or reject a candidate. They couldn’t run these messages that said, “Vote for McConnell,” or, “Vote against Grimes.” They weren’t allowed to do that with corporate money, including nonprofits’ corporate treasuries. And so, that’s a very, very unique situation here, where these groups have risen in prominence. Both the FEC and the Internal Revenue Service have debated taking enforcement actions, but those types of enforcement actions have been really few and far between.
BEN JEALOUS: And quite frankly, this is why, you know, what we choose to do as voters is so important.
AMY GOODMAN: Ben Jealous.
BEN JEALOUS: You know, in our country, we have two types of power. We have organized people, and we have organized money. Organized people can win every time, but we have to be organized. And it’s a lot easier for very wealthy people to organize money than it is for very poor people to organize people. And the concern here, when you look at somebody like Mitch McConnell, is that he’s—he and Chief Justice Roberts and a small group of Republican leadership are totally dedicated to opening the floodgates as wide as possible for organized money, because their party, quite frankly, is getting shorter and shorter on people, but they have almost no limits when it comes to money.
AMY GOODMAN: We just have this breaking news coming in from Ohio. John Kasich, not a surprise, but has won the re-election, won re-election as governor of Ohio. And also, New York Times noting, on this issue of Kentucky and West Virginia, since we have results in from both, The New York Times writing that we’re talking about an area here from eastern Kentucky to western Virginia, coal country, among the most reliably Democratic jurisdictions in the country for more than a century, the heavily unionized counties of these areas, both have of course now gone to Republicans.
ARI BERMAN: Well, it’s just fitting what’s happening in the country in terms of both, you know, de-industrialization, the kind of demonization of unions, the demonization of the Democratic Party, the rise of the cultural populism that Tom Frank talked about in his book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? I mean, all of these things have pushed areas like West Virginia and Kentucky, which should probably be voting for Democratic candidates, certainly should be voting for them on economic issues, into the Republican Party instead, based on not economic affinity, but more cultural affinity.
BEN JEALOUS: Well, and quite frankly, the fact that we really don’t have a strategy for employing people in places like West Virginia. I mean, folks are making very basic, you know, sort of pocketbook decisions. They’re saying coal employs us for now. You know, I think many of those folks would rather do something else. Mining coal is tough work. But Washington and, frankly, the Democratic Party really doesn’t have a vision. Ever since we signed up for NAFTA, we have not really had a vision for how do you employ people who are not well educated and are used to having a good union paycheck, if it’s not at a factory, it’s not at a coal mine. And that’s something that we have to deal with. We have to have a vision for them.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank Michael Beckel, the reporter at Center for Public Integrity. We have a lot of land to cover, a lot of distance to go tonight. We’re here for, well, more than four-and-a-half hours now. We’ll be covering the elections as the news breaks all over the country. My co-host, Juan González, will be joining us soon, as he finishes his column for the New York Daily News, out at the polling places throughout New York.
Our guests right now are Ari Berman, who covers voting rights for The Nation, where his latest piece looked at how “The GOP Is Winning the War on Voting: Voters in fourteen states—many with tight races—will face new restrictions at the polling booth for the first time in November.” He’s working on a book that’s going to be coming out for the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act called Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. Ben Jealous with us, partner at Kapor Capital, chair of the Southern Election Fund, former president of the NAACP. And Myrna Pérez is with us, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program at New York University School of Law, part of the Election Protection Coalition’s voter support hotline. Their number is 1-866-OUR-VOTE, because people are all over the country still voting.
Oh, and there are two developments since we’ve had both of you back on, Myrna, as well as Ari. And Ben can tell me if he has any developments in his life. But, Myrna, congratulations on your baby, though your baby is now two.
MYRNA PÉREZ: Two.
AMY GOODMAN: What’s your baby’s name?
MYRNA PÉREZ: His name is Diego Isaiah, and he actually—I just got a call before we went on that he went in with his daddy to vote.
AMY GOODMAN: Oh, really.
MYRNA PÉREZ: So, he told me that he voted. And I’m glad that we’re able to do that with him and that he’s able to share in that important communal experience of us all. [inaudible]
AMY GOODMAN: I think we have a picture of him in his Halloween costume?
MYRNA PÉREZ: Oh, I don’t know that I’ve sent it yet, but—
AMY GOODMAN: Oh, you haven’t. But Ari, your little one is just three weeks old?
ARI BERMAN: Mm-hmm, yeah, she’s three weeks and two days today.
AMY GOODMAN: Oh, well, congratulations on Nora.
ARI BERMAN: Thank you. And we also took her to the polls today. She was kind of wrapped up, you know, because they can’t get too cold these days.
MYRNA PÉREZ: Right.
ARI BERMAN: But she was sort of poking her head around and wondering what was going on, and it was fun to bring her to the polls and put an “I voted” sticker on her—though, of course, she did not vote. I don’t want to be accused of voter fraud—
MYRNA PÉREZ: Exactly, exactly.
ARI BERMAN: —on this program. But we’re getting her started young in the democratic process.
AMY GOODMAN: We may have a picture of Ari’s little one. We’ll come up with it as soon as we do.
But speaking of reproduction, we’re going to turn right now to the issue of reproductive rights. North Dakota could become the first state to pass a so-called “personhood” amendment defining life as beginning at fertilization, a move that critics say would ban not only abortion, but also in vitro fertilization and common forms of birth control. A personhood amendment is also on the ballot in Colorado, where two previous attempts to pass such a measure have failed. And Tennessee residents are voting on another anti-choice amendment, Amendment 1, which could enable the Legislature to pass extreme anti-abortion legislation. The elections for state legislatures, which are getting far less attention than the national races, could also be crucial in determining the future landscape of reproductive rights. After the 2010 midterms, when Republicans took control of many state legislatures, they began enacting a record number of restrictions on abortion. I think it was something like 205, more than in the entire—more than for the last 30 years combined.
For more, we’re joined by Jodi Jacobson, editor-in-chief of RH Reality Check, a website dedicated to covering reproductive healthcare.
Jodi, thanks so much for being with us.
JODI JACOBSON: Thank you for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the significance of these ballot initiatives around the country.
JODI JACOBSON: Well, they’re very significant for women. I mean, I think you hit the nail on the head. We’re looking at, you know, state legislatures, we’re looking at the federal level, and now we’re looking at these ballot initiatives, which in fact, as you noted, have been defeated in many places—Mississippi, in Colorado a couple of times. Right now in Colorado, for example, the language of the ballot initiative has been changed to make it less clear what they’re trying to do.
The implication of the ballot initiative is basically several-fold. One, it would ban abortion at any stage. It would criminalize miscarriage. In other words, anyone that had a miscarriage would be suspect of a crime. It would also change the definition of “pregnancy” and “abortion,” using a pseudolegal definition rather than a medical definition, such that something that prevented fertilization if others believe that it does something else, then that could become known as an abortion rather than a contraceptive. For example, we’ve seen the redefining of what abortion is in the fight over emergency contraception. Some groups claim that IUDs cause abortion, even though there’s really no evidence of that. So, what you have is these attempts to use law to both criminalize sex and reproduction and, by extension, women and women’s bodies, but also to move the goal post on what pregnancy even means and who’s responsible for miscarriage.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about what the polling is on these, since we don’t know exactly at this point what’s happened.
JODI JACOBSON: Right. Well, you know, when these kinds of laws are explained to people, they are resoundingly against them. We’ve seen them defeated in a lot of places now, and we’ve seen them, as you said, defeated twice in Colorado. The question becomes, the more that—and I think the right knows this. I think the anti-choice movement, supported also by others, like the Koch brothers and dark money groups, they know that the more that they bring this forward, the sort of more inured people get to it. And the more that they clean up the language, the less obvious their agenda becomes. So, I think there’s been really, really strong and strenuous effort on the ground in these states to make clear—particularly Colorado and Tennessee, to make clear what the cost of these laws will be in terms of the individual conscience, individual choice about reproduction. Infertility drugs, for example, and infertility processes would become illegal. So, I think once people realize these things, they are very much against them. It will all come down to turnout.
It also, I think—it’s also interesting, because in Colorado, while you have this, you know, personhood amendment on the ballot, you have Cory Gardner, who has supported really radical anti-choice bills that would do much the same thing as this Colorado amendment would do, but he has run away from them and tried to distance himself from them. And so, he knows, in a way, that they are unpopular, and he doesn’t want to be affiliated with them. He doesn’t want to admit his past support for these things and his current support on a federal piece of legislation. So, on one hand, while these ballots are going forward, you’ve got these guys running away from them.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, explain, in the case of Cory Gardner in this extremely close race in Colorado, both races—both the governor’s race and the Senate race, Cory Gardner versus Mark Udall, who is the incumbent—how it is that Cory Gardner started off by supporting these, but even in the debate somehow backed away from supporting the personhood amendment that he co-sponsored.
JODI JACOBSON: Well, you know, I think part of it is the fault of the media, because the reporting on this oftentimes is terrible. For one, there’s a lot of equivalency that goes on. Reporters will say—and I heard this even today on NPR, I think Mara Liasson said it—you know, “Some think these laws may affect pregnancy and birth control.” We know they will. We already know they will. They are the kinds of laws that are already on the books in places like El Salvador, where 17 women are in jail for suspected miscarriage, and in states of Mexico, where the same laws are doing the same thing.
AMY GOODMAN: Jodi Jacobson, we’re going to pause for a moment for stations that want to give local updates for the next 10 minutes. They’ll rejoin us at the top of the hour. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We’re talking to Jodi Jacobson, who is the editor-in-chief of RH Reality Check. Continue on the issue that you were just discussing.
JODI JACOBSON: It’s an underhanded way of just dodging the question, and he’s been allowed to dodge the question on this. I think there’s been a couple of times. In one of the debates, I saw one of the reporters really press him on in it. But he’s effectively lied about his support, because he’s still a co-sponsor of a federal bill that, would it be passed, would have the same effect, which is to declare that life begins at conception. And it’s really not about when life begins. It’s about when pregnancy begins. And so, you know, we’re talking about what is an established pregnancy, what’s abortion, what’s a contraceptive, and we’re also talking about eliminating abortion in all circumstances, even when the life of the mother is at risk. And even as I say that, I don’t want to make it conditional, because women need abortions for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with whether their life is at risk, but they also need them in those circumstances.
AMY GOODMAN: Jodi Jacobson, do you see any light in this election around the issue of reproductive rights, whether it is a race or ballot initiative?
JODI JACOBSON: You know, what I think is interesting, that so many of the far-right candidates have actually backtracked from their most—from their most extreme positions, like Gardner and, you know, Scott Brown, running around telling everybody that he’s pro-choice, when he’s sponsored, when he was senator, many anti-choice bills, and others like them that have tried to move away and actually lean more toward a—you know, and I say this cautiously—lean more toward a women’s rights perspective, at least in their rhetoric. I find that interesting because I know that they know they can’t win by promoting these things. So I’m actually beginning to wonder whether some of the things we’re worried about, should the Republicans take the Senate, like a 20-week abortion ban, will actually come to fruition, because I think they know that that will not bode well for them in 2016. So, I’m watching this kind of, you know, vacillation and trying to move themselves from other positions as—and taking notice of the fact that they know that people don’t agree with these positions.
AMY GOODMAN: So, the polling you have in these three states? And I don’t know if we’re going to find out even by the end of tonight—
JODI JACOBSON: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —what happens in these cases. And also, the money behind them?
JODI JACOBSON: Yes. There is a tremendous amount—what I usually talk about when I talk about these issues is the confluence of far-right religious ideology with what is effectively plutocracy. And so you’ve got dark money groups, like the Koch brothers and others affiliated with them, that are channeling money into groups like Susan B. Anthony List, Americans United for Life and others like them. They are actually—they’ve actually, you know, deposited in the bank accounts of these groups millions of dollars over the past couple of years. And so, and they’re getting them from American Legislative Exchange Council and other Koch-affiliated groups.
And why is this happening? Because they both have a far-right agenda, and they co-support each other in that in different state legislatures. So you’ll see, for example, in Texas that the first time a 20-week abortion ban was introduced in Texas, it was the chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council in the Texas Legislature that introduced that bill. So, they actually work together quite a lot, even though the media tends to think of the Kochs as not being interested in what they call social issues. And, you know, we all know that reproduction and reproductive health is an economic issue far more than it’s any kind of social issue. So, what they’re really doing is striking at the heart of women’s economic and social mobility when they remove these rights, and that has effectively been part of the Koch brothers’ agenda, as well, if you look at it from the perspective of anti-minimum wage, anti-workers’ rights, you know, anti-worker protections, that affect mostly low-income workers, which, by and large, the majority of which are women.
So, you see the confluence of these kinds of agendas in the state legislatures. And I don’t think it’s—I don’t think it’s a mistake that many of these state legislatures spent the past two years since—or, the period after 2010 passing more, you know, abortion regulations in a two- or three-year period than they had in the decade beforehand and more. So, I think these things are not a coincidence. They’re very much joined at the hip.
AMY GOODMAN: Ben Jealous, if you’d like to comment, former head of the NAACP?
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, so, we jumped into the issue in Mississippi a couple years ago, and black voters in the state played a very significant role in pushing back against this. The reason a candidate would run away from this, having supported it, it is like poison when you are trying to court white women swing voters who typically vote Republican, but if you tell them that you’re going to thoroughly assault their daughters’ rights, will switch to the Democratic column. And so, that’s why you would see someone try to run away from these.
You know, at the same time, they have proven to be real losers for politicians who supported them back in 2010, 2011, when they were back on the ballot in 2012. You know, you saw several different attorneys general, for instance, lose their race, because they had supporters—because they lost their base in the process. You know, you’re starting to see a similar thing happen with the kind of orthodoxy in the Republican Party around climate change, where their younger Republican voters are saying to them, “Come on, guys, let’s just admit it. We’ve got 40 states with drought conditions right now.” And so, at some point—I think she’s absolutely right—the kind of head in the sand that the party leadership is taking on this is going to pay—you know, they’re going to pay a clear price for. You’re starting to see it, and you see it in the candidates who run away from these issues.
ARI BERMAN: And there’s really kind of a disturbing symmetry—
AMY GOODMAN: Ari Berman.
ARI BERMAN: —between the new abortion restrictions and the new voting restrictions.
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah.
ARI BERMAN: They’re introduced almost in the same exact states and the same level. After 2010—
BEN JEALOUS: Same time.
ARI BERMAN: —they explode, all these efforts to make it harder for women to access reproductive rights and all these efforts to make it harder to vote in the same kind of states. Like Texas, for example, passes the toughest abortion law, passes the toughest voting law. And I think it’s an example of, number one, a conservative legislation being duplicated across the country, but, number two, the Republican Party hardening. And instead of reaching out and trying to get newer constituencies, they’re instead going back to the base with the most hardcore policies.
BEN JEALOUS: But, you know, this is—
MYRNA PÉREZ: And also excluding some people from the ballot box—
ARI BERMAN: Yeah.
BEN JEALOUS: Sure.
MYRNA PÉREZ: —which is what I think is important. I mean, when we litigated the Texas photo ID case, we got a finding from a judge that the Legislature enacted that law with discriminatory intent. They knew that minority voters were going to be disenfranchised and burdened by the right to vote, and they passed it anyway. And if we are going to have a democracy that is participatory and robust, we need to make sure that all elements of our democracy can participate.
BEN JEALOUS: But also, there’s something—
AMY GOODMAN: Jodi Jacobson, I want to thank you for being with us, of RH Reality Check. And our guests will be staying with us, and co-host Juan González will be joining us. Polls are closing in a minute in many states—in New Hampshire, North Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio, Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Washington, D.C. And again, the latest news is Mitch McConnell has been re-elected in Kentucky. That was the first of the very close races that we will be reporting on tonight. This is Democracy Now!, our special midterm elections of 2014 coverage. We’ll be here for the next four hours. Tell your friends. Tune in to democracynow.org, and we welcome you all on public and community radio stations around the country, on public and public access television stations throughout the country, and on satellite TV, as well. This is Democracy Now!
[end of hour one]
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!'s special midterm election coverage. Yes, it's the midterm elections 2014. This is a five-hour special. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Polls have now closed in about half the country—New Hampshire, North Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio, Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, as well as Washington, D.C., and most parts of Michigan, Kansas and Texas. They closed earlier in Indiana and Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia. West Virginia has given Republicans their first new Senate seat of the night. The Associated Press reports Republican Representative Shelley Moore Capito has soundly defeated Democat Natalie Tennant to replace outgoing Democratic Senator John D. Rockefeller. In a closely watched Senate race in Georgia, with 1 percent of precincts reporting, Republican candidate David Perdue is leading with more than 63 percent of the vote over Democrat Michelle Nunn, who has 35 percent. But again, that’s with 1 percent of the precincts reporting. Georgia Republican Governor Nathan Deal is leading over his Democratic challenger with more than 63 percent. Statistician Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight is projecting Republicans have a 76 percent chance of taking control of the Senate. President Obama has called this probably the worst possible group of states for Democrats since Dwight Eisenhower.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In Ohio, Republican Governor John Kasich is projected to win re-election. And to recap what we reported earlier, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell appears to have won re-election in Kentucky, defeating Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes. Two Republican victories are projected in South Carolina: Governor Nikki Haley has won re-election, and right-wing Republican Senator Tim Scott is projected to retake the seat he was appointed to last year when he filled a vacancy left by Jim DeMint. He has now reportedly become the first African American elected to the Senate from the South.
We’re also hearing reports of barriers to voting in Georgia, where there is a tight Senate race between Democrat Michelle Nunn, Republican David Perdue and Libertarian candidate Amanda Swafford. A website that provided information on poll locations was down, showing users an error messages when they went to find out where to vote. In Connecticut, where Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy faces a tough race for re-election, two polling places will stay open half an hour later, until 8:30, because they opened late this morning after voting lists were not delivered in time.
AMY GOODMAN: And our guests—we continue with Ben Jealous, former head of the NAACP. He also is a partner now at Kapor Capital and chair of the Southern Election Fund, which he started with Julian Bond. We’re also joined by Myrna Pérez. Myrna Pérez is deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program at New York University School of Law, part of the Election Protection Coalition’s voter support hotline. And Ari Berman is with us. Ari writes for The Nation and has a three-week-old baby. This time, I believe, we have a photograph of baby Nora. We’re all very excited to welcome her. There we are!
ARI BERMAN: So cute.
AMY GOODMAN: To the greater Democracy Now! family. Now, Myrna Pérez, I wanted to ask you about some of the cases. In our last hour, you said, where you were, in Election Protection hotline, 20,000 calls had come in. That’s one place in New York City.
MYRNA PÉREZ: No, no, no, no.
AMY GOODMAN: For the country.
MYRNA PÉREZ: It’s for—20,000, at that point in time, had come in across the country. But we are starting to see repeat kinds of calls. For example, one of the states that my hotline was covering, or my hotline center was covering, was Texas. As we’ve mentioned before, Texas passed a really strict photo ID law, and we had lots and lots of voters calling because they didn’t know what the requirement was or, even worse, that they couldn’t meet the requirement and they were trying to get help.
You know, Ari and I were on the phone with a voter who remembers as a young person being beaten for civil rights issues because she tried to board the wrong carriage of a train that was still segregated, and right now she doesn’t have a ballot. She doesn’t have the kind of ID that you can count. She just doesn’t—not going to be able to cast a regular ballot. Hopefully she’ll be able to cast a ballot that will eventually get counted, but she has to go through all of these steps. And we have to ask ourselves as a country, like, how many barriers are we going to put between eligible voters and the ballot box?
We encountered poll workers who were telling voters that—you know, they’re not giving them provisional ballots when they’re entitled to by law. We are finding DPS officials trying to charge people for—
AMY GOODMAN: DPS?
MYRNA PÉREZ: I’m sorry, the Department of Public Safety officials in Texas who are responsible for providing the free ID, charging people for the free ID. We’re finding some Department of Public Safety officials saying that “We don’t have a free ID,” even though that they’re required to do so. The free birth certificate that people need in order to get the free ID costs $3. I mean—
AMY GOODMAN: That’s in Texas, if you happen to be born in Texas.
MYRNA PÉREZ: Right. I mean, and we got a number of calls from folks who actually have identification. It’s just a driver’s license from another state. It still proves who they are, they are who they say they are. They’re still registered on the rolls. But that’s not good enough, because the Texas law is much more stringent.
ARI BERMAN: And what we’re seeing is that—Myrna and I were talking about this earlier—is that every election there’s confusion. There’s confusion about: Am I registered? Where is my polling place? What time does it close? I mean, just sort of everyday things. Now you have all these new voting restrictions on top of that, and it’s incredibly confusing.
She was referencing this voter we were talking about earlier, this 70-year-old black woman who grew up in segregated Mississippi. She’s voted in every election since she was 18. Now she has a Nevada driver’s license. She lives in Texas. She needs to get new documentation to be able to vote. She showed up at early voting. The poll worker just sent her away without even explaining what she could do to get new ID. I was on the phone with her today asking her, “Did you vote?” She said, “Well, I wasn’t able to get a ride to the DMV office, because my sister had a dental emergency.” So I was trying to explain to her what she needed to do to vote.
And this is what she has to do. She has to show up, and she has to ask for a provisional ballot. She has to demand that the poll worker give her a provisional ballot, which is a fail-safe solution. She has to then vote with that ballot. In six days, she has to return to get the proper government-issued ID, which she’s never needed the whole 50-something years that she’s voted. And then she has to go back to the county seat in Texas to present that ID so her provisional ballot will count.
I was explaining this to her, and I said, “Do you understand?” She says, “No, not really.” I said, “I don’t really understand, either.” It’s incredibly confusing. I cover voting rights. Myrna works in voting rights. If this stuff is confusing us, imagine what it’s doing to people who have voted for 50 years.
AMY GOODMAN: [inaudible]
ARI BERMAN: Exactly. That is the point, to make it so inconvenient that people will just say, “You know what? I’m not going to bother.” And it’s really hard to quantify how many people that’s going to happen to.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Myrna, any other examples that you have other than from Texas of some of the problems you’ve encountered?
MYRNA PÉREZ: We’re seeing it all the time. I mean, we’re seeing it in a bunch of different circumstances. We’re having people getting confused about the voter ID law there in South Carolina. We’re seeing, you know, in North Carolina, there are people that are having registration issues, which matters, because now North Carolina has eliminated the ability to register to vote the same day that you experience the election. It used to be that if you had a problem before the election, it wasn’t so—the result wasn’t so dramatic, because you could fix it on Election Day. Now that option is gone for people. I mean, it’s really a problem. It’s really a problem. We have these laws which are making it harder for people to vote. Our elections aren’t resourced well enough to provide the kind of information that they need. These laws have a—in some cases, they’ve been proven to have a discriminatory intent. In a lot of cases, there’s a lot of pretty good evidence suggesting that there are either partisan or racial motivations behind this. And my question is, is: What are we getting? Our elections aren’t more secure as a result of some of these elections. Instead, we’re disenfranchising people.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ben, you were nodding your head there on the discriminatory intent issue?
BEN JEALOUS: Sure. Yeah, I mean, look, when you look at a state like North Carolina, where there’s a very strong movement that has pushed people to the polls every year that there’s been same-day registration, it was very clear that the Republicans looked at that and said, “Oh, we need to cut that off,” because they could see the Dems disproportionately benefiting. Same thing with early voting. You had about 200,000 voters vote in the first seven days of early voting. Well, they’ve gotten rid of that. When they got rid of that, they got rid of one of the Sundays. The Sundays are the biggest days that black folks turn out for early voting. Then you go down to Georgia, where it’s not, you know, new laws that are the big headline. It is the secretary of state dragging his feet on possibly 40,000 voter registrations. And he’s kvetching about his partisan concerns three months earlier. It’s pretty clear there’s a partisan motivation.
What’s really disturbing, Juan, is that it’s been over a hundred years since we’ve seen this sort of raft of new laws passed to suppress the vote. And what’s similar about these times and those times is that back then, when that started, there were real concerns about waves of people of color coming into the country and real concerns about the strengthening black vote in the South. That was the context for those Jim Crow laws and the suppression, and also the pushing—at the time, it was the Chinese Exclusion Act, for instance, being passed, right? Fast-forward to today, it’s the same thing. It’s not the Chinese; it’s people coming across the border from Mexico. But it’s the same context: a real concern about immigrants of color, real concern about a strengthening black vote.
And the question then becomes: Well, what can we do about it? Because, sure, you can sue, but the courts are becoming more conservative. You can go, and you can petition the North Carolina or the South Carolina governor to do something about it. It ain’t gonna happen. So the question is: Well, what can you do personally? And what you can do is decide we’re going to sign up as many people in our state as possible, because, lo and behold, the margin of victory in South Carolina is 100,000 votes. Got 350,000 unregistered black folks. We know what to do with that.
AMY GOODMAN: Ben, we have more breaking news, as NPR is reporting it looks like the governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, has become the first Pennsylvania governor to lose a re-election bid since the state Constitution was changed to allow second terms. This also breaks the state’s 60-year habit of switching power between the parties every eight years.
BEN JEALOUS: Yes, and that’s sweet.
AMY GOODMAN: He has been defeated by Tom Wolf. How does The New York Times describe him? “[A] Democratic businessman who runs a building company specializing in kitchen cabinets, [he] has battered Mr. Corbett for letting education funds fall—even as the governor pushed through more than $300 million in business tax cuts that were enacted in 2011 and 2012.” We go right now to Philadelphia to Will Bunch, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, author of its popular blog, “Attytood.” Will, tell us about this latest breaking news. Tom Corbett has gone down as the governor of Pennsylvania.
WILL BUNCH: Right, well, you nailed it, Amy. I mean, it’s a historic win, because Pennsylvania has only been re-electing its governors since 1968, and no governor has ever been defeated in going for re-election. In fact, they’ve alternated parties every eight years. So Tom Wolf is the first person to break that pattern. And it really speaks to the unpopularity of Tom Corbett’s policies. He came in. He immediately cut a billion dollars for education. He adopted policies that were very pro-fracking. Pennsylvania is the only state that doesn’t impose a severance tax on oil and gas drillers. And people were wondering why that was, when the schools were so underfunded, property taxes were going up. He was also really battered by the Jerry Sandusky scandal and questions about whether he investigated that quickly enough when he was the attorney general, before he was elected. And it was just a perfect storm, and so Tom Wolf is the next governor.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Will, how big of a surprise is this? And any sense of what the turnout was like in cities like the major cities, like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg?
WILL BUNCH: Everything—every report I’ve heard and everything I’ve seen is turnout was very good in this election, and I think that reflects people’s enthusiasm, particularly in Democratic-leaning areas like Philadelphia, to go out and cast a vote to replace Tom Corbett with Tom Wolf. You know, one thing I will say, though, is—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And was it much of a surprise?
WILL BUNCH: It doesn’t come as a lot of a surprise to many people here. Tom Corbett has never led once in any poll throughout this race. You know, Tom Wolf was fairly unknown. He spent $10 million on ads back in January to define himself before any of the candidates. I mean, he’s run a fairly solid, fairly progressive campaign, not very specific on too many issues. He’s going to have to fill in the blanks now as the next governor.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Ben?
BEN JEALOUS: Well, he was also the northernmost governor on the East Coast to wholeheartedly endorse voter suppression.
ARI BERMAN: Yeah.
BEN JEALOUS: And when you’re talking about Pittsburgh and Philly and what was on the minds of black voters, was this was a guy who tried to steal their vote. But the crazy thing was, is that in that state, because voter ID and its impact, poor people, there were a bunch of white voters who were impacted in a very high-profile way, too, including some nuns. You know, this was somebody who, early on, got people very excited about just what a bad governor he was. And I say good riddance to Corbett, just good riddance.
WILL BUNCH: Yeah, yeah, I mean—
ARI BERMAN: And his law was blocked by—go ahead.
WILL BUNCH: He kind of got elected under the radar screen. I know that sounds bizarre, but 2010, we had a hot Senate race between Joe Sestak and Pat Toomey, and people didn’t pay as much attention to the governor’s race. And, you know, Tom Corbett came in with the tea party wave, and he thought he had this mandate to implement very conservative policies. And Pennsylvania is not as conservative a state as it used to be. And he really paid the price for that. You’re absolutely right in your analysis.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Ari?
ARI BERMAN: That voter ID law that Ben was talking about was blocked by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
WILL BUNCH: Correct.
ARI BERMAN: So it’s one of the success stories in terms of the backlash against voter suppression. The second thing I’ll say is I’m glad that you mentioned this race, because these governors’ races are critically important. All the action has been in the states since 2010—
BEN JEALOUS: Yes.
ARI BERMAN: —because Congress is paralyzed. Yes, it’s going to make a difference that the Senate flips, if it flips, but these governors’ races flipping is very significant.
BEN JEALOUS: Huge.
ARI BERMAN: Pennsylvania, Florida is another one where it could happen. This is going to have a much greater impact, I think, than the flipping of the Senate.
BEN JEALOUS: There’s also a tight and historic race in Maryland right now.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I want to turn to another voice from Pennsylvania on the elections, one that is not heard very often on election night, the imprisoned journalist and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal. This was recorded last night.
MUMIA ABU-JAMAL: Who wins? Who loses? Elections are underway. And thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United case, billions of dollars are flooding previously small and uninteresting elections in states, governorships and Congress. Pundits are in heaven, predicting which way the polls will go. But in truth, no one knows for sure. Perhaps the Republicans will win. Perhaps the Dems. The question is: Will you? The answer is, at best, doubtful, for both parties are corporate-owned, and they serve those who can afford their services. And that ain’t regular folks. In a classic study of political timidity, most Democrats are in full flight in running from President Barack Obama, giving his polling in the low forties. What makes you think they won’t betray you, if, after two presidential elections, he brought them to the party? But guess who they won’t betray. Big corporate funders, big business. Speaking of big business, here is one big winner in the election: the corporate media. For them, it’s Christmas time, New Year’s and Rosh Hashanah rolled into one. But for you, for average people, have you really won? From imprisoned nation, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal. These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Mumia Abu-Jamal. Well, last month, Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett signed into law a bill critics say will trample the free speech rights of prisoners. Dubbed “the Mumia bill,” the measure was introduced after imprisoned journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal gave a pretaped commencement address at Vermont’s Goddard College. His speech was opposed by Pennsylvania officials and the widow of Daniel Faulkner, the police officer whom Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing. The authorizes the censoring of public addresses of prisoners or former offenders if judges agree that allowing them to speak would cause mental anguish to the victim.
AMY GOODMAN: And again, this latest news is that Tom Corbett, the Pennsylvania governor who signed that bill and many others, has gone down to defeat. He was defeated by his opponent, of course, Tom Wolf, a Democratic businessman who runs a building company. Ben Jealous, you were talking about the significance of Tom Corbett going down and also other races.
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, look, I mean, right down the road in Maryland, we could see only our third black governor since Reconstruction with Brown coming in. It’s a very tight race because, quite frankly, that’s a pretty big deal. And Hogan, who’s running against Brown, has run a tough campaign, trying to stay somewhat ambiguous about just how far right-wing he is. You know, but the reality here, right, is that Congress has basically been closed. The so-called “Do-Nothing” Congress of the late ’40s was called “Do-Nothing” because they passed less than a thousand bills. Well, the last Congress passed 220. Ten percent of those were for commemorative coins. So, if you want to get—
ARI BERMAN:* Don’t forget naming post offices.
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, that’s right. And there was one sad congressman who couldn’t even get his coin bill passed, right? So, in that context, all the action is in the states, and who is governor is very important. It’s very important.
AMY GOODMAN: And this goes to women’s rights especially, we see, when it comes to reproductive rights.
BEN JEALOUS: Women’s rights, environmental protection. I mean, one of the sad things, right, to see about who the senator is going to be from West Virginia is that’s a state that has been like, you know, poisoned in a dramatic way, its beautiful mountains being destroyed all the time. And yet they’re going to put in place a senator who is absolutely going to make it easier to continue to destroy what is, in many ways, most wonderful about their state.
AMY GOODMAN: We have other announcements and breaking news. Again, Mitch McConnell, for those who are just tuning in right now, has been re-elected to his Senate seat. He’s now the Senate minority leader, could well be, by the end of the night—could be on his way to becoming the majority leader, if the Republicans take the Senate. But it’s not clear, even if that did happen, if he would be chosen. Among those who are questioning whether they would vote for him are Joni Ernst of Iowa, if she were to win that seat, and Ted Cruz, who is Texas, said that he would not necessarily support Mitch McConnell to be the Senate majority leader if the Republicans take the Senate.
But we have other news. The Associated Press has called the Mississippi Senate race for Senator Thad Cochran, Republican, who’s been on cruise control since winning a hard-fought Republican primary. The AP also is calling Senator Susan Collins, the Republican of Maine, as well as Cory Booker, the Democrat of New Jersey, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Jim Inhofe, the Republican of Oklahoma, as well as Congressmember James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, the winners of their respective Senate contests. So there will be actually two African-American senators in this new Senate.
BEN JEALOUS: Yes. But also, you know, the sort of interesting thing, right, is that—
AMY GOODMAN: You’ve got Tim Scott—
BEN JEALOUS: Tim Scott.
AMY GOODMAN: —a very conservative senator in South Carolina.
BEN JEALOUS: And Cory Booker from New Jersey. Tim Scott will have been elected despite the black vote in his state. Thad Cochran was actually—won the primary because of the black vote in his state. And the question, you know, folks will ask is: Will we see anything different from Thad Cochran? Because he could not have gotten out of that primary if it wasn’t for black voters coming into his primary to, frankly, rescue him and make sure that someone even further to the right wouldn’t be sent to Washington.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, that was a very interesting race. Cochran has served for 36 years in the U.S. Senate. And as you talked about, in this dramatic runoff election, all the action in the primary, he rallied African Americans to cross party lines and vote for him, the tactic serving him well. He sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, a very powerful position.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But all those races you’ve mentioned were pretty much expected, so there’s not—it’s not one of the battleground states that could actually determine the shift of power in the Senate. They were all pretty much expected to win those races.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s right, except Corbett was a very close race, the Pennsylvania governor going down. We did not know what would happen there. Also from AP, Jack Reed has won the election to the U.S. Senate in Rhode Island. That, too, was expected. Now, we’ve talked about African-American voting trends and voter suppression. In a moment we’re going to talk about some of the examples of women who get purged from the polls. Our guests are Myrna Pérez of the Brennan Center, Ari Berman of The Nation magazine, former head of the NAACP Ben Jealous. We’re also joined by A.C., who’s joining us right now. A.C. Valdez is senior producer of NPR’s Latino USA. A.C., talk about what you’ve been following in this race, the Latino vote.
A.C. VALDEZ: Well, the interesting thing that I’ve been following about this race is it really kind of contradicts what we heard in 2012, where Latino votes matter, Latino votes matter, Latino votes matter. So far, the narrative has been to the contrary, by and large. You look at a Wall Street Journal headline: “Frustrated Hispanics Are Down on This Year’s Midterms.” The New York Times had a headline, “Why House Republicans Alienate Hispanics: They Don’t Need Them.” That doesn’t seem quite right to some of the pollsters that we’ve been talking to on Latino USA. Gary Segura and Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions have actually done a quite thorough job of establishing that in places like Kansas, in places like Georgia, in places like Colorado, in places like Florida, all of these states have Latino voters that matter significantly. If you look at Kansas specifically, it’s only 6 percent of the population; however, that’s still, you know, a potential swing. If you look at somewhere like Colorado, where there’s an enormous Latino population, speaking of most places except for maybe California, New York, Florida, Texas, Colorado is huge. Latino votes matter. And I think the narrative that’s been going on is a little bit misleading.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in Georgia, as well, a state that is not normally thought of as a—
A.C. VALDEZ: Exactly, exactly.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —state with any kind of sizable Latino population. Could you talk about that, as well?
A.C. VALDEZ: Well, I mean, the Latino population in Georgia has exploded over the last 10 years, if you look at—or over a little more than the last 10 years. If you look at Georgia, the Latino population growth has just been enormous. And a lot of that is a little bit different than it is in most of the rest of the country. Most of the rest of the country, Latino population growth is increasing by native-born births. If you look at Georgia, it’s probably more likely that it’s immigrants coming in. So, a greater proportion of these people are not eligible to vote. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re not bringing their children with them, and then that has significant repercussions in the future elections.
BEN JEALOUS: That’s right. Well, and quite frankly, if you just cross through Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi to get to Georgia, it kind of feels like home base when you hit Atlanta, you know what I’m saying?
A.C. VALDEZ: Yeah, absolutely.
BEN JEALOUS: Like, it’s just a safer place to be.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined in Berkeley, California, by Roberto Lovato, a writer, journalist, visiting scholar at University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Latino Policy Research. Talk about the assessment that you’ve been doing of who’s voting, who’s not, who’s being prevented from voting, and who the politicians are appealing to.
ROBERTO LOVATO: Well, that’s a tall order there, Amy, but I’ll try to speak to some of it.
AMY GOODMAN: Hi, Roberto.
ROBERTO LOVATO: Hello. Glad to be on again. Well, first thing you have to say is that there are going to be about somewhere between 7.5, according to William Velasquez Institute, to 7.8 million, according to NALEO, maybe even more, voters coming out, and that the Latino vote is still increasing. Yes, people are disanimated, disillusioned and very deported. But they’re going to be coming out—what do you call it?
It’s interesting because, for me, what’s at play here is something that’s happening not just around Latinos, but in immigration, but to all of us. And it’s the decline and fall of the U.S. imaginary, the political imaginary. The political imagination of the United States is dying. Just look at your screens right now. Look at how you feel about the people that are running. Look at the candidates. Look how your heart feels. You don’t. It’s like The Walking Dead. Our elections look like our entertainment shows now, in terms of being Walking Dead zombie politicians with zombie proposals.
And so—and nothing speaks to that to Latinos as much as the number one issue according to Latino Decisions, which is immigration. Now, some Latino political operatives on the Democrat side have actually pre-emptively taken to blame the victims. So you have people like my friend and former colleague Erika Andiola in Arizona and other DREAMer activists being blamed by Democratic operatives like Fernando Espuelas, a radio—a Democratic operative disguised as a radio host. Espuelas and others have been taking to the DREAMers and others to say that they’re discouraging people to vote, and therefore that’s why, when the reality is that there are two million reasons people aren’t voting: two million deportations.
AMY GOODMAN: Roberto, we are going to interrupt because Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader who could be the majority leader, who has just won his re-election bid in Kentucky, is making his acceptance speech, and we’re going to turn to it for a few minutes. This is Mitch McConnell in Kentucky.
SEN. MITCH McCONNELL: They’ve put their trust and confidence in me for a long time. And I want to thank them tonight. I work hard to bring your concerns to Washington, and I will not let up. You know, every election is a job interview. In this case, a very long one. I shared my vision with you. You shared your stories and your concerns with me. And yet one complaint has stood out above all the rest, especially in recent weeks. So I’d like to make an announcement that I think will be very welcome news to many of you: no more campaign commercials. The TV executives may not like it, but enough is enough, right?
A little while ago I spoke with my opponent. Secretary Grimes ran a spirited campaign. She earned a lot of votes, and she earned my respect. It took a lot of guts to take on a race like this. Because of the business we’re in, it also meant she’d take some heat. I admire her willingness to step into the arena and fight as hard as she did. We need more people who are willing to do that, not fewer. She deserves a lot of credit for it. This was certainly a hard-fought contest.
And I’ve been so proud, so proud, to have my wife beside me every step of the way. You know, you know, Elaine told me, early on, she wasn’t ready to have me sitting around the house working on my résumé. And she’s gone above and beyond to prevent that. She has been the most valuable player on our team, and I’m so blessed to have her in my life and by my side. And to my campaign manager, Josh Holmes.
AMY GOODMAN: You’ve been watching Senator Mitch McConnell. This is his address, victory address, speaking from Kentucky, standing with his wife before a crowd of supporters. We’re going down to Washington, D.C., right now. This is Democracy Now!'s midterm 2014 election coverage. We'll be with you until midnight Eastern Standard Time. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Andy Kroll is with us, senior reporter at Mother Jones magazine, who has written extensively about campaign finance and dark money and has specifically looked at Senator McConnell’s race. Andy Kroll, as you watch Senator McConnell give his acceptance speech, can you talk about how he got to this point? Talk about the money in his campaign.
ANDY KROLL: Senator McConnell is known not only as one of the canniest political strategists here in Washington, but also one of the most prolific fundraisers, one of the most well-connected senators with the K Street lobbyist set and the corporate America community here in our nation’s capital. And what we saw with his Senate campaign this year was just, you know, an incredible amount of money raised, an incredible amount of money spent, by both Senator McConnell and his opponent, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. But in Senator McConnell’s case especially, the use of dark money through nonprofit organizations coming into Kentucky, absolutely carpet-bombing the state with advertisements in favor of the senator, using B-roll that his campaign had provided—we saw this term “McConnelling” that came up in this campaign to describe that—and ads funded by dark money and super PACs and other outside groups tearing down his opponent, as well. And I think, if anything, this Kentucky race is sort of an illustration of what we are going to come to see in future races around the country about using these kinds of outside groups and anonymous money to win elections.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: When you say we’re going to come to see, it looks like we’ve pretty much seen it, haven’t we, in this round of elections all around the country?
ANDY KROLL: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. And this election is going to be the most expensive midterm in history, nearing $4 billion. I mean, I think McConnell has, you know, if you want to say, perfected this effort of using both his own campaign, using these anonymous vehicles for money and super PACs, in a way that probably no other candidate around the country has done as effectively, both in boosting his candidacy—the numbers from around Kentucky are just incredible for Senator McConnell, you saw the race called so early tonight—and in knocking down his candidate. And so, yes, we’re seeing this already around the country. But I think this is a case study for—going forward, for candidates who want to take advantage of these loose campaign finance rules that we have now.
AMY GOODMAN: As word comes in around the country on different issues and candidates who have won and lost, a judge has just denied former Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s gubernatorial campaign’s emergency motion to extend voting hours in Broward County, Florida.
ARI BERMAN: Sounds familiar.
AMY GOODMAN: This according to the Associated Press. Ari Berman, what do you mean, “sounds familiar”?
ARI BERMAN: Well, I mean, just every single election, we’re talking about Florida and voting problems there.
BEN JEALOUS: And Broward County.
ARI BERMAN: And Broward County, yeah.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And Broward County.
ARI BERMAN: So, I mean, they had flashbacks to 2000. But again, we had very long lines in 2012 in Florida. There was a lot of calls from Florida in the Election Protection call center today for various reasons. Very important governor’s race there between Charlie Crist and Rick Scott. Voting rights has been a very big issue in that campaign. Rick Scott has supported efforts to cut early voting, to disenfranchise ex-felons. He repealed reforms that Charlie Crist, as a Republican, put into place that allowed, for example, ex-felons to get their voting rights back. Rick Scott ended that. So, that’s a race—
AMY GOODMAN: And just to explain, Charlie Crist was a Republican who’s now a Democrat—
ARI BERMAN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —and he’s running against the Republican incumbent, Rick Scott, in a very, very close race.
ARI BERMAN: Absolutely, and really very different philosophies in what the Republican Party should be. Charlie Crist was essentially forced out of the Republican Party. Rick Scott’s run very conservative. So that governor’s race is going to have national implications, national implications for politics, also national implications for voting rights, as well.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to get back to Roberto Lovato, because we were interrupted when Mitch McConnell started his acceptance speech. We were talking with him, and I wanted to ask Roberto Lovato, one of the things that you were saying before we had to break to go to McConnell was that the—the enormous importance of immigration as an issue to the Latino community nationwide, as revealed by the new Latino Decisions poll. But obviously, immigration was put on the back burner, not only by the Obama administration, but many of the Latino activists agreed to hold back until this election before beginning to press President Obama again on the issue of his exercising his authority. And I understand already that Congressman Luis Gutiérrez has called a press conference in Chicago tomorrow morning to once again ramp up the pressure on the White House to act on immigration reform. I’m wondering what your reaction is and where you think the Latino activists and the progressive political leaders need to go now, as soon as the smoke clears from this election.
ROBERTO LOVATO: Well, first of all, I want to congratulate your producers for going directly to Mitch McConnell as soon as I was talking about the politics as The Walking Dead.
That said, I think that immigration, again, looms largest of any issue in our voting and in our hearts as Latinos. More than half of us, according to polls, know someone who’s undocumented, either through family or through friends. So, the Democrats know this, and the Democratic operatives and their allies in immigrant rights, like America’s Voice, Frank Sharry, National Council of La Raza, Janet Murguía, Ali Noorani at National Immigration Forum, and Deepak Bhargava of Center for Community Change, folks who spent something on the order of hundreds of millions of dollars to promote comprehensive immigration reform as the motor to get Latinos fired up to vote. It worked for them in 2008. Of course, two million deportations, 400,000 prisoners, multiple deaths of innocents at the border and other terror rained on children in schools and in churches later, the jig is up. Nobody believes Obama, the Democrats. No candidates, that I know of, were out there next to Barack Obama in the Latino community, ”Hola, soy Charlie Crist” or ”Soy fulano” and ”Estoy Aquí con President Obama. Vamos a deportada a un millón más.” No, nobody’s out there saying they’re going to join Obama in immigration, because it’s more than a hot potato. It’s a tortilla that’s melting in their hands with cheese and going to burn any candidate that touches it now.
And by the way, so, the immigrant rights movement, to answer your question more directly, Juan, is divided. There’s the folks I mentioned who have been protecting Obama, mostly silent on deportations until last year, year and a half. And then there’s the folks who actually get things done, who got us DACA, who got us, you know, pressure on Obama and, tellingly, on Hillary Clinton, like groups like Andolan, DREAMer movement, the left flank of the DREAMer movement and others. So, the Democrats have had pressure. Obama has been heckled. Hillary Clinton’s been heckled. I mean, I don’t even want to call it heckling. They’ve been checked. They’ve been checked by the immigrant rights movement. And that’s only going to ramp up, starting tomorrow again. And there hasn’t been any silence on the left on this.
And I think where we need to go is to really force the hand of the president to do what’s right to get 11 million people some form of legalization. Something less is going to continue the dynamics we’ve seen around the country. And the Democrats have their work cut out for them in terms of how to animate a population that has a political imagination and deep desire, but no candidates, no money. The Democrats aren’t investing a lot of money, according to my sources around the country. So, they have their work cut out for them.
AMY GOODMAN: I just want to break in, Roberto, because we have this news that most of the networks are calling in Arkansas. It looks like Tom Cotton has beaten the incumbent, Mark Pryor. Mark Pryor, who’s the son also of a senator. Tom Cotton is the Iraq War lieutenant who served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Tom Cotton called for three journalists to be imprisoned for espionage. This was according to Mother Jones. At 37 years old, Tom Cotton will be the youngest senator, this latest news out of Arkansas. In fact, we are also, in addition to Roberto Lovato, in Washington, D.C., still with Andy Kroll. And maybe you have more information on this race. Now, Senator Pryor spent a lot of money in this race, as well, the Democrat, but clearly it was overwhelmingly for Romney, though of course this is the Clinton state. Andy Kroll, any comment on what’s just taken place in Arkansas, one of the close races that are being watched tonight?
ANDY KROLL: Yeah, absolutely a close race being watched, one of the races that was considered, if not a toss-up, somewhere near the middle, though a chance for the Republicans to pick it up. But it was always going to be an uphill climb for Senator Mark Pryor. Senator Pryor had contorted himself in a whole number of ways in an effort to try to appeal to the more Republican voters of his state, of voting against gun-control legislation in the Senate, changing his position on where he stood on marriage equality. And again, these didn’t really seem to break through with the voters. Another race where we saw an enormous amount of spending by the candidates themselves, by outside groups, future Senator Tom Cotton, current congressman, was benefited an enormous amount by untraceable money that we’ve written about at Mother Jones. And, you know, the same kinds of things that we’ve seen, whether it’s in Kentucky, whether it’s in Colorado, you saw that playbook, as well, on behalf of Tom Cotton. And it clearly paid off for him this evening.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And Bill Clinton, I think, took about three trips down there trying to salvage the Democratic campaign there?
ANDY KROLL: Yeah, he did. I mean, he threw everything that he could in to helping Mark Pryor, obviously Mark Pryor coming from a long, well-established Democratic family in that state. But this is not Bill Clinton’s Arkansas anymore. And this is—we also saw that Asa Hutchinson won, you know, is being called as the winner of the governor’s race, as well, in Arkansas. Arkansas has been a state targeted by the likes of the Koch brothers and other conservative major donors and players trying to flip the state red, which they have succeeded in doing in the state Legislature. They now have the governorship, and they have Senator Mark Pryor’s Senate seat. And so, again, this is a Southern state that used to be voting for Democrats. That was the home state of Bill Clinton. It is now a firmly red state.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Ben Jealous?
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, well, I mean, it stays a firmly red state in part because the Dems really only invested in ads. If they were—you know, you have to ask the question: What would have happened if they actually invested in signing up the voters of color who, by a significant percentage, are not signed up to vote in their state? And if we had done massive voter registration in Arkansas, you could have seen a very different outcome in this race. And that’s what’s so frustrating about the Dems and their sort of kind of 30 years of real kind of lack of investment in expanding the voting base in the South. We’ve got to get around to it, because if we want to win, that’s what you have to do in places like Arkansas.
ARI BERMAN: And the South is changing. I mean, we’re seeing that in terms of the demographics. We’re seeing it—
BEN JEALOUS: Blacks, Latinos.
ARI BERMAN: Absolutely.
BEN JEALOUS: Young whites.
ARI BERMAN: And, you know, the North Carolina Senate race, Kay Hagan seems to be surviving thus far. That’s in large part due to the Moral Monday coalition in that state that has really mobilized voters against the extremist policies of the Republican Legislature. Georgia has been a lot closer than anyone thought it would be. I mean, even if the Democrats lose in Georgia, the fact that that seat was competitive—both the governor’s race was competitive, the Senate race was competitive—
BEN JEALOUS: That’s right.
ARI BERMAN: —that’s something to build on going forward. Florida is obviously competitive. Virginia remains competitive. So, I mean, despite losses in places like Arkansas, I mean, I think, generally speaking, the South is going to become more and more competitive going forward.
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, but what those two states have in common is that there actually was an investment in doing significant voter registration, even if it’s only one-sixth the scale of what’s possible. They signed up maybe 125,000, 130,000 in Georgia, when it’s 830,000 that could be signed up. Again, if they were to sign up, say, 500,000, it would be very different.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Tom Cotton, the breaking news out of Arkansas right now, one of the big close races. He’s defeating the incumbent, Mark Pryor. Some of the things that Senator—well, Senator-elect Tom Cotton has said, he declared the illegal immigration a major issue in his race against Mark Pryor on Monday’s Laura Ingraham Show. He said, “On the major issue of immigration, Arkansans think we need an immigration system that works for working Americans. That starts with border security and enforcing immigration laws.” And he goes on to say, “The problem is with Mark Pryor and Barack Obama refusing to enforce our immigration laws, and refusing to secure our border.” He says, “I’ll change that when I’m in the U.S. Senate. And I would add, it’s not just an immigration problem … it’s a security problem. Groups like the Islamic State collaborate with drug cartels in Mexico, who have clearly shown they’re willing to expand outside the drug trade into human trafficking and potentially even terrorism. They could infiltrate our defenseless border and attack us right here in places like Arkansas. This is an urgent problem, and it’s time we got serious about it, and I’ll be serious about it in the United States Senate.” Roberto Lovato out in Berkeley, California, your response to the new senator from Arkansas?
ROBERTO LOVATO: Well, when I look at the Deep South, I look at the future of the—that’s already happened in the Southwest. So, like when you had in Arizona SB 1070, then you started having that multiply, because Arizona was a laboratory that the extreme right and the Republican Party use to export the model of anti-immigrant politics that began in California back in the '90s. What's happening in Arizona—I look at Arkansas, and I think about what’s happening in Arizona right now, because immigration is not playing the way it used to be in the heartland of anti-immigrant politics, Arizona.
Right now, you have a very strong possibility that David Garcia, a Ph.D., an Army vet, is going to be the next superintendent of schools in Arizona. Remember that superintendent in Arizona is synonymous with destroy Mexican studies, destroy ethnic studies. So, this is pretty huge in the life, and it’s been underreported. And there’s even a tight governor’s race that was unexpected right now. And so, this is largely due because of heavy Latino activism and get-out-the-vote activities and actual investment from groups like Mi Familia Vota, that actually went in there and did some things parallel to the Democrats. And you even have the Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Republic supporting Garcia, which basically, as one activist told me today, it proves that boycotts worked.
So, I would look to the future of Latino politics to Arkansas. I’d look to Arizona and the way that you’re Latin Americanizing U.S. politics, as far as social movements that are active on the ground, forcing policy, pressuring, being in your face, and being very successful now taking that and then aiming it in the political realm, because there would be no David Garcia without a Puente in Arizona. There would be no David Garcia without strong activism on the part of DREAMer and border groups and human right—Derechos Humanos and others. So, that’s the exciting part of right now what’s happening in the Latino politics. So, when I hear Corbett in Arizona, I see the past. And yeah, celebrate today. Mañana is another day.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: When I hear the newly elected Republican senator of Arkansas talking about a defenseless border, I’m asking myself, “What border is he talking about?” The U.S.-Mexico border must be one of the most militarized borders already, certainly in this hemisphere. Myrna, you wanted to chime in?
MYRNA PÉREZ: Yeah, I just wanted to point out that we can make all the efforts to try and bring more people into the democratic process, but if we have laws that are passing to keep people from participating, either people who are trying to register but can’t because of an arcane system that doesn’t make sense, or once they’re registered, they have other things that disenfranchise them, like photo ID laws, we’re going to be in a position where we’re talking about this same problem, it’s just going to be different. And I think most Americans want our elections to be free, fair and accessible, but we have politicians manipulating the rules of the game so that some people can participate and some people can’t. And there’s a lot of things systemically that we can do to make our democracy more inclusive.
ARI BERMAN: And the Texas Legislature began trying to pass a voter ID law in that state when the state became majority minority for the first time. So it was no coincidence. And the judge that struck down the Texas voter ID law most recently in 2014, in her 157-page opinion—
MYRNA PÉREZ: Forty-seven.
ARI BERMAN: —147-page opinion, repeatedly said that the Legislature was motivated by animus against demographic change in Texas, against the growing Latino vote in that state. If you look at the numbers, you look at the demographics, 90 percent of population growth in Texas in the past decade has come from Hispanics in the state. So it’s been really, really dramatic in terms of the demographics.
MYRNA PÉREZ: And the Legislature had very racialized language, when it was discussing these laws, when it was discussing some of the immigration concerns, when it was discussing the photo ID law that eventually passed, and also the ones that were—led up to the one that eventually got passed.
BEN JEALOUS: I mean, these laws and vote suppression laws are just a one-two punch that are ultimately driven by people who are afraid of the future. And what a candidate like Cotton really calls the question on is, are we going to be a nation of fear or a nation of courage? If we’re a nation of fear, then you get more people like him, you get more bad policies. If we choose to be a nation of courage, then taking back our states is a prerequisite to what she’s talking about. And that’s why folks have to turn out.
AMY GOODMAN: For stations that are breaking away to do their own election updating and rejoining us at the top of the hour, this is your moment. For the rest of you, this is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. And this is the Democracy Now! 2014 midterm election coverage. We’re with you until midnight Eastern Standard Time. We have a room full of people and guests throughout the country with us, as we respond to the latest news. Ben Jealous, former head of the NAACP, was just laying out this last point.
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, I was just saying, look, you know, we can’t change the policies until we change who the politicians are in these states. And that means that folks really have to get focused on taking back their states. We’ve had this rise of sort of state’s rights approach to governance, and it’s come to kind of its logical conclusion, where we’ve seen Congress shut down. And we absolutely have to pass the type of policies that the Brennan Center is very good about pushing out there. But the only way that we get the chance is we’ve got to take back the states. And blacks and Latinos have to really stay focused on the fact that this game has been run on us before. When you go back to the days of the Chinese Exclusion Act and the rise of Jim Crow vote suppression, it’s the same playbook that’s being played right now. It’s just that we have Latino exclusion acts.
AMY GOODMAN: We are going right to New Hampshire, because the race in New Hampshire has been called. Senator Jeanne Shaheen is the projected winner tonight in New Hampshire over the former Massachusetts senator, Scott Brown. Arnie Arnesen is with us, a radio and television commentator based in Concord, New Hampshire, at WNHN FM, former member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, former Democratic nominee for governor and for Congress, and our very first guest on Democracy Now! almost 19 years ago.
ARNIE ARNESEN: Don’t tell them.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Arnie Arnesen, this is very significant news. This is one of the closest races. Can you talk about what happened in New Hampshire and if you knew this was going to happen, the incumbent, Jeanne Shaheen, winning?
ARNIE ARNESEN: Well, there was no—from my perspective, there was no way Jeanne Shaheen was going to lose. And here’s the reason why. She is a household name. She was a state senator, she was the governor, she was in the Senate. She is a name that is so familiar, and there’s sort of a relationship here and a sense of knowledge and comfort with who she is. And frankly, she didn’t run this race as a U.S. Senate candidate. She ran this race really as if she was the governor running again or the mayor of the state of New Hampshire. And that’s really what she needed to do, because, as you know, what the Republicans have tried to do is make this a race against Barack Obama. They’ve tried to nationalize this race. And, of course, in a U.S. Senate race, normally nationalization makes sense, except this is Jeannie. Everyone knows Jeannie. She was the governor for so long. So I think Scott Brown had a really tough candidate to run against.
But here’s the problem for Scott Brown: He didn’t even register to vote in New Hampshire until December of 2013. This is Scott Brown’s first election, Amy. He’s never voted for dog catcher. He’s never been here. And so, there’s been no relationship to place. And I think people began to realize, you know ,they rejected him in Massachusetts, why would we suddenly accept him here? Just because he lost in Massachusetts, that is the only reason why he’s in New Hampshire. And you know what? That’s not a good enough reason to send him to Washington.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Arnie Arnesen, this was one race that in all the scenarios of Democrats seeking to hold onto the Senate, this race had to be won, along with North Carolina. So, what is your sense in terms of the turnout, which was an indication of how across the country these elections are being seen?
ARNIE ARNESEN: Well, the turnout was huge for us in a midterm election. This is a turnout, they’re predicting between 50 and 55 percent. That’s significantly higher than normal midterms. That was really huge. They never saw so much money pouring into this race.
And let me also put this through another lens, everyone. This isn’t just a race about who’s going to control the United States Senate. New Hampshire, like Iowa, is a place where every ego bigger than a house that wants to run for president in 2016 is going to show up here. They want their people to win. Therefore, you saw Chris Christie come to the state of New Hampshire five times. You know, I mean, like why? Well, the reason really wasn’t about Walt Havenstein, who was running for governor. The reason is, he’s running for president probably in 2016. So, there was a lot of money pouring into this race. There were a lot of negative ads pouring into this race.
Scott Brown was at least a known entity, but what they had going for them, for the Democrats, was there was a huge turnout, and Democrats know who to turn out. The get out the vote that the Democrats have really developed over the last 10 to 15 years is something only Republicans can envy. And to be honest with you, the fact that the Republican Party in New Hampshire had to outsource their candidate for the United States Senate should tell you the kind of shambles the Republican Party in New Hampshire is. If they couldn’t find someone who’s lived here for at least two years to run against Jeanne Shaheen, then they don’t have a bench. They don’t even have a stool.
AMY GOODMAN: But, Arnie Arnesen, why was this such a close race, given what you’ve said, that he was a carpetbagger, that he hadn’t voted in New Hampshire? Why was it possible that Jeanne Shaheen would be toppled?
ARNIE ARNESEN: Because there was so much damn money. And I have said this over and over again. This isn’t just a midterm, Amy. This is the sixth year of the Barack Obama administration. This is the last time you can vote against Barack. That’s really how they marketed this, that this was really not about Jeannie, this was really a message to Barack Obama. Well, that—and Scott Brown could play that. I mean, it wasn’t even about Scott Brown or Jeanne Shaheen. It was all about Barack Obama.
Let me give you an example, everyone. Last Tuesday there was a debate between Scott Brown and Jeanne Shaheen. I’m driving into the debate, and there are Jeanne Shaheen signs and Scott Brown signs. But right in front of Jeanne Shaheen, I see this man literally pounding signs in an eighth of an inch in front of Jeannie’s sign. And I’m going, “That’s bizarre.” And then I’m thinking, “But wait a minute. He’s pounding in a Shaheen sign.” It’s the same color. It’s the same typeface. It says, “Jeanne Shaheen for U.S. Senate.” But guess what it says at the top. It says, “Stand with Obama. Vote Shaheen.” Now I’m going, “Hmmm.” So I get out of my car, and who paid for those signs? The New Hampshire Republican Party. All right? Now, I noticed that that didn’t make sense, because I know that a lot of Democrats have basically been distancing themselves from Barack Obama. I’m not sure that was a wise move, but that was their decision. I knew Jeanne Shaheen was one of them. So, all of a sudden I see the “Stand with Obama,” and normally people would think that that’s a Shaheen sign. That was a Republican Party sign. Unbelievable.
AMY GOODMAN: Myrna Pérez of the Brennan Center has to leave. We are just doing a rolling series of guests throughout the evening. And we so appreciate all the time you spent with us, Myrna. But one of the things you’ve been looking at in—I mean, your one center getting 20,000 calls from around the country—around the issue of voter protection and Election Protection, were women and why women get dumped from the rolls.
MYRNA PÉREZ: Sure. I mean, we saw a number of issues affecting women. For example, in Texas, there is a question about how close the identification that you present has to match the registration rolls. And this was heavily litigated. It’s supposed to be done such that if your name substantially matches. But we did have a number of people concerned that they were going to get caught up in that. You guys might remember that Senator Wendy Davis experienced this problem in the 2013 elections. We also saw people not being able to find themselves on the registration rolls because their name had changed, and they were registered under one place or another, so we actually couldn’t confirm whether or not they were still registered. We saw people having problems with hyphenated names. Sometimes it had to do with, you know, cultural backgrounds, but sometimes it also had to do with marriage. And right now we need to be mindful of the fact that many of these restrictions tend to hurt poor and minority voters the hardest, and a good number of those are going to be women. So, you know, when we’re talking about like what we want our democracy to look like, we need to remember that the ones that are being hit the hardest by these suppressive voter laws are those that have been traditionally disenfranchised and shut out from the system, to begin with.
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, but it’s also important to say “poor and minority,” because oftentimes when we hear that, we hear “poor minority.” And the reality is that with these voter suppression laws, going back to the poll tax, poor white voters have been acceptable collateral damage for the conservatives who have pushed them, whether those conservatives were called Democrats back then or Republicans now. And we’ve got to be clear that, you know, there are a lot of poor white voters, and disproportionately women, who are impacted by these laws.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I know, Ben Jealous, you’re going to have to leave us, but you’re going to come back later. And our two parents here, Myrna Pérez and Ari Berman, have to go. But I know, you could just check in for a moment and come back, because she’s—they’re older. Myrna Pérez, thanks so much for being with us, from the Brennan Center. And, Ari Berman, thank you so much for your work at The Nation, and I’m looking forward to reading your book when it comes out on voting rights.
ARI BERMAN: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We’re back at the top of the hour. Stay with us.
[end of hour two]
AMY GOODMAN: From Pacifica, this is Democracy Now!'s coverage of the 2014 midterm elections. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González. And the polls are closing all over the country, as we turn right now to bring you some of the updates. Polls have closed in Indiana, as well as in Kentucky, in Georgia, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Florida and parts of New Hampshire in the most expensive midterm elections in history. The Associated Press has just reported Republicans have won the Senate race is Kentucky and both Senate seats in South Carolina.
Despite the record spending, voting numbers are expected to dip below the 40 percent mark of both the 2006 and 2010. This despite a record estimate of $4 billion in spending. One-quarter of that money, $1 billion, will come from anonymous so-called “dark money” groups.
Each House seat—we have updates on a number of close races right now, projections showing Republican Tom Cotton will defeat Democrat Mark Pryor in Arkansas. Of course, Mark Pryor is the incumbent senator. In New Hampshire, news outlets are projecting Democrat Senator Jeanne Shaheen is defeating Republican Scott Brown, the former senator from Massachusetts who moved to New Hampshire to run against Jeanne Shaheen. And Democrat Kay Hagan is leading slightly in North Carolina with 26 percent of precincts reporting. Senator Hagan has 50 percent of the vote, compared to 46 percent for her Republican challenger, Thom Tillis. As predicted, the Associated Press reports Senate Democrats have held onto Vice President Joe Biden’s old Senate seat in Delaware, with incumbent Senator Chris Coons defeating Republican challenger Kevin Wade. Statistician Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight now puts Democrats’ chance of keeping Senate control at 26 percent.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In other races, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell has won re-election in Kentucky. In Virginia, AP reports Republican David Brat, who had defeated former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, in a surprise move in the primaries, has won his House seat. To recap the other results we have reported so far, NPR reports Republican Governor Tom Corbett has become the first Pennsylvania governor to lose a re-election bid since the state Constitution was changed to allow second terms. He was defeated by Tom Wolf, a wealthy Democratic businessman and former state revenue secretary. The Associated Press has called the Mississippi Senate race for Republican Senator Thad Cochran, who fought off a tea party challenger in the Republican primary. The AP has also called a number of other expected victories for Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Republican Senator Jim Inhofe in Oklahoma, as well as Representative James Lankford, another Republican candidate for the Senate in Oklahoma.
AMY GOODMAN: And in Florida, a judge has denied an emergency motion by Democratic Governor Charlie Crist to extend voting hours in Broward County after reports of voting barriers. Crist sought to keep some polls open an extra two hours, until 9:00 p.m., after reports a polling station was offline for an hour and a half this morning. The Crist campaign—he’s challenging the incumbent Senator Scott—said in a statement that, quote, “malfunctions in precincts throughout the county caused confusion among voters who were unable to update their address at polling precincts. Those voters were bounced between local precincts and [Supervisor of Election] headquarters—ultimately, the system did not register them and they were unable to cast regular ballots.”
Joining us now from Connecticut is Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, former presidential candidate a number of times over. His latest book is Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State. Ralph, you’ve heard some of the results are in. In your own state, we still don’t know yet who the governor will be. But can you talk about the results so far and the significance of these midterm elections, if in fact, as predicted, the Senate goes Republican?
RALPH NADER: Well, I think they’re going to go Republican, and you’ll have a divided government. But it’s the nature of the Republicans who are going to be in charge—these are the most virulent, cruel, vicious, ignorant, arrogant Republicans in the history of the party, since 1854. I mean, if you read the activities of Senator Robert Taft, who was Mr. Conservative in the U.S. Senate in the '50s and ’40s, I mean, he would be a liberal today. So, we're dealing with the question: Why can’t the Democrats defend our country against the worst, most virulent, ignorant, corporate-dominated, pro-war, money-saturated Republican Party? That’s the real question.
And so, I’ve just put out a statement that the Democrats have got to recognize they have to have a change of leadership. I don’t know who’s going to replace them, but Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Steve Israel led the fight to regain control of the House of Representatives for the Democrats in 2010, lost; 2012, lost; now 2014, lost even bigger. So, they’ve got to adhere to the baseball principle: three strikes and they’re out. And they have to step down and let some more vigorous and progressive back-benchers move to the leadership, because otherwise all I see for the next seven, eight years is a permanent minority of Democrats in both the House and the Senate.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ralph, you’ve often talked, obviously, about the impact of big money on politics and the unprecedented amount of money being spent, especially by these super PACs in this race.
RALPH NADER: Juan, you’re right on that, and you’re right about voter restriction. These are injustices. But you cannot allow the Democrats to turn them into alibis. The Democrats raised huge amounts of money this time around and in 2012 in their own right, plenty of money to win. And number two, they don’t get their own voters out, because although they finally came around to the only issue that Politico said is getting traction for the Democrats—raising the minimum wage for 30 million people, who are paid less now than workers in 1968, adjusted for inflation, 30 million people and their families, a lot of voters—they didn’t make it a big enough issue. I had a conversation with Senator Harry Reid about three-and-a-half weeks ago, and I said, “This issue’s catching on, Harry. But it has to be nationalized by the president in a barnstorm around the country.” And he agreed. He said he was going to call the president.
But what did we get? We got a president who spent almost two weeks in salons, from New York and Maine and San Francisco and Los Angeles, raising money for the Democrats, not barnstorming the country on an issue that has 80 percent, 80 percent support, that even Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have come out for restoring the minimum wage. So, it is the—they didn’t have a policy. They didn’t have agenda. They didn’t have the message. They had tons of money to put on insipid television ads that didn’t move the needle.
And a perfect example of that is the incumbent senator who just lost in Arkansas, Senator Mark Pryor. He came to the U.S. Senate, and he made sure that he was going to turn his back on the citizen groups, the liberal groups, the progressive groups. He was in charge of the Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs. We couldn’t even get a meeting with him. We couldn’t even get him to return our calls. I worked with his father, the prior senator from Arkansas, on nursing home reform. And now he paid the penalty.
In other words, people back home are not given enough reason to vote for the Democrats. But they’re given plenty of emotional reason to vote for the Republicans because of all the social issues—the school prayer, the reproductive rights, the gun control. The Democrats have dropped the economic issue that won election after election for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman. They can no longer defend our country against the most militaristic, corporatist, cruel, anti-worker, anti-consumer, anti-environment, anti-women, even anti-children-programs, the Republican Party. A lot of soul searching is needed, and we shouldn’t let Citizens United and voting restriction laws, which are being upended by good judges, fortunately, in several states—we shouldn’t allow those to be used as alibis by the Democrats in Congress.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Ralph, I wanted to ask you about a particular race here in New York, speaking about the bankruptcy of some Democratic politics, which is the race for governor here in New York. Andrew Cuomo—the polls are closing right now in New York, and all the polls, previous polls, show that Cuomo is expected to win. But Cuomo did something extremely unusual in this race, in that after seeking the Working Families endorsement, he went ahead and created a phantom party, the Women’s Equality Party. And for weeks now in New York City, people have been turning on their television seeing Andrew Cuomo with his daughters and his girlfriend all urging the voters not to vote for him as a Democrat or as a member of the Working Families, but as a member of the Women’s Equality Party—an attempt to basically use the third-party movement, basically, to promote himself without having to be accountable to other groups in the normal Democratic or progressive coalition. And despite that, Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate, has been polling very well and actually may surpass your vote in New York state, when you ran for president, by the end of the night.
RALPH NADER: No doubt, he will. And he’s getting the benefit of Professor Teachout’s challenge to Andrew Cuomo. I mean, she took a big chunk out of the primary, and she had virtually no staff or no money or no name recognition. And that reflected an unease, a distaste for Cuomo’s type of bare-knuckle politics and lack of forthrightness. So, I think—
AMY GOODMAN: And, by the way, the polls have been called here in New York, and it looks like Governor Cuomo will remain Governor Cuomo.
RALPH NADER: Yeah, I mean, there’s no doubt. But, you see, it really has to come back to the people, does it not? I mean, we really—we can’t let our keen sense of injustice on issue A, B, C, D, take us away from looking at ourselves in the mirror and starting to organize in every district. I’ve said again and again, if 1 percent of the people organize in every congressional district around an agenda that has popular support—and we know what the issues are, whether it’s living wage or cracking down on Wall Street or making corporations pay their fair share of taxes or full Medicare for all, everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital—these all come in, and many others, majority support. And as Abraham Lincoln once said, with public sentiment, you can do anything. And all it takes is 1 percent. I mean, there have been changes in our country, Amy and Juan, in the history, as you know better than anybody, where it’s far less than 1 percent turned it around, not only to start it, but at the victory level, it was less than 1 percent of people who really made change their principal civic concern. And that’s what we have to do. That’s the takeaway from this election.
We cannot be dependent anymore on representatives who sweet-talk us and go back to Washington and betray us for careerism. The curse of the Democratic Party is gerrymandering that keeps them in office without adequate challenge, never mind from the Republicans, but their own gerrymandered district. And they have a careeristic mentality, the best of them. Senator Ed Markey has just been re-elected, probably with a landslide. He doesn’t return calls to citizen groups anymore, except on nuclear power, where he’s terrific. They’re very, very satisfied, very complacent, very sure that they can continue going to work every day, but they don’t have that sense of perceived injustice and empathy that would rouse the public. They’re not rousing the public. They’re pursuing their own careers and grumbling about the Republicans.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Ralph Nader. One of the issues you were just talking about is the minimum wage. You also came out, you know, slamming the Republicans, but you’re also known for being fiercely critical of the Democrats, as you’ve just been pointing out. What is so amazing about these minimum wage issues, that these are, as you were pointing out, these are in Republican states, and Republicans are winning these states. But they’re overwhelmingly, the minimum wage increases, being—though we don’t have a call on them in Alaska, of course, because those polls will close much later, in Arkansas and Illinois and Nebraska—overwhelmingly supported by Republicans as well as Democrats. Did the Democrats just miss this completely?
RALPH NADER: That’s the proof of what we’ve been trying to tell the Democrats in 2009, '10, ’11, ’12. They wouldn't pick it up. And they finally picked it up, and some citizens picked it up and put it on the ballot. Just think, the four states—they’re mostly red states. The four states that have minimum wage increase on the initiative are going to win. The votes are going to pass a minimum wage increase in Arkansas and Alaska and elsewhere.
AMY GOODMAN: Nebraska and South Dakota.
RALPH NADER: And these are the same states that the Republicans are winning on the ballot. In other words, the Democrats are not getting on the populist, progressive bandwagon.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Ralph Nader, and we’re getting a bunch of news alerts in. Greg Abbott has been called the winner of the Texas race. He beat Wendy Davis, who is famous for this something like 11-hour filibuster, where she was filibustering around the issue of reproductive rights, women’s rights. We also have Governor Rick Snyder defeating Mark Schauer to win governor of Michigan, according to a Free Press projection. John Cornyn has won re-election, as well, in Texas. But we are yet to see results in Connecticut, where, Ralph Nader, you’re speaking to us from, where you grew up, in Winsted, Connecticut, that very fiercely contested race for governor, Governor Dannel Malloy facing an intense challenge from Tom Foley, a Republican, a replay of the 2010 contest where Malloy beat Foley by only a few thousand votes, Foley a businessman and former ambassador to Ireland. There was also a third-party candidate, Visconti, who just this weekend threw his support to Foley. But he could make the difference, and we’ve seen this in state after state, from Louisiana to North Carolina, though it looks like Kay Hagan has won in North Carolina. Third-party candidates may not be winning themselves, but they can determine who wins in the major parties.
RALPH NADER: Yeah. Unfortunately, it’s not on anything significant in terms of a policy redirection. It’s not dealing with militarism and wars of aggression overseas. It’s not the endemic poverty that’s growing among children in this country, and adults and underemployment. You know, it’s almost—it’s almost like a little bit, you know, “Here, here, you can have these votes, you know, and maybe I’ll get a job.” These aren’t legitimate third-party efforts.
The third-party efforts are in New York state: Howie Hawkins running for governor, Matt Funiciello in the 21st District up north of Albany running for the Congress. I think those are really legitimate, because if you look at their—you look at their agenda, first of all, it’s a majoritarian agenda, which is ironic—you know, a small party representing issues that a majority of the people support in this country. And second, I think people, they will see the real fangs of the Republican Party. You know, it’s easy to be obstructionist in the Senate—Mitch McConnell and these email filibuster threats, but now he’s going to be the boss, and the fangs will come out.
And maybe that will start alarming enough people to organize back home. Our democracy is not going to be saved in Washington. It’s not going to be saved by a few being elected in Washington. It’s got to be saved by a renewal of civic spirit, a renewal of civic engagement by a small number of people in each congressional district that represents a majority sentiment. That’s the beginning. That’s not asking for all that much. We’re talking, you know, three million people in this country can turn this whole country around, because the redirections that will turn this country around have very deep support. I mean, my book, Unstoppable, is trying to get the public to focus on the areas where left-right agree, because the divide-and-rule strategy of the power structure is to get left-right focused on where they disagree. And they do disagree. But they agree on huge areas. They agree on civil liberties. They agree against empire. They agree to crack down on Wall Street and have Main Street over Wall Street. They agree on juvenile justice reform and, increasingly, prison reform. And they certainly agree on the giant job-exporting, corporate-managed trade agreements and the tax escapes of companies like General Electric and Apple. I mean, there’s a lot of agreement there. But it’s got to be sparked by a small number of people in the communities who are not just concerned, but they’re serious enough to dedicate the time. That’s what—that dedicates its time and starts showing up at meetings.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’d like to bring the conversation back here in the studio to A.C. Valdez, who’s been with us from Latino USA. Clearly, one of the big races, the gubernatorial races, is in Florida. And I’m just wondering, between Charlie Crist and Rick Scott, the Latino vote there obviously is huge in Florida, and it’s going to be—it always is—a battleground state. Your sense of the enthusiasm of the vote of the Latino electorate in Florida as a result of the failures of Congress and the Obama administration to be able to get through immigration reform?
A.C. VALDEZ: Well, I think Florida is definitely one of the places where you would at least see some Republican enthusiasm for trying to get the Latino vote in Florida. And, you know, with the historic Cuban population there, that’s obviously entrenched. It’s there. It’s a power structure that remains, especially in places like Miami, elsewhere in South Florida. At the same time, you’re having large influxes of Puerto Ricans coming to Florida. You’re having large influxes, that people aren’t really talking about, of Venezuelans migrating to Florida, Colombians, people from El Salvador. So, these groups tend to lean more heavily Democratic, and I think they’ll continue to do so, as far as what we’ve been seeing on Latino USA. And I think there is a sense, from people that I’ve been talking to in Florida, that there is a sea change coming. There is optimism about Democratic—Democratically inclined voters increasing in Florida. And I think that South Florida is obviously where you’re going to see most of that happen.
AMY GOODMAN: I also want to bring Andy Kroll back into the conversation. As you hear all of the races reported—looks like, by the way, in Louisiana there will be a runoff in the race for Mary Landrieu’s seat. She is the incumbent, but it looks like no one of the three people got 50 percent, and so there will be a runoff. I believe it’s going to be—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: December 6th.
AMY GOODMAN: —in December. Mary Landrieu is the Democrat versus Bill Cassidy, the Republican, and there was also in this race, as well, a third-party candidate that is making the difference, a second Republican, Rob Maness. But, Andy Kroll, as you listen to the results coming in from around the country—Andy Kroll, senior reporter at Mother Jones magazine, where he’s written extensively about campaign finance and dark money—your thoughts on the races that you investigated?
ANDY KROLL: Yeah, I mean, I’ve written about a number of these races around the country, and the amount of spending and the general direction of these various campaigns, going into election night, seem to be playing out in a way that suggests this will be a strongly Republican year, maybe not quite a landslide of the type that we saw in 2010—Governor Rick Snyder in Michigan winning; Mike Rounds, a Republican, winning in the South Dakota Senate race; a number of those other races that you mentioned.
I mean, the one that is proving to be quite a surprise is the Senate race of Virginia. Incumbent Democrat Mark Warner against Republican Ed Gillespie, and Gillespie, of course, having a great tie-in with the kind of work that I do, as being one of the founders, one of the masterminds behind American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, one of the juggernauts of Republican big money politics. Ed Gillespie, you know, also a registered lobbyist, very much entrenched with K Street and the Republican donor world, he is actually leading Senator Mark Warner right now by something like 70,000 votes, 80 percent of the precincts in Virginia are reporting. And this could actually be one of the big surprise elections. We could see one of the proponents of anonymous spending and someone who is as versed in how K Street works as anybody, except maybe Mitch McConnell, be the next U.S. senator from Virginia. And so, that’s certainly an eye-catching campaign right now.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, that would be a major upset. Ralph Nader, would you like to weigh in on that?
RALPH NADER: I would. The Democrat senators and representatives, the ones that are in most trouble are the people who are trying to play both sides of the game. They’re trying to be hybrids. You know, they’re trying to satisfy both sides on these issues. And they come across to the voter as not having their own identity. They’re too wishy-washy. The challenger for Senator-elect Capito in West Virginia is an example of that. She just didn’t know which way to go. You know, she went big on coal in West Virginia, which is only 6 percent of the economy and 3 percent of the workers. And she wouldn’t come out really strong on the minimum wage, where, you know, if you want a state that’s ripe for a minimum wage increase, it’s poor West Virginia. And the same is true for Mary Ladrieu. Mary Landrieu is marinated in big oil and gas. I mean, she’s like a Republican in Democrat clothing. And so she may go down again. The ones that are the closest ones, like Michelle Nunn in Georgia, she’s a little bit—she has her own identity. She’s making a race of it in Georgia, which is a real uphill fight.
So, if there’s one thing the people sense, it’s a politician who is not authentic. And that’s why they sometimes say, “Well, you know, you don’t agree with Reagan, but at least he knows where he stood. You know, he believes in what he says.” But these windmill-type Democrats are the ones that are going down to defeat against Republicans who at least, for all their liabilities, present a very clear, however bad, position before the voter, and they know how to go after people’s prejudices and cater to them, and they know how to hit the emotional nerves on the social issues. And when you have voters who don’t do their homework about the records of the candidates, they become very vulnerable to this kind of right-wing corporate Republican propaganda.
And so I come back again: We’ve got to start a movement in this country where voters begin to start doing their homework. I mean, if the Internet should be good for anything, it should be increasing awareness by voters of who they’re voting for. Kentucky voters are voting for McConnell, who wouldn’t even tell them what he’s going to do. And we know why he’s not telling them what he’s going to do, because when he gets to Washington and runs the Senate, he is going to be the beholden toady for his Wall Street pay masters. So, why are—why are poor people or middle-class people in Kentucky voting? Because it’s not clear. The distinction between the candidates are not clear enough.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, besides voting for candidates, voters are also casting ballots on issues, as well. Today has been a big day for drug policy reform, from decriminalizing marijuana to reduced sentencing for drug offenses. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, there are more drug policy reform questions on the ballot this November than ever in American history. Voters in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., are voting on marijuana legalization. Florida is voting on legalizing medical marijuana. Early results from Washington, D.C., show more than 65 percent of voters supporting legalization.
For more, we go to Washington, D.C., where we’re joined by Dr. Malik Burnett, former surgeon, now an organizer with the Drug Policy Alliance in the District of Columbia. Could you talk about these measures?
DR. MALIK BURNETT: Sure. Thank you for having me. I think what—as you correctly stated, drug policy reform has become a mainstream political issue. Voters all across the country are voting on marijuana legalization. In addition to that, we have bail reform in New Jersey. We have sentencing reform in California. And what is clear at this point is that Americans are becoming tired of the failed policy on the war on drugs. And so, what we’ll see tonight is that drug policy reform will be vindicated, and we’ll begin to see a dismantling, wholesale, of the war on drugs.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about the range of these different ballot initiatives. Also, by the way, I understand that Guam has voted, as well, on the issue.
DR. MALIK BURNETT: That’s correct. Guam—
AMY GOODMAN: On legalizing medical marijuana.
DR. MALIK BURNETT: That’s correct. Guam has voted. Fifty-six percent of voters supported medical marijuana in Guam. We have medical marijuana on the ballot in Florida, as you correctly stated. The District is voting on legalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. Early totals put that number close to 67 percent, which would be the highest on record for legalizing marijuana.
AMY GOODMAN: And yet, Dr. Burnett, what does it mean if Washington, D.C., voters vote for this, but since Congress still is in charge and sort of trumps the voters, could they overturn that decision?
DR. MALIK BURNETT: You know, that’s a very interesting question. A lot of commentary has been made about Congress overturning the will of the voters in the District. And what the reality is, is that is a very heavy political lift. They would need to pass a resolution of disapproval. Once the initiative is transmitted up to Congress, it will sit before Congress for 30 days, and they would need to pass a resolution of disapproval through the House, the Senate and ultimately get it signed by the president. In addition to this, we’ve seen bipartisan support for marijuana policy reform. Many senators have come out looking at marijuana policy as state’s rights issue. Earlier today, Rand Paul came out and said that he supports D.C. legalizing marijuana. So, I think that if Republicans or any other member of Congress would like to try to overturn the vote in a majority black city about an issue that is reforming laws that affect overwhelmingly black people, they will find that it will be particularly difficult politically.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Malik Burnett, thanks so much for being with us. As a former surgeon, my final question to you is, why is this issue so important to you?
DR. MALIK BURNETT: Oh, for me, personally, if you look at the data, you’ll see that the long-term health effects of incarceration are significantly worse than any long-term health effects associated with drug use. And what we really need to do as a country is rethink the way that we’re doing drug policy in America and refocus drug policy from a criminal justice framework to a public health framework. And that’s why I’ve gotten involved in this effort. And, you know, hopefully we’ll be working to reform drug policy across the nation, now in 2014 and even further, in 2016, come the presidential election.
AMY GOODMAN: A.C. Valdez, you wanted to weigh in here on this issue, of Latino USA.
A.C. VALDEZ: I just wanted to weigh in as, actually, a native Washingtonian. I find this really fascinating that Guam and Washington, D.C., as two places that lack congressional representation entirely, are the places where this kind of change is being effected, the kind of change that I think Ralph Nader was earlier calling for. And I think, you know, on Election Day, it might be incumbent upon a lot of people to remember the fact that places like Guam and D.C. and Puerto Rico and any other number of U.S. territories don’t have full congressional representation and don’t have quite the voice in Congress that they do.
AMY GOODMAN: In fact, Guam is the first U.S. territory to vote for medical—legalization of medical marijuana.
A.C. VALDEZ: And interestingly enough, Guam also has one of the highest rates of Army enlistment in the entire country. On our sister TV show for PBS, America by the Numbers, which is hosted by my boss, Maria Hinojosa, she went, visited, and these people are very, very hungry for representation. As a native Washingtonian, I can tell you everybody in that city is hungry for representation. And I don’t—I do wonder why that hasn’t come up at all anywhere in the national media.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, let’s go to Texas, where Lieutenant Governor Greg Abbott has been declared the winner in the governor’s race over Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis. The margin was so big that the race was called before the state’s polls full closed. We’re joined by Forrest Wilder, associate editor at The Texas Observer. Welcome to Democracy Now!
FORREST WILDER: Great to be here.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Tell us about the race and the huge margin, apparently, against Wendy Davis.
FORREST WILDER: Well, they’re still counting the votes, but the Associated Press and, I think, anybody who’s looked at the returns that have come in so far do recognize that Greg Abbott, the Republican, has won the race. The Associated Press has called all of the statewide races for the Republicans. Right now, we’re looking at margins of, you know, 16 to 18 points. So, I think it was a lot of heavy lifting for Wendy, certainly, to win, to keep it close, but I think this could probably safely be called, at this point, a sweep or a blowout for the Republicans. They did better than they did in 2010, for example, which is generally considered a tea party wave year. So, there’s going to be a lot of—there’s going to be a lot of questions about what went wrong and whether Texas is really quite at the purple state phase that some people predicted.
AMY GOODMAN: In fact, it looks like the Democrats are also trailing in the race for Wendy Davis’s old seat, as she goes for governor.
FORREST WILDER: And that’s a critical seat, because the Democrats, of course, are a minority in the Senate. And that is Wendy Davis’s old seat, so she had to—she couldn’t run for two races at the same time, so she opted to run for governor. And the Democrat is running in what is now a more Republican district because of redistricting. I don’t believe that race has been called. There are still votes that are being tabulated. It’s certainly much closer than statewide margins. It’s possible that the Democrats could hold onto it. But one thing we know for sure is that the lieutenant governor, who presides over the Senate, is going to be a man named Dan Patrick, who is a former talk radio show host out of Houston who, when he was elected in 2006, was considered extreme even by the Texas Senate standards by his own Republican colleagues. And so, now he will be in what’s arguably a more powerful position than even the governor of the state of Texas, presiding over the Texas Senate.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to bring in also another guest, Imara Jones, the host of Caffeine TV, daily video news brief, and also a contributor to ColorLines.com. You wrote a piece recently saying, “Economic Justice Will Make or Break Today’s Elections.” Can you talk about what your main thesis was there?
IMARA JONES: Well, so far it’s breaking them. I mean, the essential point is that in every single way, economic justice is on the ballot across the country. And we see it showing up in three major ways. I mean, first of all, in terms of voter participation, there’s a lot of talk about apathy, but apathy is an act of choice. The decision not to vote is an act of choice. And given the economic situation and the lack of progress and economic fairness, the decision not to vote is not a surprising one. It’s not one that should shock us at all. So that’s one of the first big ways, is that people aren’t showing up, and particularly those communities that are hardest hit by the economy. Arican Americans, single women and young people under 30 are those that have dropped out, and those are the ones that are most negatively impacted by the economy. They don’t have a choice. It was sort of along the lines of what Ralph Nader was talking about before.
The second way is another way in which we’ve been talking about here tonight, which is literally on the ballot in terms of these minimum wage initiatives. And what’s interesting about those is that Republicans aren’t even putting up a fight on those. Those are ones that the Club for Growth and other right-wing organizations have decided to take a pass on this year, because they have such overwhelming grassroots support because of the state of the economy.
And the third way that it’s showing up is in the way that individual senators are using it. And so, what’s interesting is that one of the ways in which Kay Hagan is competitive tonight is because of economic justice. And the same is true in Georgia, where Moral Mondays, that energy of progressive movements that is keeping Kay Hagan competitive in North Carolina, has been replicated, and there’s a chance of picking up a Senate seat there. And the same is true for Scott Walker: One of the reasons why he’s in trouble is that same energy. So, there is a roadmap here tonight for progressives. This is not necessarily to be despondent about. If we can do well in red states, that’s a good sign. But the lack of an overall coherent economic message that speaks to people is one of the reasons why we have the results that we have tonight.
AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, apathy shouldn’t be confused with people who are trying to vote, but don’t end up being—they can’t vote because, for example, they don’t have the proper photo ID in Texas.
IMARA JONES: Well, and what’s interesting is that the voter suppression efforts are the strongest in those—in some of these states that we’re talking about, where we’ve had a progressive sort of energy from the grassroots. So, Georgia and North Carolina and other places where voter suppression is intense is because they see that there is progressive energy on the ground that can make a difference.
AMY GOODMAN: Going back to Texas, I wanted to ask about the issue of just what Greg Abbott represents, and talking—sort of following the lines of what Imara Jones is talking about when it comes to, for example, economic equity, those kinds of issues, Greg Abbott versus Wendy Davis, what the race was actually about. We’re just not covering the horse race here; we’re covering what these people actually represent. Forrest?
FORREST WILDER: Well, I think Greg Abbott, in many respects, is a pretty standard-issue Texas Republican, which is to say that he’s very conservative but has been tacking to the right because of the tea party movement and because, frankly, there’s not much in the way of an opposition party here. The joke is that we’ve got two parties: We’ve got the Republican Party, and we’ve got the tea party. As attorney general, I think Greg Abbott was very aggressive. And basically, he said on the campaign trail, “My job is I go into the office, I sue Barack Obama, and I go home.” And it’s kind of a glib way of putting it, but in fact that is a lot of what consumed his time in office, was fighting the EPA through lawsuits, you know, protect—trying to fight for the upholding of the voter ID law, which, by the way, is the strictest in the nation and was in effect for this election, and a whole host of issues that came up on the campaign trail—for example, like fighting for lists of chemicals that were held at industrial sites in Texas not to be released to the public. I do think there is a question about just how far to the right he will govern as governor. In some respects, I don’t think that—I believe he’s very partisan. I believe he’s very conservative. But as governor, I don’t know that we know exactly how he may end up in terms of his positioning on the ideological scale.
AMY GOODMAN: Imara Jones?
IMARA JONES: And that ratio is what we’ve also been talking about, which is that the Republicans show up, don’t have as big of a drop-off, because they have a consistent message in terms of what they’re about. I mean, they have—we have a conservative candidate who has a pretty standard line on economics from that particular party’s standpoint. But there’s a lot of inconsistency on the Democratic Party part in terms of what their economic message is in these off-year elections, and so there’s not a motivating force on the number one issue to voters to get people to the polls.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask Forrest Wilder a question about the redistricting in Texas, not just over the last—since the last census, but now over several 10-year intervals, because Texas has a huge Latino population—I think it’s about, what, 35 percent—and substantial African-American population, yet that population is not being felt as much at the polls because of decisions that were made decades ago by African-American and Latino politicians to push for heavily concentrated minority districts, but what that did, in effect, was allow the Republicans who redistrict to pack certain congressional districts heavily with minorities, and therefore strengthen their power in nonminority districts. So, whether this strategy, in effect, has backfired to allow many more conservatives to get elected to Congress?
FORREST WILDER: Well, I mean, you know, we have one competitive congressional district this cycle, and, you know, out of 30-something, second largest state in the country. But we have a 150-member Texas House of Representatives, our lower chamber of the state legislative body. There are just a handful of competitive elections there. So, basically, you know, we have a situation in which we have what you’re talking about, which is gerrymandering, which is packed districts. And we have a situation in which, basically, although we have explosive growths in the Latino population, we have a large immigrant population in our cities, we have a very dynamic and changing state—and that’s where this purple Texas, blue Texas kind of thing has come from—but we have not felt its effects, for many reasons. And I think one of them is that we—the dynamism that’s playing out at the grassroots level is not reflected in our electoral politics. People don’t vote. We’ve got gerrymandering. And frankly, we have a very weak opposition party in the state. Democratic Party is just not strong. The result is that we don’t have a political system that reflects the diversity of our state.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Greg Abbott, as governor, will be the first governor in a wheelchair, and that was an interesting issue that was raised in the campaign by a very controversial ad that Wendy Davis put forward. Can you address that issue, Forrest Wilder?
FORREST WILDER: Right, yes, Greg Abbott is—he’s in a wheelchair. He, very early on, made it a coin of focus for his campaign, as part of his personal story. It was actually pretty compelling. He cut some really great ads basically talking about, you know, how he rose above this tragedy that befell him when he was in his twenties in law school. He was jogging, and a tree in Houston fell on him and left him paralyzed, and so he has had to use a wheelchair.
The controversy centered on whether or not Wendy Davis had unfairly brought that to attention in an ad that she cut. The issue was one, I think, essentially, of hypocrisy. You know, he got a very large settlement from when the tree hit him, but has been a big-time tort reformer, somebody who wants to limit damages paid out in lawsuits, lawsuits similar to the ones in which he gained financially. So that was the issue. I’m not sure it was a very big factor in the race, despite the media attention on it. I certainly don’t think Greg Abbott’s disability probably hurt him. There were legitimate questions raised about how his personal experience related to his positions on tort reform and on the Americans with Disabilities Act and that sort of thing, though.
AMY GOODMAN: Actually, FDR was in a wheelchair also as governor of New York before he was—before he was president.
FORREST WILDER: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Forrest Wilder, this issue of voter registration, and, you know, in Texas, you can use a gun permit as your ID, but you can’t use your college ID, a student ID?
FORREST WILDER: Right, very telling what particular IDs there they’re allowing to be used. The Texas law is very strict. There’s seven different forms of ID. And as you pointed out, a concealed handgun license is one of the allowed forms of ID, but a student ID is not, where that is allowed in other states. There were less than 400 of the photo IDs that were created specifically for people who did not have the other forms of photo ID, that were issued in the state of Texas in the last year and a half. That’s 400—four-zero-zero—in a state of something like 25 or 26 million people. There are more—five times or six times more licensed auctioneers in the state of Texas than there are people with that photo ID issued so that folks can vote at the polls.
And we heard a number of stories about people struggling with the law, the hassle they had to go to to try to get a photo ID so that they could vote. I think the question is: Did this dampen turnout for, frankly, Democratic-leaning voters? The Republican state officials that ran the numbers, back when this was being litigated in the courts, said there were at least 500,000 people in the state of Texas who were registered to vote and did not have an approved form of photo ID. So how many of those people did not or could not vote because of the onerous nature of this law?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Imara Jones, I wanted to ask you about this whole issue of the Republicans trying to nationalize the elections by making it a referendum on Barack Obama rather than a vote on the individual senators, congressmen and governors of these individual states. Your sense of how well that has played across the country?
IMARA JONES: What they’ve done really well is to fuse dissatisfaction with Barack Obama with dissatisfaction with where the country is as a whole. They’ve melded those two things together. I mean, it’s interesting how they’ve retreated from supposedly Obamacare, which is his signature achievement, which they were going to use as a wedge issue. But as it’s worked, that hasn’t worked so well. But generally, they’ve kind of said, “If you don’t like where the country is headed and if you don’t feel right in your life, it’s Barack Obama’s fault.” And they’ve done a really good job of nationalizing the election in that way. I mean, in elections, you use what you have, and that’s what they have. And there hasn’t been a strong enough reply on the other side. And it will be a lot of second guessing if the Democrats lack a pushback or a coherent message on economics as one of the things that will have cost them the election tonight.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined right now by Senator Bernie Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont, speaking to us from Vermont. As the results come in around the country, Senator Sanders, your response to the possibility, the probability, that your Senate, that the Senate, will become Republican?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I probably know less than you do. I know that it appears that Jeanne Shaheen has carried New Hampshire, is what I understand. And there are a bunch of other tough races out there, so I don’t know that we have a final determination yet. But what I do know is that if in fact the Republicans carry the Senate and control the Congress, as they may, I think it will be a disaster for the middle-class and working families of this country. And we’re just going to have to figure out how we can fight back as effectively as we can.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what do you see as the options for—in case that does turn out to be the result tonight, what do you see the options in terms of how President Obama can move forward any kind of a Democratic or progressive agenda in the remaining two years?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I think it’s quite far-fetched to believe that he can move forward a progressive agenda. I think the immediate effort will be to stop to have more tax breaks for the wealthy and large corporations, which the Republicans will certainly bring forward. I think under the guise of, quote-unquote, “entitlement reform,” they will be making efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare. They’ll go after Medicaid. They’ll go after education. They’ll go after nutrition. They’ll probably want to increase funding for the military. And my guess is, with all of the money from the Koch brothers coming in and the other fossil fuel industries, they’ll continue to ignore scientific evidence about climate change. So, I think we’re going to be more of a defensive mode trying to prevent bad things than having illusions at this point about doing good things.
AMY GOODMAN: Senator Sanders, your state has struggled with your Obamacare website. It has caused a very major issue particularly in Vermont, because of the quest by Governor Shumlin and many others to make Vermont the first single-payer state. Can you talk about the significance of this and what it will mean?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, it’s obviously a negative. I mean, I am a strong advocate of a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system. I think if you want to provide quality care to all people in a cost-effective way, that is the approach you have got to go. Clearly, it is not a good thing for a state government, or in fact federal government, not to be able to run a website which is accountable and works well for people. So, that’s a negative. But I hope very much that despite that, we’ll go forward and be the first state in the country to pass a single payer.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, one argument that even Governor Shumlin has used is that, you know, Obamacare is complicated—
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —and that that is not the ultimate answer. And this, the downing of your website, proves this.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Look, what you need—the American healthcare system is enormously complicated. And when you have a system that is complicated, it becomes very, very expensive, and we end up spending approximately 30 percent of every healthcare dollar in the administration and profiteering and everything else. Clearly, in my view, and I think the view of a whole lot of Americans, healthcare should be a right. We should fund it through public funding in a progressive way, and people should be able to go to the doctor they want in the hospital they want. And it turns out that in our country we spend—and people don’t understand this—we spend almost twice as much per person on healthcare as do the people of any other nation, precisely because it is a complicated, bureaucratic, confusing and profit-oriented system.
AMY GOODMAN: For the few stations that have to cut away, this is your moment. This is Democracy Now! We’re talking to Senator Bernie Sanders, and he only has a couple of minutes with us. He’s speaking to us from Vermont. Senator Sanders, the issue of the minimum wage, in all the states that it is being introduced, the ballot initiative being voted on in Alaska, in Arkansas, in Nebraska, in South Dakota, even if they’re Republican states, it is overwhelmingly, two, three to one, being voted for. What message does this send to your Democratic colleagues?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, Amy, that’s an excellent point, and it’s a very important point. And it’s not just the minimum wage. On economic issues, whether it’s raising the minimum wage, whether it’s pay equity for women workers, whether it’s investing in rebuilding our infrastructure and creating millions of decent-paying jobs, whether it is making college education affordable and ending this burden of student indebtedness that so many young people have, guess what. The vast majority of the people want change.
But what I think the Republicans have done, with the support of the media, is allow—is prevent us from focusing on those issues. And what the Republicans have done is made this a referendum, is: Are you satisfied with the economy? Well, you know what? Most people, including myself, are not satisfied with the economy today. But what they have done is had us forget where we were six years ago, and also had no discussion—you tell me what you’ve heard about Republican plans for the future on economic issues. Do you think the American people want more tax breaks for the rich and large corporations or cuts in Social Security and Medicare? Of course they don’t. Do you think the Republicans talked about that one bit? Absolutely not. But let me tell you something. If they win control of the Senate, that’s exactly what they will be talking about.
Last point I will make before I have to get off is, what frightens me very much is what Citizens United has done to the politics of this country and the ability of billionaires like the Koch brothers and others to put unprecedented sums of money into elections. And it frightens me very much, because I fear that we may be on the verge of becoming an oligarchic form of society where a handful of billionaires control not just the economy, but the political life of this country. And that’s just something we’re going to have to wrestle with.
AMY GOODMAN: Senator Sanders, of course, the last question is: Are you running for president?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, we’ve got some time to worry about that. But, you know, I think, as I’ve said many, many times, I’m going around the country. I’m trying to ascertain whether there is support for the kind of very, very difficult grassroots movement that in fact can take on the Koch brothers and Wall Street and the private insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry. That’s not an easy task. So I’m just trying to determine what kind of support there is for that, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Senator Sanders, we thank you for being with us, Senator Sanders speaking to us from his home state of Vermont. Senator Sanders is an Independent, and although we haven’t gotten word yet on the Independents who are running throughout the country, he may have a larger caucus of Independents in the U.S. Senate soon.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. The special midterm 2014 coverage continues until midnight Eastern Standard Time. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we turn now to another guest who has joined us in studio, really following up on what Senator Sanders was talking about, and it is the issue of these minimum wage bills, a person who has been studying this extensively. Sarah Jaffe is with us, an independent journalist and co-host of Dissent Magazine's Belabored podcast. So, it's great to have you with us, Sarah, on this night that we’re interrupting with news of results all over the country.
SARAH JAFFE: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: But Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota—talk about these initiatives, how they got on the ballot, how it is they’re mainly in Republican states and getting overwhelming support.
SARAH JAFFE: Yeah, yeah. I mean, yeah, I just saw that Arkansas, which just, you know, unelected a, well, quasi-Democrat, Mark Pryor, and elected a guy named Tom Cotton, voted something like 66 percent for a minimum wage increase. It’s not a huge minimum wage increase—it’s about $8.50 an hour—but it is nonetheless an increase in the minimum wage, something that the state Legislature in Arkansas would pretty much do over its dead body. So, we’re seeing this in, as you said, these, you know, supposedly very red states. And somebody on my Twitter feed was just making the comment that did Mark Pryor a whole lot of good to oppose that minimum wage increase in the Senate, right, because his state is in favor of it even when it’s electing Republicans. So…
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And we’ve had, here in New York state, a pretty high-profile battle between the Democratic governor—
SARAH JAFFE: Right on.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —and the Working Families Party over this issue of the minimum wage.
SARAH JAFFE: Yeah.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: He made a concession that he would support not only an increase in the minimum wage, if he gets re-elected and got their support, but also allow New York City and other cities to have it higher than the state minimum.
SARAH JAFFE: Yeah.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Your response to how that’s been playing out here?
SARAH JAFFE: Well, I mean, so far, he hasn’t kept many of those promises that he’s made on the campaign trail, so I won’t hold my breath on that one. But I think all of this shows the power of these low-wage workers’ movements that we’ve been seeing around the country for the last couple of years. We’ve seen workers going on strike in very red states, in very, you know, Republican-controlled cities, calling for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. And now that’s the law in—or going to be the law in Seattle. It may well become law in San Francisco after tonight. Oakland might go to $12.25 an hour. We’re seeing Alaska’s minimum wage ordinance would permanently index their minimum wage to a dollar higher than the federal minimum wage. So we’re really seeing this claim for—this demand for higher wages resonating among people in places that we don’t normally think of as—
AMY GOODMAN: San Francisco would be $18 an hour?
SARAH JAFFE: It would be $15 an hour.
AMY GOODMAN: Fifteen dollars in 2018?
SARAH JAFFE: Yes, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, what lesson do you think Democrats should learn?
SARAH JAFFE: They should talk about wages a little bit more. I mean, I have to echo the point that Imara Jones was making a few minutes ago and in his wonderful piece today that everyone should read, that if we don’t talk about these issues, people stay home. People have been staying home. You know, there was talk that a paid sick days initiative in Massachusetts—I don’t know if we’ve had results from Massachusetts yet—might be actually the thing that helps Martha Coakley win an election that she shouldn’t really be losing in Massachusetts. She’s the Democratic nominee for governor of that state. And because paid sick days are on the ballot, they’re hoping that actually brings out voters, who aren’t actually very enthusiastic about lukewarm Democratic candidates.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Governor Cuomo was re-elected as governor of New York. But I wanted to turn to one of the men who challenged him, and it was Howie Hawkins. Juan, you were one of the three journalists who questioned them in their only televised debate. Howie Hawkins of the Green Party, who ran for New York governor, he described his platform.
HOWIE HAWKINS: Well, we call it a Green New Deal for New York. It involves five basic economic human rights that have been on the table since the mid-1930s—the Committee for Economic Security with Frances Perkins as chair, Roosevelt’s 1944 State of the Union address calling for a second economic bill of rights. The civil rights movement brought it up again between the March on Washington, in 1963, for Jobs and Freedom and the Poor People’s Campaign. And these are the rights to a useful job, a living wage, affordable housing, healthcare and a good education.
And then we call it the Green New Deal because the centerpiece of our program is to fight climate change by banning fracking and committing to 100 percent clean energy by 2030. And we think that addresses the problems we face in this state. We’re the most—we have the state with the most unequal distribution of income of any state in the United States. We have the most segregation by both race and class in housing and schools. And none of the two major-party candidates are addressing these issues, and we think we have a program that does.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, and we don’t have the final vote count, but he, Howie Hawkins, is expected to get one of the biggest turnouts in modern New York history as a third-party candidate.
SARAH JAFFE: Yeah, and, you know, he makes the point right there at the end of that line, which is that the major parties are not talking about these issues, that Andrew Cuomo has waffled on fracking, which is a huge issue for upstate voters. Andrew Cuomo has waffled on allowing the minimum wage to increase. He finally let through a tiny minimum wage increase after years of pressure. So, yeah, he has a point.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to a music break. Top of the hour, we’re going to summarize all the results that are in, in our Democracy Now! midterm election 2014 special coverage.
[end of hour three]
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!'s midterm election 2014 special coverage. We're with you until midnight tonight. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Polls are closed in all but a handful of Western states. Republicans are now three seats away from taking control of the U.S. Senate. Projections show Republican candidates capturing seats formerly held by Democrats in Arkansas, in West Virginia and South Dakota. In Arkansas, Democratic Senator Mark Pryor appears to have lost his seat to Republican Congressmember Tom Cotton. Republican Congressmember Shelley Moore Capito has become the first woman elected to serve West Virginia in the Senate. And former Governor Mike Rounds has easily taken the Senate seat in South Dakota.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Louisiana’s tight Senate race appears poised to head to a runoff on December 6th. Democratic incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu is facing two Republican challengers, Congressmember Bill Cassidy and Bob Maness. Georgia’s state Senate race could also head to a runoff in January. In another closely watched Senate race, the North Carolina Board of Elections shows Republican Thom Tillis, the speaker of the state House, is leading over incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan, 49 percent to 47 percent. As expected, Republicans appear poised to keep control of the U.S. House of Representatives. In North Carolina, Democrat and former American Idol contestant Clay Aiken has lost to incumbent Republican Representative Renee Ellmers.
AMY GOODMAN: And in the races for governor in Texas, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott has been projected the winner of the governor’s race, defeating Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis. Davis became famous last summer when she staged a marathon filibuster, taking to her feet for 11 hours to oppose sweeping anti-choice law, which later passed and shut down many abortion clinics.
In a projected victory for abortion rights, a personhood amendment on Colorado’s ballot, defining life as beginning at conception, appears to have failed.
In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder appears to have defeated former Congressmember Mark Schauer to win the governorship.
And this just in: Congress has reportedly reached 100 women for the first time in history. North Carolina state Representative Alma Adams was victorious in her special election bid for the vacant 12th Congressional District seat, becoming the 100th woman in Congress.
Well, our guests right now in studio are Imara Jones—Imara Jones is the host of Caffeine TV, a daily video news brief and economic justice contributor for ColorLines.com. Imara served in the Clinton White House, where he worked on international trade policy, and recently wrote a piece called “Economic Justice Will Make or Break Today’s Elections.”
And we’re joined by Sarah Jaffe. Sarah Jaffe is an independent journalist, co-host of Dissent Magazine’s Belabored podcast.
And A.C. Valdez is still with us, with Latino USA.
So this issue of women, 100 women in Congress. Sarah?
SARAH JAFFE: That’s kind of depressing. I did not realize that we were about to hit that historic milestone. I, you know, wish the news was better coming out of Texas, if we were going to have an historic year of the woman at this moment, but it does remind me of all of these conversations about the Republican war on women. Too bad, yeah, it seems like a lot of these women taking these congressional seats are now going to be Republican women who will probably vote against things like abortion rights. So, we’ll see.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we’ve got—Lee Fang is a reporting fellow with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, and he also blogs for the institute. Lee, welcome back to Democracy Now! You have written about money in politics at the Republic Report. Can you talk about money in politics in this race?
LEE FANG: Sure. As we discussed a little bit earlier today on this program, the 2014 midterm elections are shaping up to be the darkest election in terms of secrecy of donors in American history and midterm history. A number of special interest groups have hidden behind 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) shell nonprofit corporations. They do not have to disclose their donors. And they’ve flooded key Senate and House races with money. A lot of this money goes into television advertising, but it’s also gone into get-out-of-the-vote efforts and to organizing efforts. And we’re seeing the fruition of this spending spree today, with many of the races where dark money has played a pivotal role moving towards the Republican column. The Sunlight Foundation did an analysis of dark money in this election and found that Republicans benefited from dark money groups about three times as much as—Republicans benefited about three times as much as Democrats in this election. Again, we won’t know the donors of the major groups in this election, so we don’t really know who’s paying for the new politicians coming into office next year.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And some of the reports show that a lot of this money has come in the last few weeks of the campaign.
LEE FANG: That’s right. You know, we’re going to be putting up a blog post tomorrow at The Nation trying to break this down, because we won’t know the exact figures until well after the election. The Federal Election Commission has been slow to process some of this data. And we won’t know, of course, the identities of many of these donor groups spending these bucks.
However, we do know some of—we do know the board members and some of the leaders to these dark money organizations. And unfortunately, these groups do not post a policy agenda on their websites, but if you look at what these board members and leaders do in their day jobs, it gives you a good idea of what kind of policy priorities they have. So, for example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a lobbying group that’s one of the largest dark money groups—they’re very focused on slowing down the Obama administration regulatory agenda—that’s blocking financial reforms, blocking reforms on for-corporate colleges, blocking environmental rules coming out of the Environmental Protection Agency. Another large Republican dark money group is the American Action Network. That group is led by former Senator Norm Coleman, who earlier this year was signed up as a lobbyist for the Saudi Arabian government to influence matters before Congress and Middle East foreign policy issues. That group is also led by Vin Weber, a lobbyist for a number of banking interests. Another large Republican dark money group is called Crossroads GPS. That’s led by Steven Law, a former general counsel to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and several other lobbyists. Sally Vastola, one of the leaders of Crossroads GPS, is a lobbyist for Goldman Sachs and the student loan company Sallie Mae. So, again, these groups do not disclose a penny of their donors. But if you look at the policy agenda of their leaders, it gives you a good picture of what kind of pressure is going to be on Congress in terms of the policy agenda next year.
AMY GOODMAN: A.C. Valdez, we spoke a bit about the major Latino voting bloc throughout the United States. There are races that are still too close to call right now. In Georgia, David Perdue versus Michelle Nunn. Major Latino voting blocs there with more than 9 percent of Georgia population identifying themselves as Hispanic or Latino. The Senate race between the former nonprofit executive, Michelle Nunn, and the American businessman David Perdue—I believe among his jobs was CEO of Reebok for a number of years, the Republican—is now more influenced by Hispanics than ever before. That’s Georgia. Also Colorado, which is also still close to call, though at this point it looks like Cory Gardner is a few percentage points above Senator Mark Udall, the incumbent—the Latino vote, the Hispanic vote, also very significant. In fact, did—in one of the races, there was a Spanish debate on Univision, is that right?
A.C. VALDEZ: And I believe that was the Colorado governor’s race, unless I’m mistaken. You know, I think the interesting thing that’s kind of been a little bit on the backburner, that we did bring up earlier on the program, although it may have an hour and a half ago, was the notion that immigration is at the forefront of the Latino vote. But as your other guests have been saying, you know, economics is really not far behind for anybody. People are really concerned about jobs. And frankly, where Latinos are most concerned, and what’s preventing a lot of people from voting, is you work two, three, four minimum wage jobs, you don’t have time to vote. This is one of the key things that’s behind low Latino voter turnout.
Now, the interesting thing that we found on Latino USA when talking with some of the pollsters is that, really, when you control for socioeconomic factors—things like time, things like money, things like simple ability to get places, transportation—Latinos actually outperform white voters of the same socioeconomic class, especially at the lower end of the scale. And so, it depends, I guess, on how those factors play out in places like Colorado and Georgia, where, you know, frankly, you do need a car to get around, and you may be working three jobs in order to make it in a place like Denver, which is not the most expensive city in the country, but it ain’t cheap.
AMY GOODMAN: By the way, I think that debate in Spanish was the congressional race between Romanoff and Coffman.
A.C. VALDEZ: Ah, thank you.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, right now, it’s looking, if things continue the way they are, that both Louisiana and North Carolina end up with no candidate getting 50 percent of the vote and going to a runoff. And since we’re not going to be hearing about Alaska until sometime tomorrow, there’s no way that we’re going to know tonight who’s going to have control of the Senate, although I think it’s—unless Republicans run all these races. But the remaining races that are still out there in the battleground states, like Georgia and Iowa and Colorado, we’re going to be waiting at least until tomorrow or a month or two months before we know the final of what happens with the Senate.
IMARA JONES: And the dark money’s going to flood in even more, right, in those races, in those final—
SARAH JAFFE: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Oh, no. Then Louisiana and North Carolina are going to be—
IMARA JONES: —in those final runoffs in those states. And, I mean, as one of—you know, we were just talking about the fact is that as the money has flooded in, it’s actually suppressed voters, right? Because one of the reasons is that these—the forces behind the dark money are those that are not necessarily for economic progressive issues. And that’s one of the things that scared Democrats from talking about it, because they knew that there was going to be this onslaught that they weren’t prepared for and didn’t know where it was coming from. And it’s played out that way.
SARAH JAFFE: And yet it didn’t work for them at all, as we saw in Arkansas, right?
IMARA JONES: That’s right. They’re not talking about it. It didn’t work for it.
SARAH JAFFE: It does not work at all for them to pretend that these issues aren’t going to happen, because the big money is going to flow to the furthest right, the people who are going to be the most business-friendly in office. And it’s not going to end up in the pockets of Mark Pryor, even though Mark Pryor has voted in lockstep with what Wal-Mart wants. It’s going to end up in the pockets of his opponent, and he’s going to lose, because the people in Arkansas are looking for somebody to say, “Hey, we are going to raise your wages.”
I mean, I was just in Maine for a story, and then I was just in upstate New York the other day. And listening to local election ads, the fascinating thing is that it’s the Republicans who are hitting Democratic candidates for being millionaires, for cutting Medicare. And we know what they are going to do when they get into office. But it’s astounding when you listen to the ads. They’re all running left. They’re all running on economic justice issues, even though we know they have absolutely no intention of enacting it when they get into office.
IMARA JONES: And Democrats are running on wedge issues.
SARAH JAFFE: Right.
IMARA JONES: So, it’s the flip of the traditional—
SARAH JAFFE: Yeah.
IMARA JONES: —Democratic-Republican campaigns that we’ve thought of for years. They’ve flipped. Democrats are running on wedge issues, or supposedly wedge issues.
SARAH JAFFE: Right.
IMARA JONES: And Republicans are running on economics.
AMY GOODMAN: By the way, The New York Times is reporting that Arkansas voters did approve the minimum wage increase.
IMARA JONES: That’s also a state where the Medicaid expansion—
SARAH JAFFE: There, yes.
IMARA JONES: —was forced by the people in Arkansas, to the resistance of the Legislature that’s Republican and all the rest of it. And so, if they had had a champion in Mark Pryor—
SARAH JAFFE: Yeah, yeah.
IMARA JONES: —it could have been an opportunity.
SARAH JAFFE: Yeah. I mean, I was—the reason I was in Maine was for a story on the Medicaid expansion and how that’s playing in that governor’s race there, where 70,000 people in Maine would have healthcare if Paul LePage had not vetoed five separate bills from the state Legislature that would have accepted the Medicaid money. Over and over and over again, he kept rejecting it. And I don’t think we have results from Maine yet. There is an Independent in that race, so it’s a little bit confusing. Both the Independent and the Democrat will happily take the Medicaid money. And yeah, we saw that, and we saw that in Ohio, where John Kasich is re-elected. John Kasich embraced the Medicaid expansion. He has campaigned on embracing the Medicaid expansion. He has called it a moral issue. And he won.
AMY GOODMAN: Patrick Willard, you write, Sarah Jaffe, field director of Families USA, a nonprofit that works on healthcare policy, notes there are Republican governors who did accept—
SARAH JAFFE: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —the Medicaid expansion and are touting that fact on the campaign trail. And you particularly talk about Ohio’s John Kasich—
SARAH JAFFE: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —who has just won re-election—
SARAH JAFFE: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —as well as Michigan’s Rick Snyder.
SARAH JAFFE: Yeah, John Kasich, who is certainly no friend of the working class, who tried to have the same kind of anti-union bill that Scott Walker did, and the people in Ohio managed to overturn that with a people’s referendum. But what we’re seeing is that these issues actually mean something to people. The Medicaid expansion is by far the most popular part of the Affordable Care Act. It is deeply meaningful to people to be able to access healthcare. And that doesn’t end up becoming a red or blue issue.
I talked to a bunch of people who are organizing around the Healthcare is a Human Right framework in Maine, the same way that they won the single-payer plan in Vermont that’s still going forward. And yeah, they’re saying, you know—we talked to people. We had a guy come up to us in a Paul LePage T-shirt, walk away with a Healthcare is a Human Right flier, that when you talk to people about their pocketbook, when you talk to people about their healthcare, they don’t get mired down in red or blue. They want to talk about what’s going on in their lives.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we’re also joined by Thomas Frank, who’s a columnist for Harper’s magazine and author of several books, including What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. He joins us from Kansas. Welcome to Democracy Now! You’ve got an interesting race in your state.
AMY GOODMAN: Still too close to call.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Pat Roberts, the Republican, is in danger to Greg Orman, the Independent. Can you talk about what that race looks like and what’s at stake there?
THOMAS FRANK: Yeah, I can. Kansas is—it’s actually very interesting what’s happening here now, although I haven’t—you know, I’ve been away from a TV set for the last 20 minutes, so I don’t know where things stand. But both Pat Roberts and the Republican governor here, Sam Brownback, were behind in the polls. Kansas is, for once, going the opposite direction as the rest of the country. Both Roberts, the senator, and Brownback, the governor, were deeply unpopular, for reasons that have, you know, little to do—well, something to do with the national political scene, but Roberts because it turned out he didn’t live in Kansas. And Brownback—actually, it was kind of interesting what you were saying earlier about the Medicaid expansion. Brownback went the other way: He privatized Medicaid in Kansas. And, yes, it is deeply unpopular. He not only did that, he managed this blow this enormous hole in the state budget with income tax cuts. And it’s frightened a lot of people here, as they see school closings looming on the horizon, you know, and basically state services falling apart, which will certainly happen if he’s able to go forward with his plans.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, just talk about Orman for a moment, the Independent. The big question is: Who would he caucus with if he did win, if he did defeat Pat Roberts?
THOMAS FRANK: OK. Now, you know—
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what—
THOMAS FRANK: You know, he said that he would caucus with whichever party had the majority. He’s said that. But at the same time—now, I didn’t ask him that when I interviewed him, because that’s obviously what—you know, he said that a hundred times. But what I did ask him about, the guy seems very much like a Democrat to me. For example, he’s pro-choice. And he’s not, like—you know, he’s not sorry about it, and he doesn’t try to hide it. And that’s pretty brave and pretty unusual in Kansas these days. It used to be, you know, a lot more common, but the sort of—the anti-abortion people have been really powerful in Kansas for quite a while. And so, he’s there. A bunch of issues, other issues I talked to him about that are sort of my sort of stupid Tom Frank pet issues, you know, like monopoly and antitrust and too big to jail and this kind of thing, and he had very good answers on all of these things. I was pleasantly surprised when I spoke to him.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what about Paul Davis, the Democratic opponent to Brownback?
THOMAS FRANK: Well, there, you’ve got a similar kind of thing. He is, if he—I mean, he’s got very good shot at winning. I sort of expect that he will win, and it’s mainly because there’s such enormous public revulsion against Brownback. And what’s remarkable about that is because Brownback was a hero not too long ago in this state. He was a beloved figure. He was a kind of—he was a national figure, too, you remember, a leader in the culture wars, you know, this very kind of a warrior against sin. You know, that kind of thing. And he comes back here and becomes governor of Kansas and immediately, you know, makes all these sort of grand sweeping changes to the way taxes are collected and, you know, the way government works in Kansas, but very just massively unpopular. And so, he’s managed to go from being this beloved figure to being hated, let’s just say it, like almost—you know, in just four years. And, you know, that’s remarkable. Now, Paul Davis has said very little about what he will do. He has basically kept his mouth shut, which is kind of a winning strategy for him this time around.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about your very well-known throughout the country secretary of state, Kris Kobach.
THOMAS FRANK: Kris Kobach—I know Kris Kobach from high school.
AMY GOODMAN: Very significant when it comes to issues of voter suppression, as well as issues of immigration.
THOMAS FRANK: Yeah. So, yes, and he and I go back. I knew him in high school, which is—I mean, it’s a small state. That sort of thing is—you know, that sort of thing happens. And yeah, he has written these voter ID laws all over the country. What is the—he’s also written a bunch of immigrant laws, of laws about—God, and I’m sorry, I’m drawing a blank right now what he’s done. But he does consulting work for all these other states and helps them write these statutes. And in Kansas, he wrote one of the most onerous voter ID laws in the country. You have to prove citizenship. You know, you have to have a passport or a birth certificate or something like that, which—if you’re a new voter, that is, not if you’re already registered or something like that. But, you know, you can imagine how difficult that is if you are—you know, if you want to register to vote here. And it turns out there’s—all the papers here have been reporting on this. There’s like 23,000 people who tried to register in Kansas, but who couldn’t, because they couldn’t come up with a birth certificate. And one of the newspapers here did a study of this list of names, and the vast majority of them are college students. So, you know, it’s very interesting that’s the group that—that’s the group that’s going to be left out. And we’ll see what kind of difference that makes. I mean, you’re talking about 20,000 people who thought they could vote today and didn’t get to. And we’ll see if that makes any kind of a difference, but I imagine that in a close race it would make a difference.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And Kobach is also the guy who is credited with coining the term “self-deportation”—
THOMAS FRANK: Oh, that’s right, yes, yes.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —which obviously Mitt Romney made even more famous when he advocated that trend.
THOMAS FRANK: Yes, you’re right. I had forgotten about that chapter of his life, yeah. Yes, he is the one that did that and, you know, has come up with all of these kind of really onerous, you know, statutes all around America. And he is in a tough race, as well. He’s in a—you know, these sorts of things are not universally welcomed here in Kansas. And you can imagine how this sort of thing rubs people the wrong way. And so, he’s got—it’s huge that he’s got an opponent who is a former moderate Republican. She changed to the Democratic Party in order to run against him. But she’s one of the moderate Republican senators that the Republican Party here purged a couple of years back. You wouldn’t believe the kind of stuff that goes on here. It’s quite remarkable. But there’s been this war between the two wings of the Republican Party going on for decades. And frankly, these two—the two Republican factions hate each other much more than any feelings they have about the Democrats. They don’t really care about Democrats, but man, do they go at it with one another.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we have a number of calls right now to make, based on what the other networks are announcing. AP has called Florida for Rick Scott. The Republican governor will remain the Republican governor, if in fact that—when all the votes are counted, that remains true. Also breaking news: Republican contender Cory Gardner has won the election in the U.S. Senate in Colorado, according to AP, defeating the Democratic incumbent, Mark Udall. We’re going to go right now to Colorado, we’ll go to Denver, to Susan Greene, editor of The Colorado Independent, longtime reporter and columnist, formerly with The Denver Post. Susan Greene, this is very significant news. Can you talk about Mark Udall’s defeat and Cory Gardner, the former congressmember’s victory as the next senator from Colorado?
SUSAN GREENE: Yes. The news is fresh in. We just found out from AP. The margin is a bit wider than actually was expected. Ten years ago, Cory Gardner was a staffer in the U.S. Senate for Senator Wayen Allard, and in 10 years he’s propelled himself into the position of Colorado’s junior senator. It was an incredibly intense, incredibly expensive and incredibly vitriolic campaign. One of the main issues in it was this issue of the so-called war on women. Gardner pounced on Udall for ads and messaging about reproductive rights and nicknamed Mark Udall, the incumbent, “Mark Uterus.” And that had traction. It had so much traction that The Denver Post, the paper of record in Colorado, called the Gardner campaign obnoxious and endorsed Gardner essentially because of it.
AMY GOODMAN: We also have other news to report. It looks like the race is being called in Wisconsin right now. ABC News is projecting that Republican Scott Walker has won the governor’s race in Wisconsin, defeating Mary Burke. So, these are very big stories around the country right now. These are the most closely contested races. It’s too close to call still in the governor’s race, Susan, with Bob Beauprez and Governor Hickenlooper?
SUSAN GREENE: Neck and neck. That one is a huge nail biter. What we know is that the returns that are in are mostly from conservative counties, so there’s really—there’s really no telling which way that race will go. The conservative counties have chimed in, but Denver, Boulder, some of the bigger counties in the Denver metro area that are more evenly split, those returns aren’t in, so we really can’t predict that race.
That race has been very interesting, because Governor Hickenlooper has been a wildly popular governor and kind of started having some difficulties this year around fracking and, for the first time in his political career, faced some pickles, because he’s really had a—he’s kind of skated through years as mayor of Denver and couple years as—his first two years, or three years, actually, as governor of Colorado. Things started getting sticky for him around the issue of fracking in Colorado, when he essentially upset the left by supporting fracking in Colorado and hurt his base considerably. And he lost a lot of support among some moderate voters when he granted clemency to a man on death row here.
So, he’s had a real struggle against Bob Beauprez, who has purported to be—he’s a former congressman, spent eight years, since he last ran for governor, as basically a very right-wing pundit, saying things including that the American people would stand in line to have the government put microchips in their bodies, asserting that 47 percent of Americans don’t pay their taxes. He has spent eight years very much on the fringe and is, again, neck and neck with our incumbent governor, as we speak.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And can I ask you something I’ve been asking several of our guests? Given the intensity of the campaign, the amount of money poured in, as you say, the vitriol, what’s been the—what’s the turnout been looking like in Colorado? And also the issue of the large Latino population in the state, what’s your sense of whether their turnout was dampened considerably in this election?
SUSAN GREENE: Actually, we don’t have figures now on turnout for the Latino population. We know they were heavily targeted. We think their numbers are considerably up in the last couple days. We have new election laws here in Colorado, so you can register to vote literally on the day that you vote. And we also have our state’s first general election that’s all mail-in. So, I think what we’ve probably seen is more participation from Latino and minority voters probably in the last 24 to 48 hours than we had earlier in the last couple weeks since the ballots have been coming in.
I just was handed a piece of paper that in the Senate race, we have, I believe—is this final? Or the—we have Gardner at 51 percent and Udall at 44 percent, which is a spread that’s much wider than expected. Juan, I think there was another question that you asked, I probably didn’t answer, so, please.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Oh, no, just the general turnout, the overall turnout, whether it was—it was higher than expected, especially given the intensity of the campaign?
SUSAN GREENE: Absolutely. It’s much higher. Last midterm election, we had about 1.6 million voters. We’re thinking it’s much closer to a sort of general presidential kind of year election at this point. And that’s largely due to a huge influx of organizers from out of state and money from out of state coming to knock on doors. I mean, a million doors knocked. Everybody’s doors have been knocked. Everybody’s phones have been ringing off the hook. Everybody’s mailboxes have been stuffed with mailers from all manner of groups on one side or another of this campaign. And in the end, I think people were at once disgusted by the level of negativity in the ads, but because there were such hot-button issues like the death penalty and personhood and reproductive rights, that definitely prompted some voters out to the polls.
AMY GOODMAN: Just looking at The New York Times talking about the issue of money, $96 million spent in the Colorado race of Mark Udall versus Cory Gardner. They say while many outside groups sent the bulk of their money to North Carolina, Crossroads GPS, a conservative group founded by Karl Rove, focused on Colorado. More than 30 percent of its Senate contributions went to ousting Mr. Udall. Susan Greene, if you could talk about that?
SUSAN GREENE: Yeah, Crossroads GPS has essentially kind of moved into Colorado. Karl Rove has made—produced some very, very sophisticated ads against Udall and some actually very kind of horrifying ads against Mark Udall. But their advertising has been absolutely unrelenting, nonstop, and so has the money. And absolutely, Crossroads has affected this race. There’s no question about it.
AMY GOODMAN: Maybe we could bring Lee Fang into this discussion, Susan, who’s with The Nation, and he’s out in San Francisco. Lee, can you talk about the—can you further elaborate on this money that went into Colorado?
LEE FANG: Sure, Amy. Colorado has been a laboratory for both parties to test out new strategies. In the wake of the 2004 presidential election, Democrats went in with the famous big four donors there, and they created new think tanks, new media-monitoring organizations, new voter turnout models, to push that state, kind of a quintessential swing state, towards the left. And indeed, in the last eight years, Colorado has steadily marched towards the Democratic column. But Republicans, seeing this trend, have been infusing that state with lots of money, building a parallel network of think tanks and grassroots organizing institutes. There’s a large chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the tea party group backed by the billionaires David and Charles Koch. If you look at the 2010 midterm elections, in fact, Cory Gardner was kind of a not very well-known state representative. He was plucked out by this donor network. That race, when he was running for Congress at the time for a seat in the House of Representatives, lots of Republican dark money flooded the district. He won his seat against a freshman Democrat, Betsy Markey. And he’s been groomed to take on Senator Mark Udall.
Mark Udall has failed, in many ways, to really present his own economic and political platform. As we were just discussing, he’s been mocked in the Colorado media and by his Republican opponent as “Mark Uterus” for focusing mostly on women’s issues. But he hasn’t really—he didn’t, in this campaign, stand up for his actually pretty robust record on environmental issues, on pushing renewable energy, on challenging the NSA dragnet surveillance. Instead, he’s focused mostly on women’s issues, while Cory Gardner has benefited from this flood of dark money into Colorado, also really taking control of the debate on energy.
Democrats in Colorado, this cycle, have been incredibly divided on the issue of fracking and natural gas. There was a ballot measure pulled that would have given municipalities in that state control over whether they could actually pass their own municipal bans on fracking. Udall never really found his footing on this issue, even though he’s historically been a leader on renewable energy. In fact, Cory Gardner introduced his own legislation to expedite the export of liquefied natural gas, which right now has to go through several regulatory hurdles. His bill, which passed the House, became a big selling point for Gardner to really take control of that issue and solicit more campaign donations from the natural gas industry, while Udall was always playing catch-up. He, in fact, later introduced his own parallel legislation that mimicked Cory Gardner’s.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Susan Greene, the importance of Udall being ousted, given his high profile over NSA surveillance issues, what this will mean in the Senate?
SUSAN GREENE: That’s a great question. Udall as a senator and Udall’s passion and his ability to articulate himself in committee and on the floor of the Senate, there’s a huge disconnect between that and how he is as a retail politician. He has really been a pioneer in legislation protecting people’s privacy, in speaking out against the NSA. And I think at the beginning of this campaign, there was an assumption that that would resonate across the board, that that’s not really a partisan issue, that that speaks to Independents, it speaks to Republicans, and it speaks to Democrats. I think his record on that just got kind of ignored, because of this reproductive war on women thing, this “Mark Uterus” rap that he got. And really, people just weren’t talking about his record on national security or on surveillance.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to some of the other races, Susan—for example, Mike Coffman versus Andrew Romanoff. But since we have this breaking news out of Florida, if we could break away for a moment to go to Rob Lorei, the news director with WMNF in Florida. He’s in Tampa. Governor Rick Scott, the incumbent, has defeated Charlie Crist, one of the most contentious races in the country. Charlie Crist, who had been the Republican governor, became a Democrat and now has challenged Rick Scott. Can you talk about the significance of this victory for the governor, Rob Lorei?
ROB LOREI: Well, Amy, going into this, I think the Democrats had a modest amount of confidence that they were going to win this. And Governor Scott was so disliked in this state for a variety of reasons. He rejected Medicaid expansion. He rejected money for a high-speed rail train, which was very contentious here in Florida. He did not seem in touch with Florida’s environmental concerns. So there was a lot of anger. His negative—Scott, the Republican, his negative ratings were quite high at the beginning of the campaign.
But what happened was that Scott outspent Charlie Crist, the Republican turned Democrat. Scott outspent him about four to one, maybe a little bit less than that, put some of his own money, somewhere around $12 million of his own money, into the campaign, plus the outside groups were very active, and turned what had been a very negative feeling about Governor Rick Scott into almost a similar negative feeling about Charlie Crist.
And as of right now, Crist has not conceded. The race is very close, about 80,000 votes. That’s about the same margin that the Democratic lost four years ago, a little bit higher. The Democrats had hoped to increase their turnout this time and reach out to Latinos and African Americans, something they didn’t do a good job of four years ago. But I would say that it looks, at least right now, that they were not successful in broadening their base this time and reaching out to people of color. So I think that may be a problem for the Democrats. You know, people of color just stayed home, especially in three Florida counties—Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, all in the southeast part of the state. Had those counties come out strong, they’re heavily Democratic, and no doubt Charlie Crist would have won. The story seems to be that those counties did not come out strong.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And is there any reason that you can see for that? Was Crist just not connecting with minority voters at all?
ROB LOREI: You know, I think Crist, to his credit, spent a lot of time in those three counties and did a lot of outreach. I think—you know, one thing that did not happen, and we know it didn’t happen around most of the country, is that President Obama didn’t come to Florida to campaign. A lot of the voters in those counties are African-American and Latino. And I think—you know, I guess I’m just asking the question. I’m suggesting that perhaps had Charlie Crist shown some connection with President Obama, maybe the outcome would have been different. Maybe the African-American voters would have been fired up. I was at an event a couple weeks ago where Bill Clinton came on a Sunday to campaign with Charlie Crist in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. But the turnout was quite dismal, about somewhere between 300 and 500 people. The African-American community didn’t really have anything, I think, to hang their hat on to say this is the reason why I’m voting for this Democrat. You know, we hear this complaint a lot, that African Americans say that Democrats come around during election time, but don’t really deliver at any other time. In Florida, though, it’s hard to deliver, because the state has been controlled by Republicans going back to the Jeb Bush years about 12 years ago. So, I’d like to look more at the numbers and figure out why the—what appears to be a low turnout among Latinos and African Americans, why it happened. The women certainly came out for Charlie Crist, and women seemed to really embrace the Democrat. But, you know, beyond that, I can’t tell you much right now.
AMY GOODMAN: Rob Lorei, we’re also joined by Imara Jones. Imara, your response to this, as well as Sarah Jaffe?
IMARA JONES: I mean, I think two things. I think, one, it’s important to remember that he was a Republican before he became a Democrat, and didn’t have a relationship with those communities beforehand. Secondly, it was a really small-bore campaign. That was also a campaign that didn’t talk about issues. The biggest issue that appeared was the fan in the debate that they had. And what—
AMY GOODMAN: Not to be confused with someone who supported Charlie Crist, but the actual fan that cools you off.
IMARA JONES: The actual fan, that’s right, that’s cold, that goes with him, apparently, to every debate he’s ever had his whole life.
AMY GOODMAN: And Rick Scott refused to come out for the debate—
IMARA JONES: That’s right.
AMY GOODMAN: —because he felt he had an unfair advantage, because he had this little fan down at his feet, Charlie Crist did.
IMARA JONES: That’s right. And that seized the attention of the election, because it was such a small-bore election.
SARAH JAFFE: Yeah.
IMARA JONES: And the third thing is that he never actually spoke—related to the second one, he never actually spoke to those communities, in a way. So, one, he started at a deficit. He never made it up and never spoke about the issues. I mean, once again, it’s a “Democrat,” in quotes, who was running a small-bore campaign.
SARAH JAFFE: Yeah, yeah. I mean, you see these—voters are not stupid, whatever they are. And people, as—I keep going back to the wonderful point you made earlier. People who stay home are also not stupid and are often making a very deliberate choice. And if you give people a choice between a Republican and—I mean, we often joke about Democrats who are half-Republican. Charlie Crist is literally a reformed Republican. And that’s no choice at all for a lot of people. And we should not forget that Florida was where Trayvon Martin was killed, that this is a huge issue, that a candidate who actually had given any appearance of caring might have been able to actually connect with people who are feeling really abandoned by people in elected office all over the place.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask about another issue, Rob Lorei, and that’s the issue of medical marijuana. Fifty-seven percent vote—most people would think that means that it won in Florida, but it lost. Why?
ROB LOREI: Well, it started off, the campaign, with about 80 or 88 percent approval here in Florida, but there was a lot of outside money that came into Florida. Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, put in somewhere between $5 million and $8 million into a campaign against medical marijuana. They portrayed it as something that would essentially legalize marijuana, and you’d have a medical marijuana shop on every corner, which I think is a gross misrepresentation. But the voters, apparently, at least some of them, believed it, because the numbers went from 80 percent approval down to 57 percent tonight.
The reason why 57 percent isn’t a winning number in Florida is the state Legislature has said that if you, as citizens, put an amendment on the Florida ballot, and it passes, you’ve got to have it pass by 60 percent. So, they put this very high hurdle on for citizen-backed amendments, which this was. And I think the Legislature tries to do everything it can to scuttle any sort of citizen initiative process here in the state of Florida.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We still have Lee Fang with us also, reporting fellow with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. Lee, the money pouring into Florida for both the campaigns and for some of the referendums like on medical marijuana?
LEE FANG: You know, one interesting thing about the medical marijuana initiative in Florida is that it’s really the only ballot measure in the country where the opposition to reform, the opposition to legalization, or medical marijuana, in this case, is well funded. In Florida, police unions, police lobbyists put up a lot of money. Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, put up a large contribution to defeat this measure. Several real estate moguls who are deeply connected with the Florida GOP donated. So, you know, in contrast to some of the other medical marijuana and medical—and marijuana legalization ballot initiatives you see around the country, this was one where there were a lot of funds against passage.
Now, why was that? One, because police unions have historically been against these types of reforms, because they see it as a pocketbook issue. There are a number of federal grant programs that are attached to marijuana prosecution. And police lobbyists I’ve spoken to said that they were afraid that if these types of reforms passed, they would lose these federal grants. In addition, because the two candidates for governor really attached themselves to either side of this debate, many different Republican power brokers hoped to sink the popularity of medical marijuana in Florida in a bid to sink Charlie Crist, which was apparently successful.
In fact, Sheldon Adelson, there’s been some controversy over his donation, because Adelson, who’s a big casino magnate, he actually supports medical marijuana in Israel. And so, many people have asked, why did he give this large contribution against medical marijuana in Florida? Some have theorized it’s because Adelson is very close to Rick Scott. In addition, Adelson’s casino company, the Sands Corporation, is attempting to build the very first casino in Florida that has table games, and that negotiation is going on right now. I think it’s going to go on through the next year. And if Rick Scott wins the governorship, which he has, and he sees this political support from Sheldon Adelson, the theory goes that he’ll help approve Sands Corporation in building this very first table games casino in Florida.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wonder how the bookies are handicapping that possibility.
AMY GOODMAN: Rob Lorei, also the issue of state legislatures, because of the gridlock in Washington, so much action is actually, especially around issues like women’s rights, happening in the state legislature. What does the Florida state Legislature look like now?
ROB LOREI: Well, before tonight’s election, the Republicans had a majority but not a supermajority. They are probably on their way tonight to having a supermajority, veto-proof. That means that, you know, any legislation that they pass, they can overturn any veto by a governor. Looks like they won’t need to do that because they’re going to have a Republican governor. But now you’ve got—what you’ve got is a Republican stronghold on Tallahassee. And I think that any sort of hope of liberal reform like Medicaid expansion, I think that’s certainly dead. And, you know, I think—you know, I spoke with some Democrats tonight at a Charlie Crist event, and they were pretty despondent about this. So, all the Republicans needed to pick up were five House seats and one Senate seat. And at least right now, it looks like they’re well on their way to doing that.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking with Rob Lorei, the news director at WMNF in Tampa, Florida, who has been reporting, of course, on all of these races. Finally, Rob, if you can give people a sense around the country, and around the world who are watching this right now, just who is Rick Scott, what his journey was to become governor of Florida, particularly around the issue of healthcare?
ROB LOREI: Well, Rick Scott got into politics pretty late. And in fact, even a year out from his race for governor, people like Marco Rubio, the U.S. senator, before he was senator, said he had never heard of Rick Scott. He started a group that was opposed to a medical reform, healthcare reform in Washington, D.C. Before that, he was a founder of a health company, an HMO, HCA, that bought hospitals and did a lot of things, and then was convicted of the largest Medicare fraud in U.S. history. The company paid a huge fine. He pled the fifth in relation to the wrongdoing of the company, but he was asked by the company’s board of directors to resign. He took out of the company something like $100 million or $200 million, and he’s lived off that money ever since. Charlie Crist—
AMY GOODMAN: Rob, I’m going to interrupt just to let stations know, that need to do their local updates, that this is the moment for you to go. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We’re talking to Rob Lorei in Tampa. He’s the news director at WMNF in Florida. Continue on Governor Rick Scott’s history.
ROB LOREI: Well, Charlie Crist then used this, the fact that Rick Scott’s company had paid the largest fine in U.S. history for defrauding Medicare. Charlie Crist used this in the campaign. This is the second time a Democrat has tried to do that. Four years ago, Alex Sink tried to do that. She was unsuccessful. She lost the race by about 67,000 votes. Charlie Crist did the same thing this year, running even more ads pointing to Rick Scott’s malfeasance as the head of this healthcare company that ripped off the federal government. Apparently, that did not work with the voters this time. I didn’t work four years ago. The numbers we’ve got right now is that Charlie Crist is about 80,000 votes behind. It didn’t work this time, although I continue to meet people who ask—have asked me the last four years: How did we elect a crook to be governor of Florida? Rick Scott really doesn’t answer questions. When reporters go up to him and ask to explain what he did as head of the HCA, he doesn’t really answer the question directly.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Rob, I want to thank you for being with us, Rob Lorei, news director with WMNF in Florida. He is in Tampa, responding to the latest breaking news. Florida Governor Rick Scott has been re-elected, defeating the Republican turned Democrat, former Governor Charlie Crist, who ran as the Democratic opponent to Rick Scott.
This is Democracy Now!, and we are bringing you a five-hour special on these midterm elections 2014. We’ll be with you ’til midnight Eastern Standard Time. And the other news of—some more news about governor re-elections, yes, Governor Scott Walker has been re-elected, defeating Mary Burke in Wisconsin. So we go directly to Madison, Wisconsin, to John Nichols, political writer for The Nation. His latest book, with Bob McChesney, called Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex Is Destroying America. John Nichols, respond to the latest. Governor Scott Walker will be your governor for the next years.
JOHN NICHOLS: Well, Governor Scott Walker, it does appear, has been re-elected. It looks like his victory will be by a closer margin than in his previous races, so he’s not expanding his popularity. But the fact of the matter is that this victory is very, very likely to project him into the 2016 presidential race. And that’s one thing that people have to understand. Scott Walker is one of the most ambitious and determined politicians in America. He has run two dozen—I’m sorry, yeah, better part of two dozen races since 1990, in primaries and general elections. Every time he’s in one job, he has tried for the next one. Winning this election will be just a very clear pivot point into presidential politics. He has made that quite clear.
Now, for Wisconsin, of course, it’s going to be a tough game, and I’ll tell you why. Governor Walker has not proven to be an effective governor as regards the economy. The Wisconsin economy has trailed neighboring states. And the reason for that is that he has implemented a classic austerity agenda. He’s done deep cuts to education and public services. And, of course, as people who are listening and watching know, Governor Walker has been in the forefront of assaults on organized labor. So, you know, what you take away from this at the Wisconsin level is continuity with a governor who has very much divided the state and, I would suggest, will continue to divide it. But at the national level, I will just tell people that they’re going to see a lot more of him, probably in states like Iowa and New Hampshire.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, John, how would Walker be positioned in terms of the other potential Republican candidates that are being talked about now for president?
JOHN NICHOLS: Well, he’s a very interesting figure, because his work ethic is incredible. This guy can focus on a campaign and just not look away from it at any turn. He will work harder than any other candidate if he is running for president. He will also position himself as something that he is not. And he certainly did it in this campaign. He ran for re-election as governor of Wisconsin with television ads that portrayed him as moderate on issues of reproductive rights. In fact, he has passed some of the most restrictive laws in the country and signed them into being. He has tried to portray himself as moderate on marriage equality. In fact, he was one of the leading figures in pushing for a ban on same-sex marriage in Wisconsin. Again and again and again, he tries to portray himself—and is sometimes successful in portraying himself—as a relatively moderate figure, while then quietly turning to the hard right and saying to them, “Look, I’m going to be with you on abortion. I’m going to be with you on marriage equality. I’m going to be with you on all the issues that you care about. And I will deliver for you.” So that’s the one side of the guy. Much of the national media will misread him. They will think that he is, you know, what he says he is.
The other side of the guy is that he has delivered at a very, very high level for some of the most ambitious and engaged billionaire and corporate campaign donors in the country. Now, in Wisconsin, that will translate in this new term into a lot of moves to try and privatize public education, to develop a voucher system. That is very, very popular with a lot of conservative campaign donors. And you will see him take both his assault on organized labor and his assault on public education national with a—potentially, not guaranteed, but potentially a good deal of support from some of the biggest donors in the Republican Party.
AMY GOODMAN: John Nichols, we have just gotten some late breaking news of other races that were too close to call until now.
JOHN NICHOLS: Sure.
AMY GOODMAN: It looks like Pat Roberts has won the Senate race in Kansas, according to CBS and Fox projections, and that David Perdue in Georgia has defeated Michelle Nunn to be Georgia’s next U.S. senator. The significance of these races, John?
JOHN NICHOLS: Well, they’re hugely significant, because part of the calculus for Democrats in any kind of way to retain control of the U.S. Senate was to win a couple of Republican seats. The theory was that, yes, they would lose some of their seats. They had some retiring incumbents in places like West Virginia and Montana. They had some very vulnerable incumbents in a number of states. And so, the idea was that they had to make a couple of those Republican seats competitive. Georgia was—early on, came to be seen as one that might go into play, and then Kansas, later, when the Democratic candidate dropped out of the race and empowered the Independent, Greg Orman. With Kansas and Georgia both going to the Republicans, what you get here is a clear signal that this is going to be a very, very good night for the Republicans at the federal level. They are winning the close races. They’re winning the hard races. And if they continue to do this, then, you know, yes, they will very likely—not guaranteed, because we still have quite a few races out, but very likely end up with control of the United States Senate.
And what’s important here is that that control may not be by just one seat. It may not be a marginal control. They might get a couple of seats ahead. And if they end up with that, if Republicans end up with, you know, a 52-, 53-seat majority—I’m not saying that will happen, but if that does happen, then they will not have to worry as much about the handful of relatively moderate Republicans, people like Susan Collins in Maine and Mark Kirk in Illinois. If indeed the Republicans have enough of a majority to actually move aggressively, then you’re going to see a more aggressive Senate, and it will be harder for President Obama to negotiate any kind of arrangement or agreements there. That becomes dangerous on a number of levels, and I would suggest the most serious concern has to be that this Senate, in combination with a Republican House, if indeed that’s what the combination you get, might move very, very quickly on a number of big ticket items, like the Keystone pipeline, like a free trade agreement, you know, the TPP agreement, things like that—
AMY GOODMAN: John Nichols, save these issues for the next—
JOHN NICHOLS: —putting them on the president’s desk—
AMY GOODMAN: John, if you can save these issues for the next hour, we are going to break. John Nichols, political writer for The Nation, speaking to us from Madison, Wisconsin, where Governor Walker has just been announced the victor in the governor’s race over Mary Burke. Sarah Jaffe, thanks so much for being with us, independent journalist, co-host of Dissent Magazine’s Belabored podcast. And thank you so much to Imara Jones of Caffeine TV.
[end of hour four]
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, Democracy Now!'s special coverage of the midterm elections 2014. I'm Amy Goodman. Juan González is off, continuing to report on what’s happening around the country. CNN is reporting Republicans are now just one seat away from wresting control of the Senate from Democrats. Republican candidates have picked up seats formerly held by Democrats in five states: South Dakota, Arkansas, West Virginia and Montana, where Republican Congressmember Steve Daines is projected to defeat Democrat Amanda Curtis. In Georgia, David Perdue appears to have defeated Democrat Michelle Nunn. And Republican Senator Pat Roberts has won re-election in Kansas. In Colorado, Republican Cory Gardner appears to have ousted the incumbent, Democratic Senator Mark Udall. Udall has been a key voice in the U.S. Senate calling for reining in the U.S. surveillance state and for releasing a long-awaited Senate report on the CIA’s torture of prisoners.
Louisiana’s Senate race is headed for a runoff election, as Senator Mary Landrieu, the Democratic incumbent, and Representative Bill Cassidy, a Republican, have both failed to reach the threshold of 50 percent. That race will take place in December.
In New Hampshire, Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen has defended her seat against Republican challenger Scott Brown, the former Massachusetts senator, who moved to New Hampshire to try to become senator there.
In a surprisingly tight race, the two candidates in Virginia’s Senate race are neck and neck. Democratic Senator Mark Warner could lose his seat to veteran Republican strategist Ed Gillespie.
In the latest on the governors’ races, in Rhode Island, AP is projecting Democrat Gina Raimondo has won the race for governor in Rhode Island, becoming the first woman elected to the post in Rhode Island’s history. Republican Governor Rick Scott has won re-election in Florida, defeating Charlie Crist, who had unsuccessfully sought an emergency motion to extend voting hours in Broward County after reports of irregularities, including a polling station that was offline for an hour and a half. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, widely known for his attacks on public-sector unions, which led to an unsuccessful recall attempt in 2012, has also won re-election. CNN has called the Georgia gubernatorial race for incumbent Republican Governor Nathan Deal. Republican state treasurer and businessman, Doug Ducey, has won the race for governor in Arizona. In Iowa, Republican Governor Terry Branstad has won election to a sixth term. He served for much of the '80s and ’90s and returned again for four years ago. He's now set to become the longest-serving governor in U.S. history.
On the ballot initiatives, Massachusetts and the cities of Trenton and Montclair in New Jersey have passed ballot initiatives to guarantee paid time off to workers for illness to attend to sick family members. And ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage have passed in at least two states: Arkansas and Nebraska.
Our guests for this final hour of Democracy Now!'s special coverage, John Nichols, joining us from Madison, Wisconsin, who writes for The Nation magazine and has written the book, co-authored the book, Dollarocracy. We're joined in New York by Imara Jones, who is with Caffeine TV, daily video news brief, and economic justice contributor for ColorLines.com. He was served—he served in Clinton’s White House, where he worked on international trade policy, recently wrote a piece called “Economic Justice Will Make or Break Today’s Elections.” And Ben Jealous is back with us, partner at Kapor Capital, chair of the Southern Election Fund, which he started with Julian Bond, and former president and CEO of the NAACP.
John Nichols, we’re going back to you in Madison, Wisconsin. For our audience who’s joining us around the world just at this moment, there is a lot of breaking news. Your state, the governor has been re-elected. How many times in the last four years, John?
JOHN NICHOLS: This is the third time in four years that Scott Walker has been elected governor of Wisconsin. He was elected in 2010 in a normal midterm election. He then went in a major assault on organized labor. That caused a huge uprising, hundreds of thousands of people in the streets. That turned into a political revolt, and close to a million people petitioned for his removal from office. A recall election was held. It was one of the most expensive elections in American history. Governor Walker prevailed in that 2012 recall election. And now, tonight, it appears we have a call that he has been re-elected again. And so, he is, by any measure, one of the most battle-tested political figures in the country.
AMY GOODMAN: And this race in Virginia, can you talk about the significance of the possibility—I mean, it has not been called yet at all, but this one wasn’t supposed to be this close, Senator Warner.
JOHN NICHOLS: No. No, this is a big deal. And you have some other guests on tonight who will be able to talk about this, as well. Look, Virginia has been a state where you have seen many of these battles over access to the polls, over the ease of voting. And I always emphasize that it’s not just about voter ID, it’s also about early voting and the complexity of voting. And Virginia is a state where there have been a lot of fights over the last few years. Now, in last year’s gubernatorial race, the Democrats were able to prevail because they knew that it was going to be a knock-down, drag-out, very serious battle. In this year’s Senate race, I think it is safe to say that a lot of Democrats simply presumed that Virginia was a lock, that they didn’t have to worry about it, that Mark Warner had the name recognition, the money, everything on his side. And what this tells us is that there are states where if you don’t put on a full-on, you know, don’t-miss-a-beat, dot-every-i, cross-every-t campaign, that you have vulnerability there. That’s an important reality as regards, you know, all of this gaming, all this struggling as regards election laws.
And then there’s one other thing I will say. When you have an election like this, a midterm election in which you do have a party that seems to have advantages—in this case, the Republicans—for a variety of reasons, mostly related to the low voter turnout, when you have a situation like that, it is not uncommon that we end up with these unexpected results. If you think back to 1980, a higher-turnout election, when Ronald Reagan came in, a lot of Democratic senators were knocked out. 1986, a midterm, Ronald Reagan’s sixth year, you had eight Republican senators knocked out, including some unexpected ones, and Senate flipped in control. So, what we’re seeing is a pattern election here. And I will suggest to you—I can’t guarantee, but I’ll suggest to you that Mark Warner might not be the only surprise tonight. Keep an eye on all the rest of these races, because this is the kind of circumstance where you can have some of these surprises, rooted again in low turnout, often in changes of election laws, a lot of struggle and gaming of the election process, and finally, perhaps in this new age of politics the most important thing, massive inflows of money in late stages of campaigns. And I do want to emphasize that when we account for all the spending, what we’re going to find is that some of the wealthiest people in America went into races that were off radar, spent immense amounts of money and may well have tipped contests that most people weren’t paying attention to.
AMY GOODMAN: We are still waiting to hear the results of the governor’s race in Colorado between Bob Beauprez and the governor, Hickenlooper. But, Ben Jealous, you’ve been following Georgia very closely over the years and very involved with the voter suppression and voter turnout there. So, the race has been called for senator. David Perdue, the former Reebok CEO and other companies, as well, has defeated Michelle Nunn. Can you talk about the significance of this?
BEN JEALOUS: Sure. Well, look, this was always going to be a very hard race. This was a race that, if the Dems won it, would have been a bit of a surprise. With that said, this is a race that’s about turnout, and it’s a race about who’s on the rolls. And one of the things that we learned late was that there may have been some suppression that was not reported to the state Legislature by the secretary of state using this Interstate Crosscheck database that’s been developed by Kris Kobach. There’s a half-million names in Georgia on that list. One of the things that activists in Georgia have been very concerned about is that the rolls shrank considerably between 2012 and 2014. And because the secretary of state has been so untransparent, you will see a lot of lawsuits coming out of this race. You are likely to see a lot of lawsuits targeted at trying to figure out what exactly happened to those rolls. They should not have dropped off the way that they did, especially with such massive voter registration efforts. And again, the concern is that the secretary of state may have engaged in some purging that was not reported to the state Legislature. So we haven’t heard the last on Georgia.
AMY GOODMAN: And both Georgia—you’re also following Texas.
BEN JEALOUS: Sure.
AMY GOODMAN: In Texas, we know that—and this was much more expected—Greg Abbott defeated Wendy Davis.
BEN JEALOUS: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: But the significance of the Supreme Court allowing the voter ID law to move forward to prevent what they called “confusion.”
BEN JEALOUS: Right. Well, we’ve seen the Republican-dominated Supreme Court, since at least 2000, be sort of the friend of voter suppression, and the Roberts court increasingly so. You know, even more important than this last decision was Shelby and the gutting of the protections under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act by disabling Section 4. And that’s what actually permitted this to happen. You might recall the Texas secretary of state, as soon as Shelby, this decision, went out, tweeted basically with glee about all the things he was now going to be able to do. And we’re seeing that come to pass. What this really signals is that we’ve got to dig in deep. We can still, you know, change these states, and you will see them change. But we’re going to have to get serious about organizing.
And one of the weirdest facts I’ve come across in recent years is that Bayard Rustin’s main book, called Down the Line, has shot up to be about a thousand bucks on any given day on eBay. And you’re like, “Well, why is it?” Well, it turns out that Dick Armey has made it required reading for basically the entire tea party movement. For an out—
AMY GOODMAN: Bayard Rustin?
BEN JEALOUS: An out, gay, black Quaker, who just so happened to be the best organizer of the 20th century. And the Republican Party in the South—
AMY GOODMAN: Who organized the March on Washington in 1963 with A. Philip Randolph.
BEN JEALOUS: He was the architect, yes. He was the architect of the March on Washington, the man who pulled it off, and also a phenomenal organizer throughout the civil rights movement and really was the man many credit with really teaching Gandhi’s tactics to King. Dick Armey has made them relevant for the tea party troops. And why is that important? Because when you look at a guy like Ed Gillespie—he’s a strategist, he’s an operative, he’s an organizer.
AMY GOODMAN: Who is running against Warner.
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, and we very well may find out that Mark Warner was simply just out-organized.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going back to Kansas for a moment. Thomas Frank is back on the line with us, the columnist for Harper’s magazine and author of several books, including What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Thomas Frank. So, the results are in. Pat Roberts has defeated Greg Orman, the Independent. Can you talk about the significance of this and just who Pat Roberts is?
THOMAS FRANK: Yeah, it doesn’t—I mean, it’s not that big a surprise. And the race for governor appears to be very, very close right now. And Kris Kobach also won. He just came out here and gave his victory speech. And, well, look, Roberts pulled out all the stops. He had, you know, all of the sort of Republican superstars touring the state. The other day, when I saw him speak, he had Chris Christie with him, he had Bob Dole with him. He had governors of several different states. And they were all—you know, all out there talking about how much—what a great guy Pat Roberts is.
The funny thing is, he’s pretty much a cypher as a U.S. senator. He has done very, very little. He’s only passed one—he only wrote one major piece of legislation, and that was a disaster. That was the deregulation of farming, which they tried in the mid-1990s. And yeah, that didn’t work out very well. But yeah, he’s been re-elected. Look, at the end of the day, it’s a very Republican state, and they have all the organization. And you’ve got to remember, there’s these two brothers in Wichita, just down the road a bit here, who, you know, will spend just about anything—
AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking about the Koch brothers?
THOMAS FRANK: Yeah, yeah—to keep these guys in office. So…
AMY GOODMAN: Is there any backlash against this swamping of politics with money?
THOMAS FRANK: Well, yeah. You’ve got to remember that these guys are—they own the backlash. So, one of the things—Greg Orman was, among other things, an investment banker. He’s a private equity guy. And so, Pat Roberts went after him constantly for, you know, being a rich guy who wants to come in here and, you know, buy himself a Senate seat. And he did it in a really kind of gross way, all these TV commercials about, you know, these awful Wall Street people. And it looks now like that has succeeded, so.
And, by the way, that’s like—you know this, Amy. We’ve talked about this before. That’s true across the board. That is the Achilles heel of the Democratic Party now. They are so identified, not with working people, but with the professional class. You look at the kind of people that they nominate, you look at the kind of campaigns that they run, they want nothing to do with—with, you know, some exceptions, quite a bit of exceptions, actually, but a lot of these candidates want nothing to do with working people’s issues. And it makes it very easy for Republicans to cast themselves as the defenders of the common people. And they do it all the time. It drives me crazy. I’ve been talking about this for 10 years, and it just—you know, it just goes on and on and on.
AMY GOODMAN: Ben Jealous?
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, again, in some ways, this is the legacy of NAFTA. I mean, really, the Democratic Party, since we backed NAFTA, has not really had a vision for, you know, hard-working people in the middle of the country who don’t have a college degree. And we’ve really got to figure that one out. It is not enough to say that, on balance, it’s better for our country, if it’s starving people and your state’s ability to send their kids to college. And, you know, what’s interesting about the country right now, right—and if you sit in a NAACP meeting or you sit in a tea party meeting—and I’ve sat at the front of one and the back of the other—what you will see is the same angst runs through those meetings, which is that it doesn’t—people are afraid that the American dream is rusting. There is a sense that it just doesn’t mean in the 21st century what it meant in the 20th to be an American in this world.
And the Democratic Party, you know, ultimately has two big opportunities. One of them is to do massive voter registration, as I talk about again and again, of voters of color in the South and the Southwest. The other is to really decide, you know what, we’re going to fight for the hearts and minds of working-class white voters. And yes, the minimum wage is a part of that. But you know what? People aspire to more than just a better minimum wage. And frankly, since NAFTA and us kind of accelerating the deindustrialization of the country, we simply haven’t had a vision for what we’re going to do with hard-working folks who don’t have a college degree. And it’s time we figure it out.
AMY GOODMAN: Imara Jones?
IMARA JONES: But one of the reasons why that is hard is because that a lot of the corporate interests that have gained a tremendous amount of power in the country since Ronald Reagan are funding campaigns to make sure that this conversation doesn’t happen. And so, one of the things that—as we spoke about before, that intimidated Democrats in this election was the infusion of dark money from rich people and from companies that they knew were going to come in to suppress the exact conversation that you’re talking about. So it’s not occurring in a vacuum. It’s that there are a highly group of wealthy people that have a lot of money, that are organized, like the Koch brothers, who have a very specific economic agenda, and they’re willing to put billions of dollars behind it.
BEN JEALOUS: And quite frankly, it’s even some of our friends on the so-called left, as far as corporations. I mean, in the Silicon Valley right now, for instance, you know, they have an addiction to H-1B visas that really needs to be broken. They keep saying, you know, “Golly gee, golly gee, we just—we can’t find them here.” Well, you know what? Here’s the deal. India’s economy is getting stronger and stronger. They’re not going to keep giving us their best and brightest at a discount. In 10 years, we expect to have a million-programmer shortfall in the Valley. We have got to get serious about, quite frankly, charging more for those visas and then investing the dollars in actually cultivating our own talent. We at the Kapor Center estimate that there’s every year about 100,000 young people of color who could be headed to the Silicon Valley, who simply aren’t cultivated because we’re not investing in training them in high school in computer science and mathematics and STEM. We’ve got to get serious. We can lead—our country can lead the world, like we did in the 20th century, but we have to become flatter faster, because it’s a flat world, and we, with 200 languages spoken in this country, could really lead a flatter world, but only if we get serious about tapping all the talent that we’re locking out, whether it’s in Appalachia or it’s in Harlem.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, as we talk about science and technology, I want to go to Lee Fang, who talks about dark money, but also has been following the issue of climate change. If it is a Republican Senate, it looks like it’s possible one of the people who’s been re-elected, Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma, would become head of the Environment Committee. He is a leading climate change denier. Lee Fang, can you talk about what will happen to the issue of climate change? Or, will it really be any different?
LEE FANG: [inaudible] with Republicans now taking a very large majority in the House, and it looks like the question now for the Senate is just how large their majority will be there. The broader impact for climate change is, as you mentioned, Senator Jim Inhofe, who is the biggest climate denier in all of Congress, taking control of the Environment and Public Works Committee. There are other committee chairmanships that will shift to outspoken climate deniers, as well. For example, Ted Cruz looks like it’s very likely he’ll take control of the subcommittee that controls federal science research. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, another very outspoken climate change science denier, taking control of the Homeland Security and Government Reform Committee—that’s the investigative body for the Senate.
This has big implications in terms of investigative power and power of the purse. We’ll see Republicans investigating the Environmental Protection Agency, sending subpoena letters, bringing up—bringing government bureaucrats who are implementing new environmental regulations to testify, to try to intimidate them and to block or slow down some of these reforms. The Environmental Protection Agency has a number of climate change regulations. The biggest one is the rule on coal-fired power plants. There’s been two iterations of this rule: The previous one on new coal-fired power plants; the current rule being debated right now is on existing coal-fired power plants. There are many coal power plants built in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s with very outdated technology that are huge contributors to climate change. And simply put, if these regulations come into play, which have been watered down, I should say, many times already through the regulatory process, even with that being the case, many of these coal-fired power plants will be shut down.
That’s why many of these fossil fuel special interest groups have funded super PACs, have funded dark money groups, to bring about this Republican majority, because they’d like to lean on Congress to pressure the EPA. So, in addition to those investigations and hearings, we might actually see some policy riders attached to appropriation bills saying that, you know, the government can only be funded if the EPA is defunded or the authority for these regulations is defunded. That might actually lead to another government shutdown, because President Obama has made these rules really part of his legacy. But the question is how hard he will fight. He clearly wanted to pick this fight the last time a similar dynamic arose over the Affordable Care Act. The question is: Will he have the same resolve to protect the EPA?
In addition, just in the last two months, we’ve seen Senate Republicans sending letters, releasing reports, somehow suggesting that environmental nonprofits are up to no good. They consider the NRDC, the American Lung Association, the National Wildlife Foundation part of some type of nefarious cabal. Senator David Vitter, who’s the current ranking member of the Environment Committee, he sent out some investigative letters saying that these advocacy groups have too much influence in the Obama administration. So I think, in addition to generally pressuring the Obama administration and pressuring these regulatory agencies, we’ll see a number of subpoenas and investigations into left-leaning green and environmental groups.
BEN JEALOUS: Should the Republicans take over—
AMY GOODMAN: Ben Jealous.
BEN JEALOUS: Should the Republicans take over the Senate, you know, there will be two big tests for President Obama. The first is: Does he really have the backbone to just hit the veto button over and over and over again? You know, the second will be: Does he actually have the ability to actually forge a winning coalition with Republicans, for instance, who are willing to make some serious and, I would say, progressive changes when it comes to, for instance, criminal justice reform? The big test for the Senate, right, will be: Was Harry Reid right that by showing restraint in all these years and not changing the rules, that his Republican colleagues would show the same restraint? And that’s going to be the big question come January. Do the Republicans decide to change the rules, go from a supermajority to a simple majority? If they do that, you will see a lot of bills on Obama’s desk, and you could see a record number of vetoes.
IMARA JONES: But this is also going to be a test for the Republicans. I mean—
AMY GOODMAN: Imara Jones.
IMARA JONES: They’ve run an election in which they’ve attempted to hide and to moderate a whole host of their views, from economics to the environment to social issues. And the question will be whether or not the money that’s gotten them into office will allow them to get away with that. And if it doesn’t, then they’re going to be in for perhaps an exact reversal of tonight two years from now, because the American people clearly aren’t with them on some of their hardcore economic issues. So, the next two years are going to be a test for both parties on this. And I think that one of the issues that Mitch McConnell has said that he wants to work with the president on is a brand new trade agreement, right? And so, in some ways, there are going to be some things, possibly, where President Obama wants to work with them on progressive issues and others that are not going to be so progressive.
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, I mean, Mitch McConnell, when you get right down to it, has such a creepy agenda. I mean, you know, here is a guy who, on one hand, wants to convince the Kentucky coal miner that he’s their guy, and, on the other hand, is making money bringing in imported coal that helps, frankly, put those same guys out of business. And it’s just—you know, when you see politicians like that, who kind of win either way—
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Lee Fang, this is your specialty. You’ve particularly looked at Mitch McConnell and his role in—not only in Kentucky, but you’ve looked at the dark money in his campaign in his own family history. We’re really going back full circle now to the beginning of this broadcast, because that’s when it was announced that Mitch McConnell had won, had defeated Alison Grimes. Can you talk about, you know, his rise to power, Senator McConnell? It’s not absolutely clear that he would be Senate majority leader if the Senate becomes Republican—and we don’t have those figures yet—because people like Ted Cruz have said they wouldn’t support him. But if you could talk about Mitch McConnell, where we began even this morning with you in San Francisco?
LEE FANG: Well, I’ve written a number of Mitch McConnell stories in recent weeks. It’s important to remember that this election has been a career-defining election for Mitch McConnell. This senator from Kentucky, he doesn’t have any significant legislative accomplishments. He’s not known for any particular ideology on Capitol Hill. But what he has made a defining issue is his leadership on campaign finance. Starting in the late ’80s, Mitch McConnell blocked efforts on public financing. Throughout the ’90s and early 2000s, he filibustered and blocked—
AMY GOODMAN: Lee, I’m going to introduce—I’m going to interrupt—
LEE FANG: —campaign finance reforms that would have limited—
AMY GOODMAN: Lee, I’m going to interrupt for one minute, because this news has just come in: Republican Thom Tillis has won the election in the U.S. Senate race against Kay Hagan, the incumbent in North Carolina. And AP is saying the Republicans have now taken over the Senate, when they come to power in January. Your response to that? Let me start with—
BEN JEALOUS: Well, this is the value of voter suppression. This is a state where you saw two new big voter suppression laws go into place. You have a guy named Art Pope there who’s a huge funder, who had made vote suppression one of his biggest priorities going back to when the tea party first swept into power, 2010, 2011. And this is exactly why they do it. The state has a very narrow margin of victory. On average in a midterm, you’re looking at about 25,000 votes. And just one of those laws could have impacted as many as 200,000 voters. This is what they’re trying to do.
AMY GOODMAN: And let’s go to John Nichols in the middle of the country, in Madison, Wisconsin. Your response? The Republicans have taken control of the Senate.
JOHN NICHOLS: Well, I could tell you, a lot of big stuff is happening right now. And we are starting to see some of the patterns that suggest a real wave election. These terms are thrown around very casually and sometimes inflated. But the victory for Tillis in North Carolina, not only does it give the Republicans, pretty likely, control of the U.S. Senate, it also starts to show us—you know, that loss across the South, in states where Democrats had remained competitive and held seats, you’re now starting to see one after another fall.
And I will throw something into the mix now. We’re just getting reports out of New Hampshire that that Senate race up there, called for Jeanne Shaheen, has actually narrowed a lot in the last few minutes, last hour or so. And there’s now talk of a possible—not a certain, but a possible—recount there.
Bottom line is, what we’re starting to look at is the prospect not of a marginally Republican Senate, but of a pretty solidly Republican Senate.
AMY GOODMAN: John—
JOHN NICHOLS: And that gets us into, in my mind, a very dangerous position as regards the negotiations between the White House and the Congress.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to—
JOHN NICHOLS: If President Obama—oh, I’m sorry.
AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead. “If President Obama…”
JOHN NICHOLS: I’m sorry. If President Obama does not hold firm—and we’ve heard mention of the veto pen here—but also using executive orders and getting out there and using that bully pulpit, he runs the risk of being kind of wedged into a position where there’s an immense pressure from Wall Street, from a lot of our media, to try and make things work, to try and make things happen in Washington. Unfortunately, the things that are likely to happen are bad trade deals, bad environmental policy and assaults on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go—I want to go to North—
JOHN NICHOLS: So we’re entering into a very dangerous point politically.
AMY GOODMAN: John, I want to go to North Carolina to Greg Palast, investigative reporter with Al Jazeera America and Puffin Foundation fellow, author of the New York Times best-seller, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps. I believe he’s at Kay Hagan’s headquarters. Greg Palast, welcome to Democracy Now! Describe where you are and the response to this latest news that the incumbent senator of North Carolina, Kay Hagan, has been defeated by the businessman Thom Tillis.
GREG PALAST: Well, I’m at Kay Hagan’s so-called victory party. It ain’t a victory, and it’s not much of a party. What we do have, though, is that we have Jim Crow kicking up his heels. I’ve been covering the kind of new wave of voter suppression all throughout Dixie. I saw it in Georgia. Just today, I was at a polling place here in Raleigh, North Carolina, in the capital. On Saturday, there were 10,000 people voting at a predominantly African-American voting station, 10,000 people in line. Thousands literally were turned away because the state had stopped Sunday voting, the usual “souls to the polls” day. As you know, I reported to you and for Al Jazeera that many of the states are using something called Interstate Crosscheck to purge their polls, which is targeting minority voters, supposedly on the claim that a lot of Asians, African Americans, Hispanics are voting twice, in two states. No one, not one person, has been arrested. But there are three-and-a-half million people tagged as double voters, 190,000 here in North Carolina, half a million—not all of them purged, but many at risk—in Georgia. So what we’re seeing is we’re certainly seeing a rise in the Republican Party, a reaction against Obama, no doubt about that, but if you get beyond the horse race, I’m seeing—and I’ve covered this story for a decade and a half—I’m seeing a resurgence of voter suppression and Jim Crow tactics like I have never seen before.
AMY GOODMAN: I also want to announce that in Iowa, the race has been called for Joni Ernst. She has defeated Bruce Braley in around an $80 million race. Dems spent something like $38 million; Republicans spent $40 million. This was the race to fill Senator Tom Harkin’s seat. Braley lost ground with female voters in recent polls. Joni Ernst will be the first woman in Iowa to be elected to the Senate.
And we go now to Alaska to one of two states where the polls are still open. Mark Trahant is a longtime journalist and former president of the Native American Journalists Association, former editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's editorial page. What can you tell us about what's happening in Alaska right now, Mark?
MARK TRAHANT: Well, I think it’s going to be very interesting. The Alaska Native community was organized from the very beginning and used this as an opportunity to register voters in ways that are just unprecedented. So we’ll see how it turns out in the next few hours. But I think Alaska could still be one of the surprises of the night, both in the governor’s race and in the Senate race.
AMY GOODMAN: I also want to talk about Maryland for a minute. It hasn’t been announced, but it looks like Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown is trailing at this point. And, Ben Jealous, this is one of the races you’ve been involved with.
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, no, there’s been a real concern. That race was tightening in recent weeks. Brown is a transformative candidate. He is—you know, has the possibility still of becoming the first black governor in the history of the state, only the third in the country. He has a very progressive record. Just last year, his leadership, along with Governor Martin O’Malley, abolished the death penalty, passed marriage equality, passed—you know, expanded voting rights protections, passed the DREAM Act and passed sensible gun safety reform.
That also triggered a Republican backlash that Hogan has been leading, a very far-right-wing kind of activist group in the party there that includes some known white supremacists associated with a group called the League of the South, but Hogan’s played it sort of towards the middle and tried to pretend that he’s just simply kind of an “aw, shucks” Republican, small businessman, but clearly has his eyes set on turning back the clocks in Maryland as fast as he can.
AMY GOODMAN: And who Larry Hogan is? Larry Hogan—now, again, this has not been called.
BEN JEALOUS: Sure. Yeah, as I say, Larry Hogan is a—is the leader of a very right-wing movement in Maryland that wants to turn back the clocks. He tries to play it safe by pretending like he’s just simply a Republican small businessman and, you know, saying things like, “Oh, well, the death penalty issue is settled.” But when you scratch right below the surface, he’s been endorsed by known white supremacists. He has a real association with a very far-right-wing activist base in the Republican Party in Maryland. And if he wins, he will be focused on turning back the clocks in Maryland just as fast as he can.
AMY GOODMAN: Very interesting, because President Obama in 2012 won 62 percent of the vote in Maryland.
BEN JEALOUS: No, that’s exactly right. And it shows kind of what opportunity exists in these lower-turnout midterm races. It really comes down to a real opportunity for a minority to play the role of a majority simply by investing in turnout. And we’ve been worried for weeks in Maryland, because you see a lot more Hogan signs, sometimes even in very Democratic areas, just a lot more energy on his side.
AMY GOODMAN: Larry Hogan, founder and chief executive of a cluster of real estate companies. I want to go back to Alaska to Mark Trahant. You not only cover Alaska Native issues, but you cover Native American issues around the country, in places like South Dakota, extremely significant, and others. What do you think it’s most important people understand about Native American voters?
MARK TRAHANT: Well, first of all, the media called the race in South Dakota before the polls even closed on the reservations, which I thought was just incredible. They had trouble getting ballots to two of the reservations, and so they opened—they extended the voting time. And then the attorney general announced that those will only be counted as provisional ballots. Both of those counties are having extraordinarily high turnouts, so there are still things that could happen in that race. In fact, Cecilia Fire Thunder reminded me on Facebook that that’s what happened in the Thune race a few years ago. So, it may not be over in South Dakota.
AMY GOODMAN: And in terms of issues of voter suppression—we’ve been talking about Latinos, we’ve been talking about African Americans, we’ve been talking about women—what do Native voters face?
MARK TRAHANT: Well, a lot of places like South Dakota and Alaska have had long histories of trying to suppress Native votes. In fact, American Indians in New Mexico were the very last to get the franchise legally in the late 1960s. So there’s a long record of that. And there have been steady efforts. A group in South Dakota has been using lawsuits, pressure, trying to get more early voting, primarily, on the reservations, and with some limited success, because there’s still pushback by the counties involved.
AMY GOODMAN: And the—
MARK TRAHANT: One of the things going on at Pine Ridge right now that I think is extraordinary is there’s a ballot measure to change the name of the county from Shannon County to Oglala Lakota County, and in terms of drawing people to the polls, that’s a measure that’s going to do that.
AMY GOODMAN: And initiatives, ballot initiatives in Alaska—for example, the minimum wage?
MARK TRAHANT: Minimum wage, and that should draw people to the polls, and the marijuana initiative, both. I’m a professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and a lot of my students are engaged on both of those issues.
AMY GOODMAN: So, in these last minutes that we have on the broadcast, I wanted to talk about President Obama, also the role of movements in these last two years.
BEN JEALOUS: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s not unusual that a second-term president would lose control of the House and the Senate. It has happened with all previous presidents, from George W. Bush to even Ronald Reagan. In the last two years of their two-term presidencies, they are up against an oppositional Congress. But what does this mean for President Obama, and what do you think this means for the mandate for grassroots movements, that may have felt betrayed by President Obama, that he doesn’t represent them?
BEN JEALOUS: I mean, this will be a real opportunity for the base of the Democratic Party to energize itself, to really go into movement mode and to decide that whoever becomes the next president of the United States, and especially should they be a Democrat, that we will stay in movement mode and make sure that they are held accountable to us. One mistake we made coming out of 2008 headed towards 2010 is we forgot the kind of principle—the first principle of organizing, which is you do not elect people to make change happen, you elect people to make it a little easier for your movement to continue to make change happen. The Republicans tend not to forget that in recent years, but the Democrats, we sort of forget it every time. And with Hillary Clinton, who is, quite frankly, to the right of a lot of the mainstream of her party’s base, we are going to have to be clear that, should we help make her president, she is going to have to come closer to us on several issues, including criminal justice reform.
AMY GOODMAN: And what would that look like with criminal justice reform?
BEN JEALOUS: Well, I mean, for instance, you’ve got to remember, she’s the one who, back in 2008, said she wouldn’t give retroactive relief to folks who were addicts who got put away for big time for crack cocaine, for instance, who if they had been richer and using powder cocaine, would have been out very quickly. So she’s just simply going to have to become more humane and, quite frankly, willing to really embrace policies that even people like Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist have been willing to embrace, and more recently Rand Paul. I mean, being a tough-on-crime Democrat is simply out of step not just with the base of the party, it’s with the country as a whole increasingly.
AMY GOODMAN: And what about Rand Paul—let me put that question to John Nichols—who says that the Republican brand is broken and who may well run for president, as well, in 2016?
JOHN NICHOLS: I appreciate that. And let me break this into two quick points here. First, as regards Rand Paul, he’s exactly right. This is going to be, I think, a very strong night for the Republicans. What we’re seeing in these later results is a pattern of Republicans winning even in some unexpected places, as is being discussed. So, they’re going to be popping champagne corks. They’re going to be celebrating. But the fact is that they are winning a lot of races in very low-turnout, ideal circumstances for their party, with immense amounts of money flowing in on their behalf. They will not necessarily have all of those patterns in place in 2016 or, frankly, in many elections in the future. And so, the Republican brand is broken. And one of the big dangers for Democrats, including President Obama, is to fall into the trap of thinking that they have to bend too much to the Republican brand.
And this is the important thing to understand. Amy, you just mentioned that previous presidents have taken hits in the sixth year of their tenures, in the midterm elections of their second terms. That’s exactly true. Ronald Reagan took a huge hit in 1986. Dwight Eisenhower, they lost 15 Republican seats in 1958. Franklin Roosevelt lost eight Democratic seats back in 1938. But here’s the important thing, and this is why, instead of flipping right away to the 2016 race, it becomes very, very important to focus on the here and now. Presidents in the past have taken hard hits in these midterm elections in their sixth years and turned it around, come back and used the bully pulpit, executive orders and the veto pen to assert a vision. President Obama needs to do that. And you asked about movements before. This is where movements—
AMY GOODMAN: Give examples.
JOHN NICHOLS: —become absolutely essential.
AMY GOODMAN: John, give examples.
JOHN NICHOLS: Yeah, the climate change—sure. Climate change activists have to make it absolutely clear to the president that he can’t compromise on Keystone. Labor, environmental, human rights activists have to make it absolutely clear to the president that he is wrong to be advancing the TPP and these free trade deals. And most importantly, there has to be clarity that if this president negotiates on issues like chained CPI and raising the retirement age, he will create a situation where the Democrats are in partnership with the Republicans on doing things that the American people don’t want. Now, President Obama has shown a tendency to negotiate, to try and want to make things work. I understand that. But this is where movements have to be very loud and very clear, because on these issues, the progressive agenda is not just good policy, it is also good politics. If President Obama starts making grand bargains with this Republican Senate in the next two years, he creates a situation where a Democratic Party that still has many advantages going into a presidential cycle could lose some of those advantages. So, this is a big deal moment, and before we flip to 2016, we should be very conscious that a lot of what happens in 2015 will be highly significant as regards the whole of our politics, as well the lives of a lot of Americans.
AMY GOODMAN: Imara Jones?
IMARA JONES: I mean, I think, for me, what’s interesting is, you said that this broadcast is ending in part where it began. I think that that’s where President Obama’s presidency is. I mean, these last two years are going to be decided on economics and the war. And those are the two things that he came in on. And he’s going to have to decide what his legacy is going to be on both those fronts, both on—in terms of not only all of the issues that were mentioned. I wouldn’t be surprised if tax cuts come back. I wouldn’t be surprised if entitlements come back. There is a chance that they’re probably going to harass the Affordable Care Act to death, maybe not repeal it, but a death by a thousand cuts. And there will be increased pressure on him to step up the war against ISIS and in Iraq. And he’s going to have a hard choice to make. And I think that the role that movements have is giving him that counterleverage, because when he leaves the presidency, the people that he’s going to have to live with for the rest of his life, in terms of associations and people who will remember his legacy, are the movement people. They won’t be Republicans. And so, he’s going to have a choice to make, and movements can help make that a little bit easier. But he’s ending where he began.
AMY GOODMAN: By the way, Oregon has just approved recreational marijuana. But continue.
BEN JEALOUS: Which has sort of been approved in a de facto way in Oregon for a very long time. But, you know, the reality is, is that—
IMARA JONES: For years.
BEN JEALOUS: —President Obama, on immigration, is going to have to make a tough choice. He’s been willing to be called the deporter-in-chief, because he’s been willing to believe he can make a grand bargain with the Republicans. It is very likely—it will become clear very quickly—there is no grand bargain to be made with the Republicans. And he’s going to have to decide whether or not he has the courage to go ahead and use his executive power to try to create as humane an immigration policy for this country as possible in his last couple of years. And again, on criminal justice, you know, he is a black man in this country, and we are three times more likely to be incarcerated than black men in South Africa at the height of apartheid, when they were the world’s leading incarcerator. He will either leave this office with a legacy of really ratcheting down incarceration and sending us on a course to shut down prisons, quite frankly, as Rick Perry has done in Texas, where they’re now scheduled to shut down five prisons, or he will leave, quite frankly, with the shame of having tolerated an astronomically high incarceration rate of people as a whole in this country and, most precisely, people like him.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Mark Trahant, you’re a longtime journalist, former president of the Native American Journalists Association—Native Americans in this country, sadly, among the poorest populations in the United States—what you think has to happen?
MARK TRAHANT: Well, I think, on issues like the Senate, probably Keystone will be first. And I think that’s going to require—it’s definitely going to have activism from the Plains tribes and from the people who see that as a threat to their treaty lands. And I think that will need to be a message carried to the White House, that it’s something that cannot happen.
BEN JEALOUS: But also, let’s be real clear. There’s a real danger for the Republican Party in overreach in a lot of these areas. Their own—you know, they’re facing pressure from younger Republicans that say, “Look, guys, we’ve got to grow up on climate change and actually get back to a more realistic position.” They face pressure from women, saying, “Don’t you dare start talking about transvaginal ultrasound again, you know, or these parenthood bills.” You know they put—you know they face pressure—
AMY GOODMAN: Governor McDonnell ended up being indicted and convicted, not on that issue, but—
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, stunned him. Right, but also his attorney attorney lost, you know, who was seeking to replace him as governor, Cuccinelli, right?
AMY GOODMAN: In Virginia.
BEN JEALOUS: Yeah, you know, and you’re going to see, you know, Latinos saying to the Republicans, “Look, unless you want to lose us like for a century, you know, you guys got to be willing to kind of tack back towards us.” And you also will see, I think, black activists saying to them, “Look, if the president’s not willing to lead on criminal justice reform, we’re willing to talk to you,” because the signals that Rand Paul is sending, that Newt Gingrich is sending, that Grover Norquist is sending are actually very interesting to a lot of folks who at the end of the day are just saying, “We’re willing to work with anybody who will lower our incarceration rate, because it’s out of control.”
IMARA JONES: And these voter suppression numbers—
JOHN NICHOLS: Amy, can I jump in here?
IMARA JONES: —that we’re seeing tonight only work in really close elections. When you have wave elections like with President Obama in 2008 and 2012, they’re less effective. And so, it just goes to your point that these things, the tricks that they pulled to win, may not necessarily hold.
AMY GOODMAN: Imara Jones and Ben Jealous, as well as Mark Trahant and John Nichols, some stations will leave to update locally. We wish you a fond farewell. But we are continuing in the last few minutes to wrap up on everything that is taking place.
LEE FANG: Amy, can I jump in here?
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, Lee Fang—
JOHN NICHOLS: Can I jump in on this for one second?
AMY GOODMAN: —you wanted to jump in these last few minutes.
LEE FANG: Just one point. You know—
JOHN NICHOLS: This is John Nichols.
LEE FANG: —this Republican wave—and it’s certainly a wave—is not permanent. This was a very favorable map for Republicans. Democrats had to defend more seats than Republicans. And in 2016, the map will flip.
Now, on your point about social and political movements, political waves can spark a backlash, can spark grassroots organizing. After the Democratic wave in 2008, we saw the tea party movement. After the tea party wave in 2010, we saw Occupy Wall Street. The question for Democratic and left-leaning donors is: Where are they going to put their resources? Are they going to continue spending money on political attack ads and on political consultants, or will they shift their resources into energizing activists on the ground on climate and economic justice issues.
Look, this wasn’t an ideological night necessarily. Many of the Democratic candidates who ran on economic populist agendas won big majorities: Brian Schatz, Al Franken, Jeff Merkley. Almost every minimum wage ballot initiative passed, or it looks like it will pass. If you look in Florida, one of the upset Democratic victories for the House of Representatives, Gwen Moore, won by campaigning on food stamps. There are many issues that are bubbling underneath the surface. They haven’t received the same kind of coverage as some of the other issues, like Ebola or the threat of ISIS, that many of the Senate candidates were talking about. But regular Americans are very interested in social and economic justice, and candidates who have taken up that charge have done very well. Obama can lead on these issues by taking executive action.
And I think my last point for the night is, the IRS and the FEC has failed to enforce election law over the last four years, since Citizens United. The lasting legacy for President Obama on campaign finance, he should issue executive orders on campaign finance. He can do one that could force federal contractors to disclose all dark money contributions. And he should also pressure his DOJ, his Department of Justice, to enforce election law. Historically, the DOJ has deferred to the FEC. The FEC is toothless, given its three-three stalemate. The DOJ needs to take up the charge and enforce election law.
AMY GOODMAN: And there are some precedents that were set tonight. In Massachusetts, Maura Healey, a Democrat, has declared victory in the race to succeed Martha Coakley as Massachusetts attorney general. A former assistant attorney general in Massachusetts, Maura Healey will be the first openly gay attorney general in the nation. She defeated the Republican, John Miller.
As we turn now back to Colorado, because the governor’s race is too close to call, but Susan Greene is back with us, editor of The Colorado Independent, longtime reporter and columnist formerly with The Denver Post, and she is at The Colorado Independent newsroom, which is in the same building as Denver Open Media, our colleagues in—as well as a hackerspace. It’s a real hub of independent media in Denver. Susan, the latest you have on what’s happened in Colorado?
SUSAN GREENE: The latest we have is the governor’s race is a total nailbiter, neck and neck. Nothing is moving. Nobody’s really actually expecting to hear a result tonight. In the Senate race, Cory Gardner soundly defeated incumbent Mark Udall, Democratic Mark Udall, in that Senate race. And in our congressional CD6 race, which was one of the closest—considered one of the closest congressional races in the country, incumbent Mike Coffman beat Democratic challenger, former state Representative Andrew Romanoff by 53.54 percent of the vote. So—
AMY GOODMAN: Mike Coffman was a proud birther, right? Someone who was demanding the birth certificate of President Obama.
SUSAN GREENE: That’s correct. Back to the governor’s race, what we have is Bob Beauprez, who’s slightly leading our incumbent Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, ran for governor eight years ago and lost by 17 points to then District Attorney Bill Ritter. He was trounced by 17 points eight years ago. And what we have now is he’s slightly above a—Governor Hickenlooper has been relatively—actually, very popular in the state. So, we think that has a lot to do with people’s feelings about Obama and Beauprez tying Hickenlooper as much as he possibly can to Obama, even though Hickenlooper’s actual policies and his platform aren’t that closely tied to the president’s at all.
AMY GOODMAN: And, John Nichols, last response in Madison, Wisconsin?
JOHN NICHOLS: Absolutely. Look, one of the things that’s important to understand is that what everyone’s saying tonight is so important, actually vital to the discussion—I apologize, I’m getting calls coming in—but this is an important thing to understand about the dynamic of this year. We’re talking about the Republicans overreaching. One of the things that Republicans figured out in 2014 is how not to overreach, how to reposition themselves, how to make themselves appear to be more moderate than they are. And one of the things that has made that possible is massive infusions of money. The fact of the matter is that in many states across this country, as journalism has stood down, money has filled the void as regards information and politics. That has made it possible for many Republican candidates to position themselves as contenders that they are not. We should not expect that the Republican Party is going to hand Democrats the kinds of mistakes that it did in the past.
And so, two things have to happen tonight. All the social movements that we’ve talked about have to energize and get very serious about putting real pressure on not just the Republicans, but the Democrats. And people who still want to believe in the Democratic Party must become much more engaged in changing the Democratic Party—
BEN JEALOUS: That’s right.
JOHN NICHOLS: —so that it stands for issues and ideas that excite people. Lee Fang was right: There are populists who won tonight. When you put real issues on the ballot, things like a minimum wage increase, things like paid sick leave, they win easily. And so, what we know is the American people are ready for a message, but it is very clear that the Democratic Party has not been delivering that message. And so, don’t assume that the Republicans are the mistake-prone party that they were in the past. They’re getting better at what they do. They’re getting the money to reposition themselves, at least in the public discourse. Democrats have got to make some very serious changes if they want to remain as competitive as they can be in future elections.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there, John Nichols, speaking to us from Madison, Wisconsin. I also want to thank Susan Greene in Denver, Colorado; Imara Jones of Caffeine TV; and Ben Jealous, the former head of the NAACP, now head of the Southern—
BEN JEALOUS: Elections Fund.
AMY GOODMAN: —Elections Fund. And, as well—that does it for the show. And I also want to thank Lee Fang, who was speaking to us from San Francisco, of The Nation magazine, as well.
Republicans have won control of the U.S. Senate for the first time in eight years. Republican candidates flipped at least six Senate seats that were previously Democratic. In North Carolina, Thom Tillis, the state House speaker, defeated the incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan. In Arkansas, Republican Tom Cotton ousted Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor. And in Colorado, Democratic Senator Mark Udall lost his seat to Republican Cory Gardner. Udall has been a key voice against NSA surveillance and in favor of releasing the Senate’s report on CIA torture. Republicans also gained Senate seats in West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota. In New Hampshire, Republican Scott Brown is now refusing to concede the race to incumbent Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen; after news outlets called the race in Shaheen’s favor, there’s talk of a recount. Louisiana’s Senate race is headed for a runoff election, as Senator Mary Landrieu, the Democratic incumbent, and Representative Bill Cassidy, a Republican, have both failed to reach the threshold of 50 percent. Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner has reportedly won a narrow victory against Republican challenger Ed Gillespie. Republicans will also keep their hold on the House of Representatives. In closely watched gubernatorial races, Republican Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Rick Scott in Florida have both won re-election.
[end of hour five]