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  • TRNN Election Panel: Kim Trueheart Adam Jackson

    -   November 9, 12
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    TRNN Election Panel: Kim Trueheart Adam JacksonPAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. Paul Jay, coming to you from Baltimore and (if you're just joining us) coming to you from what will be the new headquarters—I guess it's already the new headquarters of The Real News Network, but we're in a very temporary set. We're building a new studio in Baltimore, and once it's all done, we will knock your socks off with our production values. Right now it's a pretty temporary site, but we will do our best to provide you some analysis and take on what's happening in tonight's U.S. elections.

    And we are going to cut back and forth to some CNN coverage. We're just really doing it so you can see the numbers at the bottom of the screen, 'cause we're going to keep talking over them.

    But go ahead. Let's show that, what that's going to look like. Yeah, there it is.

    So if you want to keep track of the numbers, we're going to have this up quite a bit of the time, and just without CNN's voices—and I'll leave you to your own discretion what adjective you'd like to use to describe CNN voices.

    But now joining us in our studio in Baltimore to talk—give us their take on what's happening tonight in the elections is, first of all—.

    Who are we going first first? We're going to go to Kim first.

    Kim Trueheart is a youth advocate and citizen journalist in Baltimore. Thanks for joining us.


    JAY: And Adam Jackson is the executive vice president of Leaders Of A Beautiful Struggle in Baltimore. And thank you for joining us.


    JAY: So let me ask both of you—I'll start with you, Kim. Does it matter to you what happens tonight? In other words, is there enough difference between these two candidates that matters to you?

    TRUEHEART: Oh, absolutely. President Obama represents the change that we wanted four years ago. And his initiatives have moved us into a direction, I think, that has preserved some of the things that we all like about America. And I think it's important that we continue to move in that direction. I think the opposition really didn't understand that the change that was occurring was important enough to continue or to even talk about. And what we have are folks on the opposition side just looking at America in some really strange ways that scare me. And so, yeah, it's important.

    JAY: Adam, how about you?

    TRUEHEART: I mean, it's important because there are very clear distinctions between Obama and Mitt Romney. But in terms of, like, you know, the past four years, like, there's been some, like, milestones, I guess, like, some major milestones, like with the health care bill, in terms of, like, the killing of Osama bin Laden and the killing of Muammar Gaddafi. You know, it's like he has all these, like, milestones that he gets to claim.

    But, I guess, to me, I've become more politically astute to understand that, you know, whoever's president at the end of the day, this is America, and there's certain—I mean, the way that America functions is the way that America functions. So to me it's important, because there are distinctions between the two of them, but at the end of the day, America's not going to be changed too much overnight, no matter who's elected.

    JAY: But what do you make of what Kim said, that President Obama represents the change he promised four years ago? 'Cause do you think we saw that kind of change over four years?

    JACKSON: I mean, I mean, I think that he's—I think that people kind of have this image of Obama in their mind of, like, this second-term Obama, of, like, him kind of ripping the shirt open and getting the S on his chest, being like, you know, now here's the real Barack Obama. But, like, to me it's like it's all about theater, you know, it's all about perception. Like, I don't really think Obama is going to really do anything transformative in his second term. I think it's going to—the same thing that happened the first term—you know, there's going to be crazy Republicans that block his legislation, you know, that he's going to have to constantly—.

    JAY: That's assuming he wins tonight,—

    JACKSON: Presuming he wins.

    JAY: —which is not yet clear.

    JACKSON: I mean, presuming he wins. You know, that's kind of my presumption at this point, I mean, unless the Republicans know something I don't. You know, that's kind of what I think. But at the end of the day, it's like, unless there's some really clear—unless there's any drastic difference in how he's been operating in his first term, which—I don't really think that's going to happen, don't really think [crosstalk]

    JAY: I've talked to a lot of young people in Baltimore, and including a lot of young black activists, and a lot of them are very disillusioned with President Obama. And they more or less see him now as essentially a corporate Democrat, centrist, center, center-right, really, corporate Democrat. And the hopes they had for him, partly because he was African-American, now think maybe that was kind of an illusion. You don't think so? Like, what over this last four years makes you think that—you know, other than the fact that he's African-American, that he's any different than any corporate Democrat?

    TRUEHEART: I don't know that he is. And what I hear in the young folks, in terms of their disappointment, is really their disappointment in Congress. Congress, in supporting our president, only supported him marginally. He wasn't able to do the transformative things that Adam was talking—that we all wanted. So that transformation—.

    JAY: But you still think he wanted to.

    TRUEHEART: Oh, absolutely.

    JAY: Like, if you look at health care, didn't he give up on public option pretty quickly?

    TRUEHEART: Oh, I think what he did was took several steps back from what the optimum health care solution was. We all know what it was. He just knew he couldn't get there. So in order to move us forward in advancing universal health care, he took this marginally acceptable solution and got it passed. Is it the optimum? Heck no. Is there an opportunity to do more? Absolutely. But the president is not the one who enacts the legislation. Okay? So if we don't have a Congress that's sitting there supporting him, advocating—.

    JAY: But he picked one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, Baucus, to run the hearings, which they kept single-payer people out completely, people that wanted, you know, Medicare-for-all kind of model. They wouldn't even let them speak at the hearings. I mean, why do you hand the agenda over to somebody you know who doesn't even like the public option? It makes you think that President Obama wasn't much in that direction himself.

    TRUEHEART: You know, I think he's pragmatic about what he has to do and the approach that he has to take. And if I were an elected official, I'd probably be as pragmatic as he. You know, I have the luxury of not holding a public office, so I can be extreme in my views, in my actions. He can't. And that doesn't make him less of the leader that I voted for. I want him to be this great, grand leader who's transformative. He just doesn't have the wherewithal to do it alone. If it was a dictator, he could, like, enact that legislation that we all wanted. But this is America, and so the democracy that we want to be in place requires him working with Congress, and some of those folks in Congress don't think like he does, aren't interested in the laws that we want, aren't interested in the programs that we want, and so he's going to be defeated occasionally. But I think he's a big enough man to understand that in defeat there are alternatives. I mean, we can look at the education act and see he can't get a new education act enacted.

    JAY: No, but he pushes—he's very much behind this Race to the Top thing, which the teachers are screaming about is killing real education in the schools now, this terrible, you know, testing mania and forcing, you know, schools essentially just to concern themselves about testing and not about the real education and culturalization of the kids.

    TRUEHEART: Exactly. Exactly. And that's [crosstalk]

    JAY: And President Obama's totally behind it. In fact, in 2008, one of the people—during the primaries, one of the people that supported Obama over Hillary Clinton was Rupert Murdoch and Fox News, because he actually agreed with President Obama's education policy. I mean, what do you make of the argument?

    JACKSON: I mean, I mean, well, first of all, I guess, if I can kind of, like, uproot kind of the discussion from national politics and put it in Baltimore, I mean, I want to address the first part of your question in terms of, like, why young black folks in particular are kind of disillusioned with Obama. The problem is is that Obama's not—I mean, this is kind of like, you know, a commentary on national politics in general is that it's not in the hoods, where people are starving and suffering the most. And kind of what's been happening during this election is that we've been co-opted into this national dialog with Governor O'Malley talking about Question 7, gay marriage, the DREAM Act. I mean, and it's like—you know, in Baltimore in particular, it's like people don't really care about those things. Like, there's a jail being built. People are—like, people are trying to build a jail, people are suffering, you know, and then reelection—.

    JAY: Yeah, let me just explain about the jail. The governor of Maryland's planning to spend $70-$100 million on a new jail for youth charged as adults while in Baltimore they're closing rec centers, the school system's a mess, and young people here—I guess it's not only Baltimore, but they talk about the school-to-prison pipeline, and instead of addressing why kids are winding up in prison—. And we're not talking about apparently a new women's prison as well, which I think is—they're planning to spend $200 million now.


    JACKSON: Yeah. Yeah. It's a pretty—I mean, it's pretty wild to me, 'cause, like, the thing is, in Baltimore's local politics, the culture is, you know, when the presidential election comes around, now we're all political and now we all care. But, like, last year in the mayoral election, a lot of people didn't vote. It was record lows in Baltimore City.

    JAY: I think 13 percent of people voted in the municipal election.

    JACKSON: Yeah. I think it's probably the lowest, like, in history, wasn't it? Like, the—.

    TRUEHEART: Pretty close.

    JACKSON: Yeah. And it's like people—and that—to me that kind of shows where Baltimore is at. Like, Obama represents an opportunity for us to get up and vote, you know, so it's like [crosstalk]

    JAY: And do you think people are?

    JACKSON: I think people are voting 'cause Obama's running. You know, I think that that—he gives the excitement to the race. But outside of that, people aren't really—I mean, and even then, the people that aren't voting, I don't blame them, because the same conditions they were in four years ago they're in now, and in Baltimore it's not really going to change for them unless there's transformative policies and transformative politicians that are in place.

    JAY: Right now we're looking at a popular vote. Apparently, President Obama's at 48 and Romney's at 51. So far, it's been a little bit more Romney than Obama, but, of course, California's not yet in and there's a lot of very democratic states that aren't being counted yet. So that might have something to do with how the horse race is going so far.

    What did you make of the third-party candidates? There was a campaign, for example, in states like Maryland that are not swing states that people should vote, for example, for the Green Party, which has, you know, probably pretty close to a set of policies you'd agree with, they might not have a chance to get elected, but that it was important, at least, to get something going so there's a third-party alternative. What do you make of that? Do you agree that there's that need? 'Cause certainly people here are—you know, they're very much historically, traditionally supporters of the Democratic Party.

    TRUEHEART: Oh, absolutely. The conversation has to be broadened. What we have is—you know, there was—and my circle of friends, there was this conversation going on that neither the Republican nor the Democratic candidate would talk poverty. Okay? We have poor people in this country.

    JAY: You wouldn't know that in this election, and you have to include President Obama, 'cause when's the last time he used that word?

    TRUEHEART: Exactly.

    JAY: It's all about the middle class. But if there's a middle, there's got to be a lower and an upper. But you don't hear those words.

    TRUEHEART: Right. And so that element of the conversation has been missing. So whether you're a Green Party candidate or an independent party candidate, whatever the persuasion, if you're going to introduce into the conversation those elements that are important to the masses, then that's an important element of that conversation that we want. We have to encourage that. And so I might not vote for the Green Party candidate, but I always welcome that dialog that they bring.

    JAY: Now, Adam, what do you make of the debate that's gone on to some extent in the Occupy movement, that the whole state of electoral politics is such that you can't really have much effect, any real change to electoral politics, so it's really more about movement-building, it's more about what can you do in terms of, you know, building larger protest movement and this sort of a thing? What do you make of that relationship of electoral politics to the movement?

    JACKSON: I think they're both tools. I think you can use voting as a transformative tool if you have a revolutionary option. So, like, when Dayvon ran, when Dayvon Love, when he ran in the 8th District in the last Baltimore City municipal elections—.

    JAY: Okay, just for—Dayvon Love is what? What's his title? He's chair or something of—.

    JACKSON: He's, like, research in public policy. That's what he does now, director of research and public policy.

    JAY: Okay. And he was—he's part of Leaders Of A Beautiful Struggle, which Adam was part of. Yeah.

    JACKSON: Yeah. Well, he—.

    JAY: And he ran in a district in the municipal elections and didn't do too well.

    JACKSON: Didn't do too well. But, you know, that's the kind of thing people need. You know, you need to have people that are going to be about transformative politics that are running. And that's a tool you can have, 'cause if they get elected—. People like Jill P. Carter, for example, she's in elected office, and she has very transformative ideas about policy in Maryland. And the thing is, if you have more people like that, that's a person you can use as a resource and a tool to get something done. But if you don't—but if you say we're not going to engage in electoral politics, then you're completely shutting yourself off of a realm of resources that you can use.

    Now, on the other side of that, you know, you also need to do movement-building and getting people involved in, like, the social issues of the day, 'cause, like, for example, the "Youth Justice Sunday" protest that happened in 2010 against the youth jail, that wouldn't have been as effective if we didn't coalesce with the politicians in talking to people about, you know, engaging in those kind of politics. So to me it's kind of like they're both tools, and you can't just throw either of them out, 'cause they're both important to doing things. You know. So that's kind of where I'm at with—'cause, like, even with Barack Obama, like, even in '08 he wouldn't have got elected if it wasn't for that kind of grassroots swell that he got from people who wanted him to get elected. So it all works together.

    JAY: But did he kind of make use of that grassroots swell and then kind of forget it the day after he got elected? But, like, my point, like, if he really cared, for example, about the public option with health care, and you had—if you really wanted it and you had this real grassroots movement behind you, why didn't you ask them to come to Washington in the hundreds of thousands and say, we want real health care reform? He wouldn't go outside this kind of parliamentary box and ask this movement to stay in the game. They only wanted that movement to win, and once they win, it was back to Washington politics as usual.

    TRUEHEART: Right. He's not a radical politician. You know, he's never demonstrated that he's for protesting and marching and all of that. And so I'm not sure that we even expected that from him.

    JAY: Well, then what do you make of the argument—like, for example, Glen Ford makes this argument from—he's the editor of Black Agenda Report—he makes the argument that President Obama's actually worse for the African-American community 'cause he kind of disarms people, that some policies that he can sell and get away with, if it wasn't an African-American president, people would be more enraged about—more likely to come out in the streets and oppose.

    TRUEHEART: I mean, I don't know how to answer that. The man is black. We have to acknowledge he's black. And so there are some things that a Caucasian will look at a black person and say, wow, they can speak to that, they're articulate, they're sensical, they're logical, okay, and they will embrace the conversation that comes out of this black man's, you know, agenda more readily because he's black and because they now appreciate that he has this ability to converse about it. So let's not make more of it than it is.

    JAY: No. But, like, Glen Ford's arguing the other way, right? He's saying that the oppositional movement amongst African-Americans is weaker because they don't want to take on a black president. What do you make of that, Adam?

    JACKSON: I mean, I think that, I mean, more generally speaking, if you're talking about, like, black politics in America, there's these ebbs and flows of integrationist thought and more, like, nationalist thought. So to me, like, Obama, like, earlier in the '90s, when Farrakhan was really popular and he was around in the media, talking on, like, talk shows, being—like, being at events and stuff, it was more of this nationalist current in black politics. But now Obama represents us being integrationists there, where it's like we've arrived, we've been elected to the White House.

    And, I mean—and generally speaking, I'm of the unpopular opinion that because he's black, that black people think that, you know, we're not going to, like, criticize Obama, because the thing is, at the end of the day, he's a black president who's president of a white country, who's under white control. And it's not like—I mean, I don't think about Barack Obama as the person; I think of all the systems that he represents and that he's under the purview of. So at the end of the day, it means I don't really think folks who are, like, activists, like, the folks who have kind of been disarmed by him, they were going to be disarmed by him because a black—he's, like, the first black president. Who wants to be the guy protesting against the first black president?

    So that's kind of where people are at. Like, the psychology is, we've arrived, we're straight. And for me, it's like it'd probably be better if he lost, 'cause people might actually get mad and do something. You know.

    JAY: That was my—I'm not making that point, but some people are.

    JACKSON: Yeah. I mean, 'cause if Mitt Romney wins and he's just as crazy as we think he is, maybe people will actually get mad and get up and want to do something material and transform the way America's constructed. But if Obama wins—.

    JAY: I guess it's a question of how much damage gets done in the meantime.

    TRUEHEART: In four years. Exactly.

    JACKSON: Yeah. Right. Right. And so that four-year—I think it would really be hell for us over that four years to have to deal with whatever he brings to the table, because I'm not sure what his agenda has been, you know, other than let's overturn everything Obama did. And that's not something that I'm looking forward to.

    JAY: Okay. We're going to carry on these discussions, as I told you. Real News is in Baltimore. And we're going to talk a lot more about Baltimore issues over the next months. Thanks very much for joining us.

    TRUEHEART: Thank you.

    JACKSON: Thank you.

    JAY: And we're going to take a little break. We'll be back with more Real News coverage of the U.S. presidential elections in just a couple of minutes.


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