Trump was called out as a white nationalist in the second night of Democratic presidential debates; demonstrators demanded Eric Garner’s killer be fired, and justice for immigrants. With Kimberly Moffitt, Dharna Noor, and Marc Steiner as host
GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE: We can no longer allow a white nationalist to be in the White House.
JULIAN CASTRO: The President is a racist.
ANDREW YANG: The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math.
SENATOR CORY BOOKER: We have a President that is not acting like the leader of the free world. He’s acting like an authoritarian against the actual Constitution that he swore an oath to uphold. …The way we beat Donald Trump is not just focusing on him. He wants to take all the oxygen out of the room. It’s when we start focusing on each other.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: The best impeachment is beating him in the election of 2020.
MARC STEINER: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Marc Steiner. Good to have you with us. Well, debate number two is finished and done. And while it offered more fireworks than the first night, it was also much more forceful. They took it right to Trump it seemed. And it was also very different because this is the only Presidential debate I can ever remember to take on police reform, calling out white privilege, calling out Trump’s white nationalism and racism in our world, talking about reinvesting endless war money into America’s infrastructure, and putting people to real work. And these were the so-called moderates.
Well, we’ll see what all that means with our guest today. And we have a series of conversations we’re going to do this morning and today. And we are joined in this segment with Dr. Kimberly Moffitt who is chair of Language, Literature and Culture at UMBC, is a media critic who often writes on politics and pop culture. She’s co-editor with The Obama Effect, and the forthcoming volume The FLOTUS Effect: Reflections on the Platform, Presence, and Agency of Michelle Obama. And Dharna Noor who’s producer and correspondent here at Real News, as well as being head of our climate change bureau. And welcome. Good to have you with us.
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT: Welcome. Thanks for having me.
DHARNA NOOR: Thank you.
MARC STEINER: And later in the program, we’ll have Jackie Luckman will be joining us as we change out with people, and continue with our other segments covering different aspects of what happened in last night’s debate. But let’s talk about the opening here for a minute. And talk about this taking it right to Donald Trump, and calling them out as a racist and white nationalist. And pulling no punches either in the opening or closing statements, were all fluid. So what do we make of this, and what this means for the battle coming up?
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT: Well, I would say with so many of the more recent events that have happened from the Oval Office that Democrats felt like they had to say something about it. I mean between the attacks on the four Congresswomen as well as the recent attack on Congressman Elijah Cummings, that all of those particular events were leading to a spot where Democrats felt like they had to respond. They had to say something to let the voters know, and potential voters for Democrats, know that they are listening, and they are aware, and they want to call out what Trump is doing.
MARC STEINER: Dharna?
DHARNA NOOR: I agree. I think they did have to take it on. And I was happy to see all of the candidates distinguish themselves very clearly from Trump and what his legacy will be if he is defeated. But I think that the Democrats are going to have to do a lot more than oppose Trump to really convince folks that they have a vision and a plan for the future that’s so different from his. I mean we’ve seen a number of candidates call out Trump’s racism, call out his homophobia, and his sexism, et cetera, who I think have pretty questionable records themselves. And I hope that now that we have addressed the fact that they will all distinguish themselves from him, I hope they actually decided to chart how they will do that, and what they’ll do to really take on that legacy and make structural change.
MARC STEINER: I mean for me, one of the things that I think is important, at least, as watching this, is you’ll not be able to criticize Democrats for having no fight, for not really having any backbone, and also not having the kind of platforms that can create a fight and take it as Donald Trump, and will even inspire people to come out. I mean, did you get a sense, and we’ll talk about this at one of our later segments as well, if you get a sense that this was like an opening salvo that way. That this may be happening, or was this just this rhetoric at Trump?
KIMBERLY MOFFITT: For me, it’s the same old same old. That it’s very clear that the only way Democrats are going to win is to make sure they galvanized African American voters to be present and at the polls and voting Democrat. And so at that moment they understand that they have to make sure that that population is listening to them, or that they feel listened to, that that population feels listened to. And without being able to come straight out and call out the President for some of the blatant disregard he has placed on individuals as well as cities that are predominantly African American, that this was a necessity for Democrats. Otherwise it does appear that they aren’t really committed or interested in those particular voters.
DHARNA NOOR: Agreed. And I think that part of the way that we have to do that is at every level, whether it’s in the federal elections, or at the local level, the state level, we need to call out people who are sort of supporting these kinds of policies no matter what party they’re in. Our colleague here, Taya Graham did a really great interview the other day with Lawrence Brown in response to Trump’s comments about Baltimore being full of rats attacking Elijah Cummings. And Lawrence Brown pointed out that it really is this, I hate to… I feel like neoliberal is like the most overused word on planet earth these days.
MARC STEINER: It’s used a lot. Yes.
DHARNA NOOR: But really I think that this erosion of public programming, and then the erosion of a party that’s supposed to be for the majority of people, for working people has really created the space for that, and allowed a person like Trump to come in. So I hope again that we can take on that legacy in both parties.
MARC STEINER: Before we talk about the demonstrations, one of the things that struck me also about what Democrats may or may not do in all this, I was listening to some pieces earlier today about reactions from folks in Dearborn. Which is where the majority Arab American Muslim community in Michigan who felt kind of nonplussed about the whole thing. They weren’t really engaged in this debate at all. And Michigan’s going to be a key state and if—
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT: Most definitely, yes.
MARC STEINER: The Democrats don’t find a way to engage African American voters, Arab American voters in Michigan, and disgruntled workers about what their future could be, they could lose the election.
DHARNA NOOR: Yeah, 100%. And I think part of the way that all candidates should be doing that is reaching out to people who aren’t voting. I think that one thing that AOC and some of our new representatives taught us was that the way that you get people to come out to vote isn’t just by saying come out and vote because it’s your right to do so. You say come out and vote for me because I have a plan that represents you, someone who didn’t actually feel represented before and didn’t vote before. So I think if we can see more of that, and we see more policy proposals and plans that really speak to people’s interests who aren’t voting, then we could see a victory.
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT: And that’s exactly what Trump did in 2016.
DHARNA NOOR: True.
MARC STEINER: Yes.
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT: I mean even though the plans didn’t have much depth to them, he at least spoke to that population, and told them that I hear you, I see you. I know that you are longing for something different and new, or even a return back to what you had when your industries were thriving. And I want to take you there. And those were buzzwords for a population that had felt overshadowed and overlooked for a number of decades for him to be able to change Michigan to red for 2016.
MARC STEINER: Exactly. And that one of the things in the debate last night, even though I don’t think de Blasio has a chance of getting a nomination, he at least raised the issue the Democrats have to fight back that way. They have to become Trump like, but on the other side.
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT: Yes.
MARC STEINER: And I think that was a really important point. In this segment, one of things I was really interested in, because I knew little about it, but we all heard it, Dharna, but you know more about it. Which is the demonstrators there. Who they were, what was going on? Talk a bit about what we know and don’t know about that.
DHARNA NOOR: I don’t actually know that any group has actually come out and said that they were the ones who orchestrated the first series of demonstrations where protesters came out during de Blasio and Booker’s talking points, shouting, “Fire Pantaleo.” Pantaleo of course the police officer who killed Eric Garner when Eric Garner, I believe 11 times said, “I can’t breathe.” Put him in a choke called and killed him. The DOJ obviously did an investigation into this.
I think actually Booker and de Blasio both at least paid lip service to the idea of removing him from the NYPD. But we haven’t seen action there. And I think that just the fact that we’re seeing those kinds of protests really shows how much the political game has changed since 2016. I think there’s more room for people to really come out and just be outright about what they’re demanding for people. Fire Pantaleo was very different than saying make slight adjustments in criminal justice, like body cameras. No. Fire Pantaleo because we believe that he did something wrong, and he should be punished for it. It’s murder. And I think that that’s right.
MARC STEINER: Absolutely. And that folks will be our next segment which we’re going to talk just about that. Which is one of the first debates I can remember to ever talk about police reform and really attacking criminal justice, and the way it was. We just saw the clip of people being let out. Where people were arrested?
DHARNA NOOR: Oh God, I believe so.
MARC STEINER: But I mean they—
DHARNA NOOR: We should see.
MARC STEINER: … were let out, and I would be very curious to know more about that. And I think one of the things at Real News we have to do is go find these demonstrators, talk to them, and see what they were demonstrating about, and bring that to you. I think it would be an important thing for us to do.
And so this is just segment one of a several part segments we’re doing here on last night’s debate here with Dr. Kimberly Moffitt and Dharna Noor. And I’m Marc Steiner here with the Real News Network. And check out the next segment as we really tackle this issue of police reform and criminal justice that happened at these debates. Stay with us.