Bernie Sanders Is Fighting to End the Media’s Demonization of Socialism

September 12, 2019

We had a conversation with Sen. Sanders' Press Secretary Briahna Joy Gray on the right-wing talking points used by mainstream media to discredit Sen. Sanders and the falsehoods about socialism perpetuated by the GOP

We had a conversation with Sen. Sanders' Press Secretary Briahna Joy Gray on the right-wing talking points used by mainstream media to discredit Sen. Sanders and the falsehoods about socialism perpetuated by the GOP


Bernie Sanders Is Fighting to End the Media's Demonization of Socialism

Story Transcript

TAYA GRAHAM: Welcome to The Inequality Watch. Remember, this show focuses on one of the most socially destructive and politically trenchant topics today, our nation’s growing income inequality. To do so, we take a critical look at the policies and the politicians who are making it worse, and those who are trying to make it better.

So I want to start the show today with the question: What’s wrong with socialism? If you watch the mainstream media and listen to Republican pundits, quite a lot. But despite the fact that American socialism brought us popular programs like Medicare and Social Security, the powers that be try to paint it as an existential threat. But at least one Presidential candidate has not only used the term but embraced it. I’m talking about Democratic candidate for President Bernie Sanders, who’s released a variety of proposals, from free college tuition to Medicare for All, that would represent the best aspects of socialism. And this week he took it a step further talking about an economic bill of rights, an idea that has roots in the New Deal era is finding new footing today.

So to help me understand not just what socialism is, but how it could benefit all Americans and why the right is so fearful of it, I’m joined by a key member of his Presidential campaign. Her name is Briahna Joy Gray and she’s the Press Secretary for Senator Bernie Sanders. Briahna, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us. We really appreciate it.

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: Of course, it’s my pleasure.

TAYA GRAHAM: So first I want to discuss with you something I find a bit disturbing, and that’s the mainstream media bias towards capitalism, especially in healthcare. And specifically I would like to address Senator Sanders’ interaction with mainstream media. A few weeks ago, he was cut off by Jake Tapper during the first Democratic debate on CNN when he started discussing how CNN profits from the healthcare industry and pharmaceutical companies in particular. And then in the previous election, CNN denied him airtime and now constantly broadcasts polls that say Biden is the most electable.

BERNIE SANDERS: Jake, your question is a Republican talking point. At the end of the day–and by the way, and by the way, by the way, the healthcare industry will be advertising tonight on this program.

JAKE TAPPER: Thank you Senator. Senator Warren, it’s your turn.

BERNIE SANDERS: Oh, can I complete that please?

JAKE TAPPER: Your time was up. 30 seconds.

BERNIE SANDERS: They will be advertising tonight with that talking point.

JAKE TAPPER:  Senator Warren.

TAYA GRAHAM: So why do you think the mainstream media, and CNN in particular, has had such an adversarial relationship with Senator Sanders?

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: This is such an interesting and sometimes difficult subject. Because for a really long time, the narrative in this country about who was a good actor and who was a bad actor, particularly among Democrats, has been about individual character and less about the structures and systems that motivate people to take political stances that are adversarial to what the average American–the 99% if you will–actually want.

So what Bernie Sanders is actually doing is being one of the first politicians to be very vocal about the fact that a news company that runs ad revenue placed by companies that have interests that are antagonistic to Americans, it’s going to have a conflict of interest. And it’s not about saying that there are bad actors, bad people or bad journalists who just have a vendetta out against Bernie Sanders. It’s not as though we’re saying that there’s individual writers at various publications who just have it out for us. But when we’re talking about the institutional systemic problems, this is what we’re talking about, the negative influence and the role of money in the campaign and in the political process.

TAYA GRAHAM: So one thing Bernie has discussed recently is an economic bill of rights which would be similar to our constitutional Bill of Rights. Could you elaborate on this idea and also another idea you mentioned, which was workplace democracy?

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: Yeah. So something that Bernie Sanders really popularized in 2016, and which I’m so heartened to hear coming from almost all of the candidates this time around, is talking about and framing things in terms of human rights. And what that framing does, it says that human beings, on the basis of being alive, shouldn’t be suffering in ways that are easily preventable, given that we live in the wealthiest country in the history of the world. So we started saying healthcare is a human right. Whether you live or die shouldn’t be contingent upon whether or not you’re able to afford a certain prescription.

And increasingly we’re broadening that concept which a lot of us understand intrinsically, which has been really core to a lot of religious traditions, that human beings throughout history have understood, that we shouldn’t let our neighbors suffer where we could step in and assist them. Now we’re talking in terms of economic bill of rights, having baseline salaries, housing rights for all Americans, rights to counsel, for instance. Part of our criminal justice initiative is to triple the indigent defense budget so that not just wealthy people can take advantage of counsel to defend them when they’re being evicted from their homes, when they’re subjected to criminal prosecution, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

So the Workplace Democracy Act is an extension of that, which recognizes that the greatest level of income equality that we’ve had in this country came during the period of a substantial Union membership. And it really understands and bolsters the power of Unions to create equality across the board. So what we say is that in the 1970s, the gap between CEO pay and employee pay was 30 to one, which is what people guess it is when asked today: “How much more do you think CEOs make than their employees?” The harsh reality, though, is it’s over 300 to one today, and there’s a direct correlation between Union membership in this country and the wealth gap, the income salary gap.

So what Bernie Sanders is doing with the Workplace Democracy plan, first and foremost, is to make it much easier for workers to unionize by basically simplifying the two-tier process which currently exists, where first you have to get 30% of your workplace to sign a Union card, submit that to the NLRB, get that approved and then have a vote where if you had 50% plus one you can have a Union. Now it’s a one-step process where you pass out the Union authorization cards and if half your workplace decides to unionize, you can. And what that does is make that so there’s fewer opportunities for employers to do Union busting activities, which are incredibly common, even though they are in fact illegal.

TAYA GRAHAM: Our show is about inequality, and Senator Sanders is one of the only candidates that’s even willing to use the word income inequality or discuss taxing the wealthy. Why is inequality such a dirty word in our political discourse, and why do mainstream media outlets seem to avoid this discussion as well?

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: That’s a really interesting question. I think that for a very long time, at least the last 30 years or so since more moderate conservative Democrats took a hold of the party starting in the late ’80s-early ’90s, there has been a simplification of how our political system works, where it’s Republicans who have leaned into the Southern strategy Lee Atwater style of campaigning with the apotheosis of that in Donald Trump. It’s very easy to paint the Democrats then as the good guy, as long as you aren’t the frothing racist. Right? And what has happened then is that there’s a blurring of the lines that has occurred. So it’s difficult to hold Democrats accountable to being truly responsive to the needs of the indigent, the poor. Poor is a word you very rarely hear on television.

The focus has become very squarely on the middle-class, and that’s because those people are more likely to vote. And so what we’re hoping to do with this movement is to galvanize the millions of Americans who stay home. Because frankly, they’re being offered very little by either political party. They have lives of trial and suffering under Democratic Presidents, under Republican Presidents. And although there are substantial and significant differences between Democrats and Republicans, neither party has done enough to meet the needs and interests of the people who are suffering the most in this country.

And it’s a cycle, because those people have less political capital because they don’t vote because their needs aren’t met. And what we’re trying to do is break that cycle. And there’s a lot of evidence too that we’re actually doing it. For instance, the fact that the group that contributes in the most amount to our campaign, small dollar donations, are people who work at Walmart and who are teachers.

TAYA GRAHAM: Interesting.

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: Right? And there’s no surprise, given the extent to which Bernie Sanders has stood with teachers striking across this country for years, long before it became an electoral issue. And because he’s taken the fight for a $15 minimum wage to the Walmart boardroom, in addition to Disney, Amazon, and a number of large corporations who have been making profit hand over fist and returning little to none of that to their employees who are actually generating those profits.

TAYA GRAHAM: I’m glad you mentioned race. Because in that relation to inequality, I was curious about where Senator Sanders stands with reparations now.

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: Well, like all of the candidates in the race–I think almost all of the candidates in the race–Bernie Sanders supports Sheila Jackson Lee’s reparations bill, H.R.40. And the purpose of that bill is to do the kind of exploratory research that is required to really make sure that reparations isn’t just a one-and-done symbolic gesture that doesn’t really do anything to close a substantial racial wealth gap that persists in this country, but is actually able to provide real equity. Right?

Because the worst outcome would be for us to be able to say, “All right, black Americans can stop complaining. They got their reparations. Now we don’t have to pay attention to all of these other social programs.” I mean, that’s kind of the concern that a lot of people have about programs like UBI even. But if we say we’re going to give everybody a certain amount of money, then it enables the government to potentially exculpate themselves for having responsibility for continued inequity. Right? “I will cut them a one-and-done. I gave you a check and that’s it.” So the purpose of the reparations bill is to say this is a huge problem and at no point in American history has scholastic and legal attention been really dedicated to figuring out how to solve this fundamental problem of the racial wealth gap.

But in addition to that, the Sanders campaign doesn’t believe that you can just sit on your laurels and wait for that research to be done. We are pursuing myriad policies that are particularly aimed at addressing not just the income gap but the wealth gap. And I would argue that Bernie Sanders’ overarching economic agenda, the passion of his life, has all been part and parcel of trying to close that racial wealth gap, from the time that he was a college student who was heading and organizing his CORE chapter, protesting school segregation through attending the March on Washington–which we all should remember was a march for jobs and freedom, a march for economic rights, fundamental economic rights–through his advocacy in Congress to today.

TAYA GRAHAM: It’s interesting that you mentioned his civil rights track record and the work that he’s done with organizing over the years, because everyone seems to think that Joe Biden is the default choice because of electability. How would you counter the argument that Joe Biden is more electable than Senator Sanders?

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: Well, for one, when you look at the districts which went from Obama to Trump, the famed Obama to Trump voter, Bernie Sanders consistently polls better–or sorry, we have received more money from those districts, more campaign contributions from those districts than any other candidate. Second, I would say that overall, no candidate in this race has received more individual contributions than Donald Trump, except for Bernie Sanders. So what we’re seeing is when you look at actual contribution numbers, people who are out there in America looking at what’s going on and who aren’t just responding to a phone call saying, “This is who I think I like today, this is who I think I like tomorrow,” but who are willing to put actual green dollars behind their political choices, the only person who beats Trump by that metric is Bernie Sanders.

And the third thing I would say is if you look at the states that Bernie Sanders won in the primary in 2016, those are exactly the states where you need a significant amount of popularity to swing them back to the Democrats. And so you’re looking at places that really responded to Bernie Sanders’ trade policies, for instance; the fact that he has been on the right side of the TPP, of advocating for trade policies that benefit the American worker. That is why he has maintained such strong popularity in Midwestern states like Pennsylvania, states that are going to be crucial for us in 2020.

TAYA GRAHAM: It’s interesting that you’re talking about how the voters are willing to put their money behind Sanders. And for a voter who’s just starting to engage with Sanders, they would notice that he stands out from the other Democrats by not being afraid of being categorized as a socialist, and that he even embraces it. So how does being a socialist make his policies different from the other Democrats that are on stage right now?

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: So for people who might be put off by the term socialist, I would frame it by saying that democratic socialism is something that is as American as apple pie. And many of the most popular programs that we have in this country are the result of a Democratic socialist named FDR who implemented them in the first half of this century; programs like Social Security. And I want people to think critically about how basically it’s in the name. So here’s how I tell it to friends who don’t know a lot about what socialism means: Capitalism is a system that says we’re going to put capital first; capital being money, resources, the green, green dollar. And in a capitalist system, we have socialist aspects. In a capitalist America, we have the New Deal programs. In a capitalist country, we have a fire department who doesn’t ask you if you’ve paid your fire dues before they put out your fire in your house.

TAYA GRAHAM: That’s a good point.

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: They just do it, right? Public libraries are socialistic, right? Institutions paid for from a common good and that are open for the benefit for all. In a socialist system similarly, you have capitalism, and the democratic socialist countries that Senator Sanders most often points to as an example of how our economic systems and our social systems could move toward, they all have market, right? This isn’t a question of state ownership of your mom and pop stores, state ownership of your school, et cetera. But what it is saying is, let’s start from the principle of putting society first, of putting people first. Because if someone’s going to fall through the cracks, if there’s going to be something that we need to adjust, it’s more humane to say we’re going to protect the most vulnerable first as opposed to saying we’re going to protect shareholders first.

And what’s interesting is that you see the whole of our society starting to agree increasingly, where the Business Roundtable association, a group with all of the major CEOs in this country, recently just a couple of weeks ago said, “Hey, up until this point, our founding credo has been that the number one priority for us, our founding purpose, is to protect the American shareholder.” And they at this point realize that that sounds too callous and too draconian for an America where so many people are struggling, where 50% of Americans can’t respond to a $400 health emergency. Where medical bankruptcies hit 500,000 Americans every year. Where one in two Americans have health insurance insecurity over the course of the last two years of their life. And they know that this is unsustainable, and it’s frankly immoral, in a country that is the wealthiest country in the history of human civilization.

TAYA GRAHAM: Absolutely. So let’s just dig into Senator Sanders’ criminal justice reform plan. So first, let’s talk about the bail system. Now here we’ve done a lot of reporting on the movement for bail reform in Maryland and how cash bail essentially holds poor people in prison, and it allows people to buy their freedom, which is an unfair practice. But I think your interview with Kalief Browder’s older brother really powerfully illustrated why that is so important. Kalief Browder was a young man who spent three years in jail, most of that time in solitary confinement, for a crime he did not commit, for stealing a book bag. The toll it took on him led to his suicide after release. I don’t think as many people know the story of his own brother. Could you share about your interview on your podcast with his older brother? I thought that was really interesting.

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: Yeah, so I host the campaign’s podcast called Hear the Bern. And on what I believe was episode six of the podcast, I was so heartened that Akeem Browder, Kalief’s older brother, was willing to talk to me. I thought the conversation was just going to be about what happened to his brother and the events that led up to his suicide, but in fact what it turned out was that Akeem had also been similarly caught up in the justice system. He too had been arrested and spent a year of his life in jail for a similarly low-level offense and knew firsthand what it felt like to be subject to solitary confinement, which the Sanders campaign believes is cruel and unusual punishment and should be banned–is banned under his criminal justice policy. So what happened to both of these young men and what happens to too many young disproportionally black, Latino and male and Native American people in this country, is that when we’re put into jail, bail is set. And that bail has very little relationship to your actual flight risk and your ability to pay.

So someone who is middle class, upwardly mobile, you get put in jail and say there’s a $500 bond, you’re able to pay it off. You can go home, go to work, go to college, do whatever you were planning to do the next day. When you can’t afford $500, as 50% of Americans cannot, what ends up happening is you end up serving a jail time simply because you are poor. And in the case of Kalief Browder, he served three years in jail because he couldn’t afford a relatively modest fee to get out. And moreover, that time spent in solitary confinement really destroyed him psychologically. And after he was finally released, he consequently ended up taking his own life, extraordinarily tragically.

TAYA GRAHAM: Senator Sanders was a really early critic of mass incarceration. Can you tell me some of the ways his platform is different than, let’s say, Vice President Biden?

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: First and foremost, I would like to just really make it clear that Bernie Sanders has been ahead of the ball with respect to criminal justice issues. In 1994–a lot of people are very familiar with this ’94 crime bill, which is also called the Biden crime bill because he drafted and implemented it and really tried to distinguish himself and get gain praise from the broader Democratic community back then for poising himself as someone who was tough on crime, Joe Biden did.

TAYA GRAHAM: Exactly.

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: Right? And in that moment, Bernie Sanders contemporaneously–and this is something I very much respect about him–understood what the long term consequences of that kind of bill was going to be, what the long term consequences of the three strikes law and other draconian aspects of the bill were going to be. So he took to the floor of Congress at that time and gave an impassioned five to ten minute speech, really presciently outlying exactly why those aspects of the bill should not be included.

While a lot of people would criticize Bernie Sanders for ultimately voting for the bill, he was clear contemporaneously that he felt like he was between a rock and a hard place. And he said, “Look , you have looped in with these horrible tough on crime policies the Violence Against Women act, which I strongly support, and certain gun laws that took certain kind of automatic guns off the street. And so you’ve made it so that either basically 20 or 30 years from now I’m going to be criticized for being bad on women and not supporting this really crucial piece of legislation.” And he advocated for those things to be separated, and of course they weren’t because certain members of Congress benefit from lumping these things together. And that is how legislation ends up getting passed more often than not, unfortunately.

But what’s really important to me here is that we need a President, we need a candidate who doesn’t need 30 years of mass incarceration to go by to understand that policies … This is what he said on the floor: “We need to look at the root causes of what’s causing crime.” We can’t have policies that, as Joe Biden said at the time, “What about my grandmother? What about my son? What if sister gets mugged on the street?” Doing all of this fear mongering that really undermines the humanity of the people who are caught up in the system.

TAYA GRAHAM: Exactly.

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: Because at the end of the day, we’re all Americans and we can’t have policies that would discard huge swathes of our country, especially when we know that so much of what is at the root cause of the violence that was being weaponized to advance these tough on crime bills is the result of the legacy of slavery, is the result of the legacy of Jim Crow, is the result of the legacy of not having anything even approaching equal rights and access to economic opportunity until the mid ’60s, until well after my own mother was born. And so to ignore root causes and to pursue such a draconian policy, it’s a mistake that we can’t make again. And we need to make sure that we pick leadership who not only knows what the right thing to do is now, but who has had the foresight and the respect for individual human dignity to make policy decisions in the first instance that respect the rights of Americans.

TAYA GRAHAM: That’s a really interesting point that he was ahead of the curve there. Now I’d like to address an issue that’s really important here in Baltimore, and that’s the reform of our police department. You probably know Baltimore City is under consent decree for unconstitutional racist policing as founded by the DOJ. So we recently had a Gun Trace Task Force. This was eight police officers who robbed residents, dealt drugs, and stole over time. How could Senator Sanders plan end the corruption in the culture of policing, in particular police who remained silent when witnessing crimes committed by fellow officers?

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: Well one of the, I think, most powerful aspects of the criminal justice bill is to get rid of the qualified immunity that police officers have currently. So right now the burden of proof that is required to hold a police officer accountable, whether it’s for police shooting or other kinds of corruption is extraordinarily high. Because basically, if there’s like a reasonable police officer’s standard, more or less, if a police officer fears for their life, if a police officer can say that they subjectively felt like what they were doing was right, they are protected under qualified immunity. And what the consequence of that has been is that there has been very little incentive for police officers to do the right thing.

If the incentive is either shoot first and ask questions later or have to take a moment understanding that your job is dangerous and that we should do everything that we can do to protect our officers and make sure that they’re safe, but that part of signing up for jobs like police officers and firefighters and soldiers is that you are putting your life on the line to others in the community is to say, “I’m going to not shoot first and kill members of the community in order to protect my own skin.” So that’s one of the things that we can do to make sure that we can hold those people responsible, hold police officers responsible. Another thing that we had to look at is when you’re talking about corruption, this asset forfeiture issue is a huge and really undernoted issue by being media.

TAYA GRAHAM: Absolutely.

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: So there are extraordinary sums of money that has been basically stolen from communities, disproportionally low incomes communities, because police departments have acquired these in the course of searches and busts, et cetera, and not returned them to the community. And in fact, they will have sales of cars that are impounded and other kinds of high value property. And that money is returned to the police department and not actually used to benefit the communities at hand. So there are myriad, myriad ways that we have to have accountability for the police, and I really encourage people to look through the Sanders plan because we drafted it in consultation with some really outstanding members of the social justice, criminal justice community.

And that is why we’ve been able to attract supporters like Phillip Agnew of the Dream Defenders, like advocates like Killer Mike, people who have spent their lives advocating for issues that are relevant to the black community specifically and who haven’t previously really been interested in getting involved in national politics. They have decided to throw their lot in behind Senator Sanders because they see him as the real deal and genuinely committed.

TAYA GRAHAM: I had a TRNN viewer reach out to me on Facebook, and he had a question for you. Very specifically, I had told him that Senator Sanders’ platform engaged with the legalization of marijuana. But they want to know about ending the war on drugs entirely, like full decriminalization or legalization of drugs. Where does Senator Sanders stand on that right now?

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: Well, the legalization of marijuana is such a key part of this, but I don’t want to forget the fact that it’s also about expunging the records of people who have already been incarcerated on these marijuana charges. So something that’s emerging is that there is a now a market for legalized marijuana, and it’s not benefiting the communities that have been disproportionally affected by the war on drugs. So what you have is people who already have capital, people who already have resources who are able to invest in all of the infrastructure that is required to successfully have one of these businesses and to get the licenses, et cetera. And oftentimes, those same businesses are reluctant to hire people with a criminal record.

TAYA GRAHAM: That’s a good point.

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: Even though they have oftentimes been thrown in jail for selling much smaller amounts of marijuana than these now legal enterprises. So what we don’t want to do is broaden the gap between the rich and poor, between black people who are disproportionately likely to be arrested for marijuana, smoking marijuana or selling marijuana, even though these things happen at a comparable rates between blacks and whites. And so that’s a key part of it. Nothing we do is intended or should have the effect of broadening existing discrepancies in our system.

TAYA GRAHAM: So let me just kind of switch here to ask you a burning question of mine. Why are Bernie Sanders supporters always perceived as being only white men of a certain age? Why is there this trope peddled by mainstream media that Senator Sanders doesn’t have any support in the black and Latino communities? Where are black Bernie bros and Latino Bernie bros? Why aren’t they being reported on?

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: It’s the question of my life. Look, they could talk to me, the National Press Secretary for the Bernie Sanders campaign, they can talk to our deputy campaign manager, a black woman named Rene Spellman, and they could talk to one of our campaign cochairs, Senator Nina Turner of Ohio. We are not only well-represented within the ranks of the campaign; we are overrepresented among Bernie Sanders supporters. So a poll came out a couple of weeks ago which showed that the Bernie Sanders coalition is the least white, most female, and most … If you’re going to use this as a metric of working class, it’s least college educated, which is a predictor of being working class–

TAYA GRAHAM: I didn’t know that.

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: –of any campaign in this race.

TAYA GRAHAM: That’s amazing.

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: The most white … we’re frequently compared to Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, but we actually have very different supporter basis. So her campaign is actually the most white of leading candidates and is the most college educated. So her demographics tend toward older white women and ours tend toward younger black and Latino, non-college educated people. And it’s no surprise given what our politics are.

Why the mainstream media doesn’t cover that narrative? Well, I have some thoughts, feelings and theories about that. I think that for a very long time, the way I was, I was explaining earlier about how our politics in this country have become very red and blue, black and white, and Republicans are the bad guys, Democrats are the good guys. There has hasn’t been a lot of opportunity to talk about how different kinds of people on the Left are distinguished from each other. And there is a way that race has become a shorthand for pointing to who’s a good guy, who’s a bad guy, who’s a good guy, who’s a bad actor.

So in 2016, Bernie Sanders didn’t perform as well with black voters largely because he had no name recognition. Here’s a man that at this point in the race in 2015 had single digit name recognition, right? And that had an effect among voters. And what you saw during the primary last time around was that as the primary progressed, Bernie’s share of the black vote grew and grew and grew. And so we’re at a point now where Bernie has the greatest share of Latino voters than anyone in this race.

TAYA GRAHAM: That’s amazing.

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: Moreover, the only person who is beating him with black voters is Joe Biden, again, perhaps arguably because of name recognition. And there are a lot of candidates, including candidates of color who are not doing very well, who are in single digits with black voters. And why that’s not a headline outside of the interest that … The Intercept did write a story about Bernie Sanders beating Kamala Harris two to one with black voters back in the Spring, but apart from that, I’ve seen very little coverage of it. And I have to think it’s because they have set up a dynamic where they have established that if the voters of color are behind you, that’s supposed to mean that you’re just good and the candidate that we should all get behind, and it’s backfired on them.

It’s backfired on those members of the corporate media who aren’t aligned politically with the kind of pro-people–not anti-corporate, but I would say wanting to restrain the vagaries of the corporate exploitation like our campaign is–those people are now put between a rock and a hard place. And so what they do is they simply ignore the fact that this is a black, brown and working class movement because that tacitly would mean that this is a movement that they have to endorse as well.

TAYA GRAHAM: It’s interesting that you brought up Senator Warren, because I think for a lot of progressive voters there is a real dilemma choosing between Senator Sanders and Warren. How would you say they’re different, and do you think they would even consider running together? That way you could have a whole coalition, all the different voters there. What do you think?

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: Well, that last part is above my pay grade, but I will state this. Look, it is such a privilege, as someone who was a civilian in 2016 who was very frustrated by all of the media narratives and the way that progressive issues were treated back then; Medicare for All characterized as being something fanciful, like wanting to be a pony. I’m heartened. It is so heartening to be in a race where there are actual progressive opportunities. I appreciate the fact that Senator Warren is adopting and championing some of Bernie Sanders’ policies alongside him. Frankly, in a lot of ways, it helps to insulate him from bad faith criticisms that people are reluctant to throw at Senator Warren for various reasons.

So we’re in a place now where you can’t just argue Medicare for All is like a pony if not only Bernie Sanders, but Elizabeth Warren and most of the field has in some way at least–I don’t want to say pretended–but has made gestures toward the relevance of and the importance of Medicare for All. But there are in fact real differences. And I think that you saw where those differences emerge earlier this week during the climate town halls where Senator Warren was asked–I think it was her last question, but toward the end of her time–what she felt about programs like the Tennessee Valley Authority, the TVA, one of these New Deal programs that was the government owned power company that was able to provide clean, cheap power to a large number of Americans during the New Deal era.

And there’s a part of Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal plan which is the most ambitious, best funded plan of the lot, which would have TVA-style energy sources that would eventually be able to provide free power to millions of Americans. And when the question was put to her, it seemed like she was uncomfortable with the idea of owning, the idea of a government-owned program, perhaps because she tends toward a more pure capitalist perception of how things should be done as opposed to understanding that there’s some times where capitalism is useful, some times where democratic socialism is useful, and that we shouldn’t be scared away by these kinds of terms just because the right wing wants to…

TAYA GRAHAM: Fear monger.

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: Fear monger, exactly.

TAYA GRAHAM: Absolutely. Briahna, I want to thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to join me today. I really appreciate it.

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY: Of course. It’s my pleasure, really.

TAYA GRAHAM: And I want to think the studio and my producer, Stephen Janis, for their help today. My name is Taya Graham and I want to thank you for joining me for a special edition of The Inequality Watch.

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