Nina Turner on Bernie at the Women’s March, Trump’s ACA Sabotage, and More

The former Ohio state senator and current president of Our Revolution addresses the controversy over Bernie Sanders’ upcoming speech to the Women’s March convention; Trump’s new sabotage of Obamacare; the finale of “The Nina Turner Show,” and more

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Story Transcript

AARON MATÉ: It’s The Real News. I’m Aaron Maté. You’ve just been watching the Nina Turner Show, where Senator Turner sat down with Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner. This was also the finale of the Nina Turner Show, so here for a recap and to talk about the news of the day, I’m joined live now by Senator Nina Turner. If you have any questions for her, again, post them in the comments section and I’ll try to pose them to her. I understand that Senator Turner can hear me now?

NINA TURNER: Yes, Aaron, I can hear you now.

AARON MATÉ: Thank you for joining us. Let’s start with this finale of your show. This was the Nina Turner Show here on The Real News Network. You’ve done a lot of episodes. I’m just wondering your thoughts on this season that you’ve just done.

NINA TURNER: It was a beautiful experience, the opportunity to get to talk to the everyday grassroots organizers in our nation, whether they’re known by millions of people or hundreds of thousands of people or thousands of people, so I say anyone from Erica Garner to Winnie Wong to Linnie Sarsour to Danny Glover, Ally Sheedy, it was just a wonderful experience to highlight their stories and their voices.

AARON MATÉ: Let’s talk about the episode we just saw. You spoke to Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner. Like you, she made a decision to come out and campaign for Senator Bernie Sanders, which I can imagine for her especially, might have been a difficult decision because there was a lot of pressure on activist people out there, active around their causes, to support the Clintons. I’m just wondering your thoughts on the decision that she made to go and put her chips on Senator Sanders at a time when it might have been more politically expedient for some people, people like her, to go with the favorite of most people in the establishment, to go with the Clintons.

NINA TURNER: That’s right, Aaron. I applaud her courage and for her willingness to go with her heart. She has shared with me, certainly, that put her at odds even with members of her family, which is also hard. So not only was she getting it from strangers, she got it from people within her family. I applaud her courage in a very devastating time in her life and the life of her family for her to take such political courage and to support Senator Sanders. She supported him because she believes he is a revolutionary and that he wants to shake up the system, and that’s the kind of leader that she wanted to stand with, and she did just that.

Part of that clip also showed that that magnificent, empowering, emotionally moving commercial, that she thought of that commercial on her own, that she wanted to highlight the reasons why she supported Senator Bernie Sanders in her own voice. I respect her immensely. Even had she gone the other way, I’m not one of those people who dictate to people who they should support but you’re absolutely right, I want people to have very open minds, of course. You’re absolutely right, it would have been easier for her to go the establishment way. She took the harder route, even in all of her family’s grief.

AARON MATÉ: In your case, too, the Clintons initially supported your candidacy when you ran for office in Ohio, and you initially supported Hillary Clinton in her run for the presidency. I’m wondering, was that a hard decision for you to switch gears and throw your support to Senator Sanders?

NINA TURNER: It’s a little more complicated than that in terms of what happened in my race for Secretary of State in 2014, but just for the sake of keeping it simple, it was not hard for me to go with my heart, and it was with Senator Bernie Sanders. Just listening to him, I had known about him for a long time, being a state senator myself and being in the political sphere. You know a little about all of the people who are elected for the most part but, really, he stood out for me in 2010, I believe it was, when he filibustered for eight and a half hours the extension of the Bush tax cuts. He was doing that not just for his constituency in Vermont, he was doing that for the working poor middle-class families all over this country. To see this man stand up there and really talk about why it is patently unfair, immoral even, to extend those Bush tax cuts on the backs of the working class and middle-class was nothing short of amazing.

Then, it was during the campaign season in 2015, in conversations talking to my husband, who had just discovered Bernie Sanders, Senator Sanders, and he asked me did I know about him. I said, “Absolutely.” He said, “I just heard one of his speeches. He sounds just like you. He has the same righteous indignation about the issues and about the problems in this country as you do.” That was absolutely right, so I did a lot of soul-searching. It didn’t take a whole lot of time to know that Senator Sanders was the candidate that I wanted to officially endorse, and that’s exactly what I did. Caught a lot of hell for it, still catching hell to this day, but if I had to do it all over again, knowing what I know and knowing the impact that it would have not only on me but also my family, in terms of the level of vitriol and hate, having my husband even lose contracts for his business because of it, I would still do it again.

AARON MATÉ: On this front, let’s turn to this newest controversy, the Women’s March is holding its first national convention and they’ve chosen Bernie Sanders as one of the speakers. They’ve gotten a lot of flack for it. I saw one prominent feminist writer call this a “disgrace.” I think a lot of people have missed that Maxine Waters is the headlining speaker, so it’s been interpreted by some people that Sanders was the headlining speaker when actually, it’s Congresswoman Maxine Waters. The organizers of the Women’s March have said that they asked Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren but that they weren’t available. Your thoughts on this incident, because it’s getting a lot of attention and people feel very strongly about it on both sides.

NINA TURNER: People have a right to feel the way they want to feel, but the facts are the facts. I’m certainly glad that Congresswoman Maxine Waters is the headliner. One of the things that Tamika Mallory, one of the co-chairs of this brought up is that she had been announced weeks ago and nobody really picked up on it, and I wonder why. Is it because she’s a Black woman? Probably so. But then, the Woman’s March wanted to invite Senator Sanders, they did invite Senator Sanders, as they invited other folks, and he answered the invite and said that he would be there. I think that energy could be better spent in fighting for folks in this country, fighting for the $15-an-hour minimum wage, fighting for Medicare for all, fighting to help our sisters and brothers in Flint get clean water, fighting for our sisters and brothers in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, but to launch this ridiculous attack against the organizers of the Women’s March and telling them who they should pick and who they shouldn’t pick is insane, in my opinion.

Furthermore, it is not a reflection of what true feminism is because feminism is not anti-man, feminism is about humanity and lifting the voices of humanity and knowing that we need collaborations across genders, across religions, no religion. We just need that, Aaron, so I’m just shocked that they would do that. Most of the women planning this are women of color so, basically, what some of these folks are doing is questioning the integrity and also the decision-making of other women at their event. It makes no sense to me.

AARON MATÉ: How do you think it came to be that…

NINA TURNER: I’m invited, too, Aaron, I must say, and the hate is out there on the that, too. It doesn’t matter. I sent out a tweet lifting up my sister and I just said if she had invited Jesus Christ, somebody would have had a problem with that. Had they invited Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, had they invited, right now in our own time, Rev. Dr. William Barber from North Carolina who led the Moral Monday Movement, they would have a problem with that.

Some people, you’re just not going to please, but that the deepness of that and even having the head of EMILY’s List say to the Women’s March, “If you need help finding somebody, we can help you find somebody.” The level of arrogance to say that to these women who made a decision to invite somebody who personifies progress in this nation. There are only two men that have been invited. The overwhelming majority are women and that includes people like me. It just bothers me, that the level of hate. People, they want to talk about Republicans and that hate but the level of hate coming from so-called feminists, neo-liberal women, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

AARON MATÉ This speaks to a dynamic, in my opinion, that I was puzzled by during the primary, which is that Senator Sanders, sure, he’s not perfect. He has his blind spots.

NINA TURNER: Nobody is, Aaron.

AARON MATÉ How is it that he came to be portrayed as this out-of-touch, old white man, which, maybe he is in some respects, but meanwhile, on the Hillary Clinton side, she was portrayed by some of her supporters as this woke progressive, seen in a very different way than Bernie was on this front, I think.

NINA TURNER: Some people never let the truth get in the way of a good story. First of all, right now, he was chosen by his peers within the Democratic Caucus to be the spokesperson for that caucus, so riddle me that. Why people want to keep haggling over whether he’s an official Democrat, not a Democrat, the issues that he’s been standing up for and fighting for, for almost 50 years is a value proposition. To believe that poor people in this country deserve to have a good living, to believe that everybody in this country, morally, should have access to MediCare for all, which by the way, we have Congressman John Conyers in the House, as you know, Aaron. He’s been fighting for the same things since 2003.

They’re picking the wrong battles here. It just doesn’t make sense to me, but when people get a narrative out there it tends to stick. This whole Democrat or bust or that anybody who believes that an individual or an organization is above critique, and I mean just critique, and you don’t have to tear people down to critique them. Aaron, I just don’t even know what to say, and all of the anxiety that this probably causing the organizers of the Women’s March, it makes no sense.

AARON MATÉ Let’s pivot to some of the latest news. Just last night, President Trump issued an executive order that would end billions of dollars in subsidies for the health insurance of low-income people as part of his effort to effectively sabotage Obamacare. This followed his decision to call for new rules that would make it easier to strip some of the essential benefits that were mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Your thoughts on what Trump is trying to do here?

NINA TURNER: I’m hoping that the voters in this country, the people in this country who are impacted by this, and I’m not just talking about his voters, but I’m talking about us as a conscience-minded country, will look at what this president has done and really make some decisions come 2020, if he’s not impeached before then. It is unfathomable what he is doing, and the hurt and the pain that he is putting on the citizens of this country. All the while, he ran on, “I’m going to do something better than the Affordable Care Act, believe me.” That was his exact words. It’s going to be bigger, it’s going to be better, I’m going to stand up for working class and middle class people. Meanwhile, this entire time, he’s been doing nothing but trying, not trying, but hurt them.

I am hoping that we can have these conversations across the political spectrum about what types of policies actually do lift the working class and middle class in this country, and what policies don’t, what elected officials really are standing up and fighting for and pushing policies that do, and which are not. You don’t do that in a way, again, that tears people down. One of the things, I want to bring up another point here, that this whole level, this frenzy to tear each down just because we’re on a different side. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King once said that “Darkness cannot do away with darkness, only light can, and hate cannot do away with hate, only love can.”

Something that just hurt me to my core that I’ve been talking about all across this country, but I was just recently in Texas, traveled to five cities in Texas within three days with a board member of mine, Jim Hightower from Texas. I’ll never forget when the hurricanes first hit Texas and Florida, the tweets that came out, the comments on Facebook about the people of Texas deserve what they’re getting because that state went for Mr. Trump. See, that’s the kind of stuff that, no matter who you’re supporting politically, you’ve got to stand up and say that that is wrong. To the extent that some of us have allowed this whose team we’re on to divide us in the kind of way that we deny other people’s humanity, that is a bridge too far.

Back to your point, though, about Mr. Trump, he is hurting the very people who he said he would help.

AARON MATÉ Let me play a clip from his signing ceremony yesterday, when he announced one of his executive orders trying to sabotage Obamacare. This is a short clip.

DONALD TRUMP: Insurance companies will be fighting to get every single person signed up and you will be, hopefully, negotiating, negotiating, negotiating and you’ll get such low prices for such great care.

AARON MATÉ: That was Donald Trump talking about negotiating, negotiating, with insurance companies, this idea that, what? Patients are going to be calling up different insurance companies and negotiating with them for the best price?

NINA TURNER: Right, in their time of greatest need, they have to negotiate with insurance companies. Again, just from a purely political, not personally attacking this president, I want people who voted for him and the people who did not vote for him, but just for us to understand what he is doing. Medicare for all, and ACA is not perfect, it certainly needs fixed. I’ve listened to people, I’ve talked to small business owners, that it needs to be fixed, no doubt about it. Then fix it, but he has not found the fix. As a matter of fact, he’s making it worse. To think when people are in their greatest moment of need, that they’re going to be able to sit down and negotiate with insurance companies is ridiculous.

Beyond the fix of the ACA, we do have to take this a step further and have Medicare for all, which is not just a moral proposition, it is also an economic proposition, too. It works for doctors, it works for patients, it will open up this industry, create more jobs. I know for some people, it’s a morally right thing to do. I’m in that moral corner. But for other people, it is also an economically viable thing to do in this country, to make sure that folks don’t have to negotiate with big insurance companies for their health care.

AARON MATE: All right, Senator Turner, I wanted to move on to something else. I’m not sure if you saw this tweet yesterday from the journalist, Shaun King, where he tweeted out a video clip of a Louisiana sheriff, Steve Prator, where he is lamenting the release of non-violent prisoners. He explained why.

Steve Prator: Place out there, I don’t want state prisoners, okay? They are a necessary evil to keep the doors open that we keep a few, or keep some out there, and that’s the ones that you can work, that’s the ones that can pick up trash through work-release programs. But guess what? Those are the ones that they’re releasing. In addition to the bad ones, and I call these bad, in addition to them, they’re releasing some good ones that we use every day to wash cars, to change the oil in our cars, to cook in the kitchen, to do all that, where we save money. Well, they’re going to let them out.

AARON MATÉ That’s Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator. Senator Turner, anyone who is familiar with U.S. history knows that there’s a long record of the U.S. imprisoning African Americans and forcing them to serve as, essentially, cheap labor.

NINA TURNER: That’s right.

AARON MATÉ: A memory that I think was brought up again by his comments. I’m wondering, your thoughts on what he said?

NINA TURNER: Chattel slavery, too, Aaron. Let’s be clear about how this country was really built on the backs, the sweat, the blood, the tears, generationally so, of African American folks who, at birth, were determined to be slaves, so much so that the one-drop rule was incorporated in this country, so much so that in the country where a child is born, the child usually takes on the condition of the father, takes on the father’s last name but, under slavery, black children took the condition on of their mother so that they could keep those children enslaved even if miscegenation took place.

This sheriff should be fired, he should be ashamed of himself. If he’s an elected sheriff, I hope that he is not re-elected. It really is just a snapshot and just a reminder that even as far as we have come in this country, we are always reminded by something like this that we have not come far enough. He was open and honest with his bigotry about why he wants to keep those folks in prison. The overwhelming majority of folks who are in the system itself are black and brown, primarily black men. There are about 2.2 million folks incarcerated in this country and almost the majority of them, not majority but the overwhelming majority of them, are African American, they are Hispanic and they are Native American, they are men and women of color.

For him to be able to speak that way, you know what? He needs to watch “13”, Ava DuVernay, who created the documentary, “13.” He needs to watch that and we all do, and my apologies to Ava. I always fumble on her last name. She created a documentary which is on Netflix right now that gives the history of the 13th Amendment. Also, a book I want to recommend to our viewers was written by Dr. Michelle Alexander. It’s called The New Jim Crow, and that is exactly what is going on in this country. Everybody should be paying- Aaron, I’m glad you brought that up. Instead of fighting the organizers on the Women’s March and who’s coming to speak and who’s not, maybe we can do something and protest and make our voices heard against this sheriff that just cavalierly talked about black folks washing his cars and changing his oil and being used as slaves.

AARON MATÉ: Senator Turner, finally, this is bittersweet because we’re marking the finale of the Nina Turner Show, but since you launched that show, you’ve gotten even busier. You’ve become the president of Our Revolution, the offshoot of the movement that propelled Bernie Sander’s campaign. If you could leave us with some thoughts on what you’re doing now with Our Revolution and where you’re planning to focus your efforts going into 2020.

NINA TURNER: Thank you for that question, Aaron, and I do want to say to all of the viewers, just thank you so much for the opportunity. I want to thank The Real News Network for the opportunity. It was beautiful to be able to travel together, to be able to interview so many of the critical thinkers of the 21st century, to lift up issues and to talk about solutions.

As for Our Revolution, we are going to continue to be in the trenches, the grassroots trenches, empowering people all over this country to lift their voices and to use their energy to change their community, to remind them that the power, although it doesn’t seem that way, is absolutely in their hands, and that one city at a time, one state at a time and this entire nation can be transformed when millions of people lift their voices. I’m looking forward to having more collaboration with different progressive groups all across this country, traveling across this country to help candidates that we believe in. Mayor-elect Randall Woodfin is one good example of that. Traveling all over this country to support our candidates, to support our issues, and to continue to build a progressive movement that will elect progressive candidates, who will then use the people’s power for the benefit of the people.

Lastly, Aaron, I want Our Revolution and this entire movement to be an inspiration to people, to remind them that even though it may seem daunting at this moment, for whatever reason it may seem daunting, whether it’s the election of Mr. Trump, whether it’s what’s going on environmentally, income and wealth inequality, you name it, name your issue, whatever your issue is, that in the words of President Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it is done.” We can do it. We can transform this country one community and one state at a time.

AARON MATÉ: Senator Turner, as one of your viewers, I want to thank you for the Nina Turner Show. It’s been great seeing you speak to all these wonderful and insightful progressive voices over the course of this season. Of course, we’ll certainly be having you back on The Real News whenever you’re available, as your busy schedule allows. Senator Nina Turner is a former Ohio State Senator, now the president of Our Revolution. Senator Turner, thank you.

NINA TURNER: Thank you, Aaron, for a wonderful interview. And to all of your viewers, have a great weekend and let’s keep the faith and the fight.

AARON MATÉ: Sounds good and thank you for joining us on The Real News.