tv Inside Story Al Jazeera March 21, 2016 6:30pm-7:01pm EDT
home girl and one of my favorite artists, the fabulous legendary cassandra wilson >> thank you. my ♪ >> who are those angry working class voters who used to have good manufacturing jobs, and now scramble to make a living in who watched their fathers and mothers retire with pensions from the plant? while we used to call them democrats. author thomas frank democrats sold out working-class morning,
leaving them to fake concern for those who aren't making it in today's america. so democrats look in the mirror, it's the "inside story." >> the republicans are the party of rich people, white collar workers, the investor class. the americans who make a living from investments, dividends capital gains. the democrats are the party of the working class. people who make their living from wages alone. depend on public institutions like schools. in his embracing critic, author
thomas frank says those old ideas are gone, in "listen liberal," frank traces the journey to the party of educated socially liberal, white collar elites. don't blame the other guys, the author of "listen liberal," thomas frank is with me here in washington. when you put that critic to a member of the democratic apparatus, they will say, what did you expect us to do? what this guy -- this thomas frank is suggesting in this book would have been a kind of unilateral disarmament, because the guys we're fighting against
were grabbing money with both hands to fund a political program that you think what we did was bad, it was worse. >> that is certainly true. i'm not one of these people who say the two parties are the same. there are enormous distinctions, but i understand that argument, but an arms race is actually a good metaphor for it, because there is so much money required to run for office these days that basically the a parties have to represent elite, but this change in the democratic party goes back to the 1970s, and another thing that we're learning now just this year, well, we sort of learned it with barack obama candidacy in 2008 was that you don't necessarily need to go to wall street in order to run a presidential campaign. this is one thing that bernie sanders is showing us this time
around is that it can be done, and i thought about that a lot, when i think -- the old days, for somebody like me the glory days, the days of franklin roosevelt there were no campaign finance laws like we have today. and the republicans out spent democrats routinely. one of my favorite elections -- i have favorite elections -- [ laughter ] >> -- was the election of 1896, and mckinley outspent brian by 10 to 1, and he beat him too -- >> i was about to mention that. [ laughter ] >> it was close, but roosevelt who was massively outing spent by republicans, you know, still won these enormous landslides. it can be done. i think it's an unfortunate choice that they made. >> well, they -- they felt that
they had to respond to these conditions even though they didn't create them. were there choices along the way? and i know there are -- sort of hinge points that you identify in the book if they could have gone that way, and they went that way instead. >> exactly. >> were there choices they made that mark this movement in the democratic party. >> exactly. in my book -- i'm sorry. i'm never supposed to say in my book. but there were a number of occasions when the democrats made this decision, and they rarely did it with wall street money in line. that came later, but the first inflection point was during the vietnam war from 1968 to 1972. there were these riots, it looked like the party was coming apart, so they sat down and
basically reorganized themselves. there was a famous group that was charged with reorganizing the way democrats chose their presidential candidate, and they -- basically they brought in the primary system as we know today. but they chose to remove organized labor from its point -- organized labor had an institutal presence in the democratic party. up until the 1970s. a structural position and that ended in those days. now democrats still have a close relationship with organized government, and they want their manpower, and those guys out there -- handing out fliers, but they are no longer a critical structural part that they were. >> you identify one of the reasons that might by referring
at several points to the where else are they going to go idea. and to be fair both republicans with evangelical voters, and democrats with labor say we don't have to pay that much attention to them because what else are they going to do? >> it was a common saying in the '90s, but they found somewhere else to go. prerogatively from the '70s up until now. i don't mean -- generally union members don't vote for republicans but lots of working class people do. and you look at the trump phenomenon and that's what is driving it. these are a lot of former democrats out there falling for this stuff, and it's -- i mean i -- it's -- it's a -- it's taking a very frightening turn.
let me put it that way. >> can -- is it as problematic as that, that they realize they have been taken for granted, so they are turning another day, or was there a gradual dawning, unease, distaste. >> i think it starts in the '70s, and goes and goes and goes. but the story -- do you remember i wrote a book years ago called "what is the matter with kansas." but the story i tell here is the opposite one how liberals found this new group that they decided was so glamorous and wonderful, and was oh, also, by the way, their own social class that that is the people that they really wanted to reach out to. >> let me stop you right there,
this time hillary clinton and bernie sanders are working hard to attract working class democrats. do they have to work hard because those voters are not necessarily a natural constituency anymore. thomas frank is here with me in washington. and you were just about to talk about the new democrats. the people who value technocrats, who love experts, who actually care what college is written on your resume. not necessarily your gpa, but where you went. what happened? >> it's funny, because we're doing this city in washington, d.c. and i live in this town. and everybody that lives in this town carries around the hi high -- hierarchy offal ma maw
ders. and these are liberals 245 we're talking about here. >> the new snobs. >> yeah, in a certain way. there are so many fun directions i could have gone in this book. the ways that cities and states reach out to what they call the creative class which is another term for this group that i'm talking about, the processional class, but to reach out and attract them to your city with bike paths and organic food markets and subsidized art scenes. so you build the art district. in kansas city they have this subsidized art district that is supposed to bring in the art people. >> so they built this democratic party around these people, but as i was reading about bill clinton's and barack obama's
particularly vulnerability to doing that, i thought about that them. because they both were not well-born men. they both were bright. and because they were bright and cultivated by that world, were able to rise on their smarts. they have to believe. >> exactly. >> because they are guying from nowheresville who took advantage of it. >> that's exactly right. both of these men were plucked from prosecurity by prestigious institutions. bill clinton becomes a rode scholar. and barack obama it's the same thing. he went to colombia and then harvard. harvard law school. was the editor of harvard law review, and they surround themselves with people from this exact same kind of background,
and all of these people, they are the sort of leaders of the professional class, and they end to view the world with mertocracy, where how you do in life is defined by where you went to school and how well you did in school. and that's what they defiance them. >> and our own department of education spends 10s of millions of dollars a year reinforcing that. >> exactly. i spent 25 years in school. what i don't like is the idea that our democrats are the moderate liberals we have, which is that every economic problem we have is an educational problem. the answer is charter schools and more student loans, or more
job training or something like that. and that's not the answer, and that's not really going to help out. >> but it goes back to an 18th and 19th century idea in america about poverty. when we saw poverty as a reflection of your own moral work, and your own fiber as a human being, and it's a very deep and persistent problem in american life that we kind of conclude without ever saying so that if someone is poor they probably did something wrong. >> that's right. >> and this world that you describe in the book is that at large. where a bunch of people went to the best schools in america, tut, tut at the rest of america. >> absolutely. and we're talking about democrats. the supposed party of the people. but one of the things that really struck me was when they
talk about inequality, which is the main overarching issue that hangs overall of these issues, when they talk about education this is not a way of mitigating it, it's a way of legitimating it. and say why inequality is right and correct. it's because you have somehow failed at the game of life. you didn't go to college or go to the right college or study the right subject in college. >> show me your sat, and i'll tell you who you are. >> exactly. it's all about you and your sat scores and your diploma. but there's no solidarity. >> but there is with other members of your class. >> exactly with people at the very top. and by the way i am a member of this class. i got a p hd, and i came out in
the teeth of the academic job crisis. my degree was in history, and suddenly nobody could get a 10-year track job anymore. we were pushed on any adjunct labor market, earning incredibly low amounts of money for teaching college classes. and there's very little sympathy for people suffering on this adjunct path from the people at the top of the path. there is this amazing indeference to other people at the top. barack obama's cabinet filled with harvard grads, but there is no solidarity, no sympathy like when one of your colleagues get fired or something like that. solidarity is the virtue of the
working class. solidarity says i have the right to be treated fairly, because i'm a human being, and that's where the great middle class came from. you know, we stand together as a people. but that's an idea i would have once associated with the democratic party, solidarity. >> listen, liberal, don't blame the other guys. we'll be back with thomas frank.
author of listen liberal: whatever happened to the party of the people? one of the hardest arguments to make is hey, you may not realize it, but if i hadn't been there, it would have been much worse. if they had the chance to act in working people's interest, they didn't, don't we also have to remember that the other side wasn't just sitting there waiting to see what democrats could do, but planning their own set of very aggressive plans for the country. >> absolutely. >> there is a context. >> of course. that's right. and, you know, i feel very comfortable talking about that, ray, because i have written three books about conservatism now. i'm taking a break from going after conservatives. but there are also certain times when you can test the theory. let's talk about when barack
obama was massively popular. when he was inaugurated this enormous throng that filled the national mall. and he had a majority in the house and senate. that's not to say he could get anything he wanted through, but with a little hard work and a little creativity, he could have probably gotten a lot more than he did. think about what he did with wall street. what he basically did. these are the investment banks that are largely responsible for the financial crisis, and the big recession of a few years ago, and he basically continued the bush bailout policies unchanged, or with very few modifications, and to this day those investment banks are still there. you think there's other examples. there are still things to this
today. today barack obama is very constrained. he doesn't have control of congress anymore. so he can't get a grand legislative program through congress, but there are still a lot of things he could do, and he chooses not to. for example, the prosecution of elite bankers for what i consider to be very obvious series of frauds in the last decade. these are things that are right out there. and there's never been any kind -- any justice department hasn't done anything about it. >> and you don't think it is because they feel they were hemmed in. >> yeah. >> they needed these people. >> i think it is because they look at those people and this is where the class deference comes into play. they look at those people and see these are classmates. not just their friends, remember the early years, so much of his
team came from investment banking. and this is an interest because democrats -- they look at this industry and say this is the creative class in the flesh. they are bringing prosperity out of thin air, with writing their extremely creative and fancy jargon. they think that is admirable. they think there is something neat about that. you don't want to take a sledge hammer to this industry. maybe give them a nudge, but don't do the things that i thought were necessary. >> how come the cult of expertise didn't take such a brad knocking between the war in iraq and the collapse in wall street? you would think that expertise would have been given such a thorough hiding that barack obama would have really been
able to put his hunger on it. >> and i would add to that the vietnam war. the best and the brightest came out in the early '70s, and it is a very similar story to what i'm trying to tell. and these blunders happen again and again and again, i call it a meritocracy of failure. you have this whole roster of guys who deregulated the banks and wall street, this was one of the running themes was to deregulate the financial sector. that needs to enroll and the great recession. and obama gets in and they all come right back. i was a big obama supporter in 2008. i had a lot of hope. i thought he was a great man.
i still think he was a pretty good guy, but i thought he would break the strangle hold of clintonism on the democratic party, and the exact opposite is what happened. >> bill clinton, and we're coming to the end of our time -- ended his two terms as president with a popularity rating above 60%, and it was almost like they didn't think that was a useful tool. like popularity for its own sake, rather than popularity to do good things. >> you are talking about the clinton foundation? >> the clinton years. >> you had the closest to full employment that we have had in my lifetime, well, since the 60s. things looked really good for about three years. what is difficult to remember is that it was good because it was a bubble. it was the nasdaq bubble, new
economy bubble all propped up by these things he engineered. telecoms, banks, and it burst fortunate for bill clinton just as he was leaving office, and it really collapsed with george w. bush when he was in the saddle. but to look back and say that bill clinton was a good president by that logic, you would have to say that calvin coolidge was a great president. can i go back to obama for a second. >> quickly. >> this idea that he didn't do anything awesome because the republicans will stop him. he doesn't even use one of the greatest weapons, which is anti-trust enforcement. the whole logic of the new economy these days to norm monopolies and use market power on other players, and he has the
tool and never uses it. >> thomas frank, get to have you with us. he's the author of "listen liberal: whatever happened to the party of the people." my colleague sheila macvicar will very ably take my place in the next three days. i'll see you friday. until then, i'm ray suarez. thanks for watching. good night. ♪ man... >> we're live in ferguson, missouri. >> brick by brick, i will open it. it will take more than a few rocks to stop me from doin' what
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it was amazing. >> these were emotions that i had been dreaming about for so long. >> getting to the heart of the matter. proud to tell your stories. al jazeera america. this is al jazeera america live from new york city. i'm tony harris. a new day in cuba, after an historic meeting between president obama and cuban president raul castro. the two leaders faced reporters in an extraordinary news conference. republican front runner donald trump finally reveals his global policy brain trust. casualty of war, u.s. marine pays the