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CENK UYGUR, ANCHOR: Good evening. I‘m Cenk Uygur. Welcome to the show.
I‘ve got a warning for you. This show tonight is going to be on fire.
Don‘t say I didn‘t warn you. Now let‘s talk Wisconsin.
It‘s now official. Wisconsin Republicans have revealed their true identity. No matter what they say about creating jobs or cutting budgets, what they‘ve really been after is the crush the union movement.
And you know what? At least now it‘s absolutely inarguable since they gave up their pretense of caring about the budget last night. Today, there was outrage at the state capitol about their extremist tactics.
By breaking the budget bill into two parts, Republican senators were able to vote to end decades of collective bargaining rights for public unions without a single democratic state senator in the chamber.
That unfair and some are now saying illegal move, they ignited a firestorm in Madison last night. Protesters flooded the capitol and many of them stayed until the police dragged them out this morning.
In about an hour ago, the state assembly passed the bill that Governor Walker says he will sign. Now we‘ve seen a complete turnaround in Wisconsin in the past 24 hours. You know, we were telling you they seemed to be on the ropes. We told you that all throughout.
Yesterday, reports streamed out throughout the state that three Republicans in the state senate were about open to compromising with the Democrats. Now remember, public opinion had shifted firmly against the governor and it looked like he was in a lot of trouble and there were talks of recalls and the Republicans were in trouble and they started worry, maybe it‘s my job on the line.
Then all of a sudden, right before the compromise last night, the GOP threw what they thought was a knockout punch. They went in the other direction, split the bill. Basically went with the nuclear option. But you know what? I don‘t think it was a knockout punch at all. I think it was an act of desperation and it reminded me of this.
Do you remember that? See, Mike Tyson thought he couldn‘t win that fight. He was on the ropes and he was outmatched. He was outclassed. He just did not have a way to win. So what did he do? He had to end the fight, just like Governor Walker. He had to end the fight one way or the other. So what did he do? He bit the ear of Holyfield.
And that is exactly what‘s happened here. It was a dirty move. It was a cheap move. It was a cheap trick. He did it just to get out of there and they think, you know what? All right, this fight ended today. And hopefully the media coverage will die down and then we‘ll come back and fight another day.
And then when we come back for those elections, we‘re going to overwhelm the Democrats with money. We‘ve got all those donors. We‘ve got the billionaires on our side and all they had was the unions, and we just left out the unions.
And look, I get why they think that. On a national level, out of the top 10 nonparty groups donating in 2010 election, seven were right leaning organizations. The other three were unions. So if the Republicans get rid of those three, well, then the Democrats are obviously in huge trouble.
Here‘s what the Republicans are trying to do. They‘re going for check mate. They think if the Democrats don‘t have any big sources of money during their campaigns, they can run whatever ads they like on the Republican and trick all of you into voting for them. They think, you know what? These guys are going to forget.
It‘s not just a message we have—even if we have a bad message the Republicans think, so what? We have the bigger microphone and we can blast it and we can do the misleading ads like Karl Rove just did in Wisconsin and throughout the country where he said 42 percent of government union employees are making 42 percent more. Not true.
Even the conservative organization he leaned on for that fact said that‘s not true, but he thinks who cares I got the money and he does. Remember Politico reported that the Koch brothers, for example, plan to raise $88 million for the 2012 elections. Karl Rove‘s American Crossroads spent $22.5 million in last year‘s election at least.
And the L.A. Times reports that American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS plan to raise $120 million for 2012. Their plan is, you know what? Do dirty tricks. Do whatever you got to do, get out of there now and people will forget. And we‘ll have the money and you know, if people wise up for these brief moments because we gave up our pretenses, who cares.
We‘ll come back and overwhelm them with our money. Look, I‘ve got to ask you and I‘m about to ask my guest, they just bit your ear off. What are you going to do about it? My strategy is fight back. Let‘s figure out how we can do that.
Joining me now is Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Reverend Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow Push Coalition who joins us from outside the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.
Senator Brown, I want to ask you a tough question. I want to start with you because look, these guys—it‘s a national campaign, they‘re doing with it in your state of Ohio. They‘re doing it in Idaho. They‘re doing it in Indiana and the list goes on and on.
Do the Democrats have a counter plan? Have you guys even sat together and said, how are we going to match the $120 million and the $88 million and they just took out the unions here and there? Do you guys have a plan to fight back?
SENATOR SHERROD BROWN: Yes, we have several things to fight back. One, we‘ve got a president with a loud microphone that‘s going to say no to these guys.
UYGUR: Really? When?
BROWN: Yes, I think we do. We‘re already seeing the pushback in Ohio. They did the same kind of—call it a dirty trick, call it unusual, whatever, to pass the bill in Ohio. They first of all took a Republican no vote in the state Senate off the Labor Committee, substituting a Republican yes vote and did the same thing in the Rules Committee, because they didn‘t have the votes and passed it by one vote.
So that‘s not going to work. We‘re going to see a referendum in Ohio if Kasich gets this bill and signs it, we‘re going to see a referendum and we‘re going to win on the referendum. And we‘re going to begin to continue to point out that this is oil company money.
It‘s money from people like the Koch brothers, it‘s money, it‘s foreign money that‘s coming in for Karl Rove and we‘re going to continue to point that out in very much a contrasting, combative way.
The last thing people like me and others, I have a website sherrodbrown.com/ohio. Go on and sign my petition in opposition to what they‘re doing, SB-5 in other ways and push them back that way and organize. This is about organizing and fighting back.
UYGUR: I want to go to Reverend Jackson in a second. He‘s in Wisconsin. He‘s got an amazing story to tell. But Senator Brown, you said something I have to go back to.
I‘m sorry, I don‘t want to be a jerk here, but you said the president has a big mic and can fight back. Really? Where‘s his mic? I haven‘t seen him say anything about Wisconsin – I mean, all of these. We‘ve been covering it for nearly a month here. Where‘s the president?
Where‘s his mic? I don‘t see it.
BROWN: I think the president is focused on the budget now. I think that what the Republicans are trying to do, defund everything we care about from maternal health care to education to head start to Planned Parenthood and to all the things they‘re going after. They tell that‘s going to undercut job growth.
The president, we‘re all urging him to come out louder and more—more loudly and strongly than he has. I think he will. I think he‘s going to be engage in that. I think he‘s going to be engaged in the pushback on what they are doing with the labor rights and worker rights and collective bargaining.
I‘m optimistic he‘s going to engage on that. We‘re going to see a very different politics emerge, but we‘re already seeing poll numbers that show people actually do care about worker rights. They do care about unionization because the public understands we have a middle class in this country because of the labor movement and collective bargaining for 75 years. How important that is private sector and public sector.
UYGUR: Yes, the polls are incredible. You don‘t have to worry about that. The American people are on your side. You‘re a little bit more optimistic about the president than I am.
But I want to go to Reverend Jackson. Reverend Jackson, there was a really interesting moment today in Wisconsin where you led the Republicans and the Democrats together in prayer. What was that about? Tell me what happened there and tell me what the move there in Wisconsin is now?
REVEREND JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: Well, we seek redemption and reconciliation, but what is happening here now is that the governor has overreached. It‘s not about the budget deficit. It‘s about taking away the workers‘ rights to be at the table.
If the issue was really about money, he‘d turn the way, you know, (inaudible) offered by the president the stimulus plan. So we‘re going to have infrastructure and more rail. He wants more money and (inaudible) for example.
It‘s not just the right to bargain, of course, the content of it. Now there‘s going to be another cut in public education, in K through 12 that means fewer teachers, bigger classrooms, less access to Medicare, for example.
As people come alive as to what the content is, it‘s going to be a bigger deal. I think the big deal here. There‘s a big election in this state, the Supreme Court justice, April 5, and county execs running all around the state. So in some real sense there‘s a showdown date, April 5th that could determine the factor in the course of Wisconsin politics.
UYGUR: Right. You know, and there are talks of protests on April 4th, the day that Martin Luther King was killed. He was, of course, there for a sanitation strike in Memphis, supporting the middle class and the working class of America. Senator Sherrod Brown, I want to ask you about that.
BROWN: I want to say also this is the week we are fighting for the right to vote in Selma in 1965. So we fought for the workers, for the people‘s right to vote in ‘65. Now workers right to have a voice in 2007, unbroken line of an ideology, a right to work laws and labor and civil rights and marginalization. We see the game plan. The people are going to fight back.
UYGUR: So Senator Brown, you know, you have all these people who want to fight back. You have activists like Reverend Jackson. You‘ve got the unions. How do you put them together in one cohesive strategy and do you think that April 4th might be the beginning of that? Do you think Democrats should participate in that? Tell us about it.
BROWN: Absolutely and it‘s way more than public employee unions as important as they are. In Ohio, I had a round table in the church in State House Square a couple of weeks ago. People who have faith, public employees, students, progressives, civil rights, where all kinds of people came together in opposition to taking away worker rights.
It‘s all about what they‘re doing to the middle class, how they want to take away workers‘ rights and people‘s rights. I think once this bill is signed by Governor Kasich, which likely it will be. It will likely pass the House in the next week or so because they probably have the votes, then we begin circulating petitions.
And we need, I believe, I‘m not sure of this, I think 250,000 signatures. We will get them. We will go to the ballot. We will repeal this.
And that‘s why I urge earlier in the broadcast, go to my website, sherrodbrown.com/ohio, sign up. We‘re organizing. We‘re working. We‘re going to fight back. This is our opportunity to see people – to organize to do what we need to do right now and at election time next year.
UYGUR: Reverend Jackson, look, you were a part of the one of the greatest organizations of people this country has ever seen, the civil rights movement. Now the middle class is under attack.
This is some of the similar thing as you were worried about, as I said, you know, Martin Luther King was worried about. He went out to support. How do you galvanize people again? And how do you, you know, fight back against these billionaires who are trying to buy our elections?
JACKSON: Well, the president must particularly for us we need a better deal. There are more wealthy people up top and more poor people at the bottom and the middle class is sinking. We need a better deal to put America back to work.
Today as we gather here rounding and protesting, the 59 million Americans who have no health insurance. The 50 million who are malnourished, the 49 million who are in poverty, and the 40 million who are now on food stamps.
That suggests that that vast middle class workers and would be workers to plan to put America back to work. We cannot keep on subsidizing the wealthy and marginalizing the poor people. People are fighting back and maybe Wisconsin‘s ground zero for that fight.
They‘ll be a big fight here. April 5th will be the showdown date for democracy. You will see what democracy looks like here April the 5th.
UYGUR: All right, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Reverend Jesse Jackson. Thank you both for your time this evening.
BROWN: Thank very much.
UYGUR: Before we go here to the break, thank you guys. I just want to tell the viewers something, look, the most important thing for you to understand is that there‘s a battle going on. They‘re waging that battle. Warren Buffet even said it. He said look, there‘s been class warfare all along. It‘s just my class that‘s winning.
In Wisconsin, they began the fight just because there was a dirty trick last night, you can‘t give up. In fact, that should redouble your energy. Whether it‘s recalling them to send a message or whatever it is, don‘t wait until election time and let them spend those hundreds of millions of dollars to trick the voters again.
You‘ve got to join the fight right now if you ask me. As we go into the next segment, we‘ll talk about how that battle is just beginning and how workers and Democrats are planning to fight back and get even.