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tv   Washington Journal Heidi Heitkamp  CSPAN  December 1, 2021 3:37am-4:06am EST

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washington journal continues. host: we are joined from mandan, north dakota. former senator heidi heitkamp is with us to talk about rural voters in the 2022 election. good morning, senator. guest: good morning, how are you? host: good morning. your one country project is to look at issues important to rural voters. you are the founder. talk about it and what your mission is doing. guest: i want to start out by giving people a history lesson of the politics of the great plains.
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20 years ago you had tom daschle, tim johnson, senators from south dakota. you at max baucus. you had a good list in the great plains in terms of united states senators. that is all but evaporated. there's only one left in the great plains, and that is john castor -- that is john kester, and he is fortunate enough to have the mountain region in montana he needs to get over the finish line electoral relate. -- electorally. you have to ask is a democrat and as an american what has happened in the great plains and what has happened in rural america, whether it is the rural south or the mid-atlantic region where we see pennsylvania going hard red, what has happened in those reasons that has -- in those regions that has turned people?
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the easy answer is it is all about donald trump. that is not true. we started losing votes during the tea party revolution right after barack obama was elected and we have not been able to regain our footing since then. when i was unable to get reelected in 2018, just one statistic for your viewers, when i was elected in 2012, probably about 20% of republicans would cross over and vote for a democrat. when i ran into any 18, that number -- when i ran in 2018, that number dribbled -- that number dwindled to 4%. when that number gets low, democrats cannot get elected in a state like mine. it is important rural america not be one party america.
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we started the one country project. it was to reintroduce the democratic party to rural america and rural america to the democratic party. host: do think over the course of the years the policies of the democratic party have fallen out of favor with rural americans, or rural americans themselves have changed their views? guest: i think it is the emphasis. it is not the policy. the economic policies of the democratic already are much more favorable to rural america. where we get into challenges is when this becomes about defunding the police or about transgender bathrooms for all the cultural issues. then rural americans say that is not something that looks like me. when rural americans vote strictly culture on these issues is when we begin to see serious erosion of democratic support in rural america.
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i think we have to understand that we have to do a better job explaining our position on cultural issues. it does not mean we cannot persuade a few people, but we also have to be much more aggressive on outlining our economic plans. a great example is build back better, which has amazing provisions for housing, for rural daycare. these are issues that are challenging your -- challenging role america and the growth of rural america. republicans are sitting on the sidelines. we should be talking about how we are going to revitalize rural america, not just broadband. i get tired of everybody saying broadband, broadband, broadband. it is about more than broadband. it is about economic opportunities and helping our seniors, helping our rural health care and looking at rural education and making sure it is
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high-quality. these are things the democratic party has long stood for. once we explain our economic agenda in the democratic party, i think we can win back some of those votes. do i think we are going to become a majority party in rural america? now. -- no. i get criticized for that. i want to return to a world where rural america will at least consider voting for democrat. host: how is your one country project funded and give us an idea on how you're trying to reintroduce the democratic party to rural america? guest: i was fortunate. you cannot spend billions of dollars on a senate race in north dakota. at the end of my senate race i had donors from all over, including the state of north dakota, many of them small
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dollar donors that believe my voice was an important voice in the united states senate. unfortunately i was not able to get reelected. i am a former attorney general my state that i did a lot of nonprofit supervision work. i thought about those times and i thought the best thing you can do if you have money people have given you in a nonprofit setting , which is what a political campaign is, is to figure out what was the intent of those people and how can i honor that intent? i thought the intent was to win more elections, and how can i honor that, i could honor that by helping the democratic party do better in rural america, which is a place i believe i have some level expertise. if you set go into the inner cities in minneapolis and figure out a political campaign, that is not my life and certainly not what i know about. michael was to form an
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organization that raise the awareness of the critical electoral importance of rural america to the democratic party. i started out doing a lot of pulling, a lot of election analysis and sounded the alarm saying you think you can just talk to suburban housewives -- not housewives -- but suburban women and suburban people. you think you can just talk turbine folks -- to urban folks? you can do what you did in virginia which is perform well in those areas but lose massively in rural areas. the first thing was to elevate the importance of rural america and rural votes in the democratic party, and then to talk about issues that are much more nuanced. people say will not win those votes because of this and that. a lot of it is charge rising
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rural people in ways that are not very fair. my argument is we used to win, why aren't we winning now? let's take responsibility yourselves and not blame the voters. the customer is always right. how do we find common ground? the next step was to begin to talk about what role america wants. we named this project one country because people said shouldn't it be the rural project, and i said no. what people in rural america want is the same thing a cabdriver in new york once, a reinsurance -- in new york wants, and insurance salesperson in suburbia wants. they want good insurance for their kids, they want physical security which is a big part of what we are experiencing right
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now with the erosion of democratic support in many areas that they're hoping to maintain that support. the problem is rural delivery has to be done differently and we have to talk to people. i will give you a statistic from a57% of rural voters expressed the opinion that democrats don't know anything about rural america. i get that. the good news is in all of this 50% said republicans don't get our challenges. i think it's time to understand the challenges. not do to people but with people and to do that we have to have a conversation. host: heidi heitkamp served as one term a senator from north dakota. talking about her new one country project. we welcome your calls and comments. the senators are for rural
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residents, (202)-748-8000. all others use (202)-748-8001. if you do not want to call you can text at (202)-748-8003. senator, how much of a priority do you think rebuilding rural democrats, rebuilding support among rural americans is, for the national party and the campaign committees, how high a priority do you think that is? guest: it has been frustrating to me to kind of watch this from a distance from north dakota and think about the opportunities that have been missed by the democratic party to tell people what they are about and what they mean. i have had conversations about
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the medium whether it is facebook. where is rural america getting their ads? guess what? they are getting impressions from fox news and they are getting impressions from friends on facebook and they are getting their impressions from local radio. there is three places we could do a better job communicating and people say, well, i don't want to go on fox news, they are biased. when you go on fox news and make a persuasion argument guess what? people listen. i think that we have got to be more willing to explore discussions in areas of the media that people are comfortable. you know, i am somebody who appreciates and understands what goes on on msnbc but you are preaching to the choir. when you send out a tweet guess what? you are preaching to the choir. people are going to read that tweet are the 10% who are
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politically active who really follow it day to day. if you want a sustained message, you have to find the right medium and the right message. to me the right message is talking to friends and neighbors, doing the kinds of things you can do one-on-one in local settings. i used to talk about the local coffee shop and this happens in suburban and urban america. but in places like north dakota people used to get together always in a minority. democrats were the minority and they would engage in lively debate about what is happening with corn prices and why it is happening or ethanol. what is happening with the local school. there was always a diversion.
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opinions were not identical and there was not a debate but definitely a conversation. guess what is happening in rural america? none of those conversations. they have been muted and muted may be by the trump influence of you are either with us or against us and if you are not with us, you are not american. a lot of democrats and may be in rural america who did not like this president are not really engaging in the debate. we have to get them back into the debate as neighbors one-on-one, having a conversation so that we don't leave this just to republicans. by that i may not just normal republicans but trump republicans. host: you mentioned jon tester from montana. there is also joe manchin from mostly rural state. what is your opinion of joe manchin's role being in the middle between getting the biden
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administration getting the agenda through? guest: you know, i have expressed strong opinions. those people who know me know that joe manchin is a dear friend of mine. one of my closest friends in the senate. i think he is an incredibly earnest and capable public servant. he got himself reelected in a state that voted almost 40% for the president. everybody who wants to beat on him i would remind you there would not be any opportunity to do any of this, including the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, if not for joe. he represents a conservative democrat point of view and in some ways that old-school democrat that had a broader perspective. this is what is happening in both political parties. they have been driven further to the respective ends of the polar
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extremes by primaries, by gerrymandering, but mainly by the engagement of very vocal people on either side. and so, if you want to know what i think has been the mistake the last year it has been democrat on democrat violence. by that i mean the focus on joe manchin. my goodness, why isn't there focus on ron johnson? why isn't there focus on pat toomey? places where the president won elections in pennsylvania and wisconsin. places where the democratic party is driving states with democratic governors. why is there emphasis on getting them to explain to us why they don't want to help with daycare cost? why they don't want to help with housing cost? we are so focused on turning our ammunition on each other that we have forgotten that is not the
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opposition. the opposition is the republican party and the stakes are high not just for an economic agenda. the stakes are incredibly high and people who know me know that in 2020 we basically escaped an erosion, almost permanent erosion, of our democracy. if we want to go back to the era of the four years where autocracy was on the table, let's keep fighting among democrats. let's start talking about what the other side does not stand for, with the other side is not doing, and let's quit focusing on each other. host: our line for rural residents (202)-748-8000. let's get to calls. toledo, ohio and diane is on the line. good morning. caller: good morning, senator heitkamp. i saw your lively debate with chris christie this week with whoever and i really want to talk about the salt.
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the local tax deduction thing. $80,000 for deductions? who pays that kind of state and local taxes besides wealthy people or extremely high middle-class people? it just feels like that is the one series giveaway to wealthy people that is in their when you are being provisional with what people are allowed to get, mostly child related. i heard a young lady on the previous segment speak about her situation in middle-class, lost the job with covid, and i can kind of relate to stuff like that. i am lower middle class. i feel like we are just helping to pay the bills. we don't qualify for anything either, not that i am looking for a handout, but it feels like
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one idea i have not heard anybody raise is to stop the sales and local tax and instead raising the standard deduction. it feels like everyone would benefit from a raise of the standard deduction. may be double it. make it $25,000 per individual and get rid of the whole provisional thing in the build back better. make it one simple line item thing. raise the standard deduction. everyone benefits, everybody gets something, and everybody can choose how to spend that additional money they get to simply hang onto. that is just a thought. host: thank you. guest: the first thing i want to say -- diane right? host: yes. guest: you already know more about taxes then 50% of the people. [laughs] i should not be so mean but i want to unpack what you said.
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the deduction, i agree with you. i think $80,000 is too high and that leaves the democrats open to the debate you saw on sunday saying, this is a millionaire tax cut. what really is interesting about the deduction is that it was done to punish blue states. blue states that tax their residents a fairly high rate to deliver more services and those services basically help build communities. southern states do not tax the residents at that level and consequently receive greater subsidization from the federal government. what i was trying to say is if you want to segregate regionally this country in terms of taxa fiscal policy, you have got to be very careful. medicaid is one of the biggest cost centers for state and local governments. poor states, states with lower
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per capita income, basically get 80% federal payment where states like new york and states with higher per capita income get a lower rate of 50%. there is a huge subsidization. i think it is really challenging when you look at regionalization of fiscal policy which is what salt is which is why i disagree with what congress did. with that said it was probably the only progressive part of the trump tax cut and it really did affect higher income earners much higher. i want to talk a little bit about the standard deduction and for full disclosure i spent the better part of my professional career as a tax lawyer and as the tax commissioner of north dakota. standard deductions are based on your filing status not the number of people in your community. when the administration, the trump administration, revised
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the tax structure they got rid of personal exemption and those are the ones you used to get per household member. but what they did do is raise -- they were increased standard deduction which drove more people out of itemization along with the salt cap. she is not wrong. you could do a lot of good things by giving higher deduction to moderate income folks who don't necessarily qualify for the earned income tax credit, although i would argue that is something we should be looking at seriously increasing, the child credit. pretty high income levels on the child credit. most people will not get the child credit. i think the question is, how much do you want to create a more equal world using the tax structure we have right now? the american people not wrongly
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believe when you create a more complex structure what you end up with is a huge loophole and huge advantage to rich people who can hire tax lawyers. i think that is absolutely true. and so, you know, i think she should run for congress and talk about these great proposals and talk to her congress people about these proposals. on the salt adduction i think that rate will get lowered from $80,000. i think $80,000 is excessive but when you're getting around the $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 you will see were itemized filers in the lower income brackets. people who are itemizing are very wealthy people. host: the organization is the one country project focusing on rural voters. jim in new york. good morning. caller: good morning.
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heidi, you mentioned something at the beginning. you said a conservative democrat. that is a paradox. i don't think there are conservative democrats. there is a saying that says, the economy is stupid. it is the policies that the liberal democratic party are promoting that has turned them away from the rural voter. the gun rights, i can think of every desperate group you guys support whether it is lgbtq, critical race theory, indoctrination in public school system. these are why rural voters have turned away and nothing you say is going to pull us back and let you start promoting an agenda that is more favorable to people that have conservative viewpoints and are being pushed out of the big tech. you can do all you want but if you don't do some things to
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change the policies you have, he will never get rural voters back. guest: you know, i think most people who followed my career in the senate knew that i was a supporter of the second amendment. i believe one of the reasons gun owners react so, kind of, politically react to the proposals is they feel like they are getting blamed for owning a gun for all of the problems that are happening across america. i think we need to better understand. i once said to a group of people, you know how you feel about your reproductive rights? that's how people in my community feel about their right to own a firearm and be responsible with a firearm. i get exactly what you are saying. if the democratic policies regarding the gay, lesbian,
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transgender, bisexual, queer community that says we should not discriminate and they should be protected like every american citizen, i don't believe rural americans disagree with that. the question is, what gets emphasized is not that position. what gets emphasized is who goes to what kind of bathroom when that should be a local decision in my opinion. i want to say, look, obviously this person has strongly held opinions about cultural issues. there is some difference between democrats and republicans on these issues and i think a lot of those have been exploited rather than bringing people together. abortion rights are an interesting place to examine. abortions went down in this country and we know we could
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virtually eliminate a lot of demand for abortion if we created areas where we were providing free contraception. but that has been prevented by conservative republicans who say, we don't want to prevent it. we just want to tell people what to do. but the real issue here is we are not having that dialogue. people like our viewer from new york is watching fox news and saying, see? they believe in critical race theory, they believe in defunding the police. that is not true but if we don't go out there and say this is what we believe in, we don't believe any person regardless of sexual orientation should be discriminated against, should have the opportunity to live a healthy life -- transgender individuals are frequently targeted and the murder rate among transgender individuals is too high. that is being driven a lot by
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attitudes. you know, i think there is room for discussion. are we going to win the hearts and minds of everyone in rural america? no. are we going to win back some of those people who share those human values we can talk about but are very concerned we have gone too far as
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