tv Dan Pfeiffer Battling the Big Lie CSPAN August 14, 2022 4:39am-5:50am EDT
>> good evening. welcome to the midtown scholar bookstore. it is an honor to welcome you to this evening's author program. before we begin, i have a few housekeeping notes as always. one, while our speakers will keep their masks off, we ask you to keep your masks on. two, this event is being recorded by c-span, so a couple notes. we please ask you turn off your cell phone ringers, refrain from using profanity, and don't walk in front of the stage at any point. exits are to the left and right. three, most importantly, if you have not yet purchased the book, we encourage you to purchase the book through the midtown scholar bookstore. we have copies available at the cafe county if you're interested in getting your book signed at the end of the evening. at this time, i am happy to introduce our authors. our interviewer is a civil rights activist focused on
issues of innovation, equity and justice. born and raised in baltimore, he holds honorary doctorates from the new school and the maryland institute college of art. as a leading voice in the black lives matter movement and a cofounder of campaign zero, he has worked to connect individuals with knowledge and tools and provide citizens and policymakers with commonsense policies that ensure equity. he has been praised by president obama for his work as a community organizer and has advised officials at all levels of government and continues to provide capacity to activists, organizers, and influencers to make an impact. our featured author is dan pfeiffer. a cohost of pod save america, one of barack obama's longest-serving advisors. he was director of communications from 2009 to 2013. he lives in the bay area of california. dan's new book that we are here
for this evening is titled, battling the big lie, how thoughts, facebook, and the maga media are destroying america. this blurb, it's an enlightening, at times enraging, and always entertaining guide to the recent history of our politics and media, drawing on dan pfeiffer's unparalleled experience. read this book if you want to understand what is happening in american politics, why it is happening, and what you can do about it. we're honored to welcome you back to harrisburg. without further ado, please join me and giving them a warm harrisburg welcome. [applause] >> it is good to be back. i know dan well, but we have not talked about the book because i have been waiting to talk about
it in front of you all. let's start with the easiest question. why this book, why now? >> some of you may know, we were here together, sitting in these exact chairs in mid february 2020. and we are back. did anything happen? after that last book, i decided that would probably my last book. i was very proud of it, ready to do some other things. then after the election happened, i was really wrestling with the question of how it was that in an election that was close but not much closer than trump's victory in 2016, and certainly less close than george w. bush's election, that we could live in a world where 70% of republicans could believe, against all evidence, that the election was stolen. some of them could believe it so fervently that they would storm
the capitol with weapons to try to stop the certification of the election. so i thought we were at this tipping point of the power of disinformation and right wing media and wanted to better understand it myself and explain it to democrats, because i think this is the driving force of american politics right now. >> i have a lot of questions. we will start at the beginning. this is a push. you say in the beginning, they have fallen for the big lie, they all believe without a doubt the election was stolen. i question the language of fallen for the big lie. some people chose it, that they willingly chose this line, they did it for reasons of why to premises and accused of other things. but they were not duped, but they chose it. what would you say to that? >> within any group, there are
people who use motivated reasoning to believe what makes sense to them, to fit events into their worldview. in their world, donald trump could not possibly lose. but it is much bigger than those people. 70% of republicans believe that the election was illegitimate in some way, shape, or form. some people are choosing to believe it and some people are falling for it, and some people are throwing up their arms because they see so much noise that they don't know what to believe. that is probably the most alarming part of that last group. >> there was a lot that surprised me, and one of them is use a large portions of the country good -- never heard any negative information about trump. is that true? >> if you live within the right wing ecosystem -- >> i feel like we hear about him all the time. [laughter] >> you hear it, it is done in the perspective of, like, the deep state, the fake new york
times lying about him. what the right does is create a dramatically sealed information bubble for a large swath of their electorate. where the information they get is filtered to them in a way that is a entirely positive to trump. or if there is a larger conversation about that stuff about trump, it is explaining why that is. >> there is a whole section where you talk about the importance of the blog and the o ld style of media. do you still think blogs matter in the same way? >> no, certainly not. i tell a story in the book about in 2004 i was working for senator tom daschle in south dakota. this was a big deal senate race, because tom daschle was running for reelection. he was bush's enemy number one, his opponent was recruited by karl rove. no senate leader had lost in 50
years. in that election, a group of, out of nowhere, a group of conservative political blogs, immaculately named to cover the race, they came up and hammered daschle nonstop. they transitioned eventually into pushing conspiracy theories. we published this lock muster scoop, like, siren emojis, it was on the drudge report, that tom daschle had a secret deal with the native american population that if the native american population delivered enough votes, daschle would return the black hills to them. which is something that should happen. it is their land that was stolen. but far beyond the power of one senator to do, so it is clearly not true. at first i dismissed it, like,
who is reading these idiotic blogs? no one who matters. but all of a sudden he's undecided voters are reading back to me what they are hearing in here. and what we learned leader on was that our opponent, the republican candidate, was paying these blogs to publish disinformation about daschle. and then it dawned on me, that was the first time i confronted disinformation as an explicit political strategy of the republicans and i filed it away is something i thought we would see many times later. maybe not to the extent we see it now, but the canary in the coal mine. >> in that vein, you make a big deal of highlighting this inference between misinformation and disinformation. what is that? >> these are the two terms that get interchanged all-time. misinformation is inaccurate information. it can be accidental, inadvertent.
all of us on social media periodically become inadvertent transmitters of misinformation because we read a false story, or someone has taken an out of context comment or something that we tweeted out like, this is terrible, and we spread it, only to find later on that is not what really happened. disinformation is a specific strategy to spread false information to deceive people. and so those differences are important. disinformation is a specific byproduct -- it's a political strategy that we have to pay a lot of attention to and respond to. >> i obvious he paid attention, i knew russia influence the election. i didn't know it was called the internet research agency. but they were dealing in disinformation, not misinformation. >> correct. in 2016, we have all talked
about the russian hacking. the one thing the russians did was they hacked into the dmc and clinton campaign emails and then released those emails to cause as much chaos as possible. >> that was confirmed it was the russians? >> yes. >> i was a victim of like, was it the russians? but i believe you. [laughter] >> it was the consensus of the intelligence community, both under obama and trump. although you could not really say that out loud in the trump years. and so, the other thing they did is they created -- they had a strategy to flood social media with false accounts to push disinformation. one of the ways they would do that is they would create false accounts pretending to be black activists who would then post things about why they were not supporting hillary clinton, or pushing people not to vote. and then these entities funded by the russians would run
facebook ads promoting that content targeting black audiences. target people by interests, so people who would express interest in civil rights or martin luther king, or similar topics, push that to them. there was a very specific strategy to try to create division and reduce hillary clinton's support and turnout in the black community. >> one of the things he wrote was this idea that trump could not win if more black people voted. >> that is true. in 2016 that was absolutely true. if you had black turnout at the levels at which barack obama had it, the math would be such that hillary clinton would have won wisconsin, for s --pennsylvania and michigan. >> you wrote about the moment where trump was like, sunlight
is going to enter your body and if it does, covid is going to disappear. he also said to drink bleach. you talked about the bleach moment is something we all laughed at, but you highlight that as a positive moment for trump. why? >> trump telling people to inject bleach, or get sunlight inside of their body, and we didn't ask any questions about what his plans were as to how you do that -- it was part of a larger strategy to convince people that the pandemic was not as scary as it was. was to get people to return to normal faster. he believed, with very good reason, that his reelection chances were dependent upon the
economy bouncing back. it's a ridiculous, absurd thing to say, but people listened. dangerously so. people drank disinfectant. people tried to injest disinfectant. and we have to -- when we look at trump's pent-up response -- pandemic response, it's abhorr ent on every level and seems ridiculous. but he did very effectively and very dangerously to a large swath of the country spread a lot of distrust in what scientists were saying for a political purpose. i use the inject bleach one because a lot of times liberals laugh but republicans listen, and we have to understand why that is if we are going to be able to compete in an information environment where people can listen to something that ridiculous. >> to think of any politicians on the left who would get that message right? one of the things you talk about is we have to -- it cannot
always be gloom and doom. you don't write about this in the book, but are there people you think you are getting that right on the left? >> in terms of a message that brings people in? yeah, i think aoc, certainly beer -- certainly bernie sanders in both of his campaigns. i talk in the book about,m like, we look at a trump rally, it is not a place i want to go, it does not seem fun to me. they don't seem to make a lot of sense. but obviously the people there are having a blast. and it is not just the people in the crowd that we see. obviously there are pretty alarming things they are chanting. then you see the footage when the reporters are doing their live shots before the event and it is a festival. it is like renaissance fair, there are people just up as things, they are selling all this swag and people dress up
like donald trump. that is not my thing, but i think we need to think about politics as a way that is exciting. that was the core of obama, was people wanted to be there. so i think bernie sanders, aoc, i think stacey abrams in a different way brings people in in a very exciting way. i have not seen this firsthand but i have heard this from a lot of people on the east coast, john fetterman, people are pretty jazzed to be around john fetterman. [applause] >> love that. another thing you said i had not thought about in this way, you push back on republicans wanting smaller government. you talk about injecting antigovernment rhetoric in a strategy, but it is not about shrinking the government. what do you mean by that? >> republicans don't want -- it is not about the size of the government, it is about who the government is protecting. yeah, they want to shrink the
epa, osha, all of that, but they want to grow ika, belieff, and it's their view that the government is a bulwark against an america that is changing graphically and culturally in a way that threatens the people who have held political power in this country since the beginning, like christians, primarily meant. so -- men. so this -- that's an important thing democrats have to understand. none of this is on the level. this is not a paul krugman argument about how you build a good economy. it is about political power, and who has it and who they are trying to stop from getting it. it is why the radicalization from the right has happened so aggressively since barack obama won the white house, because that is the embodiment of something they had feared for a very long time. it happened before they were ready for it. >> this book came out before the
january 6 hearings and all that. you write at one point, the message is -- do you think the january 6 hearings happening now will stick in a way democrats can use, or do you think we botched the messaging? >> i don't think we have botched the messaging. i think democrats have done a great job. and it is not just a democrat, because it's a bipartisan hearing. but the first thing you have to do is get people to hear you. so the fact that the january 6 hearing got 20 million people to watch the first one, that is unbelievable. that is 6 million more people watching a congressional hearing than game six of the nba finals. that is wild and impressive. this is not in the book but i discovered this fact when doing research on the book, 20 million
people is a lot, but it is 80 million fewer people than watch the oj car chase live in 1994. so it got people's attention. social engagement about january 6 has been off the roof for democrat, which is very impressive. also i think they have done something very smart and powerful. they have simplified the story. every hearing tells one aspect of the story. it is not overly complicated. the second piece is the voices they are showing people are not democrat members of congress. we recognize that adam schiff is not going to persuade a lot of people in the middle of the country. so it is liz cheney. the fact that liz cheney, dick cheney's daughter, basically she is darth vader's daughter and she is leading this, and that is amazing. she is a card-carrying member of
the republican establishment. it is all the footage of these trump aids, bill barr, jason miller, he ivanka trump, card-carrying members of maga nation, basically saying trump knew the election was not stolen. so it's one of the most important aspects of modern communication strategy where you have a population who are skeptical of politicians generally. it is to use people from your in-group to tell you a message you do not want to hear is very impressive. so whether it is going to stick is up to awesome, what happens going forward -- is up to us, what happens going forward. but thus far, it has been an credible success. >> you sprinkle in some criticism of the new york times. what would you say about the times's lack of holding the administration accountable
during those years? or people criticize the reporters who knew things and waited until their books came out. how do you think about the times 's role? >> the new york times does credible journalism. they do really -- does incredible journalism. huge stories they broke. they do great stuff. i picked the times and facebook because they are by far the most influential parts of their respective elements. facebook is by far the most important social media company, the new york times is by far the most influential traditional media organization in the country. and they are way more influential than they have probably ever been because there is so much less competition now. and i think the criticism of the new york times and every answer to the larger traditional media is really that this is not a both sides issue.
democracy is at stake here. we cannot have a political conversation where we treat them across trying to run on kitchen table issues the same as republicans trying to steal elections. press is not an unbiased entity. they have biases, they have things they advocate for. we know the press cares passionately about how many questions joe biden answers every week. like, that seems trite and annoying compared to a lot of things, but they should advocate for as much access as possible. that is a good thing to do, and they will use their power to push for more. which is why you read articles about how few interviews joe biden does. the readers don't want to read that. they write it to put pressure on the white house. i think the press can and should be more aggressive advocates for democracy. and if that benefits my crass right now, so be it -- benefits democrats right now, so be it.
the first people authoritarians take out when they take over, the press. so i want them to be more aggressive advocates for democracy because i do not think this is a partisan issue. >> the other thing i learned in reading was you talk about the sec's decision to end the fair use doctrine, and the rise of right-wing radio. do you think there's a way to put that back in the bottle? can we undo that? if trump wins, it would be like trying to unring a bill. do you think we can unring the bell or not? >> i thought a lot about how the right, for decades, has run this campaign against -- to try to disqualify the press. that campaign culminates with reagan's election, and reagan using the fcc to repeal the doctrine, which demanded equal
time in media. once that happened, right wing radio basically grew exponentially because now there was no need for there to be someone opposite rush limbaugh, you could just have rush limbaugh. and i have wanted to find a way that you could put the fairness doctrine back in to fix these problems and every single person i talk to about this says the bell cannot be un-wrong. the media has been changed so much that a lot of what we deal with now -- like fox probably exists because and in the fair use doctrine shows the marketplace for right-wing media. cable news was not covered by the fairness doctrine. you can't unring the bell is the unfortunate part, so we have to figure out how to live in this environment. >> i didn't know that tucker carlsen started the "daily caller" until i read the
book. > i think it was scarborough and tucker colson, back to back. the number one media. >> you don't really give up on facebook, though. you say the left needs to push out messages on facebook. but when you look at the top posts on facebook, they are overwhelmingly ben shapiro republican. you clearly think that is the algorithm, but do you think the left can counter that? you highlight the outrage and anger we can use. do you think that our base will share the messages or do you think the algorithm of facebook is so screwed that we have to fix it first? >> algorithms respond to the input. right now the amount of right wing information pumped into the algorithm is exponentially greater. there's more right wing engages, pushing out more content.
we are not necessarily going to very quickly close that gap, but there is room. we have to find ways to have messages that are consistent with our political narrative that also go viral on facebook. that's very hard because the number one political posts on facebook this week, for the week ending today, was by barack obama. but you know what it was? his father's day message. which is charming and important, but i don't think it is moving the political debate in any way. we have gotten a little better at harnessing energy. this is one of the very rare weeks where progressive posts outperform conservative posts, all about abortion. in the wake of the supreme court case, people took to facebook
and shared content and responded to content and lifted the content above. this can't happen once every nine months. it has to happen on a regular basis. one of the lessons for us, and after many years of basically never posting on facebook and only looking at pictures of my friends' kids, got back on, started a public page, started to work with a collective of progressives to get more people to post more content. it's like a drop in the bucket at this point but we need more people. seven in 10 american adults are on facebook. half of those people go to the site multiple times a day. 40% of them see it as a major source of news. the scale between only one quarter of americans claim to be on twitter and i think it is smaller than that. on twitter, 90% of the tweets are from 10% of the people. we spent all the time on twitter and think about it and worry about it.
it is an important platform for a specific conversation among active people, but facebook is by far the most important. >> you talk about the decision not to fact-check politicians as a watershed moment. do you think they will fact-check politicians? >> put it in perspective. when mark zuckerberg went to give his big speech about how facebook was going to stand for free speech and the first amendment and they would not fact-check politicians. i hate to say this but first amendment and facebook have nothing to do with each other. it is not about your right to be on a specific social media platform. even then, do you really want a big tech company to be the one to decide what is true and what isn't? especially from politicians?
the answer to that is maybe not. on the things they say, like donald trump will post something and should it come down, should it not if it violates terms of service? that is fair. what is different is what he's really talking about is fact checking ads. facebook ads are some of the most -- it's not like we lost 30 seconds on the eagles game and hope people watch it. it is that you are able to precisely, able to upload to facebook the file, you can match people, and specifically target people based on their interests. you can push information and use facebook's massive data and ai powered algorithm to decide the people most likely to believe that information. that is a very big deal. is that why donald trump almost won the election?
no. but it's throwing your arms up and allowing the weaponization of disinformation. i think that's a bad thing. >> one thing that was interesting is the republican strategy, your argument is if we talk about the facts, they will lose. they have to distract us because when they talk about the fact, they will lose. the second is they have to stoke, you don't call it white supremacy i think, but bigotry. do you see a good counter to those things? we saw the latest rally, like thank you for protecting white life. >> and she won her primary last night. >> did she win? yikes. i thought it must be edited. but she really said that. do you see an effective counter to that? do we need to organize better? what do you do when it is no longer innuendo. >> i think a big part of this is
trying to solve the megaphone problem for democrats. what is happening is the right has built this massive apparatus that is dominating the political conversation. it is pushing information out there to decide what we talk about. one thing we can do, it is the hard work, build up a progressive megaphone to get the message out so we are not getting drowned out. >> is msnbc not a megaphone? >> it is not a megaphone. it has great programming on it, but it is not an adjunct of the democratic party, nor should it be. but fox is an adjunct of the republican party. their interest is electing road republican politicians. it is still an organization that
uses itself as a journalistic organization and we are just operating at such a smaller scale. tucker carlsen is getting two to three times the viewers of the largest nbc show and six times the largest cnn show. it is a massive rating advantage. and there viewers are more engaged and much more dominant online. the fox facebook presence and online presence is huge. they have an entire streaming platform. there's fox news station. people who pay to get additional tucker carlsen. no one is monitoring. but there is crazy stuff. there is very little of that on the left. we can't count on msnbc to do as much. there's good stuff there but it is not the same. >> start thinking about your
questions because we will go to q and a soon. what does the megaphone look like? do we need to round up influencers or make our own tv station? obviously we have the crooked network. the. podcast. >> i think it's all the above. i don't think anyone is investing money in a linear cable network anytime soon. it is more content creators like the organization more perfect union, started by bernie sanders. . campaign managers. a lot of youtube videos, a lot of reporting that they have been aggressively pushing back. a lot of stuff in spanish language. some of my friends acquired stations in florida. it is all of the above. we just need more people saying more things to more people.
there's no hierarchy, no one exact person. it will not be like a roger ailes of the left doing it. it's a huge investment in progressive media. it's not just subscribing to progressive publications. it is also just calling them on facebook, subscribe to the youtube channel. when you do that, the algorithms will show that to more people. our party leaders have to do a better job of this. donald trump did many things that were not very smart, but she was brilliant about nurturing a right-wing media ecosystem. if there was an article he thought was good for him in a right-wing conversation, he published it. i'm sorry, he tweeted it. he tweeted, they get traffic. they get more ad dollars. they can do more journalism.
if he was promoting fox, doing interviews with right-wing media , when books were written he thought were favorable, he tweeted about those to drive them all on the new york times bestseller list. that means those books would get better placement and the authors would get more media bookings, the publishers would think there's a market for more pro-trump books. democratic politicians, with a handful of exceptions, do not do that. they continue to exist in a world where they will do the bulk of their media through traditional media. they should do all of the above, but it is in every democrats interest to nurture the progressive media ecosystem into using its allies. obama did some of this in the early days. bernie sanders was a master of this in the 2016 campaign. stacey abrams does this. obviously aoc is a media person
herself. for the most part, there is still a reticence to embrace progressive media. if the leadership does not, we cannot get the public to do it either. >> what about abortion messaging? a lot of people i'm around think the party is not bold enough, laying low when we should be fighting back. this is the time to not dillydally. and there are other people who say, we can only do so much, aoc obviously believes otherwise, but what do you think? >> i always have sympathy for people who work in the white house and have limited tools to serve -- to do what people care about. there's nothing he can do with his pen that will undo what was done or protect millions of people who just lost rights. but i do think, and i thought aoc's twitter thread on this,
really resonated with a lot of people in my life who are interested in politics but don't work in it. what she did was say to recognize the urgency of the situation and say we need a plan. even if they plan over the short, medium, and long-term, we need a plan. this has been a challenge off and on for the last two years, probably the trump years but particularly the last couple years. i think the urgency a lot of democratic voters feel about where the country is going, the dangers of the supreme court, this radical and extreme faction , and the language and tone of our leaders who even if they do believe it, i think many of them do and their actions suggest they do, but if someone in the house did about voting rights, i think we need to do a better job
of speaking to that. even if you can't fix the problem, right now you have to speak to the way people feel and make them get it and offer them a long-term. i think people will, in the absence of a short-term problem, a plan to solve the problem. i thought aoc had good ideas on this. sometimes people want to feel your anger. i hope we hear more of that. >> actually when she was like, if you have a better plan, put out, but you can't not say anything. what do you want to ask -- process? >> if i'm ever running for office, it will be the school board and that will be the cap of it. [laughter] >> let's go to questions. >> this is -- let's give it up for dan. [laughter]
raise your hand and we will pass around the mic. we will start in this general area and go that way. >> i want to say thank you for your talk, but i have a little issue with how you kind of accused president biden for not doing anything, because he really can't. this is the same man who said vladimir putin should step down. and so to me, as a woman, it is a copout. i would like your feelings on that. >> i don't disagree with what you said. the point i was trying to make is that there are limited tools. i do agree we need more people, the president included, to speak more powerfully, more often and more loudly about this. i was mainly referring to the options he had to actually do something. i 100% agree that we have a party from the president,
congressional leaders, candidates, who do not aggressively talk about what has happened here, the fact that a supreme court that was put in place, five justices were appointed by president who got fewer votes, and was confirmed by a republican that represents a minority of americans, just took a constitutional right away from millions, and we don't talk about in the most aggressive terms possible, the voters will not come with us. i'm not going to tell anyone who thought that they were wrong. we have to have a specific point. you give us these votes, we will do x, over the course of time, we will reform, much like aoc said. >> so for those of us who have loved ones who are in that dangerous third category you mentioned at the beginning who
go, this is too much and they throw their hands up, how do we get them to understand these alternative information ecosphere's are not equal, one is based in truth and reality and one is a profitable manufactured machine? how do you get them to vote accordingly especially if they say this is too much, i will just vote with the r? how do you bring them to your side? >> in the book, i write about a study that was done in 2019 where they show people news stories with one group. they had another group where they show news stories that were shared by someone they knew. what they came to find out was that people paid way more attention to stories that were shared by people they trusted than the news organization. whether it was the new york times or cnn or fox news, the fact that it was a person they thought shared their values or
experiences in some way seemed to have agreed with the point or promote the point that they would believe it. so i think how we do it, each person you deal with will be different. trying to find sources they agree with or they trust to tell them to push back on things. one experiment i saw one political group do was very effective with republican leading voters who disapproved of trauma but still planned to vote for him anyway, was articles from the wall street journal, which because of rupert murdoch, were treated very differently in this group. in fact, for a lot of people in the new york times, it was proof the opposite was true when it came to trump. with the new york times says about donald trump, then it can't be true. so listening to them trying to figure out what sources they trust, conservative voices can be very powerful in influencing
people lean conservative but may be skeptical about this version of the republican party or president trump. >> in that vein, you write about the fact checkers. fact checking does not have the power it used to have. do you think that will remain? for a lot of people, something that is obviously not true, like go fact-check it. but your argument is the fact checkers do not have as much sway. >> exactly, it's the opposite in a lot of ways. particularly cnn and the new york times, they are the most targeted news organizations by trump and the most distrust on the right, but the fact that they say it's not true is proof that it is true. so fact checking cannot be the way we win the war on truth and we need other ways to do it. it can be voices and experts to do it. >> you mentioned school boards.
and local elections. your book talked about largely the larger scale elections statewide. one of the things that brings something painful to my soul is seeing people maga campaigning for school boards and winning. can you speak to that or what role -- how important do you think these local elections will become in terms of the overall strategy? there are people who are plain idiots who have no awareness of what the real issues are, and are campaigning on things that aren't really even issues, but it is the right buzzwords. i think it is very frightening for our society last night. >> absolutely. political power is built from the ground up here the process by which the republicans were
able to rig the supreme court, made a decision to have large swaths of the entry day one, that abortion being banned is a long-term product starting in school boards. democrats have traditionally done a poor job of investing that at the party leadership level and donors and volunteers. we like to elect president, we think the white house is cool, we watch the west wing, and too often we do not invest in the hard work of building political power. i think that has changed a lot since trump won and there are well-funded groups run by the best operatives in the party. this is an example of how serious this is. we talk a lot about the insurrection and what republicans want to do in 2024. in many states like arizona, votes are counted at the county level.
county out or -- county auditor is critical. one of the auditors in arizona refused to certify the election. steve bannon on his podcast every week is recruiting people. one group i recommend is run for something. it recruits and trains candidates. this is where the impact of everything we are dealing with will happen in that down ballot. >> one of the things i think that republicans are very good at, we have a governors race coming up, with someone in the past said that he was elected to ban abortions. but now that roe v. wade has been overturned, he is sidestepping that and is concentrating on the economy and gas prices and inflation.
that is what the republicans are going to do to take over the house and possibly the senate in the fall. i have friends that are really intelligent, biden, the gas prices, is gas nationalized? does he have the authority to change? who are you going to blame? bp. mobile exxon. the gas companies. they are the ones that are fleecing you. so people believe on a very visceral level that the economy is all on biden. how can we change this? >> to piggyback on that, i had to go to the mall today and might luber driver said, biden is giving away money to ukraine and he needs to do something about gas prices. what do you do with that? we were just talking and she
really thought biden is giving away money to ukraine and not helping us with gas. >> so it is always one of the great frustrations of anyone who works in the white house that the public thinks you have way more power than you actually have. gas prices, inflation is a worldwide phenomenon, all of the above. it is hard to explain away peoples economic pain and anger. i think there are two elements of this. one is we can accept the premise of the problem that gas prices are too high and try to reframe the argument about who will do a better job of solving it. is it going to be the party that is funded by oil companies? the party who insists on giving those exact same oil companies tax breaks? the same people who were opposing a windfall profits tax supported by democrats? it is a tough political environment, but you always want
the argument of who is going to fight for you. in a tough economy, that can work for democrats. as much as republicans try to rebrand themselves as populists, there's still a lot of skepticism as people who will fight for middle-class working people and corporations. the other thing is i think there's a mentality among some democrats in terms of politics that we have to change. doug messed rihanna wants to talk about gas prices because that is better for him. but that does not mean we have to as well. republicans tend to decide polling, decide what issues voters should talk about on election day, and talk about it. no one thought immigration would be the number one issue in 2016. donald trump made it the number one issue.
democrats look at polls and say what are people thinking about now, and then we just talk about that, whether it is good or bad for us. in this case, there's a whole lot with january 6, there is abortion, a right wing war on freedom in this country where they want to ban contraception, they want to decide who you love, what looks you can read. i imagine an argument would be very powerful. just because he wants to talk about it doesn't mean we have to fall for that. >> i want to know your thoughts on reconciling campaign rhetoric and campaign promises with managing expectations. in your campaign, you hear a lot of candidates talking about issues and saying what democratic voters want to hear, but i feel like younger voters are sort of becoming disillusioned by that. just wanted your thoughts on that. >> that is the old, famous line
from governor mario cuomo that you campaign on poetry but govern in prose. this is something we wrestled with in obama's reelection campaign. we are trying to run on what we say with what we are going to do , but knowing we will almost certainly returned to the white house with republican house and senate. i think there are two elements of this letter very important. one is we have to treat voters as if they are smart and they understand it. talk to them like adults. we cannot make promises we can deliver on but that we will fight like hell for the biggest mistake emma cuts, and i include myself -- democrats, and i include myself on this, is that we manage expectations terribly. the senate kept saying failure is not an option on voting rights.
we have no plan to cross the manchin chasm, but we have to be honest with people. we were so bad at managing expectations around build back better, that it washed away incredibly important compliments. we are focused on what did not get done as opposed to what got done. i'm sympathetic with people frustrated that we have not done a bunch of things but we have to be more honest with voters. >> there's a lot of unhappiness and social media that pushes the obama team that would say you all did not codify roe v. wade when you had the votes and the power. what would you say to that? people who are on our side are saying that. >> so there was a two-year period from 2009 two 2011 where democrats had unified control of the house and senate.
obama had pledged that if he was elected, he would try to codify roe. he said at a conference in the campaign. here's the problem and why it did not happen. this is not to say president obama and those who worked for him could not have done more to forestall where we are as americans. what i am saying is what naral said in 2010, that there is not a pro-choice majority in the house and senate. there were not enough votes. we had expanded the pro-choice democrats, but in two thousand 9, 1 third of house democrats defined themselves as anti-choice. a large number of democratic senators were either explicitly anti-choice or pretty ambivalent about their position. we had enough democrats but not
pro-choice democrats. that's ultimately what the best message in the short term is, give me 52 pro-choice democrats, and we can deliver the codification of roe. are you justifying or excusing -- i'm trying to explain what the reality is. people would be shocked at where joe manchin would be on this spectrum of democratic senators circa 2010. it would not be on the far right, it was closer to the middle because we had a pretty conservative party back >> i have been reading -- what do you think of the thought, i think you have seen it, that too many of our organizers have not come from too small of a section of the country.
they come from colleges, that kind of argument, so they don't have the life experience and can't connect with people further down the chain. also they don't talk like real people? >> i think most people in politics don't talk like real people. that is the first people of advice my cohost gives everyone. you have to talk like a human. and a human doesn't need small words, it means you have to have relatable emotions and stories. but it is -- i think we need more diversity at every level of the party. diversity in every element of life. race, gender, where you are from, where you work. and a lot of the thing -- the pandemic really affected how the 2020 campaign was -- in powerful ways. more people on the ground
working. a lot of organizers, they will parachute into states, that is what they do for a living. but they were constantly recruiting people from those states to work for them. college kids, adults who wanted to get involved in politics. so we need a lot more of that. we are always trying to find the narrowest possible problem that explains everything. i think diversity in every element, in every way you define that word is a problem in all parts of american life. but it is not the only reason, struggling with working class, a trend that has been going on for well over two decades. >> up here in the --
>> i just wanted to ask, one of the things that perplexes me is how it always feels democrats are not organized and not thinking about the long game. for a long time, we have said roe v. wade was a target. we knew that is where things were headed. yet i feel like to hear someone say now we need to have a strategy now, it is like where have you been? i think about when w was president, republicans made it clear they were going to start recruiting among latino communities in the south for the republican party so in the long term, knowing there would be eventually a much larger latino voting population, they would have that majority. we are starting to see the results of that. it was an intentional strategy they created. why can't democrats get
organized like that? what is going on? >> politics is funny in the way perception changed quickly. if this had been a meeting of republicans in 2012, 2013, all the way up until the moment donald trump one, republicans would say how is it we keep getting our clock cleaned, democrats are organizing, fundraising us, data technology, all of that. it has obviously changed. there are things that are fair and true of your critique. republicans have had a donor base, primarily the coat others for many years, who invested in political infrastructure. the most boring things possible, but off year elections, candidates training recruitment, there have been similar efforts among democrats. there has been a group of people since -- 2012, democrats organizing impacts as a group.
the fact they have come this far is a product of a decade of organizing from democrats. that is the reason why beddoe almost -- beto almost won. georgia, stacey abrams, black lives matter's, what they had done is a product of a decade of organizing in that state. so there are elements of it. it is fair to say that -- and it is a very important critique, on the issue of abortion, and a lot of people after the opinion league. republicans had a better plan to overturn roe v. wade than democrats. the supreme court being the way it is, you have limited control of where you get justices. that is why we are in this
situation. we need to have more -- and hopefully people learn a lesson from this, that we need long-term, well-funded strategic solutions. go through elections you win, and elections you lose. you are making progress towards an end goal. a lot has changed in the party, some is very good. but clearly not enough is done. we may have lost the saddle before we even started because they have been working on it so long. >> similar -- diversity and activating knowing the plan. in pennsylvania, are elections of the governor and senate race are important. but there is a lot of anger.
in the democratic party, what is going on right now. how do we unite the diverse party, specifically in pennsylvania? because it is such a critical election to unite people and activate them in the next 5, 6 months, in terms of november coming up. >> i would say, we organize around the country, justice and policing, and what i have seen to be most effective going into this question, organizers were always trying to convince aunts and uncles, whoever does that will always win. what trump did well, he had never talked -- i don't know what he said privately, i can imagine it is ridiculous publicly, but he would always talk to aunts and uncles. my aunt always understood what he said, it was just crazy to her. my aunts listens to biden and
says i don't know what he's saying. when we organize on issues, we are always testing it. not that my aunt is not smart, she is in business with three kids, she is not watching tv all day to see seven people tell the story, which is what cable news is. she is going to get one shot at it, and you have to deliver. the second thing is reminding people of what we do believe in and not what we don't believe in. some people love the police, some people don't. do i want people to be safe? do you want the person with a gun to get the cat out of a tree, to tell you you don't have your taillight? i'm trying to take the craziness out of the issue and make it seem really simple. i have learned that on the far left, and ideologically i consider myself on the far left, the message has to be the middle sometimes. we have to take the message out of it -- in the book, it is like how they
were able to convince people everyone is a socialist in florida. it is not socialist to say everyone should have breakfast, lunch, and enter. we should talk about it as a basic thing. a basic thing to say you should not die where you go to school. we have to take the street credit, i really care about the people, out of it, and talk about it as simply as possible. she is like you should not die in schools, should not die in prison. like yes. i have learned sometimes we overdo it. and my aunt doesn't want to be yelled at, she wants to be convinced. >> that is exactly right. there is an element of finding common cause with people. it is not simplifying as -- what do we care about, what do we agree on? even our democratic family. if it is something as simple as
in pennsylvania, we think let the people choose who they vote for in the election should be who is elected. it should be people should not be prosecuted. we believe politicians should not decide what books we read or what teachers teach, across the board. raising the stakes in a unified way. >> and organizing, we always try and figure out the question to rephrase things. think about the place where you feel the most safe. a place where you feel safe. are the police there? no. what does it look like without the police? you already know. when everyone was in their room where you want to feel safe, we scale it up.
people you love, food, we are trying to take the bite out of it and make it something you already understand. >> thank you for your service. i'm almost 80. i remember very well many presidents love the statements and enrage -- equal engagement. especially today's republican party. my husband and i are republicans, the democrats are the crazies down south and hang with the mafia. this changed. our parents, republicans excite people. they wind them up, fear and anger are the most primitive,
most reactive emotions. to keep people scared is to keep them engaged. afraid of immigrants, afraid of socialists, afraid of democrats, they had us afraid of dr. seuss and pepe lepeu. very capable woman, but not an exciting speaker, hillary clinton. president biden, extremely capable. not an exciting speaker. we need another obama with some good support. my question is what do you think of the national popular vote contact? >> i'm a big believer in the fact that the electoral college is a terrible, anti-democratic relic, a terrible thing to get
rid of. the vote is a project getting states to have walls that say they will give their electors whoever wins the popular vote. pennsylvania would do it. but they are big in recruiting states for i think decades. but you need to get to all of them for it to actually go into place. everyone around the constitution. it is going to be very hard, republicans know the only way -- they have lost the election, so they probably won't have a lot of states to agree the popular vote. senate questions from the balcony, this is the sort of
work you do so you're prepared for a moment when you possibly can strike. i think it is very good stuff. >> this will be our final question. >> thank you for the excellent talk. there is a lot of problems, as you described, situations feel very bleak. at the same time, many dark faces of american history and global history. i'm wondering to what extent you think the moment is singular. is it really unprecedented on a totally different level? how do you think about that? >> it depends on who you ask. this could be a passing moment, it could be the last rose of an extremist, right-wing, authoritarian movement, or the beginning of something very good
for us. that is up to all of us and what we do to stop it. we have the power to stop it. there is a growing progressive pro-democracy, pro-truth, anti-maga majority in the country, we just have to show up to vote in the right places at the right time. i think the danger of this moment for democracy -- i don't want to say it is unique, but it is not by definition something that will go away. only if you make it go away. >> let's give it up for david. [applause]