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tv   Book Discussion on Dollarocracy  CSPAN  January 4, 2014 11:00pm-12:31am EST

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them for granted? >> would it means is america is the actual living thing and not just a set of ideas on paper that one way to think about that is maybe to have cultural continuity so it is hard but america is something that can transmit itself to a future generation for our was born in israel and i came here as a child and old truck patriotic because the idea of this country and the reality appeals to be in a powerful way. that is the case for generations and generations. so america is able to be open to immigrants because our way of life does not require your family can trace itself continuously to william the conqueror brno because it is defined by
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abstract principles but the actual existence of the incredibly free and open society the last to explain to be influenced and changed and improved provided these hideous are grounded in american idea of free society. they want to have that whole not just the abstract principles are what we've made of them in the present but the combination the makes possible and the most open. so we still can integrate immigrants but we don't really try to so we try to teachers also to teach see outsiders what american life is about we have a terrible failure of assimilation in our country but if we can address that we don't have to be any less of a nation
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of immigrants. i don't know if burke would have thought that but that is what i think. >> host: they give for doing this. i hope you enjoyed it. of great debate. >> guest: thank you very much.
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>> this is john nichols and robert mcchesney. we are here under the global voices author series sponsored by the international house of the university of chicago. for those at home watching tv it is also sponsored by the very distinguished seminary co-op which is around the corner from here. and my own interviews series every month at the seminary co-op by interviews chicago
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activist and authors and troublemakers of various sorts which until today, was named after my 2008 book nixon land. but i thought that sounded like the bad charlie chan movie but as of today it is of a pds interview series. [laughter] so welcome to john and bob but i will briefly tell you a little about them. and john is a native of wisconsin and did so newspapering in the midwest and pittsburgh and came back to work kitimat is it with one of the most distinguished institutions in america in capital times
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whose editor was the legendary -- legendary cater of john mccann -- of mccarthy in the campus baited him by having the mccarthy lecture every year they printed the invitations on pink paper. [laughter] and come back to madison he also became an sas do in journalist for the progressive institution going strong almost 100 years now and the nation's oldest journal of opinion the nation for which i am a regular contributor and the washington correspondent and the best kind of washington correspondent there is, the kind who lives 1,000 miles from washington. [laughter] so he is not messed up in
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the tangle of egos and destruction and insanity that we all know about that we speak today on the day with the end of the government shut down or as senator cruz called it the government's slowdown. [laughter] robert mcchesney was a rock-and-roll journalist in seattle, his magazine rocket is enshrined in the rock-and-roll hall of fame as one of the seattle music scene that gave us nirvana but he decided that was not romantic enough so he went to graduate school and became one of the most distinguished historians on question of telecommunications, mass media, a democracy which of course, is the name of his book
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telecommunications, mass media and democracy and a history of how the broadcast system we know today came about which was no way inevitable with a lot of interesting contingencies. and another book that has gotten a lot of attention called rich media, up for democracy and we will hear about those themes and john has written a bunch of books the most recent being the uprising about how madison became the agreeable sign of the democracy movement ec's springing up in places like cairo and some of us in chicago would point our cars to madison and rallied around the state capitol when governor walker, who ran as a republican in the day after he got into office
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decided he would crush the public unions. >> you know, a little bit about that. >> rights. a little bit like george bush saying the day after the 2004 election he had a mandate to privatize social security we had not run on that. but we give it very distracted when we talk about republicans. [laughter] so we will stick to the script. we are here today on behalf of a very interesting and readable purchasable books. [laughter] the best read new in hard cover called "dollarocracy" to 15 how the money and media election complex is destroying america" i want to start by opening the floor and asking them about the word that they claimed for the book "dollarocracy". not plutocracy not anything
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but "dollarocracy." so what does this word mean and why did you go in in this direction? >> we wrestled, you know, about this. we wrestled with the idea of the one word title like nixon land or something like that. because we know it is important when you have debates about the elections and politics it is so easy to make it complex. but in fact, we know what the problem is with the american experiment. most americans want and to some extent think they should live in a democracy. but in a democracy of voting matters most part we argue we have moved very, very rapidly in the last 20 or 30 years to that "dollarocracy" where the dollar matters more than of boat and it is
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critical for people to understand. when we talk about the dollar battering bordet and the vote is not just campaign finance or people giving big money to support candidates although we detail that. in the 2012 campaign poll cycles got roughly $10 billion was given and spent. a little more but also how the media works come on hold political structure works in deference to the dollar rather than the vote. to summon up it is to say that we think to live in a system where massive infusion of money and respect for that many trumps the will of the people per
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-- like a the wrestling match it is "dollarocracy." nothing to add. >> but research's striking princeton university press published to the the book's last year in 2012 after years of research how congress works.
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some of the best political scientist in the country and they've reached the identical conclusion if you look at congress and the decision it makes with the constituents of the members count for nothing until they get very well they. it is very "dollarocracy" typified but people have no influence over their members or even worse they discovered most members of congress, they usually take the exact opposite of the poorest of constituents. the four days by bernie sanders and he was apt our release party three weeks ago in washington d.c.. a graduate of this institution. >> what we saw when preparing for the march on washington. >> he has been in the senate seven years but then served
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eight terms in the house and he said he could say emphatically that it is impossible to get any legislation passed in congress to that is opposed by wall street or corporate america. that is "dollarocracy" in a nutshell. >> host: this is not the impressionistic question is done with methods to do a vote by vote and opinion polls. >> so there is no questioning fact and of course, we know hall of money dominates politics and to throw it to the center of the book that i found both i opening it is the role of money in the local news
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broadcast. and accounted at 2 percent of local tv revenues and a decade later it was between five and 8% of all revenue was. 2012 political advertising accounted about 20% of tv station revenues. and we talk about elections that don't go on all the time. so these elections are basically a bonanza where people's campaign shovel money to the newscast and you should say this but there used to be a gentleman's agreement. but then there was also a section in 317 of the federal communications act that stipulates the law even
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if not in force set of commercials have to be identified who is sponsoring them which of course, is not even the breach but the fascinating development to fold and one is that they expanded the time the news cast goes on during the election season not to include more news but more commercials. this is 20% a dual revenue probably 80 percent during pauley contested season that what is going on zero the biggest political story going cannot be covered. >> rabil take the initial peace. just to set this up, one of the things we do in the book is we started this book four years ago and the purpose
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was to look at the entire process to elect a president and congress and understanding how it to works. now with preconceived notions. we believed things had changed to look at that fundamental process from the start. one of the things that surprised us most is in this country we have no system to figure out how much money is spent on our campaign. we don't know. >> that is funny the first chapter you say the first 10 billion? >> but what struck us is there are all these assumptions we talk about money and politics but there is no system so as authors we had to step back and created a model to measure the money. we found instead of that 6 billion initially reported
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in the newspapers that is amazing but it was actually 10 billion because the 6 billion only looked at federal but we started to you dig down to the local and state and judicial elections and referendums california law five budget 50 million was spent on state referendums and 100 million in michigan and maryland. a huge influx of money. the overwhelming proportion goes to a television local television stations and particularly to that area around the newscast and popular programs in the evening when those people are watching. we begin to understand there is a massive largely unregulated, even unmeasured flow of money into television stations.
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low and behold, it does transforms not merely how they approach their own schedule but also we would argue there is a tremendous standing down of journalism at the time of the massive inflow of money but then bob looks back to what it has done to the stations and how to respond to. >> this subtitle is how the money and media election complex is destroying america" the reason i wanted to major media was in there because in the 1990's commercial broadcasting is one of the core elements because it is the main economic beneficiary. they are to campaign it finance reform like the nra is to gun-control it is comical in the nineties there was a concerted effort to get free air time for
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candidates to get the license even to have debates aired locally but the commercial broadcasting national association. >> everybody knows about the national rifle association is a limit the national broadcasting associationism or fear some lobby. >> because the head of the sec head under clinton william canard went around the country friday unanimous support to have local commercial broadcasters give free time to candidates to draw people into the elections he was told in so many terms come i interviewed him that if he continued this it would end his political career and sec could lose funding from congress. that was in the 1990's nelson said the revenue has increased dramatically about what is striking is these
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are not mom and pop stations you think mr. and mrs. mcgillicuddy but they're owned by age or 10 of the largest companies in the country disney, comcast, news corporation and what has happened this is where it gets cenacle and shameless. they get the of broadcast licenses and there is something of the public-interest they just would not do to make as much money as possible that is why they get the license to have the monopoly. and the sec has to find the highest form of public service for the bow were one dash local station is to cover local elections, the debates that is how they are supposed to lead the league qualify to earn the monopoly license. what we see is the amount of
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ads have caught up in but coverage was limited we had 5 million political ads in the 2012 cycle, a double of 2008 ears filled up the airwaves that some battleground states 30 or 40 in a row. so now the government is not enforcing there is a fear is that they will and demand a free air time be given but then the other blood that has to be talked about is the great development of citizens united 2010 it said basically anyone can give as much money as a blunt corporate or unions to a campaign as long it was not through the an affiliated group. this is a change that affects one-tenth of 1% of americans those surveyed give what was already the legal limit of several
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thousand or 120,000 for federal campaign so citizens united had no effect on 99.9% but the billionaires' now suddenly they could put as much money as it wanted to cover campaigns most of it went to third party groups that is a dark shadow group the don't have to meet the same criteria for disclosure. we don't know who gave all lots of this money. >> host: new show that the ads sponsored by the third-party dark many people are more false. >> that is what i get to. >> host: there also fiercely dash. >> they're almost all attack ads and almost all the us liveliest ones and why it is important. the as run by a third party is not a candidate adds they can run whenever they want
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in the station has to pregnant because they can save whatever they bought but they are to be treated like commercials and the for commercial advertiser was to run the ad the tv station house to verify it is accurate or it is legally liable and can lose his license. >> has that ever happened? >> you are psychic. >> slowdown. >> so the third party as that the koch brothers paid for phil does the airwaves is to be reviewed by the station not proven to be accurate with fear of losing their licenses they would continue to run its anomie is fraudulent. so this is rather process the everybody knows it is bogus with that captures
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some of those tv stations with to a fact check in they would refuse a third-party attack ads in find that they were filled with fraudulent claims to the same station as they would break in the money even though by bob they should be held liable but they sec refuses to aforesaid or touch it. >> they stipulated to the illegality. >> dear all news organizations. >> and as a result you have this absurd situation where there is no accountability whatsoever. the head of the i were broadcasting association the only criteria is the checklist. >> host: you get into the
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story because local elections are not covered by a presidential elections are covered poorly but you have stories about how governor walker id wisconsin diminished to change the pension law in wisconsin? there no longer your vested until they have worked for the state's five years instead of partially tested immediately. that was not covered by any of the news stations. you can tell the story. >> we see again and again and again that media with coverage of local or state or daschle it is that the worst at the local level. we veto many statehouses are
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barely covered by the standards in is barely anybody thought because a bunch of people crowd into the white house briefing room we have a sufficient media to do journalism in this country. we don't have sufficient coverage. we don't to. talk about massive changes our states operates a. >> like the progressive magazine. >> exec klay. it is very important but this does not work. it does not fill the void because if you bring $10 billion of ads into the game then you say makes this all working in fact, jack they cannot possibly keep up and it even bigger crisis, a fact checking ads should not
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be but political coverage is about. it ought to be about big ideas and important things that are debated but to literally say how effective will that be? just to give the example we spent in and even some out of time looking at local races across the country and how they are genetically warped by influence of money. the presidential race of 2012 was not the situation where scrappy barack obama beats the big tough man romney or david versus a lot -- goliath. he is supporters are almost as much as romney in the presidential race you have a situation where big money beaked slightly bigger money.
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that is the reality but the local races and state races you have situations where literally the overwhelming inflow of money often from out of state and that is not countered by journalism that can sense of what is going on was so much less coverage >> this story that we tell is less rigid gas. we have a bunch of stories. the working class date, the mining companies are pretty powerful running a lot of what goes on politically and economically and culturally. they felt they were not getting the best break from the state supreme court so with a key case involving a mining company the odor of the company cave in to spend billions of dollars to
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displace the swing justice of the court that is a convenient way. a very expensive way to buy your results but the get the west virginia attorneys general that are so important to regulate commercial products. >> a protect consumers they have open wreckers and open meetings in west virginia they had a long time attorney-general who served for ever by all accounts on the side of the people. they wanted to get rid of him so they got a guy who was a washington insider who had not practiced law of averages a todd -- top law-enforcement officer in the state he got a license in four days later he filed to run then they had a massive inflow of money if he beats the incumbent who
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was fresh in jews the legal community. >> host: like one of your friends about the internet license to be there preachers. >> here is a troubling thing. they bring him in he knows exactly why he is there. he did not work his way up the political process. he had huge amounts of money , so much he could overwhelm the sentiments of the state and the media. >> but the real power is that the state and local level where so many of the decisions of our lives are made and a big part of your work bobbitt did not have to be this way story. that these things happen because political decisions and struggles happened along the way. one of my favorites in the book is the saga of public
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broadcast which was really fascinating and held the promise like the public option of public broadcast. >> but at this point he did not mention in the guy in the nixon white house like canton in segovia. >> others to have commercial tv advertising if you take all the money there was just a national election rather party was returned to power every german politicians that they spent per voter for every dollar they spent in 2012 with the federal elections we spent 32.
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32 / one others spend like germany but we are way off as jimmy carter said today it is states is no longer a functional democracy because when you outsmarts the country it does not improve the country it is demeaning it it is the floodgate for that top one-tenth of 1% where this money goes to overwhelming majority is commercial broadcasters so in the 1960's it is clear it is a growing part for commercial broadcasters were willing to sell the product to other countries have public systems so it was never an issue they still
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don't have that culture they are considered to campaigns through warfare. there off the chart of a accessible forms of communication and in the united states our response was not unlike that of other countries but it was to be of dubious value but to seek there was something we could do this is not liberal verses conservative but it was fundamentally changing politics in the way that is not healthy with the money that had to be raised in the dubious nature. as a result there were efforts were reset up the public broadcasting system
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one of the key components it was pushed with npr and pbs to rally popular support was the idea to have the election coverage. even by 1968 people were nauseated by the tv ads here we were one of the truly great years in american history with so many crucial issues of the table but instead we get up marching band like a car commercial that is a great dad compared to now people hated it from the beginning they did not like it. >> host: is so fascinating how the bad guys were glamorized it was just honorable work for the candidates. >> that's right to one of the ad agencies is to pull
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peep -- pull people a year after year finally they stop to give the option. [laughter] but what is striking there were not that many. but compared to do today there are quite striking there was so moved in 1970 a critique about the marketing campaigns how demeaning it was then they showed the ad of 1972 there all positive but they were awful but they look like the "gettysburg address" compared to today. that is powerful. >> host: but 1972 when nixon had the obama and in a hard hat when the government wanted 47 percent of the country to freeload of the
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other 53 percent was pretty bad. [laughter] >> so to get rid of these was understood right away and public broadcasting was one way but what happened was public broadcasting never had the political support. but the difference richer american public broadcasting and europe is that those countries it provides the full array of services sports, a medicine coming entertainment, news, a feature films and the job is to serve everyone in the country with everything and commercial broadcasters come in america the way it was set up is public broadcasters would do this stuff that people could not make money off of. so to make it a great system to their credit and this is in the book with a warrior's
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conversation with lbj so let's do this stuff that people who are cut out of the picture window of the groups, artists, the dissidents, young people the provocative agent of our culture but they tried that for one week of people in congress said why are you doing the expos say on the upper pate or focus on the pentagon budget? they said e. enough of that. we want it is laid the commercial takes the viewers away and to you have dinosaur shows and animal shows. >> host: also some of high end and also ynni at the acropolis.
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>> and we pay for c-span because we have much higher rates are you allowed to run that? [laughter] >> now we have citizens united which makes the story of the west virginia's supreme court story because i think a lot of people with the supreme court reporting can be difficult but the way that citizens united went down was every canon of judicial could order. of a love to hear you tell that story in this sequel that they will take into the stratosphere? >> you are exactly right.
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>> you bail the to put into the context of not one decision but many. this is how we approach citizens united. most everybody knows about a moving very simple there are minor cases, a group of people who made a movie about hillary clinton to wanted to publicize the critical movie so they said it exposes her but it was rough but question is how we must find its with their for challenges interestingly john roberts chief justice said you have not asked for e enough you need more briefs there needs to be a bigger issue than 70 it went to the most-active because you've literally say we want a bigger case. you lawyers are not doing
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the job. then they said my roommates steve to be for $1,000 to geneva early stiff you at 8,000? don't you want to get his house and his car? so they expanded that knocked down 100 year old barriers for corporations and politics and open the process to such the extent it became a shorthand. this is the important thing to understand. not in 2010 but what we argue is going back a long time ago to recognize the power of the court to strike down campaign finance law. so a guy that becomes a real
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celebrity is a lawyer in virginia and is respectable with the tobacco wars and with that regulation. >> but we have done that the way to understand it is a holiday gift and to get the whole story but the bottom line the regulation of the tobacco industry as those corporations in general. >> and around that time paul , close to the chamber of commerce writes a very
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short memo detailed in the book if he said if this government to the tough corporation is what they can advertise where people have basically to give voice in the business life of the country. corporations goddess into this political game we have to start a think tank like the heritage foundation or legislative groups i have to get involved to create their own media. they have a conservative media. but really with to make sure
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there are people who understand the importance of corporations for doing what they want to do. there were people that said there was a hot commodity except nobody knew it existed. but its existence the corporations began to move the lobbying jobs to washington by active national association for manufacturers have been there for decades now suddenly you see a massive explosion of a different kind of lobbying. when a company like quaker oats like a communications
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law of a sense than to washington it was to be sure the bills passed advantage their company over the competition. the union of capital what was the elevation. figuring out how this happened to. >> and as many good thinkers but perhaps the connection to restore what happened with the accords because shortly after he was nominated by richard nixon not messing with the darker forces of the segregation era but differ it than the
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previous ones that tried to dominate so the end results quickly on the core of the one senator voted was from oklahoma. like old school populist senator and said what i've looked at him i don't think he will be that good for working people in new york. then he became the intellectual underpinning of a series of rulings then through the lobby that knocked down campaign finance rules and regulations again and again and again. >> yew trees that out. >> he had an enemy is. >> gave the supreme court
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justice that you see it was the adversary. >> request exactly one of the most conservative judges on the supreme court. >> william renquist said this is crazy. refused certitude not dealt these campaign finance rules letting money flow into politics tens of billions of dollars to end up with a situation where rich people to find the issues. you cannot do that. so he kept pushing back and pushed back the powell left the court very honored and well-regarded but very little talk of his role. >> and they never talk about the chamber of commerce and gay marriage but the wonderful important stuff but the other snakes under the radar. >> so powell leaves the court and request leave said
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finally he is replaced by john roberts. i'd like rehnquist who was fairly moderate, he was all in this so that is the art of history we tell how the powell position from the hell side of the early '70s now has become the of lot of the land is not imposed by congress not by the people, not to be divisive since but scope doubt by our supreme court. we argue that this is a dire circumstance not because of what has happened already but here is no evidence to this court will stop. so talk about campaign finance reform or regulating money in politics of reality is a looks like it will have a core that will shoot down
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any effort. >> they were urged robert ruling on it is almost but that of air. >> the case where mitch mcconnell is all over this that says rich people can give more money to candidates because there is limits. he wants to dramatically expand its choose a third party pays here is the interesting thing. why would you care? because those candidate adds , even at the lowest rates of the rate card per you can put on a lot more so if you expand the money rich people can carefully supercharge the campaign contributions. somewhat quiet this point would the supreme court seat front of the ticket case when it superchurches the
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ability? >> it influences the politics. >> never even after. the goal of the labor movement was more. more. >> be other side of the coin that rubber is assessed with and has -- that robert is assessed with is voter suppression. >> the red question did dodd have that history. >> but we see the last four years the effort to unleash the ability of 100 millionaires to give them limited money to make our harder for poor people of color. the court has ratified this with the relevant part of the voters' rights act to keep people from voting in
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and immediately after they say of course, they never do that anymore but within 48 hours five states with dan. >> host: so let's get back to that but will the internet save us from all of this? [laughter] >>. >> guest: be to fill that? we right to a lot about the internet one critical thing to emphasize i started logging 1981 and i live on the internet i tweet i have nothing against the internet >> just like he was blocking about the government shut down but this is the
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important thing that we are not against the internet but we want people to understand the internet and the context one of the most dangerous things is the suggestion that the internet is going to kill the for aid of old media journalism. this is an easy concept that there is something up there to get us through the crisis but of a study from a couple years ago that bob can pick it up there is a journalism side. looking at a classic state they study the ways people get information. howard d. you get it even in recent years people got information from old media newspaper and television.
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they also thought it was produced by old media. but what happened with the internet was a priest 18 of an end commenting but very little actual journalism. the reason is as we see newspapers layout all over the place that's in huge numbers media outlets are shutting down you don't see the commensurate hiring on the internet there is no evidence in the book. so communities years ago they have five richer people go into public and local and state governments they will do which no matter what that is eric job to cover the city council we have had
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massive layoffs so there are fewer people with the old media out that there is nothing for the of their side. the critical thing we found this study shows newspapers and the primary source to gather information but the bulk of it was 33 percent less stories at the end 10 years ago and 20 years ago. the new media is not filling the void so it gets back to the corps because if you have a student down it is empty space. >> with your last book you had a great dancer you looked at public relations senator also something else the campaign ads fill the
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void and bob will explain why it is even worse than you think. [laughter] but the critical thing is why the internet cannot fill the void. >> for a long time the crisis is as described. with the reporters covering politics in the independent competitive newsrooms' it is a great story in the united states over the past decades but most races get no coverage or they're not covered at all and you're left to the mercy of that campaign as the kids know it for rationed at all. but our entire government system has incredible viable process to give information to people who don't have a lot of property so they can participate as effective citizens but something we
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should be proud of. it is collapsing before our eyes and we have had ingenuity to figure out a way to make money on blind -- online with all of the journalism but now it will never happen in the visible or foreseeable future because advertising provides the lion's share to support truism depending on 59 percent know it is 60 or 80% those that had to buy ads tried to reach the audience of they had to subsidize. they did not want to it was opportunistic about was the only way to get the target audience but now with the internet they can avoid the contents. maybe the even get a cut of
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the action they go to the pork internet advertising like microsoft or google's or yaw hero they want women 80 through 44 interested in they will find those in realtime. >> host: that is a lot of what goes on the internet through politics that you write about not enough people talk about this. it is more with the nsa. basically we have a surveillance system and a great agents of change over here have a massive super computer driven system, talk about what they do. >> but even more important is the fact you cannot make monday doing journalism on blind. it is disappearing tried to
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march journalists monetize themselves it cannot be done. rupert murdoch has abandoned journalism on blind. "the guardian" newspaper has no way to support itself so it will appear in the digital. it has a huge impact but if it cannot make it to who can? so not to take anything away but we have to solve its with the competitive uncensored media. it will not be stopped until there is public policy that the market cannot produce in sufficient quantity. so we have to come up with ways. but now going to your question, as the issue with the above a campaign is the
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one great development he did is campaign 2012 to completely revamp the internet to recognize it is the vacuum cleaner that sucks up the information to know everything about us. but instead of having 50 different types of information spread around they put it altogether on the cloud all information combined then they check individual information of every voter they do more about us than we do about ourselves and the supercomputer power to invade did things with that information especially the language on what issue that you cared about. now they make a seven figure in tom in silicon valley. >> eric schmidt from google
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was there looking at this after the campaign was done they've made an offer to ready their you people should do this professionally. that is politics across the boards gingrich just like people hated tv advertising people don't know that campaigns collect the massive and is a style dossier to follow around on internet. >> the evidence is clear. >> host: part of the above the campaign that did this estimate they called it the nuclear codes and refused to let anybody go. the budget was top-secret but if betty and the election industry acknowledges romney did nothing close. this is the future of politics. lot of americans polled said
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technology does the dirty work in the internet will solve the problem but the initial problem was we all shared the same road we could see wealthy and powerful, we could be anonymous and we were in control and had the power braddish has been turned on its head now. they creates a a workforce you get a different page on the web site it is the new world order. . .
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that can't happen on tv, but it's business as usual. on the internet, and mind-blowing. >> write about in the book, everyone we talked to said, oh, 2012 was just a test run, people were lit'llly figuring things out. romney's efforts crashed and burned. here's the critical thing to understand what this does to our poll continues. this means -- i know at it imagine there might be cynical players in politics, but if you were a cynical politician, you could jettison any kind of public messaging whatsoever, any kind of ideology whatsoever, you don't have to come in on principle. you can say, i can tell everybody what they want to
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hear. i can get power because that's what an election is. it is a competition for power. i can get power, and once i have it, it doesn't enthere- -- dund end there i can govern is a choose. people -- once i get power, i can continue to tell them i'm doing what i said i would do. and in a moment when journalism has stood down and you don't have sufficient coverage, especially at the state and local level, you have a situation where someone could live their entire political life, you could be a very, very successful politician, where americans, depending on what they believe, think very different things about you. >> the walked together with journalism standing down, it means that way. y interests can come in and spend a fortune on tv ads and create a narrative that has no
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basis except the one -- >> we're broke. >> host: despite what it sounds like, you're happy warriors and optimists. so what is to be done? >> guest: well, -- >> in our division of labor, i'm the, get them out to the large ready to jump stage. then john comes and pulls them off and gets them ready to go to battle. so i am a big believer in optimism. first of all, pessimism is self-fulfilling. so you act like change is impossible, it's impossible. the only thing we control is what you do. so if you're alive you have to have optimism to pursue life. one big problem we have, all of us, is that it's very easy to look at things right now as they exist in your immediate memory and assume those are the way
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things are going to be. and no matter what the situation, it's very paralyzing thing. then we look at history, what we see today in america, all sort office pressures untenable. the growth of poverty. the massive inequality. the corruption. the climate. things have to be addressed. doesn't mean it will be positively. could be negatively. but the status quo cannot good on forever, and it's going to change. we want to understand it. so when the crisis is more pronounced, we're able to interject and have positive change, and something has to change. one estimate i had from graduate school, so i've never been a midst. a professor at the university of washington, a white south africanan and he and his wife moved to the united states and he was a militant antiapartheid activist in the united states, and he knew more about south african politics than anyone.
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all his family lived there, he visited there a lot. and he was depressed. i said, i'll see you later, what's the problem? he said, i just talked to my relatives and it's now clear, there will never be a peaceful social change in south africa. the ruling apartheid government will not negotiate with the anc. if there's ever going to be justice, it will have to be violent. he read every paper in the country almost. and here he was, two years later nelson mandela was released from prison. five years later elected president of south africa. post apartheid south africa, and less violence in those few years than a new jersey bar fight. so the smartest guy in the world of soul africa, completely
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wrong, and is on the precipice of a revolution and can't see it. we're not nostradamus. we can't predict the future. he knew it was untenable but he had no way of envisioning something that wason what was around him. we can't get to hung up on the prediction thing. >> let's take from where bob was. we're not naive optimisms. most of our book is about the crisis. people need to know about the cries so they can address it, and the history of the american experiment is that this country, because of our -- because of a couple of structure things done at the founding. founders who were imperfect, and the constitution they developed at the start of the american experiment, document that even many of them were unsatisfied
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with. they gave us the ability to respond in major ways to major problems by amending the constitution. and what we argue in this book, the conclusion we come to in this book, when looking at a supreme court that seems to be absurdly activityist, looking at massive inflows of money. looking at standing down of journalism, all the thing wes discussed here. what we say is we must respond as people have responded through the history of the american experiment, by amending our constitution to make structural changes that are not about candidates and parties, not about a particular grouping, but are about fixing the structures of our politics so they respond appropriately to the moment we are. i know that everybody in this room will say, that's impossible. the constitution was written on stone tablets, and handed down to michelle bachmann hundreds of years ago, and that it cannot be changed. never be changed.
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that's an impossibility. well, except it's been amended 27 times and, as we detail in the book, almost every major amendment had to do with democracy, with making the system work, and so across the history of the american experiment, when we reached crisis moments, we have amended the constitution. and we rarely do it with just one amendment. usually it's a period where there are two, three, multiple amendments coming through, because people are ready to fix it. and those amendments come in the context of a host of other changes, what we refer to as an age of reform. and that's how we got votes for african-americans, votes for women, votes for everybody. we elected u.s. senate, struck down the poll tax, the wealth tax, in 1962, and then eight years later, 18 to 21-year-olds
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should be able to vote if they can go to war. we have amended our constitution to make our democracy functional and expand it for the finals. today we believe that constitution of the united states should be amended to say that money is not -- corporations are not people, and the citizens of the united states have a right to organize elections in which the vote matters more than the dollar. a simple concept that teddy roosevelt would agree with, that most of the political figures of the last century would agree with, and that amendment should come in the context of other amendments. we should eliminate the electoral college. it shouldn't exist, because no one who loses the popular vote should become the president of the united states. we think that we should have a constitutional amendment that says you can't jerry maunder congressional districts because it's absurdity that 59% of
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americans live in places where the congressional elections don't matter. and we think the constitution of the united states into the amended to say every american has a right to vote and a right to have the vote counted, because that right is not detailed in the constitution, and the lack of that right has been used again and again and again to strike down protections for groups that need to vote. i know what you're saying at this point. i do know. that you're all sitting here, as every group we see, saying, wow, those are great ideas. i love those ideas. and i like being in this room with this great moderator, and i feel great about it. that's what we need to do. but i fear that when i walk out of this room, as i'm walking into the chicago night, i might -- doubts might creep in. i might think it's hard to amend the constitution of the united states, it's a difficult thing. that while these ideas sound great, we can't possibly do it. so what we do in the book is
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argue there are critical junctures in the american history where problems become so severe the great mass of people recognize the need to do big things, and the change doesn't come from washington, it comes as a wave that begins to overwhelm both political parties and makes something big happen and notably, 16 american states have formally called on the congress of the united states to get big money out of politics, to overturn citizens united. more than 500 communities acted on this issue. and that wave is coming. it's real. it's not well covered in the media. but it's out there. and i'll close by saying even there where there's grassroots activism and real things are happening, it's easy to talk yourself out of it. so we go back 100 years ago. if you look out across the country 100 years ago, you use recognize you live in a country where little girls don't go to school. they work in mills, often as
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bobbin girls where they change the bobbins in machines, and in the best of circumstances it's the work they die, and the worst of circumstances they may be injure, lose a finger or hand, but that's okay because they're expendable because children worked in factories it was a gilded age. so the people who owned the factories got to do what they wanted with the people who worked in them. and as the girls grew up and became young women, they might work in a farc triwhere they sewed shirts and pants, and that might be on the top of a building. they might work there with italians and jews and lebanese and people from all over the world, and african-american young women coming from the south to escape segregation, and all working together in this factory, and then when the factory caught on fire, fire swept through it, the girls would run to the doors and try to open the doors but they were locked shut because when yao you work 10, 14 hour days, in that
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age, wealthy owners didn't want you to steal a bathroom break from them. you didn't have that protection. and so those girls had to make a choice. do they burn alive or jump to their death? and when the families of the fire victims came to collect the bodies of their cousins and aunts and mothers and sisters, they walked in those street office new york and saw their loved ones having had to make the most horrendous of all choices, and they recognize was that those young women didn't have the right to vote. and if they had the right to vote, they didn't have a right to elect their u.s. senate. didn't have a right to define their congress because we had an appointed rather than elected u.s. senate. and they didn't have the right to tax corporations and to create the structures of regulation and control that might tell a ceo, owner of a company, they have to treat people as human beings. ten years later, just ten years later, women had the right to
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vote, we had an elected u.s. senate, we had established a tax system, we had begun to pass child labor laws and protections for women in the workplace. we were laying out the groundwork for the new deal, the fair deal, all of the changes of the 20th century, and it was because in this moment, wasn't just the fire, but in that moment of recognition, millions of americans decided that they were not going to take it anymore. they were going to make the fundamental structural changes that gave them the power to right, to control their future. we argue in our book that we have reached that moment once more and it is our duty to be what our grandmothers and our grandfathers were. full citizens. committed to making this experiment work. knowing it will be hard. but knowing that we have to raise that cry for functional democracy, because if we don't, we will live the rest of our lives in a dollarocracy, and that's what the best of the
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partisans of this american experiment have fought against from the start. >> i'm going applaud that. you can, too. [applause] >> but we're not a done. we got a good, solid 15 minutes for questions, even though pretty much everything that could possibly have been solved has been solved here. and we are being broadcast on c-span, so please stand and wait for the boom mic to come. so, you can smile for the cameras. and i would love to hear what you have to say. i know marshall has something to say. >> the young man right here. [inaudible] conversation. >> knocked over the leaping tower of books.
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>> what advice might you have for a college student who could be interested in pursuing a career in journalism in this day and age? >> we all three can address that. bob teaches -- >> i've been teaching journalism students for a long time, and i get this question all the time. believe it or not. three talks earlier today, got it at every one of those. and it's a great question. what i would say is that, first of all, we have to have journalism as a society. we cannot live without journalism as a society. we need people who get paid to do it, who are competing and who are accountable. our system of government niksch system of government we're living in that doesn't have that, wouldn't work. so it's one of the great professions you can think about going into. if you're interested in it, do it, anyone in the room. the downside is economic. win john came out of columbia journalism school, he had jobs lined up.
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his career path was made. there were jobs everywhere. but today coming out of journalism school, it isn't like that. there aren't the jobs. so few reporting jobs left compared to a generation ago and they're not coming back. i see so many talented young people, every school -- they want to be journalists and there isn't employment for them. so i tell them what tell my own tower. she wants to be an actress, the only job harder than being a journalist for employment it's like being an actress. you have to build your clips, work much harder, have to have a day job. it takes a dedication that didn't exist before to do journalism, and i encourage people to do that. as hard as it is, it's hard to say that someone take those risks with your life, and the certainty of your future, uncertainty if it comes to that, it's still worth it. this country will not be worth living in without journalism.
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they're heroes, people who make the effort to be journalists and should be rather that way. for the society to come up with institutions so we can support journalist because we have to and don't. finally, i'd say, because i have daughters in this boat and student is teach in this boat, it's a terrible economy right now. most of the jobs are horrible jobs and don't pay well. when i came out of college in 1977 i got a union job. you probably -- going unions? and it was paid $10 an hour in a lumpber jared. if someone about the that salary out of college today, be like $78,000 a year. i thought it was -- told my students, they would chop off a foot for $73,000 a year. walked off the street and got the job. it's hard time and hard to find a job so do something you love. give it your best shot. there's no great other options out there, and so i know it's not a great pep talk.
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>> mine is worse. >> that's the best i can do. >> my-and, don't -- my answer is, don't do it, because then -- >> the only responsible thing to tell any young person to get into any kind of writing is say, don't do it. it doesn't matter what you say. if you're meant to do it, they'll do it anyway. >> there you go. >> the will -- >> has to come from within. >> the human will to do creative, meaningful work, is truly indomitable. i don't care what they say at the economics department. we're not utility maximizing creatures. we're meaning creating creatures, and art and writing and i say this to students who want to get p ph.ds in the humanities, don't do it, but you'll do it anyway because the will to create meaningful lives
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is indomitable and people keep doing it. when was in new york in the mid-'90s we were all accepting starting salaries of $18,000 a year, to be assistant editors and editorial assistants. and now all these friends of mine are new yorker staff writers and write 900 page articles about republican presidents, and are tv critics and novelists and it's the same people. i mean -- all my friend, it's like -- it's a pretty good rate of success of people who are self-selected enough to enter into a profession that they know wouldn't be remunerative and would require honor and integrity. >> let's see. i think he said -- there are
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people, especially young folks, literally creating the journalism of the 21st century and it's going to be very different from what we knew before. at the nation magazine we worked with the center for media and democracy and other groups that are literally producing groundbreaking investigative reporting, and the striking thing to me is that the need is so great that it's going to happen, and it's just a question whether you're going to be part of it, and if you want to be part of it, find your way to do it. i can tell you a few years ago, guy named glen green walled was on the edge of the discourse, write something pretty good essays and making people thing about things, and he did it well enough that he ended up getting a gig with the guardian, and i think the whole world is a little different because of that. and what glen did with some incredibly courageous and bold journalism as a young guy shows
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you what is possible. what jeremy skyhill, my colleague at the nation has done to expose contractors, a relatively young guy coming up without the easy in. what anyway ohm my cline has done with her incredible thinking and reporting, shows you that we -- we're doing it in new ways. sometimes through an investigative reporting century, sometimes writing books, sometimes making documentaries, and documentary film is the new wave of journalism. it's happening. and my frustration is not that young people will come up and try to do it. i think they will and they'll starve sometimes to get there. well, i want to make sure that middle age people keep at it. that's an interesting dynamic. the young person coming in, i have faith they're going to come, but there comes a point when you're trying to support yourself at a certain age and that where is things are starting to fall apart. we are not sustaining big news
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rooms. we are not sustaining situations where, if somebody wants to cover a school board can do that. we're creating models where you can do the big story, expose the nsa, but i'm not sure we're doing nearly enough to make sure our local drainage commission is covered, and unfortunately, the reality is that for a lot of news aye our day-to-day lives what happens at the drainage commission -- >> want to be great newspaper editors. >> all i'm saying is, you'll do it. if you want to do it, you'll do it. but if you want to do it for your whole life, we have to have the structures to support media, and the most important thing to understand, just about every other country we compare ourself with, does. other countries figure out how to make sure that they have a vibrant, strong, journalism, be it public or private. sometimes with a melding of the two. the bottom line is they don't leave it to chance.
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they don't say, we hope the journalism in the future. they say, no, you can't have democracy, a functional society, without journalism. that's where i want young people to come in and become not just advocates for their own career but also for a structure that makes sure that people can have a life. >> a couple more. front row. feel free to identify yourself. >> it's easy to be concern it about being able to create the change given the nature of the problems you have been talking about. if money is driving the system and driving the politicians and driving the court, it actually makes it -- seems that would make it incredibly hard to create the type of change that usually needed to be there. i think about the change with -- all the recent gun violence, one would have thought while be easy
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to pass gun laws and the nra brought money to bear and made that impossible. so you're hopeful but i worry whether there are things that worked the past, the fact that so much money has been pushed into government by business and has so much current control, makes it impossible for the things that worked in the past to work again. if i could push back on that a little bit. >> i'll jump in on that. that's a very -- that's self-evident question in the sense if you're going to work through the system, the system you show demonstrated entirely corrupt, and impervious to popular pressure, it's hard to see how pop already pressure can be effective. the other lesson of dollarocracy, the one that drives a lot of our book, is that the crisis of our political system today is it's been colonized by corporations and large money. they dominate it. we talk about it at the beginning. and the founder of freedom and accuracy in reporting, the range
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of debate in american politics extends fromage -- from ge to gm. the democrats are over here with the ge to gm, permanent stagnation, no unions, declining incomes, collapse of infrastructure, and a huge growing up in of people who are alien nailed from that and want to participate and are looking for solutions, and that's the great tension that drives or politicses. some might have effect on candidates but the system is sort of rigged, but also means that the people who benefit by this political system know they're in the minority and that's something we should keep in mind. this strong pressure to make it possible for the top one-tenth of one percent to spend unlimited amount of money on campaigns and suppress the vote is a tacit recognition, they can't win a fair fight. all the polling shows -- young
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people, they're just alienated from that view of the world. they want real solutions and not with the cold war thinking my generation was raised in, and there's a real opening there and has people scared. that's why they want to suppress the vote because they can't win a fair fight. that should keep us because we are the majority. we really are. i would add to that, just one other thing. the solution politically -- and "occupy" showed this -- a nonviolent peaceful demonstration are going to have to become a much larger part of our politics. john and i talked about this a lot. i don't think people in power are that scared by twitter campaigns or online petitions. in fact, scott walker and joseph -- i think they're scared to death if they look out the window and see 100,000 nonviolent protesters. nothing scares people in power more. it's a core freedom of the first
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amendment. "occupy," remember the absurdity of it. the "occupy" movement, and bobby jindal's response to president barack obamas state of union, state something that were unheard of. >> the second "occupy --" politician listening to what the activists in "occupy" were saying, they don't believe in the electoral system and won't vote the quick point i always make, when you surrender to despair and pessimism, and the system is riggeddism, what are you saying to our brothers and sisters who fought for over a century for the emancipation of slaves, fought and died? what are you saying to the women and some men who fought for almost a century for the vote for women? i mean, the cliche, by now a
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cliche, that the moral arc of the universe is long and spans towards justice, is also a truism, and power is a very mysterious thing, and where the pressure points will be revealed are only evident to us in retrospect, and smart people will keep on trying to find those wedges and we'll try to follow them. >> take one quick bit of this. i love your question. that's a question i want to have in every room we go into. we never -- we have been across this country, from -- all up and down the east coast, midwest, going to california next week, and we never go into a room where people say, boy, we don't like your ideas. we thinkure analysis is wrong and we think your proposal to fix things are wrong. that's not what we hear. what we hear is people say, we agree with your analysis. we agree with your ideas. we just don't think we can do it. so i like the odds on that. i like that we have gotten to
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that point where there's an awful lot of people who recognize the crisis, recognize necessary fixes. not now the question is, can we get that last step, that last mile. >> it's that kind of gandhi quote. >> the final thing on this, the proposals we make are structural changes. we recognize that there are deep divides on issues like guns, on issues like preproductive rights and people are well organized to battle. what we argue is that many of the structural changes we propose in an honest debate can find left-right coalitions that are unexpected. across this country, where legislatures volted to overturn citizen united, republicans voted with democrats, in maine, 30 rum rums vote it with the democrats to pets television congress to act. we now have a republican cosponsor f


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