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tv   Washington Week  PBS  November 26, 2021 7:30pm-8:01pm PST

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♪ anchor: the united or divided states of america? >> from darkness there is light and hope and progress and that's what this year's thanksgiving represents. anchor: this weekend, we take a deep dive into the united states of america. we look at what divides us. >> no more masks! >> it's responsible. we >> are killing people. >>i will ban critical race theory from being in our school system. >> your sixth-grader is not being taught critical race theory. >> i love my party. i love its history and principles. i love my country more. anchor: the things that unite us. >> americans have a great advantage. we only need to remember our
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values. >> this is a great nation. we are good people. we've come so far. we still have far to go. >> being able to be around people again is great. we are think of for th. -- thankful for that. anchor: next. ♪ >> this is washingtonweek. corporate funding is provided by -- >> consumer cellular's goal has been to provide wireless service that helps people communicate and connect. we offer a variety of no contract plans. our customer service team can find one that fits you. visit consumer cellular's website. >> additional funding is provided by the estate of aold adams. the human foundation, committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities. sandra and carl agnes and. rose herschel and andy shreve's.
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robert and susan rosenbaum. the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> once again from washington, moderator jan michels and door. >> happy thanksgiving and welcome to a special edition of washingtonweek. many americans gathered around their tables to give thanks with family and friends. covid kept most of us apart last year but this year feels different. some have been able to be reunited. the nation polls show we are deeply divided on many issues. 85% of american adults want significant political change and fewer than half are satisfied with the functioning of democracy. we can't seem to agree on basic facts and what needs to be done differently. let's look at other recent polling. democrats are more likely to
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support teaching the impacts of racism. republicans believe misinformation about the covid vaccines. more than half of republicans believe the 2020 election should definitely or probably be overturned. though we should note, there's no evidence of mass voter fraud in the 2020 election. in washington, divisions have played out in congress. lawmakers have spent months wrangling over president biden's agenda. we've seen fights over race, education, and lgbtq rights play out in angry school board meetings. all this comes as president biden's approval rating has been on the decline since july. recent polls say it's hovering around the low 40's. there's also deep anxiety about inflation and the state of the economy. >> wow. very high prices and everything. it's impossible to get food from
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the grocery store. >> people in the middle and low class cannot afford to be paying gas prices of four dollars. >> no more starbucks or shoes. yamiche: joining me to discuss all of this, tim alberta, a writer from the atlantic. he has covered conservative politics and is the author of a book. he joins us from michigan. jermaine is a pulitzer prize-winning reporter and correspondent for msnbc. he has extensively covered race and politics in our country and he joins us from brooklyn. joining me at the table is susan. washington bureau chief for usa today, a veteran political reporter who has written two books. thank you for joining our thanksgiving table. i'm wondering, we will start
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with covid. it is science. it is a surprising thing to divide americans. none vaccinated americans are the ones dying most of the virus, being more hospitalized. why do you think we are so divided on science? the origins was former president trump. what is keeping americans divided on this issue? susan: it's one of the big surprises to me, the fact that a disease that people see in their own households and families could have such a disagreement about things like if the vaccine works. we know it does. yet you can look at whether someone is vaccinated or not and it tells you about which political party they are aligned with. we are reaching an inflection point in terms of the power of conspiracy theories, like the conspiracy series surrounding covid, and the faith in facts.
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we've seen that play out not only within the covid story but in faith in the election returns and the attitude of whether the election was legitimate. yamiche: when we zoom out, it's a dividing characteristic of america. it is put on display, the ugly parts of our country. can you talk about how this covid debate exposes the fault lines in america? jermaine: certainly. they queue for having me. when we see who has been most impacted by the coronavirus, it is those whoave been marginalized and forgotten through structural racism, segregation and so on. what it has revealed is how fragile of a nation we really are. not just in terms of access to health care but other social fabrics. how fragile it is and how dangerous it is when we continue
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to twist up the most marginalized. covid revealed that. also, those that were most likely to be susceptible to misinformation and mythology. america is full of mythology and lies. we've seen so much of that revealed and weaponized and exploited. folks have paid the price. yamiche: yeah. tim, you are in michigan. i wonder if you could talk about the beginni of the modern era of this. you said at one point that we should be looking at 9/11, bush and obama, and how they lead to january 6. i was reading the article you wrote the day after the capital attack and you talked about the fact that people who did not see this coming, it's because they wanted to ignore was coming. tim: i think that's right. i think they want to ignore the fragility of this country.
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i think there's a willingness to believe that we are foundational he stronger and fundamentally more cohesive as people than we really are. i think you can trace that back 20 years at least. if you think about the modern era politically and culturally, you have to look at 911 and the immediate aftermath and the remainder of the bush presidency with two failed wars and the economy going over a cliff. with millions of manufacturing jobs acrs middle america disappearing virtually overnight. a big nasty xenophobic debate er illegal immigration and offering citizenship to millions of people unlawfully. the cherry on top is the election of the nation's first black president. the economy continuing to sputter in the early days of the obama presidency. this was a powder keg that had been building and building and building. when we look around now and say,
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how did we get so divided and what has happened to us, it's actually not that complicated. this has been a perfect storm that has been brewing and we are just now beginning to discover how bad it really is and reckoning with the fact that it could get worse. yamiche: yeah. how fragile our democracy is. tim is talking about the idea that this is a perfect storm. what do you make of the election lies in the fact that the gop, as democrats are trying to convince people that they are threatening american democracy, they also have the edge going into the midterms. they are winning elections with galvanizing people by lying about the results of the election. susan: you use the word for vigil -- fragility. we are not used to thinking about the u.s. government and democracy as being fragile. i think it is. we see not only a -- the events of january 6 and the lack of faith in what was a legitimate
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election the previous november, that goes to the heart of our foundation, the heart of our ability to govern ourselves. if we do not believe that elections are to be trusted, accepted, that they can be overturned by force, that's not a democracy that we have maintained. the unwillingness of some in congress, some republicans to even want to study what happened on january 6 races huge alarm bells for those of us whsee that as the most shocking event that i've ever seen in my time covering politics. yamiche: it is shocking and telling that republicans don't even want to study what happened. when we think about studying what happened and history, it takes us to this conversation about race in education. you contributed for the six to nine project. talk about this era we are living in.
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i want to bring your attention to something that the new york times writer wrote. every episode of racial progress has generated a backlash like the one we are living through today. talk about the concept of america having a backlash to progress and how that connects with your project. trymaine: ctainly. this backlash has often been a violent one with actual bloodshed. ink about the end of reconstruction and the decades of actual violence being heaped upon the backs of black folks and blood spilled in this country. this new debate and fight over critical race theory, which is not actually being taught in schools, it's about maintaining a sense of whiteness. this idea that there needs to be a patriotic education to make sure that we are cocooning white children from the realities of the america in which we live. this moment now is not new. we've been reckoning with this idea of aacklash from the very beginning, especially when it
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comes over the politics of memory. who are the gatekeepers of memory and history? after the civil war, the daughters of the confederacy started taking over school boards to make sure they had control over the books. they shaped how slavery and the south was viewed so that the civil war became the war of northern aggression. we call them plantations now. this is nothing new. it speaks to how uneducated and miss etiquette -- miss educated americans are. think about the stories we tell, race and mythology about exceptionalism. it was spoiled and tainted at best. yamiche: that mythology that we are dealing with is at the center of this. what do you see when you talk to people and conservative voters? maybe liberals as well.
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when you talk about this history we are dealing with, critical race theory, arguments and false holds -- falsehoods, what does it tell you about this debate? tim: the most important thing we have to recognize is that this country is now very much -- you described the fault lines that divide us. one of the biggest fault lines, one that is harder to get our arms around, is the informational faultlines. we don't have disagreements with one another based on any common baseline of information anymore. whether it's critical race theory, whether it's the assault on the capital in january, whether it's barack obama being born in kenya, there are sources of information that are now readily available to anyone that will confirm their pre-existing notions or worldview, depending on what the subject or debate of the day is. i think you can draw a straight
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line from what was just described with the historical analog of the post-civil war time today, where you knew when the hours after the attack on the capital on january 6, you knew that that history was going to be rewritten in real time and that it wasn't going to be long before people who were in that building that day, taking cover, putting gas masks over their faces, fleeing for their lives into a bunker that was secured by capitol police, those very people would, within days if not weeks, begin reshaping and re-crafting the story of what actually took place that day to suit their own political ends. so it's not a new routine that were seeing here. i think perhaps what is new is the degree to which that misinformation and those
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outright lies can be easily disseminated straight into the veins of the american public. yamiche: that is completely the way to put it when you think about the media landscape that we are living through here. even the vice president, who was running for his life as the crowd was yelling to hang him, he has said that people are talking about january 6 two much. the other big part of what we are living through is inflation. people are paying more money for everything. i was struck by the idea that john f. kennedy dealt with this, lyndon b. johnson dealt with this. they all failed. what is president biden up against when you look at history and the gop that is very ready to use this as a wedge issue going into the elections? susan: whip inflation now, it's been a long time since we've had to deal with a really serious episode of inflation. the biden administration
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dismissing this early on is something that is transitory, that people didn't need to worry about. they were wrong. nothing in the economy hits people more directly than inflation. they see it whenever they go to the grocery store or fill up their gas tank. it becomes a more compelling political argument than even jobs or growth. people get concerned about inflation. it can cripple a presidency if he doesn't seem to be addressing effectively. now you see a turning by the biden ministration to take it more seriously, to hope that their new reappointed chairman of the federal reserve wil take pit seriously and help them brig it under control. it saps the approval ratings of a president and we've seen joe biden already be hurt politically by the fact that his approval rating has sunk to new lows. yamiche: another question in inflation. you wrote about alabama and the
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racial wealth gap being a legacy of slavery. talk about this. i've always thought as a reporter, economics and wages should be a unifying theme because it's a class issue but it's not because of who you blame, who americans blame for why they don't have a job or why their wages are so low. trymaine: this idea of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. think about the average black family, they have just 1/10 of the wealth of the average white family. this history goes back decades and decades. the collusion of the federal government in terms of access to housing, redlining, so on. we always have to remember that the policymakers in washington, none of them are hungry. in america, in communities that are suffering losses from covid-19, rising homicide rates, a dramatic wealth gap. on top of that, they are dealing with food insecurity already.
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we don't talk enough about the actual pour in the country. it becomes a political issue. we are talking about those who have been marginalized for generations. this is no accident. what racism has always been about is control of the resources. where resources are scam, there is crisi we have been in a perpetual state of crisis for too long in this country. the roots of this are very deep. this is not just one administrations making. it's administration after administration. we accept a certain degree of anti-blackness in the country that allows black and brown people to continue to live that way. our baseline of understanding is that there are some folks who struggle in some folks won't, you just need to work harder. in reality, institutions are bolstering this. yamiche: it's that real history that is deeply needed. i want to turn to some of the things that unite americans, or at least it should.
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mocratic and republican leaders have spoken extensively about the need for national unity. here's president john f. kennedy in his 19 621 inaugural interests and: powell speaking in 1994. >> united, there is little we cannot do. and a host of cooperative edges. divided, there is little we can do. we cannot meet a powerful challenge at odds. let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us. >> never lose faith in america. it is false -- it's faults are yours to fix. america is a family. there may be disputes within the family but we must not allow the family to be broken and the warring factions. let us draw strength from the diversity of our people and not see weakness. yamiche: what's clear based on
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my reporting is that regardless of clinical views or race, most americans are unified in wanting to be able to survive. a lot of people just want to keep a rube over their heads. -- roof over their heads. many disagree on how to get there and who to blame for their struggles. since the beginning of our founding, americans have been arguing out the american dream. how to get there and whether it exists at all. tim, talk a bit abo this overlapping need that americans have. they want to be able to survive but they argue about who to blame and how to get there. tim: yeah. i do think at the end of the day, when you strip away all of the political debates and cultural debates, questions of education and class and race, i think that there is a primal cohesion that we have as americans. we love our families and communities. we want to believe that the
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american dream exists even though historically, it has been far more attainable for some of us than for others. at the end of the day, what makes this moment so difficult, it underscores everything that we just talked about, is just the institutional crisis we face in this country as far as the lack of faith we have in our governing institutions and our cultural institutions. whether you are talking about criminal justice reform and folks of -- not just minorities but increasingly white voters telling pollsters that they no longer have confidence in law enforcement. whether you are thinking about public education, organized religion, the financial sector and whether they have our well-being in mind. one of the things that reunites americans at this point is a distrust in those institutions. that's why we are in the position we are in at the moment. yamiche: we only have about a
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minute left here. it's a lightning round but i want to ask each of you in 10 seconds, what are you think a four? -- thankful for? susan: i year ago at thanksgiving, i set a table for two. this year, i was able to set a table for 19. yamiche: that's beautiful. what are you thankful for? trymaine: my health, my family. it's never lost on how blessed i am, being able to tell the stories of our people. i'm enormously happy just to be here, healthy and happy. yamiche: tim? tim: my wife and my three boys. the good health that the lord has given. yamiche: i'm thankful for all of you coming here on your holiday weekend to talk to us. i'm think for my family and friends, to be able to see people and be healthy. thank you all. that's it for tonight. thank you to tim and susan for
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your reporting. thank you for joining us tonight. there's no washingtonweek extra but it will be back next week. have a great weekend. good night from washington. ♪ ♪ >> corporate funding for washingtonweek is provided by. consumer cellular. additional funding is provided by, the estate of arnold adams. koo and patricia human through the u.n. foundation. committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities. central and carl magnus. robert and susan rosenbaum.
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the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >>
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