Morning Joe Panel Laughs as Mika Claims Kamala Harris is Moderate

Reacting to former President Jimmy Carter advising Democrats to appeal to independents and “middle of the road” voters in the midterm elections, pundits on Thursday’s Morning Joe tried to think of moderate Democrats who could run for president in 2020. Co-host Mika Brzezinski didn’t quite grasp the term “moderate” as she suggested left-wing California Senator Kamala Harris as an option, promoting laughter from the MSNBC panel.

“Well, speaking in Atlanta yesterday, former President Jimmy Carter warned Democrats not to veer too far left and lose moderates,” Brzezinski noted as she teed up the former president warning his party: “But I think that for the Democrats this time is to appeal to the independents....I think a lot of independents need to know that they can invest their vote in the Democratic Party in 2020, if we appeal to the middle of the road.”

 

 

Minutes later, co-host Joe Scarborough posed this question:

So let me just open up a question to the table. Who is the Democrat on the national stage that’s thinking about running in 2020 that occupies the space that Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton occupied, Bill Clinton in 1992, when he ran? Which was a fairly moderate, almost conservative, moderate to conservative viewpoint. Is there a Democrat on the national stage that occupies that space?  

Putting aside his laughable assertion that Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were “fairly moderate” and “almost conservative,” Scarborough was pointing to the fact that many prominent Democrats have moved far to the left.

Former Obama administration Treasury Department official Steve Rattner tried to compile a list:

There’s a bunch of Democrats who embody that who would like to be in the mix. So you take, for example, Steve Bullock from Montana, who’s done a great job as a Democrat in a red state, both getting elected and governing. Is he on the national stage? John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado. Michael Bennett, the senator from Colorado.

Brzezinski then chimed in by mentioning the liberal mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti. Rattner trailed off as he expressed skepticism: “Eric Garcetti of L.A. Although, people have – ” He then thought of other names: “Mitch Landrieu, former mayor of New Orleans. Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts.”

Trying again, Brzezinski remarked: “Kamala Harris.” Rattner was taken aback: “She’s not, she’s not on that – ” As the rest of the panel began laughing at the idea of Harris being moderate, Brzezinski argued: “I’d like her to be.” Rattner replied: “I like her a lot, but she’s not quite in that category.”

Moments later, liberal political analyst Mike Barnicle tackled the question, observing: “You’ve got to be able to put someone out there for the Democrats who actually knows how real people live. It can’t be a senator, I don’t think, unless it’s a combination of – you know, someone like Sherrod Brown, he sort of figures it out.” Rattner interrupted: “But he’s – ” Barnicle cut him off: “I understand, I understand that he’s way left, I get that.” Barnicle ultimately settled on Rattner’s suggestion of Landrieu, and told Democrats: “...they’ve got to stop this. I mean, we all admire, to a certain extent, Kamala Harris.”

Brzezinski eagerly declared: “I do.” Barnicle continued: “She’s way out there.” Rattner agreed: “She’s way out there.” Brzezinski rushed to defend Harris: “I wouldn’t rule it out guys....Wouldn’t rule her out.”

Near the end of the three-hour show, Brzezinski got some backup from another round of guests. PBS NewsHour White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor pushed back on Carter’s advice: “I think when you talk to Democrats that I talk to, the sources that I talk to, they say there’s really no line here, ‘We want to be Democrats. We need to tell people this is what the left believes’....that they can win on that very left message.”

Co-host Willie Geist asked left-wing radio host Bill Press: “Do you worry about the party going too far left, maybe not hurting them as much in 2018, where they can speak to a district that is very progressive, but as they look to challenge Donald Trump in 2020?” In part, Press proclaimed: “What I care most about is winning. And progressives are winning today....So that, I believe, is a winning message. And I feel – it makes me feel very hopeful about this resurgence, if you will, of the Democratic Party.”

Geist followed up: “You don’t share President Carter’s concerns about darting too far left?” Press replied: “No, I don’t. God bless them, I love him, but I don’t.”

New York Times National Politics Reporter Lisa Lerer joined Press and Alcindor in calling for Democrats to appeal to their hard-left base rather than independents:

Can I say something about this appeal to independents. I think when I talk to sources who are these progressive candidates or women or people of color, they argue that this appeal to independents comes at a cost. That, that part is the base of the party. And midterms are base elections, and you wanna, if you’re a Democrat, turn those people out. So if you do go the independent route, you can risk depressing turnout among the base. And that is a real risk for Democrats. I’m not sure why that’s taken for granted sometimes.

Brzezinski voiced her support: “I agree.”

When Republicans appeal to conservatives, the liberal media are quick to predict electoral doom for the GOP. When Democrats think about moving to the center, the same media warn them not to abandon their left-wing supporters.

Here is are excerpts of the two September 13 panel discussions:

7:12 AM ET

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Well, speaking in Atlanta yesterday, former President Jimmy Carter warned Democrats not to veer too far left and lose moderates. Here’s what he said.

JIMMY CARTER: Both Rosaylnn and I voted for Bernie Sanders in the past, so he pretty well represents the liberal side [applause]. But I think that for the Democrats this time is to appeal to the independents. I noticed today in a published poll, that I saw tonight as a matter of fact, that only 33% of independents are still in favor of Trump. And 37% of Americans are in favor of Trump. And 57% think he’s done a very poor job. So we have a good chance to get those independents and I think that we should concentrate our efforts on that. I don’t think any Democrat is going to vote against the Democratic nominee after we choose him, but I think a lot of independents need to know that they can invest their vote in the Democratic Party in 2020, if we appeal to the middle of the road.

BRZEZINSKI: And there you go, I mean –

JOE SCARBOROUGH: What do you think?

BRZEZINSKI: First of all, I just think he’s amazing. I love him. But that’s the balance. As we look at these poll numbers and we see a potential blue wave, which we don’t know if it’s going to happen, but we have too then think of after that and who represents a more broad swath of –  whether it be a district or the entire country.

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, well, you know, Peter Baker, that is a debate that the Democrats have been having inside their party now for several years. If you look at the results from 2018, in the primaries, it looks like the progressives have won more often than not. At least in the big-ticket –  on the big-ticket races.

PETER BAKER: [CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES]: Yeah, there’s some real momentum right now for the left inside that party. You see some of these incumbents coming down. You see, you know, the energy on the more liberal activist side than you do from the center, that’s for sure. You heard – and this debate within the party is really important because this tension is unresolved.

You heard President Obama, former President Barack Obama, weigh in last week during his speech in Illinois. And he had a message for fellow Democrats. He basically was saying, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. You know, don’t be so purist that you can’t see that we can make things better, even if we don’t make things perfect on policy on day one.” And it was a really interesting speech on his part.

At the same time, he also said something I hadn’t heard him saying before, which is that, you know, the Democrats need to offer new ideas. And cited as one of them, Medicare for all. Remember, of course, when he was in office, he didn’t favor that. He favored a different kind of health care plan that still came under attack. So, he, in fact, was reflecting that shift inside the party toward a more liberal point of view, for instance, on health care.

SCARBOROUGH: So let me just open up a question to the table. Who is the Democrat on the national stage that’s thinking about running in 2020 that occupies the space that Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton occupied, Bill Clinton in 1992, when he ran? Which was a fairly moderate, almost conservative, moderate to conservative viewpoint. Is there a Democrat on the national stage that occupies that space?  

STEVE RATTNER [FORMER TREASURY OFFICIAL]: Well, I think the key question is “on the national stage.” There’s a bunch of Democrats who embody that who would like to be in the mix. So you take, for example, Steve Bullock from Montana, who’s done a great job as a Democrat in a red state, both getting elected and governing. Is he on the national stage? John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado. Michael Bennett, the senator from Colorado.

BRZEZINSKI: Garcetti.

RATTNER: Excuse me?

BRZEZINSKI: Garcetti.

RATTNER: Eric Garcetti of L.A. Although, people have – Mitch Landrieu, former mayor of New Orleans. Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts.

BRZEZINSKI: Kamala Harris.

RATTNER: She’s not, she’s not on that – [Laughter]

SCARBOROUGH: She’s not.

BRZEZINSKI: I’d like her to be. [Laughter] I’d like her to be.

RATTNER: I like her a lot, but she’s not quite in that category.

SUSAN DEL PERICIO [REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST]: But that’s a lot of formers.

RATTNER: No, Bullock’s a governor now.

SCARBOROUGH: Mike, what do you think?

MIKE BARNICLE: You know, I think the future of the Democratic party, whether it stays in some sort of semblance of power for years to come, will be decided in the next 24 months based specifically on who their national candidate for president will be. And the national candidate for president in the Democratic Party, it's fairly simple. You don’t have to hold a PhD in calculus to figure it out. You’ve got to be able to put someone out there for the Democrats who actually knows how real people live. It can’t be a senator, I don’t think, unless it’s a combination of – you know, someone like Sherrod Brown, he sort of figures it out.

RATTNER: But he’s –

BARNICLE: I understand, I understand that he’s way left, I get that. So you come down, you go through all of them, as Steve just did, and you come out with people like Mitch Landrieu. You know, he knows how people live. And that’s what it’s gotta – they’ve got to stop this. I mean, we all admire, to a certain extent, Kamala Harris.

BRZEZINSKI: I do.

RATTNER: I do.

BRZEZINSKI: I think she – well –

RATTNER: Yeah, she’s great.

BARNICLE: She’s way out there.     

RATTNER: But she’s way out there.

BRZEZINSKI: I wouldn’t rule it out guys.

BARNICLE: Way out there.

BRZEZINSKI: Wouldn’t rule her out.

(...)

8:43 AM ET

YAMICHE ALCINDOR [PBS NEWSHOUR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT]: What I find interesting is when you hear President Carter say, “We should really appeal to those independents.” We should also note that independents, the majority of independents, still usually vote with one party or another. So even if someone calls themself “independent,” most of the time, they’re voting for one party, either the Democrats or the Republicans.

And in an issue like health care, there’s such a stark difference. If you’re a Democrat, you believe in health care for all, you believe in health care as a right. If you’re a Republican, you think that people, you think it should be privatized and that people should be looking at this as something that’s not just about saving people but also about whether or not the business can sustain all the people on it.

So really, I think when you talk to Democrats that I talk to, the sources that I talk to, they say there’s really no line here, “We want to be Democrats. We need to tell people this is what the left believes.” And they believe that because Bernie Sanders and all the people he’s endorsed have been winning races, that they can win on that very left message.

WILLIE GEIST: So Bill, as Yamiche points out, part of the reaction to Donald Trump has been a rise in socialism, democratic socialism, pick your term. Do you worry about the party going too far left, maybe not hurting them as much in 2018, where they can speak to a district that is very progressive, but as they look to challenge Donald Trump in 2020?

BILL PRESS: First of all, I don’t think the term is socialism, I think it’s just good progressive politics. Mike raised the issue of health care, health care is the number one most popular issue today. Donald Trump has achieved something that Barack Obama never did. He has made ObamaCare popular.

But I’ll tell you what, you know, I have been in politics a long time. What I care most about is winning. And progressives are winning today, women are winning today, young people are winning today, people of color are winning today. And mainly all, almost all, on the Democratic side. So that, I believe, is a winning message. And I feel – it makes me feel very hopeful about this resurgence, if you will, of the Democratic Party.

GEIST: You don’t share President Carter’s concerns about darting too far left?

PRESS: No, I don’t. God bless them, I love him, but I don’t.

LISA LERER [NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES]: Can I say something about this appeal to independents. I think when I talk to sources who are these progressive candidates or women or people of color, they argue that this appeal to independents comes at a cost. That, that part is the base of the party. And midterms are base elections, and you wanna, if you’re a Democrat, turn those people out. So if you do go the independent route, you can risk depressing turnout among the base. And that is a real risk for Democrats. I’m not sure why that’s taken for granted sometimes.

BRZEZINSKI: I agree.

(...)


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