Democrats can beat Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Another four years of a Trump White House is not a foregone conclusion. With nine months to go before the general election, there’s a tremendous amount of fear and uncertainty hanging over many of us about the future of the American republic. Amidst this fear, Democratic voters are deciding which candidate is best suited to run against the President. But a lot of the fights over who that person could be are actually fights over how to build a coalition of voters big enough to beat Donald Trump in the electoral college.
In envisioning how to build that coalition, you have to look at the margins. If the solid-blue, never-Trump contingency make up the reliable core of the voting bloc, then the folks on the margins are key to solving the puzzle of 2020. Former Obama speechwriter and Crooked Media co-founder Jon Favreau spent time talking with members of this key group in four battleground states for the second season of his podcast, “The Wilderness.” He joins to discuss what a winning coalition could look like.
JON FAVREAU: I asked who’s definitely voting for Donald Trump and I only got one or two hands per focus group. And then, I would say who’s definitely voting for the democratic nominee. I only got a couple more hands. So, that’s a bunch of people who are either waiting to see who the democratic nominee is, or in the case of the Florida group might not vote.
CHRIS HAYES: Hello and welcome to “Why Is This Happening” with me, your host Chris Hayes. Well, if you are downloading this podcast on the day that we upload it, it’s Tuesday of the New Hampshire Primary. If you’re like a lot of people I know, you have like a weird pit in your stomach, you’re stressed out and you’re anxious. You feel this kind of ever present, but difficult to precisely articulate sense of dread and fear. That’s because it’s an election season and there’s a tremendous uncertainty that hangs over all of us about the future of the American Republic and our political project, the vibrancy of our democracy, the possibility of a more just, equitable, sustainable future.
It’s really hard, I think, for people that are particularly tuned into politics, and that might not be all of you listening to my voice right now, but a big chunk of you, to think about the election all the time, to think about Donald Trump, to run through catastrophizing daydreams about Donald Trump winning again, and things like that. Amidst all that, there’s this decision that democratic voters are making about who should be the party’s nominee and who’s the person best suited to run against Donald Trump. All of the data we have shows that this idea of electability is at the front of people’s minds.
Now, I’ve been very clear on the show many of the times, that I think trying to compute electability is kind of a mugs game. If there were a world in which there were some oracle that could actually tell us definitively which candidate would be the most electable, then I think it would make some sense to factor that into one’s decision, or even just go with that candidate. But, the problem is no such oracle exists. These are all arguments about the future. They might be right, they might be wrong, but the future is unwritten and uncertain. People can marshall data, I think, to make pretty strong cases that a given candidate would have certain weaknesses or that another given candidate would have certain weaknesses.
But, that’s all they are. They’re arguments in the present about the future. So, one thing I think is really helpful, I find, for kind of draining that anxiety out is just to kind of approach this question about democratic politics and the politics of the anti-Trump coalition more broadly in this era, with some kind of tangible data, information in a more rigorous fashion, which is what we’re going to do today. So, Jon Favreau was a speech writer for Barack Obama for years. He’s co-founder of Crooked Media. He’s co-host of “Pod Save America,” which is a podcast you may listen to. Many, many people do listen to that. I think there’s probably a pretty big crossover audience.
He did this project called “The Wilderness.” This is the second season. The first one was kind of about 2016, and kind of what went wrong for Democrats. This one was about both 2018, but also focused on what will it take to beat Donald Trump. At the core of that were four focus groups that they put together with voters in different kinds of categories. So, voters who say voted for Barack Obama, and then voted for Trump, and then voted for a Democrat in the midterms. Or, voted for Barack Obama, and then voted third party, or didn’t vote, or voted for Mitt Romney, and then voted for Hillary Clinton.
The hard thing about thinking about this election, when you get into the details of thinking through the politics of the moment and assembling a coalition that is large enough and also broad enough that it could defeat Donald Trump in the electoral college, is to sort of think at the margins, right? Like marginal voters, the people that voted for Trump who might vote for Democrat, the people who didn’t vote, who might vote for Democrat, the people who voted third party, who might vote for Democrat, the people who voted for Hillary Clinton, but might be turned off by certain Democrats. Trying to kind of hold in your head all these different parts of the coalition, all of which are happening at the margins. Because, a huge part of the coalition is fairly set, right?
I mean there’s tens of millions of people throughout the country who disapproved Donald Trump, who approve of his impeachment and removal, even though he was acquitted, who genuinely just will vote for anyone who is against him, that’s a big chunk of Americans. But, that’s not the deciding chunk. It just isn’t, because of the way both politics work and the electoral college. So, there’s going to have to be, particularly because turnout for Trump I think will be rated high, there’s going to have to be a coalition assembled in this sort of outer concentric circle around that inner circle of the tens of millions of people who are just dead set part of the anti-Trump coalition who are going to vote against him no matter what.
There’s going to have to be this other layer on the outside and a lot of the battles that we’re having about electability or even about certain candidates against each other is a sort of a battles over how we conceptualize what that coalition looks like. So, in “The Wilderness” in Season 2, Jon Favreau does a really good job of going through thinking, fairly systematically and rigorously, about what that coalition could look like? What we want it to look like? What are the tradeoffs that might happen? How to understand what that kind of marginal part of the coalition, and I say marginal, not like they’re at the margins, I mean just like in the economic sense of the word, right? The $1 more, the one vote more, right? The thing that gets you over the edge.
I have to say thinking with more depth and rigor about that, I find, relaxes me in a way that constantly worrying about what’s going on does not. If you’re downloading this on Tuesday, the New Hampshire Primary or you’re bummed out about the results on Wednesday, because the candidate that you really favor didn’t do well or God knows maybe they’re in another catastrophe and we don’t have the results three days later because that’s what happened in Iowa. I think this is a great way actually to kind of lower the temperature on your anxiety by kind of focusing on what the actual questions before us are.
You refer, I think it was in the first episode, you talked about having a pit in your stomach.
JON FAVREAU: Yeah.
CHRIS HAYES: Do you feel that all the time?
JON FAVREAU: All the time. I’m terrified.
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah.
JON FAVREAU: I’ve tried to figure out ways to calm myself down, because I can’t be at an eleven about this election every day. It’s funny, I remember I was here in New York the week before the 2018 election, and I just remember being so into all of Nate Cohn’s polls, The New York Times, because those were getting refreshed all the time, and all the caravan nonsense. I had convinced myself then, I was like, “We’re not going to win this.”
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah.
JON FAVREAU: This is going to be a real f—— problem. And then, after we won, I was like, “I can’t do that again for 2020. I can’t.”
CHRIS HAYES: I think this is sort of a strange place to start this conversation, but I think an after one for people that are listening, which is like, this is a little self-helpy but it is important to remember to control what you could control.
JON FAVREAU: Yes.
CHRIS HAYES: I mean, you even talk about that on the podcast. I even mean this in terms of like if you’re listening to this and you’re stressed out all the time, you can control what you can control. Go volunteer for a candidate.
JON FAVREAU: Yep.
CHRIS HAYES: Give money. Volunteer for a local state rep or a local DA race. There’s this new book out about sort of hobbyist politics-
JON FAVREAU: Oh, yeah.
CHRIS HAYES: … called “Politics Is For Power.” The point is to be involved, because otherwise you’re like watching your team play and maybe they missed the field goal.
JON FAVREAU: Well it’s always about taking your own advice, because we say that in “The Wilderness,” we say that on “Pod Save America” all the time, to get involved. But, it’s easier said than done when you’re commenting on the news all day long is your job, like you and I do.
CHRIS HAYES: Oh, yeah. No. Right?
JON FAVREAU: But-
CHRIS HAYES: We’re special cases. I mean in some ways I’m always lying to myself like, “Well, I need to do this for my job,” as I stuff anxiety in my face.
JON FAVREAU: But, I will say-
CHRIS HAYES: 16 hours a day.
JON FAVREAU: … taking the time to work on “The Wilderness” for the last couple months, every time I listened to the tape from activists or organizers or talk to people, it really, it sounds cheesy, but it pulls you out of the day-to-day. It’s the thing that makes you feel the most hopeful, is actually hearing from people who are doing work.
CHRIS HAYES: Michelle Goldberg told me this, I remember in 2018 where-
JON FAVREAU: We’ve talked about this.
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah, the Times columnist, where she said she would just be in New York stressing and anxious and that she would go out on the road and do that. She would just spend a day with someone who’s in a swing district canvasing or… and, it would take away the anxiety, to be around people that are just doing it. Then, she’d come back to New York, and start stressing out again.
JON FAVREAU: Right. Then, it’s miserable. I mean this was the same for us. I remember on the Obama campaign in ’08, when things were bad nationally for us and we were losing to Hillary Clinton, and all of us were in Chicago thinking, “Ugh, this isn’t going well.” The team in Iowa who’s on the ground, and with all the field organizers and meeting people would keep telling us like, “Oh, things are wonderful out here. You have no idea.” We’re like, “Oh, they’re kind of, they’ve sort of drank the Kool-Aid out there.”
CHRIS HAYES: Well, yeah. We’ve got the data.
JON FAVREAU: Yeah. I was going to say-
CHRIS HAYES: We’re here in Chicago.
JON FAVREAU: We’re listening to the nightly news. We’re listening to all the pundits. It’s bad. Then you go to Iowa and you’re like, “Oh no, something real is happening.”
CHRIS HAYES: Right.
JON FAVREAU: Yeah.
CHRIS HAYES: So, the project of this season in “The Wilderness” is, well, how would you describe it?
JON FAVREAU: I feel like too much of the conversation around 2020 in politics is a conversation we’re all having with ourselves. When I say we, it’s like Twitter, cable, all of us who pay so much attention to politics. I feel like we don’t hear enough from voters. When we do hear from voters it’s, The New York Times went into another diner and they talked to someone with a Trump hat on and lo and behold, they still love Trump.
Or, we get polls and polls are sort of, they’re just numbers. So, I wanted to do focus groups of groups of people that we actually need in 2020, that Democrats probably need to win. Not just the Obama-Trump voters, but I included them in the Milwaukee group, but non-voters, sporadic voters, Romney voters, Clinton voters, like the whole spectrum of voters. I wanted to make sure that the groups were diverse. And then, I thought, well I would go to all the different regions that we need and also talk to the activists and organizers on the ground about how they’re trying to persuade these voters.
CHRIS HAYES: One of the important conceits that you set up, that I constantly bang my head on, is there is a tendency, because I think we have like pulling cross tabs or what we have, to A, view all these groups as binary. It’s like, “Oh, Trump wins white men without a college degree”, which is true by huge margins.
JON FAVREAU: Yeah.
CHRIS HAYES: But, if you did 5 percent better, you probably win the whole election. Five… that’s five out of a hundred people in a room. George Gale, who’s an amazing organizer, had on the podcast who does like organizing in these rural areas. The way he puts this is like, “Let’s say you got a county of 10,000 people,” okay, “that went 70-30 for Trump,” right? That’s not a competitive place.
JON FAVREAU: Right.
CHRIS HAYES: There’s 3,000 people that voted for Hillary Clinton.
JON FAVREAU: Right.
CHRIS HAYES: That’s like, those are real people. You can go talk to them, and see what they’re into.
JON FAVREAU: I talked to Rosy Gonzalez Speers who works for Andrew Gillum’s organization in Florida, and she said one of their big goals, one of their slogans is “Lose Less,” in a lot of these red counties in Florida. If you talk to someone like Steve Schale, who was our Florida director and knows Florida really well, he’ll say the same thing, is turnout is a big part of the picture. We always talk about… Progressive’s always talk about turnout and that is a huge part of the picture.
JON FAVREAU: But, cutting the margins in these rural counties is huge. I mean, we say this about Wisconsin, right? If you cut out Milwaukee and Madison, Barack Obama still wins Wisconsin by a large margin, which means that he did well enough in those rural areas to win both times in ‘08 and ‘12.
CHRIS HAYES: There are these categories, right? There’s the Obama-Trump voters, who are sort of swing voters, there are third party voters, there are drop-off voters, voters who voted maybe twice for Barack Obama, and didn’t vote in 2016.
JON FAVREAU: Yeah.
CHRIS HAYES: Part of the project of the podcast is like, what do they think?
JON FAVREAU: Yeah, I mean there’s some common themes across all four of the groups, which is-
CHRIS HAYES: What are the four groups?
JON FAVREAU: So, in Philadelphia we did Democrats who mostly vote Democrat and they are disengaged so they don’t pay that much attention to the news. They probably follow the news once a week, they said in the screen and-
CHRIS HAYES: God bless them.
JON FAVREAU: I know.
CHRIS HAYES: I’m so envious of them.
JON FAVREAU: I know.
CHRIS HAYES: Once a week, just like-
JON FAVREAU: Just tuning in.
CHRIS HAYES: Oh, that’s awesome.
JON FAVREAU: That group was, I’d say that was like half white voters, half black voters. And then, in Miami we did, they voted for Obama in ’12 and then in ’16 either stayed home or voted third party. That was predominantly black and Latino voters. Phoenix, we did the Romney-Clinton voters. Then, in Milwaukee we did the Obama-Trump voters. But, they all voted for a Democrat in ’18.
CHRIS HAYES: Oh, interesting. Right.
JON FAVREAU: Because, I felt at this point if you’re Obama-Trump and then you voted Republican in the ’18 midterms, we probably-
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah.
JON FAVREAU: We probably lost you.
CHRIS HAYES: It’s going to be tough to get you back, right?
JON FAVREAU: Yeah.
CHRIS HAYES: Right. But, those people clearly-
JON FAVREAU: Those are gettable, and I thought that’s an interesting group of people. What was common across all four of the groups, is just the deep level of cynicism towards politics, towards both political parties, towards the media. The media conversation I thought was interesting, because it’s not… the bias conversation was in there. They all think Fox is right-wing, which is good to hear at least. They think CNN is liberal and then they-
CHRIS HAYES: You can hear me rolling my eyes.
JON FAVREAU: Right. It’s crazy. But, mostly it’s the media treats politics like a game. It’s just a bunch of people who get paid to yell at each other on television all the time and they don’t take these issues seriously. So, I don’t pay attention anymore.
Undergirding all of this, is Donald Trump. I purposely, at the beginning of each focus group, ask questions like, “What issues matter to you? How do you think government affects your life? Why do you vote when you vote?” To try to get a conversation that wasn’t all about partisan politics and about Trump, before we get into that. Within a minute, in every single focus group, he came up, Trump came up and he’s just, he’s everywhere. He’s like a national psychic wound.
CHRIS HAYES: That’s interesting to me. That is not necessarily what I would have predicted from some of these groups.
JON FAVREAU: Same.
CHRIS HAYES: Right, because I think there’s this idea and you hear it all the time, and sometimes one of the things I find about the culture of political punditry that drives me really crazy, is there’s a pose of political pundits, that they’re actually channeling the voices of the people that aren’t into punditry, which is its own kind of coin of authenticity in punditry.
JON FAVREAU: It’s very, yeah. It’s very rude.
CHRIS HAYES: It’s like “I speak for the volk” while you people here, in this cable studio, you’re just-
JON FAVREAU: Right.
CHRIS HAYES: It’s like, “Well, you’re in the cable studio.” It’s like, come on.
JON FAVREAU: I know I’ve tried to avoid that as I finish “The Wilderness” and now I go do interviews. I’m like, “I have spoken to the people, and now I know everything about politics.”
CHRIS HAYES: At least it’s… what I like about this undertaking is that what it is not is just like, “Here are just my impressions based on nothing.” It’s like, well, you can go do some actual rigorous stuff where you talk to people, right? One thing that you hear all the time is that the American people don’t care about Donald Trump and you guys in the media care about Donald Trump and talk about Donald Trump all the time. So, it is interesting to me to hear that, that among people that are fairly checked out or like once a week news consumers that he is looming in their psyche as well.
JON FAVREAU: Now, their view of him and how they talk about him, is very different than those of us who are super engaged-
CHRIS HAYES: Yes, totally.
JON FAVREAU: … we’re like, “He’s this threat to democracy. Where are we going to do? It’s the end of the…” They’re more like, “Oh, this f—— guy-
CHRIS HAYES: What a buffoon.
JON FAVREAU: What a buffoon. What a child. The Obama-Trump voters too.
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah.
JON FAVREAU: In that group of 10 people, there were two women who I’m sure are going to vote for Donald Trump again. They defended him a lot, although they had some criticisms too. But, the other eight people to a person were like, “He’s childish.” One of them called him an ass clown. A couple of them said, “I gave him a chance. I thought he would roll this boulder up the hill. I know it was tough for him to do all this, but it seems like he hasn’t even tried.”
So, the idea that he has been an ineffective president is actually seems to be more powerful than the idea that he’s breaking all norms and rules and acting and ruling as an authoritarian.
CHRIS HAYES: I have come to think that the sort of rule of law concerns, which I think are extremely real, are not particularly salient to-
JON FAVREAU: At all.
CHRIS HAYES: … the marginal voters that need to be-
JON FAVREAU: I hate inviting them.
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah.
JON FAVREAU: Because, you guys did this. We covered impeachment constantly.
CHRIS HAYES: Sure, yeah. It’s important.
JON FAVREAU: I think it’s really important.
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah.
JON FAVREAU: But, it’s just not-
CHRIS HAYES: I mean, this is true, that this has happened all sorts of times in my life. I thought torture, which by the way, there’s a CIA trial in which we have government witnesses testifying that they said to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed that I will slit your son’s throat.
JON FAVREAU: Yeah.
CHRIS HAYES: That’s in the good old days when the norms were respected.
JON FAVREAU: Yeah, there were norms.
CHRIS HAYES: Those were the norms. During the Bush administration, I never had any, like torture was an unbelievable moral stain, but I had never had any illusions at like, that’s a wedge issue to get swing voters to run on torture. It just isn’t, it just isn’t.
I think that in the same way, I’m fairly convinced that, this is not to say like people don’t care about this, tens of millions of people do, but the subsections of people that are the possible could go either way. I think that’s not…
The most surprising issue that came up to me in that regard, is how many people talked about, “He’s embarrassing us on the world stage.”
CHRIS HAYES: That is interesting.
JON FAVREAU: “He’s dangerous,” not because of norms and rules and all that, but because-
CHRIS HAYES: He’ll start a war.
JON FAVREAU: … he’s going to start a war. He’s turning off all of our allies.”
CHRIS HAYES: That’s interesting. People did say that?
JON FAVREAU: Yeah. I was surprised.
CHRIS HAYES: I always think that people just don’t give a s— about foreign policy at all. So, it’s always my default setting.
JON FAVREAU: I was surprised, but then I remembered that was a very powerful argument for us in ’08, when Obama ran, about we’re going to restore our standing in the road after eight years of George Bush. Even in the polling for us, it popped up as an issue that was really important to people back in 2008. I was surprised, even in like, you don’t expect Obama-Trump voters in Milwaukee to be talking about our standing in the world and-
CHRIS HAYES: No.
JON FAVREAU: … and why they’re scared of Donald Trump.
CHRIS HAYES: Let’s talk about the cynicism thing, because it actually is the perfect place for these things to converge. One of the most insidious, and my first book is sort of about kind of elite corruption in a sort of softer sense than the extremely crass version that Donald Trump engages in it. But one of the things I think he’s really effective at is everyone has been in a bar with a guy who’s like, “They’re all crooks.” Everyone’s been at a family event. You’ve heard that phrase in your life, and he just is so good at basically telling you, “You’re right, they’re all crooks. I’m a crook. They’re a crook. They’re all crooks.” His lawyers are up in the well of the Senate essentially making the argument, everybody does this. Everybody gets kickbacks. Everybody gets their beak wet.
And that is an effective argument because, one, I think there’s just a sort of default sense people have of that. Two, American political culture is quite corrupt actually in many ways, and people are not wrong about that. And so sometimes it gets really hard to distinguish between the kind of structural soft corruption of American political culture writ large and the very specific invidious culture of Donald Trump.
JON FAVREAU: Well, part of that is… And, of course, that’s Donald Trump’s main argument because I always think he is a cable news viewer who became the president, right?
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah, he’s the guy at the bar.
JON FAVREAU: He’s an avid consumer of local news is like this, television news, New York tabloids are like this. Right? And so he is the grandparent you have that’s like, “Everything’s always scary, everything’s bad, and all politicians of both parties are awful and corrupt.” But of course, that redounds to the benefit of a conservative party.
CHRIS HAYES: Yes, correct.
JON FAVREAU: Right? I mean, this is why it’s always harder for Democrats and when everyone’s like, “Oh, Democrats have to play dirty like Republicans.” It’s like, no, no. We are trying to get people to believe in the possibilities of collective action in government. They are not. They’re just trying to say, “No, government doesn’t work, and if you think we’re all corrupt, that’s fine. We’re trying to tell you this thing shouldn’t be around anyway.”
CHRIS HAYES: I keep thinking of this line from an amazing essay by Arundhati Roy about India and Modi’s rise in India. And they’re very different figures in some ways, but there are some similarities, right-wing demagogue. And she’s got this line where she says… And keep in mind, Arundhati Roy is a real radical, right? Has an incredible even beef with sort of the pretenses of liberal democracy where she says, “We’ve come to miss hypocrisy because it was the ghost of some decency we remembered.” The presence of hypocrisy you could point out and be like, “Well, you’re saying this but actually doing this.” The implicit in it is a mismatch that we want some standard, and what he’s done is shed that so that you can’t… We’ve all done this a million times, point to his hypocrisy, but it’s a color that’s not in the visible spectrum to a lot of people.
JON FAVREAU: Well, and on the democratic side the only answer is to, what, be perfect? Right? No one is going to be perfect in public life. Even if you try to be perfect, they are going to find something to say, “Oh, see you’re just as corrupt as the rest of them.” And so that’s not really a plane that you can run on.
CHRIS HAYES: And so what did you learn from those conversations about what to do with that, I guess is my question.
JON FAVREAU: I think in the short term, I think Democrats and whoever is the nominee has to have such discipline in the message and has to first of all avoid getting into the bull—- with Donald Trump.
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah, can’t do it.
JON FAVREAU: And it’s funny. Everyone already knows who he is.
CHRIS HAYES: Everyone. You can’t-
JON FAVREAU: I asked some of these voters, especially the democratic voters… I said, “What advice would you give to the democratic nominee if that person was here right now?” A lot of them said, “Don’t fight with him. Don’t get into the mud with him. Be bigger than him.” It’s so funny. The one focus group that sounded like a bunch of pundits was the Romney-Clinton voters.
CHRIS HAYES: I was just going to say-
JON FAVREAU: It was totally different than the other three groups because they’re very educated. They follow the news very closely. They’re in a swing state, Arizona, and one of them goes, “I would tell them to go to Wisconsin.” But I do think people realize don’t get in the mud with him, but you have to talk about issues that really matter to people. And then you also have to get people to believe that you have a plan to deliver on that.
CHRIS HAYES: See, that to me… See, when I was 25, I was in Madison, Wisconsin. The county is called Dane County, which is a swing county. And I was there, and the League of Conservation Voters was running a swing canvas persuasion program on behalf of John Kerry that I was a field organizer in. And I spent two months both knocking on doors and getting volunteers to knock on doors, and I knocked on thousands of doors. And I wrote this up when I was 25 for The Republic. One of the things that always kind of struck me at the doors, and these are people that were kind of in that category, they were either swing or a little checked out, was if you said, “Well, John Kerry has a plan for that,” like prescription drugs, they looked at you like you were saying, “John Kerry is going to make it warm in December.”
JON FAVREAU: Yes.
CHRIS HAYES: They’re just like, “Okay, great. Good for f—— him. He’s got a plan. Nice.” And it’s not a crazy thing because of the amount of veto points in the American system of governance, it’s not a crazy thing to be skeptical that when a candidate says, “We’re going to do X,” they might not be able to do X.
JON FAVREAU: Well, I talked to Stacey Abrams about this, particularly about these voters that I talked to in Miami who were sort of the low propensity sporadic voters. And it’s funny, I talked to her right after she had interviewed Barack Obama a couple of months ago, and there was that whole controversy because everyone thought Barack Obama was saying, “We can’t nominate someone too far left.”
CHRIS HAYES: Oh yeah, yeah.
JON FAVREAU: And I decided, I was talking to her for “The Wilderness,” I would ask her about this, about her interview with Obama and what she thought about it. And she said, “Look, I think that Democrats need to be bold and ambitious, but where I’m from and when I’m talking to voters who don’t cast their ballots that often, you have to be careful not sounding like you’re asking them to believe in dreams and wishes because they don’t have a lot. And they have voted too many times and been too disappointed to have someone come around and say we’re going to get this magical thing done. And if it sounds like wishing and dreaming, they don’t have time for it because they have to go raise their kids and feed their family.”
CHRIS HAYES: Right. Although they’re-
JON FAVREAU: And it’s so tough because she’s like, “But we shouldn’t trim our sales.”
CHRIS HAYES: Right. I mean, the problem with that is that on the other side of it, there’s the viral tweet of I just got back from the centrist rally holding a sign, better things aren’t possible, which is just… And it’s funny because also, I just talked to Ezra about, part of this is structural. We have a system that has a lot of choke points. It’s designed in some ways to frustrate efforts at big gram things. When you look at the big moments where we had huge legislative packages pass that transformed kind of the structure of the American state, basically Reconstruction, New Deal, and the Great Society, there’s just enormous majorities. Majorities like that have happened three times basically in American life, and the country changed enormously all three times. But it was because there were huge majorities. Normally it’s not like that.
JON FAVREAU: And huge majorities, like back to the first year of the Obama administration, right? Everyone’s like, “Well, you guys had this big democratic majority in Congress.” It’s like, well, we had it for how many months? How many conservative democratic senators did we have that wouldn’t pass s—?
CHRIS HAYES: Right.
JON FAVREAU: But no, it’s hard because I don’t think it means that Democrats should trim their sales necessarily, but I got this sort of duality from a lot of these voters. The same voter would say, “We need to upend the system in Washington and completely change it. It’s not working. It’s broken.” And then they would say, “People just need to work together and get something done.”
CHRIS HAYES: Right.
JON FAVREAU: And they don’t see the conflict in those two things.
CHRIS HAYES: Totally, no.
JON FAVREAU: We talk about it as the big divide in the Democratic Party. They don’t really give a s— whether you compromise with Mitch McConnell to get something done or whether you-
CHRIS HAYES: Steamroll him.
JON FAVREAU: … run roughshod over Mitch McConnell to get something done. They just want something done. It’s instructive to Democrats for when we get into power, but it’s also instructive when we’re campaigning that what I did hear over and over again is I just want a president who can try to unify the country, who can try to bring people together, who can try to stop all this yelling and bickering.
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. The classic example of this is people always tell you they don’t like negative ads, but they respond to them.
JON FAVREAU: Yeah, of course.
CHRIS HAYES: So there’s some level of revealed preference for stated preference. For instance, I, Chris Hayes, I like to eat healthy. I like to come home to a nice farro salad. Is that what I do? I mean, I would like it to be the case that I do, and sometimes I do. My wife makes amazing farro salads, but also when I’m on my own on the road and I go to a hotel bar, it’s like, what’s up with the cheeseburger there? So if you asked me, “Well, what do you like to eat?” I’d be like, “Well, this is what I like to eat.” So I always wonder a little bit with these sorts of questions about people say, “Oh, I want unity, and I want this, and I want that.” It’s like, do they respond to that actually?
JON FAVREAU: But the disgust is so potent to the anger and the bickering. I think the way to split this, if you can, is for Democratic politicians to say that they’re not going to focus on the small bull—-. They are going to focus on some fights and have them, but they’re going to be about fights that matter, like fights about healthcare, fights about gun control, and really have the discipline to be on message there. Because if you let yourself get into one of the… Too many Democrats will see a fight on Twitter, and it’s always amazing to me when we’re all having some fight on Twitter-
CHRIS HAYES: Stay out, stay out.
JON FAVREAU: And then the politicians are starting to do it, too.
CHRIS HAYES: Stop.
JON FAVREAU: I’m like, no, don’t do that. Get away.
CHRIS HAYES: Stop.
JON FAVREAU: Don’t do it. Don’t do it.
CHRIS HAYES: I also wonder how much… I was just looking at the president’s approval ratings from the duration of his term, and it’s always struck me as a really important thing to understand. I think even you and I exchanged something on Twitter on this. The lowest part of his presidency approval is when the White House and congressional Republicans are working together to do big McConnell Ryan traditional GOP things, two big pieces of domestic legislation, ACA repeal, which was very unpopular, and a big corporate tax cut, which was very unpopular. When they stopped doing big legislation, his approval rating went up three or four points, and it’s basically stayed there. It’s not high, but the worst thing for him was basically attaching himself to the very unpopular plutocratic agenda of the Republican Party.
JON FAVREAU: Well, and I will say… And of course I didn’t want to be leading in any of these focus groups. But in Milwaukee a couple people brought up retirement, and I said, “How much do you know about President Trump’s budget around social security and Medicare?” And one person said, “I heard he was going to cut social security.” And then everyone perked up, and they were like, “What? Is he going to that real?” And I’m like talk about a potent attack. Their budget on social security and Medicare and Medicaid… Medicaid, too.
CHRIS HAYES: Yes, all of it.
JON FAVREAU: Because it also introduces new information. Talking about him trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, there wasn’t the reaction that I thought it would be because it’s not new information. Everyone feels like we had that fight in 2018. Introducing new information about things that Donald Trump and the Republicans are doing to try to hurt you in some way actually is very potent.
CHRIS HAYES: My personal theory on this, and again this is worth exactly what I’m charging you, the listener, for it, is that there’s sort of two categories. There’s things that he does that are traditional Republican things and things that he does that are Trump things. And everyone knows everything in the latter category, and there’s no wiggle room on that, Charlottesville, kidnapping nine month old babies, all of that, some of it just horrendous and just deathlessly depraved as a moral and political matter. But running against him like you’re running against Paul Ryan… He’s moving to make water dirtier and the air dirtier, and to cut social security and Medicare, and to cut taxes for the rich, and to take away your health insurance. Just run against him like you’re running against Paul Ryan.
JON FAVREAU: Well, and here’s what the challenge is with that. So I 1000 percent agree, right?
CHRIS HAYES: But they think of him as so distinct-
JON FAVREAU: Those aren’t sexy attacks.
CHRIS HAYES: Right.
JON FAVREAU: And by that I mean the conversation that’s happening in the media on Twitter, right, where everyone’s… If you tweet something about Donald Trump’s cutting people’s Medicare, no one’s talking about that. That’s not going anywhere. If you talk about something horrific he’s doing authoritarian style or something on immigration, then people get up in arms because the conversation on Twitter and the media is primarily upper income, college educated, mostly white people. One thing I learned from these focus groups is there are so many people in the country who are not part of that conversation-
CHRIS HAYES: No, of course not.
JON FAVREAU: … who Donald Trump’s agenda and the Republican agenda is extremely harmful to, and they don’t feel like they’re being heard.
CHRIS HAYES: I want to focus for a second because when I think about not being heard, like the drop off voter group, because I think about this group all the time, and you have Dave Wasserman in there who talks about, and I always tell Democrats this, this idea of turnout will solve everything. It depends on who you’re turning out, and do not underestimate the amount of people that would vote for Trump who haven’t been voting. There are millions of them.
JON FAVREAU: This is Obama campaign manager David Plouffe’s big thing, and he said, “I would add eight to 10 percent to his 2016 number everywhere for turnout.”
CHRIS HAYES: Wow. For turn out, not vote share, right?
JON FAVREAU: Yeah. They have a good operation, and they are going to-
CHRIS HAYES: And they have a running start. They’ve been doing it for three years.
JON FAVREAU: And they have a running start, and all they have to do is go ID people who are non-college white people who just have sat out elections, and there’s a lot of them.
CHRIS HAYES: Men.
JON FAVREAU: Yeah, men, and they’re going to register them. And so every time we start registering people, they’re going to register people. And it’s going to be the highest turnout election in history, which means that it is a persuasion game. And when we have to somehow build a bridge, as David Axelrod says in the podcast, for some of these Trump voters to walk over.
CHRIS HAYES: Because the arms race ends in a tie, you think. The Democratic coalition cannot register enough voters to outpace them.
JON FAVREAU: Yeah. Going into this, my initial thought was, okay, we won the midterms by eight points, the largest margin in history, right? So we’re good, right? Well, and then I’m like and plus in a presidential election year, more people of color and young people turn out. So a lot of them stayed home in the midterms even though it was record turnout for those groups then. So we’re good. And then you talk to people like Dave Wasserman, and no, there’s 52 million non-college educated Americans who didn’t vote in 2016, and he’s going to get a lot of them to vote.
CHRIS HAYES: And not only that, and this is where it gets to this sort of dicey place I think in the fight that’s happening in the Democratic Party is that I completely understand the just rage inducing frustration many people have with the idea of catering to the-
JON FAVREAU: I get it. Me too.
CHRIS HAYES: … iconic white male, non-college educated, gettable voter in the Midwest. I get it. But it’s also the case that, A, I think people sometimes underestimate the math here of how many millions of people there are like that and also that the electoral college just makes them more important.
JON FAVREAU: Well, but the other thing, too, here is I think there’s been a mistake in… The way the conversation is, is when you talk about non-college educated white… When you talk about economic appeals, it’s now, oh, the economic appeals are for the non-college educated white people. And it’s like, no, you can have an economic message, an economic populous message that is aimed at non-college educated white people, working class black Americans, working class Latino American-
CHRIS HAYES: The people in the Miami focus group. Right.
JON FAVREAU: The people in the Miami focus group, right-
CHRIS HAYES: The fall off or third-party voters.
JON FAVREAU: Who were complaining about housing prices and complaining about healthcare and stuff like that. And when I say people feel like they’re not being heard, we now think, oh, that’s the white guy in the Midwest who’s not being heard. No, no, no. That’s the working class black family in North Carolina and a Latino family in Miami. They’re not being heard either. I mean, I think this is where Bernie Sanders is onto something.
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. I want to talk about… So you just mentioned Bernie Sanders. I want to talk about sort of electability and how that plays in to this right after we take this quick break. This whole project, right, is to sort of thinking about the sort of categories and the strategy and the voters it will take to put together a winning coalition in 2020. And now we’re in the midst of primary. We’re recording this before Iowa. The closing message for everyone is electability. And I personally find it insane. I kind of lost it on Jonathan Shade on Twitter yesterday actually.
JON FAVREAU: I saw.
CHRIS HAYES: But he just wrote this piece. It was like, “Bernie Sanders would be a disaster.” And it’s not like the argument… You could make an argument that says here’s an argument grounded in the data for some weaknesses Bernie Sanders would have as a general election candidate.
JON FAVREAU: Right.
CHRIS HAYES: Legit. And I think you can write a good version of that for basically every Democratic candidate. But the idea that anyone f—— knows with any surety is just maddening to me, and it’s across the ideological spectrum. It’s like everyone’s been rotted with pundit brain.
JON FAVREAU: It’s true.
CHRIS HAYES: Even the most radical people that I follow on Twitter are talking about it in these ridiculous cable news cliches about electability, and it’s like I just want to be like, “No one knows. No one knows.”
JON FAVREAU: No, and I’ll tell you why it scares me, and it scared me after these focus groups, is how many people… So I asked who’s definitely voting for Donald Trump, and I only got one or two hands per focus group. And then I would say who’s definitely voting for the Democratic nominee? And I only got a couple more hands. So that’s a bunch of people who are either waiting to see who the Democratic nominee is, or in the case of the Florida group might not vote, although most of them said they were going to try to vote in 2020. So everyone’s like, “Oh, electability is bull—-.” But there’s a whole group of people that told me, “It actually depends on who the nominee is whether they’re going to vote for Donald Trump or not.”
CHRIS HAYES: Such a good point. Right, right.
JON FAVREAU: But you’re right that the measuring is incredibly difficult.
CHRIS HAYES: Right. So the problem with that is if you take it one step forward, it’s like if there’s 10 people in the room, right, and two of them say definitely, and then there’s eight, it might not be the same candidate for the eight. One might get three, one might get three, and one might get two. And God knows what magic insight you would have to have.
JON FAVREAU: And I saw it unfold because in the Phoenix group, the pundit group, they-
CHRIS HAYES: That’s the Romney-Clinton voters.
JON FAVREAU: The Romney-Clinton voters, and they all talked about why is the Democratic Party moving so far to the left?
CHRIS HAYES: Exactly, yeah.
JON FAVREAU: One guy said to me, he’s like, “Look, I’m a former Republican. I hate Donald Trump. I just want to vote for a normal Democrat.” The democratic party has put up Joe Biden who’s way too old and doesn’t seem like he used to seem when he was in the Obama White House.
CHRIS HAYES: Interesting.
JON FAVREAU: Then two socialists in Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Is there anyone else? That group oddly was the only group that had heard of Pete Buttigieg of course. They kind of liked someone like Pete and stuff like that. I don’t know if faced with Donald Trump versus Bernie Sanders what those Arizona voters do. But then you go up to Milwaukee and a couple of people in that group who were the Trump voters told me that in ’16 they voted for Bernie in the primary and they liked Bernie. What they don’t like is politicians who seem like they’ve been in Washington forever and they’re the same. For those people I’m like, I actually could see Bernie being a stronger candidate than Biden in this group. But I don’t know how to measure the different numbers of-
CHRIS HAYES: See, that’s my point. My point is there are different parts of the coalition that I think different nominees would activate and repel.
JON FAVREAU: It bothers me that we’ve come to a point in the process where there’s not a nominee who can obviously appeal to all of these groups, I will say.
CHRIS HAYES: Yes, although again-
JON FAVREAU: I can’t obviously who-
CHRIS HAYES: Right. I mean although-
JON FAVREAU: I mean everyone has weaknesses and strengths, but I do, as we’re narrowing down I’m like, “Oh God.”
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. Although part of that also is just the way politics works. I mean, look, I was having this conversation with my brother who works… He’s worked in… I think you know him. He was an Obama guy and he’s worked in politics his whole adult life. I’m like, look, I can make confident pronouncements on certain things. Like if you were running for Congress in the Upper West Side as like a strong anti-Zionist supporter of BDS, I think you’d have some electability problems. There are certain things like if you were running to be Senator from Wyoming on a reparations for African Americans platform. I think that would probably not be great. At the edges of the bell curve, there are clearly some things where it’s like, I don’t think that’s going to help you.
But once you get into the place that I feel like we’re in where you’re talking about these sort of different tradeoffs like the Tucson suburbs versus the white working class of Wisconsin. To me it just seems like the level of analysis needed to make some kind of cogent, sophisticated prediction of the tradeoffs is not really in anyone’s capacity. So no one should be voting on it.
JON FAVREAU: Yeah, I mean I do think… I never want to like throw it out as a consideration because the other thing to keep in mind is a big part of what matters here in the general is the candidate, their message, how they frame everything, right? Bernie Sanders wins the nomination and says, “I’m the democratic socialist leader of America and that’s how I’m running and it’s going to be a campaign about big government and ideology and stuff like that.” I think he’s going to have a pretty tough time. Bernie Sanders wins the nomination and runs as the independent from Vermont who’s-
CHRIS HAYES: Wants to expand social security and fight social security cuts.
JON FAVREAU: And has taken on corruption in the establishment in both parties in Washington for a long time. Suddenly you’re like, “Oh, that’s a message that I see.” Same thing with Joe Biden. Like if Joe Biden has a general election message that could work.
CHRIS HAYES: Warren too.
JON FAVREAU: Warren too. I mean, what I just said for Bernie’s message is actually something that Warren could do quite well. But I think the danger is thinking because electability doesn’t matter at all, we should all just like say whatever we want to say and not try to persuade people.
CHRIS HAYES: Right. No, I totally, I agree. There’s like-
JON FAVREAU: It’s not something you’re doing, but you see that sometimes.
CHRIS HAYES: No, but you see that too. Because there’s like this spectrum. There’s some people who just like refuse to concede that there’s any distance between like what one’s policy commitments are or substantive vision of what America should do and the politics of it. There’s just no difference. That’s just not true. It’s not the way politics work anywhere in any time in any society anywhere.
JON FAVREAU: Well, I was going to say take it from us. We ran a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama a couple of years out of the Illinois State Senate and everyone points to that and says, “Well, Obama won. So anything can happen.” That was hard.
CHRIS HAYES: Right. Yeah. Right.
JON FAVREAU: He chose his messages very carefully. He chose his policies very carefully. He chose how he presented himself to the country very carefully. It wasn’t a very easy thing to do.
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. There’s also a certain amount of like… I mean, I think part of it too with Obama, I mean Barack Obama was very good at projecting an image that was unifying and let a lot of different people see what they wanted to see in him. Part of being a good politician is doing that because if you need 70 million votes, those 70 million people don’t all agree with each other. In fact, they just don’t. They have lots of things. So you’re trying to like… You’re kind of running, it’s not a con, but a good politician is trying to get as many people as possible to think that they agree with that person.
JON FAVREAU: It’s insane that we’re having this conversation right now because it seems like the most basic rule of politics and yet it feels like watching the conversation unfold that a lot of people have forgotten the necessity of persuasion as like the cornerstone of politics.
CHRIS HAYES: Right. Because, well-
JON FAVREAU: Because partly because we’re all like demographics are destiny and we’re a polarized country and so elections are more of a census than they are of an actual election. Whoever you are and your identity, that just dictates how you’re going to vote and that’s it. So we might as well just get to the election and that’s that. That’s just not the case.
CHRIS HAYES: Right. I mean the problem with that I think is that it’s running together two different things. As a generalization that’s pretty descriptively accurate, but elections are one at the margins.
JON FAVREAU: Right. That’s exactly right.
CHRIS HAYES: So if that’s true-
JON FAVREAU: It gets you most of the way.
CHRIS HAYES: Right, so if that’s true of 90 out of a hundred people in some cohort, the election is one in the last 10. That’s where like all of this stuff matters a tremendous amount. So it’s like when you are describing American politics, all of those sort of gross generalizations, they’re always oversimplified. But they really are true about polarization and about demographics and about spacial geography. It’s crazy. The density divide, all that stuff. It’s all true.
JON FAVREAU: Yep. It’s all right.
CHRIS HAYES: It’s just that operationalizing it to win an election is a very different thing because the people that are definitely with you because of all these things, like that’s not where you win the election.
JON FAVREAU: Well, and their response to that is usually, “Well, why do we have to care about these swing voters? Let’s just like register more people and turn up more people.”
CHRIS HAYES: And you should do that.
JON FAVREAU: You should do that too. But the Miami group, the drop off voters reminded me that it’s like those people were not just waiting for someone to come along and say, “Oh, I have this big progressive agenda,” or any kind of policy agenda to get them to vote again. It’s like very complicated. They’re very cynical. It’s going to take a lot of work.
CHRIS HAYES: Drop off voters, and this is a thing I’ve said before about drop off voters and particularly third party voters. People always think they can like model the third party voter as like, “Oh, well if you did this, you can peel off these.” A person who’s making a decision in this society and this political system to vote third party has by definition heterodox politics that are complicated and oftentimes extremely interesting and might be quite beautiful and profound, but there’s something going on there that’s just going to not necessarily be like some lever can be switched to bring them on board.
JON FAVREAU: Look, some of these people end up voting on things that would drive us all insane, right? Just like the character of the person or something they like about them, whatever, but-
CHRIS HAYES: I never liked Hillary.
JON FAVREAU: Yeah. There’s a lot of that. The hopeful thing is when I was talking to a lot of the activists in Florida, I talked to some people who are organizing a Venezuelan community in Miami that had swung like 20 points to the Republicans in 2018. None of these people wanted to… It was tough getting these people to vote. They didn’t care about politics. They were very cynical. What they did is they started to try to get them to care about local issues. So there was like a garbage heap in their community that was smelling really bad and they told them if you organize and you get a new city council, you can do something about the garbage heap. They organized on that local issue and suddenly they’re like, “Wow, we had power. We did something locally.” And they’re like, well now you can actually change something in Tallahassee. Now you can actually change something in Washington DC. So organizing a lot of cynical, disappointed, disaffected voters locally around local issues actually could be the solution.
CHRIS HAYES: That’s a much longer term issue. I mean, part of the thing that I think we just always gloss over is that like… This was true in the U.K., it’s called the labor party for a reason. It was a party that was literally built off the backs of the trade union movement. That’s what it was. I mean that’s institutionally the left throughout most of the Western world since essentially the late 19th century. It’s been married to, attached to, built on the infrastructure of a labor movement. It’s not an accident that in 2010 those governors came in the Midwest and just like took the hammer to organize labor and that those states have also gone more Republican.
JON FAVREAU: Yes.
CHRIS HAYES: Those two things are absolutely related. What we end up looking for, we look for campaigns to do this kind of work that is the work of much longer term institutions that used to be labor unions.
JON FAVREAU: It is a longterm project. But when I talked to Stacey Abrams, she talked about how they organized Georgia for her campaign and she said we would have our people go into communities where no one had gone for a long time. She’s like, and I wouldn’t even show up because then it’s about me asking for a vote as a politician. It would be about what are your local issues, what do you care about? We were on the ground like a year in advance talking to them about what issues they really cared about. She’s like, we tried to make it so that it wasn’t, oh, healthcare and jobs, like the generic stuff. But like was there a specific issue in your community that you really cared about? We’d organize around that. You build those relationships at the beginning of a campaign and then you just don’t show up a week before election day and say, “I’m going to go to a place where not a lot of politicians go and ask for people’s votes.” So I do think that is one way to sort of do the work of organizing and turning some of these people out.
CHRIS HAYES: How much do you think the campaign matters? There’s demographics and those trends are real. They’re real and they’re driving a lot of stuff. Then there’s kind of like organizing. Then there’s like the campaign, the message. How much do you think that matters?
JON FAVREAU: Back to our conversation about how 90 percent of it is baked, but the 10 percent that isn’t baked, the campaign matters an enormous amount. I do think it matters on the margins, but those margins are everything. I think when we talk about the campaign, there’s a couple different aspects to that. There is where you decide to compete, where you decide to organize, where you put your campaign’s resources, and then of course the candidate. The candidate’s story, who the candidate is. I do think because so many people, and a lot of these voters I talked to were like this, have divorced the issues they care about from politics because they haven’t seen politics make a difference in their lives, they judge candidates and their vote choice largely by the person’s character and their message.
JON FAVREAU: Part of what you see with Trump is Trump has not delivered a lot, but some of them give him credit just for fighting because they think no one has delivered in a while, but he’s fighting my fight. Then it becomes very important for the democratic candidate to be someone who is saying, “I’m fighting your fight.”
CHRIS HAYES: I think there’s that expression get caught trying.
JON FAVREAU: Yes.
CHRIS HAYES: Which was a big Obama White House expression.
JON FAVREAU: We always used to say that.
CHRIS HAYES: You guys used to always say it. I never heard it before I think until the Obama White House, get caught trying. But I think about the worst case scenario of a democratic president, which is that they don’t have congressional majorities. What I basically want is like a hundred people in that administration who are to like climate what Stephen Miller is to immigration. Who are just like, “I don’t f—— care we don’t have the votes. At every point, everything that we can push and rattle and make the court stop us and push and push and push, we’re going to do it.”
JON FAVREAU: Yes.
CHRIS HAYES: The one thing they have done that on is immigration and that’s all Miller and it’s been a moral abomination, a humanitarian f—— disaster. It is disgusting and despicable and fills me with rage. But as just a policy undertaking without the votes, there’s no votes for it. There’s not the votes for the wall. There’s not the votes for like shutting off refugees. There’s not the votes for like the Bertrand in Mexico. There’s not the votes for that. He doesn’t have the votes for it. Somehow it’s all been done just because the single minded like, I don’t care. I don’t care if we get busted. I don’t care if the court stops us, we’ll try something else.
JON FAVREAU: Not only doing what you just said, and this will sound hackish, like advertising that you did it.
CHRIS HAYES: Yes.
JON FAVREAU: I always think back to the recovery act and it’s like if we could go back in time as opposed to like changing the withholding tables and people’s paychecks.
CHRIS HAYES: This is the ultimate example.
JON FAVREAU: No, no, send out f—— Obama bucks. Right? We’re doing a bunch of construction and infrastructure, how much money do we put in infrastructure? Put up big signs. This was brought to you by Barack Obama’s administration. You obviously get into some legal issues here and I don’t want to get into those, but I want to make sure that we’re within the law. But I think you have to prove to people that you can deliver and then you have to let people know that you were the one who delivered it. This is why, this is one of the big reasons Republicans have fought against universal healthcare. Remember like the famous Bill Crystal memo back in the ’90s when he tried to kill Hillary Care and he said, “We need to kill this now because if the Democrats deliver a benefit to the middle class, voters will be wedded to them for a generation because they will remember that the Democrats did that for them.”
CHRIS HAYES: It is interesting to see that for all of the crazy twists and turns of the ACA and Obamacare and for all of the both political deficiencies of it and I think some substantive deficiencies, it is remarkable how popular it has become.
JON FAVREAU: But it took how many years?
CHRIS HAYES: It took a long time. There was this long period of time where it was like everyone I think in democratic circles told themselves like, yes, it’s not popular now, but it will be popular once it’s out there. Then it was like one year went by and two years went by, and three years went by and four years. It was like, is this getting popular? When’s the popular train arriving? Then all of a sudden it was like they tried to take it away and was like, oh, that’s when the popular train arrived.
JON FAVREAU: I do hope that Donald Trump has made what you suggested easier for the next democratic White House at the very least. Because so much of what you hear once you get to government is, “No, we can’t do that.”
CHRIS HAYES: We can’t do that. No, you can’t do that.
JON FAVREAU: You hear it from the lawyers.
CHRIS HAYES: The lawyers, man.
JON FAVREAU: And you hear it from… Not your wife.
CHRIS HAYES: You hear it from my wife literally.
JON FAVREAU: You hear it from the bureaucrats and the agencies. It’s always why you can’t do something. At the time it always makes sense. Of course, because we’re good government people and we don’t want to like run a foul of-
CHRIS HAYES: Right, because the law does matter.
JON FAVREAU: We also don’t want to break the law.
CHRIS HAYES: We see now in extremists what like never caring about that looks like.
JON FAVREAU: But thinking back on our immigration policy, for example, like we had to wait until the second term to do the DACA EO, which how many years to do the DACA EO which we could have ended up doing at the beginning.
CHRIS HAYES: Correct. Right.
JON FAVREAU: When you ask people why did it take so long to do X, Y, and Z, the only reason is because well the lawyer said, no, no, no, no. Then finally we said, yeah, no, we should do it. Next time…
CHRIS HAYES: I think the important thing here that we’ve come to is don’t listen to the lawyers.
JON FAVREAU: That’s it. We solved the 2020 election. Don’t listen to lawyers.
CHRIS HAYES: Just do it. Better to ask for forgiveness than permission. Jon Favreau is host of “The Wilderness,” which is in season two now. He’s a founder of Crooked Media, a host on “Pod Save America.” He was a head speech writer for President Barack Obama from 2005 to 2013. Great to have you here, Jon.
JON FAVREAU: Thanks for having me.
CHRIS HAYES: Jon Favreau is cofounder of Crooked Media, host of “The Wilderness” podcast, which you can get anywhere you get this podcast, as well as the cohost of “Pod Save America.” We’d love to hear your feedback. Tweet us at #WITHpod, email email@example.com. If you liked this conversation, there’s a few others that you might enjoy as well. George Goehl’s. George Goehl talked about the organizing that he’s been doing in rural communities around Trump and politics at this very moment. And Dorian Warren who was a labor organizer and then became a professor and now runs a great organization. Also talking about kind of the work of persuasion and organizing. Both those I think are great complements to this discussion.
Also, finally, if you liked this podcast, you should use the podcast app you use to like it and to rate it. Put in a little review. Tell folks you know about it to subscribe.
“Why Is This Happening?” is presented by MSNBC and NBC News produced by the “All In” team and features music by Eddie Cooper. You can see more of our work, including links to things we mentioned here by going to NBCnews.com/whyisthishappening.
“Politics is for Power” by Eitan Hersh
“Organizing in Trump Country with George Goehl” (Jan. 8, 2019)
“Building a Progressive Majority with Dorian Warren” (March 19, 2019)