S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership.
S2: This is live at Politics and Prose a program from Slate and Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington D.C. featuring some of today’s best writers and top thinkers anyone wondering what the Democrats need to do to win the pivotal heartland states in this country would do well to consult Sherrod about last year. Last year he was elected to his third Senate term with a 6 percentage point margin over his Republican opponent the only major Democrat at the time to win a statewide seat in Ohio. He is generally considered among the more liberal members of the Senate but also has demonstrated an ability to connect with working class voters across Ohio. One of his favorite phrases is that the dignity of work by which he means the belief that hard work should pay off for everyone. The New York Times in a profile of Sherrod last year said he projects quote a grizzled authenticity that endears his brand of progressivism to even some conservative voters. And in fact Sherrod frequently is mentioned as someone who could bridge the progressive and establishment camps in the Democratic Party at. An. After his re-election in Ohio last year. He was urged by many to run for president in 2020 and he did give the idea serious stop before taking himself out of consideration. In March this year. Hey it’s it’s not too late to reconsider. As Sherrod has written two previous books I think he’s spoke for one of them. One of them here a decade or so ago one of the books was Congress from the inside about the inner workings of the hill and myths myths of free trade on the failures of U.S. trade policy. His new work desk 88 offers a sort of history of of 20th century American progressivism told through profiles of eight members of Congress who previously sat at the same desk that Sherrod now occupies on the Senate floor desk 88 the profiles are mixed with Sherrod’s reflections on his own experiences and thoughts about issues dear to him. It’s a really engaging and insightful book and one that reminds us that there’s still much more to do for progressives working for equality and opportunity. Ladies and gentlemen please welcome the most accomplished politician from Yale’s class of 1974 Sherrod Brown.
S4: I am what I do. What was the word you just used you use the term grizzled and kind.
S5: Connie Connie my wife Connie Schultz by the way many of you know Connie and love Connie and Connie now we’re taking the train from York we did.
S6: We did last night we did the Colburn.
S7: This is really our first real book signing like this so thank you for. I know these slots are are rarely given and difficult to get it at Politics and Prose. But Kyra we were she was reading something where my voice was described as an idling diesel engine which I was kind of taken by that I thought some people really can write.
S8: Well one did I’ll talk about the book but one one thing when Brad mentioned our time in college together I announced for car for the Legislature in January my senior year. And what we did if we did one fundraiser in the Yale campus and I we roped off a corner of the dining hall and we allowed anybody to sit there who had already paid for their meal through their meal ticket. And we charged a dollar and we raised fifty four dollars with no overhead and I’m still Kim and Josh and people do our fundraiser we’re still trying to figure that out.
S9: So but again thank you. I’ll talk for 15 20 25 minutes and I want to take your questions and they said I’m not. This will be my first book signing like this for this book and dumped just absolutely thrilled that so many of you are here and I’d like to introduce Gil Ross who’s my agent and Gale is this book.
S10: Would she was told me that senators actually could write and convince me and thank you and my brother Bob is here who lives in Cleveland. But Bob is somewhere in the back. So Bob thanks for coming to the idea for came.
S9: Well Mike my first month in the Senate was January 2007 and much of what was at Oh Charlie.
S11: Charlie’s here. Charlie I’m sorry I don’t know. Charlie Charlie lives here in Charlie’s also my brother.
S5: I’m sorry. You wonder you wonder our parents Charlie Charlie Brown Bob Brown and Sherrod Brown.
S12: I mean I I don’t understand that anyway. But in the end I think in the end your day here Ian’s voice in Charlie Charlie became. Now congratulations to Nationals fans first of all in.
S13: I know you. I know you’d probably shown up in larger numbers if Sean Doolittle had been speaking tonight. If you get my drift there. But Charlie. Charlie Charlie moved to Washington and gave up his his loyalty to the Cleveland Indians and as a national fan but back a few years ago I met Ken Burns and Ken Burns was hit deep done one of his incredible story one of his incredible films on baseball. And I saw Ken Burns in a cafeteria thing in the Longworth cafeteria any doing a thing about the Bay about his exhibit an exhibit about his show and he had a he had a baseball hat on. It was a Boston hat and I said I said you know I think you grew up in Detroit he said I did. I said Aren’t you a Tigers fan. He said I was and then I moved to Boston I said. So you moved to Republican neighboring to become a Republican.
S12: So anyway. OK let’s go back to the book.
S13: OK enough 2007 first first month in office one of the things much of the beginning of your time in the Senate and the house is by seniority so you choose your office by seniority you choose your desk on the Senate floor by seniority. I never really knew anything about this except that a senator had told me that senators will carve their names in the bottom of their desk drawers. So I realized there’s no really bad seats on the Senate floor you’re not sitting behind a post that old RF K stadium you’ve got good seats. So I started looking in the desk drawers in the fourth drawer I looked at I saw McGovern South Dakota Gore senior Tennessee Hugo Black Alabama and then it just said Kennedy. And so I I I Ted was about four seats so I said check your second would you. He comes over and I said which brother’s desk is this he said you looked at. He said Well it’s gotta be Bobby’s I have Jack’s desk. So that was my introduction to desk 88.
S14: All the desks or no no senator knows what the number on her desk or his desk is it’s a little carving in the bottom. You didn’t know that digit Joe where it is. So a number of you have worked in the Senate here and you know this stuff. So I chose this desk and I just began to think about sort of the then well I chose this desk and started thinking about 150 books later I read about one hundred fifty five or sixty books mostly in total to to to research this about senators about the time I even a book by Tolstoy that gave me some ideas about how to write this about some things in this book I interviewed about 100 hundred people some former senators some staff some people that just would have interest in this and ten years later the book came and it was a long long project. It would have been done after about three years I thought I had finished the first draft and I showed it to Connie who was terrific writers you know and I showed it to my brother Bob and they both said there’s there’s just not nearly enough here you don’t have yourself in this book anybody could have written about these eight senators so I went back to the drawing board and worked on this on and off for a period of years and then came up with the SCADA. It’s where I rewrote it for the same reason is I wear this lapel pin this lapel pin I’ve worn since I was in a workers Memorial Day rally in Lorain a city Toni Morrison’s hometown I might add west of Cleveland on Lake Erie and this is a pen printed up by the steelworkers it’s a depiction of a canary in a bird cage and if you know labor history you know workers WORKER It’s the canary died workers got out of the mines they had no unions strong enough or a government that cared enough in nineteen hundred to protect them. And so this pen represents what the purpose of my writing this book is and that is that that the power of I believe the power of government can make people’s lives better pure and simple and that’s a progressive czar and that’s what we do.
S8: So as I’ve I growing up as the son of a doctor and a teacher and as a teacher a southern southern woman teacher from the north from the south a woman I’d say that right growing up the son of a doctor and our mother was a teacher. They grew up in Georgia in a small town in Georgia.
S6: You people sometimes say How did you get this politics How did you become a labor Democrat why do you think this way and I want to read two passages one about my mother and one about my first year in the legislature when I spent a lot of time in union halls and I read these I read several paragraphs from each like Hugo Black My mother was a child of the segregated South born almost 100 years ago in a small town of maybe 400 people she at a young age found segregation and it’s white privilege first confusing then confounding then repugnant no issue informed my mother as much as race while the busing controversy raged in the 1960s and the national media. My mother talked of a different kind of forced busing the forced busing of her childhood in the segregated South. Black children were bused past a new all white school to attend to distant underfunded black school separate but equal they said black children were given books that were tattered and dated after being discarded by white schools. If the black children were provided any books at all. My mother now middle aged organized interracial dialogues at a local at our area high school and junior high to encourage students who went to school together to actually talk to each other and share their stories. She told us about her childhood about race and class and privilege and how she and her sisters even though they were middle class at best enjoyed far more privilege and opportunity than any black child born in Newton County Georgia. She taught my brothers and me always to address older black men and women with her honorific titles Mrs. Rogers Mr. Fields Mrs. Christian. She had seen far too many white children in rural Georgia called older call older black men Jimmy and Johnny and older black women Betty and Hattie Lou. To this day as a tribute to my mother and because of her teachings I ask older African-Americans regardless of their professions their last name and address them Mr. Amis.
S15: My mother knew next to nothing about unions. After all her parents were farmers and her husband was a physician but she intuitively understood that people banding together could enhance their collective power raise their standard of living and demand justice. And she saw trade unionists unionists people like the United Auto Workers Walter Reuther in the brotherhood of car sleeping porters Sleeping Car Porters A Philip Randolph standing alongside and marching with civil rights heroes. And that was the that’s the kind cause she cared most about. She knew that Dr. King was martyred in Memphis advocating for exploited sanitation workers. Her unrelenting activism continued 2004 dispatched satisfied with the grass roots of the Kerry presidential campaign. She recruited a friend loaded a card table and two folding chairs into her trunk and drove to the poorest parts of Mansfield where she sat day after day in front of grocery stores registering voters. Within a month the two of them registered more than 900 voters. She kept the names and phone numbers. She was now 84. Keep in mind Get the names and phone numbers of the new voters and call them on Election Day to make sure they vote.
S16: At the age of 87 this shy white girl from the segregated South was the first in my family to go to work to volunteer to elect the first African-American president months before the Ohio Democratic primary January 20th 2009 was the last day she got out of bed and sat up to watch television sitting with my oldest brother Bob Sheets and Connie and me to Washington and said You go to the inauguration seeing history made. She died two weeks after the inauguration watching Barack Obama take the oath of office was the last good day of her life. Now the other reading I want to do is about my labor education if you will early my first term in the Ohio House of Representatives I was 22 the legislature it adjourned on a Thursday night with no votes and no committee hearings Friday I headed home to my district in Richland County an hour drive north. When those schedule appointments I drove across town to United Autoworkers Hall. Their members had always made me feel guilty feel feel feel guilty feel welcome although I said the word that come from.
S12: Maybe that too. All right. Does privilege kid no doctors they made me feel guilty.
S4: I know where that came from that is not on this page although they had endorsed my candidacy the year before and I had many times met with and talked to the unions officers and activists. I didn’t really know them I didn’t know their personal stories and even though I’d given. I even though I’d gone to high school with their sons and daughters I didn’t know much about their lives. Thus began my political education at UAW Local 169 in at the UAW Local five forty nine. I learned about the history of trade unionism. I learned how union workers made steel and how they built cars. I learned that strikes are always an act of back against the wall desperation because workers never make up for the wages lost no matter how good the contract and how briefly they are on the picket line. And I learned that too a trade unionist strike breakers scabs are the lowest form of human life. Few of these workers white and black expected to have the opportunity that this doctor’s kid had but they understood intuitively I would say that their high school daughter their son a John Sherman High School John Sherman Junior High could have more than they did. Their challenge to grasp the American dream and launch their children upward was more difficult than it was for my parents. Many things could go wrong for them. A layoff a strike a workplace injury injury and illness in the family. Each with more devastating consequences than life deals a more affluent white family. And of course African-American workers had greater challenges because of decades of discrimination. I learned about luck where you were born. How much education and income your parents had. What neighborhood you lived in and what school you attended.
S16: I understood how much good luck I had and how little some of these workers had and while they told me what they read books and articles in newspapers stories about strikes and heroes of the labor movement over the years I came to realize that the best books about workers and their unending struggle for dignity and a district’s decent standard of living or novels Wallace Stegner is Joe Hill Emile Zola’s Hermano Pietro. Dad do not pose Christ in concrete and John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath now this book is about eight United States senators understanding all white all male everybody that ever held my desk to my knowledge was a man.
S9: That’s what the Senate looked like in those days.
S17: As you know and I expect if someone stands in front of you or someone in this bookstore 100 years from now after eight other senators there will be more women there will be people of color as I’ve as I’ve written about in this book and I know that that that tells me a lot about sort of where where we need to go in this country.
S8: I’ve talked for a moment about each of the eight senators I want to focus on the first one I wrote about it came to the Senate in 1926 named Hugo Black. But I’ll start with the most recent George McGovern Senator McGovern was the only one of the eight that I knew. I met him I never met any of the other seven I saw Senator Proxmire from a distance I didn’t hang around much in this city until I was elected into the house 25 years ago. But Senator McGovern told me a number of stories when I sat and talked to him one of his favorites was he was he went up to Barry Goldwater and Barry Goldwater had suffered a rather rather humiliating defeat as you know and he had a conversation he recalls he recounted with Walter Mondale and Mondale as you know in 1984 won one state his own in the District of Columbia 12 years earlier McGovern won one state Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. And thank you DC for that. And Mondale went up to McGovern a couple years after the 1984 shellacking he said. GEORGE When do you get over this. How long’s it take. McGovern said I’ll let you know.
S13: I mean it’s six nights funny but it really is if you’re they and I I’m not sure you ever you ever a race that scar but so one day in 1971 McGovern is talking to Barry Goldwater.
S18: He says Barry told me they’re both senators time and this was a year before McGovern’s McGovern’s loss. And he said Barry tell me what it’s like to run for president give me some advice. They had a good conversation as McGovern recounted to me then said to Goldwater some of you remember very few of you might remember the times but certainly some of you remember the stories Goldwater.
S19: About two weeks before the election and in Tampa or St. Pete’s Goldwater came out against Social Security actually campaigned against Social Security and people that have been on congressional staffs will particularly appreciate the story.
S18: So McGovern so McGovern said Well Barry I’ve always want to know why did you why in the world did you come against out against Social Security that close to the election and do it in Florida in Goldwater said you know you know George I knew I was going to lose those two weeks for the election or week for. So I knew I was going to lose I knew everything was going wrong.
S9: My staff all about half my age were telling me what to do every single day.
S18: Adam here my friend in the back and always telling me what to do and they said you got to do another race that I’m done for the day. No you gotta go to this event. I’m not going to go in they said You’ve gotta go senator so he goes to this event.
S12: And he said You know I came out against Social Security to get even with my staff so whether that’s true or not. Who knows.
S19: McGovern McGovern was what he did what he did but nobody who benefited from this knows he did it one of the ME to me one of the great marks of of a of a good poll one of the marks of a really good public official. He did the McGovern dole program McGovern Dole provides hot meals one hot meal a day to millions of children in the developing world and I’ve been to Haiti Connie and I were in Haiti and went to one of those sites and that was what George McGovern did and he later actually both before he’d done that but he had done other things and we’re not addressing world hunger he met Pope John the twenty third. And John the twenty third said to McGovern he said when you meet your maker George you can say you fed the poor.
S11: And what what more do you need in life than something being blessed by John the twenty third as a Lutheran I say this Bobby Kennedy probably the reason I took the desk but perhaps but Bobby Kennedy you know Bobby Kennedy wasn’t always Bobby Kennedy.
S19: Bobby Kennedy worked for McCarthy you know those days I I don’t I don’t paper over any of that Bobby Kennedy Shirley grew in his compassion and his understanding the world after his brother’s assassination.
S20: He grew another time in the story I tell came from dinner Connie and I had with Mary Ann Wright and Peter led Peter Edelman and Marian Wright adult Marian Wright a young Yale Law School graduate. Rand the head start program in Mississippi in the 19th and mid 1960s. Marian Wright didn’t like the Kennedy family because John Kennedy’s not nominees for judge affirmed for four federal judge. All had to be okayed by James Eastland. The the the segregation center of Mississippi. So all of his appointments the good the good judges and civil rights in the south where Eisenhower point appointees not not Kennedy appointees so she’d have much use for him and she was asked by somebody. Bobby Senator Kennedy and his aide Peter Edelman were coming to see coming to to the delta and Marian Wright welcomed him. She wasn’t thrilled about it. She didn’t really like them very much. She thought she ended up marrying one of them but she didn’t like them very much. And she said Kennedy sent all the cameras away then went inside the shack into this really poor rundown shack in the delta and she said he picked up this baby.
S19: She said this baby is so dirty I didn’t want to touch him. And she said his compassion and his empathy just was something she had never seen.
S13: And that was the Bobby Kennedy that that we think of in 1968 and maybe before I’m William Proxmire who was the most eccentric of the eight and that includes Glen Taylor who was even was pretty essential. But Proxmire ran for four governor and 52 lost. Next morning he got up he went to plant gates he handed out a card saying I know I lost but I’ll be back. Ran again in 54 got up the next morning went to plant gates hand out a card saying I’ll be back went again in 56 when you expected to win. Printed up two sets of cards but again handed out the card saying I’m on time.
S20: Thank you for voting for me. I didn’t win I’ll be back 1957. He planned to run for the Senate against McCarthy and McCarthy as you know spiraled down in a.
S14: And there’s some pretty descriptive language that some reporters used to to to sort of measure.
S21: MCCARTHY In those days but Proxmire won that special election.
S20: Then Proxmire had the good luck to run in the cycle the best cycle perhaps for a Democrat in American history 58 64 70 76 82. All Democratic years Proxmire got to the point where the only money he spent in a campaign he was so popular was to pay for postage to send checks back to people that sent him checks. And he was able to do that partly because he ran in good years partly was becoming a democratic state partly because he was a good senator and he was chairman of the Banking Committee and that’s something I aspire to like next year.
S13: But but he also he also was a nonstop campaigner he would.
S7: Herb Kohl actually Russ Feingold told me he met Proxmire every every decade of his life.
S17: He met him 50 in the 50s and at school he met him in the 60s outside Milwaukee County Stadium he met him in the 70s in a restaurant in Proxmire was always out returned home and shook and some of you in this in this group I think worked for Herb Kohl and you will you will know those stories of Proxmire he Herb tells the story told me the story that Pryor 1:00 Eastern Herb’s Jewish and Herb was that Easter and Easter Sunday.
S20: Herb was at a restaurant I think in Racine. And Bill Proxmire walks in and was going table to table shaking hands saying Happy Easter.
S21: I mean he never stopped and that’s why he had that kind of life and that kind of of success in an elective office Al Gore was a progressive. By
S22: now I’m not sure that a number of these senators would have called themselves liberals or progressives at the time. But I don’t really care about that because I think they all were programmed they all contributed to progressive history of our country. Al Gore was one of three southern senators that refused to sign the Communist Manifesto even though even though presented with it and confronted by Strom Thurmond on the floor of the Senate with all the Southern press knowing all the Southern Press learned about it and he said Hell no and proud when Strom Thurmond tried to get him to sign it. That’s the good news in 64 against his son and daughter’s wishes. Al Albert Gore voted against the Civil Rights Act in 64 but by 1970 Albert Gore probably was willing to lose because he took on Haynesworth and Carswell he voted against both of them in an increasingly Republican state of Tennessee. He was willing to do that knowing the political risk. Nixon. Nixon really focused his southern strategy against Gore and a few others and defeated him in 1970. Herbert Lehman the son and uncle of the of the Lehman Brothers the founders of Lehman Brothers Herbert Lehman was was the son of one and the nephew of the other. He was the governor immediately succeeding Franklin Roosevelt and he with an easier time in a legislature probably that was a little more malleable than the Congress at least. After the third or fourth year he pushed a little New Deal through the New York Assembly and he was he was one he he took on McCarthy. He fought for civil rights. It wasn’t always easy. He was who he was. He was a decent honorable man very philanthropic and contributed much to this country the most unknown the least known of these eight was was Glen Taylor the singing cowboy from Koski Idaho. Glen Taylor ran for office seven times and won once 1944 for the Senate. His wife was named Dora and they were they formed the Glendora singers. Glen adored Taylor.
S13: That’s how he made his living except when he was a toupee manufacturer and iron worker and a number of other things in Glendora as doors doors. Their son was Dora spelled backwards. A-Rod like the baseball player.
S22: So I found I’m not really this good on social media but I found A-Rod Taylor and talk to me as a dent.
S7: Retired Dennis in California and A-Rod A-Rod told me a story.
S8: Some of you know Glenn Taylor’s contribution to 20 if if you know who he is which most don’t include my brother Charlie was the first person I ask out of the 25 people that actually knew Glen Taylor was in I don’t know who he was when I got his desk in a But Glen Taylor was the running mate for Henry Wallace in 1948 and Henry Wallace.
S21: You know Henry Wallace started off with a pretty big percentage I mean it just just kept it just kept disintegrating them the votes he had more or less.
S20: But but a rival by Mozart. But but Glen Taylor his wife Ann and A-Rod went to meet with Tim Montgomery Alabama to campaign campaign for the ticket. And this story is the story A-Rod told me and I had it confirmed sense that A-Rod did Glen Taylor went in to speak to a segregated audience went through the colored the black entrance only into speak.
S23: The police arrested him and Glen Taylor spent the night in the Montgomery jail in in Bull Connor’s jail in 1948. Bull Connor was already the city sheriff back then.
S17: Theodore Francis green you know if you’re from the northeast you’ve flown into TMF Green Airport. Theodore Francis Green is the is the victim if you will of the LBJ photo when he’s going like this. LBJ 6 3 or 4. And to Jeff Green I believe under five feet. TMF Green was a Renaissance man. He spoke five languages. He was born into great privilege. He is family I believe. Or mill owners I think that’s where his wealth came from. And he was considered when he became governor and then senator he was elected a freshman senator at the age of 65. But he had been governor before any remade the politics of the state when they took over the state legislature through a series even with redistricting a series of very smart moves. And he was called by the mill owners a traitor to his class.
S21: So following in the foot of his the footsteps of his beloved FDR the last of that the further first or the last is is Hugo Black and I want to read some things and you go black and then I’ll take some questions of course.
S6: A young ambitious Hugo Black thought he had a tad to choose between the Ku Klux Klan and the big mules. He chose the Klan the big mules were the steel and coal interests the utility executives the corporate lawyers the bankers the wealthy planners the railroad men most Alabamans black or white resented the Big Mules steelworkers miners railroad workers unemployed all watch the Big Mules feed at the trough while they could imagine no way out of their hardscrabble lives. They knew they were creating great wealth for their bosses. They were equally sure they were sharing and almost none of it. The future governor Bibb Graves described the social and economic structure of 1920s Alabama this way little mules were straining and sweating to pull the heavy load and hey hey wagon up the road tied to the back of the wagon were two big mules strolling along happily contentedly munching the hay Graves pledged to hitch the big mules to the wagon forced the big mules to shoulder I have your portion of the tax burden and give the little mule some relief. The Klan was a group of hooded terrorists murderously anti black violently anti-immigrant viciously anti Catholic and anti Semitic. At the peak of its powers in Alabama the mid twenties when black was elected to the Senate the White robe Klansmen spread terror throughout the state. Some estimated that half of Birmingham’s registered voters belonged to the Klan. Klansmen saw themselves as protector of all things American shop windows advertise their owners Klan membership with t W.K. trade with the Klansmen signs in their windows. James S. still grand drag into the realm of Alabama boasted We had the best people in the state. The Jefferson County Sheriff belong. So did hundreds of preachers as did prominent businesses businessmen and scores of politicians and the future senator and Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black Black told a friend years later I would have joined any group if it helped me get votes.
S17: You know what black became black became FDR his favorite southern senator. He renounced the Klan soon after his election he became Roosevelt’s favorite southern senator. He with Senator Wagner is responsible for collective bargaining the 40 hour workweek minimum wage so much of what we we look with appreciation on labor law that’s made this country a much wealthier country with a much more vibrant middle class. He went on to serve longer and the Supreme Court than almost anybody. His time was exceeded only by Justice Douglas 34 years in the court and what completes that circle is after Brown v. Board of Education in black is believed to have played a major role in the unanimity on the court not just voting himself but encouraging others right after that you go black was burned in effigy at the law school he graduated from in Tuscaloosa Alabama.
S15: Now read one paragraph about black blacks early life is a cautionary tale for ambitious young public officials a populist and a progressive from his earliest days. He had the courage to fight for the least privilege as a lawyer and as a judge but as a young man he let his ambition flip his progressive populism onto its ugly racist underbelly. Ambition kept him from understanding that real populism is never racist never anti-Semitic never pushes some people down to lift others up close and then take questions I.
S21: I leave I leave this book with a sense of optimism about the future.
S24: This is this is not this is not the worst time in our country’s history we probably we certainly have the worst president we’ve had in my lifetime maybe the worst president ever I don’t know a lot about James Buchanan but I think the world’s the country’s worst president probably ever. But it’s not the worst time for our country it’s not. It’s not MCCARTHY It’s not Vietnam it’s not it’s not the divisions in the 60s it’s not McCarthy it’s not World War 2 it’s not the depression it’s not the civil war and I as I said I wrote this book as I wear this canary pen because I believe in the power of government to make people’s lives better. I don’t predict this yet but I’m starting to think this that there is a real real real opportunity in 2020 to launch a new progressive era. What we accomplished as a nation in the teens in spite of a racist President Woodrow Wilson but accomplishments all kinds of workers compensation and direct election of senators and the Federal Reserve in the thirties was an incredible time for our country as you know Social Security and all that came about with with labor law reform and so much others in this so much else in the 60s. The Wilderness Act the Higher Education Act Medicare Medicaid voting rights civil rights the Equal Opportunity Act which led to Head Start Pell Grants all those kinds of things that came out of the 1960s tells me that that will do and this time we will know what to do with it. So that’s not a prediction but it’s something that is Dr. King said that progress doesn’t roll in on the wheels of inevitability. Progress doesn’t roll in on the wheels of inevitability it’s up to us to make it happen and my commitment to you and to the people my my constituents in Ohio is to fight like hell to make that happen in 2020.
S25: It’s not as such.
S26: Jared We have two mikes here and people are lining up get them and tell me your name if you want to if you take.
S27: I’m very interested in reading your book and as I was browsing through it I I read what you wrote about RF KS about RF KS ripple of hope speech in Johannesburg South Africa and about how and about how it was hard for him and about how it was difficult for him to get a visa and about how it was difficult for him to get a visa and also about and also about the profound inspiration that many received from his visit. I was wondering if you would be able to talk a little bit about that. What would you what would you say would you say there were any particularly interesting things that you learned in the course of your research about RF Keyes visit to South Africa in June of 1966. Thank you.
S10: He um I thank you for that question Nathan and I. I knew about his speech the ripples of hope speech we of all almost any Democrat in politics is quoted that speech over the years some of us ad nauseum but I didn’t know some of the background I didn’t know the part about the visa I didn’t know how he started off that speech talking comparing South Africa to the U.S. he how he went in front of pretty hostile audiences that I don’t think that was the first time Kennedy did that but in the 68 campaign he would often go in front of hostile audiences and challenged them.
S28: And I he did that if not the first time certainly one of the first times in South Africa and I think he saw that that was his mission that that he could come in and he had the standing to be able to do that. He spoke the day after that. The picture I have one page of pictures for each of the eight the picture I chose two pictures of Kennedy one of them is when he spoke to Cleveland City Club. He spoke the day after the King assassination he canceled everything else that he had on his schedule and spoke there that day and talked about gun violence and the rule the City Club which is about oh I think it’s 106 years old now it’s one of the most prestigious places to speak in the country is that you have to take questions after you speak nobody presidents all the presidents have been there. Everybody has take questions. Kennedy only time ever began to cry after his speech at the end of his speech and walked off the stage and didn’t take questions so but that that the speech he gave there the speech he gave in Indianapolis the night before with John Lewis in the crowd the speech he gave it in South Africa were among America’s finest I think.
S23: NATHAN Thank you.
S29: Yeah I think this is the worst time I’ve ever seen and I’m older than you. I was born in the Truman administration. I’ve never seen anything like this when I was growing up the unions were the backbone of the Democratic Party and we have lost them. They are now pretty much the backbone of the Trump people. Why did we lose them and how can we get them back.
S10: Well we I don’t agree with that assumption entirely. First of all. The the problem is there aren’t enough union numbers there. My problem is the decline of unionism and that’s that’s a problem for the Democrats and it’s a problem for standard of living for far far far too many workers. I mean I I like all of our candidates running for premier like not quite all of them I like almost all of them. I’m not going to mention names either way positive or negative unite so don’t even try. But but I wish they would talk more to workers and about work about the dignity of work and when you think about Dan you work it’s not it’s not it’s not just white guys white guys that are firefighters. It’s it’s hotel workers it’s people that prepare food it’s people that work in this bookstore it’s people that that are working construction and people that are cleaning hotel rooms and union and non-union and if we would and then.
S9: But elections are always about contrast and we would point out that while while we’re the party of workers that Trump has betrayed workers he’s betrayed workers in the Midwest as he’s betrayed our allies in the Middle East and he is he’s fought the overtime rule he’s he’s pulled back the overtime rule costing literally 40000 Ohioans several thousand dollars each. He won’t raise the minimum wage he puts people on the courts that put their thumb on the scale of justice for corporations over our workers all these things we’ve got to take it to him and I I have one story in here that that sort of illustrates that I don’t I don’t ever I I’m I’m I’m never gonna compromise on civil rights I’m never gonna compromise on women’s rights or I’m never gonna give in to the NRA but I get I don’t I don’t do really really well in rural areas and small towns but I get enough votes and I get enough votes because I talk to them at their work at their work sites not not literally but not none but figured of late sometimes literally that that we’ve got to talk to them about their work about their kids education about their health care about how Trump’s trying to take away their consumer protections preexisting condition and one real quick story in here I was at a Ford plant during the Gore Bush race in 2000 I was in the cafeteria just sitting having coffee with seven or eight UAW members and all of them were voting for Gore except one and I said why you vote for Bush and he said because Gore wants to take my guns and the guy next to me pointed to me and he said sure it’s got the same position on guns Gore does and he said yeah but Sherrod fights for my fights for me at work and that’s that’s what we need to do you know means talking about the dignity of work and honoring work and respecting work and we we didn’t we didn’t we don’t. Those union vote was about 50/50 last time it better in some states than others so we’ve not lost. We’ve lost too many of them but we can get them back particularly when you point out Trump’s betrayal. Thank you. Yeah sure.
S31: Senator Brown thank you for writing the book. A few things. 1 the influence you stand on forward. OK that’s better. Okay. Thank you for writing the book the influence that Colonel Glenn considered wretch found had on your career. And the third thing is that I’m a retired union employee from railroad I want more Amtrak. I’d love to be able to take a train from Cleveland to see your Cincinnati Reds but no such thing exists. The thing is the party needs more direction and more discipline and it might mean a change of the chair at a party because he’s been missing in action.
S32: And finally he’s never going to be president.
S31: He’s not going to be president yet. But Tim Ryan has to get back in a fight so become more visible cause the next vice president knighted states on the Democratic ticket is someone I’m speaking to now or Representative Ryan.
S33: Well thank you for that. First of all it’s the decision of the presidential candidate.
S34: Second my seat if I were to be elected to any other office higher office my seat would go to a Republican governor to appoint. And that’s pretty troubling for me and it makes me a lot less interested. Tim Ryan we’ve tried to get Tim to run for governor Senate in the past. So I’ll just leave it at that. Connie and I were dry riding riding Amtrak today we did Colbert last night we came got up at 7:00 this morning took a train at 7:00 and as we were arriving we said My God I wish we had high speed rail in Ohio. What what what that would mean for our country would would be so much Metzenbaum and Glenn. I knew John Cornyn I got to be actual real friends with John any any in the last 10 years of his life. And we just loved the man. He’s such an honorable decent man and I have is off on my first day after my first two years I moved into the Barack Obama office for eight years. I now have John Glenn’s office in the in the Capitol the Hart building and we just think the world of IT Metzenbaum was a very effective senator Metzenbaum showed you could be progressive you could be pro labor you could be outspoken and you could win and Metzenbaum. I remember the slogan he used was Howard Metzenbaum. He’s on our side and I remember saying to my pollster and media person in 0 6 I want to have that I want to use that slogan Sherrod Brown is on our side. She said you haven’t earned it yet. So I took that firm and I’ve been working to try to it.
S32: So yeah I know I’m going to address you.
S35: Not so much as yourself but more as a symbol and what I’m concerned about is as good as it is to be bringing out these personalities. And you know sort of reflecting on the past and all that. I don’t get the sense I mean if you’re a senator and the situation that this world in this country is in right now and I don’t see you presenting an actual series of problems and possible solutions we’re willing to go. And again I dress more that you’re a senator than you personally. So my question is is the government itself the senators. Everybody aware of how serious and how difficult the situation is now for our country and for the world. I don’t get that.
S4: Well OK fair enough I. I think most many of us are. The purpose of tonight was to talk about how progressives have had such victories. How progressive arrows have moved our country forward.
S9: Progressives don’t win frankly very often but when we do we win really big and we went really big meaning we pass Medicare we pass Social Security we pass civil rights we then play defense because the right wing comes back with fury. Emerson talked about the history as a fight between the innovators and the conservatives the conservatives today’s conservatives want to hold onto their wealth and privilege and will do anything they can to keep it. It’s up to us to challenge that if we win in 2020 I’ve got I’ve already asked my Senate Banking Committee staff and this committee has called Banking Housing and Urban Affairs Urban Affairs. Republicans have forgotten the Housing and Urban Affairs part. Housing is gonna be in capital letters and we’re already preparing ideas if we take over in 2020 so I I think you’ll find that throughout. Our goal is to is to prepare for that and at the same time make sure that it happens so I I take the admonition and in the the challenge I take it genuinely. We have a lot of work to do. Not everybody looks at the world the way I do I understand that but there are a lot of us there’s going to be more. We’re going to address climate change we’re going to make. When I was in New Hampshire in Laconia I met a woman roughly my age who’s worked in childcare for 40 years and she said you know child care needs to be seen as a public good. Imagine if this country if we if we coming out of the box in 2020 in terms of family leave in terms of sick days in terms of vacation in terms of parental leave all these come in. There’s so many things we can do and we stored them up and we’re ready. And I think you’ll see that in 2020. Thank you.
S36: So I want to be positive about 2020 as well. But I’m concerned about the seventy five days between the election and January 20th. Do you if Mr. Trump loses do you think there will be a peaceful transfer of power on January 20th.
S10: I heard people talk about that. I’ve thought about that. I don’t know.
S37: I would this might be a reach. I would actually expect my Republican colleagues to do the right thing at that point. That’s seems like seems like a reach for their cowardly behavior in the last three years from this 16 campaign to now. I think that I don’t know. I think if Trump if he’d actually become president I think Trump would have continued to run against her and try to try to sabotage everything including talking about the vote count and the electoral everything he would do. I think it’s a perilous time.
S23: But I I’m optimistic enough even about my Republican colleagues who have shown less than a spine so far that if this election if it comes out the way I think it will and it’s decisive that that you will be shown the door and forced to the door if necessary just a heads up.
S38: We have three more people on the side and then there are two people behind me so we’ll just have those last five questions.
S39: I just want to say huge fan. I worked on your campaign when I was in college in college where Ohio Wesleyan. All right. I’m also from Wisconsin. So the home of great political progressives and Ohio and Wisconsin have very slim similar political climates. But you’re the only Democrat in Ohio that’s won statewide in several years. Why do you think you’re the one who wins and breaks through.
S10: We’ve not had a good enough farm system in Ohio in part in part Ohio’s. Ohio’s getting harder.
S40: Our demographic mix hasn’t changed much. I mean you can see what’s happened in Virginia especially some of you live in Virginia and this state is is no longer even a competitive state. Hardly. I mean I hope today tonight proves it again. And North Carolina’s next in Georgia and maybe even Texas and South Carolina has got some good signs and all that. Arizona Colorado is almost already there. Arizona Ohio Michigan Pennsylvania Wisconsin are a little easier than Ohio. I think you’ve got to have you’ve got to have a message of talking to workers in their workplace as I said earlier. I I you know Ohio’s going to be a competitive state in 2018 2020. It’s harder than Michigan Wisconsin and Pennsylvania but it’s going to be the other the one piece of good news in Ohio that I’ve seen is my daughter is part of this my daughter is a city council member on the ballot again this year for a second term right now and as soon as I leave here I’m going to be talking to Irv expecting the votes to come in around that time. And she she and a number of other mostly women mostly under 45 almost all under 45 a number of people of color men and women are building this farm team because the local local governments where the political power on our side is. And I expect that to pay off. We have some really good young female candidates. In addition to my daughter. But I mean we have a number of people. And it makes me optimistic for building this party in the future.
S41: Thank you. Thanks.
S40: And your senator is one of the best and I don’t mean Ron Johnson.
S38: I love Tammy Baldwin. Hi there. My name is Naomi. I just recently moved to D.C. but I was just wondering what about this political climate keeps you up at night. And what about it makes you hopeful.
S11: What keeps me up at night as is well lots of things.
S23: I was going to marry or might know I just just that the fear that we don’t be Trump I think we will. But just all the things that can happen. We’re all concerned about what this president does next. I still can’t believe my colleagues that have shown no courage in standing up to him in more long term IDF I fear what’s happening with climate change. And we can’t wait much longer. And I met with about 10 CEOs today all of whom some from energy companies even who are really pushing hard on doing the right thing on climate. Some of them not in the meeting but some energy companies are acting like they’re doing more than they are. But I worry about that for your generation. But I also worry about the thing that got me into politics civil rights and human rights and in how how much we have lost with Trump.
S41: But I really do believe we we begin to gain it back in January of 2012 when things I My name is Joe.
S42: I’m from Miller City Ohio. It’s population 136 in Putnam County. Don’t know if you know where that is. But my question is I have only been a liberal coastal elite for about seven years now but before that I. Were liberal and Miller city too was harder to be there than Washington. Yes it is but I was shocked about the 2016 election and I’m very close to my family and very much in touch with them and even I had completely lost touch with what was going on in rural areas. But your name is one that is not hated in my family and I’m curious so that’s a ringing endorsement.
S33: Trust me if you trust me it is when it comes to Democrats as well.
S42: My question is how do you stay in touch with concerns of people in rural areas like that. Because I mean I was only here for three years and I completely lost touch and I’m wondering how you are a U.S. senator who has a lot more going on. Can stay in touch with those voters.
S10: I go home every weekend to Cleveland working on Connie and I live. That’s that helps. Yeah I mean it’s there’s no I I don’t I don’t I don’t I’m not beloved in everywhere understand not even beloved period I mean I won by seven points. So but I and I didn’t do particularly well and even the place I grew up with I won 88 counties and High won 16 of them I won the big industrial won the big metro counties I won the lake year three counties in Lake Erie partly is my brother has a theory that I think it’s got some symbolism some credence to it that tourist counties along Lake Erie is a are different kinds of small counties and then I won three university counties one where my wife teaches at Kent State and Bowling Green and a lot of university we’re doing badly in smaller towns but I’m on the Veterans Committee I’m on the Ag Committee I do a lot in those communities but it doesn’t really seem to translate into votes but it’s it’s listening and talking I don’t do big town halls I I rarely speak to a group in Ohio like this in this kind of a format I I do roundtables of 15 or 20 people and I listen to them and I get ideas and that’s what I bring back to Washington and work on it’s also what you do outside of the legislative part of my job I learned this long time ago I I am I know that in small and small towns they’re rural hospitals or are in real financial trouble if if Trump wins the lawsuit on ACA rural hospitals would go out of business I I organize it those rural hospitals I talk to them about what it means and listen to them and I think that absolutely matters when you and I also learned there’s a Sam Abraham Lincoln quote that I love that he is staff warned him to stay in the White House and win the war and free the slaves and preserve the unity said no I got to go out and get my public opinion Barthes and I look at politics like that that I go out and listen to people and it’s a lot more interesting than talking frankly I learned stuff and I learned about it but I try to talk to people in their workplace whether they’re a farmer or whether they’re a shopkeeper or whether they’re a factory worker and I think that helps.
S40: Again I don’t I don’t when places like Miller city although I hear they don’t hate me they just don’t vote for me.
S33: Yes that’s a huge accomplishment.
S43: So how are you. I’m good. And you don’t have to worry about my family and Ohio voting for you as you know because I don’t live in NC they live in Shaker Heights.
S44: Or the environs of Shaker Heights and never have lived in Chicago. OK but close enough Cleveland Detroit Cleveland Heights yeah okay 70 80 percent areas Yeah we got it we got it.
S43: I have two things. One is listening to today. You said that Robert Kennedy did it. That you pick the desk. Probably because of Robert Kennedy. Now you’ve written the book would that still be your choice. So that’s my question. And then my comment. The night you were sworn in as a senator I said how proud I was of you for taking Howard Metzenbaum seat because I worked for Howard Metzenbaum and here it is 19 years later and I’m still very proud of you and probably even more proud of you and the work that you’ve done and I just want to congratulate you. And I want to wish you a happy birthday.
S45: Thank you. Not today. Three days four days away but thank you for the question.
S43: Who would who would you pick now.
S34: Well I don’t know. I don’t know what the configuration other desks are configuration is another other desks. I don’t think. Yeah I don’t know. These are the. These are not the most progressive eight senators there are.
S43: You know I arrived in this desk.
S21: So since you’ve just done all this I’ll do what I think is sort of what I’d most like to be like.
S46: I guess I start with there are no giants in the Senate. I used to think there was when I was 15 or 20. They’re all human beings they’re all flawed. Every one of these eight is pretty flawed.
S34: McGovern had a humility that was unusual in politics.
S46: Glen Taylor had a courage that was pretty unusually took out of Mississippi the worst human being maybe in the 20th century in the Senate. Theodore Bilbo from Mississippi. He was unseen. He was not he was he was refused a seat because Glen Taylor stood up and stopped it. Hugo Black had the best journey the furthest journey from where we started.
S41: So I guess I would take the easy way out and pick parts of each of them.
S47: Sorry Senator Brown I’m I’m not going to ask you about the sad and depressed state of the Cleveland Browns. I’m already ready for baseball season and spring training but I happen to be a person who believes that the only issue that’s two who should be the Democratic nominee for president is the person who is best able to beat Donald Trump. And I happen to think that the person in this country most likely to be able to beat Donald Trump is looking at me right now. Applause.
S48: And I would ask you and maybe implore you.
S49: And I think there’s a lot of people in this room who would agree with me. We cannot afford to lose this election even if it means giving up a Senate seat in Ohio. The country needs to beat Donald Trump. The world needs to be Donald Trump. Please please think about running for president. If it’s not too late. Thanks I am. Applause.
S9: Thank you for saying that Concordia and iconic I went to the four early states spent two months thinking seriously about it in the end.
S50: You’ve got it you’ve got a really really really want to be president and I didn’t have that dream I mean anybody that’s known me a number of people in the room I’ve known for 25 years and I’ve never had that great desire to do it I really push I don’t think you I mean one of the one of the reasons I went back to the miller city question one of the reasons I’ve won in the past I think is I I have a joy in this I I think what what I’ve always loved Hubert Humphrey because of the term happy warrior and I mean I understood why in 68 people were unhappy with Johnson and all that and I’d love if Humphrey had my desk as I would love to have written about him but I think one of the most important things is people expect their elected officials to be optimistic and to bring some joy to the campaign and to the job I just don’t think I could have summoned up the joy to be the right kind of candidate I I am I I’m reminded of a you know in most of my colleagues that run and know no disrespect anybody doing it there in the arena I’m not but they’ve had an ace some of them and plan to run for president for 10 or 20 years and that’s OK.
S9: I mean I plenty people said to me when Well I said I don’t really want to be president. They’ll say that’s why you should run well it’s not the way the system works it isn’t peculiar.
S50: But there was a there was a Vermont senator 40 or 50 years ago that said the only cure for the presidential virus in the U.S. Senate is embalming fluid.
S33: So far I just I just don’t want to be that. I’m sorry I. I see that I don’t. I do think.
S9: But I close with I. Then the answer is I do think that we can. I do think we’re gonna be Trump. I don’t know who the best candidate is I don’t even know why I literally don’t know who I am whom I’m gonna vote for at this point. That’s why you have a long season and you figure out I think we’ll know more by January February or March. Who’s the best candidate to be Trump. But I prefer.
S51: As I think live at Politics and Prose is a co-production of the bookstore and Slate dot com. For information about upcoming Politics and Prose events visit politics dash prose dot com and please let us know what you think of this program. Our email is podcasts at Slate dot com.