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Delving into the debate inside progressive politics with Maurice Mitchell: podcast and transcript

Chris Hayes speaks with Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party, about strategies for reducing longstanding tensions within progressive organizations.

“My argument is because [right wing authoritarianism] is the central struggle of the day, we need the most effective, principled and impactful progressive organizations that are seeking to challenge that,” says Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party. Mitchell is also an activist and co-founder of Blackbird, an organization that has provided infrastructure support for the Black Lives Matter movement and other groups around the country. The social movement strategist wrote a 6,000-word article for The Forge called “Building Resilient Organizations,” in which he described and shared potential solutions for overcoming some of the biggest problems within progressive spaces. He joins WITHpod to discuss the piece, roots of the longstanding political and social tensions within movements on the left and strategies for resetting.

Note: This is a rough transcript — please excuse any typos.

Maurice Mitchell: It’s clear to anybody with eyes that the central struggle of our time is this resurgence of right-wing authoritarianism, this resurgence of this neofascist resurgence globally. And my argument is because that is the central struggle of the day, we need the most effective principled and impactful progressive organizations that are seeking to challenge that.

Chris Hayes: Hello and welcome to "Why Is This Happening?" with me, your host, Chris Hayes.

New York City has weird off-year election cycle. So the mayoral elections are the year after the presidential, so 2021. There’s three big elections in America in the off-years, it’s the Virginia governor, the New Jersey governor, and New York City mayor.

And in 2021, there’s a very crowded field of candidates, one of whom was a woman named Dianne Morales. Dianne Morales was born in New York. She went to Stuyvesant High School, which is a very difficult, selective public high school in the city. She went to state university and then she worked in the New York City public schools. She ran a nonprofit. And she was, at the beginning of the campaign, seen as a real kind of one of the big progressive primary candidates.

And what happened over the course of that campaign was this sort of interesting microcosm of a lot of the tensions and complications of modern left spaces, which is basically that the campaign sort of folded in on itself in increasing recriminations and frustration by the people working on the campaign who ended up calling for a union to unionize the staff of that campaign.

They wanted a sort of floor of policies. Sometimes that would include like not having to work weekends. And basically, the campaign never got off the ground as a campaign and instead descended into like an internal battle to organize the Dianne Morales campaign workers, but never went anywhere as a instrument for a mayoral candidacy.

And a lot of people I talked to both in New York City politics and broader national politics when looking at this Dianne Morales example identified something in it that they had seen in lots of places. Lots of left and progressive spaces, whether that’s in movement organizations that can be sometimes in political parties or organizations like a (ph) Democratic Socialists of America. It could be in non-profits that are working to achieve some kind of progressive change, which is a kind of like a form of factionalism and internal dispute that ends up kind of collapsing in on itself to the detriment of whatever the ultimate goal of the organization or institution is.

And I’m not saying this with any view specifically on whether or not the working conditions in that campaign were better, now (ph) they may have well been terrible.

What I think the reason that that example resonated is part of a broader discussion that has been having within left liberal progressive spaces about how to sort of keep two different competing imperatives in mind and working together. And they are this. One is being sort of attuned to all kinds of radical deconstructions of the various hierarchies that produce the society we live in, the institutions we occupy, and the workplaces we function in; white supremacy, patriarchy, class hierarchies, owners versus, you know, bosses versus workers.

There’s all kinds of ways in which the hierarchies order daily life, they order organizational life and they order political life.

And part of being on the left often is seeking to upend those hierarchies, particularly because those hierarchies themselves are unjust, right? They’re inherited. They produce a world in which people don’t get to flourish, in which one person wields power over another, often in a capricious or cruel fashion.

At the same time, some level of organization, some level of hierarchy, and some level of debate and back and forth is necessary for any functioning organization, any functioning workplace, any functioning institution.

And those two values, having spaces, organizations, publications, online message boards, e-mail lists, whatever it is in spaces occupied by current left progressive organizers and movement folks while being attuned to the fact that often those spaces can be infiltrated or shot through with all of the sort of perils of the hierarchies that we occupy, it’s really hard to navigate those two things.

And oftentimes, it results, I think, in those organizations, those movements, those institutions, those places kind of collapsing in on themselves a little bit in a way that we saw with the Dianne Morales campaign which, you know, ended its days not as really a viable mayoral campaign, but instead was like on the evening news for, you know, staffers outside the headquarters, picketing the headquarters.

And so, there’s been a very robust conversation that has happened in some of these spaces broadly in the left progressive world about how to kind of thread this needle, how to sort of run campaigns, and organizations, and a movement that is, you know, rigorous and tactically deft, and also aware of all the ways that these hierarchies, you know, can warp and distort the work.

And there’s this piece that got published online that I just saw everywhere all of a sudden. It was by a guy named Maurice Mitchell who’s the National Director of the Working Families Party. The Working Families Party is a sort of progressive party that comes out of New York, but is in a bunch of states now. And he’s been an organizer for years.

He was a co-founder of Blackbird, which is an organization that provide infrastructure support for Black Lives Matter movement, other groups around the country where he just sort of wrote this, I wouldn’t call a manifesto, but basically wrote this piece that was like let’s talk about how we are talking to each other and organizing in left spaces, and the pathologies that have come to inhabit those spaces sometimes that make us having productive organizations and effective campaigns hard.

And that piece went everywhere. I saw it everywhere in all kinds of places that I’m familiar with. Michelle Goldberg had a column about it in "The New York Times," if you saw that, and interviewed Maurice.

And I've, since I’ve seen it, been wanting to talk to him about it because I think it does manage to thread this needle, a needle that I’m trying to thread on this podcast all the time to sort of find the place between being aware of the kind of oppression of the various hierarchies we inhabit, but also being able to have, like, robust discourse within that world where people can argue and go at each other over ideas. And I thought that Maurice did an incredible job of sort of laying out his vision on that. And so, it’s a great pleasure to have Maurice Mitchell on the program.

Maurice Mitchell: It’s really, really good to be here with you.

Chris Hayes: Tell me a little bit about just your background. I mean, how old are you?

Maurice Mitchell: I am 43.

Chris Hayes: Oh, wow. You look much younger. All right. You’re --

Maurice Mitchell: I’m vegan. I drink a lot of water. I’m vegan. I --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- try to work out.


Chris Hayes: Yeah. Well, you’re good (ph), you're looking very young. But, so, you and I --

Maurice Mitchell: The movement keeps me young.


Chris Hayes: That’s right. Jesus, yeah, you’re like an ad for it. You and I are exactly the same age, so we have I think the same generational frame of reference. And tell me about how long you’ve been doing work as in social justice, in progressive organizing.

Maurice Mitchell: Yes. So I started really early as a youth organizer. My parents are immigrants from the Caribbean. My grandmother came here as a domestic worker in the '60s. I was born in '79. And I was born around my parents and also my aunts and uncles who all came here through my grandmother.

And witnessing all of their struggles as Black immigrants, trying to get a leg up in this country during the '80s, during the Reagan era, really informed who I was politically and kind of very early on what I wanted to do.

So I started off as a youth organizer in grade school. I eventually went to Howard University. And I was a campus organizer. And at that time, a classmate of mine, Prince Jones was killed by the police. And that really motivated to radicalize a lot of my classmates. And I was involved in a lot of direct organizing around his murder and seeking justice for him.

I went on to organize around the criminal legal system in general and divestment from private prisons. I went back to Long Island, where I grew up, and I worked on the hyper-local level on a very, very small under-resourced organization for many years working on educational equity, and environmental racism, and other issues mainly on working class communities of color.

I went on to work in New York, primarily New York, on the state level, bringing organizations together. In August of 2014, when Michael Brown was murdered, I felt a calling to support many of the young people on the ground there and the communities in St. Louis and in Ferguson.

And in those early weeks, I embedded with an organization called the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis and worked on the ground level in that movement, and eventually helped through Blackbird, an organization that I started with two other activists, to resource and support and to provide infrastructure of what will be known as the Movement for Black Lives.

And when Donald Trump was elected, and he kind of rode this white Christian identity wave to the White House, I was pretty disturbed like a lot of people. And that informed my shift to working at and leading the Working Families Party to create an electoral united front like a sort of multiracial working-class alignment of forces to challenge them and to ensure that he would be a one-term president.

And all of those experiences, I think, informed the piece (ph). And kind of acutely, some of the experiences that I had over the past few years and conversations I had with other leaders kind of informed, I think, the necessity to say out loud what I’ve been thinking and feeling just in my day-to-day work and some of the conversations I might had have, but were private conversations with other activists, leaders, practitioners that I thought needed an airing in the public.

Chris Hayes: The piece is called "Building Resilient Organizations." And what was the thinking behind writing and publishing it?

Maurice Mitchell: Sure. So a few things, I believe that the central struggle of the day is the fight against global authoritarianism. And I think it’s required of institutions that are committed to social change that we are the most effective, and strategic, and resilient in this political moment than maybe any of my lifetime.

And as a result, I think it’s actually, it’s not theoretical, it’s not abstract, our organization's becoming self-critical so that we could be as strong as possible. And that’s really what informed my piece. And what I recognized was that there were conflicts and challenges inside of our organizations that were sometimes rupturing our organizations or definitely putting us in positions where power and strategic victories were left out of reach.

And I wanted to discuss these issues in a productive way. I’ve seen some discourse that I felt wasn’t exactly hitting the mark because they kind of focus on either specific examples or specific individuals. And I wanted to elevate our analysis to a more structural sort of gaze so that we can begin to actually create the proper assessments, right?

What I was seeing was, you know, problematic workplace, some problematic, feisty young people who are, you know, not really seeing the big picture or whatever. And I felt like that really limited the conversation.

And what I felt we sort of experienced acutely as really intense interpersonal conflict was actually the downstream impact of really, really big things like, you know, all of us experiencing the tail end of 40 years of neoliberalism or all of us experiencing years under pandemic. I felt like those things were actually more helpful in explaining the source of these conflicts.

And the other thing is that if we understand the source of these conflicts as being these bigger things that none of us are necessarily, you know, creating, then I think it gives all of us some more grace and compassion for the predicament that we find ourselves in. And therefore, we could all kind of shift from a me versus you to us versus these really big problems and really big contradictions that we alone can’t solve but could probably manage so that we could be effective and focused on the big challenges of the day. And for me, that’s all of us fighting authoritarianism.

Chris Hayes: I want to concretize this a little bit. Just, first of all, I would say you just mentioned the pandemic. I do think that, like, this is an ongoing theme in this podcast that the pandemic made us all lose it a bit. I mean, it was unbelievable and profound trauma that continues to cascade, in the most vital way, people scared for their lives and often losing loved ones, and in mourning, and in grief, and in trauma from that, but also the disruption to, you know, normal life, disruption to access to mental health services, a million different ways that it was traumatic.

And I think lots of organizations, progressive organizations but also just normal workplaces, like went through all kinds of very intense stuff that was this confluence of, you know, the pandemic and the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, and the political situation of the country that created this cocktail.

When you talk about things that we (ph) experience as interpersonal conflict, like just specify a little bit. I didn’t want you to name anyone, but just like what does that mean in the context of what you’re talking about.

Maurice Mitchell: Sure. So it often might take the form of battle lines drawn on the lines of positionality, right. So, you know, somebody higher in the hierarchy and, you know, against folks who are lower in the hierarchy, right?

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: Or it might take the form of battle lines drawn around identity, right? So somebody is racialized or (ph) gender identity, right?

And what I’m suggesting is that multiple things might be happening at the same time, right. So those conditions that might be very specific to a workplace or the dynamics between two people might be valid. Like, I’ll give an example with me, OK?

So at the Working Families Party, I’m the boss, right. And at a certain level, like there’s more than 150 people that work at the Working Families Party around the country, right.

I know, because I’m me, that I and a lot of the other people at the Working Families Party in leadership try really hard our level best, really try to lean into creating a workplace that is productive where we care for our people. I’d like to think we’re doing a really good job. And I hope that a lot of other people at the Working Families Party feel the same way.

So as much as that’s true, what might also be true is that somebody lower in the hierarchy might legitimately be having some difficulties at work --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- and could very well have a fact-based sort of real grounded --

Chris Hayes: Agree.

Maurice Mitchell: -- assessment that they have --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- a real agreement, right?

Chris Hayes: Yeah, yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: Now, my reality and their reality could be true at the same time. The truth of their reality doesn’t necessarily make me a corrupt boss.

Chris Hayes: Right.

Maurice Mitchell: The truth of my reality doesn’t necessarily make them a ungrounded, you know --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- unreasonable worker, right? And what I’m suggesting though is that the fact that we’re living under the pandemic, the fact that we’re a progressive organization trying to challenge all these things living under patriarchy and white supremacy, living under neoliberalism makes all of that really, really hard.

And what we’re trying to do is really hard. What they’re doing is hard. What I’m doing is really hard. And we should, both of us or all of us, recognize that in trying to bridge the gap.

Chris Hayes: I mean, one of the things that you point you in the piece, and I think again one other thing that I think is so interesting with the piece is that at one level you might be listening, I was going to say, like, well, I don’t work for a progressive organization or, you know, so this seems like not applicable. But I think it’s really broadly applicable because I think that all kinds of workplaces and institutions, you know, meeting dynamics, who gets listened to and who doesn’t, right, like accountability for, you know, if a supervisor thinks work is not good, right, and criticize it.

So as you, like, there’s also there’s that vector and there’s a vector of, like, well, this meeting space is like all the men talk over all the women. And that’s like a 100 percent real thing that happens, right, or this is a meeting space that’s dominated by people that are white and don’t take it seriously the views of folks that are not white or don’t listen when they’re pushed back on from perspectives like (ph).

And yet at the same time, one of the things you say is that there needs to be a space where these identity positions aren’t the trump card. That, basically, you can’t run an organization of any kind in which that clause, as a blank, comma, gives us a level of authority that is not surpassable, right. That, like, everybody’s got to play at some level in the space of we are having discourse, we are having debate, we are having back and forth and there’s not a trumping identity if that makes sense. That is the thing that really people struggle with, I mean, really honestly struggle with both in good --

Maurice Mitchell: Yeah.

Chris Hayes: -- faith and in bad faith, I think.

Maurice Mitchell: Yeah. And the audience for my article are good-faith people who are seriously wrestling with how to make their organizing spaces or workplaces is productive, right. And to this point, I think my prescription for this is that we must do both. So we have to always focus on our North Star.

And for us, you know, for Working Families Party, we pipeline hundreds of candidates into elected office on the municipal level, on the state level, and increasingly on the federal level whose backgrounds aren’t the traditional backgrounds, right, in the interest of working people. And so that has to be our North Star every single day.

And we need to address these realities that come up. So I’m Black, right. Those listening to the podcast may or may not know that, but I’m Black. I care very deeply about racial justice. I care very deeply about challenging white supremacy. And I know that the best way in my institution to do that is through the work, through us continuing to do the work while taking seriously these things that come up.

So I understand that even though I’m Black and I’m the boss, we live in a system that is bigger than the Working Families Party. So issues around patriarchy and white supremacy are going to show up in how we deal with each other every single day. And therefore, there is no way that we, as best as we want to, can resolve those problems so they no longer exist inside of the Working Families Party.

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: And because we’re aware of that, we have to focus on them, minimize them, take them seriously, and continue the work.

And then the second thing is, you know, there’s this discourse on the right that I think is very bad faith around identity politics, that doesn’t even take identity politics seriously so they just kind of create the straw man argument.

But I think there’s people within our midst who are coming from a really good place, but have misappropriated identity politics also and utilized identity politics in a manner that I call neoliberal identity politics where identity politics is no longer designed to develop solidarity and to sort of build a bigger we and to create power for the collective. It's designed mainly to advantage an argument or mainly to shut things down or mainly to advantage an individual person’s individual needs.

And I would say that that’s the misappropriation of the identity politics that many, many people spent a lot of energy and intellectual labor and a lot of organizing to develop. And I want to kind of call us into taking seriously what identity politics is actually designed for because I actually think that identity politics are necessary now more than ever in a moment when we need to build solidarity across many, many people.

Chris Hayes: I mean, we have Barbara Smith who's one of the organizers who was part of the women’s collective that, you know, coined that phrase and has been a guest on the podcast, you know, talked about it on the podcast, right, that the idea is to sort of build lines of solidarity across identity as the original vision, you know, particularly of a collective of feminist Black women who were trying to create a larger coalition, right, of power.

But I do think to go back to the point you made about the right. I mean, this is why this stuff gets, to me, so treacherous, but is also so important to talk about because given an entire discord on the right that’s like you can’t say anything anymore, cancel culture, identity politics wielded as this cudgel (ph).

So that’s a discourse on the right. And again, I think most of it’s in bad faith, although I think there are people who end up parroting those lines who were actually reachable and are not in bad faith but have kind of received that. And that is giving them an articulation of some of the frustrations they feel, where they feel like their identity ends up precluding them from having an opinion of something or having a back and forth with someone, right? And so --

Maurice Mitchell: Right.

Chris Hayes: -- overcoming that is tricky because you’re already in this defensive crouch, right? You’ve got like the whole --

Maurice Mitchell: Yeah.

Chris Hayes: -- world of, like, the right out there. And then you’ve got folks who are really committed to, like, dismantling these really, really insidious systems, right, systems that are insidious precisely because they operated a sub-textual communicative, psychological level, right. Like, who says what and gives what look on their face when this person says a thing, and none of us (ph) may be conscious of it. It's --

Maurice Mitchell: Right.

Chris Hayes: -- operating on us.

And so, you’re trying to, like, find space between those two things, which is like the cudgel the right has used with it, but also being like how can we have a conversation that doesn’t have these kind of argument enders (ph).

Maurice Mitchell: Yes, and that’s what made writing this piece very difficult. And why I --

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Maurice Mitchell: -- told (ph) --

Chris Hayes: You can hear how hard I’m working to talk (ph) --


Maurice Mitchell: You know, like I agonize over every word because the thing that I lost sleep over was the idea that any of the ideas in the piece could be misappropriated or give fuel to arguments on the right against --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- our movement and be used in bad faith. But I do think that there’s something to say here and, you know, I don’t think it does us any favors to, because we there is bad faith folks on the right or people critiquing us on the right, to not have this conversation on the open, I think it’s imperative that we do.

The thing that I noticed is that this conversation is already very salient. People want to have a conversation.

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: And number two, it’s important, right? And the difference, I think, between me, and there’s a lot of differences between me and a lot of the commentators on the right, but one of them that’s in the piece is that I think a lot of the folks on the right, they’re either serious about this or they’re not, but they’re argumentation suggests that the central struggle of the day is this cultural battle against rightness.

Chris Hayes: Right, right, right.

Maurice Mitchell: That is the central struggle of our time.

Chris Hayes: Right, that’s the most important thing, yeah. The woke mind virus, in the words of (ph) Elon Musk, yes.

Maurice Mitchell: Yes, yes, the woke mind virus is the central struggle of our times. I couldn’t disagree more.

It’s clear to anybody with eyes that the central struggle of our time is this resurgence of right-wing authoritarianism, this resurgence of this neofascist resurgence globally. And my argument is because that is the central struggle of the day, we need the most effective, principled and impactful progressive organizations that are seeking to challenge that, which is why I’m talking about these things.

And the other thing I would say is, so I’m 43, we’re the same age. It is actually not indicative of our times that there’s people in their 20s who are making people our age feel uncomfortable and are annoying people our age and older by the things that they say and their demands of our culture. That actually is true of every era of existence --

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Maurice Mitchell: -- in written history.

Chris Hayes: OK. I’m glad you said that. Can we talk about that for a little bit? Just because this is the thing I really wrestle with because, you know, I’ve been out in sort of left and liberal and progressive spaces for most of my adult life. And there’s definitely generational stuff, like people my age who are, like, you know, they feel like they’re walking on eggshells around the 25-year-olds they work with, for instance, right?

Maurice Mitchell: Yeah, right.

Chris Hayes: And like I kind of get that, but it’s also like wasn’t ever thus, like this idea that there’s some like new thing, some that this generation is newly zealous about political consciousness and the specifics of their political consciousness (ph) or shared political consciousness, like I just don’t know if I buy it. Like, it just seems like, I don’t know, I think we’re just getting middle-aged, and we don't like it (ph) --


Maurice Mitchell: Yes, I think that, look, no, I know that I’m getting middle-aged, right, because there is hip-hop on the radio that I listen to that is almost unrecognizable to me, right. And so --

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Maurice Mitchell: -- I know I’m now that guy who --

Chris Hayes: Yes, yes.

Maurice Mitchell: -- doesn’t understand youth culture, right?

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Maurice Mitchell: And so --

Chris Hayes: I am, too.

Maurice Mitchell: -- yeah, so I think a lot of what’s happening is, yeah, we’re getting middle-aged, and so there is aspects of youth culture that is impenetrable, is like inscrutable to us.

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Maurice Mitchell: And that’s just kind of what happens.

Chris Hayes: I texted my wife the other day. I was like, the outfits these kids are wearing on the subway, I tell you.

Maurice Mitchell: Right.


Chris Hayes: Like literally, I was just like, and not even like --

Maurice Mitchell: Yes.

Chris Hayes: -- that I thought they were bad or ugly, I’m just like man, oh, man, what the 20-year-olds are wearing on the subway these days (ph), boy.

Maurice Mitchell: A hundred percent, no. There’s people in their 20s on my staff that have to translate things to me because --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- I’m on social media and like I’m trying to figure things out. And actually, after this piece was published, a number of people in the movement who, you know, kind of their primary sort of work was in like the late '60s or the early '70s, they wrote me. And they’re like, yeah, we were having issues like this --

Chris Hayes: Yeah, yes.

Maurice Mitchell: -- in our day, right?

And so, what I attempted to do, which I hope will be helpful is rather than focus on that, which I don’t think it’s very productive, nor also what I say is 100 percent true because there’s a lot of folks who tend to be younger and have less experience that I think align a lot with me, and there’s people who tend to be --

Chris Hayes: Totally, yes.

Maurice Mitchell: -- older and have more experience who --

Chris Hayes: Yes, have a different view or, right.

Maurice Mitchell: Yeah. And a lot of the tendencies, which I argue are problematic, I mean, they hit every one of them, right?

Chris Hayes: Right (ph).

Maurice Mitchell: So --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- I do want to challenge that. But the other thing I would say is I wanted to create a language so that we can manage these tensions, manage these contradictions, and create solutions to these real problems in ways that will be more productive to kind of accelerate the conversation that has to happen, right.

Like, we need people of color and we need Black people specifically to raise concerns around anti-Black racism and to raise concerns about in racism. We need women to challenge patriarchy and raise issues around sexism. We need people in general to challenge issues around unchecked hierarchies. That’s actually healthy for our organizations or for our movements.

What I’m arguing for is some grace and compassion for all of us --

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Maurice Mitchell: -- as comrades and some tools for us to be productive and how we managed these challenges so that we don’t get stuck because we can’t afford to get stuck in a moment when everything we do really matters.

Chris Hayes: When you talk about people publishing this piece and people reaching out because one of the things you sort of identified is kind of tendencies, you know, that crop up over and over in these organizational spaces. And it’s interesting to hear you talk about veterans in the '60s and '70s, you know, reaching out to you and talking about it because I’ve read stuff. I mean, the factional fighting that happened in that era, I mean, the feminist movement, it got so, so, so nasty.

I mean, the thing that I always say to people when they talk about factionalism is like John Lewis was run out of SNCC as a basically like sellout turncoat after getting beaten with an inch of his life on the Edmund Pettus Bridge like pretty soon thereafter. Like, John Lewis, like one of the iconic civil rights heroes of American history, right, who like put his body on the line. No one could question, like, well, you know, John Lewis was a dilettante and like he got into a factual dispute that he was on the wrong side of.

And so, you know, this stuff is just endemic, I think, to politics and particularly, I think, to left politics because left politics are oriented around kind of anti-hierarchical views, right, around egalitarian views. And organizations are inherently inegalitarian. I mean, that’s really what it comes down to.

Like, you have this --

Maurice Mitchell: Yeah.

Chris Hayes: -- section of yourself where you talked about one of the sort of tendencies here as a kind of anti-leadership attitude. And it’s like, right, like organizations have leaders sort of naturally, I mean, not naturally, they’re just the structure of organizations. There's some kind of, you know, and like not wanting to be told what to do is a pretty important thing (ph). I mean, I say this as someone who, like, really doesn’t like being told what to do, so I’m like I’m the worst about this.

But that, to me, is it’s both like specific to this moment, but also just an irresolvable conflict, like if there’s --

Maurice Mitchell: Right.

Chris Hayes: -- if humans are around in the year 3000, right, aren’t people on the left in the year 3000 going to be having that fight?


Maurice Mitchell: I think so. And I actually think it’s a lot of the things I talk about I think are tensions and contradictions --

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Maurice Mitchell: -- that are to be managed, not problems to be solved. So I think it’s a healthy --

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Maurice Mitchell: -- tension, right?

Chris Hayes: Totally agree.

Maurice Mitchell: And I think we should all scrutinize leadership. I’m a leader. I run an institution. I desire scrutiny. And I think all leaders should. And I think the minute leaders don’t have any scrutiny is when we create the conditions for leaders to drift into --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- you know, all types of corruption and other problems, right?

Chris Hayes: Look at Elon Musk, dude, like --

Maurice Mitchell: Yeah.

Chris Hayes: -- look what happens if no one’s telling you like, bro, don’t do that. If no one’s in power --

Maurice Mitchell: Yes, just zero scrutiny and --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- all the power in the world.

Chris Hayes: Yeah, yeah, it’s bad.

Maurice Mitchell: Right. But what I suggest is there’s a difference between scrutiny and hardened cynicism --

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Maurice Mitchell: -- as it relates to leadership. And simply because leadership could be held in a problematic or corrupt fashion doesn’t mean leadership in itself is corrupt.

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Maurice Mitchell: We have to create space for accountable leadership.

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Maurice Mitchell: We have to create space for accountable leadership. We have to create space for productive democratic leadership if we ever want to build organizations and institutions that are viable.

And the other thing I notice is that one of the strategies that we use in order to deal with this natural tension is sometimes for people to like assume leadership or even though people have leadership to kind of to be coy and to deny the fact that they have leadership. And I actually think that that’s problematic.

I think, look, if you’re choosing, like nobody forced me to take on this leadership role. I’m the National Director of the Working Families Party, right, like I chose to be in this role. And the more clear I am that this hierarchy exists, the more accountable I could be --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- to the folks who might be lower on the hierarchy and the more we could have conversations about that hierarchy and how to make sure that it’s functional and it’s in balance.

But the more that we're like fuzzy about it, I think the more we get into problems. And I would argue that one of the other strategies is to make organizations that are completely flat, and there’s some benefits to that. But I think when you create flat organizations, it obscures where there’s imbalances in power. And generally, leaders emerge even in flat organizations.

Chris Hayes: Yes. If you take away formal structures of power, they are replaced with informal structures of power, which are often less accountable, and more obscure and less transparent than formal structures of power.

Maurice Mitchell: Yes. And generally, what happens is people that, based on their identity, are gifted with societal privilege are able to take full advantage of the sort of opaque nature of --

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Maurice Mitchell: -- where power lies in those flat structures. So, you know, what I call for is more clarity around leadership.

And also, if you’re choosing to have a hierarchical structure, which most organizations choose to have, then be very clear and upfront about that. And also validate why you have that structure and be upfront about it and be consistent about it.

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: And, you know, say with your chest. And if you can’t validate it, then you have a problem. If you can’t validate why your organization exists, why the structures of your organization exist, why the positions in your organization exist, well, then that might be the source of a lot of the conflicts, the --

Chris Hayes: Right.

Maurice Mitchell: -- the lack of clarity of the mission, of the structure, of the organization. So what I try to do is also talk about how to create more resilient organizations. And a lot of it comes down to being explicit about the things that you think might be implicit.

Chris Hayes: More of our conversation after this quick break.


Chris Hayes: You know, the thing about "say it with your chest," I think, is important because I think one of the things, and it’s not like I have any particular wisdom here because, you know, I’m just a random person who’s 43. And one of the things I’ve learned in the time that I spent, you know, in progressive spaces and on the left broadly is that there’s always going to be someone who thinks you’re a sellout and it’s to your left, right?

And that goes all the way, you know, like there’s a bunch of people who thought Marx was a sellout and like overly authoritarian or, you know, overly hierarchical in his view, like there’s no end to that, right?

So what you have to do is just be like these are my principles, and this is what I believe in, and this is how, and be honest about it. You know, like, you know, I kind of know what my politics are. You know, I describe myself as a boring liberal all the time, and I basically am. And that’s fine.

You know, there’s other people who are more radical than me, and that’s fine. They have different politics than I do, and I try to, like, engage people with good faith to (ph) people more conservative than me.

But there’s no way out of the discourse or argument or tension or dynamics other than owning what you believe or what you think the problem is or owning a difference in tactical vision and arguing about it or talking about it. Like, there’s no resolution other than that, it’s just human beings. That’s all movements are, but all politics are.

Maurice Mitchell: Yeah, I think that that’s right. I mean, my piece sort of talks about that on the organizational level.

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: Right? And one analogy I use, so before I had work in social movements, I worked mainly in the service sector, mainly in restaurants and fast-food places. And, you know, if you get a job at Foot Locker in the mall, right, and, you know, at the mall there’s a lot of different places that you go work, but you’re working at Foot Locker. It would be probably odd if you suggested that Foot Locker should start selling popcorn shrimp --

Chris Hayes: Right.

Maurice Mitchell: -- right, especially if there’s a Sizzler --

Chris Hayes: Right.

Maurice Mitchell: -- at the mall, right?

And so, what I’m arguing for organizations is to be clear about ideologically who they are. And you don’t have to turn in on yourself every time someone new comes to your organization with the different ideological demand --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- of your institution if you’re clear about who you are --

Chris Hayes: That’s right.

Maurice Mitchell: -- especially if there’s a Sizzler --

Chris Hayes: Right.

Maurice Mitchell: -- down the road, right?

Chris Hayes: Right, right.

Maurice Mitchell: And that’s similar for individuals. You don’t have to demure from your ideological position simply because somebody is arguing to the right or to the left of you, especially if you’re clear about what your ideological position is.

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: And if you’re unclear, then I’m arguing that you should get clear. But once you’re clear, say with your chest --

Chris Hayes: Right.

Maurice Mitchell: -- and then we could have that debate.

What I think has happened is that we’re losing our ability to engage in principled, good faith debate. And one of the reasons why I felt it was really important to write this piece and to put my name on it is that I wanted to gauge in the debate.

Chris Hayes: Right.

Maurice Mitchell: I wrote a piece that has a point of view, that isn’t liberal, that says I disagree with things, and I’d like to engage with people around these ideas because I desperately want to make our organization stronger, and I desperately want to fight the good fight out in the world. And I don’t think that happens by us not wrestling around these ideas that are very important to us.

I think there is disagreement, and I think we should pursue those disagreements in a generative way. Like, I want to promote the fact that there’s different ideas around the direction of the Working Families Party and eventually get to a position and pursue that position based on good faith debate because really, really good people, really, really principled people can have --

Chris Hayes: Can disagree.

Maurice Mitchell: -- real disagreements. And it doesn’t mean --

Chris Hayes: Often do, yes.

Maurice Mitchell: -- it doesn’t mean that one person is somehow not committed or another person is somehow corrupt.

And I think what we’ve been reduced to, and I think some of the social media discourse has helped, is that anybody that disagrees with us on a tactic is fundamentally corrupt and coming from a place that is fundamentally wrong --

Chris Hayes: Right.

Maurice Mitchell: -- and simply because they have a different position on a tactic. And I think that that can't allow for any meaningful debate to take place. And we have to mature our discourse so that we can engage in debates.

Now, I think there’s bad faith people that I’m not interested in debating, right? But if there’s good faith people where there’s enough basic agreement on the contours of a conversation, then I want to really jump into that debate. And I think there’s a lot to learn and there’s a lot to progress if you could engage in that level of debate.

Chris Hayes: You talk a bit about social media, and it clearly looms large here. And I think two things loom large, one is social media and the other, I think, there’s a period where everyone was remote and onlineness kind of cannibalized everyone’s interactions.

And I think anyone knows that it’s sort of easier to take things out of context or misinterpret someone or read bad intentions into things when we take away in-person queues, right. Like, we as humans communicate through a whole variety of means, only some of them are verbal. There’s a ton that we’re doing nonverbally.

And so, when we’re reduced to verbal, remote communication, or on Zoom or text or e-mails like sometimes things, it’s much easier for things to get lost. So there’s that aspect of it.

Then there’s also social media generally which, I think, you take a pretty, pretty dim view of. And I think that, you know, I honestly think social media drives a lot of this in both directions.

I happen to watch a lot of FOX for my job, and I can’t tell you how often they find a random person on social media saying something --

Maurice Mitchell: Right.

Chris Hayes: -- that is maybe kind of slightly ludicrous and --

Maurice Mitchell: Yeah.

Chris Hayes: -- holding it up as, like, an example of, you know. And you’ll see that sometimes even, I think, like, you know, there’s like, oh, reading, telling people they should read is ableist. Or, you know, there was, that (ph) cooking in your home was problematic. I mean, there’s these different social media discourses that pop up sometimes in which some kind of left --

Maurice Mitchell: Yeah.

Chris Hayes: -- quasi left and appropriated analysis is used to make some point about a mundane, and I don’t want to be too belittling because in some ways like a big part of radical thought is actually taking mundane and banal all things and unpacking them or problematizing them.

Maurice Mitchell: Yeah.

Chris Hayes: So it’s not like --

Maurice Mitchell: Yeah.

Chris Hayes: -- that tradition is inherently ludicrous, which I think a lot of people sometimes rush to the conclusion of. But there's just a lot of, I mean, I guess I would say there’s a lot of nonsense in social media. And there’s a lot of people saying things that are just, like, kind of silly or ludicrous because it's just, they’re (ph) people saying stuff.

But then, it takes on a life of its own both I think in organizations and then in the political discourse more broadly. So I’d love to hear you talk about the role that social media plays in this.

Maurice Mitchell: Sure. So there’s two things I want to say. Number one, as organizers, we’re always using the technology of the day in order to communicate and to organize.

So in the '50s, there were folks using the mimeograph machines in order to create flyers rapidly to get out and to organize in the civil rights movement and in the various movements of the day. And our mimeograph machine happens to be these social media tools, right? And I’ve certainly used them in order to organize in very, very constructive ways.

Now, putting that aside for a minute, these social media tools aren’t just completely neutral blank slates, right? And we’re providing content that is being sort of pushed through these algorithms and pushed through and interpreted through A.I. And it comes back in the form, for each person that’s using social media, this sort of prism that is based on this very sort of individualized --

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Maurice Mitchell: -- sort of information environment.

Chris Hayes: Yes, contacts list stripped of, yes.

Maurice Mitchell: Yeah. And so that to me is the most problematic aspect of social media the fact that that is what’s happening. And what it does is it means that people’s already formed opinions are generally reinforced by the information that they’re getting, that misinformation/disinformation.

Things that are ludicrous that aren’t informed or grounded by fact are shared with the same sort of standing as grounded fact-based information and without any ways for I or you to filter all that, that information could unbalance, really make it harder for people to understand things and to create context for a world that requires some meaning-making.

And I think that that, in general, is bad for democracy because we need people writ large to understand their world so that when they’re voting or when they’re opining on an issue that is debatable, they have some concrete grounded facts and analysis at their disposal instead of information or tweets or whatever that are being filtered through the algorithm from random sources.

Yeah, one of the things that I think the right-wing media environment is, you know, I’m almost like I’m impressed by how good they are at identifying any point of information to validate their totalizing argument about the left --

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Maurice Mitchell: -- from any random place --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- and being able to immediately get it from that, maybe it’s like Bob1750 (ph) at --

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Maurice Mitchell: -- whatever --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- and get it on "Tucker Carlson" the next day, right?

Chris Hayes: Yes. They will build segments on a person tweeted a thing, like just a person --

Maurice Mitchell: Yes.

Chris Hayes: -- tweeted a thing, they said a thing. They said that this Halloween costume is problematic. That’s the --

Maurice Mitchell: Right.

Chris Hayes: -- segment. A person tweeted that this Halloween costume is problematic, I don't know what the costume (ph), you know.

And that’s a segment (ph). It’s like, all right, well, I don't know, people tweet lots of stuff. Like, I have a cable --

Maurice Mitchell: Right.

Chris Hayes: -- new show. I don’t build segments out of, like, I could go find a random conservative tweeting a dumb thing and be like here’s a segment about it but --

Maurice Mitchell: Yeah, I mean, I do think, and I think that that’s also one of the, you know, problems I have with like, you know, both citing a lot of this stuff because I think what the right wing in general is doing is very different. Like, the right-wing media, right-wing politicians, what they’re doing is very different than what’s happening outside of the right wing because the right wing has, globally, has taken on the mantle of authoritarianism.

And all of this is like living in an alternate universe where facts don't, like, they are actively doing this because it aligns with their project, right?

Chris Hayes: Yeah, right.

Maurice Mitchell: So, of course, you’re not doing that --

Chris Hayes: Right.

Maurice Mitchell: -- but, of course, they are, right?


Chris Hayes: Right.

Maurice Mitchell: And yet, they’re very good at being able to kind of pipeline this information and tell a story. Like, for example, directly before the election, right, and all the months preceding the election, you would think that every single metropolitan area of this country was a post-apocalyptic warzone.

Chris Hayes: Yeah, burned to the ground, absolutely.

Maurice Mitchell: Right? You would assume that that’s what was happening. And then miraculously, almost the day after the election and the weeks after the election --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- reporting about the crime sprees in --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- Democrat-run cities. That you can’t find that in their --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- reporting anymore, what happened outside of the political advantage --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- for their political project, right? So this is absolutely what’s taking place. And, of course, like publishing something like my piece in a media environment like this where I know the right wing might take a sentence from my piece and say like, hey, there you go. One of their own is now suggesting --

Chris Hayes: Yeah, yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- right, gave me some pause. But I thought that it was worth running that risk because we need to, good faith people that are interesting in things like democracy and are interesting in creating a bigger we, need to have a productive conversation around some of our challenges.

Chris Hayes: You also can't, I mean, I think this is a mode of being in the world and being in politics, like I think it’s important to be aware of how one’s words might be taken out of context and twisted or used by certain, you know, malevolent ideological forces, but you also can’t control that.

I mean, you have to say what you think is true and, you know, communicate to people that, you know, you want to communicate with. And, you know, that’s an important piece of this.

But I think that like what Danah Boyd, who’s a great theorist of social media calls context collapse, which is what happens in social media is just, you know, I think you see that cascade through all kinds of movement spaces, all sorts of places, like in all sorts of workplaces. Just these sort of free floating, you know, bits of thought, content, opinion, sort of reading everything in this kind of uncharitable mode at all times and dunking on people sort of --

Maurice Mitchell: Yeah.

Chris Hayes: -- performatively dunking on people. One of the things you talk about you, which I think is a real thing is that a sort of appropriation, the kind of appropriation of radical traditions, thought or text in this very kind of like live, laugh, love way where this long sort of argument gets distilled to this, like, sentence that is like about self-care, for instance, which is, you know, part --

Maurice Mitchell: Yeah.

Chris Hayes: -- of a long Bell Hooks', you know, writing and a line of thought about what it is to be in the world, and to be sort of a Black woman and to be working for justice, yada yada.

And so, everyone’s got like a little bit of knowledge, and everyone can kind of grab a citation off the shelf to give some kind of like left or radical justification for whatever they want to do at all times.

And you write about that in the piece. That seems to me like a thing that is much more common now. Where (ph) you're talking about like ever was it thus, but that specific means discursive movement that you see on social media a lot, that seems like a more, something I hadn’t seen before recently.

Maurice Mitchell: I mean, I think it’s like that tendency perfectly aligns with the functions of social media, right?

Chris Hayes: Yes, provoke, sir, yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: Yeah, when you don’t have to read the whole book --

Chris Hayes: Right.

Maurice Mitchell: -- you don’t have to read the article, you could just read the clickbait title and then retweet it.

Chris Hayes: Right.

Maurice Mitchell: And then write something on top every tweet, right. Social media certainly, I think, engenders more of that than less than that. And there’s many reasons why I think it’s problematic.

You know, one of which is that a lot of the thinkers and organizers, and theorists that are getting the most misappropriated tend to be women of color, tend to be Black women because they do carry so much cultural cachet, right? Them and their ideas carry a lot of cultural cachet.

You know, Black people in general, we Kerry and we produce a lot of the cool in culture. And so, it’s easy it’s advantage yourself or to add cachet or to make yourself more relevant to misappropriate ideas and sort of scrub ideas from these thinkers, organizers, movements without actually doing the work of understanding them, doing the work of aligning around those principles.

And so, it has the dual sort of impact of like advantaging you and weakening in the culture and making less sharp, the actual meaning of these ideas, right

And so, yeah, people banding around the language of care and self-care, people banding around the language of revolution. Everything is revolutionary.

Chris Hayes: Right.

Maurice Mitchell: It’s like you could desire something with --

Chris Hayes: Right.

Maurice Mitchell: -- without it being revolutionary at all, right?

Chris Hayes: Right.

Maurice Mitchell: You could simply, just based on your personal desires, want something in the world. And that want or desire does not also need to somehow derive from a revolutionary tradition, right? And I’m arguing also on the flipside --

Chris Hayes: Like a day off, if you want a day off.

Maurice Mitchell: Yeah, yeah, especially as a worker --


Chris Hayes: Yeah, right, right.

Maurice Mitchell: -- it’s ironic because like the labor tradition, our traditions have earned us days off --

Chris Hayes: Right.

Maurice Mitchell: -- so we could simply say I want a day off --

Chris Hayes: Right.

Maurice Mitchell: -- without adding anything to it. And yes, you yourself and your desires are important enough for you to argue just based on the fact that you desire something that that is what you want. And you don’t need to reference Bell Hooks. You don’t need to reference Malcolm X. You don’t need to reference a revolutionary struggle to argue for any of those things.

Chris Hayes: We’ll be right back after we take this quick break.


Chris Hayes: One of the things that I do think is new and interesting to me is that these kinds of ways of marshalling radical ideas, radical traditions to make arguments in maybe seemingly unrelated spaces, right, or unrelated struggles like in a specific, you know, workplace frustration, that that I think has been around in the left for a while, but now feels like it’s because of social media you see it much more in the world of culture online.

Like, people, you know, importing various sort of radical thinkers into how they’re talking about, you know, mundane social interactions or, you know, particularly with movies like there’s an entire discourse of like, which, you know, multibillionaire media company's movie is like more or less radical than someone else’s.

Maurice Mitchell: Right.

Chris Hayes: It’s like I don’t know. It all feels like, you know, which is not to say like cultural criticism isn't important but --

Maurice Mitchell: No, right, right.

Chris Hayes: -- it’s just funny how much that has gotten applied in the culture. I do wonder, do you feel that again I know a little monomaniacal about this, but I really do think that COVID explains more than we let it. And I wonder if you feel like some of these tendencies have gotten better as we’ve moved further from the worst parts of that, you know, broad social trauma.

Maurice Mitchell: Here’s what I know about COVID, like any great trauma, we’re too close to it --

Chris Hayes: Yeah, yes.

Maurice Mitchell: -- to understand its full impact.

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: Right. And this is a great, great trauma.

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: And what I know about the human condition is the human condition has this almost unimaginable capacity to be able to hold trauma --

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Maurice Mitchell: Right? And so, we’re able to deal with this great trauma because that’s what the human condition does. It just opens up so that we could live through really, really hard things. It doesn’t make that thing less hard.

And in the beginning of COVID, if I had said that more than a million people would die just in the United States, you know, most people would both think that that would be ridiculous, that I was engaged in hyperbole. And also, I think most people would say at that point that if that was true, it would be a trauma unlike anything --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- in their lived experience.

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Maurice Mitchell: And I think that the last thing is true. And so absolutely, COVID is impacting every single one of us. It’s one of the rare moments where everybody, all humans on the planet, are affected by this one thing, right. And it absolutely is impacting how we interact in our workplaces, how we interact online, how charitable we might be to somebody else, like how. And I think we should probably give each other a lot of grace because we’re all enduring an unimaginable trauma --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- that it probably will take a whole generation to unpack.

Chris Hayes: Do you feel more hopeful about the sort of direction of this sort of grand struggle against, you know, right-wing authoritarianism at home and abroad now at the beginning of 2023?

Maurice Mitchell: I do feel hopeful. I both respect, in the most basic definition of that word, and take very seriously the organizing that’s taking place on the right because it is very sophisticated, very well-resourced, it’s global.

You know, I think sometimes, and this is something that does frighten me, sometimes people on the left pooh-pooh folks on the right and don’t take their ideas seriously and don’t take their plans literally. And I think there’s like a lot of very nice liberal people that like to pretend that some of the arguments that people on the right are making are just demagoguery, but it’s both demagoguery and it’s also an outline of the actual plans that they want for us and everybody else in the world. But it's, both of those things are true.

Chris Hayes: Yeah, I agree. They believe it. I mean, that’s the thing. A lot of self-radicalization taking place and a lot of people that, you know, my thing I always tell people is don’t underestimate ideology as a factor in politics and particularly in powerful people and politicians that they have beliefs. They actually do --

Maurice Mitchell: Yes.

Chris Hayes: -- believe things. Sometimes the things they believe are really, really horrible. And they’re so bad that they’re even contrary to their material interest. There’s a bunch of things that would make sense for them not to do, but they believe it. You know, and people will do really awful things in pursuit of that belief, but belief does drive things, and there are people that really believe the things they say they believe.

Maurice Mitchell: Absolutely. And the other thing that gives me hope is that partisanship is a very strong indicator of how you will vote. And what we saw this election were a lot of independents and enough Republicans, not a lot, but enough Republicans voted against the far-right. And so that gives me hope for the long arc struggle for democracy and for us as a culture around the world growing the bigger we and becoming more and more free.

Now, there’s going to be in the intervening years, I think, a lot of battles, a lot of pitch battles, so I think, you know, we shouldn’t be overly enthusiastic about the outcomes of the 2022 elections --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- for a few reasons. Number one, all those elections were very, very close. But also, number two, there were structural imbalances, right, like all of the gerrymandering, all of the anti-democratic laws, all those things, we voted in elections where those things were the new normal.

And I think one of the things that the right does effectively is change the rule of the game, and then almost immediately folks on the left just agree to those terms and move on. And, you know, the proximal issues, it's (ph) like we have to prevent authoritarians from taking governing power, but the structural issues are still on the table --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- and we have to reset the very nature of our democracy, so we have a more legitimate democracy in this country. And I would argue that our democracy is hanging by a thread, and we live in a partially corporately captured country.

And if we don’t deal with those things, more and more people will naturally become more and more cynical about government, about democracy if we don’t create a government that actually meets the demands of its people, and this is true all around the world. More and more people are going to drop out and more and more people are going to join the far right --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- because the far right is offering, and this is one of the reasons why I take them seriously. They do offer a critique of these systems that have failed so many people. And a lot of the organizations and parties that are fighting the far right are neoliberal parties, right? And they often have trouble offering that same level of clear critique.

It’s one of the reasons why I think --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- Donald Trump found an audience because he was able to say the system is corrupt, that the elites are gaming the system, which I think is demonstrably true, but then, you know, he, like many far-right authoritarians, created a fiction and said that, yeah, those elites, those global elites and we know who he is talking about whenever, he says that --

Chris Hayes: Right.

Maurice Mitchell: -- they gave me the system, and then taking from you and giving to them --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- which is the other --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- right? And so, the thing that I’m hopeful about is the fact that there are people who are still either forming political ideas or people who, on some level, identified with the Republicans are still able to make choices in order to be part of a united front that is pro democracy.

The thing that I’m concerned with, and this is one of the things that we were concerned with every day at the Working Families Party is that when Democrats take governing power, it’s really important that Democrats are showing up and are governing in a progressive manner so that everyday people can see that government works for them. And to me, that is long-term the best way to break the hold and the organizing strategies of the far right to prove that when you vote for a united front for democracy, your life improves --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- because the reality is that people all around the world, and this is, you know, after 40 years of neoliberalism, people feel and this is accurate that the institutions that surround them do not work for them, and people are feeling a sense of physical and economic insecurity. And the reason why strong man appeals from the right are so effective on everyday people is that they are arguing that if you get me elected, I will ensure that you are safer --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: -- that there’s economic security and physical security at the other end of this bargain. And if in the bargain you give up some sort of, like, abstract ideas of liberal democracy, so be it. And that I think for most people is a good wager.

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Maurice Mitchell: And so, if the prodemocracy forces can’t deliver a appeal that is as attractive as the far right in terms of people’s material needs and their physical and economic security, then I do think we’re going to be in trouble.

Chris Hayes: Maurice Mitchell is the National Director of the Working Families Party. He’s an activist and social movement strategist, author of the piece "Building Resilient Organizations," which was the topic of our conversation today.

Maurice, it’s really great having the program. Thank you so much.

Maurice Mitchell: It’s good to be here. Thank you.

Chris Hayes: Once again, great thanks to Maurice Mitchell.

You can read that piece online if you google "Building Resilient Organizations." We will also link to it on our page. You can also e-mail us with your own experiences sort of navigating this treacherous terrain. Tweet us at the hashtag #WITHpod, e-mail Be sure to follow us on TikTok by searching for WITHpod.

“Why Is This Happening?” is presented by MSNBC and NBC News, produced by Doni Holloway and Brendan O’Melia, engineered by Bob Mallory, and featuring music by Eddie Cooper. You can see more of our work, including links to things we mentioned here, by going to

Tweet us with the hashtag #WITHpod, email Follow us on TikTok by searching for WITHpod. “Why Is This Happening?” is presented by MSNBC and NBC News, produced by Doni Holloway and Brendan O'Melia, engineered by Bob Mallory and features music by Eddie Cooper. You can see more of our work, including links to things we mentioned here, by going to