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All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 07/10/15

Guests: Kevin Alexander Gray, Rick Wilson, Jigar Shah, Devone Boggan

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Tonight on ALL IN -- (APPLAUSE) HAYES: A hundred and fifty years after the end of the civil war, the Confederate flag comes down in South Carolina. Then, Donald Trump has now officially turned a line about Mexican rapists into the central mission of his campaign. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean, look, I`m not a politician. HAYES: Plus, cutting crime by paying potential criminals. The controversial successful program. And, we`re here in California for a week of ALL IN water wars. Tonight, a look at the explosive growth in the Golden State of the one technology that just might save us all. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have this handy fusion reactor in the sky called the sun. ALL IN starts right now. (END VIDEOTAPE) HAYES: Good evening from San Francisco. I`m Chris Hayes. A hundred and fifty after the surrender of the confederacy, 54 years after the Confederate battle flag was first hoisted on South Carolina`s capitol grounds, and 23 days after the massacre of nine African-Americans at the hands of a white supremacist who proudly waved that flag, the Confederate flag came down today in South Carolina. It`s a remarkable scene at the capitol with massive crowds gathered this morning to bear witness. And while a handful of protesters came out in support of the flag, the vast majority were there to celebrate a victory that many had been waiting for, for decades. I wanted to give you an extended look at what was an absolutely extraordinary moment. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) (INAUDIBLE) (CHEERS) CROWD: Take it down! Take it down! Take it down! Take it down! Take it down! Take it down! (INAUDIBLE) (CHEERS) (CHANTING) (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: When it was all said and done, the Confederate battle flag was taken down, folded up and placed in the hands of Lt. Derrick Gamble (ph), an African-American member of the South Carolina Highway Patrol Honor Guard. It was instantly an iconic image. Our Joy Reid spoke to Gamble and two honor guard members shortly after the ceremony. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I guess it`s safe to say that throughout your careers here in the honor guard, that flag has flown, obviously, here in front of these grounds. Was there any personal meaning for any of you in being the ones to bring it down? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not for me. Not at all. Again, it`s another ceremony that we had to do. The biggest thing is just being honored to be a part of this historical moment. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there`s a sense of awareness to an historic day in South Carolina, and to be part of the team and to be -- have a small part to play was humbling for me. REID: And this was your second participation in an event of great moment really for the country, not just the state. Your honor guard accompanied the body of Senator Clementa Pinckney. You were part of that as well. Was that on any of your minds as you brought this flag down today? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s just an honor for us to be a small part of this historic event. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think for me personally what`s happened in South Carolina over the last couple of weeks has been really special. And it kind of gives me a sense of hope, and to have a small part to play in that, to be here in part of a bigger team has been pretty special. REID: Give us a sense because this is completely unique of walking up to that flagpole hearing the crowd. Tell us how that felt. Set the scene for us. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hearing the roar of the crowd, me personally, just gave us a sense of how people come together under tragedies. And just to show that unity, if you will, was very humbling to me. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Joining me from South Carolina is Joy Reid, MSNBC national correspondent. Joy, I thought that interview was fascinating because amidst the pomp and circumstance, amidst the celebration, you could feel in their responses still the kind of electric third rail power of that flag. REID: Yes, absolutely, Chris. And it`s interesting because there is such a formality to the process. You know I saw the same thing. But I was in the color guard in the fifth grade in Denver, Colorado. There`s always this importance on the way you treat emblems and flags. There`s a very formal way you fold them, there`s a way that you bring them down. It is all very formal, and these three gentlemen were extremely formal people, but they were really sort of even themselves overtaken by the importance of what they were doing. Remember, again, this is the same color guard that accompanied the body of Senator Clementa Pinckney when he was laid in state at the capitol. So, this is a momentous series of events that these gentlemen and the other members of this honor guard have been a part of and they had to maintain that incredible formality. I was standing in the crowd. You have to hear the volume, the amount of cheering, the people who were crying, the people who were singing. At one point, people began singing "Amazing Grace", people began signing the "Good-bye" song, the na-na-nah goodbye song. So, there was everything from joviality to literal tears that were happening all around them. And yet they maintained this incredible formality. But I think that you could just get a little sneak peek in there that they did understand that they were part of something really important for this state. HAYES: Yes, the moment was profoundly emotional watching it, even watching it on television. And you just talked about what the crowd was like. I mean, who were the folks that were there and why had they come, by and large? REID: It was interesting. I saw a lot of grandparents, a lot of grandparents brought grandchildren. A lot of parents brought their children. And they said they brought them because they wanted them to grow up and say they were here when they saw the history of this state change. Look, you cannot underestimate how profoundly that flag really burned in the souls of particularly African-Americans. But also, some white South Carolinians, that I spoke with this morning. There was one woman who literally said she`s never been able to really look at this capitol. This is a beautiful capitol building. It`s a gorgeous sort of architecture. She said she never looked at it because every time she turned toward it, she saw that flag, all throughout her growing up life. She was maybe in her mid-50s. And she said, for the first time today she was able to look at the capitol and really take in the capitol without a symbol that she felt rejected her just very being. And literally once that flag came down, she didn`t yell or she didn`t sing. She wasn`t one of the people cheering. She just wept. She literally put her head in her hands and wept. And I think that really summarizes the emotion we saw this morning. HAYES: Joy, I want to ask you about another development in the story of the Charleston massacre today, which we`ve learned the alleged shooter purchased the weapon and should not have cleared his FBI background check on purchasing that weapon because of a previous drug conviction. But that, due to a mistake, a clerical mistake, he was able to get that weapon. James Comey speaking about it today. This strikes me as a pretty big deal in how we`re going to think of this story going forward. REID: Yes, absolutely. It`s a huge deal. First of all, again, all of the many ironies that are layered on top of ironies in this story. That weapon was purchased by Dylann Roof right here in Columbia. What happened was essentially the FBI background check process ran out of time. It`s a three-day background check process, but because they didn`t receive the records from Columbia, here, they went looking for Columbia County, for some place with the similar name, but they didn`t see the record of his previous drug arrest. That drug arrest would have triggered him to not be able to buy that gun. Had he not been able to purchase it, he couldn`t have sat in that church with Clementa Pinckney and those other eight parishioners and killed them all and conducted this massacre. And so, we found out this was not a failure of the state`s gun laws. And let`s face it, South Carolina`s state gun laws are very liberal and probably going to get more liberal once the state senate and house come back into session. This was a failure of the federal system. So, we`ll see if this prompts them to re-look at the background system and particularly that three-day expiration period, because had the FBI had more time, had they could have actually obtained those records and realized they needed to look in the correct city of Columbia, rather than in the county, you might have been able to stop this man from getting the weapon that has caused so much heartache. But, ironically, also, really forced people to really be shamed -- let`s just be honest -- shamed into changing their stance on that flag that is no longer here. And, by the way, not only is the flag gone, Chris. The pole is gone, too. At about 2:00 p.m. this afternoon, the pole was taken down as well. But all this was set into motion by essentially a mistake. The FBI failing to catch in that background check the fact that this young man had a prior drug arrest and that he shouldn`t have been able to purchase that gun. HAYES: All right. Joy Reid, it has been a tremendous bonus for all of us to have you down there this week. Thank you very much. REID: Thank you, Chris. HAYES: Joining me now, civil rights activist Kevin Alexander Gray, who took me on a tour of the Confederate sites in South Carolina in the days after the massacre. He was spending decades protesting that flag, trying to get that flag taken down. Kevin, how are you feeling today? KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Well, you know, like everyone in South Carolina, I feel a great joy that flag has come down. I think about the nine martyrs that were the period to the end of that story. And I`m really overjoyed at the way the community has come together. As a black person, over the last three weeks, engaging white citizens, talking about race, talking about history, talking about that flag coming down, really showing some honest, raw emotions, looking at Jenny Horne make that speech. I tear up when I see her make that speech. And, of course, you have to give the governor her credit. But, you know, it`s on to the next battle. A lot of us fought for decades to get that flag down. It is on to the next battle, the younger generation has to look at the symbols of our history, the ones that were glorifying, and taking that on and the history lesson goes on. HAYES: Do you think this battle over the flag and the wake of the massacre in Charleston, has it opened up space for whatever the next battle is? Has it opened up something more profound, larger than just the sort of disgrace of that specific symbol? GRAY: Well, I mean, if we`re going to have a national conversation on race, it has to be an honest conversation about history, about racism and what it means, about white supremacy and what it means. In the last three weeks, we`ve had at discussion. You jump-started that discussion, to give you credit, that night in Charleston when we talked about the symbols of the state, the roads named after Confederate heroes, the buildings named after Confederate heroes. And I`ve been having discussion with people about those white folk that worry about whether we`re going down a slippery slope. And I said, well, think about it. Every black person in America has the last name of a slave or plantation master. That`s how embedded the whole idea of slavery is in our history. And people take that for granted that black people carry the slave master`s name. Clementa Pinckney -- the name Pinckney is the name of a large slave owning family in Charleston. Hammond, Middleton. That`s the burden of our country. And if we`re honest and have that discussion about race we can move forward. And South Carolina being the home of the -- the ideological home of white supremacy, the first state to secede from the union, it ought to lead that discussion. HAYES: All right. Kevin Alexander Gray, thank you for sharing all your insight on this over the last few weeks. Really appreciate it. GRAY: Thank you, Chris. HAYES: Up next, how one passing comment in a rambling announcement speech has now become Donald Trump`s entire campaign. Plus, how do fact check conservatives on Obamacare in two easy steps. Step one, have the facts. Step two, repeat. And later, solar energy might finally be booming. We`ll take a look at why it`s taken so long to get here. That and more ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: Presidential candidate Ted Cruz, senator from Texas, wants an apology from "The New York Times", because his book is not on its best seller list. It`s not in the top three, as you see there, nor is it anywhere in the top 20. But the Cruz cramp says that according to Nielsen book scan, Cruz`s political creed "A Time For Truth" sold 11,854 copies in its first week alone. That`s a lot. It`s more than 18 of the 20 books in "The Times" latest list. Not so fast, counters "The Times", which told "Politico", "We have uniform standards that we apply to our best sellers, which includes an analysis of book sales that goes beyond simply the number of books sold. In the case of this book, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence is that it was limited to strategic bulk purchases." The Cruz campaign has demanded in a statement "The Times" release its evidence of those bulk purchases, and says that allegations of them is a blatant falsehood. Now, as for accusations "The Times" is manipulating its data to kick a conservative off its list, as noted by "New York Magazine", another conservative did make the best sellers list, Ann Coulter`s "Adios America." (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: Donald Trump might as well at this point change his campaign slogan from "make America great again" to "illegal immigrants are coming to get you and I`m going to prove it if it`s the last thing I do, even if it means I have to take down the entire Republican Party in the process 2016". What started as an apparently off-hand remark about Mexican immigrants committing crimes and raping people, just one part of a long and very rambling campaign announcement, now seems to have blossomed into a full- blown campaign strategy. And it`s jeopardizing years of work by the Republican Party to suppress its anti-immigrant strain and engage the growing Latino population. Amid the massive backlash to Trump`s immigration comments, instead of apologizing, he`s been trying to save face by proving he`s right about the overwhelming criminal tendencies of undocumented immigrants coming from Mexico. It`s why he sees on the story of the white woman shot here in San Francisco last week by an undocumented immigrant who`ve been deported multiple times. Despite being an isolated incident, that incident seemed to confirm all the ugly fears Trump has been stoking. The more he`s thrown his lot with the nativist right wing, the better Trump has performed in Republican presidential polls. His demagoguery has made him a force to be reckoned with. Tonight, now, he`s taking it even further. At this hour in L.A., Trump is making a big show of meeting behind close doors with family members of, quote, "victims of illegal immigrants", according to his campaign`s press release. He`s going to take questions from the press afterwards. We`re not going to bring it to you live because, well, frankly, it`s gross and we`ve heard it before. If he makes any news, we`ll tell you about it. After the event tonight, Trump travels to Arizona, where he`ll appear in a rally tomorrow with none other than infamous anti-immigrant sheriff Joe Arpaio. Joining me now, Republican media consultant Rick Wilson, who has been dragged into the Donald Trump beat on the ALL IN show for his sense. So, Rick, here`s the issue as I see it, the Republican establishment, and I think very smart Republican strategists, since basically 2006 when the kind of right wing grassroots rose up and helped to kill comprehensive immigration reform in McCain/Kennedy have tried very hard to make sure that when opposing immigration bills, it is not done on basis and with rhetoric that can sound derogatory or racist or intolerant. And all of a sudden, it seems to me like that cat is back out of the bag and that Pandora`s Box has been reopened after a decade of people trying to sit on it and keep it closed. RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN MEDIA CONSULTANT: Well, look, Chris, I mean, part of the problem here, that`s the fundamental underpinning problem of Trump is he`s got an issue that maybe there`s even merit to talk about this as a policy question. Frankly, we should be talking about long-term criminal immigrant, criminal illegals who come here and are basically protecting these cities. Maybe that`s a meritorious issue to talk about. But the way he`s doing it is so destructive and he`s throwing haymakers with this one issue. Yes, he is activating a fraction of the base that is very, very angry about this issue and very passionate about this issue and it`s become this vicious media cycle where the -- it`s -- we`re cursive of how it feeds on itself. Every time Trump says something outrageous he gets coverage and feedback and so he does something more outrageous the next day. So, this isn`t going to caper off until someone calls him and drags him into the rest of the issue fight that Republican candidates can and should be talking about. HAYES: Right. You said this last time you were on and it was a good point, which is, look, this guy is going to run like a frontrunner. If he`s going to covered in the media like a front-runner. You know, the guy`s got to do things that serious presidential candidates do, and say, OK, here`s my immigration plan or tax plan, like, you know, actually produce some paper. Have some kind of architecture of what a Trump presidency would look like. But he just also seems -- (CROSSTALK) WILSON: Except for -- except for this issue and sort of vague sense of swagger, the guy has nothing out there on the table. Oh, I`ll take care of China. I`ll negotiate with Putin. He`ll say yes. That seems a little vague to me. Just call me crazy, but it doesn`t seem to be a lot of meat on the bone to the Trump operation beyond this one particular hallmark of his campaign. HAYES: Do you think a lot about -- as I do, and I will admit to a little schadenfreude about it about that first debate with him on the stage? I mean, what is that going to look like, particularly now that he seems as almost a means of saving face to be so committed with essentially trying to establish he was right in that offhanded comments in announcement speech? WILSON: Sure. Donald Trump is going to try to turn this into an episode of "The Apprentice." He`s going to try to turn this debate into the clown show that only he can make it happen as. He`s going to try to tear up all the scenery in the room. He`s going to try to be big and dramatic. He`s going to try to call the other candidates to account, insult them, get in their faces, do the macho thing, bump up against their chest a little bit, because that`s his m.o. You can see the pattern he`s pursuing right now and you can kind of predict what`s going to happen in that debate. But what you`re not going to get in the debate is the degree of substance, because I`ve told, I think I said in the last show, there are four or five candidates, whether you agree with their politics or not, who are serious people, who are smart, considerate thinkers. And they`re going to end up with this debate being Donald Trump asked, do you believe the president is a secret Kenyan Muslim and having to answer that kind of crazy talk. And so, you`re going to have Trump try to chew up all the scenery in the room and turn it into a circus act rather than a substantive policy debate. HAYES: What is the solution here? WILSON: Again, drinking. No, I mean, the solution is for these guys to drag Donald Trump into the fight. They need to start talking about Donald Trump not on this one note immigration question, and sort of asking questions like, hey, Donald, when are you going to be honest about your finances with us instead of these vague, ephemeral kind of "I`m super rich" statements? When are you going to talk about your actual tax plan or address you were a supporter of Barack Obama in 2008? That Donald Trump was once for partial-birth abortion, that Donald Trump was once for gun control, that Donald Trump praised Hillary Clinton, that Donald Trump gave money to the Clinton Foundation as recently as a couple of years ago, that majority of his federal donations have gone to Democrats? I mean, when Republicans are dragging him into the fight, this guy has a lot of trouble. His oppo file was a train wreck waiting to happen and no one is trying to hit him on it yet to the degree they should. HAYES: Yes. This is the key tactical decision being made right now. I think in the beginning, it was wait him out. At some point, you have to stop waiting him out and actually turn into him. Rick Wilson, always a pleasure. Thank you. WILSON: Thanks, Chris. HAYES: Still to come, a controversial program in what was once one of the most dangerous cities in America. Is paying people not to kill each other responsible for a record drop in murders? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: There`s some big news out today that should put to rest forever one of the weirdest conservative arguments against the Affordable Care Act. I`ll tell you what it is in a moment, but first, some context. There are some people who say that the Affordable Care Act, despite its design to cover more of the uninsured, actually isn`t doing that, that it`s failing at its chief mission. In fact, former senator from New Hampshire Judd Greg was on this program a few weeks ago and we had an exchange on precisely that point. Take a look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: The uninsured rates have plummeted to a 15-year low. JUDD GREGG, FRM. SENATOR FROM NEW HAMPSHIRE: No, it hasn`t plummeted. HAYES: Yes, of course it has. Look at the Pew data. GREGG: It has not plummeted. It has gone from 44 million to 40 million. That is not a plummet. HAYES: No, that`s not -- based on the Pew data, you think that is true? GREGG: Yes, that is true. I wish you would get your numbers right. Your numbers are worse than Obama`s. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: All right. During that same show, just a few minutes after that exchange, we pulled up this graph which is from Gallup, not Pew, and it`s a graph showing that the uninsured rate dropped to 11.9 percent in the first quarter of this year. You see that there, that sharp decline that some might even characterize as plummeting. That`s the data. The best data we have. Well, today we got more data from the same folks at Gallup who are the kind of gold standard of what the uninsured rate is. And you`ll never guess what`s happened after that. Between that show and now we`ve seen the uninsured rate drop to a new low, 11.4 percent in the second quarter of this year. And it`s dropping particularly among people of color and people of low income. Now there are all sorts of ways to criticize Obamacare and all sorts of ways you can say it`s not restraining costs, premiums might be going up, but the one thing it very clearly is doing is reducing the percentage of folks who are uninsured. So let`s please let`s drop that line of attack. Next, an extraordinarily successful and controversial crime-fighting program. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: About 30 minutes north of where we are right now in San Francisco is a city of a little over 100,000 people called Richmond, California. And for years it`s been a city absolutely plagued with violence. 2009 crime data listed it as the sixth most dangerous city in all of America, a city that for the time if you searched for it on Google Earth, a murder scene from that year could be clearly scene in the satellite photos. But then an incredible turn around. And by 2013, homicides were down considerably, in fact down to the lowest numbers since 1980. Much of the credit for the decline is being given to the Richmond police chief Chris Magnus. And what the New York Times has called his unconventional policing style that stresses community outreach over show of force. But there`s another reason a controversial program that as part of its effort at reducing gun violence is actually paying people not to shoot each other. Joining me now, the founding director of that program, and neighborhood safety director for the city of Richmond, Devone Boggan. It`s great to have you here. DEVONE BOGGAN, NEIGHBORHOOD SAFETY DIRECTOR OF RICHMOND, CA: Good to be here. Thanks for having me. HAYES: OK. So, I mean you guys are literally paying at this point with this pilot program people not to commit violent crimes. BOGGAN: Yes, and no. But let me first say to the audience listening that if we`re going to seriously end gun violence in this country, guys like the young men we`re working with have to be seen as a part of the solution to the equation. To your question, certainly we`re paying them if you consider putting an 18-month non-mandated fellowship around them to help them help us do something that we`ve demonstrated that we can`t do without them. This fellowship, one of the elements, one of seven elements, is a privilege stipend. They can earn up to $1,000 a month, after six months of participating for 9 of the remaining 12 months of that fellowship. HAYES: So, they enter the fellowship and there`s a whole bunch of criteria they have to meet to qualify and then you keep them in this fellowship program. This is a fellowship program for young men... BOGGAN: Young men whoa re seen as the most lethal young men in our city. They`re active firearm offenders who avoided sustained criminal consequences. HAYES: Now tell me, you were telling me this great story of how you had this idea of doing this. BOGGAN: Absolutely. So, in 2009, Richmond had 45 firearm related homicides and 170 firearm assaults with an injury. In 2010, early, I am sitting with a group of law enforcement personalities working gun crimes in our city and I continue to hear the thing they believe categorically speaking that 17 people may be responsible for 70 percent of that activity. HAYES: 1-7, 17 people. Less than dozen-and-a-half. BOGGAN: And this is a time where Richmond is on the news every night as a result of gun... HAYES: Yes, it`s become notorious in fact. BOGGAN: No question about it. And so I mean, that made me sit up. It was an ah-ha moment. And my mind went off the charts with if it`s 17 people we can wrap our arms around these guys in a different kind of way and do something provocative with them. Now, I asked each of those agencies to give me their list of 17, because we wanted the unduplicated count. It ended up being about 28 individuals. So, what I did is I assigned my street outreach team, what we call neighborhood change agents to go out into those communities where these young men were. Now understand these are rival group members. HAYES: These are people that law enforcement know as active in groups that are committing gone violence, in fact central to the nexus of that violence. BOGGAN: Absolutely, and haven`t been able to arrest -- evidence, witnesses, what have you. And so I send out our neighborhood change agents with a mandate. Let`s get these 28 people. HAYES: Like a list of names. Like these are the people, can we get these people. BOGGAN: That`s what we`re going to focus on. And I want you to invite them to city hall to sit down with me, right, in three different groups, because -- again, these are the guys trying to take each other`s hats off, right, before we can get ourselves organized, we lost three of those individuals to gun violence. So, 25 folks who were invited and 21 of them showed up. And I think that`s provocative that 21 young men showed up. Now that said, between the ages of 16 and 25, that says a lot about our street outreach team and their ability to convince these young men that they weren`t being set up for a law enforcement sting at city hall. HAYES: So, these people come in, and you say I`ve got a proposal for you? BOGGAN: I say, hey, I`m going to tell you something, you`re very powerful. You have got a lot of influence and quite frankly I believe that if this city is ever going to reach the peace that it wants to see and feel on our streets, it must come through you. So, I`m asking you to partner with us to reduce gun violence. Now I`m going to help you do that, and everybody in this room is going to help you to do that. We`re going to put an infrastructure called a fellowship around you to help you do that. HAYES: OK, now there`s been some success here. It`s tangible in numbers. There are people listening saying this is insanity. These people you are talking to have most likely committed violent crimes, they might be murderers, they might be guilty of multiple homicides. As opposed to prosecuting them and putting them behind bars and showing them accountability, you`re essentially saying come partner with us. BOGGAN: I`m saying these young men are out on our streets isolated, idle, navigating untreated trauma, vicarious trauma, and using all kinds of substances to cope. Left to their own devices, we`re going to see more and more violence. Now, the clearance rates in cities that are facing epidemic rates of gun violence are pretty low. HAYES: You mean, the homicide clearance rates. They don`t get solved. BOGGAN: They don`t get solved. HAYES: So, it`s not like it`s an option necessarily, because these gentlemen were out on the street anyway. BOGGAN: They`re out on the street already. And so why not go at them full speed ahead directly and engage them in a very different way. HAYES: I`ve got to say, this is, in thinking about, reporting on criminal justice for years, this is one of the most fascinating pilot programs being run anywhere in the country. And I appreciate you coming in. BOGGAN: I`m excited about it. Thanks for having us. HAYES: Thanks a lot. Devone Boggan, thank you very much. All right, solar power, where am I looking, there -- the energy source of the future. At least that`s been the claim for the last 40 years. But is the long awaited boom finally, finally here? That`s ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: There`s a good reason I`m sitting hire with this beautiful view of the bay bridge behind me, it`s because we`re gearing up for a special week of shows live from California called All In America: Water Wars. Starting Monday, we`re going from the farm to the forest, to the coast to the cities examining the concerns and conflicts surrounding this state`s absolutely historic drought. And taking a look at some of the possible solutions to the water shortage. But first tonight, a look at one of the other battles California is fighting right now, as it leads the nation in solar power. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: For decades, solar power was so expensive and unwieldy if you could afford it, and that is changing in a mind bendingly rapid pace. Over the past several years, the cost of solar energy has dramatically decreased, I mean dramatically, making it more accessible to more people. Earlier this week it got another shot in the arm from the Obama administration after it announced a new initiative to make solar energy more affordable to low and middle income Americans. White House hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders then introduced legislation, similar goal. Solar energy is having a moment right now. And the future we have long been promised is now finally upon us. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ELON MUSK, CHAIRMAN, SOLARCITY: We have this handy fusion reactor in the sky called the sun. You don`t have to do anything, it just works. It shows up every day and produces ridiculous amounts of power. HAYES: Solar energy is booming. And it`s a boom a very long time in the making. JIMMY CARTER, 39th PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Its energy will not run out. It will not pollute the air. It will not poison our waters. HAYES: In the midst of the 1970s energy crisis, the technology and the will existed to make solar a viable alternative to fossil fuels. TOM BROKAW, JOURNALIST; If there is not enough heat or air conditioning, you don`t blame the Middle East or the president, you blame the sun. HAYES: In the era of eight tracks and disco, solar energy was the future. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The solar heating business is expanding so rapidly that the federal government has set up a solar information center. HAYES: By 1979, the country appeared to be on the verge of a solar revolution. And the Carter administration set a goal: 20 percent of the country`s needs would be drawn from renewable sources by the end of the century. The president even had solar panels installed on the roof of the White House. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These solar panels at the White House cost almost $30,000 and they heat only the water in the buildings West Wing, but they are meant to symbolize the Carter administration`s commitment to solar energy. HAYES: But despite having a champion in the White House, it was solar`s steep price tag that proved to be its biggest obstacle. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For most builders and homeowners, the saving in fuel bills is not worth the cost of the installation. HAYES: And then came Ronald Reagan. RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In years to come, solar energy may provide much of the answer, but for the next two or three decades, we must do such things as master the chemistry of coal. HAYES: The Reagan administration slashed funding for solar research and development. Tax breaks were eliminated, and the White House solar panels came down. UNIDENITIFIED FEMALE: On a practical level, the Reagan administration`s support for solar energy has ground to a halt. HAYES: The would-be solar revolution went from boom to bust. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was no failure in the solar technologies. When the subsidies were cut, there was no way solar could compete. HAYES: But today solar is making a comeback, big time. Solar power capacity in the U.S. has jumped 20-fold since 2008. The fastest growing source of electricity in America is the sun. The California-based company SolarCity, which is country`s largest installer of residential solar systems, has seen its customer base doubled over just the past the four quarters. And it`s not just because technology has improved or because more people have decided to go green, it`s a matter of simple economics. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest trend is solar has become affordable. HAYES: SolarCity`s CEO Lyndon Rive is confident the company can enlist a million customers by 2018. LYNDON RIVE, CEO, SOLARCITY: The demand has always been there, it`s just the industry has to build out the infrastructure to deliver that demand. HAYES: That kind of rapid growth is thanks mainly to cost. Solar is now cheap. China has helped drive down solar manufacturing costs by investing a lot of money in solar power production. But solar is also booming because companies like SolarCity have figured out a way to give Americans what they crave: zero money down. UNIDENIFIED MALE: We switched to SolarCity. No upfront costs, lowered our monthly bill, now we have the infinite power of the sun working for us 24/7. HAYES: Instead of spending thousands up front, many customers are essentially leasing them. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think once we turn on the meter we`ll definitely see the savings, get this installed today and then see the benefits tomorrow. HAYES: Over the past few years, solar home installations have gotten faster and cheaper, something not lost on the utility companies. The big utilities make more money selling you your power are watching more and more customers across the country install solar panels and move towards their own personal energy independence. The solar boom we were promised is finally happening. The question now is whether utility companies will let it. (END VIDEOTAPE) HAYES: This battle between solar companies and utility companies is literally the most consequential political battle of our time. We`re going to talk to someone on the front lines of that next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: Joining me now, Jigger Shah, founder and former CEO of Sun Edison, a solar energy company. Jigar, when I look back at that archival footage of the `70s, I think two things, one is, how insanely stupid it was to abandon the trajectory then. But also it makes me worry that the boom we`re seeing now may be a similar fad. Can you convince me this is actually trend rather than a boom that is then going to go bust? JIGAR SHAH, FRM. CEO SUN EDISON: That package brought a little tear to my eye. I -- you know, just this week Warren Buffett`s Nevada Energy just announced two big deals at less than 4 cents a kilowatt hour in Nevada. Austin Energy just announced over 1,000 megawatts of solar that was bid at less than 4 cents a kilowatt hour. Even Dubai, in the UAE, oil-rich UAE, just announced a solar power was cheaper than new natural gas in Dubai. HAYES: So, you think these cost trends which are driving everything down and driving this exponential insane growth of solar right now, that is going to continue out into the future? SHAH; Not only is it going to continue out to the future, but it`s already achieved its goal. We`re already cheaper than new coal, we`re already cheaper than new gas and we`re going to get cheaper whereas new coal and new natural gas are going to get more expensive. HAYES: And the utilities understand this is a threat, because even wind power which can get routed essentially through utility, natural gas, coal, all these different types of power, the utility plays a roll. Rooftop solar is really distinct in the way that it just cuts out the utility middle man, and they are trying very hard to attack and beat back solar, aren`t they. SHAH: Yeah, the utilities make most of their money on the wires, right. So, they really, really like central station solar. They like transporting that power to your house because that`s how they make money. So, when you generate power off your own roof, that`s where you`re cutting them off. And that`s where Walmart, Target, Costco, Macy`s Staples, Whole Foods, all have decided to go this way. HAYES: And so we`ve seen these bills introduced in a number of states that essentially attempt to tax solar successfully in Oklahoma, but in other states where they basically say well, you`re using our grid when you install this rooftop solar and when you sell us back energy that`s surplus, so we`re going to slap a tax on this to make it costlier for you so that it`s harder to install more solar. SHAH: Yeah, they`re certainly getting a lot of press, but out of roughly 40 efforts they`ve put forward, we`ve beat them in 38. And so we`re winning. So, that`s -- I mean, you know, I feel very confident that we`ll continue to win. And it`s not because solar power is the best, which it is, it`s because our activists don`t have any political affiliation. It`s not environmental groups that are protecting us, it`s Debbie Dooley from the Green Tea Party, it`s a bunch of Republicans who energy independence on one side and then it`s a whole bunch of, you know, Democrats on the other side who believe in climate change. And so everyone is finding common cause around supporting solar power. HAYES: You know, one of the interesting facets of rooftop solar, particularly, is it uses less water than any other kind of power. And water -- energy production is incredibly water intensive. You have huge amount -- vats of steam that have to be heated up that wind the turbines, you have fracking happening right here in California right now amidst the drought in which water is being pumped into the ground and turned into unusable water when combined with chemicals. So, there`s also this other resource constraint that makes solar particularly attractive, particularly here in California. SAH: That`s right. In California, they`ve had to shut in some of the natural gas capacity, because of a lack of water. 50 percent of all water draws in the west come for cooling applications for the power sector. And so -- now they return some of that water back into the system but some of that water, that white smoke that you see coming out of the smoke stacks is not smoke, that`s water vapor. HAYES: So ultimately, are we going to see more of what`s in California spread across the country? SHAH: You already are. The largest job creator in North Carolina is solar. The largest job creator in Georgia right now is solar. Even Louisiana has created 1,200 solar jobs under Bobby Jindal`s leadership, although he`s not talking about it. And so we`re hiring between 5,000 and 10,000 people a month. 50 percent of all the new capacity in the country is going to come from solar this year. And roughly 75 percent of all new electrical capacity in the United States will come from solar next year. HAYES: This is the one story that I cover that makes me feel the most optimistic. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END