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Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 2/6/2016

Guests: Julian Zelizer, Cristina Beltran, Nina Turner, Khalil Muhammad, Krissah Thompson, Nancy Cohen, Susan Del Percio, Brittney Cooper, Cristina Beltran, Alexander Van Tulleken, Paula Avila-Guillen, Sweet Honey in the Rock

Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY Date: February 6, 2016 Guest: Julian Zelizer, Cristina Beltran, Nina Turner, Khalil Muhammad, Krissah Thompson, Nancy Cohen, Susan Del Percio, Brittney Cooper, Cristina Beltran, Alexander Van Tulleken, Paula Avila-Guillen, Sweet Honey in the Rock

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST, "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY," MSNBC: This morning, my question. does it matter if a woman wins the White House? Plus, the Flint water crisis sparks a national political debate. And "Sweet Honey in the Rock" performs live in Nerdland. But first, policing progressive politics.

Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry and that music makes it sound like we`re running for President! Thursday night in their first one-on-one debate of the 2016, Bernie Sanders - campaign -- Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton exchanged jabs over foreign policy, healthcare and campaign tactics. But the biggest fireworks were sparked by one word, an ideology that has become the focal point of the race for the Democratic nomination, progressivism.


HILLARY CLINTON, 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am a progressive who gets things done. And the root of that word, progressive, is progress.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All that I`ve said is there`s nothing wrong with being a moderate. But you can`t be a moderate, you can`t be a progressive.

CLINTON: In your definition, as you being the self-proclaimed gatekeeper for progressivism, I don`t know anyone else who fits that definition.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Have you established a list of what it means to be a progressive that is unrealistic?

SANDERS: No, not at all.


HARRIS-PERRY: But the candidates` fight over the meaning of progressivism did not end or begin on Thursday night. Clinton and Sanders have been in a full-fledged war over the term since Sanders made this claim while campaigning in New Hampshire on Tuesday.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary Clinton has called herself a progressive with a plan. Do you think Hillary Clinton is a progressive?

SANDERS: Some days, yes. Except when she announces that she is a proud moderate. And then i guess she is not a progressive.


HARRIS-PERRY: The Clinton campaign`s response?


E-mail after e-mail to supporters, all outlining her career achieving progressive change, complete with bullet points to set her progressive record straight. The Sanders` campaign fired back, with fact-check e-mails of its own, each doubling down on Sanders` initial critique of Clinton`s progressivism.


And this war of, well, word has just picked up steam since Thursday`s debate. But how did we even get to this point? Well, this is Nerdland, so to get to that answer, we`re going to go back to the historical root of the word "progressivism." During the progressive era between the 1890s and the 1920s, people who considered themselves progressive were part of a movement that sought to fix the economic and social problems that industrialization introduced.


The era was known for muckraking journalists like Jacob Riis, who brought the people the gritty details about local and national political machines, corporate greed, and industrial corruption that contributed to poverty.


You see, then being progressive, making social and political progress, meant that you shared the primary goal of ending plutocracy, removing barriers between the people, rich or poor, and the political process. These progressives believe that the people, all people, should be partners in governing, and the government should have a direct hand in social change.


But in order to help the people to affectively govern, progressives also wanted Americans to be as morally and ethically pure as possible or, as progressive-era President Teddy Roosevelt put it, the prime problem of our nation is to get the right type of good citizenship. So while seeking the right kind of good citizenship, progressives ushered in reforms like prohibition, hoping that government-mandated sobriety would enhance political morality. Now they also championed women`s suffrage, arguing that women could provide a kind of moral political compass.


Progressive-era reformers were also concerned with efficiency, efficiency in society and government in the workplace, and they supported scientific exploration to identify a problem, training and expertise to solve it. But progressivism in America also has a troubling history. That same emphasis on scientific discovery was also used as a basis to support racism and imperialism.


While believing in the need to include the ordinary citizen in government, progressives also tended to believe in the inferiority of black people and of immigrants. Progressives` focus on expert citizenry meant, for example, literacy tests for the would-be black voter. In fact, the progressive era coincided with a period we call the nadir of African-American history, marked by Jim Crow laws, rampant disenfranchisement and lynch mob terrorism. The progressive era meant anything but progress for black Americans.


Given this history, maybe it is better to be a progressive, only some of the time. Joining me now, Julian Zelizer, Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University, and author of "The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress and the Battle for the Great Society;" Cristina Beltran, Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Anaylsis at N.Y.U.; Nina Turner, former Ohio State Senator and National Surrogate for Bernie Sanders; and Khalil Muhammad, Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He`s also author of "The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern [Urban] America." So Julian, what do you make of this kind of contemporary invocation of progressivism? What is the claim being made here?

JULIAN ZELIZER, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: I think it`s actually two claims. One is to the period you`re talking about, early America in the 1900s, when there were reformers who are looking to Europe, who are looking all over the world for ways in which the government could play a bigger role in diminishing social inequality and creating a political process that didn`t just serve the wealthy. But it had that underside that you were talking about. That`s not what Bernie Sanders is trying to invoke. But the other is a different, it`s a post- 1970s tradition, where many liberals who felt, as Howard Dean said, that the Democratic wing of the Democratic party was going, and wanted to defend the Democratic traditions from Ted Kennedy right through Bernie Sanders. And it`s a battle in the Democratic party about how far to the center to go.


And progressive really means New Deal, Great Society kind of liberal. So i think there`s really two periods this comes out of.


HARRIS-PERRY: And the defense of the Democratic party over and against a kind of centrist move is very much a defense of the democratic party over and against, in its most recent era, the Clinton move, right? So there is this triangulation move, it`s a Clinton move that is, that is very clearly the DCCC. And I mean, not Hillary Clinton, but Bill Clinton who basically shows up on the stage and is like, look, you can have progressivism or you can have a Democratic President, somebody who can actually win. I`m here to win. I`m going to move hard to the center, I`m going to do it in some very particular ways but you`re going to also end up with a two-term Democratic President. Annd he made those choices quite explicitly.

ZELIZER: Well, he`s -- in many ways, Hillary Clinton is running against Bill Clinton`s record of moderation. So.


ZELIZER: So the language of progressivism is itself a recovery of some of the content that was lost during Clinton`s eight years of a presidency.


And also, a way of transcending the kind of baggage that liberalism has, even in the context of President Obama`s election. So we get this very squishy notion of progressivism that was articulated by Hillary Clinton in very nonsensical terms, which is a progressivism is someone who can make progress like -- that means nothing. Because progress can move in any direction.


HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.

ZELIZER: Even in the context of the historical notions of progressivism, we saw progress moving towards greater liberalization of wages and workplace safety and even housing conditions for many white Americans at the same time that we saw, as you have just aptly described, the elimination of equality and substance for black people.

HARRIS-PERRY: And so, and hat said, I`ve got to say, I am irritated by the like you`re not a real progressive. Because I`ve got to say, it sounds to me, not unlike the -- you`re not a real conservative discourse that occurs on the right. I`m very nervous about ideological litmus tests as the basis of which we will make the value of an argument, right? So i don`t think that we should exclusively make pragmatic arguments in our politics. I think that`s a kind of deadening of our politics. On the other hand, I also don`t think we should have some sort of -- like here`s the list of the 10 things you have to believe in order to be kind of in my, in my club.

CHRISTINA BELTRAN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ANALYSIS, N.Y.U.: Right, exactly. We should be having a conversation about what constitutes the content of progressivism and really having a debate over what`s internally going on there. And I think what you`re doing in trying to historicize this is really important because I would argue that there are elements of that earlier progressivism that have echoed through Hillary Clinton. You know, her -- you know, her and Bernie to some extent. There`s a certain dynamic I think that does exist here between protecting and policing populations, that a desire to both -- sometimes the Clinton era was an era that conjured up both pity and fear for communities they were trying to serve.


And so I think the idea that there is a kind of proper citizenship and a proper progressive, I think that haunts progressive politics, which is in an effort to, you know, kind of animate state power. There is also a concern that perhaps we need to have a certain kind of proper citizen.


And a proper citizen behaves a certain way and prioritizes identity in a particular way. And so there is a kind of policing logic in what constitutes good civic behavior. And I think that still haunts Democratic politics from its far left versions to its more conservative version.

HARRIS-PERRY: You know, this is not a small point, that idea of animating, animating the state. On the one hand, you know, you want the state to get animated around assisting in reducing economic inequality, which I hear Mr. Sanders talk about in this really powerful way. You don`t necessarily want the state to get animated on the ground in Ferguson, right? In these other kinds of ways. Nina, so help me out a little bit because it does seem to me that, that part of what Mr. Sanders is doing here is this kind of battle for the soul of the Democratic Party language. But is that what he`s really doing? Or is this just straight up politics, right? Like is this like, okay, okay, I actually now see a pathway to winning, and I`m just going to hammer the thing that will allow me to win?

NINA TURNER, FMR. OHIO STATE SENATOR: Well, let`s go back to the fact that he didn`t necessarily start this debate. Right, so.

HARRIS-PERRY: No. but he`s in it now.

TURNER: But he`s in it now, but this is really about the mission of the thing Not just -- so I agree, this is about the mission of the thing.


When he stands up and says that people -- we should go for a $15 an hour minimum wage in this country, people who work 40 hours a week should not still be poor, that`s progress in the right direction. Because I agree with the Professor, we can progress the other way. And you`re absolutely right, for us in terms of what pure progressivism means in the earlier days of American history, black folks didn`t make out so well in that.


But we see a sea change in what Senator Sanders is talking about when he talks about the five violences against black and brown folks. And he called them violences -- legal, political, physical, economic, and environmental. All of those things speak to whether or not we as a country, not only will dream big, but use the full power and weight of the federal government to get those kinds of things done. So for me, I want a leader who does dream big, who does think big. You know, somebody once said that man`s grasp, you know, his reach should exceed his grasp. That is really what Senator Sanders is talking about.

HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So this is in interesting question about whether -- just how, how far that grasp is. When we come back, we`re going to talk about that other big question, electability.



SANDER: So I believe, if you want to retain the White House, if you want to see Democrats do well across the board, I think our campaign is the one that creates the large voter turnout and helps us win.

CLINTON: I think it`s fair to say that whoever is in that position, Senator Sanders or anyone else who might have run, will face the most withering onslaught. So i think that I am the person who can do all aspects of the job. I think I`m the person that`s prepared to take the case to the Republicans.

HARRIS-PERRY: That was Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in Thursday`s debate arguing about who would be the most electable candidate in the general election. According to a national Quinnipiac poll released yesterday, Clinton leads Sanders by only two points. And the poll also shows that Sanders is the strongest candidate in a hypothetical, in a set of hypothetical general election match-ups. The Senator Donald Trump, the national GOP favorite 49 to 39 percent, according to Quinnipiac, while Clinton only leads Trump 46 to 41 percent.


That, of course, is also all gobbledy gook at this point in the election cycle. But that said, what I thought was really interesting about the argument that Bernie Sanders made there, he has made an argument that he has longer coat tails than Hillary Clinton. Which I think is maybe the first time I`ve heard anyone make that argument. I`m wondering what you think of it, then I`ll come back around.

ZELIZER: Yeh, look, I mean the premise of his argument is that he`s mobilizing a bottom-up campaign, not unlike in 2008, and in the end,


that combined with his being firmly rooted in where congressional Democrats are -- they`re not all as far from him as you might think --


ZELIZER: .that he in the end could generate the excitement, the votes to, not just have a Democratic President, but a Democratic government. I don`t think that`s true, but you can see where the argument comes from.


HARRIS-PERRY: I just really (inaudible) (need) the Sanders` campaign to stop saying that it is 2008. It`s just okay for it to be 2016. Like it`s just really OK to be like, Senator, it`s 2016. And just you`re not, you`re not Barack Obama 2008. It`s just, Barack Obama 2012 wasn`t even Barack Obama 2008. It`s just different, it`s okay for it to be different.

TURNER: I don`t think the campaign is saying that.

HARRIS-PERRY: (inaudible)

TURNER: People want to draw those, those parallels to it is, right, is not exactly saying -- you`re right, it is okay to be 2016. We are.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeh. Be your own self. But, professor, this is the thing here in terms of the coat tails. OK, we got slaughtered, we being the Democratic Party. in 2014. I was part of that slaughter when I ran for statewide office in the great state of Ohio.

HARRIS-PERRY: Oh. And in every midterm. Every time President Obama was not at the top, actually, yes.

TURNER: So we do need leaders, starting with the President. But then, in with the President, who will say every single freakin` election is important, that you can`t nation build every four years.

HARRIS-PERRY: OK, OK. So I, I have never been. OK, so I want to pause on this for a second because I`m not sure that this can happen at the presidential [level]. In fact, I would argue that, for me, Thursday night, watching Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, already this early.


We are in New Hampshire, and our party is so anemic, that we are down to two candidates, right? Say what you want to say about the mad house going on on the Republican side.


TURNER: I`m with you on that. They`ve got diversity, and they`ve got choice.

HARRIS-PERRY: They got all kinds of folks, still want, still wanting the Republican nomination.

TURNER: I`m with you.

HARRIS-PERRY: We have two folks who are, who are advanced in age, who have been in government for a long time.

TURNER: are they both in the same generation? Professor, please say that so the folks can hear you at home.

HARRIS-PERRY: They, they are in the same generation. All of that is true, happening on the stage. Is there a Democratic [Party]? Like can you have a coat tail at a party that`s anemic at this point?

TURNER: In terms of what is happening now and the energy that is galvanized, I agree with you, Professor. It cannot solely happen at the presidential level, but you need that large cache to say that electing a school board member is just as important as electing the President of the United States of America.

HARRIS-PETTY: It is, absolutely.

TURNER: Now, but your point too, `cause I am very critical about my party when it comes to where the heck is the diversity? Where is the diversity? And, you`re right, we can say whatever we want to say about our Republican brothers and sisters.


TURNER: .but they got something for everybody on that stage.

HARRIS-PERRY: It`s whiter than the Oscars up in here!

TURNER: So, so.

ZELIZER: Now, see, that`s a low (inaudible).


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: You went there, you went there.

ZELIZER: The Republican Party as a whole has moved to the right, electorally, politically. And they might have more people on the stage, but I`m not sure it`s so politically diverse in terms of.


HARRIS-PERRY: No, but I just mean, I mean I literally just mean the robustness of the party.


TURNER: Yes, yes.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right, right. And I, and I, and I don`t even mean that. I just mean a robustness of the party. I just mean the idea that when there was an open seat race, after two years of an incumbent President, that a bunch of people threw their hat in and said I`m ready to run. I am, I`m ready to go and go for this.


Because I think, I think you could argue about 50, you have to run in all 50 states. That actually is critical.

TURNER: Yeh, yeh, it is.

BELTRAN: And you can argue, actually, one of the issues with Hillary Clinton, she has taken up so much oxygen of the party.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. Which is (inaudible) juggernaut.


BELTARN: I think the question of what kind of bench we`re going to have post-Hillary, and even post-Biden, because there`s a sense there are these people, that we have to kind of wait.


And then so I don`t think we have a sense of how deep the Democratic bench is yet until, until, until Hillary, until the thing runs out, either she doesn`t win or does win this cycle. So I think that`s one of the issues. But I think the other is, elections are simultaneously places that can create spaces for movement the, but not social movements.


HARRIS-PERRY: Mm-hmm. That`s right, that`s right.

BELTRAN: Like we can`t have -- we need, we need a revitalized democracy that isn`t just about electing people because at the point at which you`re done electing them, you become a spectator again.


BELTRAN: You need a movement (inaudible).


TURNER: Right, but that`s what his political revolution is about.

BELTRAN: Black Live Matter is a movement. You need a movement that has a larger commitment (inaudible).

ZELIZER: That`s the same as (inaudible).

TURNER: But, but that`s the political revolution. And, (inaudible) let me say `cause I know Professor wants to get in here.

HARRIS-PERRY: All right, OK. But actually what`s going (inaudible). You`re apparently going to get up in here and there is a commercial, and we`re going to do that. And the reason there are going to be commercials is because we got to pay for the TV show, just like you have to pay for college. Because free college is not a thing and we`re going to talk about that when we come back.



CLINTON: I also believe in affordable college. But I don`t believe in free college. Because every expert that I have talked to says, look, how will you ever control the costs? What i want to do is make sure middle class kids, not Donald Trump`s kids, get to be able to afford college. I want to get the economy going again. It`s not just enough about what we`re against, as important as that is. Let`s go down a path where we can actually tell people what we will do, a progressive is someone who makes progress. That`s what i intend to do.


HARRIS-PERRY: That was Hillary Clinton saying Khalil`s favorite line. So tell me why that line irritates you so much.

KHALIL MUHAMMAD, DIRECTOR, SCHOMBURG CENTER FOR RESEARCH IN BLACK CULTURE: Well, well it irritates me, but ultimately, Bernie Sanders, to come back to the political revolutionary issue, the longer coat tails is he is channeling the Occupy movement and the Black Lives Matter movement. He is uncomfortable wrestling with the explicitness of a blackness in racism. I, I concede that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) But ultimately, the Occupy movement and Black Lives movement, come as a reaction to both the Democratic Party and the unwillingness to wrestle with poverty and economic immobility in this country, of which Hillary Clinton in that line just there is talking yet again, like the President Obama has done, about the middle class. So there`s an unwillingness fundamentally to wrestle with entrenched generational poverty and lack of economics.


So she can talk about it in big terms but, at the end of the day, what she is speaking to is the same middle of the road, middle class. The issue here is not Donald Trump`s kids versus some amorphous notion of the middle class.

?TURNER: Come on, come on, come one.

MUHAMMAD: The issue is we won`t have a middle class.

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure, OK, all right. So, so let`s go on that `cause I like this idea of channeling Occupy, right? And I particularly like it in the language of, of free college. Because for me, occupy is on the one hand this beautiful discourse. It gives us the 99.1 percent, it gives us clear ways of thinking about what inequality looks like. It also occupies land in Manhattan that, you know, is occupied land, right? Like it also fails to do a really important understanding of the intersectionality of the ways in which race and American history and imperialism and colonialism connect together in language like occupation, OK?

TURNER: Mm-hmm.

HARRIS-PERRY: And the reason I want to say that is because, for me, what I need Mr. Sanders to do when he talks about accessible college is to stop saying free college.


Because I think, I think it actually dumbs down a very important debate about accessibility to college. Free college sounds like we`re throwing open the doors to all of america`s colleges and universities, everybody.


And that actually is not a thing. That is not going to happen, that`s not going to happen with this President or any other. If it did, what it would do to the thing that is the American college and university system is deeply troubling in a way nobody wants. So have the actual debate. Allow people to be complicated as citizens. If we`re going to have a revolution, let`s have a good one!

TURNER: But he is talking about affordability. I mean (inaudible).

HARRIS-PERRY: But he doesn`t say that. He stands up and screams free college.

TURNER: He is talking about affordability. Look, I, I`ve been traveling the country and i have met young folks who flat out -- one young man when I was in Des Moines, he said, I am not in college right now because I cannot afford it.


HARRIS-PERRY: That`s real.

TURNER: I can`t afford it. And so for so many young -- it`s not just the college affordability, it is also senator Sanders is saying that, as a federal government, we should be able to allow young people to change interest rates.


HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that`s right. We shouldn`t - they shouldn`t be, we should not, students should not be borrowing at an interest rate to go to school. We should invest in young people.

TURNER: That`s right. That`s right.

BELTRAN: Of course. Really what this debate is I think fundamentally about, I think when he talks about free college, what he`s trying to do is bring back a language of publicness of education.

TURNER: That`s it, right.

BELTRAN: He wants to say that public education matters. That education should be a public right.


So the discourse of publicness. But, but as you`re pointing out, we have an issue of like private and public schools. I come from California, where I`m a U.C. graduate.

TURNER: There you go.

BELTRAN: So U.C. and the whole kind of Cal State and U.C. and community college system there. You have that in Texas. Yu have a public language that I think he`s trying to revitalize, which we have really lost in the language of student debt.


TURNER: That`s right.

ZELIZER: He`s trying to balance the need for specificity, and I agree with your point, with the need to inspire, and the need to make a strong argument that many Democrats feel has been lost.


ZELIZER: And it`s the two arguments. It`s not just inequality for him, this is my read. One is that government is a good, and that`s an argument that Clintons have shied away from.




ZELIZER: And he says it with vigor. And the second is a big point, but is kind of relevant, the political process is broken. It`s a lot of big money.


ZELIZER: And he says that`s not pie in the sky.


TURNER: That`s right.

ZELIZER: That`s actually at the heart of what`s going on here.

TURNER: That`s it.

ZELIZER: But I do think he needs to address that kind of concern or he`ll be seen as a.

TURNER: And, and we can continue (inaudible) deep (inaudible). And I want to also say this. Mr. Trump`s children, and anybody in that bracket, they will not go to public colleges and universities. This is not about making that free for those young folks.

HARRIS-PERRY: Oh. Oh, no, they might. Oh, no. No, no, they might. I`m going to make an argument on that.

TURNER: OK, we`ll make an argument, okay.

HARRIS-PERRY: `Cause I don`t know if you have seen what has happened with the public charter school situation in the magnet schools, with the rich people thing. When we come back. Stay with us. (If) it will. Oh, the rich people will.



CLINTON: I may not have done the job that I should in explaining my record. You know, I did, when I left the Secretary of State`s office, like so many former officials, military leaders, journalists, others. I did go on the speaking circuit.

MODERATOR: Are you willing to release the transcripts of all your paid speeches? We do know through reporting that there were transcription services for those paid speeches. And in full disclosure, would you release all of them?

CLINTON: I will look into it. I don`t know the status, but I will certainly look into it.


HARRIS-PERRY: So that was Hillary Clinton during Thursday night`s Democratic debate. And I`ve made just kind of a straight political science argument for a lot of years about a challenge that Hillary Clinton faces around of electability that doesn`t have anything to do with the quality of governance, ideology or anything else. It`s just that typically what you want in a campaign when you`re going into to run for President, is you want some portion, some substantial portion of the American people to not have an opinion about you, right? It`s one of the things that is benefitting Bernie Sanders right now, right? So high likables are fine, but you just literally want a group of people who are like, I`ve never even heard of that person.


HARRIS-PERRY: Because you want your campaign to teach them something. And that one of the challenges is just people believe that they know everything there is -- whether or not they actually do -- they believe that they, that they know Hillary Clinton, good, bad or otherwise. And i wonder if that lack of space for people to feel like they can learn something about her is the challenge. So you constantly get, will you release this? Will you get like. So everything feels like an investigation rather than a campaign of learning.

TURNER: Right, right.

BELTRAN: That`s a great way to put it, that it`s a constant investigation of Hillary. We are - I mean she has been on the public mind since 1991.

HARRIS-PERRY: Which it turns out is a long time ago. It doesn`t feel like a long time ago to me. I sort of feel.

BELTRAN: That`s the point when Jeb Bush was still -- not a total disaster. I was thinking my life has made no progress. It`s been like a Bush and a Clinton, a Bush and a Clinton.

HARRIS-PERRY: A Bush and a Clinton.


BELTRAN: I have made no progress. So that feeling, no progress. So this feeling of knowability I think for her is a huge, is a huge dynamic. And I do think that, on the other hand, I do think coming after Barack Obama, there could be something that she can parlay here in terms of the fact that one thing we didn`t know is how Barack Obama would be as a political fighter. We didn`t know what kind of -- we knew what his vision was. And I think Bernie has the same thing, we know what his vision is, and that`s really exciting. But that language of getting things done, that language of tenacity, that language of I`ve been beaten up and i keep coming back and I`m the, I`m the terminator when it comes to the political things I committed to. I think she might be able to, I think she, she can never do like this reintroduction of Hillary. That will not work.


HARRIS-PERRY: Yeh, I would like the campaign to stop that.

BELTRAN: Everybody knows Hillary. It`s a question of if you know what i am, good, bad and ugly, here`s how i can win battles politically for you. I think she can`t because that`s why these numbers of the Quinnipiac poll mean nothing. Because people are like, I don`t know, Bernie seems nice. Her, they know everything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or at least they believe they know everything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or they think they know everything.

ZELIZER: I mean a lot of her campaign is about undoing what people think about her.


ZELIZER: That`s a hard way to run a campaign.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeh, right.

ZELIZER: You`re supposed to put forward ideas that sound exciting. You`re supposed to introduce Americans to this potential leader. But every debate, every speech, a lot of it comes back to I`m not that person.


ZELIZER: And she does it.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right, yeh. She -- right, right.

ZELIZER: She buys into this way of campaigning, and it, it`s hard to think of a precedent where someone does well that way.


MUHAMMAD: Well, there`s this interesting contradiction here, and this is the line where she says that I`m not the establishment, I`m the first woman running for President. So that dissonance is exactly the opposite of what you just said, which is she is the establishment.


And so if she`s going to be the establishment, she needs to own it. The Kennedy family could never say that we`re not the establishment.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeh, just be like, yeh, I run it. And what? I know where the machines are, I know where the bodies are buried. I put some of them there, and I`ll do it.

BETRAN: Right.

HARRIS-PERRY: You know is an awful lot of the accomplishments of the Obama era was undoing the first Clinton (inaudible whisper) you know. (EHC) and.


ZELIZER: That gets to the heart of the first argument we talked about. That`s exactly the debate.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Julian Zelizer and to Cristina and Nina, who are - and Khalik, we`re all going to be back later in the program. But up next, we going to talk to a mother whose family has been suffering the real life consequences of the Flint water crisis. When we come back.


HARRIS-PERRY: This week national political leaders turn their focus to the water crisis in Flint. Later today a a congressional delegation will travel to the city to visit neighborhoods and meet with families who have been affected.


Tomorrow, Hillary Clinton will be taking a break from primary campaigning in New Hampshire to fly to Flint at the invitation of the Mayor. She`ll be using her visit to push the U.S. Senate to approve $600 million in federal funding for Flint`s recovery and to ask questions about the progress of the emergency response.


Meanwhile, the House of Representatives had a few questions of their own.


Wednesday, members of a House committee put the Environmental Protection Agency in the hot seat during a hearing about the Agency`s response to the crisis. Tempers flared as members of the bipartisan House committee grilled both Federal and State environmental officials about the disaster that exposed Flint residents to lead-tainted water for months.

REP. JOHN MICA, (R) FLORIDA: For lack of 80 to $100 a day, that`s what you said, which is about -- let me do the math -- it`s about $30,000 a year. For that much money, we poisoned the kids in, in Flint, didn`t we?

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) MARYLAND: Our children are the living messages we sent to a future we will never see. The question is, is what will they leave us, and how will we send them into that future? Will we rob them of their destiny? Will we rob them of their dreams? No! We will not do that.

REP. MATT CARTWRIGHT, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: This Governor of Michigan and his emergency manager, hand-picked to save money, he got caught red-handed, poisoning children in Flint. And the residents of Flint. There`s no two ways about it. That`s the headline here.


HARRIS-PERRY: One of the most impassioned moments of the hearing came from Leanne Walters, a Flint mother, who was one of the first to raise the alarm about the tainted water, and whose son has tested positive for lead poisoning.


LEANNE WALTERS, FLINT RESIDENT: Now my home is known as ground zero. The people in Flint now stand with the people in D.C., who suffered their own lead crisis a decade ago, because we know the horror of poison running through other our taps and the negligence of the agencies paid to protect us.

HARRIS-PERRY: Notably absent from the hearing, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who was not invited by the Republicans who run the committee. Congressman Elijah Cummings accused the Republicans of letting the Governor off the hook, and he and his fellow democrats demanded that the committee`s Chair bring Snyder in to testify.

CUMMINGS: The problem is today we are missing the most critical witness of all, the Governor of the State of Michigan, Rick Snyder. He is not here. Governor Snyder should have to answer for his decisions.



HARRIS-PERRY: Also missing from the proceedings was former Flint emergency manager, Darnell Earley, who oversaw the switch from corrosive water from the Flint River. The night before the hearing, Earley was subpoenaed to appear before the committee.


His attorney refused on the grounds he needed more time to prepare, but later said Earley will appear if he is subpoenaed again. Meanwhile, a group of Flint residents in the audience at the hearing didn`t wait for an invitation. They traveled overnight by bus to Washington to show Congress the faces of this disaster. A member of that group joins me now from Ann Arbor. Melissa Mays is the founder of Clean Water Advocacy Group, Water You Fighting For? Mrs. Mays. You were there.


HARRIS-PERRY: What did you hear in those testimonies?


MAYS: It was great to hear Congress just tear into the MDEQ and EPA because they, they were supposed to protect us. In fact, what they did was lie. They covered it up, covered it up. They ignored us, they tried to shut us up we are out on the streets, we were in legislation, we were testifying over and over and over again what was going on with our health, what was going on with the color and quality of our water, what we found out through our testing, and, of course, we worked with Virginia Tech to get the truth out. And they still called us liars and put us down, even when the Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha came out, she was a liar, she was an unfortunate researcher. So to hear the Congressmen, especially Congressman Cummings, just tear into it, I smiled. Unfortunately, without Earley or Snyder being there, there are a lot of unanswered questions. But I look forward to future hearings for that.


I`d like to have a little box of popcorn with me and just hear what they have to say because everything so far has been lies, cover-ups, I didn`t know, and just ridiculous answers, or no answers at all.

HARRIS-PERRY: As we were talking about this story, this morning, before, as our team meets, and we were talking about the story of your family, the only thing that I can describe that was happening among my producers and me is rage, absolute rage about what has happened to you and your children. Will you please share that story with my viewers?

MAYS: Well, the worst part is what`s happening to my sons. I will take the hit. I have seizures, I`ve got diverticulosis, I have to go in for a liver biopsy now to see what all toxins are in my system. I have osteoarthritis, I`m in pain.


But I would take that any day over what my sons are suffering through. My, my, my 12-year-old can`t sleep at night, because his bones hurt so bad. My 11-year-old, his white blood cell count is four. He is so anemic, he looks exhausted all of the time. He gets sick any time he goes anywhere. My kids want to play sports and I`m too scared to let them because their bones are brittle. My 12-year-old fell off his bike and his wrist just splintered, it just collapsed, and the doctor couldn`t figure it out. But we didn`t know about the lead problems, we didn`t know to have him tested. The worst part is watching my 17-year-old, who has worked his rear end off for years so he could test into a high school where he could take college classes at the same time and graduate with a diploma and associates degree.


And the fact that now he has a C+ average, has to see a tutor, he`s mixing up simple things like pluses and minuses in Advanced Algebra. We talk to his teacher every week, and she loves him and supports him, but he is struggling so hard now, and that is completely unfair. They didn`t ask for this. They didn`t do anything to deserve this, but now their futures are derailed. And they have to work twice as hard, if not more, for something that was coming rather easy to them. So watching them fight me in the morning because they don`t want to go to school because it`s too hard now and they don`t understand why - there`s just no excuse. This I didn`t know, it`s, it`s inexcusable and, honestly, there`s 100,000 residents going through what I`m going through, what my family is going through right now, and it`s not OK.

HARRIS-PERRY: And at the same time, it is my understanding that you are both getting municipal water bills and paying for bottled water?

MAYS: Yes. Yes, because going to the, the -- we don`t give out enough water. They give you, unless you have a child under six, they give you one case of water. We go through that a day, at least that. We have two dogs and a cat that we won`t give tap water to, because they became ill.


We, we watch our vegetables and our meats in bottled water. Everything we can possibly do, wash our face, brush our teeth, everything in the bottled water, and so the one case isn`t enough. So we just continue to buy it at the store. And my newest water bill came a couple days ago and it`s $1,064. And i don`t want to pay that, I shouldn`t have to, because it`s poison. It`s been prepaid, the water was prepaid by the State and Mott Foundation. Why we`re getting bills is beyond me. The City Administrator, the State- appointed City Administrator says we need to pay for it because we`re still using water. Well, of course, we have to.


HARRIS-PERRY: What? If you are using that much bottled water, what in the world are you doing with all the bottles?

MAYS: That`s another thing, too. We haven`t gotten our recycling bins yet. they`re supposed to deliver recycling bins. But we get, we fill up a garbage, a small kitchen garbage bag a day of these bags.


So my husband has to drive them to work to recycle them there, otherwise they`re covering the whole house. And it`s - and them I`m looking at this and going, well, now I`m destroying the environment. I was against bottled water to begin with, now I`m forced to use it and, and forced to pay for it, forced to pay my water bills, and I`m just sitting here going, wow.


What kind of world do we live in? And my kids are sick, the environmental physician that we need isn`t covered by insurance. So we need $200 to talk to her, and we pay for the over the counter detox meds, which we don`t know if they`re working or not, but it`s the best thing that we can do. We`re left with no options, when what we need is whole home filtration and pipes replaced. And we`re getting anything but that.

HARRIS-PERRY: Melissa Mays in Ann Arbor, Michigan, what you just did was to make it absolutely plain. Thank you for joining us this morning.

MAYS: Thank you.

HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up, flint is not the only place where residents are suffering from the consequences of lead exposure, and that`s next.


HARRIS-PERRY: The Flint water crisis has renewed attention to the broader threat of lead exposure to communities, and in particular to children throughout the country.


This week the "Detroit News" reported that metal continues to turn up annually in the bodies of thousands of children across the state in percentages well above numbers that raised red flags in Flint. A recent Vox analysis of Centers for Disease Control data found thousands of Pennsylvania children in a lead exposure study had unsafe levels of metal in their blood. And on Monday, New Jersey launched a plan to address more than 200,000 children in the state who over the last 15 years were diagnosed with elevated levels of lead. According to the CDC, in 2014 among 27 states that reported blood lead levels in children under the age of six, children in 12 of those states had even higher rates of lead poisoning than Flint.


So one of the reasons I wanted you at the table to talk about this, Khalil, is the work you do in the (text) around the condemnation of blackness and this construction of race in our notions of crime. And in part what we know about the physiological effects of lead, and its connection to behavioral, cognitive, academic, intellectual challenges. Even what we heard there from Melissa Mays and sort of what it`s done to her children in a matter of a couple of years, who are over that age six. And what we know is these are communities that tend to have high concentrations of poverty, and that are often communities that are black and brown. And I`m wondering, the ways in which these realities might be connected.

MUHAMMAD: Well, one of the lessons of the progressive era, to come back to where we started the show, is that throwing black people under the bus for liberals, particularly in northern cities, the very sites that were having a conversation today about inequality, by and large, was itself a progressive solution to the limits of economic, unlimited economic resources. So given the choice between who we should invest in, what kinds of communities should benefit from our expertise and our capacity to make the right decision on behalf of the public, meant that black people`s roads weren`t paved in the early 20th century, meant that their sewer systems were still privies and outhouses, long after the modern sanitation regime existed in America. In other words, we are seeing the same racial gap in terms of the infrastructure that we know works in many communities, mostly white, almost always well off or wealthy as compared to poor, black and brown communities. And that itself is part of the progressive era legacy. At the same time, we have a failure of ideology in this moment. This is not just about those institutions, those individuals in Michigan, or in New Jersey, or in Pennsylvania. This is about an ideology that says, we can`t afford our public good.


MUHAMMAD: And therefore, we are making choices at the margins everywhere.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.

MUHAMMAD: And therefore, the communities that have the least political currency and least ability to move the political needle are the ones who are going to be sacrificed first. It is not an accident that the same emergency manager, Darnel Earley, who`s responsible for what happened in Flint under Snyder`s watch,.


.is the same emergency manager that just resigned in Detroit, where their school system is completely falling apart.

TURNER: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. I totally agree with Khalil.


And this is about immoral incompetence right here. In terms of government`s power and sway to create spaces where all folks are equal, and the system is rigged, and so that begs back into this whole notion about is there a need for a political revolution that says that poor folks, poor folks matter too. This is what this is about.

HARRIS-PERRY: Maybe even, maybe even first.

TURNER: Even first.

HARRIS-PERRY: Like, yeh. But you have to invest double to even get -

TURNER: That`s it. And the mothers` pain. I mean, Professor, mother to mother, Jesus Christ! You know her [son], her life! This is for life.


And that governor needs to be locked up, along with anybody else that was complicit, because there is flesh and blood behind the kind of cavalier, nothing to see here.


When General Motors says that that water was corroding cars, yet it took local, State, and Federal officials -- did not do their dag gone jobs.

HARRIS-PERRY: Speaking of locked up, I just want to - I had forgotten, because of course we always forget the people who are locked up -


HARRIS-PERRY: .people in the Flint jails were still drinking the water, including imprisoned pregnant women, were drinking that water up until about a month and a half ago.

TURNER: (Oh, God.)

HARRIS-PERRY: So, and again, corroding car parts.

TURNER: Right, right. And our Hispanic brothers and sisters.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, yes, that`s right, that`s right. And that`s right, and in undocumented communities, because in part of the raids that were coming out of the Department of Homeland Security, which creates a culture of fear, people were not opening the door when Federal officials were coming and local officials were coming to bring water, that is correct. Thank you to Nina Turner and Khalil Muhammad.

Mayor Karen Weaver, who has been doing all the work to address this, has invited Hillary Clinton to Flint, and the candidate is heading there. And guess what? We`re going to have Mayor Weaver live on our show tomorrow, `cause Mayor Weaver ain`t waiting for nobody. She is working to save her people now. She will be on our show tomorrow.

Coming up next, does it matter to have a woman as President. Also "Sweet Honey in the Rock" is going to perform live because we`ve got to do something to make ourselves feel better. There`s more Nerdland at the top of the hour.


MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.

And this year, American voters have an opportunity to make history, presidential gender history.

It`s not the first time. I mean, in 1984, Geraldine Ferraro served as the vice presidential pick for Democrat Walter Mondale. And had they defeated the incumbent that year, Ferraro would have been the woman with the highest-ranking elected position in U.S. history.

In 2008, that precise opportunity presented itself again, when Sarah Palin campaigned alongside John McCain, offering the possibility of securing the VP role for the ladies once more.

2008 was also the year Hillary Clinton, then a senator, stood on the same historical precipice she now occupies. Just months from securing the Democratic nomination, and potentially claiming the top spot, the presidency itself. But each time that there has been a real chance of sending a woman to the White House, either as the QB or the VP, American voters have passed in favor of a bro show.

Here`s my question. Should we care? More specifically, should feminists care? Should those who believe that gender equity is critical to a fair and functioning democracy care whether or not we elect a woman to the U.S. presidency?

Now, on the one hand, as the mom of young daughters, the answer for me is an emphatic yes. I mean, I have read "Grace for President" to my daughters so often, the pages are worn.

As Mrs. Barrington introduces her elementary class to the U.S. president, where are the girls? And she decides to be the first girl president by running against tom in a class election.

I invite you to read it and see how it turns out. But thanks, Wyoming.

Now, I shared this story with my girls repeatedly, because feminism does assert the importance of women occupying positions of power. But feminism is not just picture book girl power, or even wicked displays of sexy, self identification. No matter how satisfying those may be.

A new survey from "The Washington Post" and Kaiser Family Foundation set out to understand just how Americans think about feminism. They found that 60 percent of women now identify as feminists. So do about a third of men.

It turns out that those much sought after consumers and voters millennial women are more likely to identify as feminists and the generation immediately preceding them. In fact, millennials look more like the other generation that dominated American politics and consumption for decade, the baby boomers. So, maybe that`s why Barbie got a sweeping makeover. Remember, when she was first introduced, it was to help boomer girls realize that they could be single ladies with cars and homes of their own. Ken was just an accessory.

And now, Barbie is as intersectional as millennials themselves -- tall and petite, curvy, brown and multicultural. Yes!

So, with Kaiser finding that big majorities of women support ensuring equal pay for equal work, reducing domestic violence and sexual assault, providing affordable child care, it`s clear that feminism matters to American women. But with only 38 percent of women reporting that electing more women to public offices is a top priority when it comes to improving their lives, the question remains, does having a woman as president matter, even to feminists?

Joining me now is my all star feminist panel: Nancy Cohen, author of "Breakthrough: The Making of America`s First Woman First", Brittney Cooper, assistant professor at Rutgers University and contributor at, Cristina Beltran, associate professor at New York University and author of "The Trouble with Unity", and Republican strategist, Susan del Percio, also live from Washington, D.C., is Krissah Thompson, a feature writer of "The Washington Post", and one of the partners in the new feminism poll that I just mentioned.

Krissah, nice to have you. Can you tell me what you found to be among the most surprising findings from the survey?

KRISSAH THOMPSON, FEATURE WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Sure. So, we undertook this project to really explore what feminism means today, and especially how it`s playing out in the lives of young women. And so the data point that showed that young women really see the feminist movement as important to their lives, I think was surprising for us. They were more likely to say that feminism is not outdated. That it`s relevant.

And as opposed to large majorities of the general public, you know, they don`t see it as necessarily having a bad reputation. Now, the way feminism is playing out in their lives is radically different than a couple of generations ago. You know, there are not charismatic leaders that they name as being really important to them, or necessarily like national organizations that are leading the feminist movement for them, but really the connective tissue of the Internet sort of holding all of this together. Nearly half of young women said they had spoken out about women`s rights on social media, which was surprising, as well.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, so I thought this was interesting -- there`s a kind of funny gap that on the one hand, when asked to describe or identify a feminist icon, the person who rises to the top for them is Hillary Clinton. She gets more mentions than anybody else. Not a majority, but more than anybody else at 22 percent. But then when asked whether or not it`s important to, you know, elect women -- more women to office, it doesn`t seem to be particularly important. And I guess I`m wondering why you think that gap exists.

THOMPSON: It`s interesting. You know, voting and sort of those traditionally like political ways of expressing feminism did not rise high for young women or for any women in our survey. You know, the issues that we see are important in terms of equal pay. That was more important than electing a woman to high office. You know, affordable child care. Those kinds of things.

Really, this feminism, especially for young women, is about how it`s playing out in individual lives, in their relationships with one another, in a view of how they see the world. And electing Hillary Clinton isn`t necessarily playing into that in any real way.

HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with us, Krissah.

Nancy, let me come to you on this.

NANCY COHEN, AUTHOR, "BREAKTHROUGH": Well, Krissah, this was such a fascinating survey, and the article that you guys wrote about it was great. Thank you for this. I have so much to say.

HARRIS-PERRY: I wrote a book about this! Yes, yes, yes.

COHEN: Let me back up a second about this. So right after Obama was elected -- re-elected in 2012, it was pretty clear that Hillary Clinton was going to be the front runner, as -- for the Democratic nomination. We had also just been through an election, where women`s rights, women`s health and women voters made the difference.

So, here`s a little factoid. If women had so much as split their votes between Romney and Obama, Romney would have won the election by 4 million votes.

HARRIS-PERRY: But wait a minute. OK. But -- and I -- because this is the thing -- right here for me is when it all goes -- because I just -- I have to show -- it`s my favorite chart.

Like, at all points I really just want it behind me, because it isn`t women. That`s not what happened. It`s just not. So when you look at the exit polls from 2012, it isn`t women. Because actually women did -- white women voted for Mr. Romney, 56 percent of white victim voted for Mitt Romney.

I want to say this again -- 56 percent of white women voted for Mr. Romney. The reason it wasn`t a split, African-American women and Latinas overwhelmingly showed up for the president. So, it wasn`t -- that`s not women.

COHEN: Absolutely.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s the race! That`s the black and the browns happening. It`s different.

COHEN: So absolutely. I think the point is critical here, that Democrats are depending, particularly on Latinas and black women, to elect Democrats, and Democrats should deliver to them.

But let me make a point about the white voters. I mean, whites in general are older, they`re wealthier. So they tend more Republican. And I really do think in 2012 -- I looked at some of the state exit polls at that time. What you see is the white numbers skewing, because white evangelical women in the south vote Republican at like 90 percent. Whereas California, it`s probably 60 percent of white women.

So, it doesn`t -- it`s really -- we`re really not as bad --

HARRIS-PERRY: No, no, no! It`s not a question of bad. It`s really not a question of bad or good. But it does feel to me like a question of -- in part of strategy.

Krissah, I want to come to you for one second on this. I`m wondering, as you all were doing these data, you know, as you`re looking at the millennials and you`re seeing that the millennials are looking like the baby boomers, part of what is interesting to me about that around the question of both of them showing up as feminists is that -- is the kind of intersectional racial differences that are true of millennial women versus baby boomer women. You know, that isn`t just an age difference. That`s also a race difference, right? That is a bunch of brown women saying we`re feminists versus a much larger proportion of white women saying we`re feminists.

THOMPSON: That`s true. So what we found in our reporting, and also the poll is this then becomes something that is very socially diffuse, and what does feminism mean to you. And, you know, lots of women have different answers to that. And so, the question of whether this movement now brings some political power to the table when it comes to something like a presidential election is a question that, you know, we sort of have to ponder.

But we have to remember that this term is also freighted with a lot of history that showed up in our survey, as well. You had more than half of women -- not just women. More than half of our respondents said that feminism itself has a bad reputation, while the women`s movement had a good reputation.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. We`re going to take a break.

I`m getting everybody back in on the rest of this.

Krissah Thompson in Washington, D.C. -- my favorite little factoid, you were nine months pregnant with a girl while working on that survey, which is just -- I can imagine also was a fun part of working on it. So thank you for that study.

When we come back, more on gender, more on the 2016 campaign. As we go, we`re going to listen to Hillary Clinton talking about shattering that glass ceiling.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m going to try to break the highest and hardest glass ceiling. I hope it splinters completely.


And -- and I hope for your daughters it opens doors that might not be open right now. Regardless of whether any of them ever do anything politically, but in their lives, their professions, how they`re treated, I hope it does give them more of a sense of empowerment.



HARRIS-PERRY: Here`s how the actress Susan Sarandon introduced Senator Bernie Sanders at a recent rally.


SUSAN SARANDON, ACTRESS: I`ve come here because for me, gender is not what`s important. Issues are what`s important.



HARRIS-PERRY: OK. If Hillary Clinton (INAUDIBLE), can she possibly win U.S. presidency? I mean, for real. I have issues with Hillary Clinton. But why in the world would Susan Sarandon not support Hillary Clinton?

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: When you`re talking about looking at millennials, special --

HARRIS-PERRY: I`m talking about millennials!

DEL PERCIO: I understand, but she was speaking to that clan.


DEL PERCIO: And we look at why millennials and some women are not supporting Hillary Clinton. They have grown up with -- under the guidance of the fighters for the women`s movement. They have been told, women and young girls have been told, you are equal, even the men growing up in that time.

So, it`s what you want. What do you want? You are not required to vote for a woman, just because you are a woman. You have a choice. We are both capable. Men and women are both capable.

BRITTNEY COOPER, SALON.COM: This is -- that is a critical misstep. So one of the things I see when I teach young women, they keep mistaking feminism as a personal identity, rather than a set of political commitments, right?


COOPER: That is rooted in a movement, that is rooted in actual oppression towards women. So then the problem becomes that the other thing that they -- that a lot of young people don`t seem to understand is that they have associated voting with Hillary Clinton, and considering her womanhood as part of that, as being connected to identity politics, but they`re acting as though voting for the white guy for an office that white men have held in all but one time is not identity politics, right?


COOPER: And all identity politics.

The last thing I want to say in this moment is, Bernie Sanders has so effectively marshaled race and class politics that he is neutralized Hillary`s ability to actually think about gender in a critical way. So, he is out here -- he has overcome his old white guy problem by saying -- but I`m progressive on recent class so I`m your typical white guy. So -- and reminded me when I saw him -- you made in your first book how women traditionally hear feminist messages better from men than women.

HARRIS-PERRY: Ma`am, so where were you in the first hour when the Bernieites were -- I am so neither Bernieite or Clintonite. I am so in this space this election.

And I think maybe in part, because -- I`m not sure I see a feminist running on the Democratic side.

DEL PERCIO: It`s also because you didn`t see -- it`s also because you didn`t see someone taking it for granted. Because she is a woman, she started off taking women for granted.


HARRIS-PERRY: I`m not sure.


CRISTINA BELTRAN, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: I do think it was a terrible move when she said I`m not establishment. I`m a woman. I think that was a terrible moment.

HARRIS-PERRY: I want to listen to that. Just in case folks -- I mean, who wasn`t watching? But just in case you weren`t, let`s -- I want to take a listen to Hillary Clinton saying that. And then I want to listen to another piece right behind it. Let`s just take a listen.


CLINTON: Senator Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me a woman running to be the first woman president as exemplifying the establishment. And I`ve got to tell you that it is -- it is really quite - - it`s really quite amusing to me.

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: When folks talk about a revolution, the revolution is electing the first woman president of the United States!


HARRIS-PERRY: But I -- that doesn`t work for me.

BELTRAN: I think the other thing that we have to keep talking about is multiplicity and heterogeneity. That`s why we didn`t talk about the gender gap. It`s not really a gender gap as much as it`s -- there`s a lot of layers of that gender gap.

It`s not just women. It`s rich women. Are they married women, are they white women, are older women, are they younger women, are they affluent women, are they college-educated women? Same thing as feminism. There is not feminism, there is feminisms.

So, there is liberal feminism. There`s neo liberal feminism. There`s women of color feminism.

So, there are different voices of radical politics that come out of feminist politics. And there are very conservative politics that can come out of it. So I think one of the real issues is, you have more radical feminists saying we want something more than parity. We want a transformation of our social lives.

And you have other women just want a seat at the table, right? So I think that Hillary Clinton is playing a certain kind of liberal feminism. So I think then we have to have a debate about what kind of feminism that is.

But I think when Sarandon says, "I don`t see gender, I see issues", that`s really problematic as well. The last thing that is important here is I think descriptive representation matters in as much as seeing women in public life tells Americans, tells citizens of the world that every community or every population has a right to be at the seat of power. But it has no guarantee of the quality of governing or quality of power.

So that`s why we have to distinguish between understanding that women at the seat of power matters. But it doesn`t guarantee equality politics.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So this has been kind of one of the -- as I move through the question of releasing the Obama years, right? Which has been about a descriptive representation, right, the embodiment of the American state in an African-American Democratic president, right? It is meaningful in and of itself, right?

Beyond whatever else, whatever failure successes policy wise. And that was true for me, for example, even in Condi Rice. In -- to be an African- American woman, political science professor, who is through the world as the secretary of state, there is a certain like, go do that, girl. Because just aren`t very many of us in the world, right?


HARRIS-PERRY: So even when there was a sense of disagreement, like, that embodiment matters, and I guess -- you know -- but I guess I keep wondering, does it matter enough? Is that in a tie-breaker?

We`re going to talk more when we come back. I promise. More when we come back.


HARRIS-PERRY: This week, Jeb Bush brought his mom, former first lady, Barbara Bush, to join him on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, part of what the "New York Times" described as a trend of Republicans looking for a softer tone to appeal to women in the Granite State.

Here`s what Mrs. Bush had to say about her son`s opponent, Donald Trump.


BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: I mean, unbelievable. I don`t know how women can vote for someone who said what he said about Megyn Kelly. It`s terrible. And we knew what he meant, too.


HARRIS-PERRY: Stay precious. Stay precious, Mrs. Bush.

BELTRAN: It`s horrifying. I think it`s horrifying.

HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me why.

BELTRAN: I think it`s horrifying -- I think I`m my own man, and now -- you know, they`re all coming out. It`s just a -- it`s just sad. The Bush -- but I also think, this is why we need to think about gender, not just in terms are there women in the office, men in the office. Like that`s a fascinating deployment of gender and maternal affection.

I mean, there is a bunch of issues you need a gender analysis to make any sense of. I want to get back to the point you said earlier, I think that in a world of which women and people of color now hold more power than they have historically in our world, not enough, still underrepresentation but more women in the seats of power. One of the big challenges we have is, how do we read what we are seeing? How do we use judgment to make a judgment over what we`re seeing?

And I think we need a more critical eye about the diversities we`re seeing, and I think that maybe 20 or 30 years ago, there was a certain assumption that once we had more of those bodies in office, we would have a better politics. We`d have a feminist politics, a socially just or racially just politics.

It`s not going to be that simple. We currently have a neoliberal multicultural politics. And for some of us, that is not a just politics, a diverse politics, but not a socially just politics in ways we imagine.

COOPER: I want to pick up on this earlier point you were making about deployments of gender. I think they matter here. So one of the things that I`ve been asking myself is, would it actually be possible for Hillary to run farther to the left to invoke all of the things we like about Bernie Sanders, and still win, right? Because President Obama couldn`t run as far to the left and win.

Now, he ran left of center, but he was still a fairly centrist candidate and we made all of these, you know, excuses for that, right? He`s got to get there. And you know -- it becomes a mark of distrust, right? So all - -

HARRIS-PERRY: It`s also because there is a history, though.

COOPER: It`s true. So this is the tension I`m battling, which -- on the one hand, she is an architect of Clintonism, which many of us reject and I think rightfully so. But there is also a way that Bernie Sanders is able to marshal these sort of liberal claims.

HARRIS-PERRY: Because he`s got white male privilege.

COOPER: Exactly.


COHEN: And I do think that we attribute bill Clinton`s decisions a little too much to Hillary. We know that she opposed a number of --

HARRIS-PERRY: She said super predator. Super predator. And I mean, she did. Like, she has --

COHEN: So she is --

HARRIS-PERRY: She bears that.

COHEN: Yes. So she bears that. But she has been advocating for criminal justice reform for the past ten years, since she was in the Senate. She`s called mandatory minimum sentencing indefensible.

I want to go back to this point, is it just having the right people in office, is it descriptive? And the global research is unequivocal that when women lead, when women are in power, they make advancing gender equality, women`s opportunity, women`s participation a true priority in a way that it`s very, very rare for men to see. We see it with Michelle Bachelet in Chile who opened thousands of nursing schools so women could work, who pushed through emergency contraception in church.

Hillary has been putting equal pay, repealing the Hyde amendment, reproductive justice at the center of her campaign. And I do think she is a champion of women`s rights, and Bernie is a good ally. But I think he has a long checklist of things he wants to do.

And I think that it`s -- if he is elected president, and I will say as a Democrat, I will support him as our nominee. But if he`s elected president, I think we`re not going to -- I think like always, we`re going to see all these things fall to the back burner. And I think, you know, it matters to women of color that we have equal pay, that we raise the minimum wage. These things matter more to women --

COOPER: But it also matters that white women not call our men super predators.


HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And let me actually say, for me, one of the experiences, part of what I have sort of -- at least what I`ve experienced over the eight years of the Obama administration is, it turns out that one of the most important things in the context of kind of partisan gridlock is what presidents say. Often when they cannot govern, one of the main things they have left is their rhetoric, is their discourse.

So, actually, I`m listening very carefully to what both of them say, in part because if they`re going to govern with what we expect to be continued partisan gridlock, that I`m going to need both of y`all to do way better.

Thank you to Nancy Cohen and Brittney Cooper and to Cristina Beltran and Susan Del Percio, I like you all. Come back.

As the Zika virus becomes important, what does that mean for reproductive rights around the world?


HARRIS-PERRY: The World Health Organization has officially pushed the crisis button on Zika, the virus linked to terrible brain damage in newborns.

The U.N. agency has declared the outbreak an international public health emergency and estimates that as many as 4 million people could be infected by the end of the year. Most cases have been reported in South America, but a case of sexually-transmitted Zika in Texas and the possibility of getting the virus through blood transfusions are triggering home-grown concerns, as well as action.

Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a health emergency in five counties, where at least 12 cases of the mosquito borne disease have been detected, all from infections contracted outside the U.S.

With no vaccine, treatment or accurate testing for Zika, the predicted surge in brain damaged newborns has led to guidelines, directed primarily at women. In some Latin American countries, women should avoid getting pregnant. But it`s the message that has turned the Zika emergency into a question over women`s reproductive rights in Latin America, where unplanned pregnancies are widespread and where contraception options are limited for millions of women.

Once pregnant, the options are even more restrictive. In Brazil, both the epicenter of the outbreak and where abortion is illegal under most circumstances, the crisis has sparked a debate over whether women should be permitted to have an abortion if the fetus indicates symptoms linked to the disease.

On Friday, the United Nations took its stance, urging countries hit by Zika to grant women access to contraception and abortion.

Joining me now is Paula Avila-Guillen, who is the program specialist at the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Dr. Alexander Van Tulleken, who is senior fellow at the Institute for International Humanitarian Affairs at Fordham University.

So, to both of you, this seems like -- you know, I kept going back and forth asking should we really do this, are we doing that panic thing that happens sometimes when cable news will start talking about a disease that`s happening and it`s not actually really that big of a problem. So, begin with, is this a real crisis? Are we looking at something that we should actually be concerned with?

DR. ALEXANDER VAN TULLEKEN, SR. FELLOW, IIHA, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: I think this is definitely a real crisis and I think what`s very reassuring for once is the WHO is reacting early. The U.N. Commission for Human Rights is acting early. So we have the possibility of detecting this, and stopping it spread nice and early, compared to something like Ebola, where everyone was very, very late.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. So, talk to me about the connection with pregnancy. Because part of what we were sort of having this reaction with is that then -- you get these sort of public health warnings, early ones, but the language is, don`t get pregnant. Well, OK. But, you know, that -- that may be easier said than done if contraception is not widely available.

PAULA AVILA-GUILLEN, PROG. SPECIALIST, CTR. FOR AMERICAN RIGHTS: I mean, these warnings are really empty. They are two things that are very important to highlight about those warnings. The first one is the warnings are only made to women.

And as all we know, women don`t get pregnant on their own. There is an important role of men playing, and there is no government coming up and saying, men, use condom, try to avoid pregnancy.

So, it`s also showing how the responsibility at the end is only women, which is very unfair.

And the second part is, if you are in Colombia last week when all of this happened, if you are there, you ask how do you want me not to get pregnant? Like, are you going to be given some types of free contraception? Are you going to be giving campaigns? What are you going to do with women? Doesn`t even know -- don`t know how to use contraception?

In the case of Colombia, at least it`s a case where women have some access. Abortion is legal in certain cases. I am extremely worried in the case of Central America, and specifically in the case of El Salvador where abortion is totally illegal (ph), in the case of Hondurans where emergency contraception is totally banned and one of the highest rates of sexual violence. And what do you do with unwanted, unplanned pregnancies caused by sexual violence?

HARRIS-PERRY: And then, enter to all of this, not only the questions of government, government policy and law, but the Catholic Church. So you`re talking about the WHO, again responding much more swiftly than, for example, in the case of Ebola. But the Catholic Church ends up being a part of this narrative, because so many of these are catholic nations and the Catholic Church has a strong stance of contraception and termination.

VAN TULLEKEN: That`s right. And we have extraordinary examples from South America, where doctors performing abortions, cases where it is clearly indicated, 9-year-old girls who`ve been raped, the doctor is excommunicated and the rapist is not.

And you have things like that where you have this extreme barrier. So even though the doctor is legally allowed to do it, the social religious pressure adds another layer of impossibility to access this.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, then what kind of public health effect then does that kind of social and spiritual kind of judgment then end up having?

VAN TULLEKEN: I think what we have in this disease is a perfect storm of problems for women. It is a disease that targets poverty, particularly, because you are more likely to be bitten by a mosquito because you`re more likely to live in areas where mosquitoes breed. You don`t have air- conditioning, you don`t have screens, you don`t have bed nets, you don`t have repellant.

And then when you get pregnant and you`re more likely to get pregnant because you don`t have access to contraception. And then if you have a problem, you can`t afford an abortion. So, what you see is a multilayered public health problem.

But if you just talk about the abortion issue, we`re talking about more than 4 million illegal abortions. And I say illegal -- that is -- that is in those countries illegal abortions.


VAN TULLEKEN: Which are very dangerous, and disproportionately affects poor women.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, with just a very few seconds. The very legality of it is another health potential problem for women.

AVILA-GUILLEN: It is. Unsafe abortion is already one of the leading causes of maternal morality in Latin America. We are very afraid to see those numbers run up.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right, and these are women who often have existing children and so then you`re talking about the problem of orphans and motherless children. Thank you to Paula Avila-Guillen, and to Dr. Alexander Van Tulleken.

And up next, the Republicans have their debate before the New Hampshire primary. We get a brief preview from Steve Kornacki, next.


HARRIS-PERRY: Tonight, most of the remaining GOP field will gather for the final debate before New Hampshire`s primary on Tuesday. And the first since the Iowa caucus pushed three more Republicans out of the race.

Joining me now from New Hampshire is MSNBC`s Steve Kornacki.

Steve, there is a lot at stake tonight.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That`s right, Melissa. Well, here we are, the final weekend, it`s the home stretch.

So, a couple things I`m looking for in this debate tonight. Number one is Marco Rubio. How are the other candidates going to treat Marco Rubio? He seems to be the guy who has momentum. There is that possibility he catches Donald Trump, he actually wins this state.

Obviously, all eyes on Donald Trump, how will he handle Marco Rubio? We haven`t seen him going after Rubio as much this week as we would expect. But then, again, Donald Trump and the Trump campaign have been defying our expectations all along.

The other wild card, though, when we talk about Marco Rubio is somebody on the stage who is not doing that well in the polls right now, but who has a pretty big voice up there, and that is Chris Christie. Chris Christie has been making Marco Rubio his top target all week, really get the impression looking at Christie that Christie is saying, look, maybe I can`t win New Hampshire. I would like to win New Hampshire. But if I don`t win New Hampshire, I at least want to keep Marco Rubio from winning it.

It really seems personal between Christie and Rubio. You know Christie can be really tough in the settings. So if he`s going after Marco Rubio, I think that`s the big thing to be looking at on that side.

The other thing, again, is Ted Cruz. We have talked about this controversy over the Cruz campaign, and how it won Iowa with this whole issue of did they suggest to their supporters tell their supporters, misleading that Ben Carson is getting out of the race. Is Ben Carson -- he`s not been the most aggressive debater, but is Ben Carson going to make something of this up there? Are the other candidates going to make something of this up there? Is this going to haunt Ted Cruz on the debate stage tonight?

But, again, here we are, we always talk about these eight days between Iowa and New Hampshire as the eight most volatile days in American politics. This is the setting. This debate tonight, a couple days before the primary. We have seen things happen in these debates in the past that have changed races.

It was on this same night, Saturday night, eight years ago on the Democratic side when Barack Obama said to Hillary Clinton, "you`re likeable enough," you remember that moment, that seemed to give Hillary that late kick of momentum that give her up upset win the next Tuesday.

So, whatever happens tonight, there is a possibility it could shake things up, Melissa.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to MSNBC`s Steve Kornacki in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Up next, Sweet Honey in the Rock, live in Nerdland.


HARRIS-PERRY: The 2016 campaign has put the spotlight on a variety of issues, from immigration to voting rights to environmental justice, especially in light of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. But our next guests have been performing about these issues for decades.

Sweet Honey in the Rock, the Grammy-nominated collective of African- American women have been singing for social justice for more than 40 years. They performed around the globe, including for the Obamas at the White House. And they`ll be performing at Carnegie Hall, right here in New York next week.

But this morning, they`re here in Nerdland, and I am so pleased to introduce Sweet Honey in the Rock, performing "IDK, But I`m LOL" from their new their new CD, "#Loveinevolution."


HARRIS-PERRY: This week was a tough one, and having you all here --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hear you. I hear you.

HARRIS-PERRY: And having you all here means everything.

Yesterday would have been the 21st birthday of Trayvon Martin.


HARRIS-PERRY: I`ve been listening to a lot of sweet hundred where I and the rock last night thinking about you all being here and listening to "Ella`s Song", listening to some of the work you`ve done.

Talk to me about how Sweet Honey in the Rock remains a kind of soundtrack for the activism, for the work that is being done in communities right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think what`s happening that`s really a blessing is that people have been embracing`s "Ella`s Song", and the fact that it`s important for people of African descent to really be taken very seriously in terms of our lives and how we live and what`s important to us and that everything that we are about is as important as everybody who is on this planet, but our issues are very specific to us related to racism and white supremacy in the United States.

HARRIS-PERRY: That language of living out loud. I was over there dancing to the side. You cannot just listen to Sweet Honey. You have -- you asked at one point during the music, are you standing up? Are you up? Are you out of your seat? Cannot sit and listen.

Is that what the living out loud is?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s like expressing who you are and standing for what you know to be right or standing for what you know to be the right thing to do, do the right thing. Are you speaking on it? Are you doing anything in your life to lift up the planet? Anything to make a change, you know, for the better because everybody has different gifts. Are you using yours? Out loud.

HARRIS-PERRY: The Flint water crisis.


HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me. Respond to that for me. The passion that we heard from Melissa Maze, from the mother. Speaking into your mike, tell me from sweet honey and the rock, any of you, what that crisis is telling us about where we are in this country?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s really devastating. Oil spills in the gulf and just increasing problems with water not only here in this nation but worldwide. Water is becoming a very serious problem. The fact that we have people -- powers that be who don`t want to recognize that we have to really make a stand to do something to clean up our water. Water is life. Without water, we have no life.

HARRIS-PERRY: We think of god troubling the waters as a way that black folks talk about a central idea of who we are. I want to acknowledge that sweet hundred where I has always had a commitment to the deaf community through your sign language interpreter. Tell me a little bit about what that commitment is as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Back in the, I think -- it was in the late 1970s, sweet hundred where I and the rock was traveling to the west coast and doing a lot of work with women`s movement, feminist movement, and they were noticing that in all of the social arenas, there was accessibility for people. There was child care. If you wanted to -- a mother, you want to come out and have a good time, there was child care for you. There was wheel chair access. And they noticed that the deaf community was being addressed. I think it was Bernie really she wanted Sweet Honey to be able do to do that too.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, Shirley Childress is your American sign language --


HARRIS-PERRY: Carol Maillard, Louise Robinson, Nitanju Bolade Casel, the women of Sweet Honey in the Rock. More than four decades of this work.

And that is our show --


HARRIS-PERRY: For today. Thank you for watching at home.

Tomorrow join us. We`re going to have our latest reaction to tonight Republican presidential debate and, of course, it will also be our NFL show.

Also, a programming note, GOP candidate Ben Carson will join Ari Melber live in New Hampshire.

Coming up, three days to New Hampshire. Live coverage from the Granite State.