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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, 12/30/21

Guests: Mona Charen, David Plouff, Randi Weingarten, Jeff Goodell

Summary

Experts are sounding alarms, warning that the United States is witnessing a slow-motion insurrection with a better chance of success than former President Trump`s failed power grab last year. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene urges National Divorce between Republican and Democratic states. For the first time ever, there are more than a million new COVID cases around the world every single day, 600,000 cases in the U.S. which is new record. Many school districts are preparing to bring kids and teachers back from the holiday break and taking measures into their own hands to curb the spread like in D.C., where public school students and staff are now required to show a negative COVID test before returning to school.

Transcript

[20:00:00]

TIFFANY CROSS, MSNBC HOST: We`ve got a great show plan, so you don`t want to miss it. I`ll be joined by Dr. Jason Johnson on set. And we have a couple of members of Congress joining us as well. We`ll have the new member of Congress from Ohio Congresswoman Shontel Brown, as well as Congressman Adriano Espaillat out of New York.

So, we`ve got a jam-packed show. We will talk a lot about politics, but we will also do it for the culture like we do every Saturday. You don`t want to miss it. I`ll see you Saturday morning right here at MSNBC, 10:00 a.m. Eastern standard time for the "CROSS CONNECTION." ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voiceover): Tonight on ALL IN. Screaming headline from the Associated Press, slow-motion insurrection. How GOP seizes election power.

Tonight, were the mainstream institutions of American life doing enough in response to the threat to democracy?

And what do you do about a congresswoman openly rooting for a "national divorce."

Then, as the U.S. hits new case records and Omicron surges, Randi Weingarten on whether American schools are ready to handle Omicron.

And what we learned about climate change in 2021, a year that is now ending with winter wildfires in Colorado, and near 70-degree weather in Alaska when ALL IN starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. This morning, the Associated Press published an expansive and very well-reported story on the attack on our democracy. This is the headline. "Slow-motion insurrection: How the Republican Party seizes election power."

Now, reporting from the AP is reprinted in newspapers all across the country. This article appeared in a slew of major publications, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in Georgia and the Star Tribune in Minnesota, the Houston Chronicle in Texas, the Tampa Bay Times in Florida, the Philadelphia Inquirer in Pennsylvania, the Wisconsin State Journal based in Madison, CBS 2 News in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, among others.

Now, the piece methodically lays out all the evidence behind one of the biggest stories we have been following this year, the coordinated effort by Donald Trump and his supporters in the Republican Party to clear the way for Trump`s next attempted insurrection or coup.

All year long, they`ve been working to convince Republicans the last election was stolen largely successfully, and then to put into place the infrastructure to control the outcome of future elections despite what the voters may say. As the AP describes it, in battleground states and beyond, Republicans are taking hold of the once-overlooked machinery of elections. Experts are sounding alarms warning the United States is witnessing a slow- motion insurrection with a better chance of success than Trump`s failed power grab last year.

The attack is happening of course on multiple fronts. People are infiltrating election boards with "several candidates who denied Trump`s laws running for offices that have a key role in the election of the next president."

For example, in Michigan, the Republican Party is restocking members obscure local boards that could block approval of an election. And while all that is happening on the frontlines, Donald Trump has been endorsing primary challengers in an attempt to purge Republican lawmakers who will not endorse the big lie that he actually won the election.

In Georgia, for example, he`s backing Congressman Jody Hice who`s running a primary against incumbent Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger solely over Raffensperger`s refusal to steal the election. And he`s backing former Senator David Perdue against Republican incumbent Governor Brian Kemp.

And both Raffensperger and Kemp didn`t do what Trump asked them to do, which was to reach in and change the results in Georgia last year, or appoint the state`s electors to him despite the fact that Georgian voters went to the polls and vote for Joe Biden.

Then on top of that, there are all the new restrictive voting laws, many aimed to taking power away from urban areas where Republicans do not want Democrats in control of elections. In Georgia, one of these new laws is being used to launch a review of operations in solidly Democratic Fulton County, home to most of Atlanta, which could lead to a state takeover.

So, this is a really important piece of reporting by Nicholas Riccardi, at the AP. It`s really well done. You should read it. And it puts together the full picture of this Republican power graph. And it`s really significant that it comes from the Associated Press, which is one of the most important journalistic outlets we have.

The AP was founded 175 years ago. They have bureaus in nearly 100 countries. They are scrupulously nonpartisan, non-ideological. And so, it is noteworthy that they are through their reporting, recognizing and communicating the plain truth about what is happening here in the U.S.

And this report speaks to what is likely to one -- to be one of the biggest challenges of 2022 as we near the beginning of the New Year, and the one year anniversary the first violent transfer of power in this country since well, the Civil War.

[20:05:09]

The question is, will our American institutions be able to deal with what is unfolding in front of us? The Press, including the AP, is a big part of that, but also the courts and local governments, nonprofits and all the American civic society. We have and have had for a while a two-party system in this country, with the opposing sides, the different coalitions at odds over all sorts of issues from abortion to taxation.

But the system has historically functioned within the boundaries of what you might call normal democratic politics, well, at least in the last 40 or 50 years. And now, one of those coalition`s is fundamentally radicalizing under a basically explicitly anti-democratic and authoritarian banner, led by the twice-impeached president who attempted to violently overthrow a free and fair election by whipping out a mob and hurling them at the Capitol.

So, how will our mainstream institutions in American life respond to that threat? That will be defining -- perhaps the defining question in the New Year.

Mehdi Hasan is the host of the "MEHDI HASAN SHOW" here on MSNBC and streaming on Peacock. Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist and policy editor at The Bulwark where she also hosted the podcast I Beg to Differ. And David Plouffe is the former campaign manager for Barack Obama in 2008, also a former senior adviser to President Obama. And they all join me now.

And I thought we`d start by each of you sort of going around about how you see this in terms of how central this question is to American politics and American democracy survival right now, and how you expect or view mainstream institutions responding to the growing threat which I think all three or all four of us agree is quite apparent. Let me start with you, Mehdi.

MEHDI HASAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So, Chris, I`m glad you start in the way you did. It is the biggest issue facing us. It was the biggest issue this past year. It will definitely be the biggest issue in 2022 with the midterms coming up.

I know we journalists always say the midterms, they`re a big deal, they`re so important. But this 2022 Midterm elections, they really are because I`m of the view that if the Republicans take the house, as the poll suggests they will, they will not certify a Democratic victory in 2024 on current trends. That is what we are heading towards, a massive constitutional and democratic crisis.

The AP reports you cited is so important precisely for the reasons you elaborate. It`s the Associated Press. I would say two things though very quickly about that report. And I urge all your viewers to read it because it`s so stark and it is kind of scary. The AP says at one point that experts argue that what we are seeing in terms of the takeover or election infrastructure is unprecedented.

And I would say two things. Number one, even in this very blunt AP piece, they have to hide behind experts argue. No, experts don`t need to argue that. It`s happening in front of our eyes. It is an undeniable fact. What is happening right now is unprecedented. So, I would like the AP to go even further than they did today and all of my colleagues in the media to say what is in front of our eyes.

And number two, I would say, if the AP and other media organizations concede that what is happening now is unprecedented in terms of the Republican Party and politics, then our media coverage of what is going on has to also be unprecedented. It has to be different. We can`t follow the same old rules, the same both sides nonsense, the same view from nowhere outdated BS.

We have to be very clear. You know, oh, we`re not biased. Sorry, journalists have to be biased. We have to be biased towards small D democracy because if we`re not biased towards democracy, there`s no point in being journalists.

So, that is why I would say at the outset. We have to be very clear about what`s at stake and we have to be very clear about what the media needs to be doing.

HAYES: Yes, that`s -- I mean, that -- it`s an interesting point, because I think it`s something that echoes with what Bart Gellman told me in that crossover episode we did that that aired last week, it`ll be airing again tomorrow. In an interview I did with him that`s sort of Why is This Happening-ALL IN crossover, we did a long in-depth interview where he said, you know, journalists -- he said precisely that.

Journalists are allowed to be biased in terms of certain things. One of them is the foundation for free expression, that is essentially liberal democracy, that we can -- we can view that as part of what we`re allowed to advocate for.

Mona, I wonder where you come down on this, because I`m not sure in some ways -- I feel a little more unsure about what I want from everyone, other than the focus. I mean, I think that the focus on understanding what`s happening is the key beginning to anything else. And I`m not sure what comes after that, I have to be honest.

MONA CHAREN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST AND POLICY EDITOR, THE BULWARK: Well, I would say a couple things. First of all, it`s really interesting, isn`t it, that when you look at polling of Americans and ask, is democracy under assault, you get huge percentages of Republicans who say yes.

HAYES: Yes.

CHAREN: But not huge percentages of Democrats, right? So, the Republicans believe that they are -- that the last election was stolen and therefore democracy is under attack and therefore pretty much anything is fair game in fighting back against this illusory theft of the last election.

[20:10:18]

So, that`s the one sort of, you know, cloud cuckoo land reality that we`re dealing with where, you know, the people who are actually the threat to democracy believe they`re defending it. So, that`s one thing that we have to wrap our minds around.

The other thing is that among certain conservative intellectuals, there`s been a certain kind of complacency that I`ve seen where they say, look, Trump wasn`t able to steal the election when he held all the levers of the presidency, and therefore the idea that he will be in a position to do it in 24 is ridiculous, it`s fanciful.

But that misses the point completely. The fact is, the attempt in 2020, was completely slapdash. There was the riot, there was the pressure on the legislators to ask Mike Pence to fail to certify the election and so on. The whole thing was thrown together in a series of weeks. This -- what we`re seeing now is much more methodical.

And with two thirds of the Republican Party, believing that the election was stolen, and that therefore steps must be taken to rectify that in the form of, you know, removing Secretaries of State who didn`t do -- don`t accept the big lie, giving more power to Republican state legislatures so that they can affect the vote certification in certain swing states and so forth, it`s being methodically plotted out for the next time. It won`t be slapdash next time.

And so, that`s what we have to begin to focus on is this -- and the AP has done a service to bring this to light.

HAYES: Yes. And David, I`m going to come to you in a second, but I just -- to piggyback off that, look, the most straightforward way this goes down, which Mehdi just mentioned, and I think it`s just important for everyone to remember this, a majority of the Republican Caucus in the House voted to not seed the electors from states that Joe Biden had won.

In doing so, what was introduced on January 6 was essentially a congressional veto of the people`s choice for President whereby the Congress gets to decide. Like, oh, you guys said you, Joe Biden, but no, no, no, because we`re just going to vote not to seed the electors.

Now, that vote didn`t happen, because they didn`t -- they didn`t -- it didn`t work because they didn`t have the votes, but they might have the votes next time. And then all this other stuff, all this other subterfuge that`s happening at the level of the county election boards, all that stuff. Like, if you have a principle in which the new system is essentially a super natural veto of the people`s choice for president by the sitting Congress, you don`t even have to do anything very complicated.

I mean, that that`s what so -- you know, there`s not even a big Rube Goldberg machine you have for it.

CHAREN: But Chris, we`ve got to talk about the Democrats. We`ve got to talk about the fact that they haven`t reformed the Electoral Count Act, which is the piece of legislation that will permit that nightmare to unfold. It would be legal -- under current law, it would be legal. And so, the Democrats have the opportunity to reform that horrible law, and they haven`t done it.

HAYES: I am 100 percent on board on that. And, David, what else do you want to see happen this year as safeguards?

DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER, OBAMA 2008 CAMPAIGN: Well, Chris, I mean, the AP story, I think, comes at an important time, because I happen to believe that in 2025, whether America is a democracy or autocracy, it`s no better than a coin flip. And so, we need action.

We need the Senate Democrats to act in January, to safeguard democracy. If not, they`re basically waving the white flag. We need citizens to act. So, 60 to 65 percent -- by the way, it`s not more than that, but 60 to 65 percent of Americans firmly believe there should be a democracy, that voters should decide elections, that we shouldn`t rig them with state legislators or members of Congress deciding who won regardless of the votes.

So, we also need voters. There needs to be a coalition bill, not forever, maybe for two election cycles, where you get Republicans and Independents to say that they question democracy. I think that does require people to really believe it`s a threat. And to Mona`s point, right now Republicans are the ones who think there`s more of a threat, because I think a lot of people feel that no one`s going to do that.

And I think the thing we`ve learned with this version of most Republicans with Trump, who`s still their leader, you better imagine the worst case scenario. Now, they may be terrible at executing it, but they`ll try it next year. And now, they`re getting organized. They`re going to have the troops.

And the real concern I have is in most Republican primaries in most states for Congress, for Governor, for Senate, the people who are going to drive those primaries believe the election was stolen, Don`t really care if we remain a democracy or not, we`ll be fine with Trump being followed by Trump Jr., being followed by Ivanka, you know, being followed by Barron. That`s where we are.

So, it`s going to take the media, Senate -- the most important one right now is the Senate Democrats. OK, Build Back Better, immigrant -- like if they don`t save their democracy, I don`t have time, OK. They have to figure out a way to get this done.

And by the way, the AP story is more permission structure for the Coons and Manchins and Sinemas to say, we didn`t want to carve out the filibuster for this, but we`ve been left no option.

[20:15:48]

HAYES: Yes. I think that`s a really good point. And I agree. It starts there. It starts with the Senate filibuster. We just note, to Mona`s point, I mean, the latest polling we have on this from the AP NORC is that -- this is from -- this is from July and there may be more recent polling. But as of July, 66 percent of Republicans do not think Joe Biden was legitimately elected president.

MEHDI: Chris.

HAYES: I can`t imagine the number has gotten better in the meantime. Yes, Mehdi.

HASAN: I mean, that poll is just stunning, but also the polling that Mona mentioned, which is that Republicans think democracy is more threatened than Democrats do. That is voters. That is a massive indictment of the Democratic Party leadership.

We talked about Senate Democrats. David mentioned Senate Democrats. We`ve talked about the media. Let`s talk about Joe Biden, Chris, the most powerful man in this country sits in the White House, the presidency. Why is he not leading the charge on this?

It is a great frustration for me that 2021 saw him do many good things. I`ve praised his work on the economy. I`ve praised his work on vaccinations. But when it comes to this issue, the most important issue of all, he hasn`t been there out front leading. You know, we get you know, glimpses of him in ABC news interviews, like the one he gave the other day saying, oh, yes, we should make a carve out for the filibuster. He said the same thing in a CNN town hall a couple of months ago. But where is he leading the charge against the filibuster?

Because if we don`t get rid of the filibuster, there is no saving of American democracy. There is no voting rights legislation. Where is he leading the charge against a big lie, against all of these Trump plots that the AP has identified?

Do you remember the other day when we found out that Donald Trump, you know, was covering up his COVID at the presidential debate, he may have risked Joe Biden`s life, Biden was asked by a reporter, what`s your reaction to that story? He said something very telling. He said I tend not to think about him very often, which some people have asked very clever response from the President, you know, above the fray.

No, sorry, Joe Biden, you shouldn`t be thinking about Donald Trump, because a man incited an insurrection, he`s sitting in Mar-a-Lago and planning the next one. So, you as the commander-in-chief should be thinking about Donald Trump.

HAYES: I want to talk about sort of -- there`s a sort of -- the question of democracy, the question of the sort of insurrection, but then there`s also like, increasingly outright sedition talk. So, if you guys, Mehdi, Mona, David will stick around, the national divorce proposed by Georgia`s own Marjorie Taylor-Greene supported by a whole bunch of other people. We`re going to talk about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:20:00]

HAYES: So, here`s a question. What do about an increasingly outright seditious faction for lack of a better adjective in American politics, one that we haven`t seen in this form since, I don`t know, arguably the Civil War? To help me answer that, still with me are Mehdi Hasan, Mona Charen, and David Plouffe.

And, you know, I really -- Mona, don`t like -- you know, there`s a lot of invocations of the Civil War that happened on the right particularly for a long time like the next civil war, and when do we get to use the guns, and all this like fantasizing about it that I find like really gruesome and nuts.

You`ve got -- you`ve got Marjorie Taylor-Greene -- again, it`s like -- well, Marjorie Taylor Greene is a ridiculous figure and -- but she`s a U.S. congressperson who I think is in some ways, the kind of vanguard of what more Republican Congress. People will be like saying -- basically saying that -- someone is complaining about the fact that you can`t as of now discriminate against transplants from California and New York, who moved to like Texas and Florida. This is a problem.

And so, her solution is that it would be possible in a national divorce scenario, after Democrat voters, a big donor to say like, California would be wise to stop them from doing it to another great state like Florida. Brainwashed people that move from California and New York really need a cooling-off period.

And again, it`s like, there`s some part of me that`s like, it`s Margaret Taylor Greene. She`s a troll. There`s another part of me, it`s like national -- like, what on earth are -- like, this is a U.S. member of Congress talking about tearing the union apart. And it feels weird to say in 2021, but like, I support the union. I like the union. I am pro-Union.

CHAREN: Yes, union could have union clubs, you know.

HAYES: Yes, really strongly. That`s one of my beliefs, very strongly pro- union.

CHAREN: Yes. That`s really -- you`re really out there, Chris, I got to say, out on a limb there. Look, you know, it would be bad enough, if it were just one slightly addled Congressperson. But the fact is that Marjorie Taylor Greene is very much in touch with the grassroots of where the right- wing entertainment complex is.

So, you know, we also saw earlier this year, Allen West, who`s big figure in the Texas GOP, head of the Texas GOP, in fact, talking about secession. You have -- you heard the late Rush Limbaugh talking about the possibility of secession or civil war in this country. So, it is out there. She didn`t just originate this kind of talk.

And, you know, part of what -- of course, it`s just -- you know, you can add it to the long endless list of grotesque things that are -- that are coming out of the right these days. But the other thing about it is, you know, that there is no way to separate Americans by state. I mean, I think the Civil War did establish for sure that secession is not a possibility.

But not only that, I mean, every state in this union consists of red areas and blue areas, liberals and conservatives living side by side.

HAYES: Yes.

CHAREN: You know, we`re not going to have, you know, Tennessee say, you know, we`re seceding from Kentucky because Tennessee and Kentucky both have liberals and conservatives. So, there`s absolutely no way to draw a line. We are stuck with one another and we have to live together in peace.

[20:25:13]

HAYES: Amen. I couldn`t agree more with what shouldn`t be an uncontroversial sentiment. Although, again, it gets to like, David, to me part of the -- part of the issue here -- you talked about building this coalition, which I agree about, right? Like, we need essentially a kind of popular front in favor of American democracy that includes people that have the politics of the people on the panel, for instance, which I think in a variety of issues might differ significantly. But I think all of you agree, would all be part of the popular front in favor of the Preservation of American liberal democracy.

But part of the -- part of the issue that we`re going to face this year in the midterms, I think, David, is voters don`t -- swing voters particularly don`t seem to be penalizing the Republican Party for the Democratic backsliding. And I think in some ways, that`s understandable. People are going to be focused on inflation or prices or unemployment or COVID or whatever it is. They`re not going to penalize them that way.

But then you end up in this very weird situation in which the Republicans can kind of run this normal election of a third -- you know, a sort of referendum on the incumbent party which tends to go well for the out party in the midterms on the way to doing something profoundly abnormal, dysfunctional.

And I`m not sure -- you`re a political campaign guy. Like, how you make that front and center in the actual voting in the actual campaign?

PLOUFFE: Well, it`s a big challenge, there`s no question about that. But I think a lot of this will depend on who comes out of these Republican primaries. And I think most of them are not going to be Glenn Youngkin figures. There will be people who are on stage in debates and in their ads say the election was stolen, they won`t commit to supporting, you know, Democrats who win elections. Most of them won`t go as far as saying secession, but they will support all of these election efforts that that AP story capture.

And so I think you can pin them a little bit. It`s how you paint them as extreme. And I think on the previous discussion, listen, I think most Republicans, even those who are firmly in the autocratic camp, would not go so far as to saying we should have secession or national divorce. But what they do want is they want to have all the power. And why is that?

I don`t think it`s really because of policies or issues. They don`t want to be held accountable. They don`t think the people who stormed the Capitol should be held accountable. I don`t think they really want an independent judiciary. We know they do not want an independent media. They like what they see in places like Russia where the people on the side of the autocrats have all the money, you know, and everybody else has the potential to be in jail or be killed every day. And that this is a desire for absolute power. They`re not going to get it through secession. But I think they can get it through guaranteeing that they don`t lose elections.

So, I think it -- these Republicans who come out of primaries. -- and that`s going to be a big part of `24 as well, which is who comes up -- listen, my personal view is Trump`s not going to run. I may live to eat those words, and (AUDIO GAP) he`s not winning the Republican nomination. But maybe he runs.

HAYES: Right.

PLOUFFE: So, then we know who comes out the other side. But if whoever comes out of the other side of that primary 24 basically is on the autocratic side of things, or you can paint them as such, then I think that is going to be the big question. I think it`s easier to make that argument in `24, but we have to try and make it in `22.

HAYES: Well, and this -- to Dana`s point, Mehdi, this is something that I think structure so much of American politics. And the way that I always phrase it is that the right keeps losing the culture and winning the culture war that -- and that those two things are related that they kind of play off each other to the extent that they`re like, they view the vast expanses, huge swaths of American culture as being essentially alien to them and created by people in large metro areas with college degrees and broadly liberal politics, or if not liberal politics, at least not Trump voters.

And this desire for power that David is talking about is essentially like, politics will be the means by which we wrench this back. Politics is the means by which the wrenches back. And, fundamentally, that itself is kind of an authoritarian impulse, because politics can`t be the means by which you run -- win the culture.

Like, in a liberal democracy, you just got to win the culture by like persuading people or making better TV shows, I don`t know. But politics cannot be the means by which you do that. But that is the tool that they see.

MEHDI: Yes. And it`s also, when we talk about culture wars, we`re also talking about race, because a lot of this stuff that David rightly identified --

HAYES: Yes, it`s true. Yes.

MEHDI: -- is to do with oh, wait a minute, we`re losing our country to these black and brown hordes. I mean, Marjorie Taylor Greene comes from a state that tried a national divorce back in the 1860s. Why? Georgia wanted to keep the institution of slavery. She`s from that state. So, let`s be very clear about why the Republican Party wants to hold power and who it wants to hold power on behalf of.

And Marjorie Taylor green as you pointed out is a troll, but it`s not either or. She can be a troll and she can be a serious threat to democracy. She`s very much more in touch with the Republican base than most of her "mainstream Republican colleagues in the House." She`s a dangerous figure.

You pointed out the tweets about the national divorce. She talks about, you know, we could laugh about the nonsense about, you know, cooling off period, people not being allowed to vote. I wonder, does that apply to Donald Trump? By the way, Chris, he moved from New York to Florida in 2019. Is he not allowed to vote?

But on a serious point, I would say there`s a tweet we didn`t put up, which I urge everyone to look up because it`s horrifying. She refers to Democrats as freedom-killing termites. That is the phrase use, termites. My parents are from India. In India, the far right BJP -- a minister from the BJP cause huge controversy a couple of years ago and he referred to Muslim immigrants as termite, and Human Rights Watch referred, well, that sounds like the kind of language we heard at Rwanda where the murderers -- the genocidal maniacs refer to their opponents as cockroaches. You go back to the Nazi period referring to Jews as rats.

I mean, that is a language that people like Marjorie Taylor-Greene are bringing into American politics. So, you could say, oh, it`s just offensive, it`s just trolling. No, it`s dehumanizing your opponent. And we know where that leads.

Studies suggest 21 million Americans are open to using force to restore the presidency to Donald Trump. That is the climate and context in which he`s making these remarks.

HAYES: Yes. That`s -- I`m glad you said that. Brian Class who studies politics and particularly this sort of authoritarian backsliding got -- had a line precisely about that referencing the Rwandan genocide and the discussion of the Tutsis cockroaches by the -- by the genocide there.

I think that the one thing that could take away here that David and Mona and Mehdi`s point about the Senate has to use its power to do what it can in the New Year as a as a prime objective, and that includes the Electoral Count Act which has been -- which is a little more obscure than some of the other democracy reforms, but it`s a ridiculous ticking time bomb. Like, it`s like -- it`s like someone coming your house and going down to the basement and being like, oh, your boiler is about to explode.

Like, that`s basically what happened in the last election with the Electoral Count Act. It was like, we went down there and it was like, oh, no one has looked at this in 150 years. Yes, this could blow up and take the whole thing with it. So, that priority I think, for the Senate, I think we all agree on. Mehdi Hasan --

HASAN: The president has to lead, Chris.

HAYES: I agree. Mehdi Hasan, Mona Charen, and David Plouffe, thank you all. Have a wonderful New Year. I really appreciate it.

CHAREN: You too.

HAYES: Still ahead, tough decisions for school districts across the country as cases surge among kids just as they are meant to be heading back in the classrooms. What schools are doing, what teachers want to be doing next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:35:00]

HAYES: We`re seeing a huge surge in COVID cases. That`s thanks to the wildly transmissible Omicron variant. For the first time ever, there are more than a million new COVID cases around the world every single day. And that`s just the cases that are being counted today in the US. It looks like we hit 600,000, which is new record.

So, what does that mean, for all of us? Well, you should prepare yourself for January that`s going to be disrupted in all kinds of directions. Because a lot of people are going to get sick and they`re going to have to isolate. And that includes, of course, schools as you`ll see cases among staff and teachers and children probably continue to go up.

Many school districts are preparing to bring kids and teachers back from the holiday break. Some are taking measures into their own hands to curb the spread like in D.C., where public school students and staff are now required to show a negative COVID test before returning to school.

I`m joined now by the President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten. It`s great to have you, Randi. And I think, I guess I want to start with where you feel like your membership is about the return to school after this holiday break.

RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: So, everyone -- first of all, thank you for having me. And everybody`s -- I`ve talked to a lot of people, I`ve texted with a lot of people. Everybody`s apprehensive and concerned. There`s a sense that, you know, we`re going to try to do everything in our power to reopen schools in person, because we all know how important that is, you know, for the social, emotional, mental health well-being of kids.

We are watching carefully the transmissibility, which is, look, it`s a difficult -- as you just said, it`s a different cat. We know from -- and I`ve been on the phone with people from South Africa that vaccines and boosters and -- you know, seem to be working, and there`s a much milder case if you`re vaccinated or boosted or have some kind of immunity. That`s the good news. But, you know, testing, testing, testing and the mitigation is going to be really important. And I would say that we got to prepare for contingencies.

So, Washington D.C. is the best reopening strategy. Lots of places can`t do that, because we don`t have consent from parents on testing. So, New York is best showering, you know, schools with testing and 90 fives. And that`s what LA is doing. And that`s what we`ve been recommending to people all across the country.

But we have to prepare for the contingencies and to also know that this is going to be, you know, just like with the airlines with transit. People are going to get sick, and they got to stay home if they`re sick, and they have to isolate. And we got to get through this with grace the best we can over the next month.

[20:40:00]

HAYES: Well, I think -- so the airlines -- the airlines I think are an interesting sort of model here, right? Because what we`ve seen in the airlines during this holiday season is we haven`t seen this insane diminished, you know, lockdown, and kind of empty airports, empty planes.

The airlines are flying, they are booked, but they`re canceling a lot of flights. And the reason they`re canceling flights is because inevitably, they`re reaching staff shortages when there are outbreaks among crew members, and pilots and the like. It seems to me that that`s I guess in a weird way, the best-case scenario for schooling, which is that you`re isolating cases early on, you`re getting them out of the school. The system as a whole keeps going, but you may have closures in places where the outbreaks are too bad to keep the school open.

WEINGARTEN: I think that that`s probably -- you know, and you can hear how hesitant I am because we all want schools open. But that is probably the best-case scenario. People are going to get sick. This is really transmissible. And it doesn`t matter how much you take precautions.

And that`s why I beg people, if you can get vaccinated and you haven`t, you can get boosted. And you haven`t pleased us the next few days to do that. But if the schools do the kind of testing that New York is trying to do, that we`re trying to push Chicago to do, I don`t know what`s going on with Mayor Lightfoot, that Washington is doing that, you know, that we`ll probably be able to have lots of places open. But there will be pauses at different times, like Cleveland is pausing for a little while.

Washington D.C. is starting two days later in order to do this. But the goal is how do we make sure that kids are safe, families are safe, and educators are safe. And we -- and we try to normalize as much as possible. And hopefully, just like in South Africa, this is Florida eight weeks, and then we can revisit after that.

But what I`m worried about, Chris, more than almost anything else is the polarization and the demonization is so intense in the country that this is COVID and Omicron that is a different cat. And we have to fight it not fight each other. We need parents and teachers to be together and team together in order to help our kids recover in what has been the worst year ever. And we need to work together.

HAYES: Yes, I mean, I don`t disagree with that. I think -- I think you`re sort of alluding to the fact that the school discussion, in particular, is like, utterly deranged, particularly online. And I would love it if it were not that. I mean, I say this -- again, I`ve said this throughout -- you know, we`re public school parents. We are utterly, utterly -- my mom was in the system in New York City Department of Education, she was a teacher, she was administrator.

I am utterly in debt for the rest of my life to the public school teachers who have done an incredible job educating my kids and continue to educate my kids and want to make sure they`re safe, I want to make sure the kids are safe, but I also really want them in school. And not because I don`t want to hang out my kids at home, because it is necessary for their emotional intellectual development.

And if we could figure out a way to make all three of those things happen through Omicron, I`m glad to hear you say that`s the goal. And maybe we`ll check back in a week or so. Randi Weingarten, thank you so much.

WEINGARTEN: And thank God for teachers and thank God for parents and caregivers, and we`re going to try the best we can.

HAYES: All right, it has been a record-breaking year in a really bad way. Some scary news from the coldest places on the planet next.

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[20:45:00]

HAYES: Kodiak, Alaska is home to about 6000 people. It`s the largest city on Kodiak Island. And as you can see, it`s really far north which means this time of year it is usually of course in the winter, a very, very cool place to be. On Sunday, however, Kodiak hit a record, a record of 67 degrees Fahrenheit. That is the warmest temperature ever recorded in December in the entire state of Alaska.

Nearby the Kodiak airport, it`s 65 degrees which beat its previous daily record by 20 degrees. The last record high temperature on December 26 was just 45 degrees set back in 1984. That was the old record. That`s like a basketball team scoring 250 points in a game.

Not only that, but according to the National Weather Service, it`s the warmest temperature on record for any time between October 5 and April 21. Meaning, this would have set monthly records in November, January, February, and March as well. It is not a fluke, of course. According the fourth National Climate Assessment, Alaska has been warming twice as quickly as the global average since the middle of the 20th century. It`s warming faster than any U.S. state.

And of course, climate change is not just a problem in Alaska. 2019 analysis by the AP found that new global high-temperature records were outpacing new low records by a ratio of two to one, a finding that was corroborated by the EPA. Now, in a stable climate, of course, you would expect to find equal number of record high and record low temperatures, not an overwhelming number of record highs like we are seeing.

Of course, that`s the story playing out right now in high def in one of the other coldest places in the world where melting ice is putting hundreds of millions of people at risk. We`ll talk about that next.

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[20:50:00]

HAYES: Rolling Stone just published this incredibly frightening piece titled: The Fuse Has Been Blown And The Doomsday Glacier Is Coming For Us All, which yikes. It`s about a huge glacier in the Western Arctic that`s the size of the state of Florida. That glacier known as Thwaites is basically holding back enough ice to raise sea level around the world by 10 feet.

A new study found that the ice shelf holding that ice in place could be gone in less than a decade. I`m going to quote for you from this new piece. If Thwaites Glacier collapses, it opens the door for the rest of the West Antarctic ice sheet to slide into the sea.

Globally, 250 million people live within three feet of high tide lines. 10 feet of sea-level rise would be world bending catastrophe. Not only goodbye, Miami, but goodbye to virtually every low lying coastal city in the world.

Jeff Goodell is the author of that piece for Rolling Stone and he joins me. Now, Jeff, you`ve been a great climate reporter for many years. I`ve read your last book about flooding. And describe for me the finding here because there`s a little -- there`s sort of a difference between like the shelf, the glaciers on, and the glacier, is that right?

JEFF GOODELL, REPORTER, ROLLING STONE: Yes, there`s been a lot of confusion about this. So, what`s -- what was recently been kind of revealed is that the ice shelf that works is like -- it`s like a kind of like a fingernail that grows off the glacier itself and is floating in the ocean is cracking up. They found some major fissures and fractures in that ice shelf.

[20:55:18]

And one of the scientists in this recent study has suggested that that ice shelf could crack up within five years, which is a very big deal in itself. But that is not what`s going to raise sea levels. The ice shelf is already floating and so like ice cubes and a glass of water or something, when the ice keeps melted, it doesn`t raise the water level.

What the ice shelf does his work as a kind of buttress kind of holding back of the glacier itself. And as you said in the intro, Thwaites is a giant glacier. It`s the size of Florida. And once that buttress is gone, there`s no telling how long it will take for that -- for that glacier to begin collapsing.

And what`s really important to note about the Thwaites that`s different basically every other glacier in the world is that it`s not melting like a popsicle on a sidewalk on a hot summer day because of warmer weather. It`s melting because the changes in the ocean current temperature, just one or two degrees, that warmer water is getting underneath the ice shelf and underneath the glacier itself.

HAYES: Right.

GOODELL: And the concern is that by melting it from below, it will destabilize a lot of the glacier or most of the glacier, and the whole thing will crumble and fall into the sea kind of like dumping a whole like, bag of ice into the water at once. And that is a catastrophe.

HAYES: Right. So, you`ve got this ice shelf that is cracking. And that shelf, what`s key about that is it`s a key protector for the glacier. Its buffer zone, its shield, the thing that stands between it and the water. And to the extent that that goes away, that reduces the protection the entire glacier has, and now it`s being attacked, essentially, structurally, by warmer water. And the warmer water is being driven by climate change.

GOODELL: Exactly. Exactly. And what`s important is that -- I mean, there`s many things that are important about this. But one of the things that`s important is that, you know, it`s a great example of how, you know, we talk about one degree of warming or two degrees of warming, and what the changes that will bring to our world. And of course, we`re already seeing them in places like Alaska, like you showed in your intro and wildfires in Colorado right now.

But what Antarctica really shows is that even tiny changes, literally one degree of change in the water temperature is enough to destabilize this entire ice sheet, which has caught huge consequences for our world.

HAYES: Yes. And it also speaks to the fact that it`s happening. The most extreme places we`re seeing -- the most extreme manifestations of climate change we`re seeing now are at -- is in the North Pole and are in those places in the world, in the Arctic, where the changes are the most intense. But they have repercussions for all of us that don`t live in the Arctic. I mean, that`s the other obvious but fundamental thing to get your head around here.

GOODELL: Yes. And that`s one of the really hard things to communicate about climate change, and about why this crisis is so urgent is that it`s not just, you know, that it`s 70 degrees or 75 degrees today here in Texas where I am. It`s not just what we see and feel in real time around us. It`s these much larger changes that are happening to our world in places that are very remote from us, but have incredible consequences.

I mean, when I was at Thwaites Glacier, and a couple of years ago, I was there on a research vessel. And we went right up to the face of it. And it was this incredible moment of encountering this sort of -- I felt like being on another planet. But it was also I know from my work as a journalist that what happens there has a direct impact on, you know, Miami Beach real estate and on the supply chains in Houston, and on the risks of extreme storms in flooding on the Gulf Coast.

So, it`s making these larger links that is -- that is what`s so hard to bend your mind around the climate crisis and why it`s so important to pay attention to this stuff.

HAYES: Yes. Your last book is called The Water Will Come. Is that the last book?

GOODELL: Yes.

HAYES: Yes, I love that book. I would recommend it to people. It`s really, really, really a good book. We should just also note, you mentioned the wildfires. There are wildfires right now outside Boulder in December. I think there`s 600 buildings that have been consumed, including I believe, if I`m not mistaken, a hospital. It was at least been evacuated or threatened by -- this is December wildfires which is obviously unheard of and unnatural, and another indicator of how awry things have already gone and how much worse they will get if we don`t do everything we can.

Jeff Goodell, great reporting. Many thanks.

GOODELL: Thank you for having me, Chris.

HAYES: So, that does it for ALL IN this year. I would just say if you`re about to go into this New Year mourning someone that you lost this year, I wanted to offer my condolences. And I tell you that a lot of people are thinking about people they lost this year, people that got sick this year, hardships they went through, and I hope everyone can be as kind to each other as possible, show each other grace in this New Year, and struggle together for a better world.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now with Ayman Mohyeldin in for Rachel. Good evening, Ayman.