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In an exclusive interview on The Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour with host Earl Ofari Hutchinson on KTYM 1460 AM Los Angeles on January 27, Barbara Lee, U.S. Representative for California's 9th Congressional District
EOH: Is there division and dissention within the Democratic Party?
BL: The Democrats are very unified. It is important to recognize that we have not seen Democrats unified like this for quite a long time. Secondly, any dissention or grumbling against this president or any president has more to do with members of congress exercising their duties and responsibilities. As a member of Congress you have a responsibility to your constituents to make sure the voices of the voiceless and the disenfranchised are heard. What has happened in the past has strengthened the President. The President stated he wanted to end the war in Iraq during his campaign. When he got elected there were some against that position, but he did it and we applaud him for it. But we had to unify around him. I think he’s in a good place and I think it’s going to be about turnout [numbers]. We have to make sure our base is energized and organized, that they understand what has been accomplished, and that we have more work to do. The Republicans have been obstructionists, and have stopped a lot of what the President has proposed. We are going to keep fighting, and I am pleased he has taken executive action to implement many of the actions he wants. As Senator Mitch O’Connell said, their first priority is to make sure he is a one term president. That’s the order of the day in congress.
EOH: Do you see a coalescing of the disunited GOP factions hammering the President on jobs and economy?
BL: I think their debates are really showing how they are going to move forward. Their debates are good for the country because they set forth who they are, where they are and what they believe in. Conservatives generally organize around the candidate and that’s evident in the primary. Many think they are not going to organize around the nominee, but I think they will. And I think it will be very important for Democrats to keep moving forward. What they are going to organize around is a very right wing agenda, not a mainstream, American agenda. We are going to have a good campaign, but unfortunately a campaign that has corporate money. The Super Pac has an advantage everywhere. There will be too much money in these campaigns and I think people are going to see through that and become more organized as Democrats to beat the conservatives and the Republicans. I have confidence that the American people will see the difference in their agenda and our agenda.
EOH: Do you see voter suppression by the GOP as a major tactic to damp down the Democratic vote?
BL: I believe 34 or 35 states have voter ID laws. That in itself will damp down and turn senior citizens, students, people of color, and the disabled away from the poles. I have a 100 year old aunt. Can you imagine her having to figure out how to find her birth certificate, if there is one? Then how to get a government sponsored ID? That’s what the voter ID laws do. Yes, these voter ID laws are a way to turn down the Democratic vote.
EOH: How are the democratic committees going to counter attack that strategy?
BL: Our Democrats are fighting every day against these laws. The attorney General has made statements about what the Justice Department is going to do. Part of what we have to do is make sure people are aware of these laws and they fight through the legal system. We have to have lawsuits come forward and show what is taking place. We don’t have a lot of time, but I believe when people realize what is happening, they’re gonna vote and make sure these laws are found to be unconstitutional. This is a big issue. We go around the world promoting democracy, and here we’re turning the clock back by placing obstacles and barriers before the American people.
EOH: Do you thing President Obama will get the Independent vote?
BL: I believe the President will get the Independent votes, as well as all Democrats. I say that because people see who the Republicans are and this is not an agenda that is going to create jobs and turn the economy around. Independents care about the 99%, they care about income and equality. When you look at the Republican candidates and the party policy, they are clearly in support of the 1%. They rally around the legislation and promote legislation on behalf of the 1%. Independents are beginning to see this more and more. As relates to Newt Gingrich as a candidate and his comment about the “food stamp President”, it’s sad these code words are being used. When you look at the Bush economic policy, more people under Bush went on food stamps because they became unemployed. The Bush economic policies created an economy that is uncertain with a huge level of unemployment. When people are unemployed, this country has a moral responsibility to help them and provide a safety net. Nobody wants to be on food stamps. I had to go on food stamps because I was a single parent of 2 and I needed it for a short period of time. I thank my country for providing that “bridge over troubled water”. The majority don’t want to be on food stamps, they want a job, and it’s our responsibility to create those jobs. When they talk about a “food stamp President”, we know what he’s talking about, but I don’t think the American people are going to go for that. They know better.
EOH: Could race come back on the table as an issue and could it have any effect?
BL: This is a diverse country and we pride ourselves on diversity. Race is a factor, so I don’t think race should be portrayed in a negative sense. We have to acknowledge issues of racial disparities as part of the unfinished business of America. When you handle race in a way that will divide the country, that is the danger. I think that’s the danger of the Republican candidates. They are using race, subliminal messages and code words to divide us rather than talking about it as a positive. We don’t need to scare people using the negatives these Republican candidates are trying to use. That’s a real un-American place to be.
EOH: Who will be the ultimate opponent of the President?
BL: That’s very hard to say. It’s an interesting race, very up and down. I think what’s important is that the American people see who they are, what they believe in and what their agenda is. After the primaries are over, people will have a good handle on who stands for the 1% and who stands for the 99%.