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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt
Austin Visits Israel As U.S. Pushes For A Change In Strategy; Austin Calls on Hezbollah To Avoid Provoking Wider Conflict; Trump Hails Dictators, Ramps Up Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired December 18, 2023 - 11:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- tell how it is the day after. So, why do you tell them who will rule Gaza, and will the IDF be in Gaza throughout the entire
next year? Thank you very much.
LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Which one of those 12 questions do you want me to answer?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have more.
AUSTIN: Regarding the timeline, this is Israel's operation, and I'm not here to dictate timelines or terms. Our support to Israel's right to defend
itself is ironclad, as you've heard me say a number of times, and that's not going to change. It's critical, as I said earlier, that Hamas not be
able to threaten Israel from Gaza, or even threaten Gaza anymore. You know, that's an interest that we all share, and it's a common interest with all
of us. And so, today, we had great discussions about the status of the campaign, about goals and objectives, and about how to reduce harm to
civilians in the battlespace, and the need to ensure a sustained flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza.
We can offer some insight based upon our own experience in fighting terrorist groups, and certainly, that enabled us to have great discussions.
And we also have some great thoughts about how to transition from high intensity operations to lower intensity and more surgical operations. So,
we had great discussions on all of those issues.
On Lebanon, we've been clear that we don't want to see this conflict widen into a larger war or a regional war. And we call upon Hezbollah to make
sure that they don't do things that would provoke a wider conflict.
YOAV GALLANT, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER: Yes. As to the first question, let me be more precise, it took us 70 days before we exposed this tunnel to the
public. It was discovered longer period before that, after a month or so. But, we had a lot of operations to be done inside the tunnel before we
expose it. The war will take time. And I cannot show only one issue that eventually we will wish our gods (ph), first of all, to destroy Hamas,
second, to rescue their hostages, both of them very important, equally. This is a war of national determination and national resilience, and we
will prevail, because we are fighting for the right values and for our survival in this region.
As to the second question, we understand how important is the cooperation, the international support to establish something different in Gaza. This is
the reason we conduct this talks today, together with the Secretary Austin and General Brown and Mr. Satterfield and others regarding the issues that
we have to conduct in Gaza. We know that Hamas will not control Gaza. We know that we will have the freedom to eliminate any kind of threat in the
future. And there will be no serious military threats against Israel from Gaza. Second, Israel will not control Gaza in any civilian way. We will
conduct any needed operation and military effort in order to secure our future, and we are building the routes for non-hostile partners in the
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Tara Copp, if we can also please stick to one question each, please. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Minister Gallant, back to Lebanon, are you currently planning for a ground operation in the north to, as you said,
fully secure that area from Hezbollah? Secretary Austin, if that ground operation is launched, just to repeat my colleague's question, what role
would U.S. forces have in such case?
And then, is it too dangerous right now, Minister Gallant, to struggle on to open a second front in the north when you have troops committed in the
south and Gaza? And my final one for Secretary Austin, another commercial vessel today was attacked in the Red Sea, and U.S. warships continue to
intercept ballistic missiles and drones that are fired from Houthi- controlled Yemen. Why hasn't the U.S. struck back or conducted a counter strike like it has against similar Iranian-backed militants in Iraq and
GALLANT: I would like to reiterate what I said. I said that diplomacy is the preferred way. We are not looking for wars. But, we have 70,000 Israeli
refugees, and Hezbollah is shooting us every day since October 8, the day after Hamas launched the war against Israel. Therefore, in one hand, we are
patient, and we are looking for diplomacy solution that will make sure that Hezbollah is not threaten Israeli civilians on the northern communities
On the other hand, we are preparing ourselves to any situation that is needed. And if something like that happened, we will know what to do, and
we will prevail. We are not looking for anything similar to that. And we hope that Hezbollah will understand it. It's time to stop.
AUSTIN: Thanks, Sharon (ph). Regarding the Houthis, these attacks are reckless, dangerous, and they violate international law. And so, we're
taking action to build an international coalition to address this threat. And I would remind you that this is not just a U.S. issue. This is an
international problem, and it deserves an international response. And that's why I'm convening a meeting tomorrow, a ministerial meeting with
fellow ministers in the region and beyond to address this threat. We're -- that will be a virtual meeting. And I look forward to that discussion. And
more important, I look forward to working together with members of that group to address the threat in a meaningful way in the future. And we'll
have more details on this soon.
But, we're going to make sure that we're doing everything that we can to ensure freedom of navigation in the area. The straits are pretty, pretty
important, as you know. A large amount of commerce flows through there, international commerce flows through there on a daily basis. Thanks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yonah Bob.
YONAH BOB, SENIOR MILITARY CORRESPONDENT, JERUSALEM POST: Yonah Bob from the Jerusalem Post. Good to see you again, Mr. Secretary. There has been a
lot of discussion about getting Israel's intent to reduce civilian casualties to match up with the results. General Petraeus famously said
that sometimes the U.S. needs to take hits on force protection to win over hearts and minds. Legitimacy. You're probably familiar that just recently
about 10 Israeli soldiers died in one ambush. And a lot of people in Israel were saying if the Israeli Defense Forces had just bombed the area, they
wouldn't have died. Is this the kind of thing a war doesn't have perfect solutions that sometimes the United States may think that Israel may need
to take more hits to force protection instead of being as aggressive with its air force and artillery?
Minister Gallant, good to see you. The United States in its most respectful way possible is trying to push Israel on certain timelines and certain
things about the day after. Is it may be time that yourself and the government need to tell Israel that even though we've had tremendous
successes in the field, we may not actually control all of Gaza at the end of January, we may not get all of the hostages back at the end of January,
some of these things may continue in the three to nine months afterwards, the -- what they call Shlav Gimmel, the third stage?
AUSTIN: So, for the first part of the question, in terms of the nature of the strikes and the amount of collateral damage, I think -- let me begin by
saying the protection of our troops is important to all of us, Minister Gallant, me, all of us, and that is foremost.
But, what we see happening is a combination of two things. The first thing is the complexity of this battle space, three dimensional battle space,
very closed spaces, dense population of people. And so, that's -- that makes it very, very difficult to conduct any military operation. Above and
beyond that, we see that Hamas routinely uses civilians as shields. Beyond that, they place their headquarters and their logistical sites near
protected sites, hospitals, mosques, churches, you name it. And so, that adds to the complexity. And as you've heard Jake Sullivan say, it provides
an additional burden for the forces that are prosecuting this fight. It requires a very professional force, and that force has to learn each step
of the way. And we've seen that.
And Mr. Gallant and I had a great conversation today about some of the things that they've learned and some of the techniques that they're
changing, and as a -- conduct operations in the south. So, all of us learned. And again, they were a very professional force going into this.
But, this is an incredible complex battlespace. And taking lessons learned from the north, they applied some of those lessons in the south. And again,
I'm sure that that will continue to happen.
GALLANT: Well, first of all, the discussions are transparent and frank. And on the personal level, I have a lot to learn from General Austin. So, I'm
learning also, and he always give me good advices. Therefore, we share everything and we consult. Second, on the battlefield, we have a very
meaningful and successful achievement. We detect thousands of terrorists, including senior commanders, but not the leadership. Eliminate the Hamas
leadership is an ongoing goal that will be achieved, hopefully soon, but it will be achieved. It's part of the goals of the war. And we will continue
to operate in different levels of intensity according to the situation in the region.
And I can tell you that soon we will be able to distinguish between different areas in Gaza. In every area where we achieve our mission, we
will be able to transition gradually to the next phase and start working on bringing back local population. That means that it can be achieved maybe
sooner in the north rather than in the south. So, we are dealing with all the different components, and we will decide in the next future, reality
BOB: Like in Beit Hanoun?
GALLANT: No. I'm not defining any region. And this is an ongoing discussion. But, I give you an idea about what we are discussing in the
Israeli military establishment and together with the Americans.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mosheh Gains.
MOSHEH GAINS, PENTAGON PRODUCER, NBC NEWS: Thank you. Mosheh Gains with NBC News. Minister Gallant, what are the benchmarks for moving to the next
phase of this war? Does that mean that you have to take out top Hamas leadership to be able to move on? And what specifically is keeping Israel
from moving to more precise and targeted operations against Hamas? And then, Secretary Austin, based on your experience in Iraq and what you
discussed today, what metrics should Israel be using to know that it's the right time to transition for major combat operations? And what are the
risks particularly to civilian protection? And lastly, would you say that Israel is on track for a strategic victory in Gaza?
AUSTIN: You want me to go first?
AUSTIN: Well, Mosheh, I'll let Minister Gallant speak to the elements of their campaign and how they're going to conduct operations.
But, I would tell you that we all know that any military operation, any large-scale military operation will have phases to its campaign. And as you
go from one phase to the next, your stance shifts a little bit, your activity shifts a little bit, because you're -- you begin to focus on
different things. And what those things are, they'll be defined, by the Israelis. But, as you transition from one phase to another, it doesn't mean
that -- I mean, that doesn't signal an end to operation. It sometimes means that you're being more precise. You're being more focused on a specific
target set. You're doing different things during that campaign. For example, in one phase, you may have higher intensity fighting, both air and
ground. In another phase, you may shift a little bit and then provide more humanitarian assistance while still focused on a discrete set of targets.
Again, I'm not saying that that's what they would be looking at going forward. I will let the Israelis define their campaign and the phases of
that campaign for themselves. But, in any operation like this, any campaign, there will be phases. And the most difficult part is, as you as
you shift from one phase to the next, making sure that you have everything accounted for, and you get it right. So, that's -- that requires detailed
planning and very thoughtful planning. And sir, over to you.
GALLANT: Thank you. The goals for the war, that means that by the end of the war, as long as it takes, we need to make sure that we have our
hostages back, that we eliminate the Hamas abilities, and that include destroying Hamas military capability and its ability to govern in Gaza. And
it has certain parameters, including the amount of battalions that we need to dismantle and the chain of command and supreme military leadership and
so forth and so on, the phases, the technique, which is part of the plan that we have to deploy in the area in order to achieve our goals. And as
Secretary Austin said, this is only the way that we shape our plan in order to achieve the goals.
And as it happened in the battlefield, the circumstances are changing. You change your efforts, and you do something different in a different phase,
and the intensity in the first phase is given, but in other phases, we will concentrate on certain issue, for instance, the engaging and detecting the
supreme leadership of Hamas and others.
So, all in all, there is no -- there is not -- nowhere a clock that is running. And we have to obey a certain day. But, we need to get to
different performances on the ground before we move to the next phase. And I believe that we will find a proper time to do so. And the most important
issue, as I mentioned in the beginning, we will prevail. We will dismantle Hamas. Otherwise, we will not be able to exist and live in the way we want
to live in this region, because there is a price to deterrence. They need to know that if they kill or kidnap 1,500 people including kids and women,
this is the end of Hamas.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much everyone.
JOHN AVLON, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE RACE: All right. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaking there in Israel. He has been meeting with Prime
Minister Netanyahu and other officials today.
Thank you for joining us. You're watching State of the Race. I'm John Avlon. Let's go straight to Natasha Bertrand at the Pentagon. Natasha, what
stood out to you from this pivotal press conference?
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yeah, John. So, look, Secretary of Defense Austin, he, of course, reiterated the U.S. position
that they support Israel, and that's getting their campaign against Hamas to degrade Hamas to the extent necessary that they can never attack Israel
the way they did on October 7 ever again. But, he made some things very clear, including that Israel has "a moral duty and a strategic imperative
to do everything it can to protect civilians throughout its operations in Gaza."
Now, one of the things that we were told by defense officials leading up to this trip is that Secretary Austin was going to be discussing with Gallant,
with the Israeli war cabinet, the next phase of this military campaign, and one that is going to be, according to U.S. officials, something they hope
is going to be, more targeted and more lower intensity. Now, Secretary Austin, he did not confirm that during his remarks, but he did say that, of
course, war has different stages. In one stage or one phase of an operation, you may conduct a higher intensity operation that involves
airstrikes and large ground forces. In the next phase, it might be something different, to go after more targeted, high-value targets.
However, he emphasized here that he is not going to dictate timeline, something that the U.S. has said publicly that they, of course, will leave
it up to Israel to decide how they want to prosecute this war. But, privately, they are pushing the Israelis, we are told, to try to wrap up
this very high intensity destructive phase of their operation in Gaza really by the end of the year or latest early next year because of the
sheer number of civilian casualties that it has caused, and the resulting condemnation from the international community from just how many
Palestinian civilians have died. But, the status of campaign, the goals and objectives of their operation, of course, that is something that Austin
said that -- was the focus of their meetings here.
But, another key point that he made was the tensions that are rising on the northern border with Lebanon, something that the Israelis have hinted that
they may be preparing to respond to, as Hezbollah continues to launch attacks across that border. So, another key part of his statement there was
just making sure that the Israelis are aware, of course, of the consequences of potentially launching a second front, and of course,
calling on Hezbollah to make sure that they don't provoke a wider conflict, John.
AVLON: Natasha, it is a dynamic situation, but clearly looking forward to the next phase of the war without further incursions. Natasha Bertrand,
thank you very much.
All right. Now, opponents of Donald Trump have harsh words for the former President after his dark rhetoric praising dictators this weekend.
AVLON: Countdown, exactly four weeks until the kickoff Iowa caucuses, and Donald Trump is using some of his darkest language yet to demonize
immigrants and praise dictators. Here is some of what he told supporters in New Hampshire this weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: They're poisoning the blood of our country. That's what they've done. They poisoned mental institutions and
prisons all over the world, not just in South America, not just the three or four countries that we think about, but all over the world. They are
coming into our country from Africa, from Asia, all over the world. They are pouring into our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: Trump also got cheers when he used Russian President Vladimir Putin as a character witness. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Vladimir Putin of Russia says that Biden's, and this is a quote, politically motivated persecution of his political rival is very good for
Russia because it shows the rottenness of the American political system which cannot pretend to teach others about democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: But, despite that language, or because of it, he remains the clear party frontrunner in the early primary states. A polling by CBS and YouGov
shows Florida Governor Ron DeSantis getting a slight bump in Iowa, but still trailing Trump by 36 points. In New Hampshire, things are tightening
up. Trump still leads by double digits, but former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who is the daughter of immigrants, is definitely closing that
Let's dive into all of this with today's great panel. Ruy Teixeira is Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and Co-Founder of the
Substack newsletter "The Liberal Patriot". He is also a contributing columnist at The Washington Post. Bakari Sellers is of course a CNN
Political Commentator and a former Democratic member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. And Scott Jennings is a CNN Senior Political
Commentator, Conservative Columnist, and Special Assistant to President George W. Bush.
Alright guys. Great to have you. I love this crew. A lot to get to. Ruy, I want to start with you particularly on that comment about poisoned the
blood related to immigrants. Your latest book is about how a lot of working class voters, including Hispanic working class voters, have been moving
away from the Democratic Party, and with Trump making some real inroads. How does that language land with that constituency, do you think?
RUY TEIXEIRA, SENIOR FELLOW AT THE AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE, & CO- FOUNDER AND POLITICS EDITOR, THE LIBERAL PATRIOT: Well, I mean, let's remember that he has used language like that before, throughout his
presidency and after, and it doesn't seem to have tanked his performance among a lot of non-white working class voters, particularly Hispanics. In
fact, if you look at recent data, he is actually doing quite well among Hispanics, relatively speaking. Biden only has single digit leads in a lot
of polls. There was just a CNN poll that came out the other day that showed Trump being preferred to Biden on the issue of immigration among Hispanics.
So, it's not clear to me that as dark as his rhetoric may be, that it's qualitatively different in such a way it's going to turn off these voters
who have been moving towards him.
So, I think it's hard for people for whom this kind of rhetoric kind of blows their minds, to like kind of wrap their mind around the fact
everybody doesn't react with the same way. And a lot of Hispanic working class voters, for example, might just feel the border is out of control.
And they figured Trump. He is a crazy man. He kind of amps up his rhetoric. But, I get what he is saying.
AVLON: Bakari, what do you make of that?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, & FMR. SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Yeah. I think one of the things that we're going to
see is that this rhetoric that's directed at a certain group of people, that group necessarily we won't see the effects on that particular
demographic. I do think this rhetoric, I think the callousness, I think the rudeness, I think the uncouthness, you will begin to see that taking effect
on a group such as college educated white women, I think that in the suburbs, outside of places like Detroit or Atlanta, places where he needs
to do well, where this election will be won and lost, independent voters. That is where this rhetoric is going to have the greatest effect.
It won't be -- if you're Hispanic in this country, if you're African American in this country, you've heard this rhetoric for so long from so
many different corners of the universe that you become somewhat desensitized to it. However, it's those other groups, particularly college
educated white women, which I think would be taken aback by that rhetoric, and I think it's going to affect that group more than any other.
AVLON: Uncouth, there you go. That's one word for it. Scott, you are a Republican of long standing old school in the sense that you date back to
George W. Bush's Freedom Agenda, Ronald Reagan-led party that was decidedly internationalist with a whisper of an isolationist wing.
That is totally changed. But still, I'm stunned when I hear Trump going out of his way to praise dictators in virtually every stump speech, not only
that, Putin character witness comment, but praising Chinese President Xi at virtually every step, a North Korean dictator. How do you understand that
shift in your party?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, & FMR. SPECIAL ASST. TO GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I understand it this way, and that is that Donald
Trump effectively took over the party in 2016. Then he became the President. And traditionally, when a political party is taken over by
someone and that person the titular head of it, was like when they're the President of the United States, what they say goes, their attitude, their
policy agenda, the way they see the world, that basically becomes the platform of that party. I don't think it's any more complicated than that.
I don't think it helps him necessarily win elections. And I don't think it helps him remind people that he would be a good President, or make the
argument that he would be a good President.
But, he has always had a fascination with other countries that have leaders that he views as stronger or that he views as having less impediments that
exist between them and what they want to achieve. And he admires it, and he has never made any bones about it. So, that's how I understand it. And I
suspect it's going to continue to be a fascination for him as we go down the road here,
AVLON: Fascination. OK. We got a minute or two left. But, I want to -- Bakari, I was struck, the Biden White House used the term semi-fascist,
grotesque semi-fascist rhetoric to describe what we're hearing from Donald Trump. The "F" word is much debated in politics. Do you think that's
accurate or going too far?
SELLERS: I really don't think it matters, to be completely honest. I think it's decently accurate. But, at the end of the day, I think we've seen this
before. I mean, we've been calling Trump every name under the sun for, since what, 2015? I mean -- and most of them are accurate depictions of who
he is and what he believes. And so, I just don't think that it matters. I wish this Biden White House would stop calling the President of the -- the
former President of the United States names and begin to tell the story about what this President is actually doing. You cannot beat Donald Trump
calling him a fascist. You know why? Because people know he is a fascist. You can't beat him calling him a racist because people know he is a racist.
So, you got to --
AVLON: I want to get where we can to the people who are still challenging him ahead of Iowa, ahead of New Hampshire. Scott, you've been on the
ground. We got this new CBS poll showing Nikki Haley really surging, I think it's fair to say, in New Hampshire, perhaps not the landslide that
Governor Chris Sununu is predicting. But, how do you see that movement for Nikki Haley? Does she have the Big Mo, and could things break her way?
JENNINGS: Well, look, you've got the movement in New Hampshire, but it's -- the overlay is Trump is now sitting at around 70 percent nationally. So,
the question I've always had is, are there enough Republicans left to want to see a pre-Trump Republican politician get the nomination? Obviously,
that's not happening in Iowa, where he is dominating. So, if you look at the way this is going to unfold, Trump probably wins Iowa by a record
margin. He has momentum going into New Hampshire. And if Chris Christie is still on the ballot over there, who is effectively competing for similar
kinds of voters of Haley, does she have a lid on what she can achieve? I think that's really the big strategic question. And is Trump at that point
too strong and have too much momentum for anybody, Haley or anyone else, to catch up with him?
AVLON: It's a pivotal last stand. All right, guys. Thanks. Stick around. Still ahead, can senators get it done before the holiday break? We're going
to have more on urgent efforts to pass a funding bill that links aid to Ukraine and Israel to U.S. border security.
AVLON: Up on Capitol Hill, senators are making a last ditch effort to reach an agreement on funding for Ukraine and Israel before they go on their
holiday break, but it's complicated, now part of a larger negotiation to address the crisis at the U.S. southern border. And according to Senator
Lindsey Graham, at least, Congress is nowhere close to reaching a deal, and talks left to extend into next year. But, some Democrats are more
optimistic that a framework agreement could be reached soon.
So, now back to our panel. Guys, this is a very hot debate. This is sort of a grand bargain the Biden administration put forward several months ago
saying, look, let's have funding for Israel, Ukraine, even Taiwan, and tie it to border security. Republicans said this is just funding. We need some
real changes to the asylum process. And now, Biden is bringing in the negotiations. This is high stakes. But, as usual, it seems Biden has taken
heat from the left wing of his party when he tries to reach out to the center. I want to have you respond to a clip from Congressman Joaquin
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): I want to speak quickly to the Democrats in the Senate and others who are considering supporting this proposal. If you do
so, you will be surrendering to right-wing racism, and more than that, you will be enabling it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: That was, of course, Joaquin Castro. But, contrast that with this statement that jumped out to me from your senator John Fetterman, who
described it in very different terms, not racism, but he said it's reasonable. He said "It's a reasonable conversation until someone can say
there is an explanation on what we can do when 27,000 people are encountered on the border, not including the ones, of course, that we don't
know about." That's a very dichotomous conversation, racist or reasonable. Bakari, how do you see your party?
SELLERS: Well, I think we're having healthy discussions, I remember. I'm old enough to remember, guys, the Gang of Eight trying to tackle this
immigration issue and trying to tackle border security. And they actually, my friends in the Republican Party, almost got run out of the Republican
Party for joining that Gang of Eight. I think it's a robust discussion. I think it's necessary. Where do I fall? First of all, I don't think there
should be any strings tied to funding of either Israel or Ukraine in their security. I just -- I find that to be unfathomable. That's first.
And second, I do think that the border is a real crisis, a real issue, one that you saw the Vice President tried to go to where the issues arise from,
and I think it's something that Democrats who can't turn a blind eye to. We say that between the border and crime, we had like these issues that don't
exist where people actually feel the pain from those issues that we have to tackle.
AVLON: I think that's such a great point. And Ruy, I mean, there is this impulse to sort of try to -- you write about this on -- in The Liberal
Patriot, sort of trying to ignore downplay issues at the border, migrants crisis and crime.
Do you think this is actually something that President Biden could benefit from politically if he is able to get it done?
TEIXEIRA: Absolutely. I mean, the data are crystal clear that the Democrats and Biden are in a deep hole on the issue of immigration, and particularly
border security. The Republicans obviously are trying to make a deal on this. Their preferences are to tighten up border security. I think it's
entirely in Biden's interest to strike a deal on this, and in fact, do something about the situation at the border to try to remedy his deficits
in this area. I think -- if I was running the show, I would have done this three weeks ago. And I think Biden's personal druthers are probably to get
But, as you were -- we were noting from that previous clip, there is a lot of people on the left of his party who are going to be absolutely
apoplectic if he does this. So, he just has to make a choice. And the people, the Democrats in the Senate and the House have to make a choice.
Are they going to have sort of try to remedy this problem and give people the impression they're actually going to try to do something about border
security, or they're going to cave on this and not strike a deal? So, I think it's a very interesting situation for the Democrats. And frankly, I
think Fetterman has more of the right of it than Castro at this point.
AVLON: All right. Scott, look, obviously this is a huge priority for Republicans of long standing. And this, you've got to notice, this is not a
grand bargain. This isn't a balanced plan, right? This is really just about migrants. It's about asylum processes which need to be reformed. It's about
border security. But, Republicans are saying, look, this is too soon. We can't get anything done this week. We got to move to January. Well, as you
know, because you can read a calendar, January is Iowa caucus, the New Hampshire primary. Are they actually trying to jam it up themselves? Is it
possible that some Republicans don't actually want to see a deal done because I think Biden might benefit politically and then the issue will get
taken off the table?
JENNINGS: Oh, I think Republicans would love to do something here because they think that this problem is a real crisis. They see the polling showing
the American people agree with them. And they see a real chance to get Joe Biden, who is in a weakened position. I agree with Ruy on this matter to
sign off on things he might not otherwise sign off on, if not, but for the political position that he is in. So, I think they want a deal. I do think
there is divisions in the conference, some of them may be politically motivated, as you alluded to, John. But, here is a real chance to do
something with a Democrat in the White House and Democrats in control of the Senate. So, it'll be a huge feather in the cap of the Republican Party
who control the House by a narrow margin to do something meaningful on immigration.
I think Joe Biden is desperate for a deal here. The Monmouth survey that came out while we've been on the air, he is it 34 percent job approval
nationally, 24 percent among independents. This is an issue that is dragging him down to get something done today would help him and it would
also help inoculate him in the coming attacks from the presidential campaign. So, if I were him, I would take anything I could get, call it a
win and move forward.
AVLON: It would also show the Senate can hold if those 60 votes in the middle (ph) are get something done. Guys, thanks and stick around, because
that's a great segue to our next topic, which is, does the center exist anymore? Ruy Teixeira's book "Where Have All The Democrats Gone?" dives
into this question in the Democratic coalition. Still ahead, we're going to discuss this missing political center and what it means for the 2024
AVLON: Welcome back to State of the Race. Now, throughout today's show, we've discussed border issues, the Israel-Hamas war, and how identity
politics might impact people's votes in November. But, one of today's panelists, Ruy Teixeira, has a new book out called "Where Have All the
Democrats Gone?" And it details the splintering of the old school Democratic coalition. One specific excerpt reads "Over the last decades,
Democrats have steadily lost the allegiance of 'everyday Americans', the working and middle class voters that were at the core of the older New Deal
coalition. Initially, most of those lost voters were white, but in the last elections, Democrats have also begun to lose support among Latino and Asian
working class voters."
My panel is back with me. Ruy, obviously, we're going to start with you here. Talk about what specific issues have eroded the working class,
including non-white working class voters, and then more importantly, what Democrats can do about it.
TEIXEIRA: Right. Well, in our book, John, we have a couple of different parts. One is called the Great Divide, and the other is called Cultural
Radicalism. So, the initial sort of cracks in the Democrats coalition appear in the late part of the 20th century. As Democrats embrace this sort
of soft neoliberalism, on economic issues, on trade and on regulation, and so on, we see the white working class start to move away from the
Democrats. Over that time, we see the decline of the union movement, which anchored the working class more firmly to the Democratic Party and gave it
shape. Then in the 21st century, we see, in addition to that, this sort of move toward what we call cultural radicalism on the part of the Democrats
and race, immigration, gender, even climate wise, I think, to some extent, has become a cultural issue.
And Democrats become in a way a lot more responsive to the views, preferences and priorities of their college educated liberalist base than
to the working class, and that is reflected in the movement of these working class voters away from the Democrats, most vividly in the 2016
election when the Democrats cratered among white working class voters in the Midwest, delivered the election to Donald Trump. And then bizarrely,
and counterintuitively, in 2020, even though Biden does win, he actually loses a lot of votes among non-white, particularly Hispanic working class
voters. And we see that continuing to the current time.
So, in a way, it's a long story about the movement of the working class away for the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party's domination by
more college educated elitist elements. So, I just have different priorities in the working class. It doesn't mean Democrats can't win
elections. Of course, they do. But, they're no longer really a working class party in the way they used to. And it does put a ceiling on their
support. And one way I think about this is, how did we get stuck with these two guys, Biden and Trump again? And I think part of the answer lies in
what's happened to the working class vote over time and how it's torn between these two different parties, and neither party seems to be capable
of dominating politics today.
AVLON: Bakari, I want to bring you in here because one of the things I appreciate about you, and there are many, is that the stereotypes of
politics that the Democrats are an urban party from predominantly the north. And you're from the south. You're upstate South Carolina, originally
from a fairly small town now, well established in Columbia. But, I just -- I wonder how you see that analysis of the Democratic Party, and what you
see the solutions has been?
SELLERS: Yeah. I think that analysis is interesting.
I do have to give props where props are due for a very long period of time in any political analysis that we do. We used to refer in kind of
interchangeably as working class voters being white working class voters. And I would always push back on that. Whenever we're talking about rural
voters, many people believe rural voters to be white voters, and that's just not the case. I do think that you're seeing this divide of urban
versus rural. I do think that as you begin to see Democrats win in places like Arizona, Atlanta, or Georgia, the reason being is because of how well
they perform in these urban centers.
But, just to push back slightly, the number one and two voting base for Democrats over the past 20, 30, 40 years has been black men and women,
black women being number one, black men being number two, and that has not changed. In fact, that has strengthened. In all of these polls that you
see, I'm hard pressed to believe that Donald Trump is making an inroads. You may make a small inroads with black men, but that's not going to move
the needle. What do Democrats need to do is basically the country is changing. And we have to continue to tell our story. We are horrible,
horrible messengers. It goes back to Barack Obama. You see it with Joe Biden, who were horrible messengers. And I think we have a story for the
American people. We just refuse and can't get out of our own way to tell it.
AVLON: Scott, I want to give you a chance just briefly to talk about the decline of big tent parties, and whether you think both parties need to be
reaching out beyond their base more for the good of the country.
JENNINGS: Well, it's interesting to hear Ruy describe his book. The analog book for the Republicans would be the flight of upper middle class,
college-educated white-collar workers in the suburbs to the Democratic Party. So, you see these massive flows of people. I think it is how Joe
Biden capturing some of those folks, and some senior voters was able to win the election in 2020 despite the outflow of working class voters. I kind of
lived through this in my own life. My grandparents were New Deal Democrats from Western Kentucky. My father was a factory worker and a garbage man and
could not have little Bill Clinton more than he did.
But, by the time 2016 rolled around, he was the biggest Trump guy. He knew Trump before anybody else in my life knew about it. And so, I've watched in
my own family people migrate, the working class, rural voters migrate, and have been sort of fascinated by it. So, I'm looking forward to reading
Ruy's book because I've lived it, and I certainly work in it today. And I think what he has to say is vital to understanding not just how the parties
are going to perform in elections, but what will the parties platforms be. The Republican Party platform has shifted to accommodate these new voters.
My question has been, when is the Democratic Party going to shift its platform to accommodate some of its new constituents as well?
AVLON: A good question. All right, guys. It's time for a quick break. We're going to get right back.
AVLON: Welcome back to State of the Race. Our panel rejoins. Before we go, I want to ask for one more thing. What's one thing on the campaign trail or
in Washington that you're watching for in the coming days? Your thoughts, 30 seconds each. Begin, Scott Jennings.
JENNINGS: I'm watching what's going on, on college campuses right now. Honestly, I saw an article this week in which applications to Harvard were
down, and I also saw another survey this week showing a spike in antisemitism and anti-Jewish sentiment among 18 to 24-year-olds was way up.
I'm wondering, are parents about to start rethinking whether the Ivy League and other elite universities is where they actually want to send their
AVLON: All right. Bakari Sellers, step up.
SELLERS: Well, I -- my one more thing is $148 million. It shows that lies and defamation don't pay. But also more interestingly enough, there're two
things. It's interesting to see these men when they get around Donald Trump just kind of morph into something that's decently unrecognizable.
And have we ever seen a greater fall in American politics than 2001? I believe, Man of the Year in Rudy Giuliani to now owing two amazing women in
the state of Georgia $148 billion. I don't know if we have.
AVLON: It's a stunning fall, for sure. Ruy, what you got?
TEIXEIRA: OK. In polls and reporting, I'm going to be looking for the non- white working class and how they're reacting to the campaign and perhaps continuing to give Trump higher levels of support than then one would have
guessed. And I think particularly in terms of what Bakari is saying, let's look at black working class voters, particularly man, and see how they're
moving. I'm not so sure he is right that they're secure for the Democrats. I think that's a very interesting thing to keep track of.
AVLON: Well, we'll see. Thank you, everyone. I'm John Avlon, and that's the State of the Race today, Monday, December 18. One World is up next.