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The Van Jones Show
Interview with Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL); Interview with Mayor- Elect Steven Reed (D), Montgomery, Alabama; Morgan Simon Is Interviewed About His Thoughts on Private Prisons. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired October 19, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VAN JONES, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Van Jones. Welcome to THE VAN JONES SHOW. There is so much crazy stuff going on. You know, it feels like it's scary, it's another sad chapter, another sad week in our history.
We have a divisive political impeachment happening. Foreign policy decisions are just realigning the world order overnight and the top leaders in our country cannot even sit in the same meeting together and look even without all this, look, we got some actual big problems out there externally.
China's trying to beat us out economically, Russia's running amok, climate chaos is bearing down on this. Internally gap between the mega rich and middle class gets bigger every day, robots may wipe out millions of jobs and the digital media actually is isolating us from each other rather than educating us about each other.
So sometimes I think in all of this, we lose the big plot. Who are we? What are we trying to do as Americans? What's this all about? So I want to take a big step back because usually when our country faces major challenges. We unite to meet them together, whether it's or to beat the Great Depression, to win the Cold War.
It's always difficult, it's messy but American democracy has proven itself capable of dealing with insanely tough problems over and over and over again. It should be no different for us in this century but instead of turning to each other, we're turning on each other. Why?
Who is stoking these divisions? Who is benefiting from it the most? It's not just Donald Trump or Nancy Pelosi or any political party. It's Vladimir Putin. Putin is benefiting while we're fighting, he's laughing.
Russia intervened in our election to create this chaos because Putin wants America dysfunctional, divided and discredit because if that happens we're not able to solve our big problems and we can't stop him from dominating weaker nations.
So America, let's keep our heads on straight, don't let Putin win. He's already got too many victories already. We left a big power vacuum in Syria which is a big win for Russia. We got to keep speaking up for American allies like the Kurds whom Trump just abandoned.
We shouldn't get bogged down in crazy conspiracy theories about how Ukraine messed up our election in 2016. Let's stand up for the people of Ukraine whose territory the Russians have taken and let's speak up whenever Trump tries to undermine our allies or sits up for authoritarians, disregards human rights, that strengthens Putin's hand in Europe and the Middle East.
We've got to stop that. We got stand up against that but let's not accidentally strengthen Putin's hand right here in America because division and dysfunction is what Putin wants. So let's minimize the rancor and the name-calling, even in our toughest political fights because you know who suffers when America is divided?
Poor, struggling folks who won't get anything done, nothing done for them in our country. No matter what party you are in, don't let Putin win. Now my next guest is a leader. He sees the big picture. He believes in unity, common sense and common ground. Please welcome to THE VAN JONES SHOW, Alabama Senator Doug Jones.
My fellow South American, how are you doing? Good to see you.
SEN. DOUG JONES (D-AL): Thank you. Thank you very much.
JONES: Well, first, it's just so good to see another great Jones.
JONES: They're always trying to keep up with us. Welcome you know.
JONES: Thank you.
JONES: I appreciate you and admire you so much. I was born and raised in Tennessee so being a red state Democrat, the challenges of that, you stood up on the Senate floor and gave a beautiful speech about this whole impeachment drama and the divisions in the country and you said you were having sleepless nights.
JONES: Why are you having sleepless nights?
JONES: You know this is not something that any American would want to go through. I mean this is a really serious matter. Impeachment is something that the founders thought was a possibility but I don't think they really believed that it would really ever happen and now we're going to probably go through our fourth one.
It's a really difficult time and it is going to make the divisions in this country that you just talked about, I think even worse because people are already going to their partisan corners and that's the - that's the most troubling thing about this.
JONES: One of the things you said in that speech was that you said, people should not circle the wagons around the President.
JONES: And people should not rush to judgment on impeachment. Dude, you're standing in the middle. Have big food fight.
JONES: How do you think we can do what you're talking about?
JONES: You know, I don't know if we can do it at this point. Here's part of the problem, Van. This President took office with people screaming for his impeachment before he even took his hand off the Bible. You know, I had a congressman from Alabama who was calling for Hillary Clinton's impeachment a year before the election assuming she was going to win.
So we've gotten to a point in this country that if you don't win the election, maybe there's another way to get rid of somebody and so a lot of those calls early, that really had no basis or no merit are really, I think hurting now.
JONES: Poison the well.
JONES: It poisoned the well and so everything is seen through a partisan lens. You know I got asked yesterday, I did a radio call-in and I got asked yesterday. Well, you've seen these facts develop a little bit. If the articles of impeachment came over today, how would you vote?
I said well, what articles? We don't know what charges or if there's going to be charges. Everyone needs to really look at this factually because there are some serious allegations here and when do I think they'll get out of there partisan corners but they need - they'd really need to follow the facts.
JONES: Well, you have a lot of confidence in people, it seems to me that people are putting faction over facts every day.
JONES: No question.
JONES: And we're being almost trained in that. You're a lawyer. You know, you've done this before. What gives you confidence that even once all the facts are out there, that we're going to have a shared enough view of the facts to hold the country together.
JONES: I'm not sure that I have that - the confidence is not as great as I might portray sometimes because right now, it is become so troubling and we're - everything is going to be looked at as far as 2020.
The minute this all happened, we started getting asked this question. Doug, how's this going to affect your race? How's it going to affect the 2020 Presidential? So I think it's just incumbent upon leaders from all parties, all walks of life, state, local as well as federal to say, you know, step back, let this play out and don't look at it in the political terms.
JONES: Well, I mean, I hope we're able to do that. I mean we already have some facts. What - I know you're going to wait for all the facts but what do you make of the facts so far? I mean are you seeing stuff that is troubling to you?
JONES: Absolutely, there's no question about. There's a lot of things that we have seen that are troubling. We saw yesterday Mick Mulvaney who came out and explicitly talked about a quid pro quo, not that a quid pro quo was necessary in something like this. Everybody tries to make this out as a criminal case.
It's not a criminal case. It's an impeachment case. The conversation that the President had with the President of Ukraine was very troubling.
JONES: Why? What's wrong with it?
JONES: I mean--
JONES: He said it was perfect.
JONES: Yes, well, yes, OK, it was anything but perfect. It was anything but that. This was - this was the President of United States who has by his statement to the President of Ukraine exercises a lot of power over that country. This is a country who needs the United States.
Russia has already been you know messing with them internally, externally. This is a country who needs our defence systems, that needs our military support. He said specifically in there. You need us, Germany, other European countries, they're not doing anything for you. We're doing it and the President talks then about, he says well, let me ask you something, let me tell you what we need first.
This is - I need a favor and so--
JONES: And that bothers you.
JONES: And that bothers me and I'll tell you the second thing. From a perspective of both foreign policy as well as a legal perspective, what bothered me the most one, when he literally invoked the name of Vice President Biden and his son but second, when he said I'm sending my personal lawyer over there.
I want my personal lawyer to go talk to you about this. You know, he's already had one lawyer, personal lawyer go to prison and now he's putting his other personal lawyer in the middle of foreign policy that and then I'm an old Department of Justice guy as you know, the fact that he included the Attorney General, whether or not he was involved or not.
Fact that he would even invoke the name of the Attorney General was really, really troubling.
JONES: So listen, when you go home and you're in Alabama, you're talking people, you are in a tough spot because on the one hand you are in you know, the reddest of red state America but you were brought to office powered by the passion of black women.
JONES: So you're kind of you know, stuck between you know MAGA hats and black mamas. I mean, how do you deal with that? I mean that's a tough road to ride.
JONES: Van, it's not. It's only it's only a tough road to ride if you look at it in political terms.
JONES: Well, you're a politician.
JONES: I understand that but you know what? You know that oath and what my job is means more than being a politician and I really mean that. I mean when I first got elected to the Senate, even during the campaign, I made sure that they knew that we weren't following polls, we weren't putting our finger to the wind to see which way the wind was going.
My staff knows that they're not supposed to argue with me about taking a particular position based on what they think the good politics are. I think we need more people that will absolutely follow their conscience. I don't consider it a profile encouraged, I just consider it doing my duty and doing what I took an oath to do and I really mean that.
JONES: Well, I think it's extraordinary that you've done that. You took a tough vote against Kavanaugh which a lot of a lot of red state Democrats went the other way.
JONES: So you've shown a willingness to do tough things. Let's talk about this whole situation in Syria.
JONES: I was just appalled and sickened to my stomach to see the Kurds who've stuck by us just be thrown under the bus. How do you see what's going on in Syria and what's happening to Kurds?
JONES: I think - I think it's a tragedy. I think it's a disaster for the United States and a foreign policy in a world stage. We have lost the moral high ground around the world these days. America used to have that moral standing where you know after World War II we rebuilt our enemies as well as our friends.
JONES: You know, we had that and we don't have that now and remember this just didn't happen with a phone call with Erdogan a week or so ago. This started back in December of last year with a phone call to Erdogan and there was an announcement we're pulling up. Well, that gave Turkey the green light to start building up, to do exactly what they want to do.
And to just kick our allies to the to the side and do it in such a flippant manner that the President's done in his tweets and his press conference, it's appalling and I think you're seeing now a real huge bipartisan rising up.
Look what the House did just the other day. Three hundred and some-odd to 60 rebuking the President of United States. If it comes to the Senate, it's going to be overwhelming numbers like that as well.
JONES: Well, I'm just glad we have senators like you can who can call it fair and keep working on. I want to keep you here when we come back you know last week's democratic debate was the return of the moderates all right? The centrists came back fighting against some you know progressive ideas and policies.
Coming up, I want to get the Senator's take on all of that and how much this is going to impact his own re-election when we get back.
JONES: I'm back with Democratic Senator Doug Jones from the great state of Alabama. Now listen, that last Democratic debate, you saw Klobuchar come out strong, you saw Andrew Yang come out strong. You saw Mayor Pete come out strong challenging Elizabeth Warren and some of the progressive agenda. Did that make you happy?
JONES: Oh yes. I think you've seen that voice being built over the last couple of debates. I think they got drowned out early on. You know look, full disclosure you know, I've endorsed my friend Joe Biden. I think he had a very strong. I think that hold middle challenging what is to perceive to be all of the momentum in the Democratic Party being from the left.
I think you saw the other day that that's not the case.
JONES: What worries you about the progressive momentum and the progressive ideas? I mean, just for instance, a lot of poor folks in Alabama, Tennessee where I'm from, what's wrong with saying, hey, we want to have you know Medicare for all. We want to have free college. Why wouldn't that progressive, economic populism appeal in the same way that some of Trump's populism is?
JONES: Yes, I think it does appeal to a point though but I think that there is also an appeal of folks don't want to be told exactly what to do. They don't want to be told they have to get this health care. They want to be - they like the health care that they have if they have it but it does appeal to them to a point.
But I think once you cross a line and you get into it to something where the government is making you do XYZ, that's the tipping point.
JONES: So that's when a Mayor Pete says Medicare for all who want it.
JONES: You trying to try to pull--
JONES: I mean, that's basically the Biden plan. The Biden plan is a public option. I've been saying that. I ran on a public option in 2017 when we repeal and replace was you know, that's what was going on in the Senate in the 2017.
JONES: And when you say public option, you mean if you want to be on a government program, you can, if you want to have a private plan, you can.
JONES: Yes, and it's going to pay for.
JONES: Uh-huh. I know you're for Joe Biden. You've known him for 40 years, you worked with him, you've seen him close up. I got a chance to work with him in the Obama White House, love them to death.
JONES: I feel though some disquiet because in some ways I feel like he's lost a step there, you know the air's come out of the tires. Are you worried at all about some of these kind of missteps and the fumbles and the senior moments? I mean a lot of people are talking about that behind the closed doors.
JONES: You know look, those moments of Joe's are not senior moments. Those are Joe Biden moments and they've been there for a long time. It's what makes Joe authentic. See, I really think man to some extent people want authenticity and that - and there is no one on that stage that is more authentic than Joe and I'm just being honest about that.
So I don't worry about that and I think the age factor, I think he had a really wonderful answer the other day because we are seeing a situation right now, where experienced and wisdom and getting to know leaders from around the world would be making a huge difference if he was sitting in that Oval Office today.
JONES: Well, I think people would have confidence in him certainly in dealing on the world stage. In 2020, you are on the ballot.
JONES: Are you concerned that if we have the wrong person at the top of the ballot, that it hurts you and other red state Democrats?
JONES: It can always - it can always make it for a challenge, absolutely. But what we are also trying to do in my race and what I've done is a U.S. senator was to make sure that the people of Alabama understand that what I'm doing there is for them.
I've got their back it doesn't matter what the - who the top of the ticket is. It doesn't matter what the President is doing if you like either one of those, that's fine but know that I've got your back, whether its on healthcare, jobs, the economy.
I think that that's the real key is to making sure that people look at that and understand what I'm trying - they're not going to agree with me on everything. They're not going to agree with me on a lot of things but if they know that I'm listening and I've got their backs, that I think is the most important part of any election and so that's where we're going to set ourselves apart from what I think whoever my opponent will be at the end of the day.
JONES: You're trying to pull people together, not just for your election but for the country. What do you think can, I mean you're close to people in the heart of this country. What can bring together - what issues unite people that these days?
JONES: You know I think--
JONES: No, I think there are issues that unite us is that political leaders don't let them unite us. I think gun violence can unite us if we would meet in the middle and not let political leaders on extremes of either side keep us apart.
I think healthcare can unite us, maybe not an extreme Medicare for all but also not going pure private anymore and trying to work with what we've got. I mean--
JONES: Let's talk about that gun violence thing though because you have Beto, he's out there saying listen, if you got AK 47, you got to give it to the government, I'm tired of the nonsense.
JONES: Wrong message.
JONES: What's wrong with that?
JONES: It's just a wrong message because there's too many people in states like mine you, who go back. Remember what I said about Medicare for all. You don't what the government telling you you've got to get this healthcare and they dang sure don't want the government coming in and telling them, we're going to take your gun no matter what kind of gun it is, we're going to take that gun, it's mandatory.
I don't agree with that. I think that that's wrong. You know, folks talk about guns sometimes in the context of only hunting and that's not right. People have guns for protection. People have guns because they just like to shoot them that's the way I grew up but I do think this. I think overwhelmingly even in a state like Alabama people want extended background checks.
They want to close the boyfriend loophole, the Charleston loophole. They want the CDC funded to less study gun violence, all the talk we have, this is - this is not a gun problem, this is a mental health problem but if that's the case let the CDC look at it. Look at it. Those are issues, if we could pull the extremes off the side and pull in, we get something done.
JONES: Speaking of extremes you know, one of these that I love you so much is because you jumped into a situation. 1963, there was a horrific bombing murder of four little girls that case was unsolved for decades and you decided to do something about it.
And you got a conviction in that case. We have extremism of the kind that killed those little girls growing in America today. Are you worried about that white nationalism?
JONES: You know Van, I've been worried about that for some time. In fact when we were putting - when we were trying to finish that book, we were talking about - and at the end of that book was initially warnings about what we saw coming up the rise of hate groups, the rise of the rhetoric.
And we had warnings that we had and then all of a sudden they became true. We had Dylan Roof kill nine people in a church in Charleston. We had Charlottesville and so these came - all of these things came true and so words matter and words have consequences and clearly they did in 1963 and I believe they still do.
JONES: Well listen, you know the people Alabama are lucky to have somebody with so much integrity and such a long track record of doing the right thing even when it's hard. Thank you for being on THE VAN JONES SHOW. Give this brother a round of applause.
JONES: My pleasure. Thank you.
JONES: Now listen, coming up, this week we saw President Trump and Speaker Pelosi accusing each other of having meltdowns, pointing fingers, calling each other all kind of names and sadly their respective supporters are doing the same thing. Is it possible to depolarize America?
One group is doing an interesting experiment to see if they can get liberals and conservatives together. I'm going to explain about them when we get back.
JONES: All right, sadly, this week we saw politicians acting like pre- schoolers again. A meeting that was supposed to be about Syria turned into another instance of name-calling and finger pointing and what's worse, this behavior is being mirrored by regular people all across the countries.
Liberals and conservatives can't talk to each other anymore, it's tearing up friendships and families. I recently found out a group that's trying to heal this division. It's called Better Angels and since 2016, they've been hosting workshops all over the country, bringing folks together to find common ground.
I went to one of their Red-Blue workshops last weekend in Evanston, Illinois. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So the goals are more understanding, seeing if there's something in common--
JONES: Here's something special. Conservatives and liberals sitting side by side, talking, smiling, actually listening to each other.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hamilton trained here as a Red. I'm coming here out of frustration in some ways because I feel like you know, we've been ex-communicated from a lot of our friends in the last couple of years and it makes me sad.
JONES: They're here for a workshop put on by the Better Angels group. Their goal is to help bridge the divide among liberals and conservatives and so community members have come to watch.
DREW MARSON: I'm sure Drew Marson. I came here as a Blue today. We need to be able to have real constructive dialog among each other, even among issues that's - that we may disagree on.
JONES: Now they split up into reds and blues. Reds for conservative, Blue for liberal and they discuss the stereotypes they think the other side believes about them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judgmental.
JONES: And are there any grains of truth to these perceptions?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hyper PC. OK, so what is true here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We attack people for saying the words rather than attacking the words themselves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a kernel of truth in the stereotype that the Reds are close-minded, intolerant?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are principles that I stand by. It may look intolerant in some ways but abiding by the rule of law with respect to immigration, abiding by the rule of law for things like that, it looks empowered.
JONES: Both say they're surprised by what they hear from the other side.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lot of Reds recognize that they're you know, the descendants of immigrants and they're pro-immigration. A lot of ink and TV airtime has been spilled on some of the sensational and very dramatic things that have been occurring at the border and that really obscures I think, the more nuanced conversation of a nation having control of its borders and welcoming immigrants.
But doing it through appropriate channels and means.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What really struck me was the - when Larry said, we believe in science and we want to use science to solve issues such as climate, rather than rushing to a sweeping government program which is like we recognize for ourselves oh yes, we do kind of do that and you said yes, you do that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was struck about how the other side has principles that they live by and we have principles too and it seems like we both get into trouble when we have absolutes.
JONES: The Liberals are then asked to sit in the middle of the group and talk about why they think progressive ideas are the best to resolve America's problems. As they answer the conservatives are allowed only to listen. No rebuttals, no interruptions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that inequality causes some people to feel like burn it all down. I don't want to burn it all down. So I think frankly in the interest of preserving capitalism we need to engage in as you say, leveling the playing field, redistribution, giving people a stake in the system.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Blue values in terms of being accepting and open to very diverse points of view or open to open-minded about moral values, right? Like so same-sex marriage, sexual orientation, gender fluidity, these things, I think are good for the United States because they're acknowledging and giving a voice and including groups that have been historically marginalized, have had no voice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are your reservations or concerns about your own side about the blue side?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of my experiences have been that in a lot of cases if you don't adhere to every single value or every single position then your margin - then you're marginalized where you're seen as sort of betraying - sort of betraying the cause in a way. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I agree that words matter and that words can hurt but I see arguments being shut down. I see people not being allowed to speak.
JONES: Next it's the Conservative's turn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think what's great about the Red's vision is it emphasizes personal freedoms and I think that in order for people to soar, to great heights, maximization and personal freedoms is partially responsible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ability to progress and allow a society to reach and people within the society, individuals to achieve the most that they can achieve with the least amount of interference from outside, for me it's a positive thing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are your reservations or concerns about your own side?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think with personal responsibilities, personal freedoms, there will be people who are lost. I think it's a harsh truth we lose our messaging and we lose our principle of caring and compassion by saying hey, free market, right? Sink or swim.
We have to acknowledge that people sink and make sure that we take care of those people.
JONES: At the end of the day everybody said this experience is going to impact their personal interactions with people on a day to day basis.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just great to like hear reasonable conservative voices in the room and then when I'm in my friend group, that's very sorted and people make some extreme comments about all those people. I can say well, not all those people. Come on, let's just you know, pull back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Same, right? Being that ambassador we've started out with why are we here and I had said something that basically to the extent of right being ex-communicated from some of my friends, friends for many, many years; friends that I love.
So I have tried some phone calls, absolutely. Listening versus talking.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My takeaway is that neither side is a monolith, that there's a recognition that these are thorny problems, that we're trying to address and that there are going to be some very nuanced solutions to those problems.
JONES: So you are an observer the whole time, you were taking like copious notes. What do you think would happen if stuff like this was going on all across the country, suppose, whether it's like a weekend where I get like a 100,000 of these things went down, what do you think would happen in America?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think people would be better equipped to have these sorts of conversations and think in terms of working together towards solutions to problems, rather than seeing the other side as just a barrier to progress.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got to know each other a little bit better as people.
JONES: Whether it is causing you to want to be this deeply involved in this bipartisan way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's about relationships. I'm a physician. I'm a parent, I'm a spouse, I'm a daughter, I'm a friend. All of our relationships are built on communication and we do it very poorly and we're getting worse and worse at it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can just agree on religion, right? Haven't inhale and yet for some reason we're at a point in time in history in this country where you can't disagree about policy.
JONES: Do you feel like you learned anything today that might help you bridge that gap?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely, to be able to hear, try to be as non- judgmental as possible, right? But just to try and pay attention and try to listen as opposed to trying to prove or defend. It was just a good exercise.
JONES: One woman said the experience made her more comfortable sharing her voice as a conservative who lives in a liberal town.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was apprehensive about coming because sometimes - today I don't feel like maybe being a conservative or having a conservative voice is PC and so I think maybe there were a lot of people out there that maybe have this point of view but they're not really saying it.
I really believe if groups like this could get together, take the next step, talk about issues and sit down and hash it out, I really think we could come up with some solutions and we may even do a better job than some of our politicians.
JONES: You couldn't do worse.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There you go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: There are the signs of hope and more hope to come. You know, the first capital of the Confederacy in the former heart of Jim Crow now has its first African-American Mayor. We're going to talk to that man who made history in Montgomery, Alabama when we get back.
JONES: This week we lost a real giant Congressman Elijah Cummings passed away Thursday at the age of 68. He was the son of a sharecropper, grew up to be a dedicated leader for the country and especially for his city of Baltimore.
He was a fierce advocate for progressive causes. He always tried to work across the line though, across the aisle. His legacy can be seen in a countless messages of love coming from Democrats, Republicans, everybody piling on. He set a great example for all of us, especially for young leaders who want to continue his fight and there is hope and it's coming from an unlikely place.
Montgomery, Alabama was the capital of the Confederacy, experienced horrific racial violence for years under Jim Crow. It's also the birthplace of the modern civil rights movement Dr. King, Rosa Parks led the protests that changed the country.
And in 2019, more history got made. The city elected its first ever African-American Mayor. Please welcome to THE VAN JONES SHOW, the Mayor elect of Montgomery, Alabama; Steven Reed on THE VAN JONES SHOW.
Hey brother. Congratulations.
MAYOR STEVEN REED (D), MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA: Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you.
JONES: Wow, hey listen, so first of all congratulations. Everybody's been so excited. When you were a kid it's growing up, did you ever think that she would be in that long line of history-makers coming out of Montgomery, Alabama?
REED: Not at all. Not at all. Was not in the plans whatsoever. When I went to Morehouse College in Atlanta, I told my parents I was never coming back to Montgomery. So I wasn't ready to move--
JONES: You were gone.
REED: Yes, I was ready to go to the big city and everything else so--
JONES: What brought you back?
REED: I think what brought me back was the potential of the city and seeing that there were things that we could do better and we could do differently and I want to be a part of that and trying to help lead that.
I tried behind the scenes first, that didn't work as well and I kind of got a little frustrated and I had to get myself out there.
JONES: Give me the wheel. Let me drive.
JONES: Yes, that's amazing. So look, Montgomery got a young black Mayor. Birmingham got a young black mayor. Solman got a young black mayor.
S: Jazz, Mississippi.
JONES: Jazz, Mississippi. Is it something? Did I miss the memo? Did something happen to put all young black folks. Talk about this wave of young African-American leaders stepping up and grabbing the wheel.
REED: Yes, I think a lot of that comes just coming as a natural progression. I think some of it is also a by-product of President Obama's inspirational leadership and his candidacy as well and really challenging many of us in our generation to be leaders and lead in our own communities and to lead at a local and state level.
And I think that's what we've seen around this country and I think in the Civil Rights area of what we have is an understanding of how progress happens. We understand that it doesn't just happen by itself, that we have to lead it and we have to initiate it and I think those of us who have been running for Mayor and now are mayors, are seeing an opportunity to really change the narrative on those cities. JONES: It's amazing thing to watch. I mean, you had everybody. I mean
Hillary Clinton was tweeting about you. Ava DuVernay was tweeting about you. I mean you had like big, big folks tweeting about you. But I'm curious what was it like on the ground in Montgomery? Did - there must have been some old folks who came up to you with a different conversation than even the Hillary Clintons?
REED: Oh no question. I mean, it was surreal. You know, we didn't run to make history. I ran to make the future better for the city of Montgomery and the people that live there but as the campaign went along, I started hearing more testimonials from people who had been in the civil rights movement, people who grew up in Montgomery and who really were emotionally excited about the opportunity for us to have a black Mayor in the city.
And many who thought it would never happen and I'm not sure, I grasped that probably until the end and where there were people you know, in grocery stores, knocking on their doors or at churches, just coming up saying I'm praying for you. You know. just hugging you and hugging you very tightly in a way that was more than just we're happy to see you.
This is something bigger than just an election. This is a signal that we want to send to the country and so to be able to be a part of that makes you understand that it's not just about you, it's not just about your campaign message.
It's about something more for so many people and I think you know after to get the response that we got nationwide was something that we didn't anticipate.
JONES: I think it's because in Montgomery is a global icon. I mean you're a head of an iconic city and so much history has been made there. In fact you have that museum there that the memorial to lynching that the great Brian Stevenson has created.
How is that piece of history now being in concrete form impacted the city?
REED: Well, you know, very easily it's brought over 500 million - 500,000 people to the city itself. It's brought millions of dollars in tourism but I think that the bigger part of that is what Brian Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative have done regarding race and reconciliation and the conversations that are being had around that.
Where does Montgomery stand? Where does the nation stand and where do we say in the world as it relates to race and reconciliation? And how can we be a part of that progress?
So it's been fantastic to be at the center of that and Brian has certainly been the driver behind a lot of those positive conversations.
JONES: I say you know your timing could not be better in terms of you know hitting the city at a time when there that all that stuff is going on. I'm curious about how you see the country. You're young, you're black, you're Mayor of a blue city in a bright red state.
I mean red state, the state got a MAGA hat on. So how do you see this election? I mean are Democrats talking about the right things or wrong things? I mean how do you make sense of what's going on at the national level right now?
REED: Yes, I think Democrats have to make sure we're talking about issues that impact everyday Americans. There are a lot of Americans who don't vote, who feel frustrated with the process and they feel frustrated with both parties and they don't feel like national leaders are listening to them.
And so while certainly, we have a lot of issues at the national- international level, I think what a lot of people want to know is what are our solutions to address the issues regarding healthcare, what are our solutions regarding access to colleges?
What are our solutions regarding how the job environment is changing and what do national leaders plan to do about that?
JONES: Do you hear answers that you like from any of the national leaders? What national leaders you think would be able to cut through and with the people you deal with every day?
REED: You know, I think--
JONES: What solutions are you--
REED: Yes, I think there are a number of solutions that we're hearing. Certainly, we want to make sure that our workforce development is improved and people have access to earn a livable wage. I think it's very important that we focus on our infrastructure, not enough is being talked about there to make sure that our cities are able to grow and our cities are getting the necessary funding and support that's needed.
And also rural America, I think certainly has felt left behind and so I think a number of other candidates are touching on those. I just don't know a number of them are focused on them as much as maybe some of the hot button issues and for me, I think that when we look at 2020, we want to make sure that we're inspiring voters and what I found in my campaign is, it wasn't just enough to roll out the policy platform.
People wanted to be inspired to aspire, to greater heights and to greater understanding about their brother in the city, in their community, in their state and I think that's what we try to reach out and do.
JONES: You know, you didn't mention the word impeachment one time. How is the impeachment drama playing out in the heartland?
REED: It's not playing out very much at all. I don't hear a lot of talk about it. Again, what I hear you know, where the job is going? Can we get higher paying jobs here? Can we get access to junior colleges so that my kids and my grandkids will be able to achieve the American dream? What am I going to do if my aunt get sick or my grandparent get sick?
How do we afford healthcare? What are we going to do about that system? I hear more about that ten times as much as I hear anyone talking about impeachment.
JONES: Well, I'd say it's so good to have you here. I mean, I get I get - I'm going to be seeing you for the next 20-30 years, I have no idea what you're going to do. I appreciate everything that you represent. You represent an awful lot of hope and that's what we need.
Give this brother a round of applause. I'm so proud to have this brother. Congratulations.
REED: Thank you.
JONES: Now listen when get back there's a big push to stop big banks from helping to finance immigration detention centers and private prisons and some progress is actually being made. We're going to talk about that when we get back.
JONES: All right, California governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation effectively banning private prisons and private immigrant detention centers in California and on the campaign trail, a lot of democratic candidates have promised to do similar stuff at the federal level.
But it turns out, you need more than just government action to solve this problem. Big corporations also play a big role here. My next guest is an expert on the topic. Please welcome THE VAN JONES SHOW author, investor and criminal justice reform activist, Morgan Simon in the house.
Well, I've watched your activism progress over the years. You're one of the most effective change-makers that I've ever met but just let's start with the basics. What is wrong with private prisons? I mean, if you could get a private prison that could do a good job and save a little bit of money, what's wrong with private prison?
MORGAN SIMON, INVESTOR & CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACTIVIST: Private prisons make money by locking people up and that means that they are fundamentally, a symptom of the broader problems of incarceration and immigrant detention.
And America's pretty unique. You know, we lock up more people than anywhere else in the world and we rely often on private prisons to do so. 10 percent of incarcerated people, over 70 percent of immigrants are in detention and these--
JONES: Wait, wait, so 70 percent of the people who are in the detention centers that we see, those are private for profit company locking them up?
SIMON: That's correct and those companies are making as much as $700 for every night. We might as well be putting people in the Ritz Carlton and this goes back to when you have companies that are incentivized to lock up more people.
Well, then you see them lobbying intensively over 25 million over 3 decades, participating in groups like Alec that are lobbying for harsher laws on immigration and incarceration.
JONES: Because the longer people are locked up, the more money they make?
SIMON: They may make more money. Exactly and that is really where it's not just about public first private prisons. It's about the soul of the country and how we want to treat people. Are we about locking up more people and making more money in the process or are we about giving people second chances about drug treatment, about mental health treatment, about restorative justice?
JONES: You've actually been able to be effective as a financial person so how - what's the connection between your heart and your smarts when it comes to having real victories.
SIMON: Absolutely, so I'm an impact investor. I spend my time investing money in companies that have social and environmental value as founding partner of Candide group and that means I'm often looking at the money story behind the story of how is it that in every social issue, there's some big corporation or some big bank that's having an impact.
And this caught the attention of the over 100 million activists as part of the Families Belong Together coalition who were seeing these images of immigrant detention and saying, wait a minute, what is my money and my role have to do with this?
That it's my money in the bank that's been financing these private prisons and I'm not OK with that. So sometimes we think well this is Trump's policy or this is a corporate policy. This is all of us and the good news there is that we can do something about it.
JONES: What can you do? Because I was surprised you know, kind of learning more about what you've been doing. You know, people - you know, you got money in your 41K, you got money in your pensions. People don't know their money is going to companies, there are a lot of people up front for profit.
What have you been able to concretely do about that and what should we be thinking about that?
SIMON: Sure so we have gotten 100 percent of the known banks that are providing credit and term loans to Geo group and over 60 percent of that to CoreCivic. So those are the two largest private prison companies, pulled out and that means that those companies are going to be struggling when it's time to raise more money to lock up more people.
JONES: Wait, how did you get these - you saying the big banks are basically cut up the credit cards for these private prison companies. How do you get them to do that?
SIMON: Essentially we use the power that we all have as economic citizens that I know we think often about voting is something that we do every four years but we really don't every day with every dollar that we spend or we invest and we came together saying, it doesn't matter if you have $100 in the bank or $100 million, you have a vote.
And you get to tell those banks, this is still my money and I want to make sure that it's reflecting my values and that's exactly what we did and what we're going to continue to do.
JONES: So basically you got people to put pressure on the banks? Well, I can't tell you how - I'm just proud to know you. So many people say they want to make a change in the world, you know you wrote the book, 'Real Impact,' which had a real impact and now you've been able to follow up.
Give her a round of applause for making something positive happen. Now, listen, I want to thank all my guests. Thanks for watching. I'm Van Jones from THE VAN JONES SHOW. Peace and love for one another.