MSNBC’s Hayes: Some Conservative Beliefs Should Disqualify People From Public Office

On Tuesday’s All In, host Chris Hayes and his guests tackled a chilling and politically loaded subject: which beliefs should disqualify someone from holding public office. Among other things, the group decided that global warming “denialism,” opposition to same-sex marriage, and opposition to a “robust” Voting Rights Act should put a politician outside the mainstream and ruin their chances of holding public office.

Hayes seemed excited that politicians might be branded with a figurative scarlet letter for holding beliefs that run counter to his own far-left vision. In fact, he claimed the act of disqualification based on certain beliefs is a “tool of progress,” not something that “constrains consensus.” The host gloated:


It’s a tool of progress when we say that certain things, like opposing marriage equality, are sort of, like, not the kinds of things that mainstream American politicians –
 

One of Hayes’ guests cut him off, but he didn’t need to finish that sentence. The point is clear – Hayes has stumbled upon a new way to squelch debate in this country and pave the way for liberal domination of American political thought.

The host was particularly gleeful over the growing acceptance of the theory that human beings are driving climate change. After playing clips of Sen. Marco Rubio expressing skepticism of global warming and then trying to clarify when pressed on the issue, Hayes smirked:

 

[T]he fascinating aspect of this to me is that it looked to me for the first time in a long time that denialism was looking like a thing that was a disqualifier or at least something to be defensive about in a way I haven't seen in a while.
 

One of Hayes’ guests, former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, agreed:

 

And I think nowadays it is. I mean, this is an issue that’s – I mean, we’re all threatened by this. I mean, the planet is in danger. Something needs to be done. And I think if you’re just going to deny that this is even occurring, it means that you’re going to be blocking the policies that we need, and it should be a disqualifier.
 

Hayes even went so far as to call global warming skeptics "really cuckoo."

Regarding gay marriage, the host was also ready to declare the debate closed. He exulted that he has "never seen an issue go so quickly from a contentious, contested issue that’s at the center of our political debates to one in which opposition to it is quickly becoming taboo.”

But in many parts of the country, gay marriage still is a “contentious, contested issue.” Hayes only wishes it were a settled topic.

By the way, the host placed global warming skepticism and opposition to gay marriage in the same basket as 9/11 Trutherism. During his introduction to this discussion, Hayes mentioned that Van Jones, now a co-host of CNN’s Crossfire, was pressured into resigning from his job in the Obama White House because, among other things, his name appeared on a petition that suggested the George W. Bush administration may have knowingly allowed the 9/11 terrorist attacks to happen. The host failed to mention, of course, that MSNBC colleague Toure has a history of Truther-style statements.

That conspiracy theory is well outside of the mainstream, but it was what prompted Hayes to launch his discussion of other, more conservative beliefs that he wishes society would just laugh away.

Below is a transcript of the segment:

 

CHRIS HAYES: Van Jones says he never actually signed the 9/11 truther petition that prompted that spout of outrage, and he maintained from the start it did not reflect his actual views. But just that tiny little brush with trutherism was enough to get the guy drummed out of the White House. And all this got me thinking about what exactly should constitute a disqualifier when it comes to those who want to hold public office or even work in the government. Joining me now, Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow with Demos; Christina Bellantoni, editor-in-chief of Roll Call; and Richard Kim, executive editor of TheNation.com. I am really interested in the boundaries of taboo and consensus and what are the kinds of things that are the kinds of things that politicians can argue about, and the kinds of things that kind of place them off the table. And  I thought it was interesting to see the Ernst campaign felt that that claim about WMD was an off-the-table kind of claim they had to then deny, which I found to be progress of a sort. Are there certain things you think, Bob, that should be in the kind of off-the-table category that aren't currently in the off-the-table category?

BOB HERBERT: Sure. I would start with if you don't have support for a robust Voting Rights Act for example. So if you're running for national office and you don't feel that qualified Americans ought to be guaranteed the right to vote, that should disqualify you.

HAYES: Just like Voting Rights Act as a matter of – Voting Rights Act or opposition to Voting Rights Act is off the table. But here’s the thing that's tricky about that, right, is that no one comes out. You're right. That is actually rhetorically where we are in American politics insofar as no one will come out and be like, I don't like the Voting Rights Act, unless, you know, Supreme Court justices. But, right, I think – don't you agree that if someone – no one would actually come out and say that.

[crosstalk]

HERBERT: – should have to come out and say it. I'm saying you need to be forthright in your support of a robust Voting Rights Act because you need to be forthright in your support of Americans' right to vote.

HAYES: And Rand Paul has come pretty close.

RICHARD KIM: With the Civil Rights Act, which is not the Voting Rights Act, but that package of civil rights legislation.

HAYES: And that infamous moment on Rachel’s show with the long, torturous, just train wreck of an interview in which he basically said, I'm not that into the public accommodation part of the Civil Rights Act, that was him flirting with precisely the line of the disqualifying.

***

JONATHAN KARL: Let me get this straight. You do not think that human activity, the production of CO2, has caused warming to our planet?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO: I don't believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.

UNIDENTIFIED: What information, reports, studies or otherwise are you relying on to inform and reach your conclusion that human activity is not to blame for climate change?

RUBIO: Well, again, I mean –  headlines notwithstanding, I’ve never disputed that the climate is changing, and I pointed out that climate, to some extent, is always changing. It’s never static.

HAYES: Nice try, Marco Rubio. I’m back with Bob Herbert, Christina Bellantoni, and Richard Kim. And the reason I want to play that, so Rubio – again, he stepped in it on that Jon Karl interview. I think he didn’t think it was going to become a headline. I mean, you can see his passive/aggressive note about headlines notwithstanding. And then today he tried to walk it back in a totally incoherent way. But the fascinating aspect of this to me is that it looked to me for the first time in a long time that denialism was looking like a thing that was a disqualifier or at least something to be defensive about in a way I haven't seen in a while.



HERBERT: And I think nowadays it is. I mean, this is an issue that’s – I mean, we’re all threatened by this. I mean, the planet is in danger. Something needs to be done. And I think if you’re just going to deny that this is even occurring, it means that you’re going to be blocking the policies that we need, and it should be a disqualifier.

HAYES: And the key here to me is, the conspiratorial thinking it requires to think that thousands of scientists across the globe are engaged in this massive hoax, which is basically what James Inhofe, who’s a sitting U.S. senator, believes, right? The conspiratorial thinking that it takes to believe that is really cuckoo. I mean, that is really out there.

KIM: Okay, I can't believe I'm going to take the other side on this. So obviously, I don't believe, you know, these views, and I think they’re sort of lunatic and really dangerous. On the other hand, large percentages of the American population believe that. And don't they have representation in that political process? And I also worry that if you have this circle of disqualified opinions, and you keep growing that circle, what that rewards is an incentive structure that depends on sort of an absolute certainty of emotion. Like a really kind of intense belief. And to keep feeding that, if the facts on the ground don't match, you invent a set of facts. And I think, actually, that is what has happened to the Republican Party. They’ve sort of produced this outrage machine.

HAYES: So you're just saying, like, against litmus tests as a broad –

KIM: I say let the democratic process play out, and people should vote these things down.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: On climate, as a specific thing. The candidate that appeals to the business community tends to be the candidate that’ll either win the nomination or win the general election. And so this is an area where you –

HAYES: In the Republican party, in particular.

BELLANTONI: In general, though, you have to be palpable to them to sit in the White House. And so with the business community shifting on this issue or on minimum wage issues or on some other labor issues, that's where you start to see the shifts. That guides the politician.

HAYES: But what you’re identifying, though, is precisely the nefarious ideological undercurrent of discussions about what's disqualifying. Because, I mean, that goes hand-in-glove with what Richard is saying. You’re saying the people that actually draw the lines around what’s disqualifying is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And like, frankly, that’s what’s going to decide if you're, like, a whacko.

BELLANTONI: And just watch with immigration reform. I mean, the conversation has completely changed since 2005-2006 when George Bush, people were angry at him in a certain segment of the population because he supported immigration reform. And now it is sort of a moderate Republican view.

HAYES: Or on marriage equality. I mean, that is a place where you really do see –   I have never seen an issue go so quickly from a contentious, contested issue that’s at the center of our political debates to one in which opposition to it is quickly becoming taboo.

HERBERT: Well, the truth is that you can only do this as a hypothetical exercise, and that’s a good example of why. I mean, there was a time when no one could get elected if they were in favor of gay marriage. Now in many elections it’s a disqualifier if you’re opposed to gay marriage.

HAYES: But that makes me hopeful about the power of this kind of – the force of this, as opposed to this being something that constrains consensus, it actually is this tool, right? It’s a tool of progress when we say that certain things, like opposing marriage equality, are sort of, like, not the kinds of things that mainstream American politicians –

KIM: But it's also a double-edged sword. So things like supporting a 90 percent tax rate, which was once policy in the United States –

HAYES: Right, that's a very good point.

KIM: – would be a completely disqualifying characteristic for many, many people in this country.

HAYES: If you came forward and said I am for a 90 percent top marginal tax rate, which of course was what it was after World War II and the Eisenhower administration before the first round of tax cuts, you would be – that would be the equivalent.

KIM: Exactly.
 

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.