Walker's Victory Tests Progressives' Strength

Jun 6, 2012
Originally published on June 6, 2012 2:22 pm
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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Walker wins Wisconsin, again. Bill Clinton walks sterling back to calamitous then veers off-message on taxes. And after a dismal jobs report, the president talks up manufacturing. It's Wednesday and time for a...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thingamajig...

CONAN: ...edition of the political junkie.

PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

VICE PRESIDENT WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: Where's the beef?

SENATOR BARRY GOLDWATER: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

SENATOR LLOYD BENTSEN: Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

SARAH PALIN: Lipstick.

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: Oops.

PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: But I'm the decider.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAM)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us to recap the week in politics, Wisconsin's recall and a raft of primaries in California. Sherman beats Berman, but we'll have to do it again come November. In Jersey, Clinton's congressional candidate knocks off the president's. Elizabeth Warren avoids a primary in Massachusetts. Rumors and speculation already about 2016, Joe Biden? Hillary?

In a few minutes, we'll focus on what Wisconsin means for progressives as the net roots get set to gather. Later in the hour, Richard Grenell, Romney's former foreign policy spokesman argues the extreme right doesn't want Republicans to be gay, and the extreme left doesn't want gays to be conservative.

But first, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A. And we begin, as usual, with a trivia question. Hey, Ken.

KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: Hi, Neal. Well, Tom Barrett, as you may recall...

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Oh boy.

RUDIN: Thank you very much. Lost his...

CONAN: Up all night working on that.

RUDIN: Yes, thank you very much. He lost his third bid for governor yesterday in Wisconsin. He was also defeated in the 2002 Democratic primary - 2010 to Scott Walker. But of today's governors, there is one who lost four statewide races before becoming governor. Who is it?

CONAN: If you think you know the answer to this week's trivia question, the incumbent governor who lost four statewide races before ascending to the statehouse, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. The winner, of course, gets a fabulous political junkie no-prize T-shirt when we get around to re-ordering...

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: In exchange for a digital image to put on our Wall of Shame. And, well, a lot of actual votes yesterday, Ken, and none more important than those cast in Wisconsin.

RUDIN: Well, we always talked about this would be the precursor to what's going t happen in November, the Spanish Civil War, as some have said, but - and once upon a time, the Democrats and labor unions were very - were filled with optimism, they got like a million signatures to get the recall on the ballot. Only two governors in history have been recalled before.

But Scott Walker, with a tremendous amount of money, I mean let's face he way outspent, he and conservative groups, way outspent Tom Barrett and the labor unions, the millions they put up. And he won by about, like, 53 to 46 percent, a little larger margin than he won in 2010.

CONAN: And in the meantime, there is talk afterwards, as usual in these things, well, let's be nice, and we'll learn from our victory, we'll learn from our defeat, we'll work with the other side. But immediately, both sides have to turn around and get ready for the general election come November.

RUDIN: Well, not the governorship, but of course the battle for the state legislature is up again. And as a matter of fact, the Democrats did win one of the four state Senate recall elections yesterday. So actually they have a majority of the state Senate, but since the state Senate doesn't meet until 2013, they've already met enough this year, so the election in 2012 in November will decide that.

But - and the Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch also was re-elected. So again, the Democrats and the labor unions had a lot of momentum going once upon a time, but a lot of money. And actually if you look at a lot of the exit polls, a lot of voters said that, well, you know, this - unless it's tremendous malfeasance or some kind of criminal behavior...

CONAN: Criminal action.

RUDIN: This is not what a recall should be all about.

CONAN: Well, much more about Wisconsin a little bit later in the program when we talk with Katrina Vanden Heuvel from The Nation. But in the meantime, there were other elections, and, well, California is trying out a new electoral system, new congressional districts drawn up by nonpartisan committees. And now it's the top two primary system.

RUDIN: Right, all the candidates in the primary yesterday, all the candidates in California, for the Senate, for Congress, the House, they all run on the same ballot regardless of party, and the top two finishers, regardless of party, move on to the actual election in November. So nothing really happened yesterday in California, but a lot of eyes were on that - the two sets of primaries between - among Democratic incumbents.

In the 30th District, Brad Sherman beat Howard Berman 42 to 32 percent, like almost $6 million was spent between those two Democrats alone in the primary. But again, they do it all over again in November. And another set of Democratic incumbents, Janice Hahn defeated Laura Richardson, Laura Richardson a member of the Black Caucus who had some financial improprieties, been under investigation. It looks like Janice Hahn will win that seat in November.

CONAN: All right, we'll be following this new system throughout this calendar year and see especially in November how it turns out, the whole design. This is Schwarzenegger's rules, as it were.

RUDIN: Well, it also helps the Republican Party because they argue, some Republicans argue that you have to be more moderate, less conservative to appeal to a national audience.

CONAN: May help them in the long run. Democrats hope to pick up five seats.

RUDIN: But the Democrats could do very well in November, yes.

CONAN: All right, meanwhile there was another incumbent-versus-incumbent battle in the state of New Jersey.

RUDIN: A lot of people saw this or tried to portray this as a proxy battle between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. That's a little overreach. But Bill Pascrell, 75 years old, mostly from Passaic County, defeated Steve Rothman of Bergen County in New Jersey pretty handily, like two to one. A lot of Democrats wanted Rothman, instead of running against a fellow Democrat to run against a Republican. He didn't, and he paid the price. Pascrell really out-worked him, out-campaigned him, and he won convincingly.

Also in Newark, Donald Payne Jr., the son of the late congressman who's now the city council member from Newark, won the special primary and the regular primary to succeed his late father.

CONAN: And some other news, Thad McCotter, the incumbent who didn't make the ballot in his state primary because it turned out they copied a lot of the petition signatures...

RUDIN: All you needed were 1,000 to get on the ballot; he couldn't do that.

CONAN: And then said he would run as a write-in candidate. Now he's decided to write it all off.

RUDIN: Right, this is in - I'm sorry, in Michigan, and of course the Democrats seem to think that they have a shot at picking up that district. But now there are a lot of other Republicans who are saying well, maybe they will attempt to win a write-in candidate for the August 7 primary because right now there's a no-name Republican on the ballot, and the Republicans could lose the seat if another Republican doesn't get in that race.

CONAN: Gabby Giffords will appear tonight at a campaign event for the person she hopes will succeed her, Ron Barber. That is a race that comes up next Tuesday, no?

RUDIN: That's correct. This is the one to succeed Gabby Giffords. Ron Barber, a former aide, and Jesse Kelly, the Tea Party candidate, who came very close to beating Giffords in 2010, will be the Republican nominee in that special district next - in that special election next Tuesday.

CONAN: And now in the presidential race, beware of surrogates. Last week, it was Donald Trump and Mitt Romney. This week, it's Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. It all started when President Clinton made this remark about the president's rival.

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: A man who's been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold.

CONAN: Sterling business career, the Republicans like that.

RUDIN: Well, I think he meant he - I think he once worked in Sterling, Virginia, or something. No, but that's the last thing. First of all, Bill Clinton loves to be Bill Clinton, and I'm sure it gives a lot of the folks in the White House headaches. Of course he did come back and say that Mitt Romney would be a disaster for the country.

CONAN: Calamitous.

RUDIN: Calamitous for the country. But then he also said we should extend the Bush tax cuts, which again is another message that the president does not want to hear.

CONAN: And today he walked back on it, said oh, it's (unintelligible) - but this is the ultimate part of Bill Clinton's message.

CLINTON: I still think the president will win by five or six points. I've always thought so.

CONAN: And the president hopes so, too.

RUDIN: Well, thinking you're going to win and helping you win are two different things, and a lot of people wonder what Bill Clinton is really doing here.

CONAN: In the meantime, we have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, and again, it's the incumbent governor who lost four statewide races before ascending to the statehouse. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. And we'll begin with Auggie(ph), Auggie with us from Tucson.

AUGGIE: Hello.

CONAN: Hi, you're on the air, Auggie, what's your guess?

AUGGIE: Yeah, I've got Jerry Brown.

CONAN: Jerry Brown the incumbent governor of California.

RUDIN: Well, Jerry Brown actually only - aside from running for president and losing some primaries, but he only lost one election statewide, and that was to Pete Wilson for the Senate in 1982.

CONAN: Thanks for the call, Auggie.

AUGGIE: You're welcome, thank you.

CONAN: Let's go to - this is Deborah(ph), Deborah with us from Chanhassen, Minnesota.

DEBORAH: Well, I'm right next door to the awful Wisconsin victory for Mr. Walker, and I'm going to guess that it's Mark Dayton.

RUDIN: Mark Dayton did lose two statewide races. He ran for the - for Senate in 1982, lost to David Durenberger, and he ran for governor in 1988, 1998, lost to Skip Humphrey in the primary, but that's only two defeats.

CONAN: Two, not dismal enough.

RUDIN: We need worse.

DEBORAH: OK, thanks, guys.

CONAN: Thanks, Deborah, appreciate it. Let's go next to Pat(ph), Pat with us from Kansas City. Pat, you there? No, I guess Pat has left us. So we'll go instead to Talman(ph), Talman with us from Manchester, Tennessee.

TALMAN: Hi, is it Bob Casey from Pennsylvania?

RUDIN: Well, Bob Casey is a senator. He's not a governor, he's not the governor of Pennsylvania, he's a U.S. senator.

TALMAN: Actually, I meant Bob Casey Sr., I'm sorry.

RUDIN: Well, Bob Casey Sr. is deceased. We're looking for a current governor, a current governor who's lost four times before becoming governor.

TALMAN: OK, I'm sorry.

CONAN: That's OK, Talman, thanks very much for the call. We'll go to Bob(ph), and Bob with us from Lasco, Illinois.

BOB: Hi, could it be my own Pat Quinn from Illinois?

RUDIN: It could be; as a matter of fact, it is.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.

RUDIN: Pat Quinn lost for the state treasurer in 1986, lost the secretary of state in 1994. He lost to Dick Durbin for the Senate in 1996, lost for lieutenant governor in 1998. Thank God for Rod Blagojevich, that's all I have to say.

(LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: He became governor when Blagojevich stepped down, was elected on his own in 2010. Pat Quinn is the correct answer.

CONAN: So hang on the line, Bob, congratulations.

BOB: Oh, thank you.

CONAN: And we'll send you a Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt in exchange for your promise of a digital image of yourself wearing it that we can post on our Wall of Shame.

BOB: I promise to send you that.

CONAN: OK, we'll promise to send you the shirt eventually. Hold on. In the meantime, Ken, interesting talk already about 2016.

RUDIN: Well, obviously we've said all we can say about 2012. Romney versus Obama, what else can you say? I mean, it's in the bag already. Already they're talking about 2016, and a famous name coming up is Hillary Clinton. Nancy Pelosi said the other day that Hillary Clinton should be running in 2016, it's her time.

Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania and also a former DNC chair, has said the same thing. And while Hillary Clinton has said she's planning to retire from politics...

CONAN: At the end of President Obama's first term.

RUDIN: First term, and I believe her. I don't think she's running, and people who know her have told me that she has absolutely no plans to run. There are some people who say, you know, not - her career is not over yet.

CONAN: Jill Biden says how about Joe Biden.

RUDIN: Well, we need new blood in this country. We have Hillary Clinton versus Joe Biden in 2016. I was at WRVO last week...

CONAN: In Oswego.

RUDIN: In Oswego, yes, and they were talking a lot about Andrew Cuomo as a possible candidate. So there's a lot of Democrats who want to take them on.

CONAN: Was it snowing yet up there, hard on the banks of the Lake Ontario?

RUDIN: It was gorgeous, and I'm not talking about Ithaca.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Stay with us, Ken. We're talking about Wisconsin's recall election. Up next, the progressive Netroots Nation gathers this week. After Wisconsin, what's next? Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. It's Political Junkie day. Ken Rudin is with us, as he usually is on Wednesdays, and Ken, well, didn't bother to do a ScuttleButton Puzzle last week, so there's no winner.

RUDIN: Well, we announced last week's winner - two weeks ago's winner last week. But there is a new puzzle and a new column this week.

CONAN: And a new column, go to npr.org/junkie. You can find that...

RUDIN: Or else.

CONAN: And be bereft, those of you who couldn't find it last week. Later this week, progressive activists gather in Providence, Rhode Island for the annual Netroots Nation conference. In advance of the conference, Katrina Vanden Heuvel and Robert Borosage wrote what amounts to a progressive manifesto. That appears in the upcoming edition of The Nation magazine. She also anticipated the Wisconsin recall result in a recent piece in the Washington Post.

We want to hear from progressives in the audience today. After Wisconsin, what are you going to do now? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, joins us by phone from her office in New York, and nice to have you back with us. Are you there?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: I am right here, Ken, I'm - no, I'm sorry. I'm here. I'm here. Thank you for having me on. It's - I have to say, it's a day of heartbreak for millions of progressives not only in Wisconsin, where we saw a stunning citizens movement that challenged Scott Walker's extremist agenda.

It did not win by all, you know, normal measures. On the other hand, I have to say that I think in these last 15 months Wisconsin's progressives showed that a battle against bankrolled austerity can be bravely waged and the importance of fusing independent movements with electoral politics.

And again, your listeners probably understand how unusual a recall is. I believe Scott Walker was only the third governor in U.S. history to face a recall, and beat it back. But a recall is unusual.

So I think today a lot of progressives feel, as I said, heartbroken, but understand that movement time often takes a long time to win the battles that have made, in my view, this country more just and more fair.

CONAN: A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal quoted the head of the Wisconsin teachers union who said a failed recall, quote, spells doom for the future of unions.

HEUVEL: I think one of the lessons that comes out of Wisconsin is that the labor movement needs to do a better job in terms of engaging and educating and mobilizing its members about the existential threat it faces. And I think that progressives - understanding the value of the labor movement.

And after all, let's not forget, it is the labor movement and unions that built the middle class in this country and that were central to closing the inequality gap, which now plagues our politics and economy. But I think we're going to need to see new creative forms of organizing, perhaps more militant forms of organizing.

And I wouldn't over-read in Wisconsin. I do think one of the central problems we face as a country, and the world faces, is that we're entering, you know, a period of scarcity and slow growth, and that will force this country to make big choices.

And here it's not just the unions, but it's progressives, I would argue citizens of conscience, will have to face the choice as to whether working and poor people continue to pay the cost for the mess caused by 30 years of failed conservative policies, or will people succeed in sending the bill to those who caused the mess? And most recently, obviously, the financial crisis, which stripped millions of people of their pensions, of security, of homes, and of the ability to send their kids to college, for example.

These are the big choices we face as a country, and we face as we head into November 2012, which again I think some people today, particularly I would argue the GOP is being cocky, if I might, because they're over-reading the lessons of Wisconsin for November 2012, when exit polls showed, you know, that - you know, even those who voted for Walker, that Obama led, I think it was 52 to 43, leading Romney by significant margins among voters who re-elected Walker.

CONAN: Well, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, in terms of tactics, though, should unions rue their decision to support a primary candidate who in the end mounted not very much threat at all to Tom Barrett but proved to be a drain of their resources and divisive primary? Should they not have rallied around the candidate most likely to win?

HEUVEL: You know, primaries are vexing, but they're part of our democracy, and I think the labor movement has a larger question to ask itself in terms of not just the labor movement but independents. In the piece I write with Robert Borosage, which will be at thenation.com tomorrow, you know, the question of how you take elections seriously, in this case a recall, while continuing to organize independent movements and challenge the limits of the debate.

Unions are facing an existential threat because if Mitt Romney becomes president, you will see the rollback of labor rights in ways we have never witnessed because those rights arose in the New Deal period of the '30s. So how do you balance the fact that you want to be more independent, you want to support candidates who understand the needs of working people in this country and are not tied to a corporate agenda, yet at the same time you have to defend not only your members but the rights of workers to organize?

Part of what's happened in this country, it seems to me, is so many Americans, and this is at work in Wisconsin, don't believe government is on their side. They believe government is rigged against them.

CONAN: And I wanted to ask you just about that point. There's a paragraph in the piece you referenced that appears in thenation.com tomorrow: Americans understand the system is broken, you wrote, and rigged against them. They increasingly see both parties as compromised. They have little sense of an alternative and even less sense that anyone is prepared to fight for them.

Progressives must therefore be willing to expose the corruption and compromises of both parties. This requires not only detailing the threat posed by the right but honesty about the limits of the current choice.

HEUVEL: That is right. I mean, I think we need to call it as it is, and part of what's gone on this country - and again, we saw some of this in Wisconsin with the extraordinary tsunami of outside corporate money, in this case seven to one for Walker. But both parties are in hoc to big corporate money. The fight is on to reclaim a politics from that big money and to rebuild the politics where government is on the people's side.

Now, how we do that? You know, at The Nation we do it through investigation, through exposing, but we also need, and I write in the piece with Robert Borosage, we need to propose a vision of an economy and a society that is appealing and engaging to millions of people.

And I think that has been part of this last year, where the Occupy Wall Street, 99 percent movement has helped expose a rigged system. Now we need to build a narrative about how we get out of the mess we're in. And there are some very strong and clear and good ideas.

Part of it is building it through the media and engaging, mobilizing people to believe they have a stake in independent movements and in electoral politics.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Katrina, we saw, especially in 2010, we saw the Tea Party take on both parties, but also the Republican Party they felt is just not sufficiently conservative, not up to their principles. Why hasn't - in very few cases, we saw it with Joe Lieberman in 2006, we saw it with Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, but for the most part why haven't progressive said, well, look, the Democratic Party is just as much flawed as the Republicans, we're going to start our own movement and take on our own party?

HEUVEL: Well, first of all, I disagree with you about the total independence of the Tea Party. I think in many ways it started from the grassroots but had extraordinary establishment big money coordination and input. But I do think you're seeing, and this is what I write about, the importance of challenging pro-corporate Democratic candidates.

I do think you see in the Senate campaigns this year people like Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren, who are arguing forcefully for taming Wall Street (unintelligible) prime targets for the right wing. But I think it is important, as is the case you cited with Joe Lieberman, that there was a challenger in Ned Lamont who stood as a champion for those who wanted to see a different kind of Democratic Party.

So we need more independents. And you know, we are witnessing at the state level, today we're talking about Wisconsin, but I wrote a column in the Washington Post a few weeks ago about deepening the progressive bench at the local and state level. And there are candidates who are being fielded as we speak to build a bench so that we can contest in state races.

And don't forget, I don't know if you news I don't, but while Walker won, the state senate in Wisconsin did flip by one vote.

CONAN: Yes, we mentioned that earlier.

HEUVEL: Yeah, an obstacle to passing the most heinous attacks on collective bargaining at this point in time. But I couldn't agree with you more that we need, you know, as independents to challenge the pro-corporate wing of the Democratic Party. And of course that means fighting, finding ways in the Citizens United landscape, which so defined Wisconsin and was a kind of prefiguring of what we will see in 2012 in November, of how to, you know, have more alley cats, I might put it, more alley cats than fat cats is what is needed in this country at this time.

CONAN: Let's get some callers in on the conversation. Progressives, after Wisconsin, what do you do now? 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. We'll start with Joe(ph), and Joe's with us from Minneapolis.

JOE: Hi, good afternoon. I think - my comment is about progressives going into the future, is we have to recognize who are good candidates to run and who are not. I think we're putting a lot into this about what this race means. I mean, you know, let's face it, Mayor Barrett lost to Governor Walker in 2010 by over 120,000 votes. I don't think he was the right person to run again two years later. There's other progressives out there. I'm in a neighboring state. You see it. I see it in the local county level, and I think we have to look for better candidates to run.

CONAN: He...

HEUVEL: I...

CONAN: Go ahead.

HEUVEL: I couldn't agree more. I couldn't agree more that we need to identify, as I said, to deepen the bench of candidates who have - I remember the late great Paul Wellstone, who spoke about the democratic wing of the Democratic Party, who understood the importance of movements in electoral politics. I don't believe you separate the two. I think movements influence electoral politics and can challenge the limits of electoral politics. So we need candidates who come out of movements in many cases, who - or understand the power of it.

And I think there's a candidate - I'm forgetting her first name, forgive me, the incumbent in Wisconsin who ran this cycle, she's not getting the attention, obviously, that Walker or Barrett are getting. But she was fueled by the sense of 99 percent, Occupy, and used the new technologies to build an insurgent campaign and candidacy, and those are the people of the future as we move forward. I might add simply that the potential of young people, if you look at the exit polls, you know, young people were only 16 percent of the vote in Wisconsin, and they voted for Barrett over Walker. And I think the demographics of this country are not destiny, but they're important as we look out.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Joe. We're talking with Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, about her upcoming piece with Robert Borosage on progressives and Obama that appears tomorrow on the magazine's website. Of course, Ken Rudin is with us, as he is every Wednesday for the Political Junkie. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Let's get Ben on the line. Ben from Flint.

BEN: Hi there. How are you guys doing today?

CONAN: Good. Thanks.

BEN: Yeah. I just want to make a comment about, you know, how the progressives portray the unions in the media. I mean, they portray them as a wonderful thing, and then you have the conservatives portraying them as a terrible thing. So I think if progressives want to get more people on board, they have to kind of admit that unions have caused problems for the country. I mean, I'm from Flint. I've seen what they've done firsthand and just the mentality they can get when they, you know, continue to grow and start to take advantage, progressives never admit that.

And I think if they do, they'll get more people on their side, and then we can start winning these elections that we have to win. But until that happens, it's going to be unions are terrible or unions are the best thing in the world. And if we reach that middle ground, we'll get more people.

HEUVEL: You know, I respect your question (unintelligible) on the other hand, to me, over these last 30 years, we've seen a demonization of labor as it's been decimated and its numbers gone down. I think, sure, there's more democracy that needs to be part of unions. But I also think that unions need to reach out to a larger progressive movement and community so it's not simply about bread and butter. But you know, in these times, it's - the demonization of unions doesn't get us very far.

Sure, there's some problems with pensions in states, but public sector workers are key to rebuilding this country. And the divide-and-conquer strategy of Scott Walker or, for example, John Kasich, who was repudiated in a referendum in April of this year, I think we need to - I do think unions need to do some education about what they provide in a country which is so heavily rigged toward capital and finance and wealth. I come back to the central point that labor unions have been key in this country, with all the flaws - you know, all our institutions have flaws.

Chris Hayes, our Washington - former Washington editor, has a book coming out about elites. Elites have contributed in negative ways to our country at this time. But if labor unions can speak to how they have built the middle class and can rebuild the middle class in a terrain that is so rigged against working people, I think that outreach is critical.

CONAN: Ben, thank you very much. I just want to - Ken had another question. So thanks very much for the call, Ben.

RUDIN: Katrina, this is kind of a cynical question, but let me just go quickly on this. I think Tea Party people will tell you that the best thing that could have happened to them was Barack Obama defeating John McCain in 2008. How does - would it be more difficult for the progressive movement to expand and grow with Obama's second term, given the drones and the expanded surveillance and the things that a lot of progressives are nervous about? I'm not saying that the progressives would rather have Romney than Obama, but would it be tougher for this wind to grow...

CONAN: Do they need a Barry Goldwater moment?

RUDIN: Well - exactly.

HEUVEL: No. I think - no, that's an interesting - I don't take that as a cynical question, Ken. Thank you. I mean, I think what happened in the first year of President Obama's time is that too much of the progressive community failed to stand and, you know, hold the administration accountable, for example, for failing to demand - make demands on the banks which took us into this crisis. I think that there's real understanding - and again, I write about this - that there - if there - it is critical to build an independent movement to push a White House.

Sure. And I think that the space is there if we have a Democratic House, which I am hoping for, and President Obama in the White House, to push against policies we oppose and to push for policies and ideas we propose, than if you have a Mitt Romney where, as I said earlier, I do think you see clearly already not only repeal but rollback of any checks on, for example, a banking system out of control, a financial system that could well fail again. But it is always tougher, to be honest, for progressives to mobilize and organize when there is a Democrat in the White House. But we've learned. The first year was a year where there was too much that went undone, and that has changed in the last year and a half.

CONAN: Katrina Vanden Heuvel, thanks very much for your time today. Appreciate it.

HEUVEL: Thank you.

CONAN: Katrina Vanden Heuvel is the editor and publisher of The Nation. And as we mentioned, there's an upcoming piece about President Obama, the Democrats and progressives that appears tomorrow, I guess, on their website. Ken, as always, thanks very much for your time. We'll see you again Wednesday.

RUDIN: Thank you.

CONAN: Ken Rudin, NPR's Political Junkie, here with us as usual in Studio 3A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.