The journalist and author discusses her latest book, No is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. Part 2 of 2.
Journalist and Author Naomi Klein – Part 2 of 2
Tavis Smiley: Good evening from Los Angeles. I’m Tavis Smiley.
Tonight, part two of my conversation with journalist and activist, Naomi Klein. She’s been following the[ Trump resistance movement and, in her new book, “No is Not Enough”, she uncovers how we got to this surreal political moment, how bad things could still get, but what we can do about it.
We’re glad you’ve joined us. Night two with Naomi Klein in just a moment.
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Tavis: Despite the depressing note that Naomi Klein left us on last night, the world did not end overnight and here we are back again tonight, thank God for Jesus [laugh], so we can continue our conversation about her new book. It’s called “No is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need”.
If you missed last night’s conversation, please go to pbs.org/Tavis. It’s a great conversation we had on this program last night with Naomi. So go to the website. Check out last night and now here we go with the second part of this conversation. Thanks for sticking around. I appreciate it.
Naomi Klein: My pleasure.
Tavis: We closed our conversation last night with you starting to detail the toxic to-do list as you see it that the Trump administration has on tap. Let’s talk about that toxic to-do list and then we’ll talk about what the alternative options are. But tell me more about this toxic to-do list.
Klein: I mean, these are the policies that Trump has mused about, but they haven’t tried to put them forward or they have tried and have had to pull back. I mean, Trump has talked about wanting to fill up Guantanamo. He has talked about wanting to bring in the feds to quell the carnage in Chicago which is coded language for cracking down on Black crime.
He has appointed as his Education Secretary somebody who doesn’t believe in public education. He has outsourced his budgeting to the Heritage Foundation which believes in privatizing social security. So we have all these very dangerous policies waiting in the wings.
I mean, he’s talked openly about a blanket ban on Muslims well beyond the travel ban that he tried to impose. So there are many things that he would like to do, that people around him would like to do.
Yes, so I am worried about how at crisis whether a security shock or an economic crisis could be used as the pretext to say, well, now we have no choice. We have to push this through. I think some of the courage we’ve seen from the courts might be in question because Trump has already shown his hand and has said, you know, if something happens, blame the courts.
After there were terrorist attacks in England, he tried to take advantage of that to say this is why we need the Muslim travel ban. So he’s already shown that he’s already shown that he is absolutely willing to exploit crisis to try to push this through.
Tavis: I even hate to say this, but I don’t think that it’s too far–fetched, too much of a stretch to imagine, given his bravado — we just saw him come home days ago from being at the G20. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch, given his bravado, to think that we’re going to end up blasting somebody at some point.
He’s already done that, quite frankly, when he hit Syria. So I don’t it’s far–fetched to think that’s gonna happen again. We’re gonna get involved, if he is left to his own vices, he’s gonna get us involved in a war somewhere.
Given that Wall Street still is behaving as recklessly as they did when they crashed the economy the last time, I’m not even so sure it’s a foregone — that it’s a stretch to consider that the economy might take a tumble as well.
So if either of those happens, God help us if both of those happens simultaneously, how’s Trump gonna use that? What will he do, given the way he has exploited crises time and time again? What do you expect his behavior will be in either or both of those scenarios?
Klein: So on the economic front, if there was a major market crash, first of all, we’d see another bailout because one the ways they are trying to get rid of Dodd-Frank is the part of it that is supposed to prevent the public from being stuck with another massive bailout, they’re getting rid of that or they’re trying to.
So there would be another massive bailout and then I think we would see a full-scale attack on what’s left of the public sphere, whether it’s public housing, transit education. You know, if we think about what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, I think they would try to take that national.
And one of the things that spurred me to write this book was when I realized that — you know, I started “The Shock Doctrine”, this is 10 years ago, with New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and this meeting that took place at the Heritage Foundation while New Orleans was still partially underwater.
So two weeks, there’s this meeting at the Heritage Foundation. It’s convened by the Republican Study Group and they come up with this list of 32 what they call free market solutions for Hurricane Katrina.
One of it replaced the public school system with vouchers and charters. One of it is create a tax-free free enterprise zone, which means just get rid of taxes as an incentive to rebuild. Many examples of this. Also a whole bunch of pro oil recommendations, more refineries, drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
I mean, if you think about it, New Orleans, what happened during Katrina, was created by this collision of heavy weather linked to climate change and a weak and neglected public sphere warning after warning, fix the levies, fix the levies.
You know, it’s ignored and then FEMA can’t seem to find New Orleans for five days and the so-called solution to this is get rid of the public sphere altogether and drill for more oil, which is a major driver of climate change. So that’s their idea of a solution. So when Trump appointed Mike Pence as his vice president, I thought, “I know his name from somewhere.”
So I went back into my files and I looked at the minutes from that meeting at the Heritage Foundation and the name at the bottom is Mike Pence because he was the chair of the Republican Study Group at that time. So he was right at the heart of taking the crudest advantage over this massive, massive catastrophe to push through this wish list of policies. So what I fear is them taking Katrina national.
Tavis: And just scaling it up.
Klein: And remember, also, just the free-for-all for contractors, for these private contractors politically connected, right? What I would fear is the whole Mar-a-Lago set, just getting on the so-called reconstruction. In terms of a terrorist attack, some kind of security threat, I was in Paris after these horrific attacks a couple of years ago, coordinated attacks in restaurants.
People remember this. 200 people lost their lives. Well, the French government declared a state of emergency and they banned political protests of more than five people. So you couldn’t have the kind of protests that we’ve seen, these very courageous protests.
So what I would worry about, you know, a lot of people have said, “Well, we’ve managed to resist the worst” and we can think about that really courageous action after they tried to introduce the travel ban, people flooding to airports. Those are the types of protests that would be declared a threat to national security.
So the only way you can resist this is just to defy it, right? Because if it is left to the most vulnerable people, if it’s only the immigrant communities that are defending their rights, if it’s only the people who are being rounded up that are defending their rights, they’re gonna get crushed.
It has to be everybody standing up for each other. That’s the only thing that has ever resisted these types of tactics, and I’ve seen it before. It has happened. I’ve seen countries that have just understood what is happening, what they’re losing in that moment, and they’ve flooded the streets and the governments has had to back off.
Tavis: So that’s a perfect segue for me to ask what your assessment is to date. I want to go further in just a second, but what is your assessment to date of the resistance of the Trump administration, the Trump policies?
What’s your assessment — there are, of course, any number of pockets to assess, women, Black Lives Matter, etc., etc. But just broadly speaking or even with specificity, what’s your assessment of the resistance to this Trump agenda thus far?
Klein: So I think there’s been incredibly courageous resistance and it’s been very, very difficult. There’s been so much coming at people, not just from Trump, but also from the forces that he has emboldened, right?
So people are having to fight open white supremacy in their communities and they are. You know, they’re coming out and doing so. The Women’s March on day one was an incredibly inspiring event that I was really proud to be able to be a part of. The resistance to the Muslim travel ban in the streets, in the courts, I think we’ve seen an amazing response.
But we are also already starting to hear this feeling of burnout, right? I mean, I think that part of that comes from the face that you can’t build a movement that will last that is only in the no, in that space of resistance.
So one of the things that I think is really inspiring is that we are starting to see the yes, what people want instead. And this predates Trump, the movement for Black Lives coming forward with the vision for Black Lives, the sweeping vision of the world that the movement wants instead of the one we have right now, right?
So a response to police violence, but also a vision for building a fair economy that touches everything from the tax code to tuition fees. That is what I think we need to see more of, and it’s hard because when you’re facing the level of attack that frontline communities are facing, it’s hard to save some space to dream of the world we want instead.
I also think there’s uncertainty at the political level. Like what’s the plan? Is Bernie running again? Is it inside the Democratic Party? Is it outside the Democratic Party? So one of the messages I have is we can’t afford to wait while the politicians figure that out.
I think social movements are so strong right now, like the movement for Black Lives, the Dreamers, the Climate Justice Movement, the Fight for 15, they’re amazing building blocks for a true multiracial, intergenerational multi-faith peoples’ platform to come together in this moment.
I think it’s gonna come together first at the city and state level and then eventually at the national level so that movements aren’t in a posture of waiting for politicians to tell them what the plan is, but are in fact telling the politicians this is the plan and, if you want our support, you need to follow it.
Tavis: So what would be, to your mind, Naomi, the impetus? What would be that crisis moment or…
Klein: His name is Donald Trump [laugh].
Tavis: But he’s been there for a while already. So I take your point and I agree that it’s going to take all of us resisting. It’s going to take all of us coming together and yet I’m not naïve about the fact that if Donald Trump merely being there is all it took for all of us to come together, we would have done that already. So the question must be legitimate on some level.
Klein: No, it is, yes.
Tavis: It’s gonna take something to bring us all together. What is going to be that?
Klein: We have so many crises, you know. Like the idea that we have to wait for things to get worse to wake us up. You know, they’re bad enough. I mean, the crisis of police violence against Black people in the streets is a state of emergency and so many people are calling it that.
You know, I am a part of the Climate Justice Movement and every day we hear news that should be terrifying enough to jolt us awake. I think Donald Trump represents a crisis that, if we don’t respond in this way, will be etched in geologic time, in the timeframe of the planet. It will play out in rising seas and melting glaciers.
I mean, I know this sounds apocalyptic, but we are out of time on so many different fronts. And I feel like people know it., but what we lack is actually just the infrastructure to come together.
Because we’re at the end of a 40-year campaign that has been waging war on the public’s fear, waging war on trade unions, so the spaces, the glue that used to help movements to come together and dream together, is missing, right? So that is what we need to rebuild in a real hurry.
Tavis: If I said to you — and I hope you can disabuse me of this notion — but if I said to you that your whole thesis rests on the belief or the notion that we feel that we’re all in this together. If we’re not all in this together, then your theory falls flat on its face, which is to say that when over 100 people are shot in Chicago and the white folk in Chicago don’t see that as their problem, we’re not in this together.
Tavis: When the Dreamers are in the streets and it’s just Brown Dreamers, but Black folk aren’t in the streets with them, we’re not all in this together.
When the women are marching and they’re overwhelmingly white women, but other, other, other aren’t a part of that, when there’s a Climate Justice march and it’s just one group — I could do this all day. You take my point. Your theory only works if we truly believe that we’re all in this together.
And I’m just not so sure as yet that, while I do believe that you either wake up because you see the light or because you feel the heat, I believe that, but you still have to have some sense of being in it together and I’m not sure that I’ve turned that corner yet. Help me if you can [laugh].
Klein: Well, I think that’s a great way of putting the challenge that we face. I think that that is exactly what has prevented the coming together and the building of a truly progressive majority, a transformational majority. Because the majority is there and I feel like the message of the Sanders campaign in this country and the Corbyn campaign in the U.K. is that power is within reach, right?
This is an idea that I didn’t grow up with. I grew up with this idea that progressive, really transformative, bold ideas could never win, could never win power. But now we’re finding out actually that there is an appetite for this. Bernie got 13 million votes. He carried 22 states, right?
And what is standing in our way is exactly what you have just described. It is the inability to come together in common cause and build that truly broad coalition to connect the dots between all of our issues, and that’s the task ahead.
It takes bold leadership. It takes people showing up for each other. I think we have seen some of that. I think the response to the Muslim travel ban was an example of that, of not sort of outsourcing it and saying that’s your issue. I’m gonna show up for my issue. You know, lots of people call this siloed organizing, right?
And this is part of what it means to organize after this 40-year attack on the institutions that used to provide glue is that we are in our respective issue-based silos and there’s a lot of encouragement for people to stay in those silos even where the funding comes from for movements, even just the way technology encourages people to just focus on one issue instead of that over-arching agenda that will bring us together. Look, I’m not denying that exactly what you say is true.
The fact is, if we don’t do it, like if we don’t understand how our fates are intertwined and how our fates are intertwined with the health of the natural world, if we don’t wake up to the reality of interconnection, interdependence in this moment in a hurry, if we don’t have an evolutionary leap, then we’re out of luck. We are up against it when it comes to the climate clock.
Tavis: I want to deconstruct in the time I have left here. I want to deconstruct the title of your book because I think that’s instructive. It may even be informative as well. I love the book. The title, “No is Not Enough”, leads me to ask why it is so much easier to say no to X, Y or Z than it is to say yes.
I ask that question because it takes us back to our conversation last night about the Democrats and the conundrum they find themselves in now. Because it’s so much easier to say no, so much harder to say yes, to a particular agenda. So talk to me about our human psyche and why it is that it’s so much easier to say the no, but so much harder to get to yes.
Klein: So when it comes to the Democrats, I think it’s a simpler response in that I think there are actual financial interests standing in the way of getting to that transformational agenda in terms of who pays for campaigns and just straight up conflicts of interest. That’s part of it. But I think more broadly, it’s that we’ve been living a war on the imagination, on the political imagination, for the past 40 years ever since…
Tavis: Waged by who?
Klein: Waged by this idea that, as bad as the policies that we’ve been living are — and here I’m thinking about privatization and deregulation, low taxes paid for by slashing public services that actually help people while you see massive investments in the infrastructure of incarceration and repression. That as bad as all of that is, there is no alternative, Margaret Thatcher’s famous phrase.
And I think that that project, that 40-year project that Joseph Stieglitz has called “market fundamentalism”, the sturdiest part of it is not the policies because all that is kind of crumbling. I mean, Donald Trump ran against that.
That whole project is in crisis and it has been in crisis since the 2008 financial collapse when we saw that actually it’s possible to break the rules to bail out the banks. But the sturdiest part has been the war on the imagination, the idea that there is nothing else but this.
That’s unique to our time because, if we think about revolutionaries and other movements in history, of course, they carried the dream of the world they were fighting for imbedded in their movements, right? Obviously true of the civil rights movement. Obviously true of, I think, the anti-apartheid movement and the Freedom Charter that animated the struggle at every phase.
So sometimes people say, “Well, I’m too busy fighting. I don’t have time to dream.” But that is not true of the history, of transformative movements, that have fought under much harsher conditions than we are fighting in right now. What is unique to our time is the legacy of the war on the imagination and I believe that’s starting to wear off.
Tavis: The last question I have about the title of the book was answered for me to a large degree once I got in the text. But for those who haven’t had a chance to read it as yet, let me just ask this anyway. When in your subtitle you used the phrase, “Winning the World We Need”, a few questions, again unfairly, but I’ll put them out and give you the space you need to answer them.
One, these days, what do we mean by winning? I’m not sure the definition of winning for the U.S. now, particularly for the U.S., is the same definition that I would have given 20, 40 years ago — to use your point, 40 years ago.
So what is winning, number one? And when you say the world we need, can we agree on the world that we need? And finally, what do you say to those persons, those Trump supporters, who feel like they’re not a part of that “we” to begin with?
Klein: You know, it’s funny. We had big debates about the “we” in the title [laugh].
Tavis: I can’t imagine that [laugh].
Klein: Because just saying “we” is political in this who is the “we”? Who is the “we”? But I went for it anyway. I risked a “we” and I guess part of it is just coming from the Climate Justice Movement and feeling pretty confident that the economic and social model that we have right now is at war with life on earth.
And that there has to be a “we” and I can’t control if everybody — certainly, there’s going to be Trump supporters who are never going to feel included in that “we”, but the truth is, I did write the book for the movement.
It is a movement book and I think we live at a time when people who identify with being part of the resistance is growing. If there’s one thing we can thank Trump for, it’s that he’s been a kind of a wakeup call where a great many more people understand that he is a symptom of a system failure, not the failure itself, right?
If Wall Street can cheer on news of his election, if Fortune 500 companies can line up behind this man, if he can be praised in the corporate press for launching missiles over chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago, that there is something deeply sick at work, right?
So that’s the “we” I’m speaking to. It’s the people who understand something is deeply wrong. I’m trying to build a broader “we”, you know, trying to do a little bit of the work and no one person can do it. You know, I am so lucky to have so many people who helped me with the book and who are doing this same work from different angles and trying to weave the “we”, you know, weave a broader “we”.
But bringing it to climate again, we have to be able to say that, if we have an economic system that is bringing us every day closer to ecological collapse, we need a different world, and we can’t be afraid to say “we” in that context.
But we, at the same time, can’t play, well, my crisis is bigger than your crisis. We’ll fix climate first and then we’ll fight poverty and racism. No, we have to find a way to solve multiple problems at once. We need punctuated transformation, change on multiple fronts.
We need to radically bring down our emissions in a way that builds a much, much fairer economy and begins to heal wounds that date back to our country’s founding, and it is possible to do that.
It is possible for the communities that have been on the front lines of the most abusive practices including ecological practices to be first in line to own and control their own renewable energy projects. These are some of the solutions that I highlight in the book that I don’t claim any kind of ownership over, that come from the movements themselves.
Tavis: Here’s my exit question in less than 30 seconds. Can we win?
Klein: We have to win! And we’ve come close enough to tasting victory. Here I’m talking about radical campaigns that, if we now know that we can win, we have to win. We have a profound moral responsibility to win.
Tavis: Well, I’m with her. Naomi, that is. The book is called “No is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World That We Need”, and I put myself as a part of that “we”. I hope you do too. I think you’ll enjoy the book. Pick it up and read it. Naomi Klein, good to have you on. Thanks for your time.
Klein: Thank you so much, Tavis.
Tavis: And your insights. That’s our show for tonight. Thanks for watching and, as always, keep the faith.
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