Barbershop: Democrats Talk Core Values In Philadelphia
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And now we turn to our special Philadelphia edition of the Barbershop. Before the GOP convention, we heard from a group of Republicans to hear how they felt about their party and their nominee, so this week we headed to Philadelphia to hear from Democrats. And we met up at member station WHYY earlier this week with Amy Hoag. She's a social worker. She's concentrating on raising her family of three right now. She's also a former Republican. Gary Frazier was with us. He's a member of the Black Men for Bernie group. He's also a community organizer across the river in Camden, N.J. And Malcolm Kenyatta - he's a Hillary Clinton delegate born and raised in North Philadelphia where he works for the greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and he's also a community activist. I started by asking the group why they're Democrats.
Malcolm, what about you? Why are you a Democrat?
MALCOLM KENYATTA: I'm a Democrat because we've always been on the vanguard of progress. I mean, you look at the first Catholic president - Democrat-nominated. First African-American president - Democrats nominated that person. The first woman - that's going to be a Democrat. And you also look at our policies. Democrats are focused on families. Democrats are focused on the future of this country, so I'm proud to be a part of this party.
MARTIN: Amy, what about you? And I understand that you were not always a Democrat, so tell me a little bit about that and how you came to identify with the Democratic Party.
AMY HOAG: I was always a moderate Republican for most of my adult life, but as a social worker, my values have always lined up with those of being a Democrat. I would say I was fiscally on the mindset of Republicans, but I don't think there's a good spot right now for very many people to be included with the Republicans. So I feel like we're the party where that's inclusive, and I want to be a part of that party.
MARTIN: Gary, what about you? Why are you a Democrat?
GARY FRAZIER: Well, right now I'm an independent.
FRAZIER: Because I'm - I just refuse to get in line with the corruption anymore.
MARTIN: You were identified with a group called Black Men for Bernie.
MARTIN: Tell me why he was the person who excited your support this year.
FRAZIER: I saw hope with Senator Sanders. I saw that he was actually identifying with us who are in the urban communities who continue to suffer over and over and over again through any election process. I think he gets it, and so, for me, that's what began the process of getting on the ground and going all across this country into areas where we know that a status quo established, Democrats will not go because those are the folks who are not voting.
MARTIN: I want to hear more about that in a minute. I want to hear the other guests. So can I - so let me just ask you...
MARTIN: Amy, I'll start with you on this. How do you feel about the nominee, the presumptive nominee for your party this year?
HOAG: I am very excited. I feel like we have a great candidate with lots of experience and who's going to lead us in the right direction. And I'm excited that there's a woman who's going to be the nominee. This is monumental. This is historical. As - you know, I have a daughter who I want to look up - you know, I want her to say, like, we have a woman president. There's less progressive countries that have had women presidents, women prime ministers.
It's sad that we haven't, and it's sad that we have chosen not to even act like it's a big deal. It is.
MARTIN: Malcolm, what about you? I understand that you are a Clinton supporter.
KENYATTA: I am.
MARTIN: In fact, that goes back to 2008. So she's been your candidate for a while, and I just wanted to ask, why?
KENYATTA: I think when - you look at her resume, and she is the most - nobody can be prepared, I think, to be president until you're sitting behind the desk, and you're doing the job. But she is the most qualified presidential candidate probably in our lifetime. I mean, I think I saw a couple of stories about her being the first woman nominee, and then we're like, OK, now let's get back to the horse race.
No, let's stop for a second and recognize that for over 200 years, we've never even nominated a woman for a major political party. You know, she's had some - she's done some great things. She's made some mistakes. But I think we need somebody that is willing to listen and to listen deeply and to pull people together.
MARTIN: OK. OK. Gary, you've been very good. I'm really - I'm sorry - I'm...
FRAZIER: Yeah 'cause I wanted to let loose, but I guess I'll wait.
MARTIN: I'm so impressed with your restraint. So thank you for that.
MARTIN: And now it's your turn. I was asking our other guests what they think about the presumptive nominee of what has been your party, but now you're saying you're not even willing to identify as a Democrat...
FRAZIER: Absolutely not.
MARTIN: ...You know, at the moment because...
FRAZIER: Let's still look at the fact that there's still a presidential race going on. Bernie Sanders' endorsement does not equal a concession, and I think that the Democrats are mistakenly thinking that we will go along with the status quo after being exposed to the corruption of the democratic process in our country.
MARTIN: And who's the we in that sentence? Is it African-Americans or is it Bernie Sanders supporters?
FRAZIER: No, it's folks of all walks of life who are coming together to assemble on this DNC with a message to the Democratic Party.
MARTIN: And what is that message?
FRAZIER: Elect Bernie Sanders as the nominee or we will break the Democratic Party up. The promises of the Democratic establishment - and you guys have to understand when you have established Democrats take these offices, you know, they are what we call recycled politicians, who don't necessarily open up to the urban communities or allow them a seat at the table. We've seen that decade upon decade with the Democratic Party.
MARTIN: So if the consequence of that position is that Donald Trump is the next president of the United States, are you prepared to live with that?
FRAZIER: Yes, I am, and...
FRAZIER: ...so - and so are a lot of us. Folks are so caught up on the issues instead of looking at where we are at in the world today and especially in urban communities across the country. That's a big thing. A lot of your voters are coming out of these urban communities, and so if you're not going to cater to the urban communities, why should we give you our vote?
MARTIN: Malcolm, your response to that.
KENYATTA: I don't know how you can be OK with a candidate that openly denigrates people that don't look like him, that aren't him. That is not what America is about, and the other thing I'd like to say is Bernie does not own the progressive movement. We have differences of how to get there, but I think trying to dig into people's motivations and try to say that we are not progressive because we are voting for Hillary or we are somehow supportive of corruption - no.
I understand that we need to get things done in this country, and Hillary's going to get things done. And Donald Trump would be the antithesis of progress. So if this is a principle thing, I don't know how you look yourself in the mirror and say, I'm OK with Donald Trump becoming president.
MARTIN: Amy, thoughts on this - and, first of all, I'm just curious - I'm curious if you're surprised to hear that there is still this level of support.
HOAG: I am not surprised, but I'm saddened because I think we're at a really interesting time where we can take some of these Bernie supporters, take what's really - what they're really passionate about, and I think we can include that in our party. And I think we're the party to really bring those people in and really get some of those things that they're passionate about on our ticket. We need to be working on the issues that are important, that we all feel are important as Democrats.
MARTIN: Gary, what do you want to hear out of this convention this week or what do you hope to hear? Are you going to listen at all? I know that you said - you've already told us that you're very interested in protesting and that there are a number of protests that you're going to participate in, but do you think you'll follow it at all?
FRAZIER: I'll probably catch up on it when I get home. During some of the days I'll brief up on it, but I'm going to be spending a good majority of my time on the ground when we have all those folks there to ensure those supporters there deregister from the Democratic Party.
MARTIN: You really - that is your plan - is to get people to deregister so...
FRAZIER: Well, that's already happening. I mean, that's already happened. I'm telling the Democrats straight up and down, like, they need to nominate Bernie Sanders, and the reason why they need to nominate him is because of the votes that were suppressed. That is the biggest issue that we have is the votes that were suppressed all across this country. The Democrats know what they did.
MARTIN: So is there anything they can say - the platform - in the platform and of positions that would...
FRAZIER: What they say and what they'll do is two different things. I can tell you today I'm going to raise the minimum wage, but how long will we get there? They say that they'll, you know, do a number of things...
MARTIN: So you don't really care what they say next week. Your message - you don't really care what the message is coming out of the convention...
FRAZIER: Unless that message coming out of that convention from the amount of people that we bring to the DNC gives those superdelegates a difference of opinion and say, whoa, we're about to be making a big mistake here, we need to go ahead and nominate Bernie Sanders. If Bernie Sanders don't walk out of that Democratic convention as the nominee, I can guarantee you that you will see a massive deregistration of the Democratic Party.
MARTIN: OK. I can't...
KENYATTA: I think what's so interesting about this whole superdelegate thing that I've heard is the superdelegates have never - since superdelegates have existed - overturn the will of the voters. I think that is so important to say that and emphasize that.
FRAZIER: But Hillary Clinton got those votes...
KENYATTA: Listen. Excuse me...
KENYATTA: Excuse me. Gary, what you're actually suggesting is that the superdelegates do do that because you are upset. We had a primary contest, and we need to listen to the majority of the Democratic Party because that is what democracy is about.
MARTIN: The substantive differences among you is not for me to resolve here. It's just for me to hear what you all have to say.
MARTIN: But switching gears a bit, I am curious about how you feel about the convention coming to your city. Malcolm, what are your feelings or thoughts about having the convention here in your city?
KENYATTA: So I say all the time that I have the luxury of being from the best part of the best city in the world. We have a variety of different challenges - big challenges. But, you know, almost every major American document was written right here in Philadelphia. If any other place is going to represent and be reflective of those ideals, it needs to be Philadelphia.
MARTIN: Amy, what about you? How do you feel about having the convention in your city?
HOAG: I'm super pumped because I've wanted to be at a city that's hosting one of the conventions just because of the buzz around the city, the excitement. It's a huge honor. And I feel like we can really represent, you know, what Philadelphia is all about.
MARTIN: Gary, what about you?
FRAZIER: Well, I can tell you for starters, you know, we are leading a number of progressives from New Jersey standpoint over to Ben Franklin Bridge. That's going to be monumental for us as...
MARTIN: And what's the point of that?
FRAZIER: The point of it is...
MARTIN: To - what's the point you want to make?
FRAZIER: Well, the point of that is because we know that our independence started over here in Philadelphia, and I think you have to take into account that we're also looking at what our forefathers did. We're looking at the fact that we have forefathers who were killed, lynched, beaten for us to have the right to vote. And so we hold that very sacredly to us to carry that on. And if we are to cast a vote for a candidate, it must be one suitable, honest and fit to lead.
MARTIN: Well, I think we should get back together closer to November. I think we should get back together and see. This has been our Barbershop roundtable - special roundtable from member station WHYY in Philadelphia in advance of the Democratic National Convention which is meeting in Philadelphia this coming week.
Joining us was Gary Frazier - he's a community activist, a full-time organizer; Malcolm Kenyatta, who works - who is also an organizer and is a Hillary Clinton delegate to the convention; and Amy Hoag, who is a Hillary Clinton supporter. She's trained as a social worker. She's a mom of three. They were all kind enough to join us here at WHYY in Philadelphia. Thank you all so much for joining us.
FRAZIER: Thank you.
KENYATTA: Thank you so much.
HOAG: Thanks for having us.
FRAZIER: Thank you for having us. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.