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2020 election: DeRay Mckesson says police reform crucial

Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer, HuffPost Washington Bureau Chief Amanda Terkel, Yahoo News Editor-in-Chief Dan Klaidman, and Civil Rights Activist DeRay Mckesson talk about the urgent need for police reform in the U.S.

Video Transcript

ANDY SERWER: All right, we're delighted now to be joined by DeRay Mckesson. DeRay has been a central player in the Black Lives Matter movement, since he left his job in the Minneapolis Public School system and moved to St. Louis to work for change in Ferguson, following the death of Michael Brown. DeRay great to see you.

DERAY MCKESSON: It's good to see you too, it's been a while.

ANDY SERWER: It has. So, let me start off by asking you just how energized you think African-Americans are, when it comes to voting in the election this year? And to what extent they're going to vote for Joe Biden, and to what extent are some of them going to vote for Donald Trump?

DERAY MCKESSON: Yeah, so I think that there are a lot of people who know exactly what's at stake, that we have barely survived these last four years of what's going on under Trump. And that we want to make sure that these next four years are ones that we don't just survive, but that we thrive in. Now, it is disconcerting, there are about 18% of black men, under the age of 50, that do support Trump, which has been shocking.

I talked to a pollster about it yesterday, and he said that I thought was really interesting. He was like, for this subgroup of people, Trump's racism alone is not actually a disqualifier. Because, they would say, the whole system is racist. But it's the impact of his racism that's actually a disqualifier. So it's the impact. It's like, it's like telling people about the kids in cages, and seeking the death penalty for drug dealers. All those things actually become a disqualifier for Trump.

So telling that story, especially, as we get down. And you know, I think that what Trump has done effectively, to the left, is he actually isn't even attacking Biden all that much in his ads. He's actually attacking the party. He's saying the party's corrupt, the party doesn't care about you. Why are people believing him? I don't know, but it unfortunately is effective.

AMANDA TERKEL: So, DeRay, I wanted to talk to you about some of the down-ballot races. And sort of, what the racial justice protests, you know, what room, you think, that they have given black candidates to run? There are six Black Senate candidates this cycle, five on the Democratic side, one on the Republican side. A lot of them are long shots, but some of them are getting quite a bit of attention. Jaime Harrison in South Carolina, Reverend Raphael Warnock in Georgia.

DERAY MCKESSON: Warnock's going well!

AMANDA TERKEL: Yeah, Harrison, Harrison and Graham are very close right now. And I talked to Mike Espy, in Mississippi, who obviously ran before. And he said, last time he ran he was, he took some heat because political commentators noted that he wasn't really talking about race. I talked to him this time, and he said that he is talking about race.

He's telling his story, because he felt like last time, he couldn't connect with younger voters without talking about the discrimination. he faced, the segregation in schools. And that this time is just different. So how do you think that the racial justice movements have created more room for Black candidates to run? And how is, how is this different than, say 2016, and started the political discussions about race?

DERAY MCKESSON: Yeah. Think about in 2014, it was still a newer conversation to be had in public, at the national level. Then in 2014, I even think about the police. It was like, you know, people thought we were the wild kids for being like, the police shouldn't kill people. I mean, that was like, a radical thing that we said out in the street. And it took people a lot of time to like, learn, and listen, and read.

By the time the protests reemerged this time, people ready. People are like OK, got it. If there's a problem, let me know what I can do. Then it wasn't a jarring idea, that the idea of activism wasn't new. You know, after Ferguson, comes the Women's March, comes the March for Our Lives. Like, activism starts to become, sort of, just like, a part of the culture. It wasn't the case in 2014. It was still, we were still the fringe kids.

And I think that that's actually really powerful. I think that Cori Bush in St. Louis-- I think that they're a host of candidates who, if not for-- like this moment was like a galvanizing thing that like, made people put their values at the ballot box. And I think that we will continue to benefit from that. You know what's hard is that, like it's not, it won't be enough just to win the presidency. We will have to win the Senate, like got to win it so I'm hoping that we will get a wave of votes like we did in the midterms. You're like, the Dems knocked it out of the park, hoping that that will happen again.

And you're right. There are six Black candidates. John James has got to lose. That one Republican candidate. There's that interview he just did, where he's like, he doesn't even know the answer to the question about healthcare. He is not a friend of issues related to Black people. And I am hoping that the guy running against him wins.

DAN KLAIDMAN: Uh, Deray.

ANDY SERWER: Go ahead, Dan.

DAN KLAIDMAN: Yeah, you're talking about Blacks running for elective office, but I want to ask you about-- should Joe Biden win the presidency? I wonder if you think that there ought to be more representation from the, sort of, activist community in his administration, in his administration? You know there will be a lot of talk about the cabinet that he puts together. And Democrats have been more committed, I think, to racial diversity in their administrations than Republicans have, traditionally.

But, but, I'm, I'm interested, specifically, in the activist community, if, if people like yourself, for example, would think that there may be an opportunity to bring reform from within? As opposed to staying outside of the administration. I mean, is this something that you would consider, for example?

DERAY MCKESSON: Yeah, I don't know if that's where I'd best be suited. But there should be organizers, there should be activists really inside. That part of our work is to make sure that we're not always fighting the people on the inside, that we're actually, we are the people on the inside. I think the cabinet will be huge. I think that the cleanup after Trump will not only be massive, but you know a lot-- people's sense of possibility will be more expansive, because this one, is, this has been such a nightmare.

That I'm hoping that the next set of people come in, that they do the most aggressive things in the first 100 days, right. That, that actually is like, part of the strategy. So, I'm hopeful about that. I also mindful that, the power of the vote is three things, right. It's the power to hire, fire, and shape.

So hiring is like, get the right person in. Firing is get the, get the wrong people out. But the third bucket is like, get enough of pe-- enough of the people who share our values, in the room, so that we're always represented.

ANDY SERWER: Hey, DeRay, I remember you told me that in 2016, I believe you were supporting Bernie Sanders. And he lost, and Hillary got the nomination. And you said a lot of your friends said, I can't believe you're supporting Hillary, DeRay. You know, you're, you're betraying the cause. And then you said, well Donald Trump means it. Now, a similar thing has sort of transpired this time. Maybe you were supporting Bernie, or someone else. Biden gets the nod. Are you getting the same pushback from some of your friends who criticized you before, for supporting Hillary, when you're supporting Biden this time?

DERAY MCKESSON: No, it's different. You know, I think about even running for office in 2016, people are like, activists shouldn't run for office, you're a sellout for wanting to do it. Like, now it's like, you know, you look at a AOC, you look at so many people. People, people understood that we got to be on the inside.

I think the pushback this time is, I think, that people are struggling with some of Biden's statements about the police. I think that people are, people sort of take this phase as being like, the end all be all. Whereas, I'm like you know what, people put out campaign plans, and then they get into office, and we have so much room to push them. That that's a part of the way the work, the-- that's a part of the way that the work works.

That Biden won't be every position, right? He will be the person, sort of, outlining a framework. And then there'll be a host of people in the administration to make it happen. And there'll probably be almost no holdovers from the Trump administration. So, when I'm looking at this, I'm playing the long game. We have a lot of room to press.

The Attorney General will matter, the Special Assistance will matter, the cabinet. You know, like, it'll be-- we have a lot of people to influence. It's not just Biden, and that's how I've always thought about this. So, I do see some people saying, well, I see some people who don't know the terror that Trump has inflicted on people. And then, I also see some people who's going to feed into the Republican narrative of like, they just want to arrest everybody, they just want to lock everybody up. And that's actually like a Trump narrative

ANDY SERWER: All right, well, DeRay McKesson. So great to see you. Best of luck to you, going forward.

DERAY MCKESSON: Great to see y'all.