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Who Should Bernie Voters Support Now? Robert Reich vs. Chris Hedges on Tackling the Neoliberal Order

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Bernie Sanders
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The day after Senator Bernie Sanders spoke at the Democratic National Convention and urged his supporters to work to ensure his former rival wins the presidential race, we host a debate between Clinton supporter Robert Reich, who served as labor secretary under President Clinton, and Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who backs Sanders.

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TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. Our special, "Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency." I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez.

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JUAN GONZALEZ: As we continue to talk about the Democratic National Convention, we're joined now by two guests. Joining us from Berkeley, California, is Robert Reich, who served as labor secretary under President Clinton and is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. And here in Philadelphia is Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. His most recent book is Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt.

And I'd like to begin with Robert Reich. You're a -- you were a Bernie Sanders supporter. You're now backing Hillary Clinton. You're not at the convention, but your perspective on what you saw last night and the possibility of the Democratic Party uniting behind Hillary Clinton, or a group of the Sanders supporters going with Jill Stein?

ROBERT REICH: Well, it's very hard to tell what the delegates are going to do. And it's very hard to tell -- even harder to tell what the electorate is going to do. You know, this is a very agonizing time for many Bernie Sanders supporters. I, with a great deal of reluctance initially, because I've known Hillary Clinton for 50 years -- 50 years -- endorsed Bernie Sanders and worked my heart out for him, as many, many people did. And so, at this particular juncture, you know, there's a great deal of sadness and a great deal of feeling of regret. But having worked so long and so many years for basically the progressive ideals that Bernie Sanders stands for, I can tell you that the movement is going to continue. In fact, it's going to grow.

And right now, at this particular point in time, I just don't see any alternative but to support Hillary. I know Hillary, I know her faults, I know her strengths. I think she will make a great president. I supported Bernie Sanders because I thought he would make a better president for the system we need. But nonetheless, Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee. I support her. And I support her not only because she will be a good president, if not a great president, but also, frankly, because I am tremendously worried about the alternative. And the alternative, really, as a practical matter, is somebody who is a megalomaniac and a bigot, somebody who will set back the progressive movement decades, if not more.

AMY GOODMAN: Chris Hedges?

CHRIS HEDGES: Well, reducing the election to personalities is kind of infantile at this point. The fact is, we live in a system that Sheldon Wolin calls inverted totalitarianism. It's a system where corporate power has seized all of the levers of control. There is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or ExxonMobil or Raytheon. We've lost our privacy. We've seen, under Obama, an assault against civil liberties that has outstripped what George W. Bush carried out. We've seen the executive branch misinterpret the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act as giving itself the right to assassinate American citizens, including children. I speak of Anwar al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son. We have bailed out the banks, pushed through programs of austerity. This has been a bipartisan effort, because they've both been captured by corporate power. We have undergone what John Ralston Saul correctly calls a corporate coup d'etat in slow motion, and it's over.

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I just came back from Poland, which is a kind of case study of how neoliberal poison destroys a society and creates figures like Trump. Poland has gone, I think we can argue, into a neofascism. First, it dislocated the working class, deindustrialized the country. Then, in the name of austerity, it destroyed public institutions, education, public broadcasting. And then it poisoned the political system. And we are now watching, in Poland, them create a 30,000 to 40,000 armed militia. You know, they have an army. The Parliament, nothing works. And I think that this political system in the United States has seized up in exactly the same form.

So, is Trump a repugnant personality? Yes. Although I would argue that in terms of megalomania and narcissism, Hillary Clinton is not far behind. But the point is, we've got to break away from -- which is exactly the narrative they want us to focus on. We've got to break away from political personalities and understand and examine and critique the structures of power. And, in fact, the Democratic Party, especially beginning under Bill Clinton, has carried water for corporate entities as assiduously as the Republican Party. This is something that Ralph Nader understood long before the rest of us, and stepped out very courageously in 2000. And I think we will look back on that period and find Ralph to be an amazingly prophetic figure. Nobody understands corporate power better than Ralph. And I think now people have caught up with Ralph.

And this is, of course, why I support Dr. Stein and the Green Party. We have to remember that 10 years ago, Syriza, which controls the Greek government, was polling at exactly the same spot that the Green Party is polling now -- about 4 percent. We've got to break out of this idea that we can create systematic change within a particular election cycle. We've got to be willing to step out into the political wilderness, perhaps, for a decade. But on the issues of climate change, on the issue of the destruction of civil liberties, including our right to privacy -- and I speak as a former investigative journalist, which doesn't exist anymore because of wholesale government surveillance -- we have no ability, except for hackers.

I mean, this whole debate over the WikiLeaks is insane. Did Russia? I've printed classified material that was given to me by the Mossad. But I never exposed that Mossad gave it to me. Is what was published true or untrue? And the fact is, you know, in those long emails -- you should read them. They're appalling, including calling Dr. Cornel West "trash." It is -- the whole -- it exposes the way the system was rigged, within -- I'm talking about the Democratic Party -- the denial of independents, the super delegates, the stealing of the caucus in Nevada, the huge amounts of corporate money and super PACs that flowed into the Clinton campaign.

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