Return to Transcripts main page


Doug Jones Wins Alabama Senate Seat. Interview with CA Governor Jerry Brown. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired December 13, 2017 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, the upset heard around the world. A democrat wins in Alabama for the first time in quarter of a century. But

was this about President Trump, the Me Too Movement or race. A warrior for social justice Bryan Stevenson joins me from Montgomery, his home town.

Also ahead, the California Governor Jerry Brown on the Alabama result and he joins us from the Paris Climate Summit notable for one glaring absent,

an official U.S. delegation.

Good evening, everyone and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. As founder and head of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan

Stevenson is American's acclaimed judicial advocate fighting for the poor and disadvantaged in the courthouse, the State House and in the voting


And, as someone who lives and works in Alabama he has a ringside seat to the truly extraordinary Senate race in the heart of southern republican

country between Roy Moore and Doug Jones. Europeans are reading a lot into the result on a continent deeply skeptical of Donald Trump's agenda.

Media outlets from left to right Liberation, Le Monde in France to Britain's Financial Times and Germany's Die Zeit of framing the result as

the Miracle of Alabama seeing in it a sign that American hasn't lost all its marbles. Is that the case or is everyone reading too much into this?

Bryan Stevenson joins us from Montgomery, Alabama.

Bryan, welcome to the program. So, I just framed it in all those possibilities. What just happened in your state?

BRYAN STEVENSON, EQUAL JUSTICE FOUNDER: Well, I don't think there's any question this is a very significant political development. A lot of people

have been predicting that no democrat will win a statewide election in this state for many, many decades.

And so, it is significant but I think we do need to remember that Roy Moore was a very compromised political candidate. I mean, this was someone who

had been thrown off the Alabama Supreme Court twice by republicans. He's been deeply divisive. There are lot of republicans in this state that

really do not like him.

And so, I don't think we should read too much into this. It is a very significant development. I don't want to underestimate its importance

because it does have national implications of course for our very divided country and the Senate. But you can't ignore the fact that Roy Moore was a

very comprised candidate.

I think a lot of people here think that any other republican would have likely won this race easily which means that there is still a very serious

issue that we have to talk about in this country about how we think about political identity and the American identity.

AMANPOUR: You know, yes, it is a complicated and it gives special a whole new meaning in terms of special election because of who the candidate was.

But something that you're incredibly focused on and you've worked hard for all your life the dispossess, the underprivileged, the downright poor. The

black vote in Alabama this time was incredibly important, right?

I mean I understand they came out even in larger numbers than for Barack Obama in both these elections.

STEVENSON: Yes. Well, I do think it's been a long time since African Americans in this state have been able to participate in a statewide

election where their votes are going to matter. I mean even when you have record level turnout for Barack Obama here in 2008 and 2012 there was no

allusion that Obama would win the state of Alabama.

It wasn't going to turn into electoral votes. It was really more of a political statement. And I do think that the candidacy of Roy Moore which

has terrified black people to be honest, I mean, Roy Moore is a candidate who basically says I want to turn back the clock.

He was quoted as saying that we created rights in 1965 and now we have problems. He gave voice to the idea that American was last great during

the time of slavery. He's criticized amendments that come after the 10th Amendment. When you're in that place, when you're trying to turn back the

clock for African Americans that's terrifying.

And there's nothing about the political life of this country pre-1965 that appeals to black people and there's certainly nothing about the life -

about life in this country before 1865 that appeals. And so, I think it's a threat to people of color and to many women because there is this problem

that emerged in this candidacy that Mr. Moore was very comfortable palling around with people who said that women shouldn't be in elective office,

shouldn't be in corporate powers.

And, I think that's spectacle, that optic was really energizing. You had a candidate who came to the polls literally on horseback to kind of reinforce

this idea that he wanted to take us back to a different time, what he thinks of as a better time. And that doesn't resonate with black people or

for many women.

AMANPOUR: And let's pursue the women's side of this because it was incredibly unfortunate as you can imagine that he with those accusations

was the candidate. Black women, African American women kind of put Doug Jones over the top.

STEVENSON: Yes there's no question that you can't win a statewide race in the state of Alabama without substantial support in the African American

community. It's just not going to happen. I mean there's been a real retreat from the Democratic Party here by white people. White Democrats

led this party. It was interesting that Richard Shelby who's perceived as an alter-conservative Republican Senator from Alabama.

What many people forget is that when he was first elected to the senate he as elected as a Democrat. It wasn't that long ago where the Democratic

Party was very vibrant and competitive and dominant, but in the last 20 years that has changed. And so yes the African American vote is going to

be critical for anyone trying to win a statewide election. Which is why these issues of voter suppression - barriers to voting have been so

problematic and certainly at the local level where you have the black vote emerging in some very substantial ways.

There's a real fight going on here in Alabama and I do think it's important, it's significant that black people in this state said we are not

going to disappear, were not going to allow you to turn back the clock, and were not going to go away just because we're a minority. Just because

we're disfavored and they made that clear last night led by black women and I think that's an important political statement.

Not just for Alabama, but as the nation as a whole. Because I think even nationally we have actually sort of minimized the influence of a black vote

in a lot of places in ways that I think is very problematic for the political identity of this country.

AMANPOUR: So you have spent a huge amount of your professional life as I said on social justice you know exploring the depths of racism and how this

can be somehow rectified. Just quickly, you talked about voter suppression. How specifically hard has it been for the African American

population in Alabama to vote?

STEVENSON: Well, I mean we've gotten multiple challenges. This is a state where people are disenfranchised if they have a criminal conviction. We

target communities of color we have high rates of incarceration. We have nearly sort of 28 percent of the black male population disenfranchised.

Adding on to that you have all of these restrictions, voter id laws, intimidation tactics. All of these things have created a very hostile

political environment for many people of color. And people probably don't have the opportunity to cast a vote that's going to be decisive.

So, it's been challenging to maintain a political enthusiasm for participating in elections, but this is also a place where no one forgets

the legacy. I mean it was just four years ago that the majority of people in this state voted to ratify language in our state constitution that

prohibits black and white kids from going to school together.

We still have a state constitution that's makes that unconstitutional. It's not enforceable under federal law, but it says something to voters of

color. We have a state that celebrates Confederate Memorial Day as a state holiday. Jefferson Davis's birthday is a state holiday. I'm surrounded by

the iconography of the confederacy. There are 59 markers and monuments to the confederacy in this city.

And even though I'm just two blocks from Dr. King's church, we don't talk about the legacy of racial bias. And that I think motivates people of

color and many others to keep fighting to create a more honest consciousness about what we need to do to create real equality, real

opportunity in this state.

AMANPOUR: So, to that end you are I think in the spring going to be the new memorial to peace and justice. So, tell us precisely what you hope

another monument is going to bring to this conversation.

STEVENSON: Well I think this election has really illuminated the problem we have. We have people that are celebrating a period in our history when

we did horrific things to others. I mean to suggest that America was last great during the time of slavery reveals a real profound misunderstanding

of the horrors of slavery.

To ignore the decades of lynching and terrorism that we have lived through in this region, I think ignores the challenges that we face. And so I

think that's a challenge we've got to face. There's a lot of cultural bigotry in this country and I think the Moore campaign reflected that. And

we're not going to overcome that bigotry by giving in to the politics of fear and anger. We need something more hopeful.


STEVENSON: So, we are determined to change things. We want to build a museum that honestly deals with the legacy of slavery. I think it's

necessary. In states like Alabama, there's a smog in the air that is created by our history of racial inequality, it contaminates everyone, it

affects everyone, it creates barriers, it's why we have so much division. I think it's true all over this country. And we're not going to address

that if we don't deal more honestly.

We need truth and reconciliation, not just in Alabama, but all across this country and I believe in that but I think it is (subsequential). Gotta do

the truth work first and that's why opening this memorial in April of 2018, which will be the first National Memorial dedicated to thousands of African

American victims of lynching, in the era of racial terror that we lived through in this country. We talk a lot about terrorism in America today.

And we ignore the fact for millions of black people that lived through terrorism, we've said not a word.

And so lifting that up creating a conversation about that, for me, is vital to how we are going to forward in this country to get pass the politics of


AMANPOUR: So Bryan, sorry to interrupt you but I want to pick up on what you said about, you know, racial terror. That kind of leads me straight

into who is Doug Jones because he, actually, has been combating that. (Hasn't), he's not just the anti-Moore candidate. He was well known for

his civil activism and defense there.

STEVENSON: Well, I think that's right. I think in many ways, Doug Jones was a very attractive candidate for people of color because before he was

running for office, before it was political expedient, he took a stand on the side of racial justice. And it was kind of bizarre to me to have him

labeled as not tough on crime by President Trump and many others when the most heinous crime that took place in this state, took place in the 1963

when a bomb was detonated at a Baptist Church where four little girls murdered. You can't identify a crime that has been more horrific, more

devastating to the consciousness of this state.

And for decades, State Prop - Prosecutors refused to hold anyone accountable for that and it was Doug Jones who as a Federal Prosecutor,

took that case up and I think that earned him a good bit of credibility, a great deal of respect in the African American Community and it certainly

didn't earn him of the (moniker) of someone who is not tough on crime. And, I do think that reveals a little bit about the way people think down


You know, President Trump was 0 for 2 in Alabama, despite his statement that he loves Alabama. He came here and campaigned heavily for (Luther

Strange) in the Primary and Alabama Republicans rejected his choice and voted for Rory Moore. He came and supported Rory Moore and once again, the

majority of people in this state voted for the democrat. So, I think, there is some hope that you are going to have to more than say, I want to

turn back the clock.

You're going to have to more than simply label people as not tough on crime or not tough on borders to get voters to follow your political choices.

But, there is no question (Doug Jones') history has made him a much more attractive candidate than he might have other wise been.

AMANPOUR: Bryan, in thirty seconds, just tell me, you said, it's difficult to see national implications but could this be the start of a new

conversation in the South, at least in your state.

STEVENSON: I do and I do think this has national implications. I mean, this was an election about, do we want to turn the clock back to the good

old days when women didn't have a voice, that people of color was disenfranchised, when gay and lesbian people have to hide and not been

seen, when sexual harassment was something you would never be able talk about but do we want to move forward? Do we actually want to confront this

history and do something better than simply talk about the good old days.

And I think to the extent that becomes a (micro-cause) of what happened across this country, you may see very different political outcomes in some

of these close races that will take place in 2018.

AMANPOUR: Bryan Stevenson, thank you for joining us from Montgomery.

Now, the Democratic victory in Alabama, of course, has implications for politics nation wide. California Governor, Jerry Brown has been taking on

President Trump, not with a storm of Tweets but on the issues. He's armed for that fight by running the most popular state in America and the sixth

largest economy in the world.

Nowhere, is that clearer than fighting climate change. With wild fires in Southern California still raging, Governor Brown is in Paris at a Climate

Summit hosted by the rising world star, President Emmanuel Macron. For pulling the U.S. out of the landmark (accord), President Trump was not


Governor Jerry Brown, welcome to the program from Paris.

JERRY BROWN, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: Thank you, good, good to be speaking with you again.

AMANPOUR: What is your, you know, analysis of what happened in Alabama? (I mean), (it was) a special election but does it have bigger implications

for your party?

BROWN: I think the big implication is we have a Democratic Senator from Alabama and that Senator can express a very far-reaching message based on

common sense, decency and advancing the economic interests of the people of Alabama and by extension, the people of America. The Democrats often get

bogged down in a lot of what I would call Sectarian issues and to win abroad in these red states is going to take getting down to the basics.

How do we protect the American family and American jobs in the face of a global market that is eroding the wage base and technological innovation

which is eliminating jobs? So that basic Democratic message, the forgotten American that Roosevelt talked about, that I think was the key to voting

Democrat, not Republican in the State of Alabama yesterday.

AMANPOUR: I wonder if you can just answer what one of your fellow governors has written and complained about and urged Democrats to do. This

is the Governor of Washington State, Jay Inslee who said we need to talk about jobs, people will figure out for themselves that they have to stand

up to Donald Trump. In other words, he's basically saying Democrats should not focus on President Trump when the next election cycle comes around.

BROWN: Well I think that's a good recommendation and I'll tell why. Trump is not our major problem; the problem is how to preserve high paying

American jobs in a low paying global marketplace. How to maintain a level of full employment when innovation and technological change is reducing

traditional jobs? How to maintain the openness to cultural change with a respect for tradition? Those are our obstacles that we're facing as a

party and more profoundly as a country and whether we add Trump or not, those are still big obstacles and big hurdles for Democrats to overcome.

AMANPOUR: All right let's get down to the nitty gritty of the big issue that -- the reason you're in Paris, the climate summit to celebrate two

years since the Global Accord was signed. Now of course you were there, 50 other world leaders were there, but no President Trump and no official

American delegation; the only country to be out of this group of, of, of this collation. What was the atmosphere there?

BROWN: Well the atmosphere I think was one of enthusiasm for President Macron because he gave a real articulate statement of the climate change

threat and the cause that we now have to embark upon. I have not world leaders describe in the detail that the President of France gave about the

real existential threat that humanity is facing and not in decades to come, but in the next several years.

With or without Trump, we have to decarbonize our economy; we've got to go from the old combustion engine to electric cars; we've got to go to zero

carbon, at zero emission structures; we have to go to a hundred percent renewable energy and we've got to get there, soon, otherwise we're going to

have mass migrations, we're going to have diseases, extreme weather events, the fires and the floods that we're seeing, particularly in California.

Humanity is threatened, the political stability of the civilized world is at risk here, we've got to get off the dime, we've got to get doing -- we

have to get doing things even California has to go much further than we've reached at this point so this was a good point of acknowledgement, of

recognition of where we are and encouragement to do more. Now I go back to California, back to America to wake up this country, to wake up the world

that time is running out, action has to be now.

AMANPOUR: I'm going to get to what California is doing and not doing in a second, but I do want you to respond because you're so passionate, to

something that sent chills down my spine. President Macron said it's great that we're all here, but we're losing the battle. I don't think I've ever

heard a world leader actually say it like that, particularly two years into this Climate Accord.

BROWN: Yes that's the honesty that I heard here in Paris. We're losing the battle, we are. The emission are going up, emissions are rising in

Germany, they're rising throughout the world and in California with all those fires, our emissions went up not in the way downward that we wanted

so yes there is a transformation needed and we need business executives to step up. And I'm certainly devoting my next year as Governor of California

to mobilizing the political will, not just in California but in the entire Americas and in the Western Hemisphere.

AMANPOUR: And let's just mention obviously and put this in perspective, you are a Democrat but there were obviously Republican-Americans there too;

there was the former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, there was the former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, so this is, to an extent, a

bipartisan issue.

But I do want to ask you, are you about to have a further Paul on the road to Damascus kind of conversion because you're compassionate, you're saying

all those things but you yourself are not immune from criticism.

You were booed over a certain issue when you went the Bonn Climate Conference where we spoke about a month ago and people have criticized you

for not taking on the issue of fracking and other such things in your own state that you still haven't walked away from the fossil fuel industry.

Are you going to do it once and for all?

BROWN: Wait a minute. Political life is not a candidacy for a candidization. We don't -- that's not the way it works. We have many

points of view. California does produce 30 percent of the oil that it uses.

If we cut that -- let's say we cut that back to 20 percent, then we'd be importing 80 percent. Where would that all come from? North Dakota, with

a weaker environmental regulations by train, which is dangerous, there have been accidents. Or by ship from Venezuela or Saudi Arabia or from

somewhere else.

What we have to do is get the consumption of oil going down and we are committing this state to a 50 percent reduction in oil. As we reduce the

consumption, we can reduce the production.

But, we are a net importer and whatever we don't produce we'll import from somewhere else. We have to stop using the stuff and we have to be on glide

path, which we've -- we're starting, we're in a pretty good place, but we have to up our game, we have to reduce the oil consumption.

Getting our climate action right and reducing our carbon footprint has to do with (dairies), has to do with the cement industry, the bottling

industry, how houses are built, how flat screen televisions are made, what generates the electricity. We have so much to do and I'm certainly open to

people's suggestions.

But, I want people to know I've got a cap and trade system with eight republican votes. I'm not sure I could have gotten that if I had followed

all the most exciting and extreme proposals by the environment advocates.

AMAPOUR: We were talking about the California wildfires and they are huge and only 20 percent contained according to the latest statistics and it's

bigger than an area of New York City, it's huge. What is your expectation, how long before they get contained? When can the people of your state feel


BROWN: Things are getting better. The winds are quieting down, but this is not the time to declare victory yet. All the reports that I'm getting

is that the fire assets are in place. The firefighters, they're doing their best to protect people but there are still dangers and people have to

listen to the authorities.

So, we need some very wise investments on how we manage the basis of these fires and what causes them in the first place. And that's going to be a

top priority of mine as I go through my last year here as Governor of California.

Well, you do mention that you are just one more year out. You've made a lot of promises and I want to bring up one of the reasons why you're in

Paris. Not just for this important climate conference, but also because you've just been awarded an honorary doctorate from one of the major

schools there in Paris.

And one of the citations there is that this is for your extraordinary human and intellectual endeavors and if you wouldn't mind, I'm just going to read

some of what you've done over your amazing career.

You've served as governor once before in the '70s. You've run for President three times. You sent months studying Buddhist meditation in

Japan. And you've studied to be a Jesuit priest, that's just some of the things. And you've dated a rock star. What have you -- what have all

these different, incredible experiences done to make you the person, the governor that you are today?

BROWN: Well one thing it tells you, that diversity of experience inclines me to be more open to differences and to listen to people who, at first

place, don't agree with me at all. And so I see a world where the belief systems are so contrasting and so divergent that we have to summon the

common links that can bind us together. And that is what's pulling apart in California, pulling apart in America, pulling apart the world

And problems like the climate change threat or the growing nuclear danger, these are things that can pull us together if we're open to dialogue, if we

respect that all human beings come within -- in the central humanity. And while they may look different, they may have different religion, we can

find that common core that makes us human. And that is something that I want see more in our national leaders. There's too much partisan, too much

we them, it does mobilize electrics(ph) but it's very dangerous.

And as the great Gezuar, Pierre Cardon said, things that rise, converge. And if our political leaders could raise their conciseness and awareness of

what we are threatened by and what we can do together, the world will be safer and a lot better off.

AMANPOUR: Well, you are certainly walking the walk, and talking the talk. Governor, Jerry Brown, thank you so much for joining us from Paris tonight.

BROWN: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And that is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast and see up on line at and follow

me on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.