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Bill Moyers: What Election 2012 Reveals About America and Its Shifting Racial Faultlines

Moyers speaks with two leading political observers about race and economic inequality in America.

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BILL MOYERS: California just to steps to weaken their three strikes and you're out policy. That's a step in the right direction.

REIHAN SALAM: And you also have folks on both sides of the political aisle who are making progress on that.

BILL MOYERS: But in terms of Washington politics it looks to me as if all the blood, sweat and tears of this campaign, all those billions of dollars ended up with the status quo.

The Republican leadership in Washington said the day after the election, "No new revenue, no new taxes."

And many conservative activists are not yielding an inch despite the election results. Let me play for you an excerpt from a video that was put out by one of the leading conservative activists at the Heritage Foundation which is sort of the granddaddy of conservative think tanks.

MIKE NEEDHAM: President Obama’s re-election is a devastating blow. But it’s not a decisive defeat. We are in a war. We’re in a war to save this nation. And abandoning our post will condemn it to a future of managed decline. To win this war we must remain committed to fighting President Obama’s agenda. We’ll work with our friends in Congress to remain true to our conservative principles. In 2014 there will be 20 Senate liberals up for re-election. A strong, constitutionally conservative Senate is critical to this fight. And in 2016, with a deep bench of committed conservatives, let’s choose a nominee who can best articulate our shared conservative values.

RONALD REAGAN: You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. If we lose freedom here there’s no place to escape. This is the last stand on earth.

BILL MOYERS: This is issued the day after the election of 2012. It's a declaration of war to win the election of 2014 and 2016. What does that augur? What does that portend for getting things done?

REIHAN SALAM: Well, I've got to say, I think that after the 2004 election there were a lot of folks on the political left who were very dispirited by the result, and some who were very surprised by the result. And I think that in our-- the way that I see our political process is that we've had some deep and enduring disagreements about a lot of things for centuries.

And our political parties are very flawed vehicles, but they're vehicles for working through these disagreements, sometimes reaching compromises but also making the case for the country. So when you say that we spent that money and got basically the same result, here's what happened. There are a lot of folks who poured their blood, sweat and tears into making that case as vigorously and energetically as they could.

And it's also a learning process, particularly for folks on my side of the fence that, you know, we made that case. And I think there are a lot of ways in which it just didn't translate very well. So for example this whole message at the Republican National Convention of, "You didn't build that," that was the kind of thing that resonated for someone like me. It didn't resonate for either of you guys I imagine.

And my sense is that the problem is that what they were really trying to talk about is the importance of civil society, the importance of that space between government and individuals where characters are formed, where new ventures are started, where we try and experiment and we try-- and I think that that space is really important, it's just that conservatives don't have the right language for talking about it. So I think that--

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